Category Archives: river

A Walk to the River

On December 8, 2018, the sun was shining and a cold northwest wind was blowing clouds across the sky. Hoping to see an interesting horizon, I walked to the riverbank along Yasugawa (野洲川).

The riverbed is mostly dry, but it supports vegetation near the left bank.

Vegetation along Yasugawa

Vegetation along the left bank of Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City

On the riverbed I saw one low cosmos plant with a few flowers. Most of the flowers were drooping down to the muddy ground, but one was standing tall.

Cosmos flower along Yasugawa

Cosmos flower along the right bank of Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City

Susuki grass grows abundantly where the riverbed gets enough moisture. Small ponds fill in high water, and some apparently have underground sources.

Vegetation along Yasugawa

Vegetation along the left bank of Yasugawa in Deba, Ritto City, Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) in the background

Vegetation along Yasugawa (野洲川)

Vegetation along the left bank of Yasugawa (野洲川) in Deba, Ritto City, Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) in the background

At my destination beside the river I set up a tripod to photograph little rapids with Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) and other mountains in the background. I took many photos as moving clouds rapidly altered the light on different parts of the scene. Finally the mountain showed its autumn colors, and a large patch of blue added perspective to the sky over the distant mountains.

Yasugawa (野洲川)

Yasugawa (野洲川) upstream from Mikami, Yasu City (near Hayashi, Ritto City), Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) in the background

Location (Google maps):

Little Egrets at Yasugawa

Little egrets (コサギ) are very active at Yasugawa (野洲川) in early August.

When conditions are just right, many little egrets and a few great egrets (ダイサギ) and grey herons (アオサギ) feed on small aquatic creatures at the weir between Moriyama City on the left bank and Yasu City on the right. I recorded some of the action with video and still photos just after sunrise on August 6, 2018, and again in late afternoon on August 8, 2018.

Video

Photos – August 6

On August 6, 2018, some little egrets and a few great egrets were catching fish in shallow water above the weir in Moriyama City. Others were standing on the weir and feeding on small aquatic creatures.

Often one bird would chase away an interloper. They did not chase other species of birds, but when confronted by an aggressive crow the egrets did not back down.

Photos – August 8

On August 8, 2018, I went to the river late in the afternoon. The sun was behind my back, and there was a strong wind from the northwest (downstream).

As usual, some little egrets bullied others over territory

A few little egrets crowded up close to much larger great egrets (ダイサギ). Sometimes the larger birds snapped at the little ones when they got too close, but real conflict erupted only between birds of the same species. Once a great egret stopped feeding and marched off to confront another great egret.

Sometimes other birds appeared at or below the weir.

Some of the little egrets were feeding very actively.

As we can see in the video above, sometimes they would slip and fall before taking flight. It seemed that they had temporarily forgotten that they could fly. Of course, little egrets fly very well!

Notes

All photos and video clips were shot handheld with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and M. Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens. Some closeup scenes were shot with the camera’s 2X digital teleconverter.

Music: “Kawai Kitsune” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

All postprocessing was done on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. I edited the video clips and added titles with with Kdenlive, but I did not modify the colors or add any enhancements. Photos were organized and edited with digiKam.

Other photos can be seen on my Flickr photostream. Videos are on my YouTube video channel.

Kubon Falls (九品の滝)

One of my favorite places in Ritto City is Kubon Falls (九品の滝), also called Inoue Falls (井上の滝). Here I have been practicing long-exposure photography.

When I began to use a tripod, I was using exposure times of 5-8 seconds with an ND64 filter.

Recently I’ve been trying an ND1000 filter and longer times of 20-60 seconds.

Minerals in the water turn the rocks brown, and moss adds green here and there.

Sometimes we can see wildlife near the falls or down in the valley.

Not many people visit each day, but access by car is easy. A sign, a bus stop, and a small parking lot mark the entrance to the falls from the road up the valley in Inoue.

Usually I go by bicycle, so I can ride up the path along Anakuchigawa (穴口川) all the way to the falls.

I always enjoy the scenic ride back down the valley in Inoue and Misono.

With a bicycle it’s easy to stop and appreciate whatever we see along the road.

Rudbeckia hirta flowers (black-eyed susan, キヌガサギク, 衣笠菊) in Inoue

Rudbeckia hirta flowers (black-eyed susan, キヌガサギク, 衣笠菊) along a rice paddy in Inoue, Ritto City

Egrets in September

September at Yasugawa (野洲川) begins gently as the hot, lazy days of summer continue. Great egrets and grey herons stand patiently in and along the river.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa in Moriyama

Grey heron and great egret (アオサギとダイサギ)

Grey heron and great egret (アオサギとダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the Shinkansen tracks

As the river rises in early September, we see fewer egrets at popular summer locations such under the Shinkansen (新幹線) bridge.

Shinkansen (新幹線)

Shinkansen (新幹線) crossing Yasugawa (野洲川)

Many egrets gather at the dam between Yasu City and Moriyama City.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Some pursue fish in the river below the dam.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Some perch on the dam and hunt for small aquatic animals.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa above the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) and little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Some hunt in nearby fields, eating grasshoppers and other insects. Sometimes they find larger prey.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ) with a large frog in Tsuji, Ritto City

Fall weather begins in early October. Many birds begin to migrate to warmer locations, while some egrets and herons remain at Yasugawa.

Little egret (コサギ)

Little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Grey heron (アオサギ)

Grey heron (アオサギ) at Yasugawa on the dam in Moriyama City

Little egret (コサギ)

Little egret (コサギ) at Yasugawa below the dam in Moriyama City

Coots – オオバン

On December 29, 2016, several coots (オオバン) were feeding on moss at the base of a flood control dam on Yasugawa about five kilometers upstream from Lake Biwa. Here in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, I often see coots in still water and slow streams, but I’ve never seen them eating so actively. I happened to be carrying a tripod, so I made a short video.

The pool and nearby running water below the dam make this an interesting location. In late spring and summer many people gather to fish there. Cormorants, egrets, and herons hunt nearby, and Japanese kites circle overhead, sometimes swooping down to pluck fish from the river.

Music

“Running Water” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX (http://audionautix.com/). License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0.

Technical notes

Hardware

I shot the opening and closing scenes with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera and two lenses: Olympus 17mm f1.8 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. For medium, closeup, and extreme closeup shots I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic 100-400mm zoom lens.

I used the camera’s optical teleconverter for extreme closeups. At 800mm (400mm x 2) with a micro four-thirds system the 35mm equivalent focal length is 1600mm, which requires a steady tripod. I used a Manfrotto 055XPRO4 tripod and an MVH502AH fluid head. That seems like a lot of tripod for a micro four-thirds system, but it’s great for long lenses. The four-section model is easy to carry. I attach it to my Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW, a small backpack that holds two cameras, several lenses, a small audio recorder, etc. Recently I’ve been concentrating on still photography with a handheld camera, so I rarely use a tripod. This experience with the coots reminded me that I should carry a tripod more often.

Video post-processing software

I process media on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 that runs Fedora GNU/Linux. For this video I first extracted clips from the raw files with FFmpeg. I wrote a shell script to automate processing by reading a data file that specifies how to make each clip.

Video editing was done with Pitivi version 0.97.1. Pitivi has become quite useful and much more stable than the editor I had been using; however, I had to experiment with rendering to get decent output. I used MP4 (x264enc) with a fixed bitrate of 8192K (default is 2048K), and I turned the speed/quality setting OFF (default is medium). Using a good fixed bitrate worked, but I’m not sure why or if my solution is best. Hopefully, future versions of Pitivi will make it easier to produce high-quality output.

Before uploading to YouTube I transcoded the video to Web-optimized M4V with HandBrake. The only trouble I had was that I could not change the title, which was derived from from the filename, and I was not able to edit metadata. (Perhaps it was due to my lack of knowledge.) Before uploading I edited the title and other metadata with the VideoLAN VLC media player.

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from  the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama