Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)
It took a long time to get the following shots, as, despite the tripod, it took ages to get the focal point near, or on, the bird’s eyes. Some of the herons were just too far away.
I had the long Sigma 150-500mm lens on the heavy-duty tripod (I say ‘heavy-duty’ because it’s very heavy and quite large even when folded up). I rarely take it out outdoors nowadays unless I can walk to the location (as in the Botanic Gardens), as it’s too heavy for me to lift with all the gear up the two deep steps of the old-fashioned trams.
Shame about the weight as I think I’d get much better shots using this particular tripod in the Great Aviary at Melbourne Zoo. The tram that goes to the Zoo is one of the old style trams with two deep, awkward steps to heave the gear up. Sometimes I wish I still had a car & could drive anywhere.
Here’s a closely cropped (about 2/3 off) shot to show you a bit more detail (in case you haven’t seen one of these gorgeous herons before). The adult has a dark grey cap, two slim white feathers sticking out of the back of its neck, salmon pink wings and back (with a creamy white chest). I think it’s the most attractive of the Australian Herons I’ve seen, but then I’ve only seen 3-4 different species at Melbourne Zoo or this pink one in the Royal Botanic Gardens (and Zoo). Would be great to see the various other species in the wild or a nature reserve.
This rather fuzzy shot of the juvenile (below) shows it’s speckled feather effect. It’s not surprising that people think the juvenile is an entirely different heron.
Anyway, back to the main shot in this post……..I adjusted the angle of the DLSR a fraction at a time and kept tightening the handles trying to get the focal point on the eye (which I could barely see as the bare limbed branches were in the way). I moved the tripod this way and that, side to side, by a fraction of an inch.
I was shooting from one of the main walking paths with numerous tourists passing behind me and stopping to see what I was trying to photograph. With the lens hood on, this long telephoto looks just like a ‘canon’ (as one of my American friends calls it) and always attracts attention in a public place. I know nature photographers have much longer and bigger telephoto lenses, but they’re usually out in the wild taking photos, not in busy public parks/gardens.
I think this is about the best shot out of several I took on this particular tree. This bushy tree only had 3 herons on it including a juvenile (which some Australian Bird Guides call a Rufous Night Heron, but they are actually the same bird). The previous enormous tree I’d been observing earlier on the path had 14 herons on it that I could see, but was a bit further away.
I even used my new Remote Shutter Release Cable in an attempt to get sharp focus. I am glad I bought this cable as I truly believe it help with the shorter telephoto Canon 18-200mm lens on a tripod with closer shots.
Still not sure that turning the image stabilizer off on this particular Sigma long telephoto lens and using a remote shutter release cable helps with the lens fully zoomed out to 500mm though. But then I’m still pretty much an amateur photographer – professional photographers with years of experience and sharp eyesight might differ.
Sometimes I think I get more satisfaction in taking difficult shots reasonably well, than in shooting easy shots with spectacular results. Maybe I still like the ‘hard’ road in life (than the easy path). I think we learn more on the ‘hard’ road in challenging situations.
Here’s part of the previous (distant) tree which had 14 herons on it. Too far away to capture all 14 herons in the frame, so I just aimed for the right hand side of the tree. It’s such a thrill to see so many herons only a 20 minute walk from the city centre. If you’re a visitor to Melbourne, ensure you visit the Royal Botanic Gardens on the south side of the main river. It’s easy to get to by tram or walking and really deserves a whole day to explore its many acres and 55,000 plants. Only trouble is that it’s rather hot in summer, so maybe Spring is the best time in mid September.