Brian's Photo Blog — Article 111
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Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
Sunday 10 June 2012   —   Category: Outings
As of today, I have finally finished processing the last album of photos from my April 2012 trip to Eastern Oregon.

After the previous day’s futile search for Kiger Mustangs, and photographing the amazing Pete French Round Barn, I was feeling pretty wiped-out. Besides being constantly on the go and driving long distances each day, I could sense that my body was trying to fight off a cold. I was drained, and starting to feel like it wasn’t very much fun anymore. In addition, the weather forecast for the next day was more rain. I had come to this part of the state to escape the rain, but apparently it had followed me from the Willamette Valley.

Therefore I decided to cut my trip short and head home two days early. There was definitely no point hanging around, being sick in the rain! The next morning I got up early, as usual, leaving the Frenchglen Hotel at around 6:15. But since it was the end of my stay, I decided to take a detour on the way to Burns. Instead of taking the quicker, usual road — Oregon Route 205 — north, I took the gravel Center Patrol Road, which runs right up the middle of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, starting near the Frenchglen Hotel in the south, all the way up — with a short detour in the middle — to the Refuge headquarters 36 miles away, on the southern shore of Malheur Lake.

I had been planning on spending an entire day or two at the Refuge to take pictures, but the weather and my health had not cooperated. Now, I had only a quick drive through the Refuge to see if I could get any wildlife photos. Even though I was rushing down the road, eager to get back home, I still had some moderate photographic success. Between 6:30 and 7:30, I was able to get shots of a crane, turkey vulture, porcupine, jackrabbit, and two fighting pheasants ... not too shabby!

I’m not overly happy with the quality of the photos. Because it was early in the morning and overcast, it was somewhat dark out. In order to reach the distant wildlife, I used a 2x teleconverter with my 70-​200​mm telephoto lens. While bringing the subject twice as close, the teleconverter also softens the focus, which reduces image quality. The combination of a long focal length, low light, and shooting hand-held forced me to use an ISO setting of 800 so I could have a fast enough shutter speed. Unfortunately, the Sony α77 camera is known to produce more noise than comparable cameras at higher ISO settings, which also reduces image quality. Lastly, I sometimes had to take pictures through the front windshield in order to get my shot and not scare the animal away; this detracts from the quality too.

Put all that together, and you will see that the image quality is not at the level that I would want. I did my best to make these photos look as good as possible. Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are amazing software products which can salvage some fairly bad photos, but they can’t do miracles! All in all, I took 206 photos during my 75-minute dash through 36 miles of the Refuge, and I've narrowed those down to the best 16, which you can find in the Malheur Refuge 2012 photo album.
For a complete list of all the blog entries and photo albums resulting from my trip to Eastern Oregon, be sure to check out the April 2012 Eastern Oregon Photo Outing Recap
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 111
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