Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Purple Herons

Last weekend I finally made it to the purple herons early in the morning. I arrived there shortly before 6am and had a great scene there. The sun was just rising and there was fog in between the reeds. In such a sitiuation with backlight you have an amazing golden light, but it only last about 30-40 Min.

With such light it is important that you find a location where you are directly or withing a range of 10-20 degree facing the sun. Then dial around -1 EV to enhance the golden look of the light and switch to Manual exposure. I strongly recommend manual exposure with flight shots and changing background if you want to have consistent results.
My goal was to get a flight image, where the purple heron is landing towards me with open wings in this beautiful light. I think this will need a lot more attempts considering that you only have about an hour to shoot in this condition. Then the wind also plays an important role in this. To create my desired image the wind has to blow from behind me, then the heron will land towards me. Birds always land against the wind, this is very important to know if you want to photograph birds in flight.
Later in the afternoon I returned to the purple herons but the wind came from the east. The herons were landing with their back to me, which is the worst condition for flight images.

I hope the weather will be good the next weeks so that I can try again to get "the image"

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife-Photography Sebastian Erras

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Sunday, May 3, 2009


Last weekend I went with Heike Odermatt and Marcel Schäfer to the Zouwenboezem to photograph some warblers and purple herons. The day started with rain but luckily it stopped quite soon. In the morning we decided to go first to the Zouwenboezem to see what we could find there. It was the first time for to go to this spot, even though it is just a few minutes from the purple herons away. We have seen black terns, bluethroat and warblers in that area and I must admit that this area is pretty cool to photograph warblers. There is a small, it was just wide enough to spread my Gitzo tripod safely on it, path leading through reed fields and from a small "dijk" next to some reed fields you can also photograph warblers very good. As the weather was pretty cloudy and grey in the morning I tried my flash set-up with the BetterBeamer Flash Extender. The results get better now, but I still have to learn a lot on how to use the flash properly.

Left: Reed Bunting - Rohrammer - emberiza schoeniclus
Right: Sedge Warbler - Schilfrohrsänger - acrocephalus schoenobaenus

While exploring the area, we also met some Highland cattles. They look pretty impressive with their big horns and I prefer to keep a safe distance to them :-).
Then in the afternoon after a little lunch in a small town close by we went to the Zouwendijk to photograph the purple herons. In the beginning it was cloudy but then right on them it cleared up and we had some nice afternoon light. Wind was nearly too perfect as it came from south west and the herons where flying right towards us, but I the herons look quite strange when they fly right towards you as they are pretty skinny. At this location I prefer when the herons land a little sidewards. This time again the herons were not coming too close and even with the 1.7x teleconverter on my Sigma 500 and the 1DIIn I have to crop about 40% to get them good in the frame. So i stacked the 1.4x and the 1.7x converter together and tested the combination. The focal lenght would be perfect for this location then, but my results where not that good. I had to use high ISO (640-1000) to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the purple herons in flight. With the stacked converters you will also have a lack of sharpness at far distances. I had some great action and scened, but due to the lack of sharpness and detail, I can't use most of the images from that day for larger prints. For internet presesntation it works fine but everything bigger than 20x30cm will look not that good anymore. I have seen some images from Heike and Marcel, who used a 2x converter with their 500/4 and the results were much better than with the combination of the stacked converters.

Purple heron - Purpurreiher - ardea purpurea

Photoraphing Purple Herons together with Marcel

If the weather forecast for next week is nice then I might go to Texel for 2 days and I definetly want to go to the purple herons in the early morning to get some backlight images.

Sebastian Erras
Wildlife Photography - Sebastian Erras

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