A couple of weeks ago on North Padre Island near Corpus Christi, TX, I lurched awkwardly across the sand on my belly like a beached walrus pushing along my D5 and 600mm lens mounted to a Frisbee in an attempt to capture some sand level views of shore birds. When I saw a Ruddy Turnstone examining a mossy, sandy, mollusk-encrusted log high up on the beach far from the waves, I was intrigued. Ruddy Turnstones are tenacious. Once they fixate on a possible food source, they are persistent, leaving no stone unturned, figuratively and literally, until they have exhausted the source. I knew I had to try to photograph it.
My problem was that I was downhill from the Ruddy Turnstone. At ground level, the smallest rise of sand created a hazy look on the bird’s legs where the lens was blurring the foreground. To avoid the obstructing area of sand and to get closer to the bird, I had to move up hill a little. I practiced my “five steps forward, stop, wait, assess” approach method that I’d learned the day before when I lead the group toward another Ruddy Turnstone on another beach. But this time, I was on the ground with no tripod so I would raise up to my knees and inch forward pushing the camera laden Frisbee in front of me at the same time. When the bird was undeterred by my approach, I stretched out and peered through the viewfinder to determine if I was past the obstruction. After several minutes of this exercise, I was close enough that the haze covered only the bird’s feet. It wasn’t good enough yet but if I pushed any closer, I risked flushing the bird so I took a few shots. Suddenly, the Turnstone placed its head at the bottom of the log, leaned in and opened its beak creating a fulcrum that pushed the log down the slope to a flatter area of sand. The Ruddy Turnstone followed the log and I was left up the incline with the mounds and rises I’d just crawled over blocking my view again. A little bit of dehaze applied in ACR corrected most of the haze over the bird’s feet. And, with regard to the slanting horizon, the Ruddy Turnstone was on an incline down which the log rolled when it was pushed.