Waders – Part 2 : Photography

What are waders?

Well, mainly birds that wade in water and for this blog post I am going to concentrate on shorebirds more than waders. Shorebirds would be those birds that are seen hugging the coastline. 

They are generally seen in India from around November to mid-April and are a delight to watch and click.

For more about my interest in waders, please read the first part of this blog here

When it comes to wader photography, there are 2 or 3 hot-spots in India that I would like to mention here because a lot of times it is knowing where to go that makes a big difference

  1. Jamnagar – If there is 1 spot to select, then this is the one. It wins hands down not only in terms of the numbers but also in terms of the photography opportunities that it provides
  2. The Coast of Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka – You can choose from a huge array of beaches on this coast and you will not come back disappointed. For e.g. Akshi beach, Uran etc.
  3. Chennai – Chennai isn’t the ideal place in terms of beaches but when it comes to Pulicat lake, the game changes completely. Its been throwing up brilliant images in the past year or two of hard to get waders
  4. Pune Interiors – Kavdi and Bhigwan

Now that you know where to go, there are a couple of tiny details that you need to know about waders.

They like to hug to the waterline on the coast, so the best way to approach them is to actually not approach them.

What you need to do is, try to get with say around 100 odd feet from them and just lie down. Now this process of getting to that 100 odd feet is also a tough one and requires some amount of crawling. 

Often it turns out more than just some amount of crawling actually, but once that is done, you just need to relax on the beach.

Just lie still with your camera ready and wait for the birds to approach you as the tide comes in. Please note that if you try this on a receding tide, you are going to come back with nothing because the birds will keep moving away from you. Check the tide before you go in and make sure that you reach there a couple of hours before high-tide. Thats the time your birds will be at their most co-operative.  Here is the site that I use – EasyTide. Ideally reach a couple of hours before high-tide.

Please note that waders are very busy creatures, constantly moving in search of food and will very rarely raise their heads to look up. You need to catch them when they do and thus need to keep the following in mind.

  • Make sure that you have a fast lens and a camera with good Autofocus capabilities
  • Make sure you are comfortable with AF-C/AI-Servo and using the various AF points.
  • Keep an eye out for the shutter speed and make sure it does not drop below around 1/400 anytime

While on the beach, beware of sand. Cover your equipment well because sand is very corrosive and has the potential of causing major damages to the equipment.

Shorebird/Wader photography is one of the only kind of bird photography where the background is continuously changing even for portraits. You need to keep a watch at that and should try and click when the background is the smoothest. Waves sometimes cause a banded background of white and blue which should be avoided, try getting the bird when the background is not too bright and is as smooth as possible. Yes I’m adding another parameter to an already difficult task of getting an obliging wader but thats what will make the best images.

Decent Background : 

Avoidable Background : 


Another approach and this is for the advanced users is to approach the birds through the water. This gives you slightly different backgrounds and also lessens the dependency on the tide. Just be doubly sure that the water is calm and the beach is flat enough … Don’t try this without knowing the topography of the place very well beforehand.

Equipments: With the birds getting pretty close, wader photography does not necessarily warrant a super prime but doesn’t hurt having one. I have see some lovely images made with the 100-400 range as well, but anything less than the 400 though would be stretching it slightly too far. In terms of support, a good tripod that goes flat to the ground is very helpful. Even better is  a ground-pod. Take a look at the image below



Timings: Now, high-tides don’t always happen during golden hours,  so please ensure that you choose days when the high-tide is around times when the sun is hanging low in the sky to get those good hues and depth to the image. Otherwise you will end up with images like the Ruddy Turnstone above … flat and white.

In all my workshops I end them with giving out names of a couple of guys who I think are worth following in terms of the quality of images they produce. So, similarly allow me to introduce you (to those who don’t already know these guys)  to Ganesh J and Aravind V.  I met these two first in Tal Chapar a few years back and have since been amazed with the persistence that these guys have displayed in getting the best out of Pulicat and other wetlands in terms of good quality images. Thanks guys for allowing me to add your images here.

Please head over to their pages and follow them for some lovely quality images. 

A Collage from Aravind’s page

A Collage from Ganesh’s gallery

There are a lot of internationally acclaimed artists but I would like to point you to just one : Gyorgy Szimuly His dedication towards shorebirds is unparalleled. Head over to his page to know more about what he does.

Till Later guys!

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  1. Aravind May 2, 2017 at 2:11 am #

    Thanks Rahul… indeed shorebirds are just more than love… It takes beyond colors to admire these beauties and you have done all justice to bring out the best… Gyorgy is a master and you were just spot on when it comes to highlighting his work… Kudos…

  2. Ganesh J May 2, 2017 at 5:29 am #

    Fantastic work Rahul. Shore birds are indeed very special! Thanks for including our work!!

  3. Raghbir May 7, 2017 at 5:55 am #

    Very well written , especially info about the high and low tides

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