Purple RainLast Friday, I had an appointment with two other nature photographers to photograph whatever we would come across in the sweeping wide landscapes of Zuid-Holland. Thanks Peter and Arjen, we had a blast.

We had planned to meet at 9am, which meant we would not be able to photograph at sunrise. So I got up at 4.30am and drove to a well-known Purple Heron colony around the area we would meet.
The place is usually crowded with photographers at sunset, when the warm light of the last sunbeams illuminates the herons.

I wanted to photograph them at first light, as I expected the soft light through the wings would look spectacular. Apparently, I was the only one with that idea, as there was not a single other photographer.

Unfortunately, the day started cloudy and the sun only appeared around 8am, the light being already a bit harsh. The good thing was that a strong wind blew from behind me, so the birds would slowly land towards me. As it is still early in the breeding season with no chicks to feed yet, the herons did not fly around a lot, but enough for me to get some photographs that vaguely resemble what I had in mind. I can only imagine what it will look like at 6am with the first warm rays of light shining through the wings.

By the way: with large and slow birds like herons, a shutterspeed of 1/500s is more than enough to freeze the motion. Also, I could shoot from a tripod instead of handheld, because the birds flew right towards me. The larger turning radius was not an issue in this situation.

Purple Heron; Canon 1D Mark III w. 500/4 IS and 1.4x; 1/500s at F6,3 and ISO 400; Gitzo tripod