Great Blue Heron – Sweetwater Strand


While the Great Blue Heron has filled my viewfinder many many times, it never fails to be a thrill to see one land nearby when out photographing in wilderness areas such as the Big Cypress National Preserve. These images were taken towards the end of our Loop Road journey when we’d about given up on getting any nice bird shots. The gators lazed around in easy view but the big birds would land only to entice and frustrate with a speedy touch and go. The area of Loop Road that intersects with a stream called Sweetwater Strand near Monroe Station opens into sizeable pool with cypress trees and lush foliage. Depending on when you happen to be there you will see gators glide through and many species of bird drop in such as Night Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Ibis and others. This day we were graced with the presence of a Great Blue Heron which perched and was content to preen and stay for awhile. I did see an anhinga drying with wings spread and an injured juvenile Little blue heron on a distant perch. Its torn up leg only recognized viewing the image later in the computer.

The first image captures a close view of the Great Blue perched on a fern covered tree branch. The second image is a wider angle view of the same spot showing the pool below and in the sunlit water you will see a gator cruising into the scene. I have a lot more difficulty with scenes like the second one as I want to capture the essence of what I am seeing with all of its light, shadows and various depth of field issues. Of course I want it all in focus, bird and gator. Not so easy sometimes. So while not perfect I was really happy to get both in the shot as it does show the life of the strand. Lastly, I included a typical image of what you see out there in the way of lush plants like Tillandsia ,varieties of fern, mosses and lichens, all crowding together for a spot in the tangle of life in the everglades and cypress swamps. If your computer monitor is really bright and overrides my shadowing, you might see the plastic egg crate down toward the lower right back under the fern. I did not see it myself at first but became aware of a pattern emerging clearly not natural. Loop Road is not entirely devoid of human activity of course, but I always hate to see things that could just have easily not been left to end up there.








~ by Judy on June 12, 2019.

15 Responses to “Great Blue Heron – Sweetwater Strand”

  1. The middle one’s an interesting composition. Think of it as flying dinosaur vs. swimming one!

    • True!! In nature there is always so much going on. Much more than you see or hear although you can sometimes hear things you can’t see. Hmm bad maybe!! 🙂 Glad you thought the composition interesting. That is good!!

  2. Great Blue Herons also live in our area, but the scenery here is much different than yours, which is more luscious and greener. If I were a GBH, I would stay down there. 🙂

    • Yeah and its warmer too…some of your GBH might be snowbirds down here maybe? Our population swells in the winter time.

  3. We have a resident Great Blue Heron that lives around the lake behind our house. They are magnificent creatures. Gorgeous photos, Judy!

    • Oh thank you!! So nice you live by a lake! I have a canal in my back yard but the deeper water does not attract the big herons. Once in awhile a Green Heron or Night Heron might drop in. Mostly iguanas though.

  4. As you know, I’ve a passion for herons (not so for ‘gators), so you know I’m going to love these photos. And also, foliage and flora (oh, no flowers). The species might be different, yet that last photo reminds me of the rich plant life found on the trees is a Broads wetland carr. Beautiful photos, Judy

    • Flora is ok as fauna is animal and flora is plant…even sans a bloom. We are so lucky to have the big wading birds around here. I never really get tired of watching them do their thing. Big Cypress is far enough away that I don’t get out there as often as I’d like so its always fun for me. These images were from March and I find that if you want to see gators then the cooler months are best. When it’s hot I think they stay more submerged and harder to see. Glad you liked the image with only plants. I enjoy all the textures and richness out there. Seems kind of prehistoric at times.

  5. I’m going into an environment that looks much like yours during the coming weekend: not so tropical, but forested, boggy, ferny, and much darker and more shadowed than our prairies. Do you have any general tips for photographing in areas like this? For example, I usually set the white balance myself — would I do better to put it on auto? I’m actually hoping for clouds, because when I was there before the combination of bright patches of light and deep shadows really was tough to deal with.

    There will be plenty of ferns, and plenty of birds, too. I hope to find one as dignified and statuesque as your great blue — what a wonderful portrait of him!

    • Whenever there is a leafy canopy with breaks where harsh light can stream in, there will be hot spots for sure. In fact my trip to Loop Road had lots of that especially once we got to the Sweetwater Strand area. Early light gave me smoother lighting…like with the gator and the green leafy reflections. But, when I was shooting the GBH the light would fluctuate between very intense and less depending on clouds I could not see. It was a harsh mid-day. Looking at my images I’d thought maybe I should try a polarizer filter as you do to see if I can cut that a bit next time. But, what I end up doing is to meter off the brighter areas of the scene and let the rest be darker. I can adjust light easier than I can rescue blown out detail. When the white is a birds head that works out great because you meter/focus on the thing you want most in focus. But, when you have light streaming down on shiny leaves or droplets of water on plants or animals, that can be very harsh and hard to fix. So I try and take advantage of good light and when I can’t, go for it anyway. One of the GBH shots in the series on the fern encrusted branch, I just felt didn’t work as a color image but the harsh light makes an interesting black and white. I might post that so you can see. I do not adjust white balance in the field…maybe that makes me a bad photographer and kind of guilty I don’t do it. As I understand it white balance is for color temperature not really control of hot spots. Like if you are photographing in a shady area, the light will have more blue in it and you might want a setting with more yellow to balance it out. I keep it simple and think about focus, dof, ss and most of all the setting. I can do the same subject over and over again if I see an interesting pose or curl of a leaf or reflection to make it capture the imagination or a mood. I love fern…anything with fern or cypress.

      Cannot wait to see what images you bring back from your trip. You have such a great eye for color and composition and mood; it will all be great even if you get harsh dappled light when you would rather filtered light!! Mother nature does as she pleases; we can only roll with it.:)

      • I’ll re-read this tonight, and respond to a couple of things that caught my attention, but I did laugh this morning when our weather gurus noted that Sahara dust is on tap for the weekend. Bring it on, says me! It’s as good as fog for evening out the light, but doesn’t really obscure it. It may help.

      • How did you respond to that so fast!! Wow!!

      • Because I’m sitting here finishing my coffee and trying to make myself go to work!

      • I am sitting here with my coffee at my desk supposed to be working. Its Friday rather be dreaming of gators and birds.

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