How I Got the Shot: Great Blue Heron at Night

Photograph by Mark Bowie

Title: Great Blue Heron, Lake George

Exposure Data: 8 seconds, f/4, ISO 1600 Nikon D300, Nikkor 18-70mm lens set at 24mm.

Around 11:00 p.m. I found a great blue heron fishing in the glare of the lights of cruise ships moored in the south end of Lake George. I made some images of the bird and ships, but wanted one of the heron in a more natural-looking setting. I changed my vantage point so that I faced up the lake, with the bird in the foreground.  Nearby streetlights illuminated him. I figured the ultimate image would have detail in the heron, the landscape and the sky, which dictated shooting a relatively long exposure. I tried numerous shots between eight and thirty seconds, but the heron moved during them, registering as a blur in multiple spots. Finally, during an eight-second exposure, with my camera’s ISO boosted to 1600 to gather ambient light quickly, he held still. Perfect! His reflection shines in the silky water. There’s nice detail in the landscape and the lights of the village of Lake George cast a warm glow on the low-lying clouds. I’ve often wondered what natural beauty we’re missing at night. The latest digital technologies, such as being able to increase ISO substantially with acceptable increases in digital noise, are allowing me to explore a new realm with my photography.

Night shooting expert Mark Bowie will teach his Light of Midnight seminar at the Adirondack Museum on July 25th. It includes classroom instruction and a night photography field session. See for information and to register. He will lead his Photographing the Night Landscape workshop for the Adirondack Photography Institute July 27th-31st in Inlet. Visit for more information. For more on Mark’s work, visit his website: