Foreground Focus...

Sunday I made a trip out to Bellevue beach. (this location is new to me). Up until last year I didn't know that there was a mussel bed at the end of the beach that is exposed at low tide. Which obviously large numbers of shorebirds flock to for a free meal. The area is fairly large and can be overwhelming at times.

Before any revisit to a photography location I always review my previous images to see what I can learn from my mistakes or what I might want to improve on. One thing that stood out to me was that the surrounding mussels didn't create a pleasing image. What do I do when basically the whole area I was going to photograph the shorebirds in was covered by mussels? Well lets get to the start of my trip and I will explain my solution.

Upon my arrival at 7:30 am it was clear summer is coming to an end. It was foggy, rainy and there was a coolness in the air. While waiting for the rain to let up I noticed two eagles being harassed by gulls. After a few mins the gulls let up and the eagles sat resting on drift wood. Rain or not I grabbed my gear as I knew this could be an opportunity to capture some interesting/moody shots. As I approached the two eagles decided they didn't like each other's presence and took flight in a harmless battle. Moment lost I thought... but then a Juv. Bald Eagle flew up the beach and landed about 20 meters in front of me. I dropped all my gear except camera and made a stealthy move up the grassy field to where it was resting. Before getting to close I captured this image

Wanting a clearer shot of this juv. I moved to my left and onto the beach. 

It was obvious he didn't like my presence and he took flight. Of course any inflight image on this day was going to end up a high key image(basically subject on white background). Out of the 15 close up inflight shots I was able to capture this was probably the only one with a little hint of the fogged in hills in the BG.

It was time to move on and continue my 20min walk down the grassy foot path to the end of the beach and where the mussel bed was located.

I had arrived a few hours before low tide and the birds had begun to do the same. They gathered in front of me waiting for the tide to drop but with no light, rain and fog I didn't come away with anything during our wait.

Once the tides slowly descended one by one the birds flew out to the exposed mussels. Some went earlier then others but ended up just sitting there and waiting for the water levels to be low enough to move around.

A Semipalmated Plover waiting for the tides to drop

A Semipalmated Plover waiting for the tides to drop

About an hour later the mussel bed was fully exposed and a feast laid in front of them

It was now time to try and get creative to see if I could create some more pleasing images then last year. So how do I eliminate the mussels from my image? Or make them more pleasing to the eye. Well my solution was to blur them out in the foreground. In order to achieve this I needed to get low. So laying on my belly I rested my lens on the top of my hand as it laid flat on the beach. Getting the camera as low to the ground as possible creating a blurred/out of focus foreground.

Here are a few of the results


Getting the camera lower then the mussels or beach in the foreground causes them to be out of focus in the image. In return creating a soft foreground. The only disadvantage of doing this is that you normally end up blurring out the feet or not seeing them at all and for a perfect "Field Guide" image you really need to include the feet. I personally like the more artistic feel that the above images have.

There were a number of species on at the mussel bed on Sunday. Which included Semipalmated Plower and Sandpiper, Black Bellied Plover, American Golden Plover, Short Billed Dowitcher, Red Knot and many more.

Much of my focus rested on the Black Bellied Plover which wasn't my plan but this one individual was feeding in this beautiful reflection and light. I couldn't pull myself away.

I think after a while we were both getting tired of each other and it was time for a stretch and to move around a bit.

By the time I left this one individual I realized it was time for me to call it a day and start the walk back. Time had flown and I realized I hadn't spent anytime with a few of the species. I will certainly have to make a return trip soon before the shorebirds are gone. 

Here are a few images I captured of a Semipalamted Sandpiper just before the day was done.