Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Great Blue Heron

MINOR WHITE: "Some degree of mirroring happens with any photograph, but it is especially strong with photographs rendered in a stylized or non-literal way. Mirroring is also strong in photographs in which the presence of design is equal to or supersedes the sense of the presence of the subject in front of the camera." (

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I'd never seen a heron taking off before. The first time was at a teacher conference in Lakeville, and a colleague and I had gotten up early to take one of the resort canoes out onto the lake before breakfast and the first session of the day. As we paddled closer to the bird it spread its wings, and I could feel my own rib cage expand and hover with the bird in flight. The moment was too short, and I desperately wanted a replay.

When I returned seriously to photography one of my goals was to catch that shot of the heron inflating. I haven't done it yet, and other goals have always pushed that one back. For one thing, where I walk the herons are very shy, and they usually sense my presence and are in flight before I can reach a clearing suitable for shooting, and I have not sought out a suitable blind.

In some previous segment of TODAY'S that featured a gold finch and then a mourning dove I protested, "I don't do birds." Perhaps that's the more important reason. It's not that I dislike birds, Jane feeds the songbirds, and I love to see them each morning as I wake, and I feed the humming birds and will jump from my chair when they begin their antics. It is that birds (and insects and camels and much else) are so rarely seen with clarity that the eye is drawn to examine the image of the stilled, close-up representation of the actual object; as a result it becomes much harder to achieve what Alfred Steiglitz called, "equivalence," or what Minor White refers to above as, "Mirroring."

When my friend Rick Cassar invited me on an early morning photo shoot on Candlewood Lake I saw my chance to return to the heron hunt. The herons on Candlewood are a good deal more used to people, and Rick was an expert guide for finding them. I hope he invites me back. He did a great job maneuvering us for this shot, and I'm pleased with whatever degree of formality organizes this shot. However, how much more directly does the inadvertent, under-exposed graininess of Glide (previous TODAY'S) invite us to walk into its expressive spirit! That release is the serendipitous consequence of my inability to set the correct exposure fast enough.

NOTE: I've titled this, "Great Blue Heron." If there is an expert around who can tell me differently, I'm ready to learn.

TECH NOTES: ISO 800, f16, 1/80th sec, 400mm (full frame equiv: 600mm), VR. I probably could have given a stop of aperture for a quicker shutter, but the boat was drifting so focus was as delicate as steadiness, and I hoped to keep the background as sharp as possible.