Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, SC, is one of my favorite locations to spend some time photographing birds and shrimp boats. Most of my outings are spent photographing Brown Pelicans, but on many occasions I’ve turned my lens on an exceptional Great Egret known to locals as Henry!
Most egrets tend to fly away when humans approach, but not Henry. He likes to hang out on the boardwalk near fishermen, waiting for them to toss him small fish. He’ll land on shrimp boats and charter boats looking for handouts. He doesn’t even mind it when small children approach and want their picture taken with him.
I’ve watched him for hours, wading in the creek’s Spartina grass, and standing frozen in place for long periods of time while patiently waiting for a fish to swim by. How do I know it’s always the same bird?
It’s because wading birds are creatures of habit and usually like to feed at their favorite watering holes or rest in areas where they feel safe.
One day soon after I discovered Shem Creek as a birding location, I found myself face to face with Henry. I was taking dozens of pictures of him standing on the rail of the boardwalk when a local walked by and announced, “That’s Henry! He’s here all the time.”
I couldn’t believe how friendly and cooperative he was. On another occasion last fall in the late afternoon, after the marsh grasses had turned a golden color, Henry posed for me. With the camera focused closely on Henry the background became a blur. I wanted the shot all about Henry.
The afternoon light gave the golden grasses an orangish color, with blends of yellow-ochre and washes of brownish-green. Although orange isn’t my favorite color, it looked good around Henry. After all, it represents his natural surroundings, where he feels at home, and captures him during the beautiful fall weather in Mount Pleasant.
In one perfect moment, Henry rested his head down on his long curved neck and turned toward the light, instinctively giving me his good side. ☺ At the same moment a gentle breeze blew up some of his feathers as if he was a professional model with the fans turned on him.
I’ve been wanting to paint his portrait ever since. I painted him relatively large, about life-size from the chest up. He is a handsome Great White Egret. I’ve fondly nicknamed him Henry the Great.
Now when I’m photographing him and people walk by, I’m the local telling them his name is Henry! They are usually fascinated by him and occasionally ask me to take their picture with him.
I enjoyed putting him on canvas for posterity. He is a character, a famous bird in his own right, and it was an honor to be one of his chosen photographers/artists for whom he has posed.
Thank you as always for following my art and reading my journal. I’m currently working on a commissioned piece and planning my next bird portrait. Please check back soon to see which bird’s mugshot makes the final cut! ☺
Here is a short video of my painting in progress!