For this week’s “GOYA” I decided to try and capture some images of the Great White Egrets that hang out along the Cedar Point Tideland Trail, near Cape Cartert. The trail is part of the Croatan National Forest and is “novice friendly.” Both the “Long” and “Short” trails are gravel covered and wide enough to accomodate most wheelchairs. Bridges span the wet areas.
While the trail makes for easy access, Egrets, Blue Herons and other shore birds are quite spooky. Attempting to approach them closely is an excecise in patience. This is particularly true considering that moving quitely on a gravel covered path is next to impossible. One technique is to walk in as quitely as possible, moving slowly, stopping frequently, and find where the birds are working. Then sit on a bridge in that area and wait. The birds will usually return after about 15 to 30 minutes as long as you sit still and stay quiet. Then while shooting you can use the bridge railings to help steady your camera. There are also a number of benches situated along the trail. They’re usually placed in “birdy” areas. Another option is to choose a bench, take a seat and wait to see what appears.
I don’t wear any kind of camo for this kind of shooting. I do, however, wear “earth tones” such as tan, khaki, green, etc. Avoid bright colors because, if my understanding is correct, a lot (maybe most/all) birds are not color blind. My typical outfit would be a pair of cargo style pants, long sleeve shirt, photo vest, hiking or athletic shoes, a cap/hat. In the warmer months be sure to add insect repellant to your wardrobe.
A “long” lens is a must for these shots. I used my Canon 20D digital SLR camera, with a Sigma 70 – 300mm, f 4/5.6 zoom lens for the bird shots shown here. Frankly a longer lens would be even better. I used the exposure control function to underexpose 1/3 to 1 stop, trying to avoid blowing out the highligts on these white birds. Honestly I needed to underexpose even more. ISO was set to 100, time of day 11:00 AM to around 1:00 PM. Not the best time of day for outside photographs
due to the harsh, high sun. For the shot of the trail and salt marsh I used a Tokina 19 – 40mm, f 3.5 zoom lens.
So how close to the birds did I get? For the second and third shot shown here I was within about 25 or 30 feet of the bird. I was probably about 100 to 200 feet away for the “flight” shot. Hope you enjoyed the series.