On a recent two month trip to Spain one of the commonest birds around was the little egret. A large bird, that is often easy to approach, especially from the car. Despite this I only photographed them once during the whole trip. The reason is that it is not just the bird that makes a picture. The background, foreground, overall colours and lighting are vital and if they are not right I do not pick the camera up.
The above picture is not one I would normally take. The background is dark, causing exposure problems with a white bird as the contrast is high. Generally the settings are not very interesting.
Eventually I did come across one in ideal conditions. It was on a beach in the Ebro Delta wading in shallow water. Importantly there was little wind, which kept the water smooth and the sun was coming directly over my shoulder as I approached. Although no longer close to dawn when the light would be even better the sun was still low enough to the horizon for nice light conditions.
It was not possible to get close in the car as the sand was soft. During my week there I towed three Spanish cars out of the sand on this beach, but unusually for me managed to avoid getting stuck myself. The egret was moving slowly left to right along the beach, fishing as it went. I parked 50 metres down the track in the direction the bird was moving, ran across the beach with my 600mm and a bean bag and lay flat on the sand and waited. This is much better than trying to stalk the bird. He is now edging towards me and I am motionless. Because I am low down I offer far less threat and when the bird finally passed me he was close enough to photograph with a 200mm lens. Before he got that close however I had perhaps 30 seconds to shoot pictures. As ever the low angle helps separate the bird from the background and makes the bird look more dramatic.
The blue water was still a little darker than the bird so I dialled in – 2/3rd compensation as I shoot in the Evaluative mode that exposes for the whole picture.