Birds of a Feather
New lockdown measures came into place in Ontario this weekend, but the weather was too nice to stay home. So in the spirit of mental and physical health, I visited two locations for my photowalk.  My first spot was the cliffside trail at the end of Courtice Shores Road, near Darlington Provincial Park; the other was Highland Creek. I was not the only person trodding these pathways, but neither area proved to be crowded and there was plenty of space to stay distant from other people when I encountered them.

I was blessed with both bright sunshine as well as heavy overcast, diffused lighting. I even got to shoot during a light rain shower, which was great; rain reduces the number of people out and about, and my Olympus kit is weather sealed. :-)​​​​​​​
This trip became my field test for the new Haoge handgrip I recently purchased for my camera. I commented on social media last week that I was pleasantly surprised at how much more comfortable it was to hold my camera. And on the photowalk, the only lens I used was my Zuiko 100-400mm. I can say without a doubt that the grip and comfort level using my long zoom are much improved. The grip feels like it was always part of the camera.
Images above show the grip with my 12-50mm lens attached.
It was also my plan to try out the Pro Capture mode in my camera, which buffers exposures as soon as you half-press the shutter and saves shots from before, during and after the shutter click. Very helpful, especially with the red winged blackbirds.
I had learned at least one valuable lesson from previous shoots; I kept that shutterspeed fast, even if it meant bumping the ISO to 800 or 1600. The red-winged blackbird shots would likely have failed without applying this lesson.
A lone Canada Goose occupied the wetland on the south side of Highland Creek. While I had been hoping to see a heron, the monochromatic harmony of this scene is perfect. This is my favorite capture of the bird, regally posed on driftwood, totally unaware (or uncaring, at least) of my presence. Cropped less than 5%, shots like this are only possible with a lens with a long reach like the Zuiko 100-400mm.
I ended up with a LOT of extra images thanks to the Pro Capture mode, but it afforded me shots I wouldn't have been fast enough to capture on my own. There is also the added benefit of being able to create some cool short stop-motion animations (with some help from Photoshop). Check out the short videos clip at the end of this article.

I also tried capturing birds in flight (seagulls, geese) but I need a lot more practice in tracking movement. I realized after the fact, that I had neglected to engage the Continuous Auto Focus mode, so I ended up with many out of focus images when the birds were moving.
Not the best photo, I admit, but I share it to show the other lively wildlife that day on the cliffside trail; clouds of gnats. Thousands of them. The birds - especially the song sparrows I photographed several times - loved them. Me, not so much. I had to cover my face on more than one occasion to walk through them. One time, I swiped at them with my hat and unintentionally captured 50 or more of them in the crown. Yuck.
Landscapes with a Super Zoom
I continue to be impressed with how effective this zoom lens can be for landscape shots. I had forgotten how freeing it is to be able to isolate elements in a scene, simplifying the composition the way I want thanks to the focal length range. While not as sharp (it is still plenty sharp, IMO) or fast as a prime lens, this zoom gives me a great deal of flexibility.
Highland Creek
The relatively calm water in the pond at Highland Creek leant itself to compositions that included reflections of the still dormant reeds and grasses. When the rain shower started, it was like a Gaussian Blur filter was added to the water. This section of the park is my favorite. There is no paved pathway, it's typically a bit muddy and littered with fallen trees. As a result, fewer people walk this area. And the wetland never disappoints.
When it comes to reflections in water, it can be fun - and add a surreal quality - to flip the image upside down. This is the same image as below, only upside down, without the black and white conversion, and using a more panoramic aspect ratio.
Stop Motion Animation
Perhaps an unintentional side effect to Pro Capture mode is the added benefit of bringing your wildlife photos to life in the forms of short videos or animated GIFs. 
There were definitely some challenges with these little projects, but they were fun to put together. I was shooting at 400mm, hand-held. Which meant that on any given image, my own micromovements wouldn't be an issue, but when you're aligning 11 or 22 frames to create an animation (Photoshop makes the alignment process a breeze, at least)... well, let's just say there was some cropping and cloning to be done.
After creating the animation of the blackbird, I realized this was actually two separate sets of captures, shot within seconds of each other. But I think they work well together.

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