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Purple Sandpipers

Hello! This first post is just to get the blog off its feet, and it shows a selection of photos that I got at the start of this year. I had been bird-watching in Dungeness on the South Coast with my former school friend Charlie, who had accompanied me on many trips around the UK and also on our school-lead expedition to Alaska in 2009. Before heading back to London, he suggested making a small detour to the town of Folkestone, where a flock of purple sandpipers had been reported reliably every winter for at least five years. I had few photos to show from the past few days and, given the fantastic sunlight and knowing how approachable waders on a beach can be (not to mention how unusual it is to see purple sandpipers so far south), I heartily agreed.

I had to drop off my heavy bags at a hotel once we were off the bus, meaning that in the end I only took the camera and the 400mm lens with me onto the beach. That worked perfectly for me though, as the sandpipers were perfectly positioned up on the rocks to play around with depth of field. It did take some time though to clamber up the rock groin to get into the right position, but it was worth it in my opinion.

Once I had got myself into place between a couple of rocks, I knew there were a couple of things that I wanted to experiment with: the colours of the sand, the rocks and the rising tide; the wavy patterns on the rocks, as well as the complementary shapes that I could create through my choice of composition; and the use of foreground objects to lead into the image. I decided to experiment with my 'window' technique which I had previously used for photographing capercaillies in Aviemore and chipmunks in Canada, using the big boulder on the left to lead the eye towards the sandpiper and over the wavy-formed rock. I took a couple of portrait shots, but the landscapes compositionally seemed to just work better, especially when the sea rose up the beach.

Eventually, all of the sandpipers flew off, except one amongst a group of turnstones on the far end of the groin, positioned against the sea and the sun. I got these shots almost directly into the sunlight to 'blacken out' the birds and then converted them to black and white afterwards. They're technically not perfect, but I like the discs of light and simplicity of the landscape shot particularly.

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