Tag Archives: Yasugawa

Crows along Yasugawa

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, I was cycling down the north bank of Yasugawa when I heard some noisy crows perched in nearby trees.

When I ride my touring bike, I carry a small audio recorder and microphones. For this recording I used a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and Clippy Stereo EM172 mics by FEL Communications Ltd. To mimic human hearing, a quasi-binaural sound image was made by placing the mics on either side of my bicycle handlebar bag. I prefer to use trees about the diameter of an adult human head, but I use the handlebar bag when I cannot find a tree.

Trek 520 touring bike with audio recorder and mics on handlebar bag in Yasu City

The Compass app on my iPhone shows the location, direction, and time.

Compass and geolocation app on bicycle handlebar bag in Yasu City

As we can see on the map, this location is between a river and near the edge of a suburban area. With aircraft overhead, vehicles on nearby roads, and rural and suburban human activities, this place is quite noisy, even on Sunday.

In everyday life we filter out much of the noise. When the crows are not so noisy, I suppose most people experience this environment as a peaceful and quiet little park, just as it appears in photographs.

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu City

Trek 520 touring bike in Yasu 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

Yasugawa Riverside Park

Just before noon on January 7, 2017, I made a field recording in a large park along Yasugawa in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (野洲川立入河川公園). The recording was made with a small Sony PCM-M10 digital recorder mounted on a tripod near the lower end of the park. I chose this location in order to reduce traffic and train noises from bridges upstream, as well as the rumble of water at a dam downstream. I pointed the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama.

We can hear the rumble of a nearby dam, traffic, crows, and kids playing in the distance. These sounds are overwhelmed by a recorded public address message broadcast from speakers on a small building on the embankment above the park. The recorded message asks people to obey park rules: no golf, RC cars or aircraft, fireworks, unleashed dogs, fires, littering, or other activities that may disturb people. The same loud recorded message dominates the sonic environment of the park once every hour.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking with the microphones southeast toward Mikamiyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama

I often visit this park to look for birds. Egrets, herons, cormorants, and ducks can be found in the river both above and below the dam, and many small birds live in the vegetation along the riverbank.

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

Yasugawa Riverside Park (野洲川立入河川公園), lower end just upstream from the dam in Moriyama, looking downstream to the north

On January 7th, as I was recording, I walked upstream and saw a few birds.

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus,  ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Daurian redstart male (Phoenicurus auroreus, ジョウビタキ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Dusky thrush (ツグミ) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) along Yasugawa upstream from the dam in Moriyama

Activity in this park varies a lot, depending on the season, the weather, and the day of the week. But whatever they are doing, everyone in the park hears the same loud recorded message once every hour.

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

Egrets in Summer

Yasugawa (野洲川), Shinkansen, Hira mountain range

View from Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋)

In late July and August 2016 I spent many hours on Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋), a bridge that crosses Yasugawa between Ritto City and Yasu City in Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

From the sidewalk the view downstream provided a good change to observe large birds, especially great egrets (ダイサギ) as they stood around and sometimes flew, fished, and fought. With my camera I tried to record some of the behavior of these beautiful white birds. Photos presented here are from my photostream on Flickr.

Challenges

Waiting for action

Photographing these beautiful white birds presented several challenges. The first challenge was boredom. Most of the time they stood without moving, often several hundred meters away. Even at a distance, sometimes they caught my attention, especially when they moved in pairs.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Exposure compensation

The second challenge was exposure of these great white birds against a background that changed as they moved. I had to discard many photos before I learned to underexpose -0.3 to -1.7 EV, depending on the background.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Exposure was most critical with backlit egrets flying in late afternoon light.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Action

The third challenge was capturing action. Timing was critical, of course, but I also tried to keep action in the frame while adjusting the zoom lens and holding the camera level. Most difficult and most interesting were conflicts over territory.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

A few times I wished that I’d shot video instead of still photos, especially this combat scene.

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Great egrets (ダイサギ)

Birds catching fish

When I began to take photos from the bridge, I was hoping to see birds catching fish. Sometimes I had to wait a long time, but a few scenes were worth the wait. For example, once a cormorant was after a small fish, but a great egret ran over and snatched it.

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Great cormorant (カワウ) and great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes egrets seem to dance as they chase fish.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes their diving is pretty intense.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they use their wings to maintain balance.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sometimes they toss fish in the air to swallow them head-first.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Late afternoon colors

Just before sunset, the colors became very warm.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

 

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Sharing the view

Many people passed on bicycles and on foot. Now and then someone would stop to chat, and sometimes people stopped just to share the view from the bridge.

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Great egret (ダイサギ)

Location

Technical notes

Photos were shot as JPEG with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II camera and an Olympus 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. Sometimes I used the Olympus 1.4x teleconverter, and sometimes I used 2x magnification.

Saving only JPEG enabled me to shoot very long bursts at 5 frames per second. Without such long bursts I could not have captured territorial disputes or some fishing scenes. In the future this kind of photography might be done by saving stills from high-resolution video recordings.

I processed the photos with DigiKam on a Fedora Linux workstation and uploaded them to my photostream on Flickr.