Mike Patterson  

Catch of the Day by Mike Patterson

May 2021 - Catch of the Day

May 2021 - Mike Patterson


About the Image(s)

Thursday, April 29, 2021, was our last day in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in South Central New Mexico. We’d been there several times during the winter to shoot Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. We wanted a road trip this spring, so we drove to Bosque. Saw a nice range of birds and wildlife but nothing as spectacular as the winter spectacle. As we were entering the refuge late on our last day, we saw the Great Blue Heron standing by a canal below the bridge at the refuge’s entrance. S/he’d been there daily since we’d arrived earlier in the week. While I drove in, my wife exclaimed, “He’s got a fish!” I looked over and spotted the nice sized catfish dangling from its long beak. I couldn’t guess the exact length but I bet it was around a foot long. I had my Sigma 100-600mm lens already attached to my Canon 7D camera. I left the car idling in the middle of the road, grabbed my gear, hopped out and started shooting. I didn’t have time to set up a tripod and it was quite windy. I braced myself and camera against the back of the car. I wanted to get a good shot of the heron swallowing the catfish whole but those images came out blurry due to the camera instability and the wind. Our assumption is that the heron sits there and watches for fish and other treats as they float downstream. I did very little processing to the image. Shot with the Canon 7D, Sigma 100-600mm lens at 600mm, F/6.3, 1/800 second at ISO400.

5 comments posted

Al Swanson   Al Swanson
What a great shot! You got this crane perfectly. . This is a real wall hanger. If I had any suggestions at all it would be to simply crop a small amount off the left and top to move the bird up a little more off-center. I might also try to sharpen the head a little bit to make that a bit more crisp. However I think this is beautiful. On another subject: I have been by that wildlife area several times but never stopped. (I live in Colorado and we go to Arizona via I 25 every year.) I've also been tempted to just take a trip down there for a weekend but I'm not sure exactly when the best time to be there is. Maybe you could offer me some advice on timing and the best gear to use. I used to go to Monte Vista, Colorado annually for the Crane migration. I imagine they stop by at Bosque as well. Anyway, any advice that you could pass on to me would be appreciated. Email: akswan1969@comcast.net.   Posted: 05/03/2021 09:23:44
Mike Patterson   Mike Patterson
Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. I would definitely add Bosque del Apache to your list. We've been in the spring and winter months. I suggest doing during the winter. We've been in January and February. It's COLD in the morning so be prepared. However, the array of birds is phenomenal in the winter! There are thousands of snow geese, Canada geese, ducks and sandhills lifting off and flying everywhere. You'll also spot bald eagles and other birds of prey. Be sure to arrive early in the morning for the gorgeous sunrises and then late in the afternoon for the liftoffs. I probably won't return in the spring again due to the lack of birds. Avoid the crane festival in the fall, as the place is packed with other photographers then. The winter off months will mean fewer people and more opportunities to get the shots you'd like. I have a Canon 7D and paired it with a Sigma 100-600 telephoto. That's what you'll need for the closeups but a wider lens will get you the nice landscapes and liftoffs. Be sure to take a tripod. However, most of my shots, excluding this heron, were shot from the car, using a beanbag for stability.   Posted: 05/03/2021 10:37:26

Marti Buckely   Marti Buckely
This is a great capture! I like the way the background is blurred as is the foreground leaving the bird nicely sharp. Good work!
  Posted: 05/03/2021 13:29:28

Peggy Reeder   Peggy Reeder
Nice capture Mike! For a hand held shot at 600mm, in the wind, this is very well done. I've never been to Bosque, so thanks for your comments about when to go and the varying conditions.   Posted: 05/05/2021 15:49:58

Jerry Biddlecom   Jerry Biddlecom
Hindsight is always 20/20, but as for the shots where the heron was swallowing the fish, could you have raised the ISO up to at least 800 -- but probably into the low 1,000s -- and raised the shutter speed up to at least 1,200 -- or higher -- to avoid the blurring? With the focal length you were using, 1/800 second was just on the edge of being too slow for capturing action shots, especially considering the fact that you were hand holding the camera.   Posted: 05/07/2021 07:09:16


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