Anatomy of a photo #3: Great Egret hunting in the fog

Egret fishing from the oyster racks in Drake's Estero on a foggy day

This image was made while kayaking early one morning on Drake’s Estero.

When I saw this egret on the local oyster farm’s racks, I knew right away that I wanted a vertical orientation to the picture. The structure of the oyster racks are too visually interesting with their long patterned length to restrict to the small space they would have occupied in a horizontal or portrait orientation. The fog was thick though- you can see how the oyster rack is slowly fading away into the fog? This is one of the very few times I have adjusted the contrast of an image in post production on the computer. The egret itself was fading away into the fog, and I had to increase the contrast and darken the image a little to give the egret a little more solidity.

The egret was walking along the rack when I first saw it. The current wasn’t too strong, so I was able to almost stop my kayak so that I was viewing down the racks (which is the perspective I wanted). I took a picture or two in case the egret flew away, and then I waited for it to get to somewhere interesting- which is when I took this picture. I liked the way the egret was at the very edge of the rack. It gives the promise of a story.

For the more technical aspects… As I said, the image was made trickier a little trickier by how thick the fog was. It also cut down on the available light, so that when I used a long lens it had to be with a fairly open aperture (420mm at f6.4) for the image. Even though I usually like using open aperture for wildlife (I like the focus to be on the animal, which happens if everything else is a little blurred out), I didn’t have much of choice on this day. With little available light, I already had the ISO as high as my camera could manage without becoming too noisy (this was at ISO 800 and you can see there is already a little noise to the image). I couldn’t lower the shutter speed any farther without risking lots of camera shake. That meant the only thing that could adjust easily was my aperture.

The egret’s head is toward the top of the image. This is the main point of interest on the bird, so I avoided placing it in the very center of the picture. It’s not right at one of the 1/3 rd marks though either, but that’s just a guide, not a law (which I further break by more or less centering the egret from left to right).



About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, birds, kayak photography, nature photography, photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #3: Great Egret hunting in the fog

  1. Max Reynolds says:

    As always the photo is mesmerizing and I really appreciate the information. It helps me get better with the photos that I take. Thanks for sharing. -Max-

  2. danitacahill says:

    Great shot. Thanks for sharing the story behind it, too.

  3. Emily Heath says:

    Gorgeous light and colours.

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