With a long lens and a cooperative subject, we can get some highly intimate close-up images of behaviours, poses, expressions…or all the above in one. A juvenile Great Blue Heron was fishing at the edge of a local pond – at almost the exact same spot as another “Story Behind the Image” post I wrote about before here. I wanted to get close ups of the freshly caught fish, just like the Green Heron from the other post, but by the time I got close enough the heron stopped fishing and just rested comfortably – and motionless as herons do. Since I was already very close, I began experimenting with abstracts of its plumage, so I had the aperture stopped down quite a bit to get the curving feathers sharp all the way across the frame and into the corners.
After a few minutes, with the heron’s body still motionless in the viewfinder, I could see from the corner of my eye that its neck was slowly stretching out above and across the water, and its face gradually getting lower and lower to just about the water surface. It was about to catch another fish! I quickly swung the lens towards the bill, focussed, and SPLASH went the heron’s face into the water…it pulled back out just as quickly and I lost it from view as it snapped back further than where it was before the strike. I frantically searched for it through the lens (the field of view is narrow at 700mm!!) and then I finally got it back. Out of focus by now of course, but I quickly re-acquired focus and low and behold this is the scene that awaited me….and as you can see it was not a small minnow! I took a small burst of 3-4 frames, with this one being the first of the series, and the only one that featured anything from the heron or frog – the others being of beautifully blurred green background grasses and nothing else. That is how fast the heron disposed of the frog once it decided that down the hatch it would go. The image that almost wasn’t, but I got it just in the knick of time! Turns out that f/11 that I had from the feather abstracts was just perfect for this, and goes to show you that when unexpected action occurs, simply go for it without worrying about settings or else you might really miss the shot 😎
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