Pileated Woodpecker

After yesterday’s shots at Nisqually Refuge I was upset enough with my new 1.4 extender that I took it off the 400 mm lens I used for birding yesterday. Today I discovered the real reason a number of my shots were so blurry. It’s been dark enough around here that the 5.6 lens has to use an extremely low shutter speed, less than a 1/60 of a second in most cases. Turns out its nearly impossible even with a monopod, at least for me, to hold a 400 mm telephoto lens entirely still. Thus, blur. and more blur. If the bird happens to move while you’re photographing the problem obviously gets worse.

It’s been cloudy and dark here all week, but I still decided to go to Pt. Defiance Park and try to get some bird pictures, either Blue Jays or Pileated Woodpeckers.

After nearly two hours of nary a bird song, I was about to turn back when I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker right in front of me. It flew away and I was about to move on to see if I could find it again, when pieces of wood came flying down from a nearby tree. Obviously the woodpecker’s mate or offspring was busy finding bugs. Unfortunately, it was in extremely deep foliage. When I checked out the pictures in the LCD display, they were so blurry as to be nearly unrecognizable.

There simply wasn’t enough light to get a decent picture. Frustrated, I headed down the trail, only to run into the mate again, this time in a relatively “open” area, though that’s a misnomer in the middle of an old-growth fir forest. I could see him “plain as day” using the magical instrument that are my eyes, but I set the camera to over and under expose and shot on both auto focus and manual focus. I shot as long as the woodpecker would endure the constant beeping of the camera.

Again, most of the shots were so dark or so blurry that they were nearly unrecognizable. Here’s one of the best, tweaked in Photoshop to make it pass muster.

I’m afraid that’s the best picture I’m going to get unless we get some really bright days. I checked what a “faster” 400mm telephoto lens would cost but decided that at a asking price of $14,000 I really didn’t need to check to see what Amazon’s discounted price was. I think I’d rather feed a village in Africa for a year than capture a picture of a PileatedWoodpecker in the middle of an old-growth forest.

3 thoughts on “Pileated Woodpecker”

  1. It’s still an impressive and evocative picture, even if not technically wonderful. I really love and value the up-close and personal views of creatures and landscapes strange and foreign to me which I get to see in some of my favourite blogs.

    And, yes, your final point is spot on.

  2. Well, you can’t have everything, but you’ve got a lot! Apparently a very nice nature spot. And you might catch some more views before it’s over.

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