The Great Blue Heron of Como Lake

One of Saint Paul’s mythical friends poses in early morning.

Photographing birds helps Annie Huidekoper slow down. “Rarely do I use a tripod, so I must calm myself,” she says. At any moment, the great blue heron stepping across the shore of Como Lake could glide away. Unlike when Huidekoper tries to capture people—angling her Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 just so to get a shot of a friend—shooting birds requires patience.

Huidekoper started snapping pictures of birds the old-fashioned way five decades ago, following her sister. “She created a darkroom in our drafty old attic,” Huidekoper says. “It was magical spending quality time developing black-and-white photos—first hers, then, in time, mine.”

She moved on to hand-me-down Kodak Instamatics. For someone who has as much difficulty keeping still as Huidekoper, “digital cameras are a godsend,” she says.

During her years as a vice president (of Community Partnerships) with the St. Paul Saints, Huidekoper took countless shots of fans, ballplayers and yes, mascot pigs -- as well as the former (now demolished) Midway Stadium, to contrast the old space with the new CHS Field, the Lowertown Ballpark vision she and others made a reality for the city she loves.

Last July, she was on her way to a spinning class a little before 6 a.m.,  A Dickensian character of Como Lake, this bird has risen to myth as the lake’s only great blue heron, distinctive enough for Huidekoper to single it out for this shot.