“Great Blue Heron” by Robin Conover Canon EOS 5D Mark IV EF 100–400 mm at 400 mm, 4.5–5.6 L IS USM lens ISO 1,250, fl6.3 at 1/320 second, Gitzo tripod
Last fall I had one of those days that photographers really look forward to. The air was crisp with fall temperatures and lower humidity, the autumn color was near peak and the wildlife at Radnor Lake State Natural Area in Nashville was very active. I observed several deer, great blue herons and otters and numerous birds actively feeding on the mast of acorns, seeds, persimmons and fish. The changing of seasons was obvious, and the light was beautiful.
This particular great blue heron had been wading at the lake’s edge for about an hour, tactically feeding on a school of small fish in the shallow water. After catching its fill, it flew up to a perch about 20 feet off the ground. If you aren’t familiar with these herons, you might think they are found only on the ground, wading near the water’s edge, but, in fact, they spend a good amount of time in trees. They nest and roost on high branches, usually near water, for safety from predators that might easily surprise them on the ground.
This perch was not only a good vantage point for the heron to preen as it digested the day’s catch, but it was a perfect spot for me to photograph it against the brilliant color in the background. I could not have chosen a better place for the bird to land. This scene of bright sun on the fall color and on the heron only lasted about 10 minutes before the sun quickly moved below the ridgeline to my back, leaving the heron in the shadows.
Having some technical knowledge is important for capturing images like this one, but being in the right place at the right time is sometimes more important. Keep the sun at your back this fall as you get outdoors to enjoy the journey. You will be rewarded.