Wed Mar 2023

Great Blue Soaring*

Great blue herons are large birds, their wings spanning 5½ to 6½ feet. Yet, when I saw this one soaring high above the pond, it seemed unimaginably small against the vastness of clouds and sky.

The great bird was so high that my telephoto lens could bring it no closer than you see here. I tried cropping the photos, to pull it a bit “closer,” but the results were disappointing; there just wasn’t enough detail. The magic here is not in the heron, itself, but the heron set against the majesty of the world it inhabits.

The great French scientist, Louis Pasteur, famously wrote, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.” This sequence illustrates his point. I was leaning out the window, my head and torso extended precariously over the sill, trying to photograph a bird in the lower branches of a tree. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the great blue high above. I swung the camera up and clicked away.

I’ve often seen these big birds flying low over the water, but never this high. Could this be a rare event? I’ve never seen it recorded. I was thrilled to witness it.

Admittedly, each photo in the sequence is modest by itself, but the overall effect is more than the sum of the parts, conveying the grace of a great bird soaring and banking effortlessly in its medium.

The date was May 24, 2014. The entire sequence took place in six seconds flat, at 1:52 pm. Enjoy!