Friday, July 22, 2011

Great day on the bay part 2: variety of waders

I focused attention on the juvenile tricolored heron in my last blog, today I turn to the variety of other waders that were present on the bay two mornings ago. As soon as the sun was cleared of the clouds, the shoreline became illuminated from its rays. That's when I look for those photo opportunities of birds foraging in the shallow waters reflecting the mangroves. Today was ideal with calm waters. There were a couple of things I attempted today. First, I wanted to maintain as low an ISO as possible to minimize noise. I typically do not go above 800 and prefer to not use 640 or higher. But early mornings in a boat make that difficult without using a less than optimal shutter speed. The glow of the sun allowed me to begin shooting semi-white birds (tricolor heron, juvenile little blue heron) at an ISO of 640 and a shutter speed of 400. Not bad for when the bird is not moving much but as soon as it strikes the water, 1/400 will result in blurriness. I had started with a juvenile little blue heron and over a course of about 20 minutes, I was down a full stop using an ISO of 320. It shifted the histogram to the left, but I was happy with the results regardless. I was content with the shutter speed for this bird that never seemed to find a fish to strike. Here are a couple images with the classic mangrove reflections complimenting the bright bird.

The other thing that I attempted was to compose a shot of a bird with mangrove roots in the upper portion of the frame believing that this would add some depth and balance to the photo. Even more to the point, I love the look of the mangrove roots and their reflections in the water. I also like to capture a bird (preferably a white one) close to the roots so that they fill the frame. Whenever I look at such a photo, the roots always appear so much larger. Today, I had lots of options with many birds foraging in and around the smallish mangrove trees that form a barrier between the ocean and the shoreline. Here are a few shots that include the mangrove roots.

I spent the first couple hours following the tricolor herons, a green heron, some white ibises and little blue herons. The sun was high in the sky and the tide was rolling in. I expected to put the camera away and paddle back to the launch site. On my way, I noticed a great white egret looking for food. While the smaller waders pretty much disappear into the trees as the water levels rise, the larger egrets are frequently still out there searching. I paddled closer and figured if it lets me hang out close enough, maybe I'd attempt to capture some images. Sure enough, this bird was too intent on feeding that it barely paid attention to me. So I hung out with the lone white bird. Here are a few results of that encounter. The challenge was to stay between the bird and the sun and it was heading in a direction that made it more difficult to capture it with a good head angle toward the camera. The other challenge is that the sun and shoreline are not perpendicular to each other, so consequently I almost always have to do some kind of rotation to the image in post processing. When the shoreline is in the frame, it often is not running parallel to the ripples in the water created by the bird. But, that's a relatively minor issue when it is all said and done.

It was such a productive day that I barely noticed the intense heat during the 4 hours I was on the water. The great white egret was a perfect ending to it all. Almost always alone in its pursuits, here is another image of this glorious bird.


  1. Love the reflections you capture in these images. Always difficult to get the lighting right with dark backgrounds and pale coloured birds. Do you use a flash extender at all? Beautiful images.