Beautiful Great Blue Heron En Plein Air Painting at the Charles River

She wasn’t out for blood; she was out for solitude. Any morning when a heron wins its skirmish and achieves solitude is a good morning for a heron. And solitude is what I crave in the mornings, too.

Breakfast at the Lake,

© 2020 Babsje (

En Plein Air Painting at the Dam Nbr 1 – babsjeheron

Wildlife is shy and fast and elusive and unpredictable – Great Blue Herons especially so. They usually erupt into flight at the first sensing of an approaching human.

I am shy by nature and photography is a solitary endeavor for me. I don’t join outings by birders, I don’t do camera club trips, and I don’t go on Audubon excursions, as wonderful as they all may be. I don’t even take friends canoeing or kayaking any more. (I did that twice and both times they talked too much and too loudly and scared off the Herons.) I steer clear of other boats on the water to keep a good distance away because, after all, even the fishermen need and deserve their space.

So, imagine my dismay upon arriving at the Charles River dam that morning to see a big splash of color looming over the ancient grinding wheel across from the fish ladder. There would be no Great Blue Herons that day.

Taking in the entire scene, though, dismay quickly turned to joy.

What came into view was first one, then two, then three, then four artists set up in 19th century vignettes with easels under brightly-colored umbrellas. They were spaced a good distance from each other, all with a differing vantage point of the river and dam and old stone bridge where the Herons fish.

One of the painters in particular called to mind a scene from the mid-1800s as she gazed out over the lush water lilies floating above the dam, paints at the ready, paintbrush in hand.

The bridge in this photo below was constructed in the mid-19th century, around the same time that the cyanotype process came into vogue. There is a palpable timelessness to this location and the artists and easels enhanced that feeling. I can easily imagine a 19th century painter or photographer capturing an ancestor of one of the Great Blue Herons that frequent the area today.

© 2016 Babsje (

Great Blue Heron – Charles River Blues Nbr 2 – In the Cyanotype Style – babsjeheron

I chose this 19th century style cyanoprint series “Charles River Blues” for one of my exhibits at TCAN because the Summer Street Gallery, itself, is from that same 19th century period.

© Babsje (

Charles River Blues Great Blue Herons at TCAN May thru July 10 2018 – babsjeheron

© 2020 Babsje (

En Plein Air Painting at the Dam Nbr 2 – babsjeheron

The fish ladder with artist, above. I would have loved to see what her painting looked like.

© Babsje (

Great Blue Heron and Fish Ladder- babsjeheron

There are many schools of painting. Some artists paint on location, en plein air, some in a studio. Some paint stunningly realistic scenes and some fantastic figments of their own imagining. Some artists take a snapshot out in the world and then paint from the photo instead of from life.

Is it cheating to paint a landscape from a photograph of a scene?

What do you think?

Rosemary Morelli teaches painting including en plain air style at her studio in eastern Massachusetts. The artists painting at the dam that day were a few of her students.


This post is dedicated to the Lens Artist ladies (Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya) and to Cee Neuner, all of whom encourage and inspire.

This week, the Lens Artists focus on Distance.

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 90: Distance .
From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 90: Distance .
From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 90: Distance .
From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 90: Distance .

Last week, the Lens Artists focused on A River Runs Through It. I hope they forgive me for a second submission.

From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 89: A River Runs Through the City.
From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 89: River .
From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 89: A River Runs Through It .
From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 89: A River Runs Through It .

Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy.

From December 4 through January 28, 2020, my Great Blue Heron photographs were once again on display on the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick.

Many of the photos in the exhibit were shown for the first time, and do not appear on the blog. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.

Thanks to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place is where the Herons are, of course it is. And the Herons? Their place is near the water, but also on the gallery walls and my blog. How else can I share them with you?

Thanks also to Ben H and WordPress for their WPC Challenge: Liquid. The Herons are drawn to water, as am I.

During September and October, 2018, the Great Blue Herons were featured on the walls of the Natick Town Hall, located at 13 East Central Street in Natick, MA.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2020 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick

Posted on March 29, 2020, in ardea herodias, Art, Birds, Fine art, Great Blue Heron, Landscape, Monochrome Monday, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Very beautiful! Love the river flow too.

  2. The last thing you need on a kayak trip is a chatty partner. That might disqualify me as your partner. But, I do know how to stay quiet. 🙂

    May I ask about your one-woman gallery showings of your Blue Heron photography? What size prints do you display? Unfortunately, we don’t have these kind of opportunities here in Colorado. Then again, I suspect if we did, many would be using photos of fall colors when the aspens turn gold, with a maybe splash of red from the scrub oak. Thanks.

    • Hi David. Thanks for your kind comment. The. Colorado aspens are amazingly gorgeous. The prints I show are in 16×20 frames and 11×14 frames, although my triptych photos are in 10×20 frames. Sometimes local libraries are happy to hang photos by local artists as are craft and gift shops. You might try them. Some of.your photos are very very Good. Good luck. Best, Babsje

  3. Lovely as always Babsje; loved the photo of the painter. Would have been great if she’d let you shoot her AND her painting! I agree, the scene could have been from bygone days indeed.

    • Hi Tina, glad you like this one. Many thanks for your kind words. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask the artist to photograph her and her work-in-process canvas! Good suggestion for when or if there’s a next time. Thanks again for your and the team’s ongoing Lens Artist challenges. I know they are a labor of love. Best, Babsje

  4. Personally I don’t think there should be any solid hard and fast rules for any sort of art. It’s whatever the artist wishes to express. I loved this series.

    • Hi Gunta. Thanks for chiming in and for your kind words. I’m glad you like these photos. I think you’re right when it comes to the notion of ‘hard and fast rules” for artists. Best. Babsje

  5. Beautiful images, Babsje. I love the sense of peace when you watch artists at work. There’s a bubble of calm around them, I think! You are truly inspired by your beautiful herons. Stay well and be well!

    • Many thanks Patti. I really like the way you describe the bubble around artists at work. And yes those are moments of peace and calm. Best, Babsje

  6. Beautful, as always, Babsje! Swirling waters, beautiful herons and lovely caught artists. Harmony.

  7. Excellent photos. That first one leaves a good ‘Impression’. 🙂

  8. how we record our environment is different for each person. There are no rules. In art each expresses themselves uniquely and so we must give lee way to the artist winds.

    You love Heron’s as much as I love Baldies!

    • Thanks. You are exactly right on both counts; there should be no rules that restrict or proscribe art AND you’re right that we each have a deeply-felt love for our birds – you the Eagles and me the Herons. After all, what artist doesn’t love his model? Your Super Moon photo is stunning. I imagine you lying in wait there for precisely the right moment to have everything fall into alignment. Such joy. Best, Babsje

  9. beautiful photos! truly inspired me. thank you for sharing.
    If you get a chance, please check out my music/art blog.

    it would mean a lot!

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