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04/11/2012 / Gary B

Big Birds are Back!

Great Blue Herons have returned to our midwest waterways and that means they simply must be photographed!

A long zoom lens is a must, but a careful eye is quite helpful as well. Consider these ideas when you’re out there looking at these magnificent birds through your viewfinder…

First, try to position yourself to see the bird’s reflection in the water. It’s not required by law, but really helps in a photo. Luck might play a part in this because it has to do with the direction of the light, stillness of the water, and your particular view point, but I definitely consider a reflection to be a big bonus because it can make the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

If not the reflection of the bird itself, it’s cool to see reflections of the trees or rocks or absolutely any structure at all on the opposite shore, and sometimes it’s just a matter of moving a little left or a little right to get the reflections in your shot.

Artifacts and reflections are very cool

Although highly unusual, keep your eyes peeled for other species to accent your shot. Without reflections, flight, a bolt of lightening, or a snake in the bird’s mouth, you’ll need something to make it interesting.

Two species in one photo is always a good thing

And BTW, there’s a fine line between interesting and stupid. A fisherman, totally oblivious of my photo-stalking from 50 feet away, walked into my shot without knowing it. I personally do not consider this to be “interesting.” He can be removed, of course, and I would have that done at Kohne Camera & Photo, but I really would rather he hadn’t come by just then because he scared away my subject!

Patience is important, too, simply because (among other things) if you wait, they will fly. Something will come along and startle them and it’s your job to be ready when they leave the scene.

Herons are so big that a 500th of a second is fast enough to freeze them just after take-off (shown below), but if you want to freeze the wing tips, you’ll need to use a 1000th-of-a-second or faster to do the job.

This was 1/500th -- 1/1000th would've been better

Whenever possible, and this goes for absolutely all wildlife photography (and family photography for that matter!), watch and wait for behavior. Stick around, be patient, and keep watching, because they’ll certainly do something cool and you’ll want to be ready when they do.

I saw this guy rub his beak on a rock for about 20 seconds. Removing parasites? Sharpening his hunting weapon? Polishing his colorful part for a prospective mate? I don’t know, but it was fun to watch and cool to photograph.

Unusual behavior is awesome and preferred

Most of all, of course, just get out there and be a part of it. Herons, egrets, owls, hawks… They’re a lot of fun, and now is the time to photograph them.

Kohne Camera & Photo

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Leave a Comment
  1. Static Instants / Apr 11 2012 11:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Static Instants and commented:

  2. mobius faith / Apr 12 2012 7:20 am

    One of my favorite birds. Great images.

  3. Luke / Apr 13 2012 8:08 am

    So nice to see the heron and egret back in numbers. If only the water were a little warmer to enjoy the kayak! None the less great images. I wish I had a scratcher like the GBH does. I wouldn’t have to rub my back on a doorway!

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