Whatcom Creek Fall Colors: Red, Orange, and a Great Blue Heron


One of my favorite sayings is Louis Pasteur’s “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” Or to paraphrase, Luck favors the prepared.

In Bellingham, Wash., there is a park called Maritime Heritage Park and through this park runs Whatcom Creek.

A few days ago I had to pick up a set of prints for a client from the post office and decided to see the colors by the creek. There is a set of stairs that goes down to a trail which parallels the creek.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyAutumn colors blaze along Whatcom Creek near the Maritime Heritage Museum in Bellingham, Wash.

Autumn colors blaze along Whatcom Creek near the Maritime Heritage Museum in Bellingham, Wash.

As I didn’t have to pick my wife up from work, I had a little bit of time to shoot. It’s nice to have this time with the light being nice.

I was hoping of re-shooting I shot earlier this year, but this time with all the autumnal colors. From the bridge, the creak rushes from out under two very large oak trees. I was envisioning the colorful trees with velvety smooth flowing water.

So I grabbed my cameras (Nikon D300s and D200), 17-35 f/2.8, my ND64 filter (increases exposure by 6 stops), and cheapo tripod. Yes, cheapo. As in it’s old, is saltwater corroded, but still works. Sweetpea, I need a new one and Christmas is coming.

Much to my disappointment, the trees lost all their lower leaves. The vision of the colorful trees and the rushing creek I had in my head vanished like smoke in the wind. But, that didn’t stop me.

The colors along the creek were wonderful so I just started to shoot. The falls were not as high as they would be in spring due to snow melt, but, after about a week of rain, the creek was running pretty good over them.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyOne of the last vestiges of Autumn, a lone leaf hangs on over a waterfall along Whatcom Creek at the Maritime Heritage Museum in Bellingham, Wash.

One of the last vestiges of Autumn, a lone leaf hangs on over a waterfall along Whatcom Creek at the Maritime Heritage Museum in Bellingham, Wash.

As the trail was about 20 feet over the creek, I placed my 80-200 onto my D300s, used the lens’ collar to mount it to the tripod, then attached the ND64 filter. My shutter was 4 seconds with an aperture of f/11. I also used a 2 second self-timer so help eliminate any camera shake.

I began above the falls and shot looking downstream. As the stream headed in a westerly direction and it being late afternoon, the trees were backlit so the colors were a little bit more vibrant.

So I shot a few frames with various compositions for a few minutes. Then I moved onto where you could see the falls better. The angle was nice as you had a direct view of the falls. I kept the telephoto on as I was still a bit from the falls. An 80mm was good coverage.

I noticed a lone leaf on a branch and wanted to shoot it with the fall in the background. But to do this meant me climbing the hillside next to the trail to get a higher vantage point.

So I climbed with my gear about 20 feet up the hill, set the tripod and shot a few frames. I opened the aperture up to get less depth of field and began shooting.

To get the depth of field I wanted, I closed down and used the aperture preview button to see how it would look in the photo. A little used button by many photographers, but a nice tool to have.

As I was shooting, from the corner of my eye I saw a large grey blog float low over the water. After shooting the leaf and falls, I climbed back down.

When I went to the railing, I saw the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched on a rock in the midst of the falls. I quickly set up my tripod and zoomed in a little bit to get just it and the falls.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyA Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) waits patiently for a fish along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., near the Maritime Heritage Museum.

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the falls of Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., near the Maritime Heritage Museum.

I shot a few frames but they were blurry. I even opened up to get a faster shutter, but it wasn’t fast enough. Regardless, I like the photo as it has a ghostly, ethereal feel to it.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography  A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) waits patiently for a fish along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., near the Maritime Heritage Museum.

In this 4 second exposure, the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) waits patiently for a fish along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash. Below is a zoomed in version with just the head.

I watched as the heron moved down the creek and stopped directly below me. So I began shooting again. One of the things I noticed is that it stays very still while hunting for fish.

It didn’t seems to mind me as it fished. I was quiet, yet moved with purpose. It seemed to work as the bird continued to ignore me.

So I decreased my aperture to f/11 and set my shutter back to 4 seconds and tried a few photos. And a few frames in, the bird stood still long enough it was sharp with all the movement around it.

After getting a few frames, the bird was frightened off by some passers-by.

The good this is, I got a few sharp shots with the movement of the water is the frame. After I got home, I imported the photos and saw the one sharp photo that was shot at 4 seconds and was amazed. I zoomed in on its head and was amazed how it stood so still for those 4 seconds.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyA zoomed in version of this 4 second exposure of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) waiting patiently for a fish along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., near the Maritime Heritage Museum. Here is the original version: Great Blue Heron Fishing

A zoomed in version of a 4 second exposure of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) waiting patiently for a fish along Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash. Above is the original.

What a fun little outing.

All images available for purchase through my website. For more information, visit My Pricing and Information page.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. All comments are appreciated.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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8 comments

  1. The 3rd to last Heron with waterfall is my favorite. Even though the Heron has moved, its great you can see two movements while the waterfall is rushing along.

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