Losing My Fear of ISO

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The ISO was only 400 — but the tiny sensor on this bridge camera could not handle it well.

What newbie wouldn’t be scared of ISO?

On one hand, it promises you brighter, better photos. . .

. . .but the other hand takes them away with great big blobs of grain.

Up to now, I simply ignored this third leg of the exposure triangle.

I figured that by keeping the ISO low (200 or below), I wouldn’t have to worry about grain.

But that limited my photos to bright light only, which brought new problems.

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Even ISO couldn’t rescue this photo shot in harsh oblique light.

Adjusting the WB and/or using a CPL didn’t really fix things because I am still having a hard time distinguishing harsh light from bright light — until I see the evidence in my photos.

And no matter how I adjusted the white balance, cloudy-day photos were just too dark.

Bummer.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to face the problem of ISO like a big girl — and the sooner the better.

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ISO 800!  A number that used to make me shudder in fear!

So, I took a deep breath and jumped in.  After scouring the Internet, I found that just because a camera boasts a wide range of ISO doesn’t necessarily mean that it handles it well.

In fact, I found that sensor size is an important factor in ISO performance.  So, forget bridge cameras — those tiny, less-than-an-inch sensors just won’t handle ISO well at all!

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I decided to set my cameras to Auto ISO but with a limit to just how far it could go.

On my Canon 77d, which has an APS-C sensor, I found I could go as high as 128000 before the graininess became unacceptable.

But on my MFT cameras, I was better off setting the upper limit to 3200.

And the last remaining bridge camera I have — the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 — well, maybe I’ll sell it. It’s a great bright-light camera, but that’s all.  For now, though, I think it will just sit on the shelf for a while.

P8050095Maybe these settings will change as I improve my technique. . .

. . .but for now, this is where they are going to stay

These small changes were quite effective!

I saw IMMEDIATE improvement light-wise.

Autofocus works better, now that there is no low light to struggle through.

Distinct detail is much better to achieve now that autofocus isn’t struggling.  No more big, blobby subjects!

See for yourself!

All photos, including those above, were taken with the OM-D EM5iii wearing the Panasonic Lumix Vario OIS 100-300.

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Poor little fishie!  But froggie is breathing a sigh of relief 😉

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ISO 1000!  P.S.  Nice reflection, no? 😉

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Another at ISO 1000.  So pleased that I am getting the hang of this!

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ISO 640

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I love letting the camera worry about the light

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A Good Day of Fishing

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Touchdown!

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Breakfast. . .

 

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. . .lunch. . .

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. . .dinner!

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Fish. . .

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. . .it’s not just for osprey anymore 😉

Do the Dew

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Which means you will have to get up early, before dawn even!

Because you can’t do the dew if the sun dries it up before you get there.

But it’s worth the extra effort of getting up and out of the house.  The dew lets you see things you might have overlooked in the middle of the day. . .

P7140085. . .or which simply does not occur in the heat of the midday sun.

The spiders were very, very busy at the marsh yesterday.  They must have captured lots of dinner, because just about every web I saw had insect-size holes in them.

And I saw a lot of webs.

Ewww.

Note to self:  Don’t go traipsing around in the brush. . .unless you want to emerge with pantlegs full of sticky spider webs!!!

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Animals have to eat. . .and they are more apt to do so early in the morning.

P7140239Usually I might see a few herons and maybe some gulls on a sunny (or not-so-sunny) afternoon. . .

. . .but early in the morning there are many more of them — plus a few osprey and an eagle or two — plying the water looking for a squirmy breakfast.

 

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I stopped counting herons once I got to 20.  They are a good barometer of marsh health — if there are a bunch of herons around, you know there is enough water to support fish.  Lots of fish.

P7160446And if there are fish, there is plankton, the basis of the marsh food chain.

And if there are plankton and fish, there are bound to be frogs and other wiggly aquatic life, turtles (and turtle eggs), plus the furry land animals that like to eat the eggs.

 

P7140284It’s more than a food chain. . .now it’s a food web.

Yay for the marsh!

 

 

 

 

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The frogs are everywhere, too.

Why the herons didn’t snatch up a frog or two I don’t know.

Frogs are easy pickings, much easier than waiting for just the right moment to catch a fish.

P7140364But the frogs were pretty much ignored by everyone but me.

I thought they were really cute.

You’d think they would have been quieter, though, what with all those hungry birds flying around.

I mean, why advertise yourself as a meal?

But for the birds it was fish on the menu, and soggy bog plants for everyone else.

More stuff from today’s doin’ the dew:

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Seven Swans a-Swimming

 

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Well, maybe not seven.  There were only two.  But they put on quite a show for anyone passing by the Sodus Bay inlet.

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I’ve written elsewhere about how mute swans are not native to the U.S.  Even though they’ve been here for more than 150 years, they still nurse a grudge — not sure exactly why, but they do.

They can be really nasty about it, too, and not just to the native trumpeters, whom they hate.  They can be nasty to each other.

P7040288Which explains The Mute Swan Show I witnessed yesterday and why it required a cast of only two.

The plot was suspenseful as one swaggering swan tried to frighten the other away with an impressive display of feathers and might.

It’s a story as old as nature itself but with a ring of currency — both swans participated in the ritual display but maintained a social distance that at times even exceeded the six-foot recommendation and thus precluded this photographer from getting both in the same frame.

P7040305Ultimately, though, a truce was called.

After much negotiation, they  agreed to peacefully coexist.

It may be a small world after all, but the bay is big enough for both of them.

 

Friday? No, Flyday

More specifically, Dragon-Flyday.  They were everywhere!  I have no idea of their names or what it is that they do, but they are difficult to capture. . .and so pretty!  Well, almost.  They aren’t as ugly as spiders or as fearsome as wasps.  So, “almost pretty” will have to do.  But not as pretty as butterflies!

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But wait! There’s more!

A Not-So-Quiet Day at the Marsh

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Wild Onion

I thought it was going to be one of those quiet summer days with wildlife languishing in the sun, too hot to forage or preen, thus limiting my photo ops to flowers and sparkly water.

But it was not meant to be, not if the blackbirds had anything to say.

Turns out they had a lot to say, and do!

Today there were a couple of blackbirds hanging around the Eagle Tree,

and they were feeling kind of frisky.

Frisky enough to torment birds much larger than they are. . .and they’ve set their sights on this eagle, who was minding his own business and thought it was a good idea to rest and maybe snooze for a while.

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Not gonna happen, unfortunately!

P6280274Blackbirds may be little, but they are feisty. . .feisty enough to torment a bird more times their size!

They dart about so quickly that the eagle has no time to say “Watch out! Here comes a blackbird!”

Because before those words are even out of his mouth (or beak. . .) he’s saying “Which way did it go???”

All the eagle can do is try to scare it away with loud shrieks and squawks.

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Maybe it’s gone. . .

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But no such luck, it’s only resting!

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Oh-oh, look behind you!

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No wonder four-and-twenty of them were baked in a pie!

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Where’d he go???

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That’s it, the eagle has had enough!

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Good riddance, you pest!!

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Maybe now he can get some rest!

. . .while the rest of us return to the flowers standing as silent testimony to the hot and now-quiet summer afternoon. . .

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These photos were all taken with the Olympus EM-5iii and the Panasonic G Vario O.I.S. 100-300 lens.

The JPG processor in this camera, as it is in all Olympus cameras, is outstanding. Unlike the DSLRs, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the image.  No need for postprocessing at all, unless you want to resize.

And if you are a diehard RAW shooter, Olympus offers in-camera processing for your RAW files as well.  Amazing!

 

 

Testing with 100% Accuracy

Saw this on the June 25 edition of Ugly Hedgehog and just had to share:

https://static.uglyhedgehog.com/upload/2020/6/24/t1-616043-1364_3277480946539271933_n.jpg

The Ugly Hedgehog.  Some people love it, some people hate it.  You get to make your own decision by checking it out here, https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/newsletter.jsp?np=1

Just Too Hot

Summer is like that.  Sometimes it’s just too hot and too dry. . .even for an eagle!

The water levels are still very low at the National Wildlife Refuge, but it’s breezy and cool out in the marsh, much more so than on the hot and dusty Wildlife Drive that encircles it.

 

 

P6200329So, it was no surprise to find an eagle resting on a muskrat lodge.  Even at a distance of about 350′, I could see it was an eagle, and an adult one at that.

The afternoon sun was positioned behind the bird and was rather harsh, even late in the afternoon.  None of this bodes well for the newbie photographer, but I wasn’t scared.  Besides, there was some good news:  The sun’s angle provided some great reflections in the water; the bad news was it also provided some not-so-great reflections off the eagle’s very white head.  So, I had to settle for rim light and fuzzy features as long as the sun provided backlight.

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Observing rush-hour traffic on the Thruway.

I’ve got to get a polarizing filter for this lens!!

 

At first I thought this eagle was drying its wings.  Cormorants often strike this pose when drying out — they have to, they are almost always in the water, but eagles not so much.  I thought it was unusual enough to stop and watch.

P6200316It rested on the muskrat lodge for maybe 20 minutes, sometimes posing with wings held out and sometimes not.

Ooops, got an itch!

And then it was up, up and away. . .

. . .to the Eagle Tree, a mostly dead tree on the Seneca Canal (east) side of Wildlife Drive that provides a safe roost for herons and egrets but mostly for eagles. . .

P6200342. . .it’s where this eagle resumed its unusual posture.  But now it was no longer 350′ or so out on the marsh, it was maybe 50′  away.

And now the sunlight was working with me, not against me 🙂 Yay!

I could see that the eagle wasn’t drying its wings, or drying anything else for that matter.

Its beak was open, exposing its tongue,

I never knew eagles had tongues!

It was panting.

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Always alert for a fresh fish dinner. . .

Eagles don’t sweat, so they hold out their wings and pant to cool off.

 

(They also lose some body heat through their unfeathered legs.)

P6200424Poor thing was hot!  Too hot to fish. . .

It was so hot that all it could do was rest in the eagle tree and pant.

In fact, this eagle was just as hot as the gaggle of photographers that now surrounded me, struggling to get the best spot to capture a digital glimpse of it, resting, panting, and otherwise cooling off high above us.

But I was the lucky one!  I had been the first to notice the eagle sitting on the muskrat house, and I knew about the eagle tree nearby.   I suspected that if this particular eagle didn’t end up in the tree, another one would likely do so.

P6200447So, I already occupied the best eagle-viewing spot on the Drive, long before anyone else noticed a brown bird-like silhouette off in the distance and pulled over to investigate.

Plus, I had my EM5iii with me, with its remarkable five-axis in-body image stabilization, and the Panasonic Lumix 100-300 O.I.S. lens — no need for a tripod at only 50′!

All that my east-side eagle tree photos needed was a little cropping.  A good day!

Some flight views. . .

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It’s not the only eagle to take advantage of muskrat lodges:

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Likely a nesting pair

Even juvies know all about the eagle tree:

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The outstanding reflections were not limited to wildlife:

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Clouds and reflections surrounding an eagle resting on a muskrat lodge at MNWR

 

 

 

 

The Streak

. . . with apologies to Ray Stevens 😉

Sometimes you just need lots of fps, a bright, sunny day, and a subject with no shame.

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Nice-looking osprey

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Uh-oh!

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“Don’t look, Ethel!”

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But it was too late!

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‘Chu lookin at

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Things That Make You Go Ewwwwww

I spent the day getting photos of some pretty creepy things. 

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It was too busy to notice me.

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It stayed there a long time, too!

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This one was just as creepy.

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It’s even creepier when it’s bigger!

 

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Aren’t these supposed to be cute???

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This one looked harmless enough, but I wasn’t about test the hypothesis. . .

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Eh, I suppose this qualifies for a big fat EWWWWWW, too.

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Pretty flower about to be attacked by a creepy-crawlie flying thing!

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This is a double-ewwww.  I don’t know what the insect is, but it looks fierce.  And if you pick this flower and get some of the sap on you, you can get a pretty bad burn.

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And if you pick this flower with this creepy thing on it, you will probably get stung as well.

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Ewww, it’s looking right at us!!!

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Ewwww, slimy!!

Stay away from these things! And be careful out there!!!

Silky Water — Handheld!

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What is this, some sort of magic?

No, it’s not magic at all.  In fact, it’s something that’s been around for a while.

The Big Three camera makers, though, are just beginning to catch on to it and are now putting it in their newer cameras — you can buy these if you like, but it will cost you big time — be prepared to upgrade and spend  a thousand or two. . .

But you really don’t have to! It’s available elsewhere for just a few hundred bucks.   So, what is it about the seldom-talked-about Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, and Ricoh (makers of the Pentax brand) camera bodies that prompted The Big Three to make these changes to their best-selling line-ups?

Simple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s five-axis in-body stabilization, or IBIS if you prefer photographer short-cut lingo.  And it’s available, even in entry-level camera bodies, for only $499.00 plus tax.  That is what American buyers pay for a brand-new Olympus OM-D EM-10iii.  I saved even more on mine, because I paid $336 for a lightly used body that is quickly becoming my favorite.

You might be inclined to scoff at such IBIS nonsense, since lens-based stabilization has been around for years, and it works just fine, thank you very much.  But if you do, you would be missing the point.  It’s the 5 axes — forward and backward, up and down, and side to side plus a build technology designed to counteract camera shake by balancing the sensor — that permits hand-held low-light photos and “silky water” shots.

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Most skilled photographers can hand-hold at 1/20 but, sadly, I am not one of those.  However, from what I have read it is fairly standard to advise no hand-holding below 1/60.  The 5-axis IBIS found in these other-brand cameras changed all that by adding up to 5 more stops of safe hand-holding!

To be completely honest, there is another factor that contributes to these amazing hand-held results, and that is the weight of your gear.  Five-axis in-body stabilization is commonly found on cameras built on the micro (mirrorless) 4/3 system.  These cameras are inherently lightweight, much more so than, say, Canon’s entry level Rebel T7, or its mid-range 90d.  For example, the Rebel T7 weighs in at 1.48 lbs, the 90d at 2.7 lbs.  Compared to the EM-10 iii (0.90 lbs), both DSLRs are really heavy.  Attach a wide-angle lens, such as Canon’s 24-70 (2.1 lbs), or a mid-reach lens (Canon 24-300 @3.7 lbs) and you end up with some reallyreallyREALLY heavy gear — 5 lbs or so might not sound very heavy to you, but try holding it steady for a full second or two.  Much easier to hoist, point, and hold the just-under-1-lb EM-10 with a Panasonic G Vario 100–300 mm (1.5 lb).  That combination weighs half as much as a T7 equipped with a 300mm telephoto and less than than the 90d body alone!

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The EM-10 was good enough to capture this heron’s, um, “movement” (look closely at its behind — does this bird have no shame?!)

I love my Canon gear, but I found the EM-10 iii to be packed with features I don’t have on my 77d.  That’s because The Big Three reserve these features for their mid-range models.  I think the EM-10 compares quite favorably to my Canon 77d, and if I had upgraded to the 90d I might still prefer the lighter, less expensive EM-10. . .but not everyone agrees with me.  It did not fare well in an online comparison with the 90d, but it is important to note that the  90d is not considered consumer-grade and besides, it benefits from technology that was not around when the EM-10 was introduced in 2017.  Even so, in such important areas as detail, sharpness, weight, and value, the EM-10 held its own.  See the results of the comparison here:

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Contrast helps when using the CDAF in the EM-10iii (lens used was the Panasonic 100-300)

In a comparison with Canon’s entry-level Rebel T7, the EM-10 iii did much better.  In fact, it did very well on everything except sensor size (it’s smaller) and phase detection (it has none).  The smaller MFT sensor may be statistically detrimental, but in actual practice it shouldn’t pose much of a problem — unless you crop your photos significantly or you like to print out large images.  Besides, sensor size alone doesn’t determine resolution of the image, there are several other factors at play.  This issue (and others) are discussed here,

https://cameradecision.com/compare/Olympus-OM-D-E-M10-Mark-III-vs-Canon-EOS-Rebel-T7

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Canon 77d with L series 100-400 and 1.4x. Nice, sharp edges in this low-contrast scene.

I still prefer my Canon gear for birds in flight.  The optical viewfinder has none of the lag that is present on some EVFs, and that takes the guesswork out of action shots.  So, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the final image.  And despite its weight, I can handle the camera-plus-lens fairly well, especially if I get a head start on the bird and correctly anticipate its route.  It’s not good for small birds, though — for those, I need to tweak my EM-10 or maybe upgrade to an EM-5 iii.  The EM-5 has PDAF as well as contrast points, which enables faster, more precise focus.   Unfortunately, the EM-10 has only contrast points, which are great for sunny days but make for drab, flat photos on gray days.

Or, I could use the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX9, another beginner-grade camera that I received as a bonus when I bought a used lens.  It, too, has only CDAF, but it uses a proprietary technology that Panasonic calls DFD (Depth from Defocus).  Simply put,

It works by examining two images taken with the focus at different distances and analysing their sharpness so that the camera can determine which way and how far to adjust the lens to get the subject sharp. It all happens very quickly so you’re not aware of anything going on.

You can read more about it here,

https://camerajabber.com/panasonic-dfd-focusing-explained/

where you will also be directed to a review of a more sophisticated camera, Panasonic’s GH5.

The camera I have, the GX9, is not bad at all.  It, too, is MFT and is both more and less than the Olympus EM-10.  For me, the 20 mp sensor more than makes up for having a tilt screen (rather than one that is fully articulated).  And there is no GPS. . .but there isn’t any in the EM-10, either.  The GX9 also has that wonderful 5-axis IBIS, but what I really like about this camera is its ability to track flying birds or running foxes — that DFD technology really works!

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Juvenile eagle (year 1) Panasonic GX9 with 100-300 lens.  Cropped.

An Unusual Find

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A black crowned night heron.  Well, call it a “black crown” if you wish, but I never saw one that extends all the way down your back, and I don’t know how active these herons are at night.  So, “black crowned night heron” might be a little misleading. “Hunched-over flat-headed blue-and-white heron” might be more accurate albeit less flattering.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll I know is that it’s unusual to find one who is willing to fish right out in the open.

DSC00507The ones I’ve seen in the past all required a great deal of me trampling noiselessly — which, by the way, is impossible — through the muck and peeking under clumps of marsh grass.

And no matter how stealthily I trampled and peeked, I usually managed to flush them from their matted, messy cover, and all I would get for my troubles was a frightened animal and a pair of mud-soaked boots.

Not what I had hoped for on my day off!

And certainly not what the heron had hoped for, either.

 

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But I suppose that if I was a black crowned night heron who dared to fish right out in the open, I would do it at a road less traveled, which is exactly what this one decided to so.

DSC02166WITH her chick!  That’s how secluded the West Shore Trail is.

WST is smaller than the main pool down in Seneca Falls, and it’s fairly secluded with no nearby commercial development.  Or nearby residential development, either. Nothing to attract anyone who might stop for a cup of coffee and a doughnut before arriving at the trail intent upon interfering with a peaceful day of fishing. In fact, that is probably the biggest reason why people drive past the signs pointing to West Shore Trail.

Even now, in the midst of the CoVid-19 scare, WST remains off the radar for most birders and photographers who are looking for something to do that doesn’t require a mask.  What they don’t know is that you don’t need a mask here. No one at the trail has a problem staying six feet away from anyone else simply because you can’t find anyone else to stand six feet away from.

DSC00521I am probably one of the few people who make sure to visit West Shore Trail at least once a week.  I love its seclusion.  Maybe that’s why it is attracting more wildlife species, too.  There is no heavily traveled Wildlife Drive encircling it, like there is at Seneca Falls. So this particular black crowned night heron and its chick fished fearlessly and openly on this sunny day.

I welcomed the sunny day, too, which meant I could use a fast shutter without fear of a far-too-high ISO spoiling the shots. . .if the shots were to be spoiled, it would be my own doing, not the camera’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I did manage to mess up more than a few.  😦

What do you mean, “focus on the eye”????  I could hardly find the chick, much less its eye!

However, with a a deep breath and a longer lens, I did indeed find its eye and all the rest of it, too.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chick-in-flight is a total loss.  I forgot!  This camera (Olympus EM10iii) has only contrast-detect AF, and there wasn’t much contrast in the midtones that surrounded this mid-toned bird.

Nonetheless, I did manage to end up with some legible representations of a beautiful bird that is hard to shoot simply because it hides so well.

Here’s just a couple more. . . hard to say good-bye to these lovely birds.

I took these over a two-day period this week:

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Mmmmm. . .duckweed!

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Lost a little clarity in the cropping 😦

 

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Midtones!  Adjust for the midtones, you fool!

 

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Time to go home!

 

 

 

 

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