Look for the Gesture
Push! Just so we start on the same page, you can photograph your critters any way your heart says works. You like that click, than you are doing it the right way. There will more than likely be a point in time when you just want something more, spread your wings as it were. It’s at that moment in time you need to start pushing your photography. How do you push? You do it one foot at a time: right foot, left foot, right foot, left. In this case, the first step I recommend you take in photographing shorebirds is, gettin down!
Getting down works wonders to clean up the background, but we’ve got to do something with it. We want that clean background to make the subject pop so that’s the start, but we want to push our photography a bit further. Shooting with a D4 / 600VR2 w/TC-20e3 (damn sharp converter!) the combination of focal length and being flat on the sand makes the Marbled Godwit visually pop. It’s then we push, push the shutter release looking for that gesture!
The top image is the safe shot. It’s the one taken when there is little or no movement. It’s the safe shot because if the subject is not moving in the low light, than you have a sharp image. With wildlife, the eye at the very least has to be sharp. Then you go for a the little more riskier shot, when the Godwit start the sewing machine action looking for food. But I’m going to encourage to go beyond that, risk it all and look for that gesture when the shorebird walks and does sewing machine! In low light, this is a lot of action to freeze but can be done. This last frame with beak down and legs crossed is what I like to go for. It’s a real simple click when you look at it but then, there’s a lot going on. But makes it happen is the clean background making that gesture pop. In pushing your critter photography forward, look for the gesture.