Monday, April 4, 2011


As some of you know, we just moved to Port St Lucie, Florida. We live in the PGA Community. PGA stands for the Professional Golfers Association. You have just read the extent of my golfing knowledge. Well, that and apparently infidelity is great for your game...till you get caught and your wife uses a 9 iron to prove a point!!! I have never golfed and really have no burning desire to start now. I understand it is a great game and people love it. I enjoy sports and played most of them but not golf. Plus I look really awful in red plaid pants. We live in PGA because it's a great community in every way: wonderful neighbors, great facilities and nature is all around us. I have blogged about walks on my street and what can be seen. If you take a car ride about a half mile from my house, you can see some nature at its finest.
Saturday, I did just that. I took my camera, tripod and my 70-200 lens with me and started out hoping to find something interesting to photograph. After about a quarter mile,  I saw two Sandhill Cranes  standing by the side of the road. I took these images from my car as I knew they would be crossing the road and I did not have time to get out of my car and set up my tripod. This is what I captured before they decided to cross over to the other side.

Not a bad start and I continued on. There are ponds all over the community and I started slowing down looking between the shrubs and trees to try and spot something in the pond. I thought I saw something white but could not be sure if it was an egret or a stick. I pulled over and grabbing my camera walked toward the pond.

Then I saw it really was a white stick. Not exactly nature at its best! I started looking around and noticed I was not alone. There was a Great Blue Heron standing on the other side of the pond and a cormorant swimming around the pond. Both were looking for breakfast. The cormorant found its first. I heard a splash and saw the cormorant surfacing after swimming under water looking for prey. It had been a successful dive. When it surfaced, it had what looked like a catfish in its mouth.

    It swam over to the shore to enjoy his well earned meal. I went back to observing the heron.

  He really was not doing much, just standing on the shore occasionally looking over in my direction. I was across the pond and it was not exhibiting any signs of distress so I knew I was far enough away from it. As I watched, it started to ruffle its feathers and bend its knees. I knew what was coming and tried to get ready for it. It took off flying low over the pond till it gathered enough speed to rise up and out of sight. I did get these two images of its takeoff and flight.

 I started to leave the pond when I looked down and saw the skeletal remains of a large bird.

   I am guessing it was either a heron, egret or crane: a reminder that nature has its own sadness.

   I left the pond walking towards my car and remembered there was another pond across the street. I  
   walked over and saw two cranes. One of them was sitting on a nest.

 I will need to keep checking on this nest and attempt to take some pictures of a newly hatched crane.
 If and when I do, you will see them on our blog.

I checked out one more pond before I headed back to the house. The sun was getting a little high in the sky so I was losing the good light but I wanted to check out one more pond.  As I was driving up to it, I saw a Great Blue flying overhead towards the pond. I parked the car and once more walked between the bushes for a look.

I love photographing nature, landscape or animals, (for the sake of this blog, I will include birds and reptiles in the animal category). People ask me if I have a favorite and I have to honestly say I don't. If I am shooting a wedding, a portrait session or a part of nature, I am happy. I love it all!!! I have also been asked what is harder, people or nature?  I really do not think one is harder but they do have their unique set of challenges. When you are photographing animals, that is really candid photography!! You have no control of where they are or what they are doing. Unless they are close enough to use a little fill flash, you also have no control of the light. I know you can move your position to put the sun in an advantageous position between you and your subject, but not always, especially when a pond separates you from that location. When you're shooting any animal out in the wild, it will invariably turn its back towards you. If you wait long enough, it might turn back toward your direction but not always.

As I approached the pond, I didn't see the Giant Blue I had seen flying. I didn't see any birds or any other animals. I thought I would wait a few minutes and looked at the pond. Both Phyllis and I have mentioned that after photographing your image, you should look around; behind you, to your left and your right. That is what I did and I saw nothing, just me and the ponds and the trees. But as I stood there, I realized one of my other senses was telling me something. I heard this noise, a chatter, I guess. I looked across the lake, nothing!! Then I looked up and into the trees and I saw them: two large Heronry which is what herons' nests are called.

The two nests were in separate trees but very close to each other, as you can see. Were there any chicks? If there were, could I see them from below? They were about 90-100 feet above me and had tree branches and limbs all around them. The best view seemed to be in the middle of the pond or across the pond on the other side, which were backyards of people's houses. I was looking to see if I could spot anyone on that side but no on was there.  Now the sun was getting really high and creating a high contrast situation. None of these conditions created a warm feeling of confidence in me.

       Did I see any chicks? If I saw them, could I actually photograph them?

Well here is a clue!! Tomorrow, I'll blog about my second day at this site and post some, what I think are  pretty interesting images. See you tomorrow for part 2 of Heron Chicks and Patience!!!!


Sailor said...

Beautiful pictures JP.

doubler702 said...

Nice! Good narrative; along with the pictures, we got the complete story. I never played golf either but I have an interest in it. Since you live down there, you will probably give it a swing.

Aaron said...

You got some really great action shots.

I had to laugh at your comment about animals always turning their back. I can't count the amount of times I have a great shot framed and the animal decides to turn away.:)

Ann said...

I love nature photography. These photos are great--can't wait for the next chapter...I'm adding your blog to my blog roll so I won't miss any!

Jessica Brant said...

I was Wowed big time: ) You should try your hand at golf you would enjoy it.
love your photos they are breath taking.

Jewell said...

Awww...Jim...nature photography is my heart. People tend to irritate me so I know that being a portrait photographer is not for me, but nature? That's a whole other story....I love it! I love taking pictures of it.

I'm so glad you said to turn around and look behind you. =) Being that I'd love to one day make a living off of my nature pictures, I'm always looking for that moment where my brain clicks like a shutter and the tingle that tells me the picture I just took was "it". So when I am out and about with the camera I can often be found walking backwards... =)

Love the sand cranes...they are so pretty. I've never seen those before. I grew up with Heron's at the river where I grew up in IL, and a year or two ago saw one down here in MO. It was a thrill...they are always so graceful.

Rimly said...

I love you narrative and your pictures are spectacular Jim. Thank you for sharing

melissa said...

oh jim i just read what my sister wrote on photography... a great photo tells a story... i finally had the chance to see your photos in our wide screen in the office yesterday... i stayed on the pictures that gave so much pleasure in my the stick catching its prey... wow!!! i was focusing on the ripples of water...the color...and of course, the main subject... it was very delightful to be accompanied by the things you've written... like a guide in a museum... i understood the picture not only with my mind... but in my heart as well... you are very connected with the subjects you take...
so next comments will be on your next photos :P...

JP Brandano Photography said...

Thank You so much everyone. Jewell I know the tingle you speak of. Melissa as always thank you so much