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GB Heron in 13 second Gulf of Mexico sunset

Don’t get me wrong I’m always happy to be out shooting wildlife, even if it’s just a simple portrait. But what really makes me tick are situations like this. You know, the ones that provide you with that something special that you don’t get to capture everyday…

GBH sunset, 50mm, 13 seconds at f14

Great Blue Heron in Gulf of Mexico

Shot details
Camera: Nikon D3
Lens: Nikon 50mm 1.4 AFS
Settings: 13 seconds, f14, ISO 200 and the MC-30 shutter release cable.

A refreshing change
I had been taking shots of the after glow of sunset on the beautiful white sandy beach at Siesta Key on the West Coast of Florida, when I noticed this Great Blue Heron off in the distance. I knew if I could somehow get a shot of him fishing in his stunning surroundings it could just be one of those special shots.

My ‘plan’ was to carry on shooting the landscape and just hope the Heron would come within range of my 50mm AFS(!!). Well, much to my surprise, after 10 minutes or so he took off and flew down the beach, quite literally landing maybe 20 foot away! I slowly panned the camera round on the tripod so as not to spook him and proceeded to fire off a few shots desperately hoping he would stand still just long enough for the 13 second exposure required to capture the scene as I wanted it. Of the 7 or 8 shots I managed to get, only this one had the cooperation of the Heron! In all the others he moved way too much resulting in double birds, odd looking poses or almost complete translucence. At first when I viewed this image I could see there was still a slight transparency of the Heron but was happy you could fully see the outline clearly. Looking back now though I actually find it adds a sense of mood to the shot along with the misty water – of course that’s a matter of opinion, but then I’m biased… 🙂

Glad to not have the telephoto!
I have to admit, if I had my 200-400 with me my first instinct would have been to grab that and start filling the frame with the Heron, and I think that would have been a shame because using the 50mm forced me to not only include the environment but allowed me to capture the scene with a long exposure which has added greatly to the scene and, in my opinion, given the photo that ‘something special’.

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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