When the image you hoped for doesn’t materialize

From far above the river I saw this great blue heron standing still on the rocks below. It was right on the river’s edge, waiting patiently for a passing meal. I carefully made my way down over fallen tree limbs and loose rocks. As I got closer I would stop occasionally and make a few photographs. After about five minutes I’d edge myself closer and wait and shoot some more. Then scoot a little closer still. I eventually got myself into a good position about 15 to 20 feet away.

From the moment I first saw the heron I imagined a photo of a good size fish struggling in that stiletto beak. I waited over an hour, sitting uncomfortably on solid rock, hoping for the bird to snag a catfish or bass from the water. There were several attempts, yet each came up empty. From my perch above I could see the occasional shadow of a fish swim by, but the heron either didn’t see it or it was too far out of reach to even try.

At one point another heron landed nearby. It was apparently just a little too close for comfort and this one chased it off. Then as it made its way back to its fishing spot I made this shot. Ultimately, other obligations made it impossible to stay any longer so I never got the fish-in-beak shot. But I’ll be back. And so will the herons. I’ll get the shot. Just going to take some patience.

Great blue heron at the potomac river near great falls, Virginia.

Sometimes the image you hoped for doesn’t materialize.
But that shouldn’t mean you come away with nothing.



Civil War at the C&O Canal

This past weekend I met a group of Civil War re-enactors at the Canal. After talking to the men honoring the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves from 1861 I learned a good deal about what drives some to go into Living History representations. Very thoughtful fellows. Hope you enjoy:

YouTube: Potomac River Gorge, NPS 100

This is the first in my new weekly series on YouTube celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service. Tune in as I share my favorite National Park entity, the Potomac River Gorge! (Also, photography tips!)

Finlandia Vodka shoot at Great Falls.

Back in October I went down to the river for a little exploring and shooting. First stop, as usual, was at the overlook deck on the Maryland side looking for vultures and herons. What I actually found there, however, looked to be a pretty intense commercial video being shot. Camera guy in the water, kayakers on cliffs and crashing through some amazing whitewater…so what the heck, I thought, I’ll stick around and see how it all unfolds!

Little did I realize my friend Jason Beakes was the feature of this video. I learned from him it was a spot for Finlandia Vodka. Steve Fisher, kayaker and documentary film maker was shooting it and Cory Richards, adventure photog for NatGeo was there as well as a sort of narrator/host of the commercial. Check out the finished product…

Also, I made few behind the scenes photos. Very cool time.

Steve Fisher shooting video for finlandia vodka commercial at great falls, maryland

Steve Fisher. Setting up his shot.

Cory Richards, adventure photographer for National Geographic. Filming commercial for Finlandia Vodka, Great Falls Maryland.

Cory Richards.

Steve Fisher getting into position below the rapids of Great Falls. Finlandia commercia.

Getting right down there in it! Looking for a good line of sight.

Jason Beakes whitewater kayaker for Finlandia Vodka video shoot.

Jason Beakes, headed over the falls.

Steve Fisher and Jason Beakes in the river below Great Falls. Finlandia Vodka commercial.

Steve and Jason.

Steve Fisher and Jason Beakes in the river below Great Falls. Finlandia Vodka commercial.

Getting in there.

Steve Fisher and Jason Beakes in the river below Great Falls. Finlandia Vodka commercial.

Jason, ready for his close up.

Jason Beakes climbing the rocks on the Potomac River at great Falls. Finlandia Vodka video shoot.

Jason Beakes making his way over the rocks for another run.


Fortuitous Photo Ops

great blue heron, great falls maryland


I was on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River shooting kayakers in the falls when my peripheral vision spied this heron as it glided down. With a 6 foot wing span and gangly legs it landed awkwardly on the rocks of the Maryland side. The bird then began to jump from boulder to boulder looking for a decent place to fish. I waited.

As you might notice the grey coloring of a great blue heron’s plumage camouflages it well against these rocks. Not an ideal background. Yet, this one hopped again and landed for just a moment in the spot you see here. I couldn’t have asked for more. I shot.

It’s not often your subjects in the wild place themselves in such choice spots. Be ready when they do.