Great Blue Heron and My Thought Process.... Part 1

by Russell Smith December. 08, 2019 225 views

This Great Blue Heron is one that was hanging out near the canoe dock at of all places Old Santee Canal Park.... Go figure I was at the park again. It is almost like there is no other wilderness areas in the Greater Charleston Area or even South Carolina.

When I shoot wildlife or birds I tend to be in a drive mode that is high so I can rattle off multiple frames at one time. It might be unnecessary for larger birds that are stationary to some but I would disagree. I shoot with a dslr so the shutter clacking or more correctly the mirror can cause a change in a pose. So this is why I do this. In this case I was in an evaluative meter mode or I think matrix is another name for it. It is the mode that evaluates the scene and trys to come up with the best exposure.

Well I decided to check the histogram and also turned on blinkies (overexposure warnings) and saw that the head and "beard" (termed by my wife) feathers were overexposed. I also had the thought that if I were to drop the exposure some that the background would be darker.

While standing there pondering settings I also noticed something that I cut out of this frame and also decided that I wanted to show a bit more of the environment. Thankfully I was shooting with a zoom so I could zoom out to around 250mm.

The environment was important to me because honestly this is a magical location earlier in the morning (It does not receive direct sunlight until about 2-3 hours after sunrise).

Uncropped

Uncropped

I tend to use a single point for auto focus and initially I use the center one because well I have the best luck with it for sharp focus of the part of the image I want to focus on. Focusing on a birds head can be hit or miss when they are a distance.

I also have had enough practice with composing a frame in such a manner that I can crop it to the desired framing. I tend to favor the 4x5 crop ratio because well I love printing in 8x10 and with that ratio I can do a 16x20 or a 20x24 sized print easily without having to decide what part of the image I want to crop. So with this in mind....

Cropped to 4x5 ratio

Cropped to 4x5 ratio

The part that I was missing in the first image was the stunning reflection this is the same frame as above I just cropped it to a 4x5 ratio and this allowed me to move the subject from dead center.

The next shot I wanted to go a bit wider so I moved the lens to 200.

Uncropped

Uncropped

I cropped the final image a bit more after changing to a 4x5 ratio because I wanted to move the reflections location in the image. ***Also the Parts that are sticking up around the tree is part of the Cypress roots and they are called Cypress Knees. I do not think their purpose is fully understood yet but it is part of the adaption that allows them to live in the water or around wetlands.

Cropped to 4x5 ratio and then cropped in to move the reflection

Cropped to 4x5 ratio and then cropped in to move the reflection

This next image is the very next frame on the card. I wanted a Vertical and I wanted to do a black and white. I am of two minds about this image. One part of me loves it and wants to see it printed. It is more an artistic rendering in my mind as my mind sits today. Ask me in a week or two after I have lived with this and I might have changed that thought process. Now the other part of my mind. I love the colors. The colors remind me of home my childhood home in North Fla. While the waters here in the park are clear you could not tell it from this image. I mention that because in Fla we have the blackwaters (created by tannic acid from the leaves in the water). Those blackwaters are like a mirror and honestly hold a special place in my heart. It also added an element of danger when jumping into the swimming holes because who knew if there was an Alligator lurking a few inches below the surface. Yes several times we have jumped in an almost landed on one. Thankfully it was less interested in a bunch of kids than it was in escaping the canonballs of kids hitting the water.

As I stand there scanning for other subjects I notice that the bird is moving so I turn back to the camera and catch.

It dipping its bill into the water for a drink of water. A car door slamming disturbs the peaceful air of the morning causing this guy to be startled and it starts flying off.

If you ever watch a Great Blue Heron or almost any Large Heron take of it is amazing they get into the air at all because well graceful they are not. So with a loud Squawk it takes flight.

I have tried to catch them taking off before with well less than sucessful results. While these are not stellar they are better than what I have shot in the past so I decided to including them.

In part two I will show you another Great Blue and a possible swamp monster.....

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There are 12 comments , add yours!
Benny Law 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This is a great post, Russell. #5 is my favorite.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Russell Smith Replied to Benny Law 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you. I do rather like #5 too

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Olga Helys 10 months, 2 weeks ago

#2 GREAT
Nice and quiet place

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Russell Smith Replied to Olga Helys 10 months, 2 weeks ago

It really is and one thing I find amazing is the fact that straight line as the crow flys it is less than 1/2 mile maybe 1,000 meters or less to the main part of the town that I live in. It truely is an oasis of life and serenity

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Great captures and detailed explanation of your steps. Personally, I like the colored versions, especially they ones with the reflections. The shots with the heron trying to fly are really cool, especially the expression on his face.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Russell Smith Replied to Camellia Staab 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I know techniques and processes change as we improve or get experience so I am curious to see what changes if anything in a year or two. I have not determined which one I like better and honestly being a Gemini I dont know that I will either way it will take a couple of weeks to "loose" any emotional attachment to the processing/image so I can make a less biased decision.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Camellia Staab Replied to Russell Smith 10 months, 2 weeks ago

But the best part is that you have recorded your thoughts and it will be valuable to come back and read it in a while.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This is some nice work Russel; also loved reading the post.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Russell Smith Replied to Berckmans Peter 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you :)

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Don Baird 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I live in central FL so photograph a lot of birds. I use back-button focus on the eye.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Russell Smith Replied to Don Baird 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I use it but I find some of the smaller side focus points can miss and focus on something just past the head not as bad with the large herons but the smaller ones. I use bbf (back button focus) more for the fact that I can focus and then let off only to bump the focus when I need to because of a movement change. Birds in flight well that I need to practice maybe a few days at the beach is in order over Christmas break.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
Don Baird Replied to Russell Smith 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I use bbf with single point focus.

10 months, 2 weeks ago Edited
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