Bird Profiles & Rookie Photographers

Profiles & Marsh Newbies

I figured I would post a bunch of these random Heron and Egret photos I shot over the last few years.  I have tons more filling up my hard drives, but these were nice portraits and I thought I would share them.

These buggers are pretty common in the New Jersey salt marshes so I tend to ignore them.  I shouldn’t as they are wonderful animals.  But every once in a while, when I am bored out of mind, I start taking pictures of twigs, rocks, piles of mud…. and Night Herons. 


You can tell who the rookie photographers are by the amount of time they spend shooting Herons and Egrets.  Rookies will fill up memory cards with Night Herons.  Great Blue Herons are another favorite of marsh newbies.  Any of the common-as-dirt Herons or Egrets are legitimate fodder for the newb or the terminally bored.  I was so bored one time that I even took pictures of ..gasp.. a Canada Goose.

Typical conversation with a newbie: 

  • Newb: “What gear ya shoot’n with?”
  • Me: “Canon …(current inventory goes here)…, and you?”
  • Newb: “I got a brand new …..WHOA! WHAT IS THAT? OMIGOD! D’JEWCTHAT?!?!? “
  • Me:night heron
  • Newb:  !~CRACK~!   Newb smacks self in nose with camera.
  • Me: “Here’s a tissue”

I shouldn’t make fun of newbs; it took a good six weeks for the pain in my nose to subside.

How to Get Close

For some of these pics, I was pretty darn close; sometimes I was maybe 20 feet away.  So, how did I get so close to get these mug shots?  I dunno…. I didn’t really try.  It seems that when I spy some target, sneak up real slowly….. easy does it….. no jerky motions…. almost there….. place the tripod… SHOOOSH!!!  Gone.

Most of the shots here were totally unsuspected and a nice surprise.  Every once in a while when I am bored out of my gourd in these New Jersey salt marshes, I look up and there at close distance is a stupid bird just standing there.  I don’t know what they are doing, what they are thinking, or why they didn’t fly away.  I was making noises, clanking my equipment, and blasting the radio from the car.  Usually someone on FOX news is telling me the commies are just over my shoulder.  Maybe these birds are members of the Tea Party.

Birds Above

Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Canada Goose, Great Blue Heron, Great White Egret and Cattle Egret.


As always, I have my Canon 5D Mk II preset in aperture priority mode along with my standard settings.  I just spin my dial to C3 and my settings are ready for shooting so there is no thinking about equipment.  Then I start thinking and do the following:

  • Where is the light coming from? Should I move to improve it?
  • What is in the background?  Do I need to move left/right/up/down?
  • Repeat the following over and over
    • Focus on an eye by pushing back focus button to lock and hold focus (see my standard settings)
    • Check shutter speed
      • Too slow, open aperture
      • Way too slow, bump ISO higher
      • Real fast, lower ISO to improve picture quality
    • Recompose the photo and think of the rule of thirds
    • Snap two rapid fire
    • Open aperture a few clicks
    • Snap two rapid fire
    • Close aperture a few clicks
    • Snap two rapid fire
    • Start over and always refocus

The Equipment:

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Birds, Egrets, and Herons. Tags: 500mm, 5D Mk II, 70-200mm 2.8, Gitzo Wimberly, and Manfrotto Tripod & Head.

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