This past Wednesday I decided to take a personal day and head out to the most Easterly Point in North America...Cape Spear. During the winter months it is a great location for photographing Purple Sandpipers...it might not be the safest but it is certainly the best to my knowledge.
So 6:30 am Wednesday morning I headed off to the Cape. Looking at the weather the night before it seemed like it might be a great chance to do some landscape photography as well. 7:00 am I arrived at the parking lot and headed down to the point where the Purples are usually seen. I had an image in mind for my landscape shot as I have spent many mornings looking at this same scene as I wait for the Purples to arrive.
First off I just want to say in no way do I consider myself a good landscape photographer. I have spent very little time in this area of photography but heading into the New Year this will change. I want to learn to Master the art of landscape photography and show all of you some of the breath-taking scenery Newfoundland has to offer....Lets hope that idea works out lol
Here is the beautiful sunrise that warmed my face as I waited...
Shortly after this shot I spotted the Purples gliding over the open ocean and heading straight for their usual spot. Which was on the rocks to the left of me and down closer to the waters edge from where I took the sunrise image.
I have photographed Purple Sandpipers in this location for 5 years now and I never get sick of seeing them. They usually show up around Nov and stay through out the winter. The flock at times can reach up to a 100..I did a rough count of the flock on Wednesday and it was 70plus
Photographing the Purples at Cape Spear has many challenges. The main one being safety. Purple Sandpipers love to feed along the slippery rocks at the waters edge. They play a cat and mouse game with the waves as it crashes against the rocks.
The waves at the Cape change very quickly. The waters can go from almost dead calm to deadly. If you are not careful you could be dragged out to sea in a flash. With my 500mm lens and 1.4x tele convertor giving me 700mm reach I don't have to get as close to the water as I once did.
There are many signs that I look for when watching the waves. One are the Purples. They will often make chipping sounds just before a wave crashes against the rock where they are feeding or resting. If they flush from the area it is a good chance the next wave will swallow up the rocks so its best you move away as well. I also find that if the waters all of a sudden seem to get calm that means there is a big wave coming next so keep your eyes open. Make sure that you position yourself in an area or stance that allows you to move quickly at a moments notice. I personally never stand on any rocks that are already wet..this is a good indicator that the water as reached that level at sometime already...it also makes it hard to move fast when your feet are slipping from in under you.
Purple Sandpipers are fairly tame individuals and will allow you to get very close if you take your time.
When using the ocean as your background try and wait for that right moment when the water color shifts to blue or aqua. You don't want shots with the foamy whites of the water as your BG.
Since the Purples like to feed amongst the rocks it often becomes a challenge to get the proper exposure and enough shutter speed but with the right light you can produce some great images.
And whats a session with out a nice head shot. I got lucky as this individual took a short flight after a wave crashed against the rocks and he landed right next to me.
On occasion the Purples will find a small pool of water up from the waters edge. Here they will often take a bath, clean their feathers or continue to feed. I've yet to capture a nice shot of one bathing as usually the pools of water are in difficult locations to get a nice low angle. On Wednesday I was able to finally get low but still was unable to get a bathing shot that I like. Here are some images from the pool :)
The morning had come and gone so fast as it normally does. It turned out to be an amazing morning...I planned to make a few quick stops at two locations before heading home. I was already satisfied with the images I had captured and never thought the day could get any better...boy was I wrong...
Check back soon to see what I encounter later that day :)