Salvaging the Day

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we’ve not captured any usable images during an outing and our focus becomes salvaging the day. Many of us would not want to spend most of the day out with our cameras… and drive 350 kilometers… with nothing to show for it. Such was the case yesterday.

A friend and I drove out to Port Stanley to attempt to photograph the local hawk migration, visiting Hawk Cliff Road. Access to Hawk Cliff is fenced off with ‘No Trespassing’ signs clearly visible. It appears that the only way to get to Hawk Cliff is to trespass on private lands. That is something that my friend and I were not prepared to do.

There is a raised observation deck adjacent to the parking area on Hawk Cliff Road which affords a good view of a farmer’s field. We did see many flocks of migrating blue jays and some raptors riding on the thermals. None of the birds made acceptable photographic subjects as they were flying too high up. Plus, belly shots of birds-in-flight is not my preferred shooting angle. Suffice to say, the 175 kilometer one way trip out to this location was a waste of time, given my photographic preferences. Bird watchers may have a different assessment of course.

I have no one else other than myself to blame for this boondoggle. I live quite close to Beamer Conservation area which is renowned for being a great place for bird watchers to observe the annual migration of raptors to and from Southern Ontario.

Over the past number of decades I’ve gone to Beamer Conservation a few times with the objective of photographing a range of raptors in flight. Each time I came away empty handed as the birds were simply too far away to be legitimate photographic subjects… given my style of photography. I should have realized that my recent trip out to Hawk Cliff Road would have an identical result.

We left Hawk Cliff Road after doing some investigation along local forest trails and spending some time on the observation deck. We discussed salvaging our day, and decided that a visit to the Port Rowan Wetlands was a reasonable option.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 2607 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 40.5 metres

Other than a single (and not very good) Pro Capture H run of what appears to be a Northern Flicker in flight, our trip to Port Rowan Wetlands was a bust. Salvaging the day was beginning to look increasingly difficult. We stopped for a quick lunch and decided that we’d make the trek out to Hendrie Valley. This would add another 65-70 kilometers to our trip… bringing our daily travel to over 400 kilometers.

My friend had good luck photographing egrets at Hendrie Valley on the previous day… so this appeared to be an option worth pursuing. The risk was that we’d arrive at Hendrie Valley shortly after 3 PM in the afternoon. We were unsure whether we’d actually find any birds to photograph at that time of day. As the old saying goes, “In for a penny, in for a pound.” So… we headed off to Hendrie Valley.

Mother Nature smiled down on us at Hendrie Valley and provided almost a dozen egrets that were in reasonable proximity from a photographic perspective. I was able to capture a number of runs of individual egrets in flight. Salvaging the day suddenly looked like a possibility.

This article features 23 consecutive images of an egret taking flight with a fish in its bill, then travelling from right to left past my vantage point.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3412 pixels on the width, subject distance 59 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3395 pixels on the width, subject distance 62.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3341 pixels on the width, subject distance 59.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3711 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4053 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3756 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4130 pixels on the width, subject distance 58.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4103 pixels on the width, subject distance 58 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3639 pixels on the width, subject distance 58 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3882 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4122 pixels on the width, subject distance 57.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4011 pixels on the width, subject distance 58.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3617 pixels on the width, subject distance 60.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4092 pixels on the width, subject distance 60.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3825 pixels on the width, subject distance 58.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3544 pixels on the width, subject distance 60.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4065 pixels on the width, subject distance 59.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4170 pixels on the width, subject distance 55.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4057 pixels on the width, subject distance 56.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3546 pixels on the width, subject distance 53.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 4040 pixels on the width, subject distance 55.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3575 pixels on the width, subject distance 56.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, -1.0 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture L, Bird AI Subject Detection, cropped to 3644 pixels on the width, subject distance 56.2 metres

It can be frustrating for people who enjoy photographing birds and other nature subjects to go out and not find many suitable photographic subjects. This can be especially true for folks just starting out on this photographic journey. Over the years I’ve observed many beginners give up at a particular location after only spending 15 minutes or so waiting for potential subjects to arrive.

After spending potentially thousands of dollars on cameras and long focal length telephoto lenses, coming away empty handed can be very discouraging. A large part of success with bird photography is getting out with our camera gear as often as possible. Unless we spend a lot of hours in the field we simply won’t be successful.

Sometimes salvaging the day happens in the manner shared in this article. At other times it may involve photographing other subject matter like insects, flowers or landscapes. Either way, perseverance is one of the keys of photographic success.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my adjusted approach in post (i.e. dropping the use of the Nik Collection). Images were resized for web use. I used my typical settings for Pro Capture L with my Pre-Shutter Frames set to 10 and my Frame Limited turned off. A small, single auto-focus point was used with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, along with a frame rate of 18 continuous auto-focus frames-per-second. This is the 1,211 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Salvaging the Day”

  1. Hi Tom,
    true, this doesn’t sound like the best place to shoot swallows. I am also aware that readers in the UK often have no easy access to a river, due to land owners’ restrictions. – One of the good places I’ve found was a narrow canal, four meters wide, where swifts used to drink at noon. Potentially a nice place for “the shot” of a flight-drinking swift. Flight path and direction never changed. I just forgot to return on a sunny day, and of course I did not have the great ProCapture thingy. Maybe in 2023.

    I always love to read about your ideas – the eclectic processing and so much more.
    Stefan

    1. Hi Stefan,

      I have observed swallows drinking at the location proximate to my home and have captured some images of this behaviour. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a sufficient number of pixels on the subject birds to make the photographs useable. The canal you’ve found sounds like a terrific spot! Hopefully you can capture some great images in the spring!

      Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    is there a river in your area to watch migrating swallows? They may have gone now in Ontario… only yesterday I saw 20 barn swallows zipping over “my” smallish German river. – Two weeks ago a small group of juvenile sand martins (Riparia riparia) came for a visit and spent 3 days, then heading for Gibraltar. On eBird I see the species is breeding in Ontario (May 2022). With your enthusiasm for swallows you may like these little birds. Tough subjects, their flight often described as “jerky”.

    Best, Stefan

    1. Hi Stefan,

      I’m not specifically aware of any rivers where migrating swallows could be observed. I have seen swallows flying low over a few ponds in the general area. The challenge is getting in close and low enough to get a good shooting angle. The shoreline of the ponds are typically lined with tall bull rushes which obstruct view. Even with a teleconverter the birds in these locations are usually too far away to make good subjects.

      There is a wetland area less than 10 kilometers from my home where I have captured numerous images of swallows in flight. The surface of the water is quite a bit lower than the surrounding land and it really isn’t possible to get down close to the surface. Straying off established trails has a practical safety issue of risking tick bites and contracting Lyme disease. This is not something I would risk for the sake of some photographs of birds.

      Tom

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