Tips and image by Ron Simpson (Maiwand).
- 300mm plus lens – A lens such as the 400mm f/2.8G ED VR AF-S NIKKOR will help you fill the frame with the Heron without disturbing them.
- Gimball Head
- Rustle-proof clothing
Herons in the wild are generally very skittish birds and will fly at the merest sign of noise or movement so you've got to be very patient when photographing them. For this reason a hide can be a useful bit of kit but if you have a long enough lens you'll be able to watch/lurk at a reasonable distance to the bird and avoid disturbing them. If you have a local park or lake where Herons visit they will usually tolerate you a little more as they are used to people and as a result, shorter lenses can be used.
Early morning's a good time for watching Herons, although they do feed all day if you're not an early riser. If you're lucky enough to have an area near you where Herons are seen hunting regularly, take the time to do a recce of the area, learning their habits, watching for their movement patterns and keeping an eye out for their favourite landing/feeding areas. As a result, you'll be able to decide where's the best location to set up your lens and tripod. If you have one, put a Gimball Head on your tripod as you'll be able to follow the flight path of the bird more smoothly and if you're tracking them in-flight, use Auto Focus so you'll be ready for when the bird takes off.
Once you're in position, make sure you stay as quiet and still as possible as the slightest movement can make the Heron head for the sky. Try using continuous focus mode, found on many camera models including Nikon's D7000
which can capture fast-moving action at six frames per second, to follow every movement the bird may make with minimum disturbance.
Fast shutter speeds are a necessity to counter any movement the bird makes so select the fastest shutter speed that light conditions will allow. Then, having set the shutter speed, choose an aperture that will still allow a decent exposure. When it comes to framing and composition it can be a little difficult as you have no control over where the bird will land. However, generally speaking, the background will consist of reeds and waterside shrubs and the Heron will use these as cover. For this reason, try using the largest aperture you can to throw the background out of focus so all attention falls on the Heron.
Whether you're a beginner looking for a compact camera or a pro in the market for a high-end DSLR visit Nikon – the company who has photographic gear to suit everyone.