Semipalmated Plover – How to get Sandy Pants

Getting “Down & Dirty” is a way of being at eye level with your subject which brings the viewer into the bird’s world and it can make the image feel more intimate too. Achieving those low angle perspectives can be quite messy and/or uncomfortable depending on the habitat.

Resting Semipalmated PloverResting Semipalmated Plover – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 250, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The day I took this Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) image I had spotted several different species of shorebirds resting on the sand of Fort De Soto’s north beach, the morning was cool and many of the birds had fluffed up their feathers to conserve heat.

I didn’t want to disturb the resting birds so I knew that my approach would have to be very slow and that I had to get low to the ground. I was about 40 feet from the birds when I dropped down on my belly and began to leisurely move forward on the sugar sand using my elbows  and legs to push & pull myself in the direction of the birds all the while being careful not to get the sand on my lens or camera. With my backpack on my back, and the lens sticking way out in the front I may have looked like a weird hunch-backed lizard or a very skinny, long-nosed Loggerhead Turtle.

The birds didn’t care so neither did I.

It probably took me over 20 minutes sand crawling to get close enough to the birds to fill the frame without causing them alarm and with each push forward in the dry sand some of it would creep into the waist band of my pants plus the front pockets would fill up too. After I was through photographing the shorebirds I put myself into reverse sand crawling which pushed sand up into my pant legs. By the time I felt like I could stand back up without flushing the birds  I’d pushed through a lot of sand.

What happens when you stand back up after sand has crept into your pants?

First, know that you have gotten a free dermabrasion session and your skin will feel baby soft. Second, grab that extra set of clothes you brought (I hope you know to bring them), head to the shower and rinse off before putting on those clean clothes or your ride home in those sandy pants will feel like your clothes are lined with emery boards!

Oh, and when you do stand up and shake off the sand you kind of feel like Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons, remember the clouds of dust that appeared every time he moved? Maybe I am showing my age?

Mia aka Sandy Pants

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful lesson Sandy Pants! You are the bomb and so are your always awesome photographs (I bet your skin is baby soft too) ;-)

  2. LOL, awesome post Mia, you’re narrative is very descriptive and the photo is excellent as usual. Thanks for sharing and the lesson:)

  3. A great description of a low crawl that brings back memories of very uncomfortable places Mia-but a great essay on the necessary technique to capture a stunning image without disturbing the bird.

    • Chuck, I know you understand the low crawling and sand in places there shouldn’t be! Thanks so much for your comment, it means a lot my friend.

  4. Loved your descriptive in this post and the “pig pen” reference. Nice photo too. You have such a love of birds. It amazes me so. Carol

  5. This makes me laugh…but i know you are soooo right!

  6. Mia, that is dedication, but well worth it for the shots you got!

  7. LOL!! You’re awesome, Mia!
    Not so sure I’d want to do that. :)

    • Judy, getting down to a low angle for birds on the ground brings the viewer into the bird’s world and connects them to the bird. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Great story, (and a lesson), plus a great photo.

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