Ok, I’ve decided to blog some more about Florida birdies; the Great Egret this time.
Great Egrets, also known as Great White Egrets, range from Oregon to Mexico on the west coast, from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico along the Missouri and Mississippi river valleys, throughout the Southeast U.S. including Florida of course, and vast areas of South America. I have personally photographed them in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Florida, and Costa Rica. Although common, great egrets are beautiful and very photogenic, especially during breading season with their long feather plumes.
Here are some cool Great Egret facts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
- The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.
- Not all young that hatch survive the nestling period. Aggression among nestlings is common and large chicks frequently kill their smaller siblings.
- The longevity record for a wild Great Egret is nearly 23 years.
White birds are particularly challenging to photograph. The camera’s exposure meter is easy fooled by a white bird on a dark background, losing important feather details to blown highlights, even on overcast days. It is even worse on high-contrast sunny days.
I almost always shoot in aperture priority mode and use exposure compensation as necessary for control. I will under expose the overall scene if necessary to make sure the white bird is properly exposed. To compensate, I frequently lighten background elements in post after the fact. As a general rule I expose to the right (ETTR) so that the histogram comes close to, but does not touch the right edge of the scale. A clipped histogram on the right side means blown highlights and there is nothing you can do in post processing to recover lost detail. With a bright white bird as the subject matter, this will sometimes result in under exposed or clipped shadows. Everything in photography is a compromise and it is usually better in my opinion to sacrifice detail in shadows in order to retain details in highlights.
Here are a few of my favorite Great Egret shots from two weeks ago. Thanks for looking.