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More From The Rookery. April 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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I went back to Wendell for another whack at photographing the heron rookery my friend Lizz told me about, this time arriving around 8am to get the light on  rather than behind  the birds.

Well, as these things are wont to happen, the weather didn’t quite cooperate; even when there was blue sky behind the objects of my affection, the sun was screened through a moving mat of high and ever-thickening clouds.  I spent three hours trying, but left knowing that I’d be back for more goes at this magical tableau.

The rookery is in a stand of dead trees in a beaver-flooded hollow:

I counted at least a dozen nests, some not evident until a croaking heron circled and landed, or took off from something much less evident than this one:

Thanks for the help, guys!

And I say “guys” because most of the nests which were close enough to observe had a sitting bird, which I’m assuming is female and incubating eggs (as they almost never  left their nests,) and a standing  bird, who seemed to be watching their environ by quadrants, either for danger or opportunity:

I could almost hear the conversation as they interacted: “Heads down*, Alice, I’m goin’ out to get lunch.”  “Ralph, you’re always  going out to get lunch!”

* Herons never say “duck,” as they consider that to be fowl language.

Anyway, my objective for the day (besides getting shots of front-lit herons) was to try to get herons in flight.  This is a big leap for me, as Gizmo is a 400mm lens without image stabilization, meaning any movement of the lens (including touching it) blurs the photo, so tracking birds, even with a tripod, is out.  Add to that the sorry fact that for many of these shots I was using a 2X tele-extender which  a) slows the shutter speed by two full stops,  b) magnifies the shake inherent in touching the camera and  c) makes the lens’ auto-focus inoperable, and I had a situation where I had to  a) boot the ISO up substantially,  b) pre-aim the camera, guessing where my flying subject would be, and shoot with a cable release so I didn’t have to touch the camera, and  c) pre-focus on God-knows-what and hope something good would come of it.

So here, against all odds, are the results.

A trio of “guard” herons, with one taking flight:

Obviously, I hadn’t guessed correctly which bird would “chicken” first.  Oh well.

Here’s one preparing for take-off, posing as a Buick hood ornament:

Good one, Bird!

…Then, launching into flight:

That’s an impressive wing-span there!

And lastly, the same bird returning to its roost, playing Night-time, Daytime:

I find the feather separation on the up-flap impressive, and marvel at the engineering inherent in such an organic design.

Anyway, that’s all I got before the clouds moved in and I got tired of sitting in cold, wet moss.

But if I’m right in my assumption that the females are sitting on eggs, return trips might prove productive.

Time will tell, eh?  😉


More Herons. April 21, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Housemate/Dearest Friend/Photographic Mentor Lizz told me about a heron rockery she’d crossed paths with in Wendall. MA, which is less than an hour from here and so qualifies as “local,” and how her 200mm lens didn’t quite get her close enough for keeper photos.  Perhaps, she thought, my 400mm Gizmo might be more appropriate for the job.

Well, I went there and found the nests, and though the light was behind them, got a few shots worth sharing.

A tree with three nests and two sitting moms-to be:

There were a number of nests with sitting birds, which I’ll guess were the females, while another set of birds flew about, landing on other nests and branches:

My sense was that these were the males, though I’m no ornithologist.   I graciously assumed they were patrolling the perimeters, rather than dodging their parental responsibilities.  At any rate, they were beautiful to watch:

They were backlit, meaning they weren’t colorful, but they had strong lines.

And, as it turned out, their beaks were translucent, and positively glowed in that backlight:

I was happy with the shots from this first visit, but I think I need to see it at/near sunrise, which means getting there in the pre-dawn pall and setting up before the action commences.

That’s awfully early, but I’ll try.  I think the shots may be worth it.


Slackin’ With Herons. March 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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OK, so I’m slackin’.

Actually, I’m buried under the job of being unemployed, and trying to get my photography act together so it provides at least a piece of my economic puzzle.

“Job counselors” are telling me that it’s a shitty time to “try to get into” photography, but my heart isn’t having any of that.  Consequently, there’s a fair amount of swimming upstream in my immediate future.  Wish me luck with that.

In the meantime, I spent the last of yesterday’s daylight hours standing veeeeeery still at the edge of a pond in Orange, MA waiting for a heron I’d seen on the drive-by to return to its nest.  The sky was densely overcast, and as sunset approached and the light grew dimmer I booted my ISO ever higher, lamenting the loss of acuity I’d certainly have to deal with in the post-processing.  But such was the price for maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to capture a bird in flight.

Just when it was getting too dark to continue the effort, the heron returned, and I got these shots:

…as well as a big fat tick deeply embedded in my groin.

Ah, the price we pay for our art.

Anyway, if I’m scarce in these parts, it’s because I’m trying, really  I am, to get my foot in the closing door of professional photography.  And being unemployed gives me both the time and the motivation to try hard.