Great Blue Heron up close and not so close

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat Blue Heron portrait – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited

When I am out photographing birds I always appreciate when I am able to get close enough to them to get portrait frames of them because a portrait can show fine details that an image from further away can’t.

One December morning in 2008 I was sitting in the sand at Fort De Soto County Park’s north beach in Florida when a Great Blue Heron came up and perched on a driftwood stump that had washed up onto the shore. The heron was close enough that at 400mm I was able to get frame filling portraits of it. In this frame I can see that the Great Blue’s eyes are not just a solid yellow, I can see that the outer portion of the eyeball actually has some red and orange and I can see how there is salt encrusted on the bill and the lores. I can also make out a lot of fine detail in the heron’s plumage.

Great Blue Heron on a stickGreat Blue Heron on a stick – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/750, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 120mm, natural light, not baited

A few minutes after I took the frame above I backed up my zoom to 120mm so that I could photograph the entire heron and although the fine details are still very evident it is more difficult to see the orange and red in the Great Blue’s eyes and to make out the salt on the bill and lores.

So; whenever it is possible I love to get images of the entire bird and close up portraits like I did with this handsome Great Blue Heron.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Great timing! I’m working on a watercolor of this bird…detail will be very helpful…especially like simplicity of up close portrait…has an almost graphic arts quality…beautiful work.

  2. Pingback: Reddish Egret up close and not so close

  3. I was after the GBH most of the time while in Central Florida. I also saw saw the juveniles with another plumage. These birds always steal the show. They are merciless.hunters. In P.R., they were known to eat rats and little ducklings. They are to be feared!!! One of them caught a rat and I’ll never forget the squeaking the poor animal made!!!

  4. Such a beautiful portrait, Mia! Interesting to see such fine details! I love colors as well!

  5. Mia, both shots are quite beautiful! The bird is highlighted by the deep blue sky. Florida is a great place to capture close up images of Great Blue Herons. Love the details!

  6. Wow, Mia. I’ll just never be able to take photographs like you… Spectacular close up. It’s been fun to be in places where the ardeids are not concerned with your presence, and then reflect on the experience while in other places with flighty herons that retreat before you’re within 300m of them. Frustrating, but interesting.

    • Bryce, you will be able to take images like mine. :-) It is fun to be in places where ardeids treat you like you are a rock on the beach and compare it to locations where they fly off even when you are far away. Still, I feel that here in Utah when I get close to one that it is even more special because of their skittishness.

  7. Mia, superb quality photographs of a beautiful subject!

    Sorry to be late in welcoming you back! I truly felt as if a part of my day was empty without being able to enjoy your adventures, your photography and your commentary. Hope your new provider works well for you!

  8. Amazing detail in these photos, and a wonderful warm tone to the colors. Truly works of art, they really could be paintings. ( my real comments ;)

  9. Love the tandem images, Mia!

  10. Beautiful captures, Mia. The portrait is really amazing. The herons where I am are very skittish as well. It is amazing how small these large beautiful birds can make themselves.

    • Thank you Lynn. I don’t think I could walk up on a Great Blue Heron here like I did in Florida and I am fairly certain they wouldn’t walk up to me like this one did.

  11. wonderfull portrait, with a special ligth with a sun not to high in the sky, it s better to apreciate the details =))
    bravo mia ☺

  12. Amazing, you caught that one really well. One for the album Mia.

  13. Mia, these are just superb photos. This is one bird I can rarely get close enough to for decent shots. When they do show up in our area, they are so spooky and flighty.

    • Montana girl, in Florida Great Blues were easier to approach, I have found it difficult to approach them here in Utah though. They just aren’t around as many people as the ones in Florida are.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  14. It’s one of the birds I’m hoping to see next year, and if they’re like your images, and similar to Grey Herons in Europe and Japan, they’ll be impressive!

  15. Very nice. Love Ft. DeSoto.

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