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Things To Do In Homer Alaska: A Guide to Bird Photography and Viewing

Updated: 2 days ago

Puffin Viewing Kachemak Bay Homer Alaska
Puffin Viewing Kachemak Bay Homer Alaska

Bird Viewing and Photography

Bird Viewing and Photography are some of the most popular things to do in Homer, Alaska. The extreme tides and beautiful Kachemak Bay allow photographers to capture the beauty of these avian creatures against the stunning backdrop of the state's rugged coastline and pristine habitats. 

Embarking on a journey to explore the shores of Kachemak Bay, the mudflats of Cook Inlet, or the coastal marshes of the Arctic is an adventure that promises unparalleled opportunities. With its rugged coastline and pristine habitats, Alaska offers a unique canvas for capturing captivating images of shorebirds in their natural environment. 

Unlock the full potential of your shorebird viewing and photography adventures in Alaska with the essential gear, camera settings, and photography techniques, ensuring you're fully prepared and confident in capturing stunning images.

Kittletz's Murrelet Playing in the Water
Kittletz's Murrelet Playing in the Water

Gear Recommendations for Binoculars and Scopes:

When selecting scopes and binoculars for shorebird watching, additional considerations come into play due to the unique challenges and opportunities coastal environments present.


  • Shorebird watching often involves traversing varied terrain, including sandy beaches, rocky shores, and marshy wetlands. Choose lightweight and compact optics that are easy to carry and maneuver in these environments.

  • Look for binoculars and spotting scopes with rugged construction and waterproof/fog-proof features to withstand exposure to saltwater, sand, and humidity commonly encountered along coastlines.

  • Consider models with rubber armor coating or textured grips for secure handling, especially when observing shorebirds from unstable or uneven surfaces like coastal rocks or dunes.

Magnification Power:

  • Shorebirds are often observed at medium to long distances, requiring optics with sufficient magnification power to discern fine details.

  • Opt for binoculars with moderate to high magnification (8x to 12x) for clear views of shorebirds' plumage, behavior, and feeding habits across expansive coastal habitats.

  • Spotting scopes with zoom eyepieces offer versatility, allowing you to adjust magnification levels based on the distance and size of shorebird species encountered.

Optical Performance:

  • Coastal environments present unique lighting conditions, including harsh sunlight, glare from water surfaces, and shifting cloud cover. Choose optics with high-quality optics and anti-reflective coatings to minimize glare and maximize image clarity.

  • Look for binoculars and spotting scopes with large objective lens diameters (around 50mm or larger) to capture ample light for bright and detailed views, particularly during dawn and dusk when shorebirds are most active.

  • Consider optics with advanced optical features such as ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass or HD (high-definition) glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration and enhance color fidelity. This is crucial for accurately identifying shorebird species with subtle plumage variations.

By considering these factors—portability, magnification power, and optical performance—you can select scopes and binoculars well-suited for shorebird watching, enabling you to observe these fascinating avian species with clarity and precision along coastal habitats.

Red Phalarope - Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival 2024 Bird-of-the-Year
Red Phalarope - Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival 2024 Bird-of-the-Year

Gear Recommendations for Photography:

  • Camera Body: When photographing shorebirds in Alaska, opt for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with fast autofocus capabilities and high resolution for capturing intricate details. Popular choices include the Nikon D850, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, or Sony Alpha a7R IV.

  • Telephoto Lens: A telephoto lens with a focal length of at least 300mm is perfect for capturing detailed shots of shorebirds from a distance without disturbing them. Consider lenses like the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, or Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS.

  • Tripod: A sturdy tripod is crucial for maintaining stability, especially when using longer telephoto lenses. Look for lightweight yet durable options like the Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 or the Gitzo Mountaineer Series.

  • Monopod: For photographers on the move or in situations where setting up a tripod is impractical, a monopod provides essential support and stability. Consider the Sirui P-204S Aluminum Monopod or the Benro Adventure MAD38A.

  • Filters: While not always necessary for shorebird photography, polarizing filters help reduce glare and enhance colors, mainly when shooting in bright sunlight. Consider the B+W XS-Pro Digital MRC Nano Circular Polarizer or the Hoya HD Circular Polarizer.

  • Camera Bag: Invest in a durable and weather-resistant camera bag to protect your gear while exploring Alaska's diverse coastal environments. Look for padded compartments and adjustable dividers, such as the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II or the Peak Design Everyday Backpack.

  • Additional Accessories: Don't forget essential accessories such as extra camera batteries, memory cards, lens cleaning kits, and a rain cover for your camera bag to ensure you're prepared for any shooting conditions.

Bald Eagle Flying Over Kachemak Bay Homer Alaska
Bald Eagle Flying Over Kachemak Bay Homer Alaska

Camera Settings and Photography Techniques:

  • Aperture Priority Mode: When photographing shorebirds, use aperture priority mode (A or Av) to control the depth of field and ensure your subjects remain sharply focused against blurred backgrounds. Start with a wide aperture (e.g., f/4 or f/5.6) to isolate individual birds or smaller groups, adjusting for varying lighting conditions.

  • Fast Shutter Speed: Shorebirds are often in constant motion, making a fast shutter speed essential for capturing sharp, crisp images. Use a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000s or faster to freeze the birds' movements and minimize motion blur.

  • Continuous Autofocus (AF-C) Mode: Switch to constant autofocus mode (AF-C or AI-Servo) to track moving subjects effectively, allowing your camera to adjust focus as the birds move within the frame continuously. Pair this with predictive autofocus (AF tracking) for optimal results.

  • Single Point Autofocus: Utilize single-point autofocus (AF-S or One-Shot AF) to ensure precise focus on your subject, mainly when shooting in busy or cluttered environments where the camera's autofocus system may struggle to distinguish between foreground and background elements.

  • Burst Mode (Continuous Shooting): Take advantage of your camera's burst mode to quickly capture a series of shots, increasing your ability to capture the perfect moment and compensating for slight movements or variations in bird behavior.

  • Composition: Experiment with different compositions and perspectives to create visually compelling images. Utilize leading lines, diagonal compositions, and the rule of thirds to showcase the habitat of your photos, keeping the birds' natural behaviors and surroundings in mind.

Remember, successful shorebird photography in Alaska concerns more than the gear and settings. It's about cultivating patience, keen observation, and a deep appreciation for the natural world.

By studying your subjects' behavior, anticipating their movements, and waiting for the perfect opportunities, you can capture unique and evocative images that truly reflect the beauty of Alaska's avian wildlife.

Short-billed Dowitchers Finding Tasty Treats on the Mudflats
Short-billed Dowitchers Finding Tasty Treats on the Mudflats

Learn More About Photographing Shorebirds

Photographing Wild Birds by Chris Gomersall

This book delves into every aspect of capturing stunning bird photographs, featuring captivating illustrations from the author's collection and practical advice on equipment and techniques. 

Fundamental skills for bird photographers, particularly those working in the field, are meticulously explored, drawing from the author's extensive professional experience. 

From stalking methods to utilizing hides and seizing moments of action or rare bird sightings, the author clarifies insights, even in challenging conditions. Advanced techniques such as decoy usage and employing tapes are also covered in detail.

Each section includes illuminating interviews with accomplished bird photographers, shedding light on their unique approaches and favorite subjects. Additionally, many case studies demonstrate how these field techniques translate into breathtaking bird imagery. 

Introductory chapters offer guidance on equipment selection and camera techniques, while concluding sections delve into post-production processes, including digital storage, providing a holistic understanding of bird photography from start to finish.

Photographing shorebirds in Alaska is an exhilarating and rewarding experience, allowing photographers to capture breathtaking images of these creatures in their pristine coastal habitats. 

Investing in the right gear, mastering essential camera settings and techniques, and approaching your subjects with patience and respect allows you to create beautiful photographs for your portfolio that illustrate the beauty and diversity of Alaska's avian wildlife for years to come.

Things to Do in Homer Alaska

Check out these posts for Things to Do In Homer Alaska, and Free Things to Do during the 2024 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of shorebirds can be seen in Kachemak Bay?

Kachemak Bay is renowned for its diversity of shorebirds, especially during the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival. Observers can spot over 25 different species, including sandpipers, plovers, and the Red-necked Phalarope.

When is the best time to see shorebirds at Kachemak Bay?

The optimal time for shorebird viewing in Kachemak Bay is during their spring migration, which peaks around early May. This coincides with the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, an event that draws birders from around the world to witness this spectacular migration.

Are there guided tours available for bird watching in Kachemak Bay?

Water Taxi Operators and several tour operators offer wildlife tours that include birds. The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival offers a variety of guided birding tours, educational activities, and workshops that cater to both novice and experienced bird watchers. These events provide excellent opportunities to learn about and observe shorebirds in their natural habitat.


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