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February 2012: Hungry Great Egret, California

From the Photographer...

Graham Owen 

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is the majestic and graceful great egret. These large, beautiful white birds also possess bold, predatory and territorial characteristics, which make for an exciting and dynamic combination to admire — with or without a camera.

This magnificent egret was photographed along the banks of California’s Los Angeles River, enjoying a fresh fish. I consider this a lucky shot; this bird captured and swallowed his lunch whole, unexpectedly, in the blink of an eye. 

Finding a place to get close to a group of egrets is the key to my success, as well as keeping alert and constantly trying to learn the birds’ flight patterns and their favorite trees. Often, birds in city habitats have become accustomed to human presence — they recognize people individually and adjust their threat level accordingly. Some of the great egrets have become used to me, and a few of them will let me get within about 6 feet before they start walking or flying away.

I think this photograph boils down to putting in time and attention, and getting in tune with the birds.

Conservation

To me, this photo clearly demonstrates that conservation awareness, activism and action provide effective and successful results over time. Combined efforts by the City of Los Angeles and various environmental groups have worked in harmony to help clean the river while making citizens aware that plastic grocery bags, cigarette butts and other pollutants flow into the river when it rains, causing environmental damage, and eventually drains into the ocean, where fish and people swim.

The Los Angeles River flows through a burgeoning metropolis of office buildings, traffic and people, and some stretches of the Los Angeles River remain barren of life. But thick vegetation flourishes in other areas, sustaining a rich diverse ecosystem with food chains supporting insects, fish and birds demonstrating the ability of man and wildlife to live together and adapt. These are the places I seek and enjoy practicing bird photography.

Shooting

With respect to camera settings, shutter speeds of 1/1000’s of a second or higher allow for capturing images of birds flying and fishing, while freezing the action. Aperture and camera sensitivity setting are adjusted to maintain the fastest shutter speed possible. Whenever possible I choose to use an aperture of f/8 for larger birds such as egrets and herons, f/6.1 for ospreys and ducks and f/5.6 for smaller birds.

After working as a solar energy contractor for over twenty years, Graham Owen decided to change careers and currently works full time as an artist, primarily making highly detailed life-size butterfly and dragonfly replicas. Graham’s artistic endeavors are inspired by nature and are displayed globally. The purpose and approach of his art and photography is to capture, engage and express his feelings of wonderment and awe, sometimes whimsically, convinced that helping reconnect humanity with the environment is a positive intention.


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