Traffic Cop

A neat trick transforms a normal-size bird into Godzilla.

Ah, the power of perspective. Though this black-crowned night-heron appears to tower, Godzilla-like, over the bridge in the image above, it’s actually standing ashore in the foreground. Charles “Chuck” Seamens snapped the photo while walking by a bait shop under the John Ringling Bridge in Sarasota, Florida. It wasn’t until he looked at the shot that he noticed the camera trick. “The illusion that the bird is looking at the bridge and just sort of pondering traffic makes it almost like a policeman checking to make sure everyone’s traveling at the right speed and in the right lane,” he says. A finalist in this issue’s Audubon Magazine Photography Awards, Seamens, 76, is a semi-retired insurance broker who splits his time between Pennsylvania and Florida. “I have always been interested in getting unusual shots, purely as an amateur,” he says. Seamens doesn’t call himself a birder, but he does enjoy birds and stays open to all manner of inviting photographic subjects.

See this article's accompanying photo gallery

The 2011 Audubon Magazine Photo Awards winners.] Black-crowned night-herons are the most widespread herons in the world, breeding on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. They’ll chow on a variety of land-based creatures, though their diet consists mainly of fish and other freshwater and marine organisms—which probably explains this individual’s post at the bait shop. It was perched on a storage case about six feet away, completely unfazed by its admirer, when Seamens clicked the camera. “It didn’t move at all,” he says. “It was more interested in the bait than it was in me taking a picture.”


Photographer: Chuck Seamens
Species: Black-crowned night-heron
When: Late winter 2010
Where: John Ringling Bridge, Sarasota, Florida
Camera: Sony Cyber Shot Digital; 25mm wide-angle Sony lens G with 10x optical zoom