Great blue heron astronomer

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jeffpix Contributing Member • Posts: 588
Great blue heron astronomer

Dear all,

On Friday evening, I decided to go on a walk — actually, my wife told me to go on a walk after I had been ranting about something — and I found a great blue heron who appeared to be settling down on a branch for the night.

I said to myself, “Maybe you can take a picture of the heron with the stars in the background.” It was a little after eight o’clock, and the heron appeared as a silhouette in the dusky sky (Picture 1). With its neck tucked in, it almost looked like a penguin stuck half way up the tree.

1. Great blue heron looking like a penguin. Can I turn this into a star picture?

I decided to call my wife on my cell phone and ask her to drive over with my tripod. She agreed, and I started to think about where I would set up the tripod and how I would compose the picture of the heron and the stars. Naturally, the heron soon took off. (Picture 2).

2. Oh well.

I tried calling my wife to tell her not to bother coming, but she had already left the house. As I walked to the point where we had agreed to meet. I found the heron again, in a perfectly acceptable location for a star photo. Great!

But after a while, the heron decided to walk inward along the branch towards the trunk (Photo 3), where it was much less visible. Rats!

3. The heron walks away from a perfect position for the star photo.

But then it finally settled itself in a place that I could work with by shifting my position. The heron then proceeded to clean its feathers, methodically and completely. This, of course, meant that it would be hopelessly blurred in any long exposure photo that could also capture the stars.

So, I just waited and waited, and eventually the sky became darker, the stars came out, and the heron settled down, only moving a bit every once in a while.

Below is a long-ish exposure photo (4 s) in which I tried to focus on the heron, so that the stars are a bit blurred. I decided that this is not entirely a bad thing, because it makes them appear larger. I did take a whole serious of photos with different settings, so maybe I can combine them somehow to get both the heron and the stars in focus.

All comments, suggestions are welcome!

All the best,


4. Heron astronomer.

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