Tag Archives: water

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

Biwako Waves

On October 12, 2015, a strong southwest wind blew across Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Waves crashed against the rocky east shore north of Chomeiji.

This spot is only a few meters from a lakeside road that runs along a steep hillside. Since it was a public holiday, many cars and motorcycles passed as I was recording and taking photographs. However, I was alone the whole time. Very few cars can park along the narrow road, and there are few trails down the steep embankment. We can hear the traffic, but it looks isolated when we face the lake.

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

Biwako north of Chomeiji

These photos are in a new photo album,
Biwako (琵琶湖), that I started on Flickr

Birds at Yasugawa

This morning several species of birds were active at Yasugawa in Ritto City near the sports park between the Shinkansen tracks and Japan Route 8 (map). All of these photos were taken with a micro four-thirds camera and a 27-year-old 300mm manual focus lens. Focusing on moving birds is a real challenge with this lens, but it gives me a good excuse to stand along the river and watch wildlife.

Yasugawa Scenes

Western Japan has had a lot of rain recently. Here in Ritto we have not seen much damage from landslides or flooding, but Yasugawa has been running quite high.

By August 17th the river had become low enough that I could walk under Yasugawa Ohashi. When it floods this area is all under water. One of the photos shows vegetation on a bridge pillar. That appeared after the last typhoon, when the river become very high.

On August 20th the sun came out in the afternoon, and I was able to take some photos of blue water and blue sky.

Cloudy skies are predicted for most of next week. It looks like more gloomy weather ahead, but I’ll keep my camera ready just in case the sun comes out.

Cultivator and Egrets

Egrets feast on earthworms as a farmer cultivates a flooded field in preparation for rice planting.

At the end of April local farmers prepare for rice planting by flooding the fields and cultivating the soil. Rice seedlings are planted in early May. I have seen this preparation and planting many times over the years, but this was the first time to see egrets so active near a cultivator.