Great Egret - Field Notes Update by Todd Henson

Great Egret in flight against clear blue sky. Available for purchase.

A couple months ago I was fortunate enough to photograph a pair of Great Egrets in a wetlands park. One of the pair was displaying late-season breeding plumage, always a beautiful sight. Another photographer and I stood and watched this pair for perhaps half an hour or more. Both of us had hoped to capture some images of either of the pair fishing, but that didn’t happen this time.

Profile of Great Egret

Great Egret preening

Great Egret plumage

Great Egret eating a dragonfly

I did, however, capture an image of something I’d never seen before: a Great Egret catching and eating a dragonfly. I noticed the egret looking intently in a particular direction. All I could see in that direction was a dragonfly perched on a branch. I didn’t think the egret would notice a dragonfly, but sure enough, it stretched out its neck and snatched the dragonfly in it’s beak, munched it a couple times, then opened its beak and swallowed what was left.

I was also waiting to see if either egret would take flight. I love capturing images of birds in flight, and Great Egrets can be beautiful in flight. They have a large wingspan and usually fold up their neck, making it look much shorter than it is. I did manage to capture a few nice images when the egrets took flight. One image shows an egret against the water with a fallen tree in the background, and two others show the egret almost directly overhead against a clear blue sky. I love how the wings are backlit in these images, showing details of the features. Beautiful birds. I look forward to the next time I have the opportunity to photograph Great Egrets.

Great Egret flying low over wetlands pond

Great Egret flying almost directly overhead against clear blue sky

National Park Service Centennial by Todd Henson

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) turned 100 on Thursday, August 25, 2016. The National Parks, and other lands managed by the NPS, truly are some of the jewels of the United States. The NPS works to preserve some of the most beautiful locations in the country, while still keeping them open and accessible to the public. I have benefited greatly from this system of parks and monuments, and I hope they continue to be preserved far into the future.

I have not visited nearly as many of the parks or monuments as I would like, but included in this post are photographs from a number of the locations I have had the privilege of visiting, sometimes multiple times. The National Park Foundation can help you find a park near you.

National Park lands are known for their iconic scenic views, beautiful mountain ranges, flowing streams and waterfalls, and fields of flowers. But they are also home to wildlife of all sorts: mammals, reptiles, birds, spiders, etc. And the Park lands also include many monuments and memorials showcasing fantastic statues and amazing architecture. If you haven't been to a National Park, Monument, or Memorial lately, get out there! Go visit one today. And take along your camera, create a few images. It's worth the trip.


Locations Around the National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial at night

Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool at dawn

Washington Monument & Cherry Blossoms Reflected in the Tidal Basin

National World War II Memorial Water Fountains

Storm over the Washington Monument and Tidal Basin in Black & White

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in Infrared

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and Washington Monument in Black & White

Closeup of Jefferson Memorial in Black & White


Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.

Lotus Flower and Bumble Bee against green background

White Water Lily in dark pond

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Bridge in Infrared

Dragonfly on unopened Lotus Flower


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park in Black & White

Pika in Rocky Mountain National Park

Uinta Chipmunk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Clark's Nutcracker in Rocky Mountain National Park

Yellow-bellied Marmot in Rocky Mountain National Park

Facing the Storm in Rocky Mountain National Park (Black & White)


Acadia National Park, Maine

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (warmer tones)

Long exposure of a rocky shoreline in Acadia National Park, Maine (cooler tones)

Panorama of inlet and rocky beach in Acadia National Park, Maine


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Falls Along Canal in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Great Blue Heron Above Falls in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Double-crested Cormorant in Potomac River at Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park


Great Falls Park, Virginia

Prelude to Rafting at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Kayakers in Potomac River at Great Falls Park

To the Falls, Great Falls Park

Facing The Fingers on the Potomac River at Great Falls Park


Turkey Run Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia

Blue Phlox at Turkey Run Park

Yellow Trout Lily at Turkey Run Park


Prince William Forest Park, Virginia

Stream in Prince William Forest Park

Quaker Ladies Flowers in Prince William Forest Park

Daisy Fleabane Flower in Prince William Forest Park

Arrowhead Orbweaver Spider in Prince William Forest Park


Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Skyline Drive Sunset in Shenandoah National Park

Flowers along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park


The resource list below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.


Resources from my library

National Parks: Our American Landscape
Earth Aware Editions

Ian Shive, recipient of the Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography, is well known for photographing America's National Parks. His work is showcased in a book titled, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. I own a paperback edition of this book, and it contains some fantastic imagery, along with a number of essays by different writers. The book is in landscape format, approximately 8" x 10.5" and is 228 pages in length.

Ian's photos in this book present a far better sampling of our National Parks than I've done above. He has visited and photographed a great many of the parks over the years, capturing all aspects of them, from the iconic to the smaller, more subtle details. I believe Ian is a true master of his craft.

Photographing America's National Parks  with Ian Shive.  Image credit: CreativeLive

Photographing America's National Parks with Ian Shive. Image credit: CreativeLive

In addition to the book mentioned above, Ian Shive has taught a 3-day class at CreativeLive titled, Photographing America's National Parks. This class includes over 15 1/2 hours of video, along with several PDF documents with extra info, such as the keynote slides and some amazing examples of Ian's work. I own this class and really enjoyed watching it. This was the first CreativeLive class to take the studio out to a National Park, allowing Ian to demonstrate, in the field, how he goes about creating his images. Most of the topics he discusses are relevant to any form of outdoor nature photography, whether in a local park, National Park, or just in your own backyard. In fact, he advocates starting in your backyard. Most of us have something near us worth photographing, and having it close by gives us the opportunity to easily return over and over again at different times of the day and during different seasons. We can really learn the place. And this helps later when we travel to other locations because we've already spent the time locally learning our lessons, getting to know our gear, learning about light and composition, knowing what's possible.

The class includes many videos on location. The locations include several parks along the Olympic Peninsula, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park. In some videos Ian takes us through a photo shoot, describing what he sees and what he's thinking as he works the scene. In others he takes us on a scouting trip, looking for scenes that might prove promising at a different time in different light.

Back in the studio he talks about how to select and edit your images and takes us through his process. As with many of the CreativeLive photography classes, this one includes critique sessions where they discuss student photographs. These are great learning sessions. Later he talks about the business side of nature photography, describing different markets for selling your work, including a stock agency he founded, Tandem Stills + Motion.

Photographing America's National Parks is available seperately or as part of the Travel Photography Toolkit, which also includes: Post-Processing for Outdoor and Travel Photographers with Ben Willmore and Travel Photography: The Complete Guide with Ben Wilmore. I purchased the first two and received a free copy of Travel Photography: The Complete Guide.


Sunflowers at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area - 2015 by Todd Henson

There's always something to smile about, even when surrounded by a field of drooping sunflowers.

There were a large number of bees and other insects feeding on the sunflowers.

Every year the folks who manage the McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland plant fields of sunflowers for some of the local wildlife. This makes for a perfect photographic opportunity. Unfortunately, this year I think we showed up about a week later than we should have for peak bloom. Most of the field we visited was well past peak, with rows and rows of drooping, half eaten sunflowers. But we'd made the trip so we made the best of it. Despite the state of the sunflowers I had a great time. One thing I would do differently is to bring bug spray, this place can be full of biting insects. A good pair of water resistant boots might also be a good idea if there's been any rain, something we've had plenty of this year.

Sunflower just beginning to open.

A reasonably young sunflower.

Getting a little older.

A cooperative Blue Dasher dragonfly.

This photograph of a Blue Dasher is available in the Shop as wall art or on a variety of products. Search for it under the title, Blue Dasher.

The majority of the field was past peak, but there were still a few standout sunflowers scattered around, and some that hadn't even opened yet. It was interesting to see the variety, though it did take a little walking to find young plants. Insects of all kinds, such as bees, were feeding off the sunflowers. And some insects, like dragonflies, were out hunting the other insects. There weren't as many dragonflies as you'd find in a wetlands park, but there still were quite a few. We watched and photographed a number of Blue Dashers and occasionally we found a beautiful green Common Pondhawk.

I love the green coloration of this Common Pondhawk dragonfly.

Male Goldfinch looking over the field of sunflowers.

And, of course, there were birds pulling out seeds from the older sunflowers. Goldfinch were everywhere, flying from sunflower to sunflower. They may be common, but they're beautiful birds. We were also on the lookout for Indigo Bunting. We didn't see a great number of these, but we tried to photograph the few we did see. And we saw a single Common Yellowthroat which almost seemed to be watching us, hopping from leaf to leaf, often hiding behind one before revealing itself again. I believe it was either a female or an adolescent male that hadn't yet taken on its distinctive coloration.

Male Goldfinch. This one was flying around with a female, also photographed.

Female Goldfinch. She was flying around with the male.

Indigo Bunting. These were very difficult to photograph, this was the only decent shot I made.

A Common Yellowthroat Warbler