Photography from a floating hide
Getting water birds at eyes level is not easy. However, this can make a difference between a good and bad picture. With many pictures of water birds you literally look down on them, for example because they are taken using a car as a hide. The pictures look detached. At well rewarded pictures you can look to birds straight in their face. The viewer enters their world. The surroundings are a crucial factor. In many cases a bird pictures suffers from a disturbing fore and background. If you make a picture just above the water level, you get a ‘quiet’ image with reflections of the water. If the water level is flat the fore and background will merge.
But how to come near to water birds with a camera at eyes level? With a floating hide it is possible to make intimite pictures in and around the water. But the photographer should go in the water as well!
Not many photographers do have experience using a floating hide. At birdpix.nl the Belgium photographer Glenn Vermeersch showed beautiful pictures made from a floating hide. He was one of the first (together with a few French photographers). Floating hide were not for sale when I started, so I made one myself. On this page I will show you some of my experiences.
Building a floating hide
A floating hide should match the following criteria:
– Enough floating capacity to lie on the hide in deep and shallow waters.
– Should be able to transport it in my car
– Built of simple materials; durable and strong
– Covered space for photographer
– usable year round
The building process of my floating hide
In the water
Before you start building a floating hide you should think of a good place to use it. Ask the owner to get permission. Shallow waters a better than wide open waters. A depth of 50-100cm is ideal. Floating in a hide can be compared with creeping in water. You should move slowly in order the get the birds used to this strange obstacle. Keep a good eye on the bird to see if he ‘accepts’ the heir. If yes, you can slowly move towards the bird. Ducks are difficult to approach. Usually they are to shy. But other birds can completely trust the hide. One day a little grebe was fishing 2 meters before and even under my hide! Another day a kingfisher landed on my hide and used it as a fishing post!
Some pictures of my hide in operation.
This innocent looking coot was catching my eye. I could take a couple of pictures and while I was checking my display I heard a loud splash. I quickly took a look, but the coot was gone! Most likely catch by a pike. Too bad… If I had not been looking on my screen I could have taken a reward winning picture. But I felt even more sorry for this tiny little bird. Luckily we still have his last picture…
On a day in January I spotted two green sandpipers. I parked the hide close to the shore and waited. At first they were alert, but after a while they completely accepted my hide. They came as close as 1m. Even for my lens this is too close. I could make some nice portraits. If you look in the reflection of the eye you will see my floating hide!
Sometimes I can spot the kingfisher in the pool I am using for my hide. Usually in autumn. If I hear the sound of this bird I am delighted. The tropical colours are always lighting your day. Of course I tried to approach the kingfisher, but at I certain moment the kingfisher was flying straight to my hide and landing on top of it! It was using it as a fishing post, sitting 50cm. above my head. I did not dare to move, but was not able to see it.
The last time I used the floating hide was 2017. The hide was no longer in good condition. Time to move on to other types op photography.