Blue Herons from my mobile photo blind


You may not realize it, but one of the best blinds for either birding or photographing birds and other wildlife, is your car or pickup.  I can walk or hike and I am more apt to spook a bird then than when I am riding.  I know there may be some disagreement there, and of course, you can’t take an automobile down a hiking trail.  I am talking about when it is possible to do so.

There is another means to my madness here.  My huge 500m lens is not convenient to carry with the weight being somewhere around 13 lbs.  I love to drive slowly down country roads where there is virtually no traffic, or through parks that have the roads that amble through the trees.  Ann is usually with me and she is a big help in spotting our subjects.

Great Blue Heron

I carry one of my Canon 7Ds with a 100-400mm zoom lens on my lap.  The other 7D with the big 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter rests comfortably balanced on the padded counsel between the front seats.  My binoculars rest on the dashboard.  I lower my driver’s side window down far enough that it is raised about 2-3 inches above the sill.  There I attach my Noodle.

The Noodle is one of these foam flotation tubes that you can buy at Walmart.  I call them whoppers, because in their original form they are about 4 feet long, and when you swing them at your buddies in the pool, the sound like Whop, Whop, Whop!!  Okay, so that’s a corny definition. :-)

Great Blue Heron

I got the idea from Ron Dudley and Mia McPherson, two outstanding photographers and bloggers from Utah.  Well, actually Mia gave the idea to Ron, and Ron passed it on to me.  You take one of those Noodles, cut off a piece about 10-12 inches long.  Cut a long slit down one side, cover it in duct tape and voila! you have very nice window cushion to rest your camera.

I photographed these two Great Blue Herons at Middle Concho Park here in San Angelo.  In this park they have the roads that roam throughout, but the added bonus I have is that I can also drive down through the grass to the water’s edge, as I did for these images.  I maneuvered my car, a 2011 Ford Edge, so I could shoot from my drivers side window.  In both instances, the herons were across the water about 100 yards away.  For shooting, I used the 7D with the 500mm lens and 1.4 tele-converter.  It rested comfortably on the Noodle for a nice solid platform.  Be sure to turn your ignition off.  That prevents any added vibration from reaching your lens.

Click on either image to see a very nice enlargement.

Photo #1 – Exposure 1/2000 sec. @f6.3, -0.7EV, ISO 500.

Photo #2 – Exposure 1/2500 sec. @f6.3, -0.3EV, ISO 320

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35 thoughts on “Blue Herons from my mobile photo blind

  1. Wonderful crisp GBH photos, Bob, and you know I’m a fan of the car blind! I have never gotten around to getting myself a window beanbag; but heck with it now, I’m getting me a noodle!! :-) What a clever idea, thanks for sharing it.

    • Hi, Donna. Noodles come in two thicknesses the largest is about 3 inches. That is what I use. I cut mine to a length of 8 inches and it seems to be working for me. The nice thing is that the Noodles come in length of around 4 feet. So you can always experiment an make another one. Ron Dudley and Mia McPherson thought this thing up, so they get credit. We also cover ours with Duct tape. I think that it adds strength and rigidity. Happy noodling. :-)

  2. THanks for taking more photos of my buddy Blue. I have to get that noodle, sounds like fun for the kids. Each time the go to the arboretum, they pick out a new stuffed birdie that make sounds.. They are all over the house. THat second Heron is my favorite here,

    • The Great Blue Heron is one of my favorite subjects to photograph, but you already knew that. I am glad that you like them. Have fun with the noodle, and thanks for the comment, Martina. :-)

  3. These are great Bob! They are so clean and crisp… the noodle works!! I love that… so very clever. Beautiful photographs… how’s the book coming?! It’s a process I’m sure :)

    • Thank you very much, Polly. The book is starting to take shape, now that I am finally getting into it and making final photo selections. What great fun! :-)

  4. Bob,

    As I read your post, I see myself. That is exactly the way I do things. Drively slowly around on the back-roads looking for birds. Bins on the dashboard, camera either on my lap or on the console beside me, ready to swiing into action. Your photos are great, as usual. Never get tired of looking at them. What a great life.

  5. Sure glad you like the Noodle Bob. I think it’s the only way to go when shooting from a vehicle with a lens like ours and I’m nearly always shooting from my vehicle. Mia shoots from the back seat and when she gets bored she likes to “whop” me over the head with her noodle so it serves a double purpose… Very nice job on the heron photos!

  6. After my day of birding at the Muskegon treatment ponds, I’m convinced that using a mobile blind works. It did take me a while to get used to it, and I never did get photos as good as yours are!

  7. You’d be surprised how similar our birding trips are… one camera with the 500 lens resting on Colin’s knees (or mine!), the other with the 70-200 zoom in between our seats, and my binoculars somewhere on the dashboard. We find the car is a useful ‘hide’ too.
    Lovely images by the way!

  8. Beautiful shots, Bob! I wish I had could manage a bigger lens. But you’re right about using the car window as a tripod. It’s all I can do to hold my 100-400mm steady in the field…

  9. Magnificent, ancient birds… what a joy to see them… This last weekend I must missed a good shot of one flying over the lake. Your shots are great…you can see every feather!

    • Thanks, Merrill. The Blue Herons are one of my favorites to photograph. I owe that sharpness to my great lens. I hope you get another chance to get one in flight. :-)

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