Semipalmated Plover – How to get Sandy Pants

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Pinellas County, Semipalmated Plovers/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


  1. Larry Jordan May 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    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) 😉

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Thank you Larry, your comment made me laugh out loud. I enjoy being called “Sandy Pants”!

  2. Susan May 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm

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

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Thank you Susan, getting down & dirty works very well with small birds on the ground.

  3. Chuck Gangas May 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    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.

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      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. Carol Mattingly May 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    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

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Carol, I do love birds and feel very connected to them through my outings in the field and through my images. Thank you for commenting.

  5. zephyr May 8, 2012 at 7:38 am

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

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Zephyr, I am glad this made you laugh. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Kathiesbirds May 8, 2012 at 7:20 am

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

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks Kathie, it feels normal for me to get down on the ground for small shorebirds.

  7. judy watson May 8, 2012 at 6:30 am

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

    • Mia McPherson May 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      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. Bob Zeller May 8, 2012 at 5:27 am

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

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