View Full Version : Laying Down on the Job

David Hunter
01-02-2008, 12:05 PM
I've been reading a lot about how to approach wildlife (birds in particular) and the advantages of laying down keeping a low profile and crawling military style. I'm wondering how you move/carry your lens in such a position while advancing towards a subject (especially the bigger lenses.):)

Fabs Forns
01-02-2008, 12:07 PM

If I'm at the beach, I use the lens mounted on a ground pod, and placed on a frisbee.
Easy to slide and it keeps some sand out of the equipment, if that is possible at all :)

Jim Neiger
01-02-2008, 12:11 PM
There are several ways to do this. The inchworm approach where you crawl using elbows and knees. Just shuffling along on your knees, or walk bent over and low to the ground. The method I've found to be most effective is to act like you are completely not interested in the bird and then approach by tacking back and forth instead of approching them in a direct line. The idea is to make the bird think that you are just another creature going about your business with no interest in them. If you try to sneak up on a bird that usually makers them nervous and they fly.

Daniel Cadieux
01-02-2008, 01:55 PM
I also found that avoiding straight approach works best, and avoiding eye-contact. I'll usually keep my face turned away - just enough to take glimpses of the subject with the corner of my eye. What also helps is to keep your lens raised and close to your face from the get go of the approach. Nothing worse than a carefully calculated approach ruined by a bird spooked by you raising your lens toward it.

A low approach does work very well for shorebirds, and the military-style crawl does well - especially if done in increments and not one long crawl. When the bird looks nervous I stop until it resumes its normal activity...then I crawl for another few feet.

Steve Foss
01-02-2008, 06:44 PM
Since I'm almost always handholding a 100-400 Canon zoom, I use the zig-zag, no-threat approach Jim mentioned. That approach doesn't work as well with a big prime and tripod setup because, and Dan mentioned, it's best to keep the camera/lens up around your head the whole time.

Also, I've found that even getting close with that approach, the birds often will still flush if you stop and turn to face them directly in order to shoot. Best to use the meandering style, lens up by head, and then keep your side to the bird when you stop.

I also stop and start a lot if the bird is nervous, pausing when it shows signs of agitation and moving again when it returns to feeding or whatever it was doing. It can take a long time to get close for anything but environmental portraits with this approach, because you're letting the bird dictate your approach.

Alfred Forns
01-02-2008, 07:16 PM

Not sure if you have any Military experience but you crawl just like you would with a rifle The most important thing is to keep your hands our of the mud If you have a long lens on a ground pod, place your hand on top of the lens (gently) for support If using a short lens hand held Just roll on your back

You will be amazed at what you can do getting low Both in the image quality and bird accessibility

Maxis Gamez
01-02-2008, 07:41 PM
I use a wader and I move very slowly with my elbows. Your subject will get used to your presence in a hurry. Remember the lower you are the less bigger you look to the bird.

Gyorgy Szimuly
01-02-2008, 07:42 PM
With tripod legs wide open and 600 gun attached it is impossible to crawl. I tried it in Germany and was really painful as I am not a Terminator.:D There I felt the need of the Skimmer II. As for the technic of the approach it is the best what was described. My daily approach is different however. I normally use my self-made low camouflaged hide at a site (for shorebirds mainly) and I lay on my belly for hours to reach target. The hide is just 30 inch tall.


David Hunter
01-03-2008, 11:38 AM
Thank you for all the input. I don't have any military experience, but I can clearly visualize what everyone is talking about. I'm 6'5" so getting low to the ground more often certainly wouldn't hurt me at all. The funny part is that I've spent most of my photojournalism career getting taller by standing/climbing on anything I could to get a better angle.

Steve Foss
01-03-2008, 01:13 PM
David, it was the same with me. But I opted out of newspaper photojournalism in June to pursue photography full time, and so aside from leaving my six-foot stepladder at home, now I always seem to be down in the mud. :(

Anders Nielsen
01-06-2008, 06:10 PM
A couple of danish birdphotographers were asked how they were getting so close to the birds. They answered with these images: http://www.fotokritik.dk/?x=/kritik.html_pic=327764

The image of the hide is not so interesting but notice the "sleigh" at the extra photos (Xtra #1 #2 and #3). Could be an idea for those with big lenses. I have tried it myself and it works but I don't shoot wadingbirds very often and I don't have a 500mm or 600mm lens so I rarely use mine.