Post Hopping Heron

In some previous articles the importance of getting to know specific environments and observing bird behaviour has been discussed. This short article continues that content thread by sharing some images of a post hopping heron.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640

Birds tend to be creatures of habit and they regularly return to specific areas to feed. This is certainly the case at the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary where Great Blue Herons regularly fish from the burms that separate Lake Ontario from the Grindstone Creek.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560

The herons often change their position by 3 to 5 metres (~10 to 16 feet) by taking very short flights that only last for a wing beat or  two.  These short ‘air hops’ provide photographers with good opportunities to capture images of the herons with their wings in beautiful extended positions.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560

One of the most common things that the herons do is to move from one post in the water to the next. This snippet of action is signaled by the birds with a slight head bob and leg flex. By anticipating the ‘post hop’ and keeping your camera focused on the heron it is possible to capture these moments.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-560

The key is to use a continuous auto-focus (AF-C) setting and shoot with a fast frame rate. The action is over very quickly so timing your shots is important. As soon as you see the heron’s head bob and leg flex, start firing your AF-C burst. When framing your photographs be sure to allow room for the heron’s wingspan. The resulting captures should be similar to the images shown in this article.

Below is a 5-frame AF-C image series captured at the end of a ‘post hop’. You’ll notice that the focal length has changed in the EXIF data as the heron was getting closer to me with each of its ‘post hops’. You’ll also notice that the ISO changed in the last 2 frames as I was shooting in Manual using an Auto-ISO setting.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 278 mm, efov 751 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 278 mm, efov 751 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 278 mm, efov 751 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 278 mm, efov 751 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-500
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 278 mm, efov 751 mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO-500

This is only one example of how observing birds and anticipating their behaviour can help you capture photographs of them in action.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6, and the Nik Collection.

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