Birding in the Rain w/my weather-sealed NEX kit

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zackiedawg
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Birding in the Rain w/my weather-sealed NEX kit
9 months ago

Yep - I've got a WR NEX-5N, 55-210mm lens, and even my DH1758 extender.  Bet you didn't know we NEX shooters had weather-resistant rigs.  I'm not talking light sprinkle - I'm talking torrential downpour.  I'm talking about being wetter than had I jumped in a pool.  Putting a towel down on the car seat just to sit down.  Hanging the clothes outside to dry.  That kind of wet!

I had some light off-and-on showers on New Year's Day when I went out birding for a few hours, but my main birding this weekend started off with a completely rained-out Saturday.  Sunday, I determined that I wasn't going to be deterred, and headed out to my wetlands to shoot, rain or shine.  It was rain...not shine.  Like, heavy rain, with occasional light rain, then back to heavy rain.

How is the NEX-5N able to shoot in those conditions?  A special waterproof case, designed by ZipLoc.  It's called the 'large freezer bag', and it fits the NEX-5N, 55-210mm lens, and 1.7x teleextender pretty well.  Placing the camera in the bag diagonally, with the corner of the bag cut out just a bit smaller than the lens end, you can stretch the lens end through the hole, use a bit of electrical tape to seal it, and screw the teleextender onto the outside. The teleextender seems to handle getting wet just fine, as long as the tape covers where it attaches to the lens, and generally keeping it pointed down so the lip hood keeps the glass from getting wet, where moisture might be able to sneak through to the inside.  The camera remains well sealed in the bag, with the ziploc opening half-closed down around your hand, which can insert into the bag to reach the controls.  Keeping the top of the ziploc closed will keep the water from getting in the opening.  There's enough room to fully extend the zoom and still keep the lens and camera inside the bag, though the teleextender has to go on the outside - I might research other cheap bag options for the future...but this works well enough in a pinch!

Remembering that rain does not make for lovely sharpness, the type of heavy deep grey that enveloped the sky was producing the light equivalent to what you'd get 30-45 minutes after sunset, which meant ISOs up to 3,200 required during the afternoon...and any focus system struggles a bit when trying to shoot a subject 40 feet away through 6 billion water drops falling between you and it.  There were some breaks where the rain dropped down to a light sprinkle, and a little light would break through the deep clouds for a few minutes, but then it would go back to downpour conditions again.  For me, it's still worth it because the birds are still out there, and they tend to not move around a bunch when it rains...plus the wet feathers, beads of rain on the leaves, and even the streaks and dots of the falling rain make for an interesting and different sort of shot.  It's not to savor the details and pixel peep, but to just enjoy something different...

Starting out on New Year's Day, which wasn't quite as bad - it was intermittent showers, with dry spells in between, so not a complete rainout...

Those on the DSLR forum know I posted a northern harrier sequence - that same harrier was out again New Year's Day, and I managed a BIF flyby with the NEX this time

This was a bit more exciting than the usual cormorants we see - this one is a neotropical cormorant, much more rare down here - the one to the left in the background is our more common double-crested cormorant.

It was lightly raining when I caught this pretty female red-winged blackbird perched on a reed

Then the skies went black, and the rain started in earnest.  Note I'm cranked up to ISO2000 at F6.3 to keep 1/400 shutter...this red-shouldered hawk was sitting rather unhappily in the rain

The good thing is, the hawk wasn't keen to move much - so I was able to walk right under him, about 12-15 feet above me, and snap a few shots of him getting soaked, while I too got soaked!

Great blue heron, sitting on a nest, took advantage of a lighter rain moment to get up and have a shake

A limpkin sitting on a stump in the light rain - it opened up much harder after this - I have another shot of him through the heavier rain, but this one had a little more detail and color

An example of a dedicated birder, out with her binoculars and no umbrella, trying to make for a nearby shelter when the rain really started pelting again

I found this hawk's position funny - it was raining pretty hard here - the OOF looking areas are actually due to the rain falling between us, and a few drops on my lens.  He sat like this in the rain, I presume to better roll the water off his back and down his wings

A lovely little blue-headed vireo taking shelter in the deep cypress forest - I too found it to help shield against the rain

If there's no sun, the next best way to get warmer light is to shoot with a lot of leaves and greenery as a backdrop - the light filters through and becomes more greenish/yellowish.  This tricolor heron was drying off a bit during a lull in the showers

As always, comments, questions, and critique are welcomed.

Hope you enjoyed a rainy day shoot, even if the IQ isn't quite as good and the light a lot more difficult!  It was certainly fun to go out shooting that day even in the challenging conditions - though I can't say I'd mind if one of these weekends would get a little cooler, and a lot sunnier, for a change!

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Justin
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Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Sony Alpha NEX-5N Sony a6000 Sony E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Sony E 16mm F2.8 Pancake +24 more
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