Amongst the Grounded Clouds

Amongst the Grounded Clouds

“Amongst the Grounded Clouds” – A Great Blue Heron stands at the edge of a swollen and
rapidly flowing James River, resembling clouds

Herons, Cranes and other birds that tend to fish while standing in or near water are fun to photograph because they can stand so still for so long, that I will sometimes make use of long exposure times to create some atmosphere and mood in the image.

Case in point is “Amongst the Grounded Clouds” which is quite a mouthful as far as print names go, I know. I had observed this Great Blue Heron for a few days in a row, standing amongst the grasses on the south bank of a rain-swollen James River, just across the river from downtown Richmond, Virginia. For the first couple of days in which I observed this bird, the sky was cloudy and the light was flat. I took some images, but nothing to write home about. On the third day of high water levels in the James, the sun finally came out from behind the clouds.

I knew that in the late afternoon, the angle of the sun relative to the area of the river where I had been seeing this heron fish, would be shining light through some trees just a bit upstream. If I got lucky, I thought as I was driving back to the river that afternoon, the Heron would do me a solid and fish from that spot where I hoped the light would be dappled by the trees.

And you know what? That darn bird was nowhere to be seen when I arrived.

But I set about getting my camera gear ready anyway, thinking I might just as well get some images of the interesting ripples and flow of the river. As I was pulling my camera out of my backpack to set it up on the tripod, I heard the unmistakable squawk of a Heron and looked up just in time to see him (her? I didn’t think to ask) flying in to land right in the area I was hoping he’d be. It took a while as he would face one direction, then another, wander, slowly, a little upstream and downstream, until he paused in the position you see him in the image above. The dappled light on his feathers was everything I could have hoped for and he stood still long enough for my 1.3 second exposure to create a cloud-like rendering of the river flowing along in the background.

A similar image, taken as a horizontal, is “The Stillness”:

“The Stillness” – A Great Blue Heron is peacefully still against the rush of the James River.