Over the last few years photographing birds has become my greatest pleasure, and among all of the birds I like to photograph, Egrets are at the top of my list!
I have photographed them in many places around the world, such as Africa and South America, but these were a lot closer to home, in Norfolk!
I had actually gone out to photograph Storks, as I have yet to take an image of one that I am happy with, so I had set myself that as a project. They have beautiful faces but I just have failed to get any emotion or interest in my pictures!
I saw the nest against a wall, with a beautiful top light… but empty. I took a few shots of the nest as it was an interesting shape, and played around with some settings then turned my attention to something else.
Just as I was about to walk away, the first of two egrets came and landed.
As soon as you see something just right, and you know it, the jolt of excitement and the intake of breath is a light headed feeling indeed!
He (I know, that was an assumption as I haven’t the knowledge to sex an Egret, but call it instinct…) landed rather clumsily, then righted himself and pretended as though it had been a perfect landing. I caught this Egret in the most beautiful of positions, with the wind just lifting the fine feathers on his breast and wings…the overhead light picked out all of the shapes and forms on his body and head and he posed like a Vogue model for me! He lifted twigs, fluffed his wings, and generally acted as though he was cleaning house before the wife came home!
Within five minutes the second egret came, and I spent a happy 20 minutes snapping away as they preened their feathers and altered branches, and did the most beautiful of slow motion dances for me, one behind the other in an ever changing combination of shapes. The wind was in my favor… just enough to add an extra bit of interest as they shook their heads and pirouetted around each other.
After the second had flown away, I photographed the last one again as he settled down, this time in the lower corner of the nest which was diametrically opposite the largest curve of branches…
Sometimes the Gods listen to the prayers of photographers, of that I am sure! As much as I was lucky the birds, I was also incredibly lucky with the shape of the nest and twigs, a large and graceful asymmetrical sweep of branches and twigs that were a perfect setting for the birds themselves, and having a plain wall was a bonus!
When I got back home to the computer, I took some time and selected the frame I responded to the most ( out of many, I might add! ), used the healing tool to clean up some imperfections on the wall, played a while with some dodge and burn tools, adjusted the contrast, then added a blue tone.
I usually try and angle for a catchlight in a bird’s or animal’s eye when I photograph them, but this one seemed to work so well without, that I chose it over several others… The sharp angle of the beak coming down from the head onto the chest was enough interest as a central point, the flare of the feathers, and the feeling of utter peace… it all felt just right!
I have since worked on and completed three images out of that day’s shooting, and although I have treated each image as a stand alone, I suppose they could be a series! They work together, even though the color tones are different in each one, and I have cropped them all slightly differently.
I have had them printed up in a heavy cotton Fine Art paper, and all of them have come out well, I’m glad to say. I still feel as though there are more images to be had out of that photographic session, as the positions they danced in for me that day, in that setting, were take after take of of wondrous shapes and emotions, a beautiful ballet between the two birds, and the solo birds just as enthralling.
What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!
The position of the bird, and the top light emphasizing the form.
If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?
I am so happy with this image, I truly don’t and wouldn’t want to change it!
Pauline Fowler shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.
Pauline Fowler, Norfolk, United Kingdom
Equipment and Settings
Nikon D850 + Nikon 200-500 VR lens
f/5.6, 1/400 sec., ISO 320