Shutter Speed Part 4 – My Blue Heron

I’m becoming more comfortable working in Shutter Mode. There are some times when it fails me, but that most often has to do with extreme light or shadow issues, the things that make getting a good shot almost impossible. As I discovered in Part 2, my camera can handle pretty high ISO settings. I did some research on some real world reviews and found that I could push the ISO up to 3200 with little or no noise and that as high as 6400 a clean image was still possible.

On July 4th, like most people, I like to watch fireworks. I prefer to do it from a kayak out on a lake or river if possible. Since last summer we were in a drought and had no fireworks we were set for a super-sized show this year. I like to get to the lake at around 7:30 and get out on the water before it gets dark to set my bearings and get in a short paddle before sunset. Right after dusk I spotted a great blue heron. They are one of my favorite birds – standing over 4 feet tall with a six-foot wingspan, they are a sight to behold. This was my chance to push that ISO and try to keep a reasonably fast shutter speed. To be sure, there is some grain in some of the shots, but keep in mind that this is dusk – a full half-hour after sunset. Pushing the ISO let me keep the shutter speeds between 1/320 and 1/400 second, not fast enough to stop most action, but enough to capture pretty sharp images given the conditions – low light shots from a kayak.

I have found that I can get closer to these birds later in the evening and have always looked at these encounters as pictures I take only with my eyes, because I didn’t think I could get decent quality with a camera without a tripod on dry land. Pushing the limits is teaching me otherwise.

Click on the gallery – all shots were taken at an ISO setting of 3200. There is definitely some grain, but considering that I needed a flashlight to see the buttons on my camera I am pretty happy with the results.

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31 thoughts on “Shutter Speed Part 4 – My Blue Heron

  1. Pingback: Shutter Speed – on the Road | the eff stop

  2. Oh My Gosh!!! It’s not all that common to spot a heron in these parts but to get close is unheard of. Majestic birds and incredible photography. Great captures. Super inspiring.

    • Thanks so much. Herons are very common here near the water – such beautiful. I find that in a kayak I can get pretty close as long as I take my time. I saw some out on the river the other day that saw me and didn’t move, apparently they are pretty sure a kayaker can’t get to them in the current :)

  3. Pingback: Shutter Speed – A Month of Hummers | the eff stop

  4. Some amazing shots here, Lorri. Such a beautiful bird and a fantastic wing span. Glad you were able to catch it with the wings open – that’s not always a given with herons.

    I really don’t think you notice the grain on that high ISO, but maybe it was more obvious to your better eyesight.

    I admit I haven’t used shutter priority much. I rarely seem to get reasonable light, but we’ll see when I next go down the coast to shoot some waterbirds on the rocks with the longer 150-500mm lens. Might have to wait till Spring (or just get up earlier on a sunny winter day).

    Don’t know how you got such good focus sitting in the kayak – didn’t it rock at all?

    • Thanks Vicki. I had 3 opportunities to get him in flight, but only one worked, the light made it just too hard to get a good focus. I was pretty happy with the noise in all but a couple of shots, the one on the masthead is the worst of the set.

      I’ve been shooting from a kayak for a few years now so I can usually adapt to som drifting as long as there is no wind. The water was like glass that day – so it wasn’t too difficult.

  5. These are awesome shots Lorri! And what a beautiful bird! I’ve never been able to take night shots, have you ever taken shots of fireworks? You would have to be perfectly still I imagine….

    • Well, it takes a 3-4 second exposure so good shots on a kayak are tough. I managed a few by focusing on the reflections in the water and letting the actual fireworks blur, kind of unconventional – I may post some. I brought. A tripod so that I could come ashore and shoot some, but once they started the show I just couldn’t bear to leave the water.

    • Thanks, it really is a wonderful tradition, fireworks over water. I haven’t figured out how to manage a long enough exposure to get a good capture yet though. 😊

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