Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!
For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.
The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.
Bird photography gets really fun when you are trying to capture unique behavior. This Reddish Egret I observed on Sanibel Island, Florida had some cool moves. I was amused by the head tilt that began his feeding dance. In this image, it looks like he is given the duck some attitude.
I drove three hours roundtrip last evening to Sanibel Island, hoping to observe and photograph some birds during low tide at the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. It seems you never find what you expect to find — the white pelicans or the roseate spoonbills — but lucky for me, I met a big bird that was new to me: the Reddish Egret.
The medium-sized heron is not too common, categorized as “Nearly Threatened,” and this bird wore a transmitter on his back. Some naturalist is keeping track of his movements. I enjoyed watching the unique way the Reddish Egret fishes by wading in shallow water and using his wings to shade the prey right before spearing it. With my 600mm Tamron lens, I had a close look and spent about a half hour tracking it as it moved about in the shallows. Of course, I had to use a tripod to steady the heavy lens.
This tall and tranquil bird stood still for quite some time at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as I set up my tripod to make this photograph. He/she is a classy bird, seeming confident, or should I say, comfortable in his feathers.
I was lucky to have my camera focused on this Tricolor Heron when the Great White Egret landed alongside and began to intimidate him. The egret scared the daylights out of the heron, and the heron’s crown feathers stood up on end! I captured a series of photos of the interaction, but the heron appeared a tiny bit blurred in some of the photos, because he was running from fear. I’m not sure if the egret wanted the heron’s fishing spot, but I have seen these egrets get aggressive with each other. Drama in the life of a wading bird! And so early in the morning! It was fun to witness and capture these images.
The Great Blue Heron is my favorite bird to watch in Florida. I love the dusty blue color, the impressive size (4 feet tall perhaps), and its graceful movement. The heron typically stands still like a statue in shallow water, then slowly takes long, deliberate steps and snatches underwater prey super quickly. He will often fly if a person approaches him, so getting a good photograph can be a challenge.
I sat quietly in the grass while observing this Great Blue Heron recently. He stalked through the water and grabbed a fish. Then he kept taking giant steps until he paused on the shore. As he stood tall to look around with those brilliant eyes, I made this photograph.
Watching this graceful American egret in the evening light, my mind went right back to Lincoln Center and the vision of a ballerina dancing Swan Lake. The egrets lines were so beautiful as she moved ever so slowly, and her reflection in the wading pool accentuated her grace.