Had one of those great mornings along the Texas Gulf Coast recently when the stars aligned. One big star and a great blue heron.
Visualized this shot when spotting this great blue heron while walking on the beach when it was still dark out. Had to guess where to lay down based on the light peeking through on the horizon. Only had to shift my position slightly when seeing the sun start to pop to keep him in the sunrise. He stayed in one spot while I got off several shots.
While wishing that the skimmers weren’t in front of him, they blasted off and left me with a challenge – do I keep my focus on the GBH or do I try to take photos of the skimmers. I stuck with the heron and eventually all of the skimmers were gone. He then looked up into the sky and I’ll save that photo for a photo contest.
Taken with Canon 1DX Mark III and 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on skimmer ground pod with a Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm
My first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Texas gulf coast in 2020 was magical. One of the rare times when the Gulf of Mexico was very calm and the pre-dawn light was amazing. Caught this great blue heron coming in for a landing and was able to get some decent shots with very slow shutter speeds @ 1/100 & 1/80 sec. Had to crank my ISO up to 6400 and use 1 2/3 exposure compensation as it was before the sun came up. Wish that I would have used ISO 10,000.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wilberley II gimbal head
1/100 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod
1/80 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod
Spent last Sunday at sunrise hanging out at the Texas City Dike with tons of birds including Avocets, Black Skimmers, Black Crowned Night Herons and some very cooperative American Oystercatchers. More on the Oystercatchers later.
While trying to find the Oystercatchers, came upon this Great Blue Heron standing on some rocks. Thought that I could turn this into a decent shot but knew that the sun reflecting off of the water behind him was going to be a challenge. From instinct, bumped up the exposure compensation to +1 as the camera’s light meter was going to automatically darken the scene due to the bright background. Checked the histogram and saw that the bird still wasn’t properly exposed per the first photo below. It was going to take a lot more positive exposure compensation to be the Heron looking good, which would have really blown out the background.
Instead, decided to turn this into a silhouette shot. Backed my car up so that the sun reflection was directly behind him. Lowered the ISO to 100, removed all exposure compensation and let the light meter in my camera automatically darken the scene as it was very bright. Was very pleased with the result on the first try. Checked my histogram expecting that a little negative exposure compensation could be needed but it wasn’t. Another silhouette for my portfolio.
Used the back focus button on my camera to set the focus on the bird and then reframed the shot to get him in the right third of the photo.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter, hand-held out the car window using a camera bean bag
Original photo: Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Silhouette photo: Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 100, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation
Bolivar Flats along the Gulf of Mexico in SE Texas continues to amaze me. Made my second trip over the long holiday weekend yesterday and this one was special. My typical goals at Bolivar include trying to find and photograph Avocets and Reddish Egrets. All other birds are icing on the cake. It was a target rich environment and had the opportunity to have my cake with lots of icing on top.
In my FeatherFest workshops, I stress to the participants to keep your head on a swivel and look behind you as the best shot may be there. Took my own advice and it paid off big time on this outing.
All photos were taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head. Very little cropping on most of these photos.
Got up at 3:30 a.m. and made it to Bolivar before the sun came up. Hiked along the beach to check out where the birds were located and saw this Great Blue Heron flying by. Picked up my rig, including the ground pod, and got a series of blurred flight shots. Got a nice blurred wing spread when he landed.
1/20 sec @ F16, ISO 1600, +2/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering, handheld
Worked my way down the beach and saw a group of White Pelicans, Gulls and Avocets in the distance. Didn’t see a practical way to get close to them so headed to one of my favorite spots and settled on a small sandbar just off shore within reach of a Reddish Egret. Got a few shots of him dancing around when the tide came in and the sand bar went under water. Decided to stay put and laid in the water waiting for some more bird action. Patience paid off as I heard a group of three American Oystercatchers coming in for a landing near by. Got off my first shot as this one was landing and he gave me a very nice wing spread. They only hung around for a couple of minutes and took off.
1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 4000, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering
Looked behind me and saw a Reddish Egret dancing in the distance so headed back in that direction. Saw what I thought was a Snowy Egret and decided to lay down and get a few silhouette shots. Discovered that he was actually a White Morph Reddish Egret, which ended up providing some great shots over the next hour.
1/4000 sec @ F9, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Followed this White Morph back to near my original location when a Reddish Egret flew in and scared him off. After the Reddish Egret didn’t do anything but stand there, turned around to see that the White Morph had landed back in the area where I first spotted him. Moved my position again and ended up working his way back towards me. Got some of my best White Morph shots as he danced around. I’ll post some more shots of him later.
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 800, +1 exposure compensation, evaluative metering
After the White Morph walked passed me, heard a familiar bird and looked behind me to see a single Avocet starting to feed along side a Yellow Legs and a Willet. The challenge at this point was to rotate around in the wet sand without spooking him. The Avocet kept moving back and forth and got close enough for some head shots. This one is uncropped.
1/400 sec @ F16, ISO 800, evaluative metering
A very good day indeed.
On my last trip to Brazos Bend State Park, Doug and I didn’t have much luck with birds until we came across this Great Blue Heron that allowed us to get very close. Too close to get anything but head shots, which is not a bad situation to be in. When that’s the case with long necked birds, it’s time to go vertical. Got some photos as he was facing us but kind of liked these POV shots as he was looking away.
Somehow in the move to a vertical shot, ended up moving the dial by mistake and got -2/3 exposure compensation. I’m still not used to having the exposure compensation bar on the right side of the viewfinder compared to my 7D with the bar on the bottom.
Taken with Canon 1DX with Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation (wrong setting)
1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation (wrong setting)
Most of the time it’s difficult to get real close to wildlife. Sometimes though you can get lucky and get close enough for a head shot or in this case, a little too lucky, when you can barely get their head in the frame. From the comfort of my stealth Honda, got this shot of a Great Blue Heron at Brazoria NWR. While shooting at 500mm, he came close enough for what I’d call a beak shot. Used a pano crop to highlight the length of his beak. Size does matter, in the bird world.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4x III teleconverter, handheld
1/200 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm
Here is an early morning pre-dawn silhouette of a Great Blue Heron. I typically don’t like shots of birds flying away from me but this one works because of the calm water and the wing almost touching the water. Cropped this one as a pano just because I could. Go figure.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4x III teleconverter, hand-held
1/200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm
There were tons of GBH’s in Freeport on this day back in June. They were feeding on the fish that the Skimmers were also trying to catch. Was able to capture this one with back-lighting in his wings as he was coming in for a landing. I’m a major fan of back-lit shots and always try to find them when I’m out at sunrise. I like to break the rule of shooting with the sun at your back.
Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens, hand-held
1/400 sec @ F 5.6, partial metering, ISO 400, no flash
What a difference 50 minutes can make for morning light. I always encourage everyone to shoot around sunrise or sunset to get the best light for wildlife photos. Here is an example of how quickly light can change early in the morning. The first shot, taken at 7:30 a.m., shows the golden light that you can get around sunrise. The second shot is of the same Great Blue Heron only 50 minutes later. Which one do you like better? My preference is the first one. In order to get a more pleasing shot on the second one, I moved to my left to get more of the sun in the background so that it would be a silhouette shot. Reduced the exposure compensation by -1 stop and got the last picture.
The lighting in your photo’s can make all the difference. So get out and shoot early or stay until sunset and take advantage of the good light while it lasts.
7:30 a.m. around sunrise
8:20 a.m., 50 minutes after the first shot
Just after second shot
Here are a few more shots of the fog from Bolivar. After the sunrise shots, you could see the tops of the Galveston buildings stick up through the fog along with some ships coming into port.