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

My week,

Saturday

On Saturday I went to the Blandford Nature Center, you can read about it here.

Sunday

On Sunday, I returned to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve, you can read about that trip here.

Monday

The cool trend from last week continues, with no heat waves or cold snaps in the forecast any time soon. I am loving this weather, it doesn’t get much better here in Michigan in August! This is almost like the spring that we didn’t have this year. I haven’t closed my windows completely in a week, and when I did close them a little, it was because it was so cool in my apartment. It is forecast to be around average for this time of year tomorrow and Wednesday, then a little cooler again for the rest of the week.

Well, it was a rather quiet day today. It doesn’t matter if we like it or not, or what the calendar says, fall is coming! Since it was cloudy and cool, there were few people in the park, and very few birds as well. I think that several more species are moving south already.

I did manage several shots of a female indigo bunting, showing her better than the ones I used in the post on that species, so I’ll add the ones from today to that post, but here’s the best of them.

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

I strayed from my usual style again for this shot of Queen Anne’s lace.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I set my tripod up for these next two, given the very low light today.

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Downy Lobelia?

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Downy Lobelia?

I was too focused on the technical aspects of getting those shots. I had to get the tripod set so that the camera was level, set the ISO down to 100, stop down the aperture, change to one shot auto-focus/continuous manual focus to get the petals closest to me in focus, and a few other things as well.

Those of you who use a tripod and digital camera regularly probably find that funny, but this was my first attempt at a macro shot using a tripod and a digital camera.

It was so much easier back in the days of film. ISO was determined by the film, you set it when you loaded the film in the camera and then left it until switched films. You had one mode of focusing, manual. You didn’t have all those buttons to push and dials to turn to get the camera ready for a shot. 😉

Technically, I would say that they are good. But, I was so busy with all those things that I forgot to get the best angle and composition for the shots. Another learning experience!

That’s OK, I got a sharp photo despite the low light and very slow shutter speeds, and each time that I do this, it will get easier. One thing that would make it easier is to cut a piece of string the same length as each of my two short lenses will focus. Of course I set the tripod up slightly too close to the flowers to begin with today, which is normal for me. If I were to attach the string to the tripod, I could get set up a lot quicker.

All in all, I’m a happy camper, for now I have the equipment that will allow me to make this shot, it’s just a matter of learning to do it quicker and get very good shots rather than ho-hum shots.

Last week, the local camera store that I buy my equipment from sent me a notice that they will be holding a class on Macro photography. I considered signing up, since it is reasonably priced, but I’ve decided against it. I know what to do, or at least I think I do, what I need to learn is how to put what I know into practice.

That’s it for today, time to get cleaned up to visit my mom.

Tuesday

Partly cloudy, and I’ll call it cool, even though it’s a few degrees warmer than yesterday. There were a few scattered rain showers overnight, which is good, we could use the rain. More is forecast for later, that would be nice.

I noticed that a few trees are just beginning to turn color for fall last night while driving for work. It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end, and all too soon.

Well, I’m back. The clouds had thickened up before I made out of the apartment complex, and it remained cloudy for my entire walk. That’s OK, it gave me an excuse to do some more playing with my tripod, and getting used to using it. But first, a couple of shots that I didn’t use the tripod for.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Teasel

Teasel

I did set up my tripod for some shots of goldenrod, but I over compensated when adjusting the focus, so those shots were junk.

I find that both of my longer lenses are just a fuzz off on the focus at the extreme close-up end of their focusing range. I use the Canon’s full-time manual focus capability to make up for that, by tweaking the focus slightly closer manually after the auto-focus gets a lock. For the goldenrod, I tweaked too much.

I didn’t use the tripod for this next one, I used a convenient sign to steady the camera instead. I just like the color combination, which is why I shot this one.

Pretty colors

Pretty colors

Next stop was the what I think is downy lobelia, the same flowers as yesterday. I did one wider shot to show the entire plant, then zoomed in for a few close-ups.

Downy Lobelia?

Downy Lobelia?

Downy Lobelia?

Downy Lobelia?

However, on the shots of one of the flowers straight on, I didn’t tweak the focus enough, so those didn’t turn out. So, the next step will be to switch lenses, and use the 15-85 mm lens, so I don’t have to fool with tweaking the focus, at least I’ve never had to with that lens yet. It’s the best suited of my three lenses for those photos anyway, and it will be interesting to see how well it performs compared to the L series.

But, the L series is the best of my three lenses for birds in flight.

Eastern Kingbird in flight

Eastern Kingbird in flight

There were quite a few birds feeding on berries, and I believe insects, in the thick growth of vines and trees in a part of the park today. It was very frustrating, I could see the leaves moving, I knew that there were birds in the foliage, but I couldn’t see them most of the time. Every once in a while, one would stick its head out, spot me standing there, and fly away before I could get a shot. So, I started shooting them in flight, just for practice.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak in flight

Female rose-breasted grosbeak in flight

It was interesting watching them dive back into the foliage while in flight. It’s hard to imagine how they are able to do so when the foliage is so thick, but they do. Here’s a shot of one of the grosbeaks doing that towards the top of the photo, and towards the bottom, there’s a robin flying out of the foliage. I should go to a different theme, because you can’t really see it well in the small version, but the robin had a forked tail. I’ve never seen that before.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak and fork-tailed robin in flight

Female rose-breasted grosbeak and fork-tailed robin in flight

Here’s a blue jay sticking its head out to see what was going on, but rather than fly away, it tried to hide behind a twig, which was only marginally successful.

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay hiding

Next up are a couple of photos of a young robin. I shot the first one because I like the way that the bird was framed in the leaves.

American robin

American robin

But then, it started feeding on berries, so I had to try for a shot of that. I missed the exact timing, but here’s the robin swallowing one of the berries.

American robin

American robin

I had a good deal of fun playing with the birds, even if the photos aren’t very good. Besides, I’ve noticed that I’ve slowed down a tad over the last month or so as far as getting a photo quickly, so these games of peek-a-boo were good for getting my reflexes back to where they should be.

And, I’ll finish off the day with a couple of odds and ends.

Pokeweed "fruit"

Pokeweed “fruit”

Flower and wasp?

Flower and wasp?

Flower and wasp?

Flower and wasp?

Wednesday

I woke up just after sunrise (I think) to the sounds of thunder off in the distance. That’s way too early for me, so I went back to sleep, and when I did wake up for the day, it still looked as dark as sunrise. I’m on my third cup of coffee, and the sun is breaking through the clouds. I haven’t been outside yet to see how much rain we got, but any is welcome. It’s been somewhat dry here the last few weeks.

It’s also been cool for this time of year, I still haven’t shut my windows since the heat wave broke. If it doesn’t reach 80 degrees (27 C) today, we could set a record for the longest stretch without an 80 degree high temperature during the summer months. Oh darn! 😉

As much fun as I had playing with the birds yesterday, I’m tempted to bring the Sigma lens along today, and waste some more time playing, but I won’t. I want to continue to get used to using the tripod for macro work so that it is second nature to me as far as making all the necessary adjustments to the camera that are required. It went much better yesterday than the day before, even though I ruined the photos by getting the focus tweaks wrong for some of the shots. But, that’s the reason that I am practicing during my daily walks here, so that when I see something truly worthwhile to shoot, I am prepared to take advantage of it.

I’m back. Between the sun and the wind that came up, most of the macro type shots that I thought about were put on hold for a while. Down in the shelter of the valley, I did shoot a few, with the 15-85 mm lens. That lens may not be quite as sharp as the L series, but it takes a great deal of effort to spot the differences. The EF S 15-85 mm is so much easier to use as well, no need to tweak the focus or anything else. Just stop down the aperture for the depth of field that I want, and get great photos.

IMG_9861

Downy Lobelia?

IMG_9863

Downy Lobelia?

Bindweed

Bindweed

Bindweed

Bindweed

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

What the EF S 15-85 mm lens lacks in absolute sharpness, it makes up for in ease of use, and extremely accurate auto-focus even at the limits of its ability to focus. I really need to make more use of that lens whenever possible, but I’ve been having fun extracting the best from the L series the last two weeks.

Yesterday, one patch of bushes and vines that had berries on them was filled with birds of several species feeding on the berries. Today, I didn’t spot a single bird there. There were still a few berries left, maybe they weren’t ripe yet? I’ve noticed that with birds before, they will gorge themselves on one food source one day, then the next day, feed on something entirely different.

Now, I’m going to change the subject to a different kind of bird, warbirds. Divers recently recovered a World War II era Wildcat fighter from the bottom of Lake Michigan. This was one of around 80 U.S. Navy planes sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan.

During World War II, the US Navy had several ships in the Great Lakes converted to aircraft carriers for aviation recruits to practice take offs and landings on before going into battle.

Piloting the Wildcat at the time of the crash was aircraft carrier pilot trainee Ensign William Forbes, who was undergoing his third take-off from the USS Sable on December 28, 1944 in Lake Michigan.

Engine failure caused the plane to roll overboard and the fighter plane was cut in two pieces by the carrier’s bow during its crash. Forbes survived the crash and eventually completed his carrier qualification training in Lake Michigan before becoming a Navy aviator.

The Wildcat is going to be restored at the Kalamazoo, Michigan Air Zoo, an aviation and space museum. As interested as I am in both history and WW II aircraft, you’d think that I would have visited the Air Zoo before now, but I haven’t. It didn’t come into being until 1977, and it began with just a few aircraft. The collection has grown over the years, and it’s now one of the better museums of its type in the country.

After reading about the recovery of the Wildcat, I thought that the Air Zoo would be a great place for me to go this weekend, but after thinking it over, I changed my mind. I’m not going to “waste” this fantastic weather we’re having to spend a day inside, no matter how interesting it would be. I’ll go in the winter, when there are fewer photo ops outside.

Thursday

Well, we made 80 degrees yesterday, so we won’t be setting any records soon. But, the forecast is for continued nice weather for the next two weeks, with slightly cooler than average temperatures, and just a day or two of rain. This is going to be one of the best summers ever as far as I’m concerned. I may be jinxing it, but there’s the possibility that I could go the entire month of August with the windows open all the time. How cool is that?

Back from my walk, what a delightful day! I’m sorry if any of you reading this are suffering through heat, cold, drought or deluges, but this stretch of weather this year is beyond incredible!

There was a good breeze today, which limited the flower photos that I could take, and there are fewer birds around with each passing day. I did manage a few though, starting with some petunias. These aren’t my favorite flower, but I was struck by the color of these.

Petunias

Petunias

The last flowers on the common mullien are opening, fall is coming.

Common mullien

Common mullien

A pair of grasshoppers were enjoying lunch.

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers

I haven’t posted any mourning doves lately, so here’s on of a pair of young ones, although I couldn’t get a good shot showing both of them well.

Mourning doves

Mourning doves

I have posted a lot of photos of song sparrows this summer, but I’m getting this one trained to pose for me on almost a daily basis.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

The weather has been great for me, but it hasn’t been good for butterflies, so any time I get a chance, I photograph the ones I do see.

Black swallowtail butterfly

Black swallowtail butterfly

That’s it for the photos from today.

Maybe it’s the fine weather, but life seems much better lately. My new apartment is OK, especially since I save $250 a month over my old apartment and a storage unit.

My job is a joke, or I should say, my place of employment is a joke, a bad one. However, the hours are great, 5 days a week with maybe an hour of overtime a week. The benefits are good, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that the place is a joke.

I could use more pay, but who couldn’t? Now that the book-keeper at work has put my raises into the accounting software so I get paid what I’m supposed to be paid, I’m getting by OK. When I quit smoking, I’ll be doing even better.

I could find another job easy enough, but it would be hard to find one that had the same schedule as this one. I like working 2nd shift and not having to wake up to an alarm clock, or going days without seeing the sun as many people do who work 1st shift during the winter months do. I like having weekends off.

Most days when I go into work, I never talk to my boss or any one else in management. I check the truck, check how the trailer is loaded, close it up, and I’m on my way. I get to Lansing, unload the carts of clean product, load the dirty product, head to South Bend, and do the same there. One or two days a week, there’s one of the route drivers there at Lansing, but I haven’t seen the boss there in months. It’s so darn easy that there are times I feel like I’m overpaid for what little I have to do, but don’t tell my boss that. 😉

I do earn my pay, I make sure that the truck is always in good shape, so I seldom have trouble the way that many truck drivers do. And, on the rare occasion when I do have a breakdown, I handle it myself without calling any one from management where I work. They would be useless anyway.

I’ve weeded the people who caused me stress out of my life, and that hasn’t left me with many “friends”, but that’s OK too. I seem to attract weird people who want to be my friend, maybe that’s because I’m weird, but I don’t need the aggravation.

I like my life as it is right now, no stress to speak of, no hassles. I get to play outside as much as I want, and in the way that suits me just fine.

I have a great vehicle that I love, my Subaru Forester. No more unreliable gas guzzler that I was afraid to go on long trips with. I’m saving enough on rent to pay for the Forester, and it’s so good on gas that it pays for the increased cost of insurance. The only reason that I’m paying more for insurance on the Forester is that I have top of the line coverage on it, while I had the minimum on the old Explorer.

That reminds me, I need to give the Forester a bath. And, that reminds me of something else as well.

At my old apartment, you weren’t allowed to do anything, not wash you car, or even vacuum it out in the parking lot. Here, they have a station all set up for people to use to wash their vehicle, complete with hoses on reels. One of those little things that you don’t appreciate until you have it, or have to do without it. All the rules are much more relaxed here, a guy up the street from me has a woodworking shop set up in his garage, something that they never would have allowed at the last place I lived, if they had garages there, which they didn’t.

I have a great camera and lenses, and I’m learning how to use them in a manner that maximizes the quality of the photos I get from them.

I don’t have much to whine about these days, maybe that’s why my posts are getting shorter. 😉 My life may not be grand, but it’s pretty darned good right now, I’d better not do anything to screw it up!

Friday

Another beautiful day, what more can I say!

I could whine that they put the playground across the street from my apartment so that I hear kids playing all day, but I think that’s a good thing, and it says something about this apartment complex. Kids do go out to play here, unlike where I used to live. The only negative is the way that little girls shriek at the top of their lungs every thirty seconds for no apparent reason. Oh yeah, that’s part of the female training so they can make themselves as irritating as possible to the men in their lives when they get older. 😉

It’s Friday, and I have yet to make any firm plans for the weekend. I know that I am going to Muskegon next weekend to join the Muskegon County Nature Club’s August field trip, so I could cross that area off from this weekend’s list.

I should do the tourist thing this weekend, and shoot some scenery photos, even though I doubt if they will be great. I’ve been putting that off, knowing that I need some practice before I’ll get great photos, but if I never start, I’ll never get any practice.

Another thing that’s been holding me back is that I know that I can’t possibly get the best lighting for every spot that I would like to shoot. I know me, when I know that the photo that I’m trying for isn’t possible, I more or less throw in the towel and put so little effort into getting the best photo that I can under the conditions that I end up with total crap. If I go, I’ll have to force myself to get the best that I can, and use the photos I do get to plan for doing it the right way when I do have the time to be there with the light right.

Gas prices aren’t great, but they’re not bad compared to where they’ve been all summer. So, I’m thinking that a trip up to the northwest coast of Lake Michigan is in order this weekend. I can do the M 22 corridor trip, I haven’t done that in years. I know that the area will be crowded, that’s why I haven’t been there in years, but there’s some of the best scenery in lower Michigan along that route. I’ll think that over while I’m out walking.

I’m back, and not only have I finished my walk, but I loaded what I could for this weekend into my Forester. Yup, I decided to do the tourist thing this weekend. I’ll do my weekly grocery shopping on my way home from work tonight, then hit the road as early as I can tomorrow. I’m going to attempt to sleep in the back of my Forester Saturday night, it will be tight, but I think that it will work for one night. If it doesn’t work, I’ll sleep out under the stars, or if I totally wimp out, it isn’t that far from home, so I could come back if things go really bad.

Now then, for my walk today, and I’m going to start with yesterday. It was nice yesterday, but there were very few people in the park, and very few birds. Today, there were many more people, and many more birds, go figure.

I didn’t see any new flowers or insects to shoot, so I shot the birds.

Juvenile brown thrasher

Juvenile brown thrasher

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I was stunned by how close I had gotten to the catbird out in the open like that, but things got better. I saw two young cardinals flying straight at me, I started to pull up to try for a shot of them in flight, when one of them pulled up and landed at my feet. If I had the Sigma lens on the camera, I wouldn’t have gotten this shot, that lens wouldn’t have focused as close as the bird was to me.

Juvenile female northern cardinal

Juvenile female northern cardinal

Being deep in thought about the trip this weekend, I had a brain fart, and forgot to adjust the exposure for this next one.

Highbush cranberries

Highbush cranberries

Two more from today, then I’m going to go back to getting ready for my trip.

Blue jay

Blue jay

Juvenile female northern cardinal

Juvenile female northern cardinal

I have the camera battery charging. My sleeping bag and bedroll are in the Forester, along with a few other odds and ends, but I still have more to do yet to get ready, like check a map and find a place to sleep. There are a few campgrounds in the area where I am going, but they could be full by the time I get there. It’s good to have a backup plan.

No matter what, the trip this weekend will certainly warrant a post (or two) of its own, so I am going to end this week here.

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

14 responses

  1. Flowers are on both sides so it’s probably Great Lobelia. Nice shot of the Black Swallowtail!

    August 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    • Thanks Robert, my skills at identifying plants is sadly lacking.

      August 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm

  2. I’m sorry that you are running out of things to moan about. That’s hard. Still you have taken a wide and interesting selection of pictures this week so we have nothing to moan about either so we are all in the same boat.

    I liked the rabbit and teazle best of all.

    August 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    • Thanks Tom. Not to worry, I’m sure that I will find something to complain about soon enough.

      August 10, 2013 at 2:40 am

  3. I love lobelias & liked the Tues whole plant shot a lot – it’s hard to get that right in the field, with so much other stuff around. The pokeweed fruit shot is beautiful, I thought. The flower under that with the wasp is a mint of somekind, if that helps – maybe you know this, they almost always have square stems (feel them) and paired leaves, and flower heads ina spike, or in the leaf axils. Your tale about concentrating so much on the technical side that you forgot to compose the shot right resonated, though I’m almost always on the other side of that dilemma! The cranberries – wow!

    August 9, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    • Thanks, Identifying the things I photograph is not my strong suit. For years, I just took the photos and that was good enough. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been trying to get better at the IDs. Thanks for the tips!

      August 10, 2013 at 2:50 am

  4. I also loved the rabbit and I actually like Petunias. They are sweet and simple flowers. The color you got on the one you shot was pretty spectacular. I find the reds, pinks or purples are the hardest to reproduce exactly. Yours just about glowed.

    August 10, 2013 at 4:23 am

    • Thank you! I walk past the petunias every day, but for some reason, on the day that the photo was taken, they looked different because of the lighting.

      August 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

  5. I’ve never met downy or great lobelia in person but your shots show hairy stems and leaves and after looking at some photos online I think you might be right. By the way, if you Google ‘blue (or any color) wildflowers Michigan” you’ll come to the US Wildflower’s Database of blue wildflowers that grow in your state. It works for any color or any state. It’s a quick, easy lookup.
    I should use my tripod a lot more than I do but I easily find excuses not to. My main excuse is I don’t like carrying it on long hikes. I refuse to spend $200.00 or more for a backpack that will let you strap a tripod to it, so I tend to use a monopod more than anything else.
    The wasp is a great black wasp. The only reason I know that is because I ran into one last week and looked it up.
    Hope the trip is a good one!

    August 10, 2013 at 7:30 am

    • Thanks, I’ll have to look for that link. I’ve been getting better with Google searches, which is how I identified the lobelia, and several others lately.

      I have a monopod, and a good one, but I didn’t find it helpful enough to carry it, even though it doubles as a walking stick. I agree on the backpack as well. The tripod I bought came with a carry bag, but it has heavy string/light rope to sling it from, but that cuts into my shoulders if I use it alone. I’ve had an idea, but haven’t checked it out yet. I’m going to look at tackle carrying options for fishing. Manufacturers of that type of gear do a better job of producing usable products, and at lower costs.

      August 10, 2013 at 9:25 am

  6. I am always amazed at how much you post during these weekly wrap-ups. You really have a rich life even though you don’t like your job. It sounds like your job allows you to experience this richness.

    August 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    • Thanks Kathy! The place I work is beyond belief, I couldn’t get a straight answer as to when some one becomes fully vested in the retirement plan, or if we have dental insurance. The pay’s not great, but the schedule is perfect for me, and I seldom have to deal with management, so there are upsides. 😉

      August 11, 2013 at 12:52 am

  7. I really enjoyed your up-close tripod experiments. Is that the “Macro” you mentioned? (Sorry, know nothing about photography! Just know I enjoy yours. 🙂 ) I thought that teasel shot was really good! And the dew or rain drops on the lobelia. Also really liked the pokeweed, the Queen Anne Lace, the high bush cranberry, the bindweed and the petunias. Hey, I guess I really liked them all! Hope you had an excellent weekend get-away!

    August 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    • Thanks, glad you liked them. Macro photography is extreme close-up photography. I don’t have a true macro lens yet, but two of mine are close to it, and with cropping, come even closer.

      August 13, 2013 at 2:12 am