Reddish Egret portrait in breeding plumage – Nikon D200, f8, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Imagine that the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, pretty hot even by Florida’s standards for March. Then imagine that the humidity is about 97%. You get out of your air-conditioned vehicle to take a short walk to the beach & lagoons and before you get even the equivalent of one city block you are drenched with sweat, rivulets coming down your face and getting into your eyes. Your clothes are damp and the sugar sand is beginning to stick to your ankles because of the perspiration that is there.
Slipping quietly into the water of the lagoon helps some, the water is just a bit cooler than the air. First kneeling then moving one knee forward at a time to slowly move closer to my subject. Stopping, watching to see if the bird shows any sign of alarm or that it might take flight. Creeping forward again at a snail’s pace. Tiny pink shrimp tickle the exposed skin on my legs as a flounder that had been buried in the sand scoots away as fast as it can. The water is to my waistline but it feels refreshing considering the heat you can see simmering like a mirage off the the surface of the water. A Pipefish wiggled by just barely under the surface of the water just inches from my thighs.
I had to stop and take my bandana from my backpack to wipe my eyes because the sweat was burning them and I couldn’t see clearly through the viewfinder. I recall swallowing a small sip of water from my bottle when I felt like pouring the entire thing over my head to help me cool off.
Then in flew a Reddish Egret; a large wading bird, who landed on the sandy shoreline which is slightly above me where I was kneeling in the salty water of the tidal lagoon. The egret was in breeding plumage, what a treat. It was so comfortable in my presence that it just stood there, changing position once in awhile allowing full body shots, close ups, landscape and portrait formats. Elegant poses, funny poses and relaxed postures.
In 9 minutes I took almost 200 shots of “Big Red” before I realized that I felt like I was melting in the heat. The sun was getting higher and I knew I had to find relief from the scorching sun. I backed away as slowly as I had approached the shoreline not wanting to disturb the egret. The egret remained there standing still on its long, thin legs.
Was it worth it to feel like a wrung out dishrag to get those shots? Or feeling that every pore on my skin had opened like faucets? Worth the sand in my clothes, scrapes on my knees and looking like something the cat had wanted to drag in but decided it was way too dirty?
You betcha. I’d do it again in a heart beat. I’m addicted to bird photography just in case I had not mentioned it before.