"Silently into the Night" - Sunset Along the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

With a tropical depression moving up the East Coast last week, clouds billowed to the east while the sky remained completely clear to the west. Hey, that seems like the perfect recipe for a colorful sunset! 

"Silently into the Night" - Sunset along the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

About the Image: The sunset itself is the star here, but I made sure to focus on the foreground as well. The small cascade worked well, providing a sense of movement. I used a polarizer in this image, but made sure to only polarize about half-way. I wanted to kept some of the reflections, which picked up bits of the rich magenta sky. Always remember to think about your polarizer setting instead of just going for max polarization, as a little glare can sometimes be a good thing by giving the image more depth. 

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm. 2.5 seconds, f/9, ISO 200. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Pathways" - A Great Blue Heron Hunting During High Water, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Hello there! It's been a little while, I know. My healthy and beautiful son, Porter, was born in early June, and while I wish I could say my absence was solely thanks to the hectic adjustment period of having a newborn in the house, that just wouldn't be true. He's the best damn baby ever. Sleeps all night, smiles at his parents, laughs, and drinks milk pretty much all day long. What a life. I guess the truth is that I just haven't been inspired lately. Like a summer drought, my creatives juices had slowed to a trickle. But just upstream, a rainstorm is pouring, and I can feel my artistic soul beginning to re-hydrate. And man, was I thirsty. It's funny how you don't realize what you've been missing sometimes. With autumn just around the corner, I can't wait to get out to my favorite local areas to capture the stunning change from summer, to autumn, to winter. For now, here is an image that I'm extremely excited about. I created this photograph earlier this summer in Great Falls National Park. Every summer shad migrate upstream, and the local great blue herons gather along the banks of these rapids to chow down. 

"Pathways" - A great blue heron attempts to catch Shad and other fish during high water in the Potomac River. Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

About the Image: The unusually high water level during this time of year, this year, led to some new compositional opportunities at a place that I sometimes think I've gotten every possible heron shot at (what a stupid notion). Typically the river along the bottom right side of this image is just dry rocks. Using my 70-200 f/4 with a slow shutter speed while locked down on a tripod, I composed the image where the water flow made an S-curve from top left, to middle right, and finally bottom left. Additionally, I watched the placement of the trees so as not to clip the tree in the top right and to provide enough of an anchor to the tree on the bottom left so that it didn't feel too truncated. Taking several exposures, as I always do when including moving water in the photograph allowed me to pick the image with the best looking water, as well as ensuring that the heron was sharp, as they do occasionally move during the relatively long exposure. A polarizer helped to cut some of the glare on the rocks to provide some more contrast overall in the scene.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6., 1/4th second, f/14, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

It's funny how our tastes and tendencies change as we mature. I would have never posted the following image as a younger photographer. As time has passed, however, I've become more confident in what I like and am perfectly willing to present an image to the public whether I think they will like it or not. Why wouldn't I have posted this image? Because the heron is looking out of the frame. The #1 rule of "proper" wildlife photography is to have the subject looking into the frame. It just works better for the composition. Everything feels right, harmonious, and natural. Well, rules are meant to be broken as they say, and I find that the heron looking out of the frame here creates some tension in an otherwise perfectly peaceful and calm scene. Are you afraid to post images when you aren't sure if they will be received well? Comment and let me know!

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 200mm. 0.4 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Polarizer. 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.

"Adrift" - Great Blue Heron Among Towering Rocks and Walls of Water, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

Is it bad to constantly fall back on themes we've done before? Is my Great Falls portfolio a gimmick that I've stuck with for so long? A small bird. A big landscape. I don't know, but I'm so happy with the look of this image. Welcome to the mind of this particular artist. Adrift in a sea of thoughts.

"Adrift" - A small bird in a big landscape. Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/5th second, f/13, 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.

"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.

"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.