Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Green heron on the hunt

with 13 comments

By August 17th, two months without rain had caused large parts of Bull Creek to dry up. When I checked a stretch along the Smith Memorial Trail that morning I found that a remaining pool had become the hunting ground of a green heron, Butorides virescens. Time after time I watched as the heron crouched, stepped slowly forward as it kept its eyes fixed on something in the water that it could see but I couldn’t, till suddenly the heron lunged to snatch a small fish from the water.

On the technical side, most of the second photograph shows motion blur because I panned to keep up with the heron as it walked fairly quickly to the left. On the good side, panning let me keep the upper part of the bird, including its bill and the fish in it, sharp. Alternatively, to reduce motion blur I could’ve set a higher sensitivity and a faster shutter speed than the 1/400 I used, but I was already at ISO 1600, and with the shallower depth of field that would have resulted from a faster shutter speed I might not have been able to keep the fish and all the important parts of the heron simultaneously in focus. Tradeoffs.



§         §         §



“I know not why a man should not have liberty to print whatever he would speak; and to be answerable for the one, just as he is for the other, if he transgresses the law in either. But gagging a man, for fear he should talk heresy or sedition, has no other ground than such as will make gyves [shackles] necessary, for fear a man should use violence if his hands were free, and must at last end in the imprisonment of all who you will suspect may be guilty of treason or misdemeanor.”

So wrote John Locke about the Licensing Act, which had enforced pre-publication censorship and banned “heretical, seditious, schismatical, or offensive books” in Great Britain until Parliament let the act lapse in 1695. I was led to that quotation by reading Jacob Mchangama’s new book Free Speech: a History from Socrates to Social Media. I encourage you to read it, too, and learn about some of the great many times throughout history that political regimes and supporters of ideologies and religions have suppressed the speech and writing of people who disagree with them. That’s especially important now, when many activists and institutions have been assailing freedom of expression more vehemently than at any time in my adult life.

Check out Jacob Mchangama’s website, where you can listen to or read edited transcriptions of episodes from his podcast about free speech, Clear and Present Danger.

You’re also welcome to read the essay about John Locke that my father, another Jacob, included in his 1949 book Rebels of Individualism.


© Steven Schwartzman 2022




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

13 Responses

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  1. The ability of these birds to hold positions like that for long periods of time is something to behold. They remind me of a coiled-up spring. When one finally makes its move, it’s unbelievably fast: zero to fish in only a second.


    August 22, 2022 at 6:24 AM

    • There’s nothing fishy about how funny your comment is: zero to fish in only a second. The snatching of each fish happened so quickly I couldn’t actually see it, so all my pictures were from before or after the strike.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2022 at 6:36 AM

  2. ‘This is slavery: not to speak one’s thought’
    – Euripides, The Phoenician Women

    Thanks for the links.

  3. I am impressed. you managed to capture the shadow of the short-legged heron’s beak and fish despite the technical difficulties.

    Peter Klopp

    August 22, 2022 at 9:59 AM

    • To me, the shadow of the fish gives a better impression of the fish than does the actual image of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2022 at 11:48 AM

  4. Aren’t they beautiful!! Great catch for you both! 😀


    August 22, 2022 at 10:03 AM

    • Good way to put it. This was only the second time I’d seen a green heron. The first was maybe a quarter of a mile away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2022 at 11:52 AM

  5. The heron is well camouflaged in that first shot. Are you getting any of that rain I’ve been reading about in the news?

    Eliza Waters

    August 22, 2022 at 1:30 PM

    • It started raining here about 15 minutes ago. Unfortunately, it may not last long, as the sky already seems brighter and the rain has let up. On the other hand, it’s still thundering, so maybe the rain will resume.

      And yes, the heron in the top picture blends in well. I, who didn’t blend in well, kept my distance and zoomed my lens to 40mm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2022 at 2:51 PM

  6. I don’t mind the motion blur in the legs since it indicate motion. 🙂

    Steve Gingold

    August 22, 2022 at 4:21 PM

  7. […] The green heron I saw along Bull Creek on August 17th was much less familiar to me than the miniature amphibian I saw hopping about in the dry creek bed. These little creatures are only about an inch long. […]

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