Shooting Peeps

Dunlin with SanderlingsDunlin with Sanderlings – 2011

On occasion, I realize that I am more interested in taking pictures of birds than identifying them and adding them to my life list. While I carry a field guide and pair of binoculars with me, I am somewhat loath to pull them out and spend the time figuring out what I am seeing.

I would much rather catch them in a provocative pose that I can sell than figure out if they are consenting adults or first-offense juveniles.

Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper – 2011

Nowhere is this ambivalence clearer then when I am shooting peeps, those little shorebirds that never quite let me get close enough to ID them. Perhaps if I were more patient and had a steadier hand, I could define the niceties of plumage to identify a 8″ bird at 100′.

But no, I can only discern gross differences in size and color at 100′. So I use my camera to capture the details. The shape of the bill, the color of the legs, whether the breast is spotted or white. All of the little things a good birder picks up, I let my camera grab.

Yes, you might say that I am lazy.

Spotted SandpiperSpotted Sandpiper – 2011

Except for the fact that I then spend hours going over the photos, wading through field guides, discerning the subtleties, and narrowing everything down to an ID.

Because in the end, no matter what I said at the outset of this post, identifying the birds that I shoot is important to me. I really want to know what peep I saw at the beach today.

This entry was posted in birds, technique and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *