Getting a Lower Point of View in Bird Photography

By Monte Comeau
August 18, 2012

As a former school portrait photographer I have taken my photography passion from the repetitive and not so challenging 'job' of creating student portraits to a new and challenging level with bird and wildlife photography.  Already knowing the technical aspect of photography gave me a good start for this new pursuit, but I had no idea how difficult the challenge was going to be until I got out in the field.


After many attempts with less than acceptable results I decided I needed a better way to get the images I desired.  An old friend of mine and avid wildlife photographer was getting unique images from a kayak so I decided to give this a try.  I must say that this immediately changed the point of view and made my images much better from a viewers perspective.


As you can see from the image below it appears that you are right down with the small bird at its level.


Wilson's Phalarope by Monte Comeau ©


Wilson's Phalarope


Another thing I quickly learned was that I could approach the birds on the water with ease and they did not spook as easy.  They are comfortable with the kayak in their immediate area as it does not appear as a threat.  As I have since read, birds rarely have predators approach from the water side so they are much less cautious.  Try getting close from the land side as I did before and you will see a huge difference.


In the images of the Great Blue Heron below I was only 20 or 30 feet away and the bird did not seem spooked at all, in fact I think he wanted to mate with me because it started doing some strange dance!


Blue Heron by Monte Comeau ©


Great Blue Heron



Blue Heron by Monte Comeau ©


Great Blue Heron



The Lesser Yellowlegs also allowed me to drift up very close while I snapped off several shots.


Lesser Yellow Legs by Monte Comeau ©


Lesser Yellow Legs



Lesser Yellow Legs by Monte Comeau ©


Lesser Yellow Legs



Photographing birds in flight from the kayak is not as easy, but you can put yourself in a perfect position if you have the patience to wait.   Oftentimes I see eagles perched in trees along local lake shores and if you can wait them out then the opportunities are there for some great captures.


Bald eagle in flight by Monte Comeau ©


Bald eagle in Flight



Immature Bald eagle in flight by Monte Comeau ©



Immature Bald eagle in flight


As you can see it is also a great way to sneak up for some static portraits of this majestic bird.


Bald Eagle by Monte Comeau ©


Bald eagle



Ospreys are always a great subject and I find them to be a fantastic bird to photograph.  They are abundant in the area I live around Kootenay Lake and are usually quite active, making for great photo opportunities.


Osprey in flight by Monte Comeau ©


Osprey in flight



Closeup of Ospey in flight by Monte Comeau ©


Closeup view of Osprey in flight


Cormorants are a difficult bird to get close to and very fast making it difficult to get good sharp images.  With the kayak I was able to get fairly close to this one below before it began liftoff.

Double-crested Cormorant taking flight by Monte Comeau ©


Double-crested Cormorant taking flight



Double-crested Cormorant taking flight by Monte Comeau ©


Double-crested Cormorant taking Flight

His favoured method of approaching birds is a small kayak that greatly increases the opportunity to get close and gives a very low point of view that makes for a unique perspective of the subjects.


Camera mounted on kayak by Monte Comeau ©


Tripod set up on kayak for photographing birds low in the water. Nikon D800 with 400 mm f/2.8 lens.


Picture of Monte Here


Monte Comeau is  a former professional school photographer living in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia who operated his own business until 2010.  Since retiring from professional photography as a day job he has become an avid bird and wildlife photographer.  The equipment used to make all the images above is the Nikon D800 and D7000 camera bodies and mainly the Nikkor 400mm 2.8 VR lens.



Web site:  


Watch Video of Monte photographing in his kayak





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