Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Okarito Weekend Part 3 - White Heron

Last post I wrote how my main objective of my photography weekend to Okarito was to capture images of the iconic Boat Shed. But there is something else that is also iconic and has become synonymous with the Okarito Lagoon - the Kotuku (White Heron).

The lagoon is a breeding ground for the White Heron, so it has become a very popular tourist attraction. I was hoping that I could take my Sigma 75-500mm lens for a spin and capture some useable images of these magnificent birds, since this is something else that I don't really have in my image library.

Kotuku stretching. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500
Saturday was a no-go, and I didn't really get to see any Heron up close. Stewart and I kayaked out into the lagoon but the cloud cover came over and made it less that ideal. They also don't really let you get too close when you're on their 'turf', and I came away disappointed.

But on Sunday morning, as we were shooting the Boat Shed, I noticed a Heron fly overhead and settle on the edge of the lagoon to feed. I took my opportunity, put the Sigma 75-500mm lens on a monopod, and went over to see if I could take some half-decent bird photos.

Heron Feeding. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f8 @ 2000th
I'm not much of a bird photographer - by my own admission. I don't have the patience, the skill, or the gear to really pull it off. But most of all, I don't really have the passion for it. I enjoy taking a great bird photo if I happen to get 'lucky' and I'm at the right place at the right time, but I don't go looking for it.

Yet having said all that, when I found myself at Okarito with a White Heron in my sights and a 75-500mm attached to the camera, I'd be lying if I said the adrenaline didn't start pumping and the hopes were high for a great shot!

Heron Feeding 2. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f11 @ 2000th
Did I get a great shot? No - I don't think I did. But I did have fun. And I learnt a thing or two about using the 75-500mm Sigma. First, the monopod was a very good idea. I left 'Steady Shot' on the A100 'On', since there was obviously still some movement happening even though it was on a monopod. I bumped the ISO up as much as I dared (ISO800), and also made sure the aperture was enough to give me an overall sharp image. I started at f8, then moved to f11 as the light got even brighter. Checking the final images (I shot about 300), the ones shot at f11 are noticeably sharper than those taken at f8. Guess I know where the lenses 'sweet spot' is now :-)

Heron Feeding 3. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f11 @ 2500th
The four shots here are my 'keepers' from over 300 taken on the morning. Probably not a very high 'hit' rate, and I'm not really in love with any of them (except perhaps the first image, although at f8 it's not as tack sharp as I would like). I suppose that means I know what I'll be doing again next year?

Bird photography - or should I say 'great' bird photography, is hard. Really hard. But I knew that. Before going back to okarito next year I think I'll brush up on my bird photography skills down at a local lagoon. We occasionally get Heron there too, so who knows. Perhaps there's hope for me yet?

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