Category Archives: Shiga

Water lilies in mid-September

In the middle of September some Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) and other aquatic plants are blooming at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森). Many of the flowers look a bit tired and wilted, but a few continue to stun visitors with their beauty.

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) and other aquatic plants

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) and other aquatic plants at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Water lilies (スイレン) and Victoria cruziana (パラグアイオニバス)

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) and huge Victoria cruziana (Santa Cruz water lily, パラグアイオニバス) leaves at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン)

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Water lily (Nymphaea, スイレン)

Water lily (Nymphaea, スイレン) at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン)

Water lilies (Nymphaea, スイレン) at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Water lily (Nymphaea, スイレン)

Water lily (Nymphaea, スイレン) at the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森)

Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森

I feel very fortunate to live near the Kusatsu City Aquatic Botanical Gardens (草津市立水生植物公園みずの森).

From my home it is only a 25-minute drive. Since I am over 65 and a local resident, it costs only ¥150 to see such beauty in a well-maintained environment.

Videos of small creatures with a compact camera

At the beginning of summer, 2017, I bought a little Panasonc LUMIX DMC-LX9 compact digital camera. This model has a flip-up LCD screen and enables extreme closeups with a large aperture and a wide-angle view. I have using it mostly for general photography, especially while cycling. As I had hoped when I bought it, works very well for closeup shots of small creatures.

Caterpillar in Hayashi

Closeup of a caterpillar on a sidewalk along a country road in Hayashi, Ritto City (map). Video was shot just before sunset on 6 July 2017. Music: “Before Dawn” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX Music License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-A) 3.0

Inchworm along a forest road

Closeup of an inchworm at a bridge on a forest forest road in Bodaiji, Konan City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map). Video was shot while mountain biking on 15 July 2017.

Shield bug (stinkbug)

Finally, an unpublished clip of a shield bug (カメムシ, 亀虫) at Kashiho Shrine (上葦穂神社) in Kojibukuro, Konan City (map). I discovered the shrine while I was cycling. As was leaving, I noticed this bug in the grass beside the parking lot. I followed it until it flew away. Later I trimmed heavily to remove most of the scene that was out of focus.

Technical notes

This little camera seems to work very well for closeup video of small creatures. To do extreme closeups I zoom out to the widest angle (30mm full-frame equivalent). Depending on the background, I set the aperture somewhere between f5.6 and f1.4. For small insects I must get very close. In fact, the inchworm in the video above actually hit the lens! This camera will not work well with small creatures that are shy. For shy creatures such as butterflies we can get better results with a close focus telephoto lens on a mirrorless or DSLR camera.

I have not done any color grading because I like the natural colors of the raw clips from the camera. I do all post-processing with free/libre and open-source software (FLOSS) on a Fedora GNU/Linux workstation. I trim some clips with FFmpeg and edit with Kdenlive. I use the video editor to trim and join clips and to add titles and sound (music for the caterpillar video).

This little camera has features that I have not yet exploited. I have been shooting full HD (1920×1080) in aperture priority mode and continuous focus tracking. In the future I may shoot 4K video and try various settings; however, my present point-and-shoot style seems to work well. I have to hold the camera very close the the ground, which become difficult, so I may add a bracket or a cage to hold the camera. For more sophisticated editing and color grading I can use professional software such as Da Vinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design.

Turtle Doves (キジバト) in Hatonomori Park

On May 28, 2017, a couple of Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) were mating in Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

Earlier a solitary turtle-dove was high in a tree, calling to its mate.

Oriental turtle-dove (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

As I was looking for small birds, my wife saw the two turtle-doves and called me. I saw them mating, but I was not able to get a clear view.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) mating at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

By the time I found a place to take photos and video clips, the turtle-doves were taking turns grooming each other.

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Oriental turtle-doves (キジバト) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

While I was moving to another position, the two birds separated and then flew away.

The two turtle-doves appeared together for only a few minutes, but I was moved by their mutual affection as I watched them through the viewfinder.

Notes

Video was shot handheld with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mk II camera and 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens with a 1.4x teleconverter.

Music in the video is from “Love Story” (piano) by Sławomir Zając, chafer on SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/chafer).

Post-processing was done with Kdenlive running on Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux operating system.

Kingfisher (川蝉)

On March 16, 2017, a female common kingfisher (川蝉) took more than a minute to swallow a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園).

When I saw her, the fish was head-first in her beak.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

She repeatedly gripped the fish at different places along its body. Perhaps she was crushing it to make it easier to swallow.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) with a fish at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

After swallowing the fish she remained on the same branch for several minutes. She was in the same position when I left.

Common kingfisher female (カワセミ, 川蝉) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Hatonomori Park

Previous posts about Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Technical notes

I shot the video clips and still photos with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar f4.0-6.3 / 100-400mm zoom lens at 400mm with lens stabilization (O.I.S.) on. I did not use any special movie mode settings. After a few still photos, I simply pressed the video record button. After the bird flew to another branch, I held the lens on a fence post to reduce camera shake. Fortunately, she remained visible and in focus.

For post-processing I used the free version of DaVinci Resolve 12.5 on a Fedora Linux workstation. Recently I had upgraded my video card to an nVidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB), so the software ran smoothly. This professional editing and color grading software works very well, but it has three limitations. First, I could not directly import the video file from my camera. I had to convert the video codec to ProRes, which created huge files (ffmpeg -i kf-1.mov -vcodec prores kf-1-prores.mov). Second, audio does not play without a Blackmagic DecLink card. Audio editing is possible, though, so I edited by sight and listened to the exported video file. Third, export formats are limited to a few formats. For convenience I prefer other editors, but Resolve is great for professional video editing and color grading work on Linux computers.

Grey wagtails (キセキレイ)

In winter I have been delighted to see several grey wagtails (キセキレイ). Here in Shiga Prefecture these beautiful birds are much less common and much more colorful than two other wagtail species, Japanese wagtails (セグロセキレイ) and white wagtails (ハクセキレイ).

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ, Motacilla cinerea cinerea) above Yasugawa dam in Moriyama

In winter I’ve seen grey wagtails most often at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園). The small stream along the park is an ideal location that I discovered in 2016.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

Grey wagtail (キセキレイ) in Hatonomori Park, Moriyama City.

In 2017 the same stream remains a good spot.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県   守山市 鳩の森公園)

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)

Sometimes I encounter grey wagtails along other streams. In December I was able to photograph one as I was cycling along a canal near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) along a field near Hiyoshi Shrine (日吉神社) in Kamitoyama, Ritto City

Now and then we can see grey wagtails in open areas. After it snowed here in January, 2017, one appeared for several days in Takano Park (滋賀県 栗東市 高野公園).

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

I am hoping to see more of these beautiful, shy birds before they fly away.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City. Shot at 1/640sec @ f8 ISO 400.