Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 33 comments

As I approached the pond adjacent to Naruna Way on the prairie in northeast Austin on May 9th I noticed a white egret (Casmoderius albus) on the near bank. Hoping for a picture, I switched from a wide-angle lens to a 100–400mm telephoto and slowly advanced. As soon as I raised the camera to try for a photo, the egret apparently didn’t like my sudden motion and took off. The one picture I managed to get is at least dynamic. Notice the drops of water clinging to and falling from the bird’s toes.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2019 at 4:46 AM

33 Responses

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  1. It’s hard to communicate to birds that we photographers are not a threat. And they are better off for it but frustrating for us.

    Steve Gingold

    May 16, 2019 at 4:56 AM

    • I thought about you when I saw the way this shot came out. I wish I’d caught the bird a fraction of a second earlier in order to keep a slight separation between the highest part of the egret’s left wing and the tip of its bill.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2019 at 5:22 AM

      • I actually got a couple of images of a raven the other day with more or less the same result. Not taking off same, but not the pose or position I desired either. A flight shot is always interesting, even if the subject is leaving the room.

        Steve Gingold

        May 17, 2019 at 4:07 AM

        • You suddenly made me realize that if I’d had the foresight to set the camera to rapid-fire shutter mode I could have taken a bunch of closely-spaced shots, one of which might have caught a better position.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 17, 2019 at 5:41 AM

  2. During takeoffs & landings, egrets and herons always seem to display a combination of awkwardness and grace.

    Robert Parker

    May 16, 2019 at 5:39 AM

  3. It’s a fantastic picture! 🙂


    May 16, 2019 at 8:45 AM

    • Thanks. As I recall, I panned slightly to follow the takeoff before pressing the shutter release. While I was one for one, I wish I could’ve extended it to two for two or three for three.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2019 at 8:58 AM

  4. Very pretty shot!


    May 16, 2019 at 5:12 PM

  5. This is fabulous, well done. It looks like it’s going for a jolly ole’ hop around the pond instead of taking off. I’d be proud. 😉


    May 16, 2019 at 6:30 PM

    • In what you said you weren’t far off, and neither was the egret after it quickly flew across to the other side of the pond and promptly landed. At times it struck graceful poses over there but I’d have needed a much longer lens to zoom in that extra amount. In any case, I’m pleased you like the one shot I was able to get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2019 at 9:23 PM

  6. One thing your photo does communicate well is the strength of those wings. The birds are so pretty, it’s easy to assume they’re delicate, but they’re not. I watched a couple of white-faced ibis fighting recently, and by the time one had the other pinned to the ground and was standing on its head, I wasn’t sure it would make it out alive. It did, but it was a good reminder of just how strong they are.

    The other thing I noticed is the breeding plumage trailing behind. This image almost has the feel of a courtship display rather than a “let’s find another pond” takeoff. In courtship displays, they’ll take to the air vertically as well as horizontally; they’re clearly showing off, and this fellow certainly has a lot of nice feathers to show off.


    May 16, 2019 at 9:29 PM

  7. […] the same May 9th foray to the pond at Naruna Way on the prairie in northeast Austin that led me to the white egret you saw last time, the vibrant green of the fresh growth along the pond’s shore also called out to be […]

  8. Steve, in situations like these, do you shoot using AV or TV mode dial? Also, using AI Servo AF or One-Shot AF? Thanks.


    May 19, 2019 at 7:42 AM

    • I almost always shoot in Tv mode, and not just for situations like this. If necessary, I raise the ISO so I can maintain the desired shutter speed. I’ve experimented a little with AI Servo, which some photographers swear by. I should probably try using it more often. What about you?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2019 at 8:17 AM

      • I always shoot in AV mode. I tried TV mode but found AV gave me more control of apertures and DOF. I also tried AI Servo once but found it was designed for action shots and I wasn’t doing that anymore. However, when I did shoot birds, I kept on using AV and One-Shot AF because with egrets I managed to still shoot with a bit of flash. It was mainly as fill-in and with high speed sync. I did this in the past. Today I would just raise the ISO because it’s less complicated than high speed sync.


        May 19, 2019 at 8:38 AM

        • Also, it’s more environmental-friendly to use natural light. I was younger when I used so much fill-in flash. If I were to do it now, I would rather use direct ambient light.


          May 19, 2019 at 8:45 AM

          • My Canon cameras before the full-frame models had built-in flash, which was convenient for the occasional fill. Now I have to lug around a separate flash just for those rare occasions when I need extra light. Like you, I much prefer the natural look.

            Steve Schwartzman

            May 19, 2019 at 9:31 AM

  9. It sure is dynamic …what a super shot! 😃


    May 21, 2019 at 4:30 AM

    • Thanks, Julie. Now that I think about it, it’s still impressive that people have figured out how to make cameras fast enough to stop a bird’s takeoff.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 21, 2019 at 5:02 AM

  10. Oh, I love Great egrets – we don’t see them up here, except for birds that are really lost. 😉


    May 23, 2019 at 8:56 PM

  11. What a lovely capture this is! These birds are surprisingly skittish. In all my years of stalking them I’ve never gotten a good photo of them.


    July 3, 2019 at 8:16 AM

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