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on Jul 1, 2014 in Wildlife Photography

Working in Sand

Marbled Godwit 0838

I’ve been receiving a whole bunch of questions about working in sand. Just to be clear, we’re talking taking pictures and not making sand castles since I love doing both. Having just spent time with photographers relatively new to shooting in sand, while it seems obvious it truly isn’t. This is how I do it to give you some ideas but by no means your only option for making it happen. The whole concept is based on getting down and into the sand to shoot. The shot above of the Marbled Godwit was taken with the gear laying literally in the sand and the angle of view being the same as the godwit. From this angle the background which is physically one hundreds or more yards away is a soft wash of color, the foreground a clean blur so all you see is the subject. While the godwit standing in shallow water, I’m shooting from the dry sand. That’s what this technique is all about.

by John Herrick

by John Herrick

It all starts and really is all about the gear. Protecting he gear is pretty darn important because camera gear and sand just don’t play nicely together. What you see me shooting with here is the D4s / 800mm on the Panning Plate. The panning plate is resting in a Petco freebe, the same one I’ve used for over a decade. You can see how low to the ground it all is so the first thing you do is figure out the balance point of the rig so the lens hood and camera body don’t take a dip in the sand. Next, you become real annal to keep you hands out of the sand so it doesn’t get transferred onto the gear. Then finally when you get up, you are really, really, really careful you don’t do it standing over your gear as the sand will fall off you and onto your gear. Lastly, if you get any sand on your gear, don’t panic! Let the gear sit in the sand letting the sand completely dry out. If there is any moisture in the sand, it sticks like glue. Once it’s dry, “wipe” it off the gear with a dry, clean towel and if you have canned air, carefully blow it off. Whatever you do, don’t wipe the sand off. These are the basics of working in sand and as long as you remember sand goes with gravity, you’ll be just fine.