17th February: Hokkaido – Akan International Crane Centre (Day 2)

Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

After our pre-dawn start at Otowa Bridge, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and then went to the Akan International Crane Centre, which opens at 9AM.

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Red-crowned crane (tancho)

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Sika deer

The Sika fawn turned up again.  Here you can see the spots on the coat which are unobtrusive in the Japanese sub-species.

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

Counting from an image I took the previous day, I was amongst about fifty photographers at the crane centre, behind a low fence on an L-shaped enclosure.   This is part of the conservation project because unrestricted access to the cranes is most undesirable.   A few years ago, someone climbed over the low fence to get a better view.  All the cranes left and didn’t return for another three months.

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Whooper swans and Red-crowned crane (tancho)

With all this courtship display going on around them, a couple of whooper swans decided to get into the act as well.

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Red-crowned cranes (tancho)

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Whooper swan and red-crowned crane (tancho)

It’s one minute past three and in the image above, the swan and crane are waiting patiently for the 3PM feeding time.

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White-tailed sea eagle (Ojiro-washi)

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White-tailed sea eagle (Ojiro-washi).  This one appears to have a blind eye.

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White-tailed sea eagle (Ojiro-washi)

And when the fish arrives, the sea eagles turn up.

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Black kite (Toba)

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White-tailed sea eagle (Ojiro-washi) with fish, red-crowned crane (tancho) and Japanese raven (karasu)

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White-tailed sea eagle (Ojiro-washi) with fish

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Red-crowned crane (tancho)

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12 comments on “17th February: Hokkaido – Akan International Crane Centre (Day 2)

  1. Love your shots Sir , Brilliantly taken! =)

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  2. […] 17th February:  Hokkaido – Akan International Crane Centre (Day 2) […]

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  3. dalzellphoto says:

    Wonderful wildlife shots. I’m trying my hardest to get photographs of birds in flight but god the manual focus 300mm makes it difficult. Any tips?

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    • Murray Foote says:

      Thanks very much, Zach. (I see you’re a history student. I got a Master’s degree in Economic History many years ago.)

      All the images in this post were taken with a 300mm f2.8 VRII plus TC14E teleconverter and Nikon D3 on a solid tripod and a Wimberly Sidekick. Assuming you’re using a crop sensor DSLR, that’s about the same effective focal length as your 300mm. Since I was using a tripod I would have had VR turned off but I would have been using autofocus except for the shot of the crane through the trees where autofocus wouldn’t have worked. In many of the shots, the birds were relatively static and manual focus would have worked just as well.

      You probably have a 300mm f4 and so won’t get quite the subject isolation my 300mm f2.8 can deliver but still, you can get good images with almost any equipment. Good camera support is a major factor. At least a monopod. Handholding may be OK with a relatively compact lens and high shutter speeds (1/1500 and over for this focal length) but even there, a tripod or a monopod will probably help to separate out manual focusing from holding the camera. If the bird is moving, manual focusing is often going to be tricky. Sometimes you may need to take shots while focusing on the basis that some may be in focus. It may be easiest if you are able to track a bird and pan. Fluid support and therefore a good ballhead is likely to be important for this.

      There is also of course the tradeoff between shutter speed, aperture and ISO. It’s a good idea to systematically test (handholding, monopod and tripod) to determine what the tradeoffs here are with your equipment and your technique. You also need to pay attention to exposure because although you can pull out an underexposed image, quality will be degraded.

      Then there’s post-processing. Lightroom is likely to be most important here and will take care or most of your requirements. Pretty much all digital images benefit from judicious sharpening and sensitive tonal adjustments. Often, regional adjustments are at least as beneficial as overall adjustments.

      I hope that helps.

      Regards,
      Murray

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      • dalzellphoto says:

        Thank you for the tips. I actually have an old Nikor 300mm 2.8 ED lens. My dad gave it to me, it’s wonderful aside from the manual exposure and focus make it a little difficult for some shots. If I could ask, what is a Wimberly Sidekick?

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      • Murray Foote says:

        Ah, in that case you’ve got a really good lens. Manual exposure shouldn’t be a problem, you just have to watch the histogram. It can be an advantage; work out the correct exposure for the bird and you won’y have to worry about a changing background affecting the metering. Manual focusing you’ll just have to work at in some circumstances.

        A Wimberly Sidekick converts a ballhead to a gimbal head: http://www.dentonimages.com/page.php?id=wimberley_sidekick. The lens then balances on the tripod and you can set the degree of resistance for smooth, free-flowing panning. That costs about $250 and a full gimbal head costs twice as much or more. You need to be using a ballhead with an arca-swiss mount and the cheapest I know of for those that seems to have a reasonable reputation (but that I haven’t used) is the Korean PhotoClam for under $200 on EBay: http://www.dentonimages.com/page.php?id=Choosing_a_Ball_Head

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      • Murray Foote says:

        I might say a few more things about Arca-Swiss mounts in case you decide to go down that road. It may be a bit esoteric but could prove useful and doesn’t have to include a Wimberly Sidekick. I switched to Arca-Swiss when I got my 300mm f2.8 because the heads I was using with Manfrotto mounts weren’t rated to carry sufficiently high loads. The head should be rated at least three times the weight of lens and camera to give you a proper degree of security. Complication is, there is no longer a single standard for quick release clamps using an Arca-Swiss mount. Lever clamps are more convenient than screw knob clamps but then you may have a problem if you have equipment from more than one manufacturer. I get around this by using clamps from the Chinese manufacturer SunwayFoto (available on EBay) that have screws on one side and levers on the other. They are about half the price of the clamps from RRS, probably the premium brand.

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  4. lijiun says:

    Superb! Thanks! Cheers!

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  5. themofman says:

    I love to see eagles in action. In fact the best way to photograph any animal is when they’re exhibiting natural dynamic behaviour. Those are the types of images that almost guarantee funding will be acquired for their protection and proliferation.

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