Tag Archives: 野洲川

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.


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

Technical notes


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

Kingfisher Movie

This movie includes video clips and still photographs of a kingfisher at Yasugawa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. All scenes show the same bird photographed in Deba, Ritto City, December 21-30, 2014. (Actually, the bird may be hunting in Yasu City since it’s on the north bank of the river.) Nearly every day I walked to the river and spent at least two hours waiting for the kingfisher to appear. Now and then I searched for the bird along my side of river, but most of the time I sat quietly.

Until this month I could not have imagined spending several hours a day trying to photograph one little bird, mostly sitting quietly and waiting. As you know if you follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/glpjp/), I experienced much more than I had anticipated, including hours of watching wagtails, Eurasian wigeons, and black kites, and even an encounter with a nutria.

I grew up on an apple orchard along the Okanogan River in North Central Washington State (USA). For half a century I’ve known that sitting quietly and vigilantly near a river can bring great rewards, but it’s easy to forget such childhood lessons as concerns of the human world desensitize us to our natural environment. I can see that clearly among the people who walk along the riverbank. Every day at least a dozen people take walks there every afternoon, some with dogs and some for their health. Nearly all of those without dogs appear to look straight ahead as they walk.

As I was leaving the riverbank on December 29th, a neighbor lady asked as she approached, “Did you catch any fish?” I said, “No, I’ve been watching a kingfisher.” She’d thought I was fishing because I’d been sitting quietly next to the river, and she was surprised to hear that a kingfisher lived nearby. I tried to show her the bird, which was then a little orange spot on the other side the river. She said, “Oh, sorry, I don’t have my glasses,” as she hurried away.

The beautiful music soundtrack, “Romantic Music – A Magic Morning” was composed and performed by Lionel Schmitt (http://soundcloud.com/lionel-schmitt). The music seemed to be such a perfect match that I adjusted the video track to match the duration of the piece (2:08). Thank you, Lionel, for sharing your creative work! Lionel Schmitt’s music and the movie are both released under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) licenses.