Sunday slide 49

great blue heron Ardea herodias in top of tree overlooking misty valley
So to begin with, this is another where I can’t quite remember where it was taken, but since there are no big hills in the area and I hadn’t been to the mountains when this was shot back in 1998, I have reasonable certainty that it was taken overlooking a lake. I don’t think I’d yet discovered Falls Lake, so I’m going with Jordan. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific; I know how important this it to you.

But I’ll take this opportunity to mention something here, especially for all those who are thinking that a long telephoto lens is going to do wonders for their photography. In some circumstances, you will actually get better results without it. You see, had I used a much longer focal length (which I didn’t even have at the time) to bring this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) much closer and larger in the frame, a lot would have been left out. For starters, most of the color, which occurs down low. At a certain point the background becomes nothing but white and the setting a kind of spindly tree. While the branches do an excellent job of framing the heron, it’s still not a strong composition by itself, but backed off like this is and showing a broad expanse, we get more of an isolated feel; the heron is not quite obvious, though easy to find, but definitely all alone high in the air. The autumn colors now visible tell us the time of year, and the vaguely visible hills/trees in the distance tell of a foggy morning. Now, we have a cool, quiet, almost forlorn feel to the whole scene, which is a scene, and not just a pic of a heron.

Sure, it’s always nice to see more details of the bird, and we tend to believe this speaks of our skills when get wildlife “up close” – which is occasionally true, but speaking as someone who’s been within a few meters of wild herons many times, not exactly accurate. Sometimes the fartsy print comes from creating a mood or a scene that someone wants to put on their walls, and that very often takes more elements than just a bird, or indeed, and other singular subject.

So while there are certainly uses for long telephoto lenses and bringing a subject much closer, we shouldn’t neglect the possibilities that any focal length may provide, or the factors that might express more to the viewer.

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