The Great Journey in Photography

Out of the Blue

Great Blue Heron

For years I have been trying to get close to a Great Blue Heron. They are one of my favorite birds but I have never really been able to get close as I would like to. For a long time, when I could see them in numbers, on a regular basis, there was a fence keeping humans away from their area. I could still get decent pictures but the Herons enjoyed that safe space and outside that area were very skittish towards people. A couple of years ago they all abandoned that nesting place and all but disappeared from the area. This last season I saw a couple of them here and there almost every time I was out. About four weeks ago I first saw my new pal in a place they usually don’t frequent but is a wonderful fishing spot that attracts many other birds. It kept its distance and I thought nothing much of it. When I saw that bird again last week things were different. It seems as though the fishing is so good there that it was becoming acclimated to humans.

That’s when I had the chance to make the picture you see. For the first time a Great Blue Heron allowed me to get within spitting distance and I was able to make one of the images I have been after for such a long time. I chose this particular image as the best. It is my favorite composition and I think the best way to compose portraits for long-necked birds. I think that in order to have great detail in the head and face it is impossible to make a full length portrait of this size bird, photographing just the head does not look natural because it crops in the neck and kind of makes the “floating head” effect, so what I like to do is place a portion of the body in the frame in one of the lower corners of the frame. This makes a very pleasing portrait that shows lots of detail in the head area. Depending on the size of the bird this can work out to be an 8×10 or 4×6, in portrait mode of course.

One of the things I love about shooting the cliffs of La Jolla Cove is the incredible backgrounds available, usually with the blue ocean blurred out even when stopped down. This was not La Jolla but when I saw the bird fly to a very small cliff and look out to the water I knew things were getting even better. As you can see this background is classic and flawless, no retouching either. Just one regret with this photo. It was shot before golden hour by just a little bit. If the time had been deep into golden hour the colors would have been a little more vivid and our subject bit golden. There was however a bit of a haze rolling in about the time of this shot and that helped soften the sunlight a bit and things worked out just fine.

Thanks for reading. You can see more pictures at


2 responses

  1. Hey Ron,
    Very nice picture of a fantastic bird! Congrats! You should come to Switzerland if you also like Grey Herons as we have lots of wild ones…
    You have a great day,

    June 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

  2. Excellent shot, Ron. I have a Great Blue Heron that lives across the creek from where I keep my boat. It continues to be one of my favorite subjects to photograph, but I need to learn more to truly capture its grace and splendor. I look forward to following your blog and seeing more of your work. – Rob

    June 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

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