Early Morning Egret

On occasion we may happen to be at the right place, at the right time… as was the case with this early morning egret. This article shares a selection of six images from the same AF-C run. Even though all of the photographs are of the same bird, you’ll notice the differences that subject angle, wing position and background can make to an image.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-3200

I was standing on a bridge looking down on a pond to capture all of the early morning egret photographs in this article. In our first sample image you can see how shooting down on a subject creates a less personal perspective. Catching the bird’s wings in a partial upstroke reveals some feather details, but the image lacks some symmetry. The egret looks rather awkward rather than elegant.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2500

Our next early morning egret image is more visually pleasing. The bird is now rising up from the water and is closer to eye level. This gives the photograph an increased feeling of intimacy. The wings being positioned in a downward position adds some symmetry to the photograph. You’ll notice that the ISO value has decreased as the bird was now in a bit better lighting. I typically use an Auto ISO setting when photographing birds in flight.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2500

In our third photograph the egret is continuing on its upward trajectory, but is now positioned against a very busy background. The colours of the berm help to accentuate the bill of the egret.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2500

Our fourth early morning egret image shows our subject bird at about eye level which gives more intimacy to the photograph. The egret is better positioned in terms of background. Its body position is revealing a good amount of feather details on the underside of its right wing.

Unfortunately as I was panning with this egret I captured this image a bit too close to the top of the frame. If I wasn’t using a M4/3 sensor camera I likely would have clipped its wing tip. The additional vertical framing space that a 4:3 ratio image sensor provides when compared to a 3:2 ratio sensor is one of the reasons why I prefer photographing birds with a M4/3 format camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2500

The photograph above is my favourite one from this entire AF-C image run. The egret is now at eye level and positioned against an out-of-focus natural setting. The downward position of the wings reveals a good amount of feather detail. The subject bird is creating a feeling of elegance and calm.

This early morning egret image is 18 frames further into my AF-C run than the first photograph in this article. When purchasing a camera that will be used for bird photography it is important to consider buffer depth, as well as frame rate.

I used 10 frames-per-second in silent shutter mode when photographing this egret. My Olympus OM-D E-M1X allows me to shoot at up to 18 frames-per-second in continuous auto-focus.  Shooting at the fastest available frame rate isn’t always the best thing to do as your camera’s buffer will fill sooner.

Depending on the speed of the wing beats of the bird you are photographing, your AF-C run may be negatively impacted by the effects of rhythmic motion in terms of repeating wing positions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-3200

The photograph above is a further 15 frames deeper into my AF-C run. You can see that the shooting angle has revealed a lot of good details on the underside of the egret’s right wing. This adds some interest to the photograph, even though I am clearly shooting from slightly behind the bird.  From this point, any additional images from this AF-C run were basically unusable because of the shooting angle. The backside of birds are not photogenic!

When panning with this egret, it took about 3.3 seconds to capture this selection of 6 photographs.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were cropped to taste, then resized for web use.

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6 thoughts on “Early Morning Egret”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I’m not absolutely sure what you mean by an “AF-C run” (?)

    You’ve provided some clues when you explain you have your E-M1X set to 10 frames-per-sec in silent shutter mode, even tho it can shoot at up to 18 fps – which suggests to me that you’re using Drive Mode = Sequential Low (Silent).

    And, since I understand you have the camera refocusing before each sequential shot, I reckon you have Focus Mode = Continuous AF.

    Have I guessed this correctly?

    I’m perhaps being a bit pedantic here – but am just wanting to understand clearly. With my Sony gear the equivalent w/be Drive Mode = Continuous Low, Focus Mode = Continuous AF … so, that has potential to be confusing too.

    Did you approach the bridge with those camera settings, Tom – – or did you have enough “presence of mind” to apply them when you anticipated the egret taking off ?

    John TKA

    PS. “Berm” was a new word for me – I had to look it up !

    1. Hi John,

      Sorry for the confusion… I sometimes still use Nikon terminology out of habit, i.e. AF-C is autofocus continuous.

      Yes, you are correct I used Sequential Low (Silent) in Continuous Autofocus at 10-frames per second. At the time that these images were captured I was testing the use of 10 frames-per-second, so the C1 and C2 settings on my camera were both set to that frame rate. In the past I always used 18 frames-per-second. Currently I am testing 15 frames-per-second.


  2. Egrets and Great Blue Herons are my favorite bird subjects where I live but not at this time of year. So I have a special appreciation for these excellent photos. While not the best of this excellent group, the first photo has a special attraction for me in the water. There are little spots which may be bubbles and while the bird is clearly the subject, the little bubbles in the dark green water add a certain dimension or maybe something of a mystique quality to the photo. As soon as I looked at it I thought to myself that I cant remember getting a shot with the water being the complete background and its quite interesting.

    1. Thanks for your comment Joel… I’m glad you enjoyed the images!

      I also love to photograph egrets and Great Blue Herons. This particular bridge vantage point does allow for many images with a ‘water only’ background as long as the bird isn’t too distant. My egret images were ‘OK’ in this regard. Capturing images of Great Blue Herons in flight from this vantage point can produce some really nice photographs… the detail of the heron’s wings against the water can be quite nice. A really smooth surface of the water makes it ideal… Mother Nature’s natural mirror!


  3. 5th is also my favourite with the natural background. Also very much like the image with the berm. You referred to it has a busy background (but don’t think you inferred in a negative way). Myself not into bird photography but do follow some bird photographer images lately. For me, the berm image is different in the sense I don’t often see images like that. Makes a unique contrast to the bird. Wouldn’t have any problem framing for display.

    1. Thanks for your comment Blaine… much appreciated!

      Yes, I did mention the ‘busy background’ but not in a negative context. Sometimes it can be difficult to get sufficient separation of a subject bird against a busy background. I think there was sufficient separation for the composition to work. The colours of the berm were complimentary which helped quite a bit. When panning with a bird a busy background can sometimes confuse a camera’s auto focusing, especially if a photographer is unable to keep their auto focus point(s) on the subject bird. The berm is a man-made feature… but constructed of nature materials.


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