animals, bird, insect, photography, wildlife

Throwback Thursday: purple heron

purple heron (Ardea purpurea) / Purpurreiher

This was really a challenge. According to Google maps and my EXIF data, the nest was about 74m away from my camera. I knew this would be a difficult job, but I expected it to be a bit easier.

A few couples of these very rare herons (at least in Germany – and they are listed in the red part of the IUCN list; meaning they are currently not endangered, but the numbers are decreasing) set up their nests at the edge of a small lake, right in the front row of the reed. The nests are visible from a hiking path and the plants have enough natural gaps of several meters each to easily set up your camera and have a quite good sight. So far, so good. I was also told, to bring a binocular.

After a hike of approximately 45 minutes, we reached the lake. Whan a scene: I saw the lake, the water, hundreds of nests of black-headed gulls in the water, and the ocean of reed as a background of the scene. Did you notice a hint of the purple herons? Me, neither! A friend of mine, a local and being our guide on this trip, pointed to the other side of the lake. Over there, they are! I didn’t notice one. There are a few nests, one beside another. I still was staring at the scene without seeing them. “Take your binocular.” Still no success. “OK, set up your camera and I’m pointing it to one of the nests”. Hey, there they were!!!!!

They are smaller than grey herons (only 70-90 cm long and with 107-143 cm wingspan instead of 90-98 cm length and 175-195 cm wingspan) and despite their intense coloring, they are melting into the surroundings. Not visible, when you not know, they were there and where they are standing or sitting. After I got the first nest in sight, it was quite easy to see the other, too. In my opinion, there were about 10 nests. The nests seem to be founded on some buckled reeds between 20 and 70 cm above the waterline. Surprisingly, some were still building the nests, while others already had quite big nestlings, as you can see in the image above.

The above image is already a crop in post-processing. It is taken with an 800mm lens attached to a camera with an APS-C sensor resulting in 1200mm as their 35mm equivalent. The camera was attached to my tripod by a gimbal. The other guy accompanying me also bought an APS-C camera, but only a 150-600mm lens. With that combo, he only got stamp-like herons. Fortunately, his camera matched my lens too, so I loaned it to him.

Take care!


animals, bird, gear, nature, photography, review, technic, travel, wildlife, world

A special head for wildlife photographer

In the past I wrote about tripods. A tripod always has a head to mount your camera on. There are many discussions, what kind of head is the best: ball-head, one-way tilt head, two-way tilt head, and three-way tilt head.

Some tripods came with a certain head attached to the middle-column which is not replaceable while other come with replaceable heads or even without a head, where you have to buy one on your own choice.

The head of my old tripod wasn’t replaceable while my new one came with a replaceable ball head. My monopod came with a replaceable 1-way tilt head.

For wildlife photography these heads are not really helpful. The tilt heads are not fast enough to follow the animals and the ball head can’t be fixed fast enough to be a stable ground. Therefore I have a gimbal. I simply dismount the head from either my tripod or my monopod and attach the gimbal instead. Because of the design, the gimbal is quite stable but I can move it around very fast, if needed.

When sitting in a hide where I have enough room to set-up a tripod, I mount the gimbal on top instead of the ball head. When I want to move around in the field or wait in a tiny hide, the gimbal will be mounted on the of the monopod. Both work very well.

My gimbal is made of aluminum and weighs about 1 kg. It’s 19.5 * 7.5 * 21 cm ( 7.7 * 3.0 * 8.3in). It has the correct screw thread (3/8 “) to attach it directly on most of the tripods and monopod with detachable heads. The plate to mount the camera follows the arca-swiss standard.  So, if you already have such a plate, it will fit here too, if not, never mind, the gimbal brings one. There are also some long tele lenses around where the lens mount flange is also fitting in an arca-swiss mount without a separate plate. According to the manufacturer’s specifications, the gimbal should be able to carry gear up to 18 kg (39.7lbs).

The heaviest lens I used a couple of times weighed about 5 kg. When adding my camera there was about 6,2 kg attached to the gimbal, resulting in about 7.3 kg to carry for my tripod. 

To mount such heavy gear to the gimbal needs some fine adjustment to distribute the weight equally. That’s why the lens mount flange is below the lens and the flange is that long. Even when the screw on the top left side is loosened the camera and lens have to be in balance. Now, you tighten the screw a little bit, that you can still move the camera easily up and down but it does not have to swing back automatically. The same for the horizontal turning.

I own this gimbal for about 3 years and I’m very happy with it. Compared to the standard heads, this is really a game-changer, also for the monopod. In my other post, you can read about me first struggling a bit when using the monopod. The gimbal helped me out a lot.


When I got the gimbal, it was quite hard to move the swing, but after a short time, the oil inside became softer and the swing was easier to swing up and down.

Take care!