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

My week, back to the grind

Tuesday

Well, I survived my whirlwind tour of a small part of northeastern Michigan. It seems strange to be starting one of my weekly posts on a Tuesday, but that means I only have to work four days this week.

It has warmed up, and there’s been rain falling off and on all morning so far, so I’m in no hurry to venture out today. That’s compounded by the fact that I am stiff and sore from this weekend. I don’t know if that’s from sleeping on the ground, or the workout I gave myself, probably a combination of both. But, being in no hurry to go walking in the rain gives me some time to try to organize the photos I took this weekend into some coherent groups, as there are far too many for one post.

Back from my walk, the sun was trying to break through the clouds early on, but I could hear a rumbling in the distance that could have been thunder, or could have been the heavy trucks on the expressway. It turned out to be thunder, I took shelter from the lightning in one of the restrooms in the park where I walk while the storm passed overhead. I was glad that I brought the short lens and not the Sigma, because I ended up walking home in the rain, not that I mind, but I don’t want to ruin the Sigma.

I only shot a few photos because of the weather, they’re nothing special, I haven’t even downloaded them from the camera yet. My mind is still on this past weekend, and all the photos I have from that trip, I don’t need to add to my workload, as I’m still in the unpacking, and refitting stage of this trip, so I’ll be ready for the next one.

So much of my outdoor gear is getting old, and will soon need to be replaced. One of the poles for my tent is starting to split, I have no idea why. I’m sure that I can get a replacement pole from Colombia, but I really want one of the tent/cot combos that I’ve seen. One of those would be much more practical for just me on a short trip like this last weekend.

My usually reliable Coleman lantern gave me trouble Saturday night when I tried to get it to light, it seems to have developed a leak, not good.

My poor old New Balance synthetic hiking boots are past worn out, to the point where they are falling apart, but they are so darned comfy. I wonder how many miles those old boots have on them, it has to be in the thousands given how long I’ve had them, and how many hikes I’ve done while wearing them.

There are times when I think that it would be nice to have some one else along with me on these trips, it sure would make the chores easier to have two people to do what needs to be done while setting up and breaking camp.

Also, for other reasons. I no longer take any time on one of these trips to just relax, I was on the go from Saturday morning until I left for home on Monday, except for eating and sleeping, and I did myself wrong in the eating department. By Monday when I was hiking in Negwegon State Park, I done run out of gas and had to cut my hike short, but you’ll read about that in another post. It takes time to cook and clean up afterwards, and I don’t take the time, there are always more important things to do.

As you can probably tell, my mind is still on my trip, so I should get to work on the posts about that.

After finally getting around to downloading the photos, here are the ones from Tuesday.

Sparrow about to feed its young

Sparrow about to feed its young

Phlox

Phlox

Turkeys in the rain

Turkeys in the rain

Lavender

Lavender

IMG_4537

Brown thrasher

IMG_4543

Wall of white

Wednesday

Warm, humid, cloudy, with the threat of rain at any time. The only nice things about the day were the breeze that made it bearable to walk today, and the number of birds to watch. Since there was the threat of more rain, I took only the 70-200 mm lens, I’m not even sure that I took a photo of a bird today. The wind limited my flower photos to just a few of the very short flowers blooming, I still haven’t downloaded any photos to my computer since I got back home. I doubt if any of them are spectacular. I still have so much to do both as far as blogging about the past weekend, and taking care of business at home.

Since Monday afternoon, it has been raining here on and off, heavy rains some of the time. Yesterday afternoon and overnight, there were severe storms moving through west Michigan, possibly tornadoes as well. Nothing close to home, but it did make for an interesting night at work, keeping the rig on the road in the wind, and trying to see through the heavy downpours and the lightning displays. After a flooding in April, we had a dry start to May, now we’re back to flooding again. We’ve gone from cold to heat to cold to heat. The local meteorologists are all over the place as far as their forecasts, the one constant is that the rain is going to continue to come and go for the next few days, so I doubt that there will be many photos for this week.

After finally getting around to downloading the photos, here are the ones from Wednesday.

White phlox

White phlox

Petunia

Petunia

Kingbird in flight

Kingbird in flight

Small white wildflowers

Small white wildflowers

Thursday

Hot, humid, but with the first sunshine I’ve seen since Monday.

I heard of a news story in the Wall Street Journal, about how Europeans have begun buying massive quantities of wood from the United States and Canada to burn to produce electricity. Yeah. Because of the European Union’s carbon cap-and-trade treaty to prevent global warming, burning wood is considered to be carbon neutral, since trees grow back. Yes, they do, but how long can North American forests support such a stupid policy? Are we going to wipe out the forests once again?

The US is swimming in natural gas, which burns so much cleaner than either coal or wood, and while those in Europe could be burning gas from the US and letting our forests happily soak up carbon, because of idiot environmentalists, that won’t happen. No matter where you stand on the issue of climate change, this is just pure stupidity!

OK, with that off my chest, I still have more posts to do on my Memorial Day weekend trip, but I had better spend some time here, even though I will be discussing the photos that I took this last weekend for the most part.

The Sigma 150-500 mm does a good job on flying birds when they are large, slow fliers like this crane.

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

But for smaller, quicker birds, it comes up lacking. Part of that is because on large slow birds, I have time to make the setting adjustments to the Optical Stabilization and other settings required to get a good shot. When shooting smaller, quicker birds that appear and disappear suddenly, I don’t have that option.

I have to learn not to zoom all the way to 500 mm when attempting flying bird shots, but it’s so darned tempting to do so and fill the viewfinder with the subject, that would go a long way towards improving my bird in flight photos, as would getting more practice. Funny thing though, I no longer like getting bad shots just to be deleted later, so I find myself passing up opportunities for practice, since I know that I will just delete the practice shots. Playing mind games with myself, one of my favorite pastimes. 😉

This weekend was also the first time that I had any real use for the polarizing filters I bought for the two shorter lenses. The filters fooled me as far as adjusting the exposure for the scenery shots. I would look at the scene, think that I should go down a third or two-thirds of a stop, but after adjusting the polarizing filter, and the sky got much darker in the viewfinder, I shot all the scenery pictures straight up with no adjustment to the exposure. I did check the LCD display, but as I said before, it doesn’t match the final photos after they are downloaded to my computer. Live and learn.

For the time while I was fine tuning the settings for each lens, I didn’t make any exposure adjustments either, as I didn’t want to add another variable to the equation. Now that I have the settings for each lens saved, I can pay more attention to getting the exposure correct again, and that applies to everything, not just scenery.

That actually applies as much or more to my daily walks, as I’ll be photographing more flowers as they appear. Getting the exposure correct for each color of flower is extremely important, more so than with birds. So, here’s my photos from today to use as examples.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly

Tiger swallowtail butterfly

Small white wildflowers

Small white wildflowers

Small white wildflowers

Small white wildflowers

Red clover

Red clover

Hobblebush

Hobblebush

Lavender

Lavender

It was good to see a butterfly for a change, they have been few and far between so far this year.

For the flowers, white is always a difficult color to get the exposure correct on, especially when the flower is in full sun. I went down 1/3 stop, I should have gone down 2/3 for those in the photo above. For the hobblebush, I picked a flower head in filtered sunlight for a better exposure, and made no adjustment. I shot the red clover using the sun for backlighting, and shot that one straight up on purpose, a little blow out on the outside tips of the flowers is OK, it adds to the effect I was going for.

Blues and purples don’t blow out the way that white does, but they do tend to look washed out or faded if overexposed, so I went down 1/3 stop for the lavender, and I’m happy with that one.

It dawned on me while I’ve been writing this, that what I am trying to achieve in my photos is exactly what I used to go for while shooting Kodachrome slide film in my old Pentax. I welcome and even encourage criticism of my photos, I may be out of touch with today’s standards. 😉

Since the weather forecast for the weekend is iffy at best, and since my bank account is getting lower than I would like it, I’ll be sticking close to home this weekend.

That’s it for today.

Friday

The heat and humidity continue, and I have zero energy this morning. Truth be told, I’d like to sit around and do nothing today. But, I know that after I force myself to start moving that I’ll feel better, so that’s what I’ll do, right after another cup of coffee.

I published the 100th post to the My Photo Life List project last night, yet another milestone passed, and, I have photos of at least thirty more species saved and ready to be inserted into drafts. That puts me well past one-third of the way through the list I’m working from, but around forty short of half way. I know that things will slow down now that the spring migration is about over, and the fall migration isn’t very good as far as photographing birds. In the fall, when the birds aren’t in their breeding plumage, they are much harder to identify. I would like to make the half way point this year, we’ll see.

The saving grace while walking today was a stiff breeze that made the heat and humidity tolerable. Of course the wind also made photographing flowers more difficult, but I managed a few shots.

Petunia

Petunia

A "wort" of some type I believe

A “wort” of some type I believe

???

???

Fleabane?

Fleabane?

Phlox

Phlox

As you may be able to tell from the photos, the sun was also in and out of the clouds. It was actually pleasant, and a lot of that had to do with the birds singing.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

The thrasher photos aren’t that great, but anytime I catch one of them out in the open and singing, I’m going to shoot it. The catbird and cardinal photos are just as they came out of  the camera, no cropping at all. I also shot a great blue heron in flight, but with the haze and milky skies today, I’m not happy with the photos, even though most of them were very sharp. I need to go heron hunting on a good day to see just what my new equipment is capable of. 😉

A pair of red-tailed hawks have a nest in one of the large pine trees across the street from the park I walk in daily. Earlier this year I watched them carrying sticks to build the nest, this morning, I watched one of the hawks visit the nest carrying food. If I were a “real” birder, I would walk over there and see if I could spot the nest itself, and camp out there for a while each day.

Of course, if I were a “real” birder, I would list every species of bird that I saw each day, so I guess I’m not a real birder, just a pretend one. The list would soon become very repetitive, as I see the same two dozen or so species everyday. The numbers really don’t matter to me, I know that may be hard to believe when I write so much about the number of species I have for the photo life list, but it’s the photos that count, not the numbers.

But, enough of that nonsense, back to the hawks. I noticed that while they were building the nest, and now when they are carrying food to their young, that the hawks come in low in their approach to the tree where the nest is, well below treetop level, then pull up abruptly as get to the tree. I wonder if they do that in an attempt to remain unseen by possible predators?

That’s it for today, I’ve still got photos to sort and words to type about this last weekend.

Saturday

You know that it’s hot when I don’t attack my first cup of coffee before it has cooled off quite enough for that first sip. Changes are coming though, I can feel it in the air this morning.

I have made it through the first two heat waves this year without turning on my air conditioning, something I was wondering if I could do. This new apartment doesn’t have central air, just a wall unit in the living room. I’m thinking that I may move my living room furniture around and sleep on the floor of the living room if I do ever need the A/C. The electric bill when I ran the A/C at my old apartment was very expensive, I’d rather not find out how expensive the wall unit is to run.

But, at my old apartment, I lived on the top floor, with the sun beating down on the roof, and the heat from the lower apartments drifting up into mine. Here, I live on the first floor, and they bermed earth up around the walls almost to the bottom of the windows, which helps keep this place cooler, plus, the cooler air from my upstairs neighbor’s A/C probably helps keep my apartment cooler than it would otherwise be. Anything to save a buck!

It’s funny, the electric utility came through here to install energy-saving compact flourescent bulbs if we wanted them to reduce our use of electricity. However, my electrical usage is so low that they have slapped a $7 per month “access fee” to my bill because my usage is so low. Of course they love that, the $7 per month is pure profit for them, they are charging me for not using the electricity they sell. Got to love it.

I should apologize for going on at length about setting up my camera and the exposure settings, but there are a couple of people who have asked me for help in their photographic endeavors, and besides, critiquing my own work is the best way that I know of to improve my skills.

Despite the heat and the breeze, I’m going to haul all of my equipment with me today, even though I’ll be walking the extended version of my usual daily walk, we’ll see what I come up with. Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler, possible showers in the morning, but it’s forecast to clear in the afternoon. If that does play out, I’ll go over to Palmer Park and see if I can find any birds there.

Well, time to get moving before the heat gets worse, or the storms predicted for later today arrive.

Now what do I do? I didn’t get many bird photos, but the ones that I did get are pretty darned good if you ask me.

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

That photo was not cropped at all, I now have larger than life photos of red-winged blackbirds!

Rock dove (pigeon) in flight

Rock dove (pigeon) in flight

I saw many butterflies for the first time this year.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

And, I switched to the 15-85 mm lens and went crazy on the flowers!

Blackberry flower?

Blackberry flower?

Even my worst photos of the day aren’t that bad.

Bird’s foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

Male hairy woodpecker

Male hairy woodpecker

Clouds

Clouds

These posts get long enough as it is, I don’t need to add 50 more photos to this one.

So, I guess what I should do is add the rest off the bird photos to the posts that I have already done on red-winged blackbirds and rock doves, post the rest of the hairy woodpeckers to that entry when I get to it, and do another post on all the flowers and butterflies from today, and possibly tomorrow as well. That sounds like a plan.

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

Advertisements

13 responses

  1. I think my favorite shots are the cardinal and the Monarch butterfly. Your unknown yellow flower is yellow goat’s beard (Tragopogon dubius). I think what you suspect might be fleabane is actally oxeye daisy. I don’t remember any of the fleabanes having leaves on the stem like those shown, but I could be wrong.
    Last weekend it was about 49 degrees here and my fingers felt frozen as I was doing some planting. This weekend it’s more like 94 degrees and is too hot to do anything except complain about how hot it is. I’m banking on it straightening itself out soon and giving us a perfect, 70 degree weekend.

    June 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    • Thanks Allen. I’m sure that you are correct in your identifications, I am so bad at plants, the only thing that I have to go by is other blogs. I never know what to do after some one (mainly you) makes the correct ID. Do I change it in the post, which makes it look as if I knew something that I really don’t, or do I hope that other people see your comment and know that you supplied the correct ID? I would like to give credit where it’s due, but photo captions, aren’t the best place for that.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

      • I don’t worry about getting credit Jerry. Just trying to help out your plant knowledge as you do with my bird knowledge.

        June 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

  2. That photo of the flock of turkeys is great! I know what you mean about the a/c. We don’t have central air in our house, we have 3 window units we put in – one in the main living room, one in the dining room at the back of the house and one in our bedroom. I really don’t like them because I hate having the house all closed up and they block the light since they are in the windows! So, we put off putting them in until we can’t stand the heat anymore. Thankfully, it looks like we will be cool all this week, so I get another week’s reprieve before we might have to put them in! Also, I hate the electric bill after we start turning the a/c on. Also, since our cabin up north is seasonal, we pay our electric bill up there once a year. Since we are low usage, we have to pay an extra $150 “access fee” every year on top of our bill for our electric use. I think that’s a crock, but oh well, we don’t have any say! It’s also a non-profit co-op where we are supposed to get a portion of the extra money back but in 12 yrs we’ve never gotten anything back and they won’t credit the bill! Hope you get a nice cool-down this week!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:54 am

    • Thanks Amy. There’s never an easy answer or easy solution to any of these things. I know that any taxes that Consumers Energy would have to pay would be passed on to us, the consumer, but it still irks me that they have escaped paying state income taxes the past few years by using tax credits for purchasing “green energy”, then they turn around and ask for donations above and beyond your bill to help them move to green energy sources. And, I won’t even go into how environmentally harmful most of that so called green energy really is.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

  3. What a great week you had with such beautiful scenes. So happy you’re enjoying your new camera and lenses so much. For the camping thing – see..that’s why I like car camping ! Drive up to the camp site and everything you’ll need is in the car. 🙂

    June 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    • There are pluses and minuses to every type of camping, but they’re all good.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm

  4. I have to say that your new camera gear is turning out some great pictures! Of course the photographer has a lot to do with that, just so that doesn’t sound like the camera did all of the work…you know what I mean!

    You mentioned New Balance hiking boots- I really like that company’s walking shoes, which I use on good trails. I have a pair of Hi Tec light hiking boots for rougher terrain. Anyway, I remember when I found the New Balance walking shoes which fit me perfectly and comfortably- I bought a couple extra pair, because you know how it goes- a company makes a great product, but they can’t just leave that alone, they have to try to make them cheaper and before you know it the product isn’t as good as it was (even though the price creeps up). I have 1 pair of these particular walking shoes left, then I have to try to find another good model number that fit my feet well…that’s my equipment story for the day!

    June 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    • Thanks, the new camera and lenses are working out great for me, just like old times before I made the mistake of purchasing the Nikon that was driving me crazy.

      I have several pair of New Balance shoes, but the hikers that I’ve worn out were my first synthetic leather boots, so I wasn’t sure how I’d like them. I should have bought several more pairs the day after I wore them hiking for the first time! I hope that I can find something similar.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    • …and I found that WSJ article about Europe burning American forests for energy as wood pellets. I can’t find words to describe this, and I better leave it at that.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      • Crazy, isn’t it?

        June 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  5. Superb close-up of the Red-winged Blackbird photo, Jerry! I loved your Friday’s phlox photo with the sunlighting, very nice. Great week as usual!

    June 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    • Thanks, I tried a good many shots of the phlox before deciding on that one.

      June 8, 2013 at 2:47 am