Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 9, 2009

Small changes can make a big difference

Black-crowned Night-Heron 278

Black-crowned Night-Heron 278

Whenever I find a cooperative subject like this patient night heron I try to spend as much time as I can with it to see what might happen and to try some variations.

The top image was taken at 7:15:33 AM, with an ISO of 200, 1/40th second at f/13 and an exposure bias of +2/3 using my matrix meter in the D200.

Black-crowned Night-Heron 284

Black-crowned Night-Heron 284

The second image was taken at 7:20:52, a little over 5 minutes later. ISO 200, 1/80th at f/8, +1 exposure bias. In that short time the heron has shifted position slightly, but more importantly the light has changed dramatically.

Both have essentially the same composition, with the subject (heron) place far to the right, lots of space on the left (where the heron is facing), and I’ve used the branches of the tamarisk to fill the bottom of the “empty” space. In both the background is sky reflected from the water behind, although many viewers assume it is the sky itself. In terms of style, the heron is less than half of the frame and the colors verge on understated monochrome.

I like both images, but think the second image is a big stronger and has more viewer appeal. The first image has a darker mood, with the emphasis on the face where the light falls. The second image is more open in feel, and has more of a three dimensional aspect from the light on the branches and on the feathers of the breast.

I could easily have walked away from this bird after the first shot and been happy, but hanging around a bit longer gave me an image I like even more.



  1. Just found your site and know I will love following you (especially as a former AZ resident with short bouts of home sickness!) I just recently starting taking the spiraling dive into photography and I just have to say that your post here really gave me that aha moment. Before every picture cost money with film cameras..I realize I’m still being stingy while learning. Thanks for being the one who opened my eyes. Your images are inspiring to mere novices like myself.

    Comment by Peg — January 11, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  2. Thanks, Peg.

    One of the fundamental advantages of shooting digital compared to shooting film is the freedom to shoot a lot in field (without that cash register clang every time you press the shutter release), and then to toss out the bad frames after they’ve been transferred to the computer for post processing. I call this “catch and release” shooting.

    In this way you can shoot with abandon, improving the chances of getting all the random variables of shooting in the wild to come together, and try things you’d never consider when it cost $.50 every time you fired the shutter for film and processing. And with the cost of memory cards so low these days it is easy to buy large capacity cards and carry an ample supply with you when you are out shooting. The only disadvantage to this is the amount of editing you end up doing when you get home and transfer the day’s photos.

    Comment by richditch — January 11, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

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