Two Perspectives On Snowy Egrets In Flight

And I love’em both.

At certain times of year I photograph Snowy Egrets fairly often but I keep very few of the images because it’s so difficult to get much detail in those bright whites. These birds have definitely earned the “snowy” portion of their common name.  So on those rare occasions when I can get both decent detail and an interesting flight pose it’s been a good morning in the field. Yesterday at Bear River Migratory Refuge I managed to get several images that include both detail in the whites and poses I like, including the following two.


1/8000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I like this one for its banking flight posture against the darker contrasting background that reveals such good feather definition in the primaries. I always enjoy topside views of birds in flight but with direct sunlight on those very white feathers this view often “blows out” those whites. In this case the sun’s low position in the sky helped to make the difference.

My shutter speed was exorbitant but when the light reflected from such a gloriously white bird and hit my camera sensor it responded appropriately. As happened several times that morning the egret flew in unexpectedly so I didn’t have time to make adjustments.



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Forty one minutes later the sun was higher in the sky and brighter but for a while until just before this shot was taken it had been cloudy and sunlight was only partially peeking through the clouds behind me. If the sun had been completely unfiltered those leading edges of the wings would have been blown out way beyond recovery. The background is the faraway Promontory Mountains in partial shade.

This head on view of the egret is a little unusual and may not appeal to some but I love it. It’s unlike any other Snowy Egret photo of mine and that’s probably part of its appeal for me. I especially like the turn of the head that put light on the face (and even gave me a catch light in that colored eye) and the subtle definition and details of the underside of those shaded and slightly translucent primaries.

It’s nice to find a few active and cooperative birds again. August is usually our slowest month for bird photography and this year it has more than lived up to its maddening reputation.




30 comments to Two Perspectives On Snowy Egrets In Flight

  • Marty K

    Snowy egrets (OK, pretty much any member of the heron group) are among my favorites and you have two absolutely spectacular flight shots. I’m really lucky that egrets are pretty much year-round members of the ecosystem at our regional park. I almost never get to see them in flight, though, so this post is a special treat.

  • Laura Culley

    My computer has evidently hit that stage where it begins to be unable to dissipate excess heat, which means all kinds of things start happening. And here we are again with my Internet being down. For pity’s sake, this thing is only two years old but the Internet signal is an ongoing problem! So sorry about the tardy response. It’s not like I didn’t see these photos and TRY to respond this morning during coffee!
    These images are simply gorgeous. I love both of them, but the second has an individual pizazz that’s just outrageous. But it’s not like the first image isn’t just gorgeous, too. It’s a slight matter of degree!

  • Susan Stone

    Both of these photos are wonderful, but I especially like the second one. I like that it’s an unusual position in which to capture an Egret, and I like the head turn, because to me it shows that the bird is interested in something that is in the direction it’s about to head into. The whole composition of the photo is interesting. For me, the first photo is a pretty standard flight shot, except for how beautifully the feathers are delineated. I’m glad you finally founds some active and cooperative birds to photograph.

    • “The whole composition of the photo is interesting”

      I think so too, Susan. Speaking of composition you might be surprised how long I struggled trying to decide whether to make the crop ratio on that one 4×5 (which it is) or 5×7 which would have made more space to the left of the bird. I very nearly posted both versions and asked for opinions…

  • Shirley

    Oh my! What great shots Ron, love them both. In the second shot it looks like she/he is wearing little yellow ankle boots.

    • “In the second shot it looks like she/he is wearing little yellow ankle boots”

      Interesting that you’d notice that, Shirley. Many folks refer to the feet of this species as their “golden slippers”.

  • Love them both. The details are amazing.
    Those translucent feathers in the second remind me that the miracle of flight has such fragile props…

  • Trudy Brooks

    Ron, I love all the photos you post, even if you don’t like the pose, light, background, rain or shine. It is so much fun to see them anyway. I have pictures that I won’t delete, as they bring the memories of what I was doing. In your case I am sure you would have too many photos to put in storage, since you may shoot 100s at a time. Just have fun and keep shooting!

    • Trudy, I typically delete 90-95% of all the photos I take but I still have many, many thousands I’ve kept. I keep some because I like them, some because they might be able to help my illustrate a blog post and some for the “historical record”…

  • Linda Covey

    I’d need to say the second pic is my fave because it’s not like all the pics I see. Of this heron. The first one is pretty also but not usual. I wish II could get one like your second pic. KUDOS!!

  • Ilona Loser

    That second shot of the egret coming towards you is gorgeous. The perspective makes it look like the egret is wearing shoes. We’ve been enjoying your photos for many years.

  • April Olson

    Stunning second shot!

  • Len Boeder

    Good Morning Ron,
    In my opinion the first picture is truly spectacular. To get the detail in the white feathers makes this one special.
    Thank you for making this morning special.

  • Dick Harlow

    Congratulations nice feather detail in the first one. Like you I don’t save bird pics that show little to no feather detail. However, my reasons are different. If there is little to no feather detail I can’t use the picture to define the feathers of the bird if I were to carve that species. I’ll keep an image to document it, but that is about it. I have always had trouble with white on while. We had an influx of Snowy Owls here couple of winter ago, and thankfully there was a lot of barring on the feathers. I had to cull the ones of an all white Snowy Owl!

  • Marina schultz

    Beautiful!!! Love those birds !!! I don’t have a single good picture of them .. yours are gorgeous !!! August slow?? Wow .. swainson juvies learning to hunt .. burrow owl juvies flying around barn swallows feeding fledgling s great horned owls and tons of hummers in mountains plus stellaris jays grey jays I’m exhausted lol

  • Just glorious—-both of them. I especially loved the flow of light from shadow edge to translucency in the wings of the second image…….what beauty !!

  • Joanne OBrien

    Love the photos. Especially the 2nd one! The head turn is great and it shows the egret at a different perspective than usually seen. His (or her) expression is very intense and focused. Perfect.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Fabulous Ron!

  • Judy Gusick

    GORGEOUS! Both pictures are just stunning of the pick my jaw up kind! 🙂 The unusual head position in the 2nd photo REALLY contributes to it. Glad you were able to capture them. Except for an occasional flock of something coming through the yard is starting to get “quiet” as it does this time of year.

    • Yup, the head turn really helps to make that image, Judy. Without it I’d likely have deleted the photo (or kept it to remind me of what could have been…). Thank you.