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Posts Tagged ‘heron’

July is World Watercolor Month, a month-long challenge in which watercolor painters of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to paint daily and post their work on-line. I have joined this challenge and am trying to paint something every day using the daily prompts at worldwatercolormonth.com. So far, I have managed to paint something every single day, generally following the daily prompt. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement as I have taken this little artistic detour on my photography journey.

If you want to see the first two installments of my painting efforts this month, check out my previous postings ‘More fun with watercolor‘ and ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 2.’ This third installment highlights my painting efforts of the past six days in reverse chronological order.

The prompt for 16 July was “machine.” I recalled an old mill with a waterwheel that I photographed in July 2012 that hinted at all kinds of machinery inside the mill building and did today’s little painting using one of my photos as inspiration. Here is a link to the original posting called ‘Stepping outside of the box.’ What I had forgotten, though, is that I had converted the images to black and white for the posting and I have no idea of the original colors of the structure, so I just made them up. My sketching skill are pretty weak still, so I printed a copy of the blog photo, rubbed a pencil on the back of it, and transferred a simplified version of it to the watercolor paper.

The prompt for 15 July was “forgotten.” Nothing came to mind, so instead I attempted to paint some Black-eyed Susans like the ones that I had seen while hunting for dragonflies earlier that day.

The prompt for 14 July was “green,” which made me think of flowers. So I painted a little patch of wildflowers, mostly by spattering paint—it turns out that it is a lot of fun to throw paint at paper in a somewhat controlled way.

The prompt for 13 July was “twisted.” Herons have such long necks that they often seem to be twisted, so I painted this little sumi-e style scene with three herons, some cattails, and a disproportionately large dragonfly.

The prompt for 12 July was “favorite place.” It is hard to represent Paris in a single image, so I chose to depict it with this view of the Eiffel Tower looking upwards from one of its “feet,” using one of my photos from last November as the the inspiration for this little painting —about 5″ x 7″ (127mm x 177mm). If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Eiffel Tower perspectives.’ I used the same transfer method for the sketch that I described above for 16 July.

The prompt for 11 July was “round,” so I did a little painting of a bicycle, loosely based on an artsy photo I took in Paris last November. If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Bicycle in Paris.”

I am experimenting with a number of different styles and subjects as I play with watercolor painting, but a few things are already clear. First, my greatest creative inspiration continues to come from my memories of Paris—three of the sixteen paintings I have completed so far were based on my experiences in the ‘La Ville Lumière’ (‘the city of light’).

Style-wise I continue to be drawn to the minimalist East Asian brush painting style known more commonly as sumi-e and have used this approach in three paintings already. Technically this is the freestyle version of sumi-e (xieyi) that tries to capture the essence of a subject in a minimum number of strokes rather than striving for a realistic representation of it. There is another more detailed sumi-e style called gongbi that I would not even attempt to imitate.

If you want to learn more about World Watercolor Month, click on this link or go directly to doodlewash.com. In addition to raising awareness and interest about watercolor painting, World Watercolor Month raises support for The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a charity providing support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts.

watermill

black-eyed susan

spattered flowers

sumi-e heron

eiffel tower

bicycle in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was sunny this morning, as forecast, but it was also windy and cold when I set out at 7 o’clock, about 25 degrees (minus 4 degrees C), according to the thermometer in my car. Most of the birds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have decided to sleep late, but eventually I started to see some of them, including this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that was wading out into the shallow waters of a low tide.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking around a pond in Northern Virginia, I spotted this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing at the edge of the water. My view, however, was significantly obstructed by the vegetation that separated us. I moved a little closer and then started to make tiny movements up and down and from side to side, searching for a visual tunnel that would give me a clearer view of this beautiful bird.

Although I never did get a completely unobstructed shot, I really like this one. The image has kind of a whimsical feel to it, because at first glance it looks like the heron has speared the small tree and I was also quite happy with the amount of detail that I was able to capture in the feathers and in the eye.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is in the open water patiently waiting to catch a fish. This past Thursday, however, I initially had trouble spotting this heron—it was hunkered down among the trees at the edge of the water of a small suburban pond, probably seeking shelter on a cold and windy day. I moved close enough to get some shots and then silently moved away, being careful not to disturb the heron and force it to move from its carefully chosen spot.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch fish so big that I was sure that they would not be able to swallow them, but I don’t think I have ever seen one catch fish as small as the ones this heron was pulling out of the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Great Blue Heron was standing on the shore rather than in deeper water. As I watched,  the heron periodically would catch and swallow one of these tiny fish and then return to scanning the water. It struck me that it would need to catch a lot of these little fish to make a satisfying meal.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies over Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy yesterday with ospreys carrying sticks for their nests. A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) joined in on the action and carefully checked out a lot of sticks before choosing a perfect one.

A few seconds after this photo the heron flew off to an as yet unknown nesting site.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early this morning I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a distant part of a pond that I was exploring. I was worried about blowing out the highlights of the heron’s face and bill, so I deliberately underexposed the image. As a result the background became a bit darker than it was in real life and gave it a dramatic quality that I really like. The reflections of the heron and some of the background elements add a lot to the “artsy” feel of the photo.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were really busy yesterday now that much of the ice has broken up and is melting. This heron caught a fish so big that it really seemed to be struggling to gain altitude as it flew away.

Temperatures in our area have been below freezing for almost a month and I was starting to get worried that the Great Blue Herons would starve. Somehow, though, they manage to survive. I did not actually see this heron catch the large fish. I first caught sight of the heron when it flew with the fish to a section of floating ice in the distance and tried to manipulate the fish into position.

Eventually it seemed to have decided to head for solid ground and I captured this shot just after the heron had taken off from the ice. I tracked it in the air as it flew to a little island in the middle of the bay, where I hope it was able to finally swallow the fish.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you start your mornings? This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) faced into the morning sun for quite a while last Friday as it stood amidst the foliage atop a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron looked around a bit before deciding it was finally time to start its morning grooming routine.

The light was especially beautiful that morning and the heron was either unaware of my presence or simply did not view me as a threat. After I took some shots, I continued on my way and the heron remained in the tree and continued its morning preparations.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) decided to try out a new vantage point at Huntley Meadows Park on Monday and surveyed potential prey from atop the boardwalk. Although the heron looks to be contemplating diving into the water, it eventually jumped into the water feet first.

I love trying to capture birds in motion, but am happy to settle for images in which there is a kind of tension and anticipation of action, rather than a more static pose.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The water levels are really low in many parts of Huntley Meadows Park and it seemed like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was looking over mostly dry land as it surveyed the landscape this past weekend.

The banding of the colors in the background add some visual interest to the image, without being distracting. I was standing at the edge of a dried portion of the marsh and that permitted me to take this shot from a low angle, looking slightly up at the heron.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a tree, it is roosting in a protected location and napping. Early one morning this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, however, I spotted this alert heron perched on an exposed dead tree, looking like it was playing the role of a sentinel.

I initially caught sight of the heron from a distance and followed a path in the treeline that let me get almost underneath the heron for some shots. The sky was overcast and there was not much light, causing the background to appear white and the images to be almost monochromatic.

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I will intentionally use a slow shutter speed when I am panning a moving subject to blur the background and give a sense of motion, but that was not the case with these photos—I was shooting in aperture-priority mode and simply wasn’t paying attention to the shutter speed that the camera was giving me. In all three of these images, the shutter speed was 1/100 of a second, which is really too slow for handholding my 150-600mm zoom lens.

As the old saying goes, though, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. I really like the way the background was rendered and am not at all bothered by the somewhat soft focus on parts of the moving heron.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some birds seem to explode out of the water when they are taking off, but Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) often seem to gently lift off with almost no splash at all. The Great Blue Heron at Huntley Meadows Park were really active early yesterday morning, frequently flying from one location to another. They seemed to be more intent on socializing with each other than with finding food. In a future post, I’ll look more closely at that behavior, which might be related to courting, but today I’m focusing on one heron’s gentle liftoff.

I’ve watched herons take off hundreds of times, but this is one of the first times that I have been able to capture the moment of liftoff from the water. In this little sequence of three images, you can see the heron rising up, leaving the water, and gradually gaining altitude. The stillness of the early morning helped create some wonderful reflections,  a nice bonus that adds some additional visual interest to the images.

heron liftoff

heron liftoff

heron liftoff

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I never get tired of watching the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park. Quite often they ignore me and focus intently on catching a fish. I marvel at their patience and persistence.

During one recent encounter, though, I had eye-to-eye contact with a heron. The heron looked right at me and seemed to be sending a distinct warning message that it was not going to share the small fish that it had just caught.

I backed off and let the heron enjoy his fish appetizer in peace. It was gone in a quick gulp and the heron went back to work and I moved on in search of more subjects.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure what this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was doing when I spotted it this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, but it looked to be admiring its most recent manicure.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Late Saturday afternoon I was exploring Cook Lake, a tiny urban fishing lake adjacent to a water park in Alexandria, Virginia. I accidently spooked a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that flew to a fallen tree on the shore. The lighting was beautiful and the heron struck a pose that I can only describe as heroic.

I never get tired of photographing Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) are one of my favorite birds, in part because they are with us the entire year. Even during the snowy days of winter, I would occasionally see one of them.

Now that spring is here, there are many more birds at Huntley Meadows Park, but I am always happy to see one of the faithful Great Blue Herons, like this one that flew by me yesterday morning.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes a Great Blue Heron’s catch is big enough for a main course, but sometimes it’s only an appetizer. The good news is that appetizers are really easy for a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) to swallow.

I included the second photo, which sequentially was taken before the first one, because I like the expression on the heron’s face. The heron seems to be both amused and embarrassed at the small size of the fish.

It’s obvious, though, that the heron does not have a catch-and-release policy if the fish is not of a certain minimum size.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I awoke this morning thinking I would see snow on the ground again, but it seems to have turned into rain. This photo of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and its modest catch reminds me of how snowy it was a mere two weeks ago in our area.

It’s interesting to me to see how the unusual angle of view and the low perspective make the heron’s bill seem unusually elongated and its long neck appears to be really short. The distorted perspective of the image may cause some viewers to look a second time at the photo to mentally reconfirm that this indeed is a Great Blue Heron.

I think that most photographers would agree that it is a good thing when viewers take a second look at their images or examine them more closely.

Great Blue Heron

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The egrets and green herons have gone south for the winter, but the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Huntley Meadows Park continue to provide me with lots of photo opportunities.

Great Blue Herons present an unusual challenge to me—they are so long and wide when in flight that I actual have to remember to zoom out when photographing them in order to fit them in the frame.  Like most wildlife photographers, I usually am complaining about needing more reach and spend most of my time shooting with the lens almost fully extended.

In this first shot, I was able to anticipate the action and captured the heron’s takeoff almost exactly the way you see it. In the second shot, however, I slightly misjudged the speed of the heron and almost cut off the wings and the feet. As you can see, the light was beautiful and I was happy to be able to capture a lot of beautiful wing details.

Before long migrating ducks should be arriving and you should be relieved from steady diet of heron photos with which I have been populating my postings recently.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the early light of the dawn, I captured this solitary Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in deep reflection, contemplating the start of a new day.

There is nothing really complex about this image, but I like the way that it conveys the mood of that moment, a moment when the world seemed to be totally tranquil, uncluttered by the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I love the early morning.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the morning light as it gradually illuminates different parts of the natural world. This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) had turned its head toward the rising sun and the light was shining on its white face while other parts of its body were still hidden in the shadows.

In the limited light, I used a pretty slow shutter speed (1/80 sec) to keep from having to raise my ISO too high and I was able to get reasonably sharp shots when the heron was stationary. However, when the heron took off, I had a substantial amount of motion blur, as you can see in the final two shots.

I usually lead my postings with my favorite shot, but I had real trouble with this posting trying to decided which one to use. Should I choose one of the sharpest shots or should I go with one of the “artsy” blurred ones? I like different aspects of all four of these images and vacillated for quite some time before deciding to lead with the shot of the heron with his head tilted at an interesting angle.

Did I make a good choice?

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most of the time I try to fill the frame of my camera with my wildlife subjects, but sometimes it’s nice when they are part of a larger landscape, like this shot of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the rain from last Friday.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even in Northern Virginia, where temperature are relatively mild, winter must be difficult for Great Blue Herons, because many of their favorite ponds freeze over from time to time and fishing is not possible. After a recent period of temperatures above freezing, the ice melted and I was happy to see a heron return to a familiar location at my local marshland park.

I encountered this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) early on a Saturday and had an extended period of time with this photogenic bird. The heron seemed to be willing to pose for me and gave me a number of different looks.

At times, as you can see in the final shot, the heron would look straight at me with apparent curiosity. After I had taken my shots, I moved along the boardwalk, leaving the heron to continue in his efforts to catch something to eat for breakfast.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Can you identify the bird in the first photo? There is an almost abstract quality to the image that I really like that focuses on the bird’s wide wingspan more than on the identity of the bird. The unusual viewing angle, looking forward from his extended feet, enhances that effect.

As you can see in the second photos (and as you probably easily guessed), this was a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Yesterday, a blustery but sunny day, I came across this heron at my local marshland park as he tried in vain to catch some lunch. Without much warning, he took off just after I snapped the second photo, perhaps to find a better fishing spot, and I was able to capture the more unusual view that I have shown as the first image.

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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One of the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) that has been hanging around the boardwalk at my local marshland park was amazingly cooperative yesterday morning and posed for this portrait. I think the white background was caused by the very cloudy sky—it makes the shot look almost like it was taken in a studio setting.

I really like the way that you can see the wispy feathers on the top of the heron’s head. I can’t help but notice, though, that this heron has the same kind of growth pattern on the top of his head as I do.

I wonder if he would consider shaving his head (and I really hope that he does not opt for a comb-over hairstyle a bit later in life).

Is there a Hair Club for herons?

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and gray yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park and there weren’t a lot of people around. The Chairman of the Board(walk) decided that it was a good time to survey his marsh from a different vantage point.

I just love watching Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) and you never know what they will choose to do next. It was unusual, however, taking photos of one using the 150mm end of my 150-600mm Tamron lens and I actually had to back up in order to fit the heron’s entire body in the frame. Shortly after I took these shots, the heron flew off a short distance, back into the water.

Chairman of the Board(walk)Chairman of the Board(walk)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Zooming a long telephoto lens while tracking a flying bird is like simultaneously patting your head and rubbing your tummy—it can be done but requires a lot of practice.

Yesterday as I was observing a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the far side of a small pond, he unexpectedly took off. The heron flew towards me initially and then veered off to the side. My 150-600mm lens was fully extended at the start and as the bird approached, I frantically tried to zoom out a little. The EXIF data indicate that I was at 552mm when I took this shot and I just barely managed to keep the heron in the frame—I didn’t crop this image at all.

I’ve often been told to fill the frame with the main subject and this is one of the few times when I have been able to do so with a bird.

Great Blue Heron in flight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at my local marsh seem to have grown accustomed to the presence of people and some of them like to fish near the boardwalk. This one was so close that I had to lean backwards over the edge of the edge of the boardwalk to fit the entire heron into these shots—zooming was not an option, given that I was using a lens of a fixed focal length, a 180mm macro lens.

While I was observing the heron, it concentrated its activity around a rock that stuck out of the water, sometimes perching on it and sometimes circling around it. I hope the heron had better luck during the rest of the day, because it did not have any luck at all as I watched and waited in vain to capture a big catch.

Great Blue Heron Huntley Meadows Parkheron3_rocks_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A dragonfly perching on a heron? In real life it’s highly unlikely that you would see such a thing, but a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) decided that the metal silhouette of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a pond at Green Spring Gardens made a good spot to rest.

Click on any of the tiled images to see all of them full-sized in slide show mode.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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