I’ve got the Blues – Great Blue Herons that is!

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Great Blue Herons, Pinellas County/I’ve got the Blues – Great Blue Herons that is!

Great Blue Heron portrait - Mid morning lightGreat Blue Heron portrait – Mid morning light – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

It seems I have always had a fondness for Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) although I don’t recall the first time I ever saw one. Great Blues are large wading birds that have a prehistoric look to them and even their calls; more like a croak, sound like something from the long distant past.

When I photographed this Great Blue Heron the golden light of dawn had passed yet the light was wonderful for this close up of a resting heron. The white sand beneath it did reflect some light back towards the bird.

The quality of light can make subtle to large differences in a final image, if the light is too harsh it can make the subject and its surroundings contrasty and make any shadows appear even darker. It can make whites blow out easily too. Unless there are high thin clouds or it is slightly overcast I don’t like to photograph birds in the middle of the day instead I prefer to photograph in the early morning or late afternoon, always hoping for that “sweet light”.

Great Blue Heron portrait - Warm morning lightGreat Blue Heron portrait – Warm morning light – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

This Great Blue Heron portrait was taken earlier in the morning than the previous image and there was still a touch of that golden morning light, the whites by the eye, the chin and under the bill have warmer tones than the image above and the feathers on the back are less a blue-gray and more of a tan-gray.

Great Blue Heron - Mid morning lightGreat Blue Heron – Mid morning light – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

This image was also taken in mid morning light, the light at that time of day is typically more “blue” than it is just as the sun rises. This Great Blue was standing on a sand dune that overlooked the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico which lends a sense of place to the photo.

I’ve said I like to photograph in morning and evening light but I also like the challenges of photographing in low light, fog, rain and falling snow.

Great Blue Heron - Pre-dawn light with Earth ShadowGreat Blue Heron – Pre-dawn light with Earth Shadow – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1.320, ISO 640, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

This Great Blue Heron image is an example of photographing in low light. This was taken pre-dawn, before the sun had crested the horizon, the bluish tint near the feet of the heron was the earth’s shadow and the pink tinged sky was above that.

I did lighten the exposure for this image slightly in post processing but not enough that I would have needed to use Noise Reduction.

That morning is one I won’t soon forget, the wind was blowing at about 30 knots (35 mph) from the north and it was picking up the sand which felt like tiny needles where my skin was bare, I made sure to keep my lens hood pointed away from the north so the sand wouldn’t pit the UV filter that was screwed on above the glass. I was laying below the sand dune where the heron was standing, partly because I wanted a low angle but mostly because the dune did help to protect me some from the sting of the flying sand.

I knew the sun was rising so I took as many images as I could, there was something about the earth shadow, the low light and the heron that felt magical and looked wonderful through my viewfinder. It was worth having a bit of my skin peeled off to get these images.

Light does make a difference.

Mia

24 Comments

  1. Dave Sparks October 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Beautiful images, wonderful light.

  2. Susan October 18, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Love this post, the first photo is fabulous, feel as though I could reach out and touch the Heron:)

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you very much Susan.

  3. ingrid October 18, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Mia, these shots are so pristine and stunning, they look like they could be studio shots! 😉 Beautiful and diligent work by one of the most talented (and ethical) wildlife photographers I’ve had a chance to encounter. Thank you for your gorgeous and compassionate portrayals.

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Ingrid, your comment about studio shots made me laugh out loud! Thank you for your very kind & generous comment on these images.

  4. Kathie October 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Wonderful images of an iconic bird! I think we all love this one!

  5. M. Firpi October 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    All great, these are one of my favourite ones too.

  6. Rohrerbot October 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Fabulous photos Mia!!! I am also in love with these birds. On a recent trek with Kathie and also I alone I did some photography on them. What lens do you use for such clear shots!? As always beeeeautiful.

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Chris,

      These images were all taken handheld with the Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens, most of my Florida images were. Although the lens is slow in low light it produces images that I am very pleased with and by not having to set up a tripod I scared away far fewer birds. Great Blues are wonderful subjects to photograph.

  7. Azstu October 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Gorgeous Images. They remind me of John Audubon’s illustrations in tone, especially the fourth image.

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Thank you Stu, I love Audubon’s illustrations so I consider your comment high praise.

  8. Scott Simmons October 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Wonderful shots! These look like Fort De Soto images…

    • Mia McPherson October 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks Scott, they were taken at Fort De Soto!

  9. Bob Bushell October 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I’ve got the blues; not for the herons, they are fantastic photos.

    • Mia McPherson October 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Thanks so much Bob, I do have great subjects.

  10. Larry Jordan October 15, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Gorgeous images Mia! My fave is the second portrait with the trailing position of the crown feathers. Very pleasing to the eye. I agree, light is everything and you certainly have mastered it.

    • Mia McPherson October 15, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Thanks Larry, I loved those trailing crown feathers in that image too. Your comments are much appreciated

  11. Carol Mattingly October 15, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Mia I don’t think I’ll ever capture images such as these. They are without a doubt absolutely positively gorgeous. You rock. Carol

    • Mia McPherson October 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

      Thank you Carol! I’m certainly lucky to have such beautiful subjects.

  12. Beverly Everson October 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Gorgeous images, Mia! I’ve always had a special fondness for Great Blues, too.

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