Normally, a bird’s eye view is an elevated view of something from above, as if the observer is overhead looking down. The practice of beach panning achieves for a photographer another type of bird’s eye view with the same eye level as the shorebirds that run along the beach. I am so taken with this type of photography, which I first experienced on the Texas Gulf Coast several months ago, that I jumped at the chance to try it again, this time on the Florida Gulf Coast. Beach panning is the process of getting down low on the beach with a long lens on a panning plate supported by a Frisbee so the photographer is at the subject’s level. It takes practice. Lots of practice. The resulting photographs offer an uncommon view of shore birds, one that I love because of its shallow depth of field, minimal background, and of course its bird’s eye view.
This shot features a willet walking toward me on the beach on Sanibel Island, a beach popular with seashell collectors. The beach is littered with all manner of shells, some whole, some shards. A line of seashells is visible at the bottom of the photograph along with a small knot of sea grass. The shells make the work of beach panning even more challenging for me. My knees and elbows are bruised and scraped from the shells but the results are worth it to me.