Friday, May 18, 2012

Great Blue Heron

At last, the great blue heron has been seen at the pond. I had started to think it might be a year when it would not appear at all. But I encountered it for the first time yesterday. The weather was amazing - warm, dry and sunny - and, as a result, I lingered and kept walking the path. The heron lingered for reasons of its own.
Because of its prolonged stay, I had the opportunity to take many photos. It first settled at the far end of the pond (above) where it took its predatory posture - stock still. I suspect it had its eye on a tasty something, but before it had a chance to strike, it was frightened off by someone on the path. This was the theme of the heron's afternoon as so many people were walking (themselves and their dogs) as well as running the path that circles the pond.
A few months ago, a fellow photographer at FineArtAmerica commented that my photos looked dark. So, I've been trying to manually set my camera (a Nikon D40 with a 55 - 300mm Nikkor lens) for various light conditions hoping to lighten them up. This is risky business as I lose so many shots to over or under exposure, as, from shot to shot, light conditions change - there being nothing static about the light, minute to minute or place to place, in this pond setting. Some of the heron photos here were wing and a prayer clicks.

Camera light setting is tricky, as lighting is tricky for the camera. I think each of the photos - above and below - are beautiful. They were take a second apart. I didn't change any settings on the camera. But apparently, the light conditions changed just enough to cause both of these images to show as dramatically different and strikingly alike. The heron had traveled perhaps ten feet in that second and was flying into the setting sunlight. I think it crossed a line directly in front of me (and the camera) where, as I tracked the bird, new light illuminated it. I think the bird was gaining elevation as well, so the second shot was angled higher.
As the heron proceeded to the right (below), the shots became increasingly more overexposed as the sunlight was brilliant, too bright for the manual setting I had chosen for the darker, far end of the pond from where the heron had taken off.
But let's not get bogged down on the technicalities (about which I know precious little...), and instead just enjoy these pictures of the heron!
I took all of the photos in this post over the course of two hours and I have the sense this could be the best reaping of heron images of the entire season.
Here are a few great blue heron facts: 
the weight of the bird is 5 to 7 pounds (I would have guessed at least double that), the wingspan is 5.5 to 6.6 feet, the lifespan is 15 years on average.
What I love about the image below is the graceful line of the left wing. See how the visual variation in thickness enhances what we see as motion, undulation even, in the wing. This bird has a beautiful elegance!
(Click on any of the photo for full screen viewing and scrolling through them all.)


Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that you may want to run a quick exposure test. Instead of manual setting, why not try Aperature preferred (eg. f11) and let the camera pick the speed. Take a few shots and then switch to speed preferred (eg. 1/200). Then repeat the same shots and see if one mode produces better shots. If one is better, it may provide a clue to the issue source.

Mary said...

Bruce, I'm always so glad for your suggestions! Yes, I'll try this. But also, one day when I was switching lenses, I found the lens hood that came with the 55-300mm lens (the one that seems to give me the darkest images). So I thought why not use it and see if there is a difference. It would make sense, since the hood would diminish light source close to the lens, resulting in the camera not over compensating for light by underexposing (making darker...). Anyway, I've been using the hood and I think it has brightened my photos!!! I do want to get more skilled with speed as well so will experiment as you suggested. Thanks so much! Hope all is well -