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”.
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.
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.
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.