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Picture of the Week

June 9, 2010

A Great Blue Heron flies along the cliffs at Horsethief Lake, located in Washington across the Columbia River from The Dalles. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite birds. Big, beautiful and very common in Oregon, the large heron is king of the waterways. While I paddle slowly along the shore, the herons will often play “leap-frog” with the canoe, flying up every time I get too close for comfort and landing ahead. Eventually they circle about and land behind me… but soon enough there is another, poised on the bank where they hunt for fish, frogs and almost anything else they can catch in their long, heavy beak.

This picture was taken with a handheld 200mm lens, set at a wide aperture to keep the shutter speed as high as possible. Autofocus was set to the central point, continuous servo mode. “High speed crop” allowed a rapid burst as the bird passed. As with most bird photography, many of the images were unusable. The wind was trying to blow me to shore, so it was a matter of fire a few shots, paddle away from the rocks, fire a few shots, paddle away from the rocks.

In still waters, a canoe makes a surprisingly stable platform for photography. Even in small waves, things work pretty well. The biggest problem is the inability to stop. In wind or current, the drift is continuous. It allows you to get right where you want to be, but then off you go downwind. The best photos are along shore, but if the canoe is beached inadvertently, it becomes very unstable and any waves will begin splashing up and attempting to board. Alternating the paddle and the camera seems to work, but in a strong wind becomes overly hectic to the point of being ridiculous. I have yet to experiment with an anchor… they can be problematic with small craft… but I’m thinking it might be worth trying one of some sort.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Clytie permalink
    June 10, 2010 01:28

    Well it was worth all the work! What an amazing catch of the Blue Heron!

  2. June 17, 2010 04:54

    I have never been able to get close to the great blue herons who frequent the river near here. This is a wonderful photograph. It fills my eyes–which is the greatest compliment I can give.

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