…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Skimmer ground pod

Back to Bolivar Flats

Made my first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast since April and it was epic.  Saw on Jim Strough’s post that there were lots of reddish egrets in the area and that was enough to convince me to get back out there.

With high tide, there weren’t any exposed sandbars off shore, which concentrated the birds along the shoreline.  Luckily for me, they were accessible and not out of reach around the corner or just near the jetty, which can also happen.

When driving on the beach to get to the parking area, it become very evident that I was going to be sharing the beach with several wade fisherman.  Total of 10 trucks plus my car.  Most of the fisherman were already out in the water with a few still getting ready.  Knew from experience that bird photography and wade fishing don’t exactly mix so I decided to hang back and let the fisherman walk past me.  On cue, one of them walked right through the flock of birds that were in my sights and scattered them in all directions.  This gave me an opening to get to the spot that I wanted to lay down while the birds returned.

Had 16 reddish egrets to choose from including 9 red and 7 white morph’s.  The highlight was when the tide started to come in.  I was shooting away and saw the water getting closer so had to keep pushing myself backwards up the beach.  Looked up and saw 12 reddish egrets moving in with the tide and they were all converging on my location.  Wish that I would have had a wide-angle lens or my iPhone as it would have made a great video.

Ended up leaving early when thunder started rumbling in the distance.  Didn’t want to leave but decided that it wasn’t a good idea to be walking on the beach in a thunderstorm while carrying a hunk of metal.  A great morning that will need to be recreated, very soon.

1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Blurred Avocet

When the light doesn’t cooperate, there are always blurred shots to be taken.  American avocet in a blur from Bolivar Flats during one of my Galveston FeatherFest workshops that I led this year.

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.

1/125 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

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American Avocets

Mentioned to my FeatherFest group before we hit the beach on Saturday morning that one of my target birds for this field trip was avocets. Score!

Low tide turned into high tide with the winds from the south due to the storm system. The high tide drove all of the birds near the shoreline and luckily most of them were along the beach facing south before you go around the bend. We started with a small group of avocets and worked our way down the beach until we hit the jackpot with thousands of them that just kept flying into the same area.

The legs have it in this full frame shot from my ground pod with only cropping to pano format. If you look close, had some light rain going on at this time. Also a photo bomber flying in.

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

1/200 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

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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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Ground Level Photography from Galveston’s FeatherFest

Here are the group photos from Saturday’s Ground Level Photography field trip at Bolivar Flats.  Had a great time with lots of laughs from this group.

The morning started out ominous with very high winds, close to 30 mph, and high surf.  Wasn’t sure that we would see any birds until we got further down the shoreline.  Found an estimated 3,000 American Avocets huddled together within shooting distance.  You can see some of the remaining Avocets behind the group in the photos below.  Lots of belly crawling involved.  Turned out to be a very productive morning.

Participants can copy full size photos from my website:

https://www.timtimmis.com/Wildlife/Galveston-FeatherFest-2018/

 

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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 Fight

These two reddish egrets went toe to toe yesterday at Bolivar Flats along the gulf coast of Texas.  Had my ISO cranked up to 3200 while taking static shots of a couple of white morph reddish egrets when these two started fighting.  Should have increased to ISO to 6400 but didn’t have enough time to change any settings as the action happened very fast.  Lots of blurred action in this series but it was very fun to watch and photograph.  More to come…

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

1/20 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Black Skimmer’s Landing Gear

This black skimmer was doing a fly-by and actually skimming at Bolivar flats, which is a somewhat rare event in that location.  From my experience over the past several years, they usually just fly around looking for a place to land so this was a very nice change of pace.  Especially since this was during a guide trip that I was leading with three great guys from New Zealand, Canada and Indiana.

It’s always a challenge to capture these birds in flight while using a ground pod since your range of motion is limited while laying on the ground.  Added bonus was he briefly turned directly towards me.  Also like that his feet were hanging like landing gear coming down.

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.

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Stalking

This reddish egret was stalking its prey just after sunrise.  He had his head on the down low while running towards the fish.  His legs lined up perfectly that it looks like he only has one leg with two feet attached to it.

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

1/125 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation

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You Lookin at Me??

You lookin at me?  Better not be.  My boys behind me will come after you.

Made another trip to Bolivar Flats over the Memorial Day weekend while guiding three clients for two days.  They were at the end of a 3 week trip across south Texas with the Galveston area their last stop.  Thanks again to Kent, Bill and Ian for allowing me to show you around this part of Texas.  Had a great time and got to see lots of birds.

Made two stops to Bolivar Flats and found some avocets, reddish egrets and lots of snowy egrets.  Had several opportunities for some interaction shots which are always fun.  One was a little weird with an avocet trying to mate with an inanimate object.  More on that later.

While focusing on a avocet, saw two snowy egrets walking behind him.  Switched my attention to the background and visualized this shot coming as they crossed behind him.  The avocet cooperated by staring at me while getting some scratching action in.  Made for a cool shot.

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

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Pelican Stealing White Morph’s Fish

Here are some photos of the brown pelican scaring the white morph reddish egret in order to steal his fish.  He surprised me as well and they were too close at 700mm and ended up clipping the pelican’s wings in the first shot.  You can see the fish drop in the second photo with the pelican getting ready to enjoy his spoils in the last shot.

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 @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret

On this recent trip to Bolivar Flats in Texas, the reddish egrets were out in force, including two white morph’s.  I was guiding Bruno from San Diego, who hadn’t seen a white morph before so it was great timing.  They danced around right in front of us and both ended up catching some very large fish and had a close encounter with a brown pelican.  More photos to come.

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 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Brown Pelicans in Missing Man Formation

These brown pelicans were flying in formation in a line when three of them broke off in what looks like the missing man formation.  Taken during my second trip to Galveston’s FeatherFest.

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

1/1600 sec @ F5, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Ground Level Bird Photography Field Trip #1 – Galveston FeatherFest 2017

Last Thursday through Sunday was a very busy time for me at Galveston’s Texas FeatherFest.  I led three classroom workshops and three field trips.  This was my 5th year being one of the photography leaders and it was a blast, as always.

My field trip on Saturday started off by catching the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  I met up with my group once we got off of the ferry and they followed me to Bolivar Flats.  It was going to be a sunny morning with low tide so I was hoping that the birds were going to be out.  Reports from the previous day indicated that the tide was abnormally low along the jetty without many birds in that area.  Upon pulling up to the parking area on the beach, I could see that there were some exposed sandbars and what looked like a flock of avocets, which was a major relief.  After we geared up, I gave everyone a quick lesson on how to try to try to keep their hands clean when lying down and getting up and we headed out.

There were two other photographers lying on the beach shooting the avocets so I decided to take my group out on the sandbar so that we weren’t looking into the sun all morning.  We walked through the water to the sandbar without incident, which wasn’t the case on Sunday.  More on that on my next post.

Ended up having the group lay down on the sandbar in a long row so that we wouldn’t be in each others line of fire for photography.  We had 8 participants along with myself and my liaison, who helps me keep track of everyone and gets us back to the headquarters on time.  I had the first person lay down near the water line at the north edge of the sandbar since the tide was supposed to be receding.  Well that theory didn’t work too well as the water level came up later and the first couple of people started getting wet so we had to shift the line to the right, which would have been an interesting video.

The flock of avocets kept walking back and forth across the area between the sandbars, which provided some decent photo op’s.  It’s always a challenge of trying to get one of the birds isolated from the flock.  Decided to get a little closer after a while so we practiced crawling on the sand while pushing our ground pods along.

After the action died down, I had the group rotate 180 deg. so that we could get some photos of willets that were in the water behind us.  Also, I had noticed several groups of avocets and brown pelicans flying by our sandbar and it finally hit me that we should turn around and get photos of them flying towards us.  That turned out to be a great decision as they birds kept coming our way for the rest of the field trip.

Thanks to Richard Howard for being my liaison and to everyone who came out to play in the wet sand with me.  I’m hoping that you had as much fun as I did and got some great photos from a different perspective that what you normally 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.

This photo is of the flock of avocets that kept walking back and forth in front of us.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Caught these two avocets that were isolated from the rest of the group.  I’m always looking for how two birds will interact of make an interesting photo together, such as their beaks crossing when coming close to each other, etc.  These two made a cool mirror image of each other.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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After we turned around, several groups of avocets flew close to us.  This group was clustered together when I first spotted them and they then spread out as they got closer to us.  The ones on my far right were doing some very cool synchronized flying with common wing positions.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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This is the same group 1 second later as they got a little closer.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Here are the group photos so that I have evidence that yes, they actually laid down in the wet sand and…

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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…that they got wet and dirty.  Mission accomplished.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Willet Wars

On my last trip to Bolivar Flats, the willets were in fighting mode with breeding season in full swing.  While taking photos of avocets, the willets were squawking away and chasing each other around.  These two started going at it and were circling around after one grabbed the others neck.  He then lifted off trying to get away but the other one held on for a while.  He finally broke free and left the area.

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 @F 7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Avocet Silhouette

About 3 minuets after the brown pelican sunrise photo per my last post, caught this group of American Avocets passing under the sunrise.  Made for a cool silhouette shot.

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, 1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret vs. Great White Egret

While taking photos of a Reddish Egret fishing, a Great Egret flew in to challenge the Reddish for the best fishing spot.  The Great Egret won this confrontation.

Although the sun was reflecting off of the water, had use positive exposure compensation to get lighted up the birds.  It blew out the water but it still works.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X 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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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Dance of the Reddish Egret in B&W

Partial sun turned into a cloudy morning at Bolivar Flats along the Gulf of Mexico.  The colors were somewhat muted so I converted these into B&W to bring out the feather detail.

Watching Reddish Egrets dance around while fishing is always a good time and provides some great photo opportunities.  This egret was very energetic and would launch himself out of the water to look for unsuspecting fish as the tide was slowly receding.  In the last shot, he got all puffed up while chasing a white morph reddish egret away.

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, 1/2500 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/2500 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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