"A Striking Image" - Great Blue Heron Hunting Minnows in Fort De Soto Park, Florida

Capturing a decisive moment such as this can really add a lot of movement to an otherwise still wildlife photograph. Subjects such as slow moving herons and egrets are perfect  to practice on. By utilizing a tripod to compose for the body of the heron, one must simply choose a high enough shutter speed (1/2500th second in this case) and hold down the shutter button when the action begins. Higher frame rate cameras are certainly beneficial here, but you can get by with about 5 frames per second or so quite well. 

About the Image: Using a slightly higher ISO of 400 here was important to quicken up the shutter speed a bit to 1/2500th second. In hindsight, I probably should have chosen ISO 800 as 1/2500th is right on the edge of capturing such a quick movement sharply. However, it did work out in this case and I'm glad it did! Additionally, I chose an aperture of f/7.1. instead of wide open to add a bit of depth of field in case the heron's head and eye moved slightly out of focus during the strike. Exposure was quite straight forward, spot metering the blue water at -1 exposure compensation let everything fall into place. In regards to composition, I let the heron sit quite far to the right to not appear too centralized and to allow space for water droplets to fly up on the left. Those flying drops of water add movement and are an integral part of the composition. They also look damn cool, and I wouldn't want to miss out on being able to include them in my image!

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/2500th second, f/7.1., ISO 400. Tripod.

"Delicate Dance" - Great Blue Heron Fishing Below a Set of Cascades, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

I'm continuing to go through my Great Falls images from this year's great blue heron season. Not quite sure how this one got by me at first, as I love the flow of the water as well as the feeling of power it presents. The water level in the Potomac River was just right for this one. Not so powerful to prevent the heron from fishing there, and not so weak as to be boring within my image. The little rivulet of water on the right side is an added bonus of the perfect water level as it helps to balance the composition quite a bit. As another point to consider ... when photographing wildlife within a grand landscape, always think about the pose of the animal. I had to wait until this heron crooked his neck just right to satisfy my desire for the best photograph possible from this situation. If I hadn't paid attention, the heron may have appeared to be only an afterthought, hunched over and failing to gain the attention it deserves!

"Delicate Dance" - Great blue heron fishing below a set of large cascades, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 0.4 seconds, f/16, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Landing Formation" - Great blue heron landing over rapids, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

It's funny, after years of creating images of great blue herons surrounded by water blurring by in a surreal landscape, I finally went to Great Falls with the intention of capturing the behavior of the herons. I truly believe there is a lifetime of possibilities when it comes to capturing herons in different locations with different compositions using my signature slow shutter speed technique, so I never had the desire to try to capture different types of photographs of them. Despite that fact, I had a ton of fun trying to get images of the herons fighting, fishing, and flying. I'll definitely be trying for some more images like this. It's good to change things up every once in a while!

"Landing Formation" - Great blue heron coming in for a landing over the rapids of the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/3200, f/5.6., ISO 800.

"Skyward Gaze" - Wintry sunset, Bear Rocks, Dolly Sods, West Virginia

I'm going back through the archives this afternoon and found a gem that I never got around to processing. It was early winter when I managed to drive my Toyota Rav4 up a snowy and muddy forest road to the top of Dolly Sods. I knew I might be in for a treat with the sunset, but in West Virginia the light can change very quickly and often ends in a blocked out sun. Nevertheless, I managed to get some truly beautiful light with a wonderful beam rising towards the sky. If you look closely at the potholes in the foreground, you will notice that they are the same ice formations that I photographed for the image "Celadon", seen here: http://www.chriskayler.com/blog/celadon-cracked-blue-ice-atop-dolly-sods-west-virginia ... Thanks for looking, as always!

"Skyward Gaze" - Wintry sunset atop Bear Rocks, Dolly Sods, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm. 1 second, f/13, ISO 100. Tripod. Blend of two exposures.

"Approach of Darkness" - Sunset at Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

I wouldn't lie to you, would I? As promised, here is the second in the series of images taken during that wonderful autumn sunset on top of Blackrock Summit in the southern portion of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. I actually created quite a few more images in between my previous post and this one, but I chose this photograph to best display the feelings of that sunset. Graceful pink light slightly kissing the edge of a massive storm front, ethereal fog roaming below. The conditions displayed here, as the darkness of night approached, pluck some hidden strings deep within my heart. 

"Approach of Darkness" - Autumn sunset from Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 12mm. 15 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Blend of two exposures, one for sky, one for land.

"Idealist's Viewpoint" - Sunset at Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

As I began my travels home from the New River Gorge in West Virginia, I knew the potential for a stunning sunset was high. A massive 1,000 mile long patch of moisture hung overhead, with the east full of clouds and the west (where the sun would be setting) completely clear. Since the cloud pattern had remained this way for almost a full day, I found the nearest picturesque location that sat right in the middle of the transition from cloudy to clear. That spot happened to be at one of my favorite locations, Blackrock Summit. I made my way to the summit a couple hours early and perfected my compositions. As the sun began to set, fog lingered on the ridges to the east, while autumn foliage was backlit by the intense setting sun to the west. The shapes of the clouds lined up perfectly with my composition. It was certainly a great afternoon to be up in the mountains! Up next ... an image taken after this one when the clouds began to turn pink. Keep watch!

"Idealist's Viewpoint" - An autumn sunset from atop Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm. .4 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Blend of two exposures, one for sky, one for land.

Foggy forests along the New River Gorge, West Virginia

I may be done with the focus shifted images for a while, but to ease the transition here's a couple of subtle and soft foggy atmospheric photos. Both of these images were taken on the same foggy morning on the steeply wooded banks of the New River as I ascended up the canyon. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

"Released, Again" - Foggy foliage near the edge of a pond, New River Gorge, West Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 87mm. 5 seconds, f/13, ISO 100.

 

"The Sound You Made For Me" - Foggy forest, New River Gorge, West Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 98mm. 4 seconds, f/14, ISO 200.

"Falling Leaves" - Fall foliage in a reflection, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

This is the last in my mini series of focus shifted images (for now!). Quite different from the ethereal feeling evoked by my previous two images, this photograph of fallen leaves floating on the surface of a colorful reflection tells a story and contains much sharper detail. By starting my exposure while focused on the upper canopy of the trees in the reflection, and then defocusing my lens as the exposure commensed, I was able to show the sharp details on the tree canopy and create movement and blur in the leaves on the surface. I thought the end result told the story of a tree transitioning from fall to winter, as it appears that I am looking towards the canopy as leaves plummet towards me.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 70mm. 1 second, f/10, ISO 100. Focus shifted during a single exposure.

"It Grows from Within" - Lichen on a boulder, Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

I've always enjoyed the patterns of lichen and moss atop the many boulders at Blackrock Summit in the southern portion of Shenandoah National Park. Oddly, however, I was never in the right mindset to photograph them. I was always rushing. Rushing, for some internal unknown reason. There were always "better" things to photograph than some lichen patterns on a rock. Well, that mindset is in the past now. These tiny silent subjects are just as beautiful, captivating, and worthwhile as the most majestic sunset. Enjoy!

"It Grows from Within" - Lichen on the surface of a boulder, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 81mm. .6 seconds, f/16, ISO 100.