Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

August 3, 2009

Breaking out of style

Filed under: Birds, composition, light, style, technique — richditch @ 8:01 pm
Green Heron in profile

Green Heron in profile

Here’s an image that has little in common with most of my other photos. I almost didn’t take it, and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have bothered with a “bald sky” shot like this, but I’m glad I didn’t pass it up. The Green Heron is shown on a concrete barrier without a trace of natural habitat in evidence, and the high noon light isn’t the nice flattering warm light of dawn of dust that most nature photographers seek out.

Those factors that normally play a big role in my photography didn’t apply in this case: it was taken over lunch hour at a small community park near the office the week my D200 had arrived via UPS, and it was the first chance I had to play with it. Basically, any subject would do as I was more interested in the hardware than the images.

But less than ideal conditions is no excuse to not make the best image you can in the situation you have at hand. So when I saw this small heron jump up on this wall near the artificial pond he’d been working I got as close as I could without spooking the bird and lined it up  as parallel to the image plane as I could. I limited the amount of concrete wall showing at the bottom (it wasn’t exactly visually appealing), keeping just enough to serve as a base to the composition. I made sure the heron had more empty space in front than in back. I limited the blank white sky as much as possible. Finally, I made sure my exposure was based on the heron and not skewed by the overly bright sky.

My processing was modest and focused on keeping the colors of the heron correct. I made sure the top of the wall was level, and tightened the composition a bit to minimize he white sky without crowding the heron. Finally, I added a one pixel wide border around the entire image with the Stroke command in Photoshop, using a dark color selected from the heron’s plumage. I like to add this subtle border on any image with overly bright areas that touch the boundary: it keeps the image form “leaking” out onto a pale page if I post it somewhere on the web.

What I ended up with is reminiscent of an illustration in a field guide: an unobstructed profile view on a white background with no distractions.

Place: Scottsdale, AZ, USA
Date: March 17, 2006 noon
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8, TC20E (2x), tripod, SB-800
Exposure: Aperture priority matrix metered, ISO 200, 1/200th, f/14, fill flash
Raw, PS Elements 3 on G4 Mac, 70% of frame

Scottsdale, AZ, March 17, 2006, Nikon D200, Nikkor AF-S 300/2.8, TC20E (2x), tripod, SB-800, ISO 200, 1/200th, f/14, fill flash.



  1. A wonderful, minimalist approach Rich. Your skills served you well with the challenges of this image.

    Comment by Mia — August 3, 2009 @ 8:21 pm

  2. I think it works really well. The background draws the focus right to the heron, and the details are wonderful.

    Comment by Kimberly Hosey (Arizona Writer) — August 4, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

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