…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Canon 500mm F4 IS II

Great Egret in Flight

Headed back to High Island yesterday to get some more photos from the rookery for an upcoming presentation that I’m doing for Houston Audubon on April 7.

https://houstonaudubon.org/programs/adults/flight-in-focus.html

Had the platform all to myself, which was great and worth taking 1/2 day off of work.  Challenging to get flight shots from that location so moved down to the second platform and the flight opportunities were amazing.  Great egrets and spoonbills were flying back and forth from the rookery island to the trees on the south side of the pond.  They would occasionally bank right towards me like this great egret.

1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, aperture priority

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

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Great Egret Mating Dance Silhouette

It’s always fun to watch and photograph great egrets in mating season when they put on a display of their breeding plumage.  Caught this mating dance at High Island’s rookery at sunrise.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/60 sec @ F4, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

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Back-lit Great Egrets

Finally, some sunshine in SE Texas.  This day was a little to windy for Bolivar Flats and my gut was telling me to head to High Island to see if there was any activity yet.

Got up at 3:15 a.m. and make it there well before sunrise.  One of the challenges at the rookery at sunrise is the mosquitos, which can take swarming to a new level.  In preparation for the skeeters, bought a mosquito net to fit over my had, which worked wonders.  Best $10 ever spent at REI.

https://www.rei.com/product/780999/sea-to-summit-head-net

Got to the last platform in complete darkness so it was difficult to tell if there were very many birds present yet.  Could hear the pig-like grunting from some cormorants, which always show up first.  Once the pre-dawn light started falling over the area, finally could tell that there were enough great egrets to make it a worthwhile trip.  Before the sun came up, several more great egrets came to the rookery and started displaying their breeding plumage.  Didn’t take long for the courtship’s to begin.  Only a few minutes were required for them to arrive, find a match, mate and then take off to find sticks to build a nest.

I always go to the rookery at sunrise to get back-lit photos.  Exposing for the brightest areas of the birds with the sun coming through their feathers can make for some amazing photo opportunities.

This is a photo of a pair of great egrets that I watched after the sun came up.  One would take off to find sticks and then arrive with great fanfare and pass of the stick to their mate for nest-building.  Felt great to get back in my element.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F5 IS II lens on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority

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Long-Tailed Weasel from Yellowstone

We were lucky enough to find a long-tailed weasel.  He was across the river on a hill and was very difficult to spot.  I couldn’t find him after he was spotted.  Had to try to find his black tail bounding across the snow.  Cute little critter but a very vicious carnivore with sharp teeth and claws.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

1/800 sec @ F6.3, ISO 1600, spot metering off the snow +2 tops, manual mode

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Yellowstone Coyote – Head Shots

To cap off my coyote encounter at Yellowstone, the coyote almost face-planted while nearing the top of the hill. The snow must have gotten deeper or the hill was steeper causing him to almost fall into the snow. He was able to maintain his laser focus on what he was looking at and didn’t miss a beat.

Minor cropping off of the left side of the frame on these head shots.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm lens, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400

 

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Yellowstone Coyote Full Frame

Here is a full frame shot of the Yellowstone coyote as he went around me after jumping up the hill.  Was a very good day.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual mode

 

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Yellowstone Coyote Among the Cattails

Yellowstone coyote on his way to the small creek before he ran up the hill.  Full framed shot without any cropping.  Saw this composition coming as he got near the cattails.  Used back-focus button to get him in focus and then recomposed to put him in the lower left corner with the cattails in the top of the frame.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld

1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 800, manual mode

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Once-in-a-Lifetime at Yellowstone

Our second coyote encounter on Day 1 at Yellowstone was incredible.  One of our workshop leaders spotted a coyote crossing the river at a distance.  We got out of the snow coach and walked down the road to try to get a better view of him.  He got up on the bank and made his way to our right in the snow, catching some food along the way.

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Three of us went with Jared further upstream and waited for him to come to us.  While sitting in a snowbank, got some cool shots of the coyote working his way along a small winding creek at the bottom of our hill.  Was very happy to get those shots and expected him to continue along his way at the base of this hill.

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All of a sudden, he took off and ran/jumped up the hill directly towards us.  Luckily didn’t have my tripod or would have missed some of the shots as I had to lean back and to my left to shoot as a small tree got in the way.

He bounded up the hill while glancing from left to right with making direct eye contact with me several times.  He would blast up out of the snow, which created a cool ring of snow around him.  As he got closer, began to wonder if he was going to run right into me so I briefly lifted my head up to see how close that he was getting and he veered off to my left, leaving me with some full frame shots as he went by.

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He kept going up the hill while almost face-planting into the snow allowing for a couple of cool head shots.  At the top of the hill, he looked back at us and then went down the road like nothing happened.  He left us with the thought “What just happened and did we capture it?”  Downloading my photos revealed that I got 37 out of 40 photos in the sequence in focus when he ran up the hill in about 75 seconds.  Have a 12 frames/sec camera really paid off.

I keep having these once-in-a-lifetime photography experiences in Yellowstone, which will ensure that I keep going back.  Thanks again Jared and Doug.  One of my favorite Yellowstone encounters ever.

All photos were taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, 500mm


Yellowstone Coyote Mousing

Just got back from another trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd and Doug Gardner. This was my third year in a row but had to grab a cancellation spot to make it. Was another awesome trip with meeting some great people and critters.

Although the park was somewhat slow for animal activity based on the last couple of years, we had some outstanding photo opportunities. The area finally got some snow right before we arrived. Coldest temperature was –22 deg F but much warmer than that for most days.

My first trip with Jared was the year of the fox, last year was the year of the wolves and this trip was the year of the coyote with some great bighorns thrown in.

This day 1 encounter featured a coyote that went mousing fairly close to us. He was successful and moved on. Thought that we were lucky to see this until the next coyote sighting, which was off the charts spectacular. More on that later.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II

Manual exposure, 1/2000 sec @ F4, ISO 1000, spot metering off of the snow + 2 stops

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Short-eared Owl

There have been lots of posts on Facebook about some short-eared owls hanging out at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in SE Texas.  Made a trip over there recently to check them out.  Took a couple of trips to finally find them and it was a blast.  Ended up spending about 1 1/2 hours watching them fly back and forth hunting over a large area.  Most of the photos were at a long distance  away but they did make a few close passes, which were very exciting.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/2000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

 

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Black Skimmer Blast-off

While taking photos from my ground pod at Bolivar Flats, several hundred black skimmers were hanging out near the jetty.  It was difficult to see what kind of birds were there until you hear them “barking”.  They eventually lifted off and formed a cloud of skimmers, which is always cool to see.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Back to the Gulf

Sometimes the stars align (no wind, no waves, low tide) along the Gulf of Mexico and the waters are very calm at Bolivar Flats, which makes for some amazing conditions for shore bird photography. This happened on Friday when I took some vacation time to get back to Bolivar for the first time in 4 months.

Got very excited when driving onto the beach while seeing the calm water. This happens maybe once a year if you are lucky, from my experience. Pulled up to the parking area on the beach with nobody else in site and quickly geared up before the sun came up. It was 41 deg F and my neoprene waders felt nice and toasty.

Found a small group of American Avocets along the shoreline and laid down with my ground pod for some silhouette shots. Also had some photo op’s further out in the water with pelicans and black skimmers flying by. The sun popped up which led to some interesting photo op’s with the changing light.

Got up from my initial position and turned to my right just in time to see a peregrine falcon taking off from the beach. Wish that I had seen him earlier but he was very skittish and getting close to him would have been very challenging. Was able to get some flight shots as he flew by, which is always fun with hand holding a 500mm lens attached to a ground pod with a Wimberley gimbal head.

Moved offshore onto some sandbars to take photos of willets, long billed curlews, more avocets and hundreds of black skimmers that would periodically blast off and fill the sky. On the way back to my car, a reddish egret landed right behind me so got back down on the sand for some very close-up shots which was a great wrap up to a wonderful morning.

Needless to say, it was great to be back at Bolivar in perfect conditions.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II  and 1.4X III mounted on a Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Marbled Godwit

This Marbled Godwit walked very close to us at Bolivar Flats on the same day as we found the white morph reddish egret.  He kept probing the sand for food.

I like this shot as he is facing in my direction, the position of his feet, got some interesting lighting on his bill and the raised tail feathers, which isn’t typical from my experience.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/640 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Pose

Finally made it back to Bolivar Flats yesterday after a long hiatus (since April).  Got invited to head to the flats by Lea, who contacted me back in May for some advice.  It was a good time and I needed the motivation to get back out there in this heat.  Feels-like temp when we arrived just before sunrise was 95 deg F.  Decided to not wear my waders or jacket and just get all wet/sandy, which happened as predicted.

There were lots of birds around including reddish egrets, pelicans, willets, long-billed curlews, marbled godwits.  Did not see any avocets.  We spotted 2 reddish egrets and 3 white morph reddish egrets in the area and took some time to photograph them and get closer to this one.  They weren’t very active but we had the opportunity to get some decent shots of them posing and preening.

Reddish egrets will puff out their feathers when they are trying to intimidate other birds.  Not sure what got this one excited but it made for nice looking hairdo.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

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Caught it!

Reddish egret are quite the fishing experts.  This white morph put on a great display of fishing prowess and ended up catching this fish and looked in my direction.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

1/1600 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Jump in B&W

 

This white morph reddish egret was practicing his jumping skills at Galveston’s FeatherFest in April.  This was shot #11 out of a series of 16 photos that he was in the air.

Colors were somewhat muted so I converted into B&W using NIK Silver Effects.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret Launching

Sunday’s visit to Bolivar Flats with my last field trip for this years Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Was a little worn out after 4 days but it was well worth the effort to take a couple of groups to Bolivar Flats.  It was a new experience for some of them and we had some great photo op’s on both trips.  We couldn’t get very close to the avocets on this trip but I did find a morph reddish egret.  Spotted him at a distance and maneuvered the group close to the water as he was fishing.  He worked his way back and forth in front of us making for some great photo op’s.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Brown Pelicans in a Blur

I’ve been in a major creative funk lately with it being several weeks since I’ve gone out to take wildlife photos.  Life gets in the way sometimes with business travel,  some dental issues, lots to do around the house and getting a new computer.  I’ve been working on a blog post about my journey to find a new computer and will share that later.  Also the weather in SE Texas hasn’t been cooperating on weekends for the last 8 weeks or so.

Decided to go to the Texas City Dike a couple of weeks ago to create some abstract wildlife photos with some slow shutter speeds.  Made it to the dike before sunrise and waited until I could focus on brown pelicans that were diving for fish.

Used shutter priority to slow the action down while creating some interesting blurs.  It’s fun but challenging to try this technique.  You won’t get the same photo twice as each shot is dependent on how fast you are panning with the bird and what the bird is doing, which is part of the fun.  Went back the following weekend to crank it down even further to 1/10 sec.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld out my car window

Shutter priority, 1/15 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation

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Shutter priority, 1/20 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Shutter priority, 1/20 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Whooping Crane

Spent this past weekend in Rockport, TX trying to find Whooping Crane at Aransas NWR via a boat with Kevin Sims.  Had a great time as always.  Thanks again Scott for the invite.

Saturday with very foggy and had to start late and tried to wait out the fog.  No luck with that strategy, so Kevin worked the shoreline.  We found three whooping cranes that were looking for crabs in a small pond close to the shoreline.  We got very luck as they worked their way towards us and ended up walking out of the pond and got very close.  Ended up having to taking off my 1.4X teleconverter as I was only getting head shots.  A great problem to have when shooting whooping cranes.

Got this stare down from the juvenile crane.  They stuck around for about 1/2 hour and then walked away.  Was a great experience.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/500 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, spot metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Yellowstone in Winter 2018 – Day 1

Just got home last week from my second journey to Yellowstone National Park in winter, traveling on Jared Lloyd’s Winter in Yellowstone Workshop.  My first trip last year was one of those so called life changing experiences with it being an easy decision to go back again this year before the airplane wheels touched down in Houston.  Last year was very special with fishing coyotes, bull elk, jumping fox, frosty bison and a long-tailed weasel.  Also got to see wolves in the Lamar Valley about 1 mile away through a spotting scope.  This year changed that perspective, just slightly, forever.

Day 1 in the park started out with a slight delay with the snow coach but it all worked out with us entering the park at the West Yellowstone entrance around 7:30 a.m.  We had heard about a carcass near the road with wolf activity, so we were very excited to see what the morning would bring.  As we approached the location, we could see what was left of the carcass but no wolves, so we kept going in search of other wildlife along the Madison River.  We worked the river to the warming hut and headed back west.

Just past the seven mile bridge, we spotted two wolves on a hillside that were watching a young bison that was standing in the river.  The bison had apparently been attacked earlier by the wolves on her rear legs and was seeking shelter in the river.

Manual mode, 1/2000 sec @ F10, ISO 500, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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We photographed the wolves for over two hours and they eventually moved over the hill out of sight.  The bison took that que to try to make an escape by walking along the river right in front of us and then up on the road heading east, limping along as she walked.  We found her later on the opposite side of the road lying down next to a tree.

We all knew what would likely be her fate by the next morning, which came to pass.  The circle of life is very hard to watch in person but inevitable in the wild.

Manual mode, 1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 400, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Manual mode, 1/4000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 320, spot metering off the snow, +2 stops

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Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Induro tripod with leveling head and Wimberley II gimbal head, some hand held.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


White Tailed Hawk

Hope that everyone survived new years celebrations.  We did our usual Mexican restaurant for dinner and headed home before the crazies got on the road.

For my old friend Joe, here are a few shots of a White Tailed Hawk that I found on the road leading up to Anahuac NWR while guiding Stephen Bontempo around a few weeks ago.  These were taken out my car window.  Pulled up and had to quickly get ready to shoot.  He laughed before I got the first shot off but got several photos of him as he took off and flew away.  Good times…

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter.

1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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Happy New Year!

Hoping that all of you had a great 2017.  My plan was to post my favorite shots for 2017 before now but I got tied up over the holidays so it will have to wait for early Jan.

2018 will start out with a bang for me from a photography perspective and then have some challenges.  It’s going to be an interesting year for sure.

Spend the morning of Christmas Eve at Bolivar Flats along the gulf coast taking shorebird photos, along with a few raptors.  While walking out along the shoreline, saw a dark spot out on the sand that looked out of place.  Trusted my instinct and picked up my camera and spotted a peregrine falcon.  Got very excited and walking slowly closer to him, laid down, took a couple of shots, went to check my histogram and he took off.

Walked away from that area over to one of my favorite spots around the corner and spotted a couple of hundred Avocets feeding just off shore.  Laid down and belly crawled towards them.  The muck was very slimy and ended up on my knees and pushed my ground pod along for about 60 ft and stayed put for a couple of hours.

All of a sudden, all of the birds flew away, which usually means that either a raptor or human was nearby.  Spun around on my stomach thanks to the slimy muck and caught this Northern Harrier flying along the vegetation line.

Ended up seeing a couple of Harriers and four Caracara’s.  Tis the season for migrating raptors.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation.

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Reddish Egret Portrait in Golden Light

Golden light at sunrise rocks.  Got this Reddish Egret portrait shot from Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast on Friday.  As usual, was using my ground pod to get the low-level look.

I try to get into position about 1/2 before the sun comes up to get some cool pre-dawn color but that’s not practical with the time change.  Have to get up at 4:00 a.m. at the latest to make the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  Was walking out to my spot when the sun popped but it was still good.  Don’t know about the birds, but I had a great time.

Started out shooting black necked stilts when this reddish egret flew in.  He didn’t stick around long but loved the golden light on him and the weeds in the background.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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B&W Sea Otters

Here are some more sea otter photos from Morro Bay, CA.  There were two pups in the group and it was difficult to get a decent shot of them.

Converted these to B&W using NIK Silver EFfx Pro 2.

1/640 sec @ F4.5, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 500mm mounted on tripod

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1/400 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld

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1/500 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation, 560mm with 100-400 II lens and 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld

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