One Reddish Egret from Different Points of View
August 10, 2018 ~ We found an somewhat active Reddish Egret under the Intracoastal Canal Bridge in Surfside recently. He was great fun to photograph and after looking at the results, I want to show you how different the same bird at the same time can look... from different perspectives.
Bill Maroldo and I have very similar gear: He has the Nikon D850 and was using his Nikkor 600mm f/4 without a teleconverter. I have the Nikon D810 with my Nikkor 500mm f/4 and took some with the 1.7x teleconverter, and others without. Both are full frame cameras; his has a 46MP sensor and I have 36MP. We have lots of reach and real estate for cropping.
Bill got out and set up his tripod and crate at the edge of the water (OMG we built cushions for the crates this summer!) and I stayed in the truck and shot out the passenger side window. My view was higher and the sun was a bit to my left, he was much lower and the sun was almost directly behind him.
It was late in the day, around 5:30 pm and the sun was low. We have found birds here under the bridge before, and I have always disliked the reflection from the red metal building. But... I don't think it is so bad in some instances. Read on and be sure to tell me what you think.
And here is our subject. Full grown adult Reddish Egret. He has a fine shaggy mane, good feathers and a bit of fluff at the tip of his beak. I think he had been preening as we set up. You can see how the water looks red behind him from the metal building reflection - red and all ripply. YUK.
I was thinking I should stop being lazy and get out with my tripod and set up next to Bill.
But he started moving in closer to the edge of the pond and I didn't want to scare him off. Or her. They look the same, y'all. Let's call this one a girl. If you look closely (or click the image to embiggen) you can see the shrimp made an escape from her grab. After this I removed my 1.7x teleconverter and of course then she moved further away. Don't they always?
She wandered around the pond and even did some wings up shadowing, but she was facing the wrong way. And then she moved into a very shallow area directly across from me.
She started to preen again and I remember the bright red reflection in the view finder and thinking...hmmm. this might be OK. I was more concerned with shadows on her body although the sun was low in the sky, it was still capable of making distracting dark patterns.
Love all that shaggy mane! And look at those two long white tail feathers! We see that on some other long-legged waders and speculate it might be some kind of .... sensor. Maybe they can feel vibrations in the water of swimming prey?
And she started hunting again, plucking shrimp from the shallows. The head angle is off just a bit in this image, but I like the action.
This is one Bill took around the same time. The lower perspective is evident, and the red reflection much less pronounced. His reflections look almost golden.
And here above is Bill's shot of a shrimp catch and swing. I love the movement in the shaggy crest and the water droplets from the shrimp. And the wiggly shallow stream in the background.
And here is mine. I don't remember the exact sequence and I only have two shots of this action. She did not always swing the shrimp to and fro, but did in this case. If you look at that small twig on the lower left, and again at his shot, you can see how much difference our positions made in the shot. His is an awesome shot, but mine looks like she is fishing in a river in Hades.
Because of the red metal building straight across from me and its reflection in the still, shallow water.
This shot of Bill's shows the Reddish almost directly in front him while grabbing a shrimp. The splash from the movement is huge! With these big birds, big bills and relatively close action, you need a greater depth-of-field to keep it all in focus.
And this shot of mine from the different angle was taken at about the same time. Mine shows more of the shrimp's legs and the red reflection. I had added the teleconverter back on as he moved away. Making that change while sitting in the truck is much less nerve wracking than doing it in the field. I am getting faster.
This might be my favorite shot of the day. The water was so still, and the red metal panels made vertical patterns in the reflection.
I know I have mentioned time and again to get low with your subjects but I don't think I would have had the same interesting red reflections if I was lower in this particular spot. The extra height of just a few feet captured the red reflection and added a monochromatic atmosphere - reddish bird and red background.
So next time you find a good subject, try to vary your position if you can without scaring it away. Maybe just a move a few feet to the right or left will improve the background; perhaps make the difference in a smooth bokeh look instead of a messy tangle of branches.
Do you think August will be bearable since the afternoon showers have been showing up? We usually have warm weather almost til Thanksgiving, but maybe the worst is over. Are you finding any birds? Or taking care of other projects? Let me know what you think of this exercise in perspective in the comments below.