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Feeding Frenzy on the Kamo River
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
Blustery Mountains looking north up the Kamo river, from Nijo Street Kyoto Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/2500 sec, f/8, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Blustery Mountains
looking north up the Kamo river, from Nijo Street
Kyoto Japan

I've been busy with a project lately (which explains the lack of posts lately), but took the opportunity of having lunch in town with Zak to enjoy the walk from home. Crossing the Kamo River on the Nijo-Street bridge on the way home, I noticed that the mountains were still blustery from a snowfall we had last night, though it was mostly clear and sunny in town.

Avoiding the Crowds -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Avoiding the Crowds

I noticed a lone heron was standing in the water near the bridge, while a big frenzy of birds jostled for bread near some people on a sand bar further up river. Not having had anything else pique my photographic interest on the walk, I decided to venture down to see what the fowl hubbub was about. I moved upstream to the center of the stepping stones seen dotted across the center the shot above for a closer shot of the action...

Frenzy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Frenzy

I had only my Voigtländer 125mm with me on the stroll, though I wished I had the Sigma “Bigma” as I did when I shot the heron fishing along this same river last fall, for its longer reach. If I would have had more zoom, I might have been able to get shots like this...

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/

That's an extreme crop from the “Frenzy” shot, and as such the overall quality is poor; but considering the magnitude of the crop, the sharpness of the two birds in the lower right is more than acceptable. That really pleases me because I didn't hold out much hope for getting the birds in focus, at least when they were flying (in a frenzy, you know). Manual focus is enough of a challenge for me in the best of situations, so I thought to use the opportunity of the frenzied birds to practice a bit, and this is one of the shots where I nailed it (or, at least, got lucky).

But everything was still too far away, so I decided to abandon the stepping stones and walk further up the bank.

Heading For the Action -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading For the Action

As I got closer, I realized that the white birds (gull?) were for the most part just a hazy bee-hive of unspecific activity, but the kites (large predators like hawks) were the excitement. There were dozens flying and soaring aimlessly around... sometimes quite close... so I focused my practice (so to speak) on them.

Soaring -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Soaring

I'm sure I looked fairly comical (or drunk) trying to track the birds as they flew around, almost losing my footing near the edge of the river more than once.

Occasionally a kite would dip into the frenzy to see what's what, scattering the gulls gathered at the couple giving the bread...

My Turn what the big bird of prey wants, the big bird of prey gets -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 heavily cropped — 1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
My Turn
what the big bird of prey wants, the big bird of prey gets
Leaving With His Plunder kite takes a bite of the bread while in flight -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 heavily cropped — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Leaving With His Plunder
kite takes a bite of the bread while in flight

The shot above is pretty strange because the bird is reaching down to take a bite mid-flight, but from this angle it looks almost as if he's grabbing his own head. You can see it better in the larger version, but because this is a crop from a much larger frame, the sharpness is not there.

I did get one nice well-focused shot of a kite as it flew close by... here's about the only good uncropped shot I got...

Kyoto Kite higher-resolution shot -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/5000 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Kyoto Kite
higher-resolution shot

The size of the bird in frame is about the same as in the previous shot, but if you compare the larger versions, the second is much sharper because its using the full resolution of the camera sensor, as opposed to the first which crops most pixels out.

In both cases, though, I was happy to have achieved reasonably good focus (of these fast-moving birds with a manual-focus telephoto lens) so I'll mark today in the win column.


Comments so far....

The “gulls?” seem to be Black-headed Gulls in winter plumage.
I just learned that this bird that’s such a common sight at our German rivers and lakes “is the prefectural bird of Tokyo and the Yurikamome mass transit system is named after it.” Amazing!

— comment by Andreas Weber on January 18th, 2011 at 3:43am JST (3 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink

This was a fascinating sequence. In the “My Turn” shot, I’d have loved to see a little more of the photo (was this also cropped?) to be able to see the shadow of the bird, and try to judge how close he was to the women feeding the gulls. It looks like they were unaware of it’s approach. You got some really spectacular aerial shots there.

— comment by Grandma Friedl on January 18th, 2011 at 6:55am JST (3 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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