Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

June 5, 2009

Watchful Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

After a very busy week of family duties I managed to get out for a couple of hours this morning, limiting my trip to the convenient Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ, where I take a lot of my photos. Skies were overcast, there was some wind, and it was more humid than usual for AZ – but it was refreshing to be able to spend a little time doing something outside with birds.

I managed a meager 34 species with my 2 hour walkabout and only took about 50 shots. And of those I only kept about 20 frames after deleting the obvious stinkers (not quite sharp, bad light, subject’s eye partially closed, etc.)

One shot I kept was this adult Black-crowned Night Heron, which I found it one of their favorite spots at the Ranch. This branch is at the base of a large cottonwood that “blooms” with Neotropic Cormorants for much of the year, and it is close enough to the water’s surface that a heron can sit and wait for something tasty to show nearby. If I am careful when I approach the opening in the shrubs along the trail I can sometimes work my way down the bank a little without spooking a sitting heron. This morning my slow approach paid off and this heron didn’t budge.

Light at this location can always be troublesome: there’s a lot of shade from the large cottonwood and the water is often quite bright behind the heron. So I set my D200 to ISO 400 and switched the metering from matrix to spot to prevent the overly bright background water from causing underexposure of the heron. but even with the spot meter I found it necessary to dial in an additional 2/3rds stop of exposure compensation. Shooting digital is certainly a lot better for tricky exposure situations than when it took a day or two to get film back from processing to see if the image was properly exposed: with digital all it takes is a look at the LCD and the histogram. And with a patient subject like this heron there’s plenty of opportunity to fine tune the exposure.

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 with TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/50th second at f/11. About 80% of full frame (cropped after correcting a half degree rotation).

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