Low light Great Blue Heron with Earth Shadow

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Great Blue Herons, Pinellas County/Low light Great Blue Heron with Earth Shadow

Great Blue Heron with the Earth's Shadow  Great Blue Heron with Earth Shadow –  Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 640, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 340mm, natural light

When I look at this image I can recall the morning that I created this file with a great degree of clarity. The sun had not quite risen above the horizon to the east but there was a touch of pre-dawn light, the Earth’s Shadow was visible to the naked eye. I’ve always been thrilled to see the Earth’s shadow.

The wind was blowing at about 35 knots (40 mph), waves were crashing onto shore behind the dune the heron was on, grasses were bent low and the fine grained sugar sand; hurled by the strong wind, stung my exposed skin. Not the most pleasant circumstances but for some reason I felt especially invigorated that morning. I’m not sure if it was the cool wind, seeing the Earth Shadow, being outdoors immersed in nature or a combination of all of the above.

Low lighting conditions can be a difficult challenge for bird photographers who shoot in aperture priority (I do) because shutter speed drops dramatically when there is little available light.

Not too many months before I photographed this Great Blue Heron I had always hesitated to use ISO’s above 320, I had heard so many other owners of Nikon’s D200 complain a lot about the bad noise issues they had encountered using ISO’s over 320. I had listened to those warnings for awhile after getting the D200 but then decided to do some experimenting on my own. On a morning with very low light I photographed another Great Blue Heron at ISO 1000 and when I looked at the image on my monitor at home I found very little evident noise in those frames and soon became bolder at using higher ISO’s.

Sometimes it pays to experiment, stretch your skills or to push your gear’s limit a bit. I’m glad I had experimented with higher ISO’s in the months prior to the morning I photographed this Great Blue Heron or I may have walked on by the bird thinking I couldn’t get enough shutter speed, so why bother. I am happy that thought didn’t occur to me.

The Great Blue Heron images from the series I created that blustery November morning on Fort De Soto’s north beach are still favorites of mine and likely always will be.


Another Great Blue Heron image from that morning can be found here.


  1. Dan Huber October 24, 2011 at 4:57 am

    very nice capture Mia – especially for the light

    • Mia McPherson November 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks Dan, I had fun photographing this heron in the light all the while enjoyong seeing the Earth Shadow

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