Stories From the Field - The Blue Heron Last Flight of the Day

February 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

"Last Flight of the Day"


It was a warm day.  Almost 70 degrees in winter here in Jackson, Tennessee.  I had a client who wanted shots related to ducks, wildlife, nature scenes, with ducks being the main focus of the request.  And I realized, I didn't have very many ducks in my portfolio.  It's not that I don't see them and photograph them -- it's just that I have been so busy chasing songbirds and eagles, I didn't really give much thought to ducks.  


Since I had this request, I decided I needed to add more ducks to my line up.  I wanted to shoot some with my new camera for this presentation, so my husband and I headed down to our local fairgrounds on this warm day...knowing we could find a variety of ducks on the lake there.  And we did.  We found a small group of ducks as well as some geese.  After photographing them, we decided to explore the fairgrounds area a little more fully.  There's a small walking bridge which extends over a creek.  Much to our surprise, beyond that creek was not just a small field, but yet another lake.  Sitting on the far side of the lake on a tree stump in the sun was a regal Blue Heron.


I shot a few pictures of him from where we stood, but the lake was large and the bird was too small in my frame for my liking.  Gazing around the perimeter of the lake, I realized there was a beaten down path which appeared to end at the lake right about where the heron was perched.  So off we went, to stroll on this path in an effort to sneak up on the heron.


The flaw with this plan was we were coming up on the heron from behind.  Unfortunately, he spotted me before I could get a shot of him, and off he flew, to the complete opposite side of the lake.  Sigh.  Another opportunity lost.  Or was it?


As we walked back the way we'd come from, I kept my eye on the bird.  We went back to the lake's edge where we'd started off.  Studying the ground around the side of the lake the bird now stood, it appeared there was also a beaten down path there, at least part of the way.  My husband told me to stay there, and he would walk around that side of the lake toward the heron, in an effort to get him to fly back to the first spot.  Which would give me a fantastic view of him in flight.


Through my lens, I watched the bird.  And the bird intently watched my husband.  But the path only went so far and my husband couldn't get close enough to him.  He returned to the spot where I stood and we discussed the next plan.  I explained where the heron was sitting now was shaded.  Originally, he was sitting enjoying the warmth of the sun.  I felt he would want to fly back there, to the place he was at before we disturbed him.  So we decided to just wait.  And wait we did.  About 15 minutes went by as I studied the bird through the lens.


And then I saw a hint of movement.  I told my husband, "he's going to fly".  And fly he did!  Parallel to me, right through a flock of geese and right along the shoreline.  At some point he moved away from the shoreline and flew more towards the middle of the water, directly in front of me, before he finally landed in a section of water plant life bathed in sunlight, yet out of my clear sight line.   


My husband told me those shots should be worth the whole trip.  And they definitely are. :)





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I am a photographic artist living in Tennessee, and I love to spend my days in nature capturing life's most serene and peaceful moments, whether it be in landscapes, watching birds and wildlife, or simply enjoying the beauty of a simple flower. I hope you enjoy my work, and that it will bring a moment of serenity into your day. --Jai Johnson 


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