My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for December, 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Winter

We really haven’t had much of a winter here in West Michigan so far this season, that’s all supposed to change tonight when a storm comes roaring through. They are predicting wind gusts in excess of 50 MPH for tomorrow afternoon along the Lake Michigan shore, so that’s where I’ll be, trying to get some good photos of waves crashing into something!

The nature lover/outdoor person that I am has been somewhat disappointed by our lack of snow so far this year, the truck driver side of me has been very happy with it. I think we are up to around six inches of snow for the season, hardly enough to say so. There have been several times the ground has been covered, and I have managed a few photos that fit this week’s challenge, so here goes.

Any one who lives in West Michigan knows this sight only too well, the sun being blotted out by lake effect clouds.

A patch of blue sky on a cloudy day

It’s been cold enough at times when the ponds have begun to ice over.

Ice on a pond

And of course, a clichéd shot of snow and a flower.

Dandelion and snow

During one of the brief moments of sunshine this week, I tried to get artsy with these two of the sun shining through water droplets left as the snow melted.

Sunshine on a winter day

Sunshine on a winter day

It had looked like this when I started my daily hike.

Snowy branches and turkeys

Everybody talks about the weather, even the turkeys as they try to stay warm.

Talking turkey

By the way, I know I’m not doing this correctly for the Weekly Photo Challenge, I think it is supposed to be one photo, but I have been wanting to do a post summing up our winter so far this season, and the topic gives me a great excuse to do it.

We have had some snow as you can see.

Snowy day by the pond

But it has been more like a very long fall than winter.

Cattails

We had a heavy burst of snow on one day that covered the ponds with a layer of slush.

Geese swimming in a slush covered pond

And this mallard got lost in the snow.

Male mallard in the snow

And that reminds me, back in my post about micro-climates, I said that most critters like the same kind of weather that we do. That does not apply to waterfowl.

Canadian geese cooling off in the winter

I can’t imagine a much colder place than sitting in a pool of water on top of a frozen pond, brrr! Or, just standing in the water on top of the ice!

Mallards cooling off in the winter

Mallard cooling off in the winter

Mallards cooling off in the winter

That makes my toes cold just looking at it!

Finally, this one reminds me of the many days I spent winter steelheading in Michigan rivers during the winter.

Ice formations on a small creek

Right now, I am off to take advantage of a rare sunny, warm day before the storm hits tonight, then tomorrow, I’ll be trying for some good storm photos like this blast from the past.

Winter storm

That’s it for this one, I hope no one minds if I cheated a little on this on it by turning it into a regular post. Thanks for stopping by!


One foxy (squirrel) model

I have no idea why it happens, but on some days, some critters will let you walk right up to them and shoot as many pictures as you want. That’s what happened when I came across this fox squirrel perched on a broken limb just a few feet above my head.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

These were taken on the same day as my “Walking around in a fog” photos were taken, I don’t think the fog had anything to do with the fact that this squirrel decided to stay put. I have seen this squirrel before, I walk the same path everyday on my daily hikes around the apartment complex where I live. I have learned where each family of fox squirrels lives, and see them all nearly everyday, but it is only once in a great while that one sits for the camera like this.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Most of the time when something like this happens, it is on a very nice day when you get the feeling that the critter is feeling really comfy and doesn’t want to move unless it has to. I have had it happen with many species, from whitetail deer down to little chickadees.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

I may not be able to explain this animal behavior, but I do know what to do when it occurs, take lots of photos!

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

I’m not going to bore you with all of the pictures I took of this squirrel, just a couple more. I even told the squirrel it was being a ham for the camera, and this is what it gave me.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Like I said, I can’t explain why a critter that runs at the first sight of you on most days suddenly decides to pose for one day, and one day only before it goes back to being deathly afraid of you again, but when it happens, take advantage of the situation while you can.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


When birds soar

Much of mankind has always been fascinated by the flight of birds, and I am one of those who studies the flight of birds. Part of the reason why is that it helps me to identify them at a distance, different species of birds have different flight characteristics. You can often identify a bird just by the way that it flies. Some birds spend most of their time soaring with almost no flapping of their wings, others flap almost constantly, other flap, glide, and flap again. I know there are many books available about the flight of birds, and probably many web sites as well, and they do a far better job of detailing and explaining it than I could, so I’ll leave it at that.

Over the years, much has been written about the beauty, grace, and even power of birds in flight, so I won’t go on about that either. Besides, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

This last week or so, I have managed to get quite a few photos of birds in flight, some good, some not so good, I am going to start with a few of the not so good ones of a fairly common species, Canadian geese.

Canadian geese in flight

Canadian geese in flight

Canadian geese in flight

For as many shots as I have taken of geese in flight, I have yet to get one that I think is exceptional. I think that their coloration has something to do with it, but I’m not positive about that. This is the way the underside of their wings should look.

Canadian goose stretching its wings

Another common bird in these parts is the herring gull. Large flocks of them move inland from the Great Lakes over the winter months, searching for food. People often use derogatory phrases in describing herring gulls, since they are plentiful, and are often seen scavenging in landfills. That’s human nature for you, because a species has learned to survive man’s onslaught intent on wiping almost all wildlife from the planet, we look down it. Well, I look up at them, since they I usually see them soaring overhead. 😉

A large flock of herring gulls soaring

And, a closer view..

Herring gull 1

Herring gull 1

I happen to think that they are beautiful birds, even if they do eat our trash. Maybe if we didn’t waste so much food, there would be less for them to scavenge?

Herring gull 2

Herring gull 2

Hey, wait! Herring gull 2 has no legs! That’s OK, this guy has four of them to make up for that!

Fox squirrel "in flight"

OK, so it’s not a bird, it’s a bird brained squirrel. 🙂 Actually, if you look closely at Herring gull 2, you will see that it has its legs tucked up in its feathers. I don’t know if they do that to keep their feet warm, to reduce drag, or both.

This is the White breasted nuthatch from my last post, I am recycling it because it fits so well in this one.

White breasted nuthatch taking off

This is the worst shot of the bunch coming up. The only reason I am throwing it in here is because it confirms something I have thought for a long time, and that is that chickadees don’t fly, they have a hidden jet pack that they use to zoom from spot to spot.

Black capped chickadee in flight

Seriously, chickadees are one of the species of birds that flap their wings intermittently as they fly. It’s thought that they do this to avoid predators. I included that photo as a segue to a discussion about nature photography and understanding nature in general.

I wish that every photo I took was so good that the National Geographic Society was beating down my door asking me to go to work for them, that isn’t going to happen. In the first place, the way I go about getting the photos I do isn’t conducive to getting nothing but top-notch photos. Since I am always moving, either hiking or kayaking, what I get is catch as catch can. If I were to set up some where in a blind or something, I would hope the quality of my photos would be much better.

In posts where I have attempted to explain to others how to get close to wildlife, I have stressed that you have to pay attention to everything you see, hear, smell, and even feel. To sum it all up, you have to immerse yourself in nature.

This is where the two come together, nature photography and immersing yourself in nature. My fellow photographers may understand this already, but I have found that since I have gotten back into nature photography the way I have, I am learning more than ever about nature. As I have written about hunting and hunting with a camera as I call it, you have to know and understand the animals you are hunting if you plan on being successful. Since I have gotten back into nature photography, I spend much more time observing wildlife, their habitats, and their habits than before I picked up a camera again.

I guess I had gotten to a place where I would see lots of wildlife, note it, and move on. Hey, there’s a deer! Wow, an eagle. Look, a beaver, and that would be the end of it. Now, when I see an animal, I question what it is doing, and why, and how can I use that information to help me get the best possible photo that I can. In a way, it’s been like learning to hunt again, for that’s the way I used to hunt, question everything.

I find that taking lots of photos helps in my understanding as well, no matter how bad they are. For every shot that gets posted here, I have dozens more that will never see the light of day, but I don’t delete them, they tell stories. They remind me what the weather conditions where on that day. They tell me what the animal was doing. They tell me where I was at the time, and even the time of day. The photos give me the time to really look in-depth at animal behavior in a way that is hard to do as I am witnessing it live.

I would suggest to any one interested in wildlife and nature to take up photography as well. You don’t need top of the line equipment, you don’t need to try for perfect photos every time, but a photographic record will help you to remember what you see, and you may begin to look at nature differently, or at least more in-depth.

OK, done with that little speech, time to get back to the pictures. Here’s a few of another common species, mallards. I took these three as a male mallard flew from a pond to shore.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard walking on air

Hey buddy, don’t you think you should wait until your feet touch the ground before you start walking?

Here’s a few of a red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I almost fell over backwards getting that last one, it was directly overhead. Glad I didn’t fall over though, as I got the best ones just after that.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Would it sound like I was bragging if I said that I am very proud of that last one?

I am going to wrap this up with an eagle.

An eagle in flight

Even though it isn’t as dramatic as the last of the hawk shots, I am pretty proud of the eagle shot as well! It’s hard to capture a good photo of a black and white bird, especially on that is soaring with the sky as a background.

Anyway, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Welcome to the digital age

Sorry for two posts in one day again, but this was originally part of the “Essential bird grooming tips, and how to capture them” post, but I removed this part, thinking that everybody else in the world already knew this stuff. As usual, I was wrong, so I am finishing this one up and posting it. Besides, it is the story of my haphazard transition from film cameras to digital ones, and I may well refer back to this myself, as I continue to learn digital photography.

It has taken this old dog some time to learn some new tricks, such as being able to adjust the ISO whenever you want. Back in the days of film, the ISO was set to the film speed, and never changed until you loaded a different type of film into the camera. You could “push” some films such as Ektachrome, but you had to expose the entire roll of film at the pushed speed, or none at all, you couldn’t change in the middle of a roll.

Now with digital photography, if you have the time, you can adjust the ISO to the situation. You can bump it up to freeze motion or under low light situations, or adjust down for shots such as landscapes where high shutter speeds aren’t as critical, and quality is the driving factor.

Again, I have found huge differences between my two cameras as far as letting the camera control the ISO. The Canon Powershot that I have does an excellent job of balancing the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture with everything set to auto and shooting in the program mode.

On the other hand, my Nikon D 50 doesn’t begin to bump up the ISO until shutter speeds get slower than 1/30 of a second, way too slow for handheld use when shooting with the lens zoomed to 300 mm. So I have finally learned to keep the Nikon set at higher ISO settings, for you never know when the opportunity for an action shot will present itself. When I am shooting stationary things, such as landscapes, I adjust the ISO manually down to its lowest setting for quality.

You have to learn the equipment that you use, not try to rely on how other people with different equipment set up their equipment. The only way to do that is to shoot lots of photos with your camera to learn what works and what doesn’t.

That’s the greatest thing about digital photography as far as I am concerned. Pictures cost you nothing! My new way of shooting wildlife is to shoot until the subject is no longer there any longer. 😉 Like the series of the cardinal here. I end up with many photos that end up being deleted, and I suppose I could have deleted a few more of this series of the cardinal, such as ones where it is partially blocked by branches. However, that’s the main reason to shoot many photos of the same subject, especially smaller, faster moving subjects such as small birds. Their movements are quicker than my shutter finger is. I haven’t used the burst mode yet, where the camera shoots as rapidly as it can until the buffer is full, for I can see a problem with that. It would be about the time that the buffer filled and the camera paused shooting to write the photos in the buffer to the SD card that the best photo opportunity would present itself. So I still press the shutter release for every photo, and slow down when I think I may be about to fill the buffer, so I will have shots “left” in case something special happens while I’m shooting, like this one.

White breasted nuthatch taking off

That’s where there is another huge difference between my two cameras, the Canon is slower than molasses in January. There is a noticeable lag between when I press the shutter release, and when the shutter actually fires, and the camera takes a much longer time to reset for the next shot than my Nikon does. I have to remember to slow down when using the Canon, whereas I can shoot as fast as I can press the shutter when using the Nikon.

Either of my two digital cameras are faster than my old Pentax film camera, where I had to manually advance the film after each frame. I got pretty good at that over the years, but there were times I wished that I could have fitted the Pentax with a motor drive to speed it up. There’s no need for that now days, as there is no film to advance and my Nikon recycles so fast that I can shoot a stop action movie of sorts.

So again, you have to learn your equipment, not just its settings, but you have to adjust your style of shooting to fit the camera you use.

Let’s go back to the cardinal again. I know that my Nikon goes for fast shutter speeds when it is set to the program mode, it doesn’t even begin to stop down the aperture until shutter speeds get as fast as 1/1000 of a second. If the camera you use isn’t programmed the same as my Nikon, you may have to use the shutter priority setting to get the shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion. On the other hand, I know I have to switch to the aperture priority mode whenever I want to get any kind of depth of field with the Nikon, such as when shooting landscapes or a still-life.

Another difference between film and digital photography is that back in the old days, you had to learn films. All films weren’t the same, each brand and each type reacted differently to different exposure settings, and you needed to learn how to get the best out of each type of film that you used. For example, Kodachrome slide film produced the best color rendition and saturation if it was slightly under exposed, and that was true of any camera you used Kodachrome film in.

That’s all changed now, color rendition and saturation are a function of the camera itself with digital photography, and I have found that there is a difference between my two cameras on that point as well. I have found that I have had to learn what works with each camera that I use, what works with one produces poor results with the other and vice versa.

My Nikon tends to over-expose landscape shots, I have to use the exposure compensation to adjust down 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop in order to get good landscape photos with it. In fact, I find myself adjusting the exposure compensation a lot with the Nikon, very rarely with the Canon. And, I wrote in the post of the shots of the cardinal, I use the spot metering mode for the Nikon when taking wildlife photos, but, the spot meter mode produces very poor results if I use it for landscape photos, or if I am using fill-in flash.

If you go back to my post “Ludington State Park“, most of the landscape photos there were taken with my Canon, it is easier to pull it out of my pocket and shoot those types of photos than it is to re-adjust all the settings of my Nikon in order to get the same results.

So when you see a photograph that really strikes your eye, rather than asking what the exposure settings were, you should ask why the exposure settings were what they were. Then, adapt and use that information as it applies to the equipment you use.

You could be standing right next to the person that took the photo at the same time, and use the exact same settings, but if you’re not using the exact same camera and lens they are, you could well get completely different results.

I know that many of the differences between my two cameras are because the Canon is a compact digital, and the Nikon is a DSLR, but the Nikon doesn’t respond the same as my old Pentax film camera, or my ex-girlfriend’s Nikon film camera either.

It’s probably also been harder for me to make the transition because of how long I held off before making the jump to digital photography. From my stand point, digital photography is a whole new ballgame, some of the terms have been held over from the days of film, but otherwise there is really not a lot in common. The best example I can give you of that is the effect that the aperture has on the quality of a photo.

Back in the days of film photography, I could look at a photo and make an educated guess as to what aperture the photographer used to take the photo. Small apertures yielded much higher quality photos. I don’t see that with digital photography. I have taken several series of photos with my Nikon, dialing through the variable program settings, from the lens being wide open to stopped down to f 22, and I honestly see no difference in the quality of the photos. They all look the same as far as quality, the only difference is the depth of field.

So what I am trying to say in my long-winded way is that film photography and digital photography are only the same in that in each, the end result is a photograph.

I’ll stick by an earlier recommendation that I made, that some one who wants to get into photography for the first time would do well to start with a high-end compact digital camera to begin with and learn lighting and composition with it. Then, when your skill level is high enough, and you want to move up to a DSLR, you’ll be prepared to do so.

If you’re a skilled film photographer, be prepared to throw out everything you thought that you knew about photography and start over from scratch, there’s that much difference between the two, at least in my experience.

Well, I’ve rambled on long enough here for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Essential bird grooming tips, and how to capture them

On the same day as I caught the two mallards fighting, I also was able to get these photos of a cardinal bathing. There are 33 photos in all, I know that’s a lot, but I keep weeding some out, and I think the ones that remain are too good to not post.

I spotted one cardinal bathing in a creek, but some distance away.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The cardinal may be fairly easy to spot in the photo, because I centered it and was zoomed all the way to 300mm. I was 50 to 60 feet from the bird at this point. Getting closer was also fairly easy, using the weeds you see to the left of center to hide behind as I made my approach.

I am sure I look foolish, crawling around the apartment complex on my hands and knees, but that’s what it takes some times. When I got to the edge of the weeds, the first bird was out of the water, and back in the brush across the creek. I was about to give up, but I noticed other cardinals in the brush, both male and female, and decided to sit there for a few minutes to see if any came out into the open enough for a good photo. Imagine my surprise as another male came to the creek to spruce up a bit.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

You can see that I was in the weeds at this point, and I had to move around some in order to keep the bird in between the branches between us.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The wind wasn’t helping, it kept blowing the weeds around in front of my camera, so I continued to slide forward to the edge of the weeds.

Now, for some shooting information. I was using my Nikon D50, with the ISO set to 400. That was a pleasant mistake on my part, as bright as the day was, I would have normally set the ISO to 200, but I forgot to do that when I started the day. It worked well set at 400 to capture the movement, of both the ducks in the earlier post, and the cardinal in this post.

I have found that setting the Nikon to the spot metering mode works much better for me, but that’s for my particular camera, and I have found out that various cameras may perform differently. My Canon is set to the center weighted mode, and I have never changed it, not once. When using the Nikon for landscape photography, I switch it to center weighted, but for critters, spot metering works much better with it. You have to learn your equipment and its foibles.

I shot these in the program mode, as the program for the Nikon is heavily weighed towards high shutter speeds. Even with the ISO at 400 and the bright sun, the exposure for that one was 1/500 at f 5.6.

OK, back to the bird. It perched on the small branch, and it looked as if it was checking out its reflection in the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then, it dove face first into the creek!

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And started taking a bath.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

I thought that the jig was up at that point, I was sure the bird had spotted me and would be on its way to cover, but that didn’t happen.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

It was if the bird was looking at me to see if I was ready, and then go back to bathing again.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

He had to check himself out again, then back into the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

More splashing about.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Checking to see if I was set….

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then more splashing..

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then he hopped up on a branch and shook himself off.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And he was gone.

Well, that’s it for this one. My plan is to make every one tired of seeing cardinals, leaving them for me. 😉

Thanks for stopping by!


In this corner, Mauler Mallard

This happened on Friday, it started innocently enough. I was standing near one of the ponds here, I was actually watching the geese, who will make a special guest appearance later in this post, hoping the geese would take flight, and I would be able to get some good shots of them taking off. There was a small flock of mallards sharing the pond with the geese, and I noticed that there was suddenly a lot of quacking going on.  I shifted the camera from the geese to the mallards, and saw two males face to face, jawing at each other.

Mallards squaring off for the main event

I couldn’t tell if they were actually touching each other or not, if not, they were very close to one another as the quacking grew in intensity.

Male mallards squaring off for the main event

Then wings began to flail, and the fight was on!

Male mallards winging it out

The two of them started chasing each other around in a circle….

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

I don’t know how many times they went around in circles, I was getting dizzy just watching them. They were using their wings as paddles, and you can see they were throwing up a pretty good wake!

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Around and around they went…

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

They were creating quite a ruckus, between the quacking, their beating their wings on the water, and all the splashing going on.

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

It was a fight of epic proportions…

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Then one caved in, and tried to escape…

The chase is on!

The other, hot on his tail!

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

Those ducks can really scoot!

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

As you watch the chase and the fight continue, keep an eye on the geese as well.

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

The chasing duck went all submarine on the duck trying to escape!

The chase is on!

And popped up to deliver the dreaded butt bite. Notice one goose is watching intently, the other two are paying no attention at all, one is even getting a drink as all this is going on.

The chase is on!

The chase is off!

That looked like the end of it, what with the dreaded butt bite having been delivered, but the loser must have quacked one last insult as it was swimming away, for the winner lit out for the loser at full tilt again.

The chase is back on again!

The loser, knowing his goose was cooked, took to the air to prevent the humiliation of a second butt bite.

The chase is on!

The chase is over.

This time, the loser had enough sense to keep his bill shut, and it was all over except for the winner taking a bow.

The winner takes a bow.

That about wraps this one up, but stay tuned, for coming up later we’ll have a naked cardinal taking a bath…

Northern Cardinal bathing

…..and you won’t want to miss another exciting feature coming soon, when birds soar!

Red-tailed hawk

Thanks for stopping by!


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

I do a lot of my shooting between, between clusters of weeds and/or between branches for example. When I first received the notice that this week’s challenge was Between, I almost rushed to use one of the photos I took of a cardinal bathing, since one problem I had throughout the series was keeping the cardinal between the branches it was behind as I was shooting. I thought no, those photos are worthy of a post of their own, and I am planning on posting so many pics of the cardinal bathing that you will all be tired of them by the time I’m done.

I took this photo on a bright sunny day, it is of the stems of three sumac bushes with the “hairs” backlit and the tallest of the three stems between two shorter ones.

Sumac stems in the sunlight

I thought no, I can do better than that, and so I did. This morning as I was on my daily hike around here, I spotted a red-tailed hawk, and managed to shoot almost 70 pictures of it. For almost all of them, I was working to keep the hawk between branches, since it was perched fairly low in the woods. My troubles were compounded by the wind, which was blowing hard, hard enough to keep moving branches so the shot I thought I had lined up well ended up being ruined by a branch that moved to in front of the hawk as I pressed the shutter. I was shooting holding the camera, and since it was a cloudy day, slow shutter speeds were required, even with the ISO bumped up to 400, so I had to hold extra still and be very gentle on the shutter release in order to capture sharp images.

So without further ado, here’s a few of the better ones.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I threw that one in to show how the small branches were blowing around, messing up my shots.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I really have been hitting the jackpot of late as far as getting some really good photos. I thought my string of luck was over today, I was nearly finished with my hike, and the only pictures I had were a couple of the clouds overhead. Then, the hawk decided to pose for a few photos for me before it flew off. At the rate I’m going, it will be spring before I get all of this week’s photos posted. I may have to take a day off from my daily hikes to catch up. 😉

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Walking around in a fog

One day this week, I think it was Tuesday, was one of the most dreary days we’ve had here in some time. It was dark, foggy, with a little mist and light drizzle to make it a horrible day for photography, unless you’re as crazy as I am. One thing that I have noticed is that the water droplets on things are smaller when it is foggy rather than raining, so it makes shots like this possible.

Water droplets on a spruce branch

Or this one.

Water droplets on a spruce bough

This one will give you an idea just how foggy it was that day.

Fog on the meadow

Here’s another.

Fog over a pond

Maybe because of the fog, I almost stepped on a pair of mallards feeding on the ground, near the pond. They didn’t like that at all, and took off.

Male mallard in flight

But, they only went as far as the pond itself…

Mallard pair in flight

…and landed in the pond where they were safe from me.

Mallards meeting their reflections on the water

I was quite surprised how well those came out considering how dark it was, but I love the way I got the male’s reflection off from the pond.

Everything was dripping wet…

Water droplets on ornamental grass

Water droplets on ornamental grass

That didn’t stop the robins from attacking one of the mountain ash bushes here though…

Robin

Robin eating a berry from a mountain ash

The robins weren’t greedy, they were sharing with the cardinals…

A male cardinal hiding among the red berries

I know it’s a horrible shot, I took it for a reason, to show how well the bright red cardinals blend in when they are perched in a bush full of bright red berries. That got me to thinking about how there is so much red present in the low, thick bushes that cardinals are normally found in. One of these days, I’ll do an entire post about that, for now, enjoy this repeat of a photo I posted a few days ago.

Northern Cardinal

There was no wind at all that day, which made for moody reflection shots.

Trees reflected in a pond

Then I spotted a great blue heron hunting in the pond.

Great blue heron

You can’t see it, but I was hiding behind a pine tree, and I was leaning out quite a bit to get that shot. As I was switching to the other side of the tree so I could continue to photograph the heron, it lunged two or three steps into the water, and dove after a fish. I missed that, I had never seen a heron do that before, it was completely submerged for a short time as it chased the fish. The heron walked back to shore and swallowed the fish.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

OK not the best of shots, but considering the weather, I didn’t think I was doing to badly. I got to the next pond, and there was another heron.

Great blue heron

This one walked back and forth in front of me as if showing off.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Those are a little better, next pond, another heron.

Great blue heron

This one wasn’t as keen on having its picture taken as the last one, off it went.

Great blue heron in flight over its reflection

Great blue heron in flight over its reflection

Three herons in one day! I know that they weren’t all the same bird, there’s no way one could have gotten past me twice, it’s too open around here, I would have seen them flying, as I often do. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the first one diving after a fish, but that’s the way it goes. Besides, it probably would have been pretty blurry from the motion as dark as it was. You can see that in the photos I did get.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Cleaning out the leftovers (photos)

In my last post I noted that I had some photos left over from last weekend, and before I get to the more recent ones, I guess I should start by cleaning the leftovers out of the fridge to make room for the new leftovers from the big holiday feast to come.

That reminds me, one of these days I should do a post about how I pack food and cook while I am camping, but that will be later on. This is about the photos, so I’ll start with an evergreen ground cover, I don’t think it is even native to Michigan, but I liked the pattern it is growing in, the texture, and the color.

Evergreen ground cover

Then, there is this shot of duckweed and the swirls the wind blew it in, and the way the sunlight reflected off from the pond.

Duckweed

I have strange taste, I know. How about a downy woodpecker?

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Then there is this series of a White-breasted Nuthatch doing its thing as it looked for food.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch going under the vine

White-breasted Nuthatch coming out from under the vine backwards

and then up the tree. I probably should have cropped these a little, but you can click on them for a larger view.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Next up is snow on moss..

Snow on moss

I’m not sure, but I think this is a holly vine….

Holly vine?

Then a poor shot of a junco, a slate-colored junco, which scientists are arguing whether or not it is a distinct species, or a variation of dark-eyed juncos, I’m going with slate-colored.

Slate-colored junco

It’s hard to get a good photo of them, they are small, constantly on the move, and spend most of their time on the ground where they blend into the background.

This is a photo of the clouds that day.

Blue sky and clouds

That’s notable for the blue sky, which is rare during a Michigan winter.

Then there are these two of rose leaves and rose hips in the late afternoon sun.

Wild rose-bush

Wild rose-bush

A perfect example of why I’ll never be a great photographer. Neither of those came out quite like I wanted, I should have spent more time on it. I should have a tripod, set-up my camera, play with the exposure settings and focus, maybe even “adjust” the plant to get the shot I had in mind. Oh well, if I had spent an hour there, I wouldn’t have gotten the rest of these.

Magic

That’s Magic, a really cool dog who I run into often, along with his human companions.

The next shot is another almost winner, a chickadee jumping from one branch to another.

A chickadee during a jump

I thought that there was enough light to freeze him, but there wasn’t. It is kind of cool that I got him in mid jump and he’s not using his wings at all. I kept on shooting as he found something to eat…

Black capped chickadee feeding

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

..and with that, he was gone. I love how fast my Nikon recycles for the next shot! I actually have a few more from this series I won’t bore you with, but any one who has tried to photograph chickadees knows they never sit still, they are always moving. With my old film camera or my Canon Powershot, I would try to time when to shoot, hoping for a good one. With the speed of the Nikon, I shoot as quickly as it will recycle, then trash the photos that didn’t turn out well. It may be cheating in some respects, but it works. 😉

Cattails in the evening sun

Stump

I don’t know why, but that stump really caught my eye, I think because of the textures and patterns, and the way the evening sun lit it.

Stump

…and finally, the sunset that evening…

Sunset over the marsh

That’s it for this one, lots more to come, Happy Holidays, and thanks for stopping by!


I feel like I hit the jackpot!

In the last two days, I have taken over 250 photos, and most of them came out very well if I do say so myself. More photos of a heron, a fox squirrel (who thought it was a model) ducks fighting, cardinals bathing, and plenty more, I almost forgot, some more cute chickadee photos as well. It will take me a while to sort through them all, plus some left overs from last weekend. Here’s a couple of teasers.

Northern Cardinal

Mallards mauling each other

Northern cardinal checking out its reflection

On top of that, the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend, and I have three days off! I will probably work on my blog here for the better part of two of those days. I am thinking of going for broke, literally, and heading up north on Monday, I’ll have to see about that one though.

Anyway, I wanted to wish every one a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, or whatever you choose to celebrate this time of year. Every one should have themselves a good old-fashioned celebrate this time of year!

Thanks for stopping by!