My Week, baby steps.
I started out on Saturday morning birding with the Muskegon County Nature Club. That is worthy of a post of its own, which you can read here, if you haven’t already seen it. But, after they gave up for the day, I wasn’t ready to return home to the heat, or to leave the woods, so I headed to Lost Lake for the afternoon. That’s generally worthy of a post of its own, but I found very few flowers, nor could I catch many birds in the open. Besides, it’s hard to see birds while napping! I had gotten up just after 6 AM, way too early for me, but I had to meet the birding group at 8 AM, so I dragged my butt out of bed to make it, almost. I was a few minutes late, as I had to stop on my way to shoot this guy.
For some reason, that reminds me of something else. I had entered a photo contest sponsored by the Blandford Nature Center, which I did a post on recently. I entered one of my photos of a water-lily, it came in second, to a photo of the center’s resident bobcat, in a cage, not exposed very well, and somewhat fuzzy. Oh well, that’s the way popularity photo contests go.
Anyway, I was already tired by the time I began my hike back to Lost Lake. It isn’t far, a mile if I remember correctly, but I didn’t take my tripod, so as to save carrying some weight. Bad idea, but it will take me some time to completely change my ways, and do everything the right way. I sure could have used the tripod, as all the flowers I did find, save one, were very small, and in difficult places to get a good photo of them. I did the best that I could with the 15-85 mm lens, but the tripod would have made these much better.
Well, make that two flowers that were large, the water lily, and these cardinal flowers that I really needed the tripod for.
I needed more depth of field to get everything in focus, but couldn’t get it without going so slow on shutter speed that the images would be blurry.
I said that I napped, when I got back to Lost Lake, I laid down on one of the benches and took a little snooze, this was the view that I had before dozing off.
It was so pleasant there, cool, with the breeze coming off from Lake Michigan, and quiet, other than the sounds of birds and squirrels. There’s no better way to beat the heat than a shady spot near Lake Michigan. After my short nap, I headed over to the eagle nest to see if they were around, on the way there, I shot these.
I actually saved a few more, but after the photos that I got on Sunday, there’s no reason to post them. Oh, and the eagles have flown! The nest was empty, but I hung around for a little while to see if any of the eagles returned, as they sometimes do, but I had no luck there. So that wrapped up a pretty good day.
After the trip to Muskegon yesterday, I was going to limit the number of photos that I shot today. I may have to do that more often, as you will see. I’m not going to post all that I shot, but it was a considerable number. First though, I’m going to start with two rather ho-hum shots, petunias, and a growth that I found on the underside of sumac leaves.
I’ve spent a lot of time around sumac, but I’ve never seen these growths on them before. I saw several, all on the same tree, but couldn’t find any others. I would assume that it’s a gall of some type, but that’s a guess on my part.
As luck would have it, in his weekly Saturday post, Allen who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog, had a small blurb about these galls, which is where I learned what they are.
Now for the goodies, starting with a ruby throated hummingbird.
I wish that I could find a male that would pose like that, but they’re all too busy chasing each other around as they are very aggressive at defending their territories.
While I was shooting her, I could hear this next bird chirping away, it took me a while to spot it, but I got him.
I was trying to work closer, and to where I had a clear view of him, when from right behind me I heard a voice say, “It’s beautiful, is it a bluebird?”, and with that, he was off. The joys of walking in a public park, oh well, I got more than enough great photos of him as it was. I still have shorebirds to ID from Saturday, so that’s it for today. It may end up being a short post this week. I have to visit my mom tomorrow, then a dental appointment on Tuesday, and sometime this week, I need to take my Subaru in for its regular service.
I finally had to break down and close the windows of my apartment yesterday during the heat of the day, it has cooled off overnight though. That’s an unusual August in Michigan, I went at least two full weeks, maybe three weeks with the windows open all the time.
The forecast is for hot and muggy during the middle of the week, but I’ll try not to complain too much. These last few weeks have been the best summer that I can remember.
As I said, I went to Muskegon on Saturday and joined the field trip of the Muskegon County Nature Club. They are nice people, but on average, a lot older than myself, and very few of them are photographers. While out in the field alone, I have run into some other members of that group who are photographers, and that I got on well with. But, I found out that it’s rare for them to join the field trips. After having been on one, I can understand why.
Also there on Saturday was a group from Grand Rapids, and they are much closer to my age, in fact, they have a number of members who are quite young. There are also more photographers in the Grand Rapids group, and their field trips are geared more towards photography, so I think that I will go on one of their upcoming field trips, and see how that goes.
In the near term, I think that I’ll return to Muskegon again this weekend. The weather is forecast to be hot, and it’s always cooler near the big lake, and it’s the best birding spot in this part of Michigan.
A quick check of the photos that I have saved for the My Photo Life List project shows that I am just twenty species short of half way done towards completing the list I’m working from. What a major milestone that will be! I may have to go back to posting to that series twice a week for a while, it would really be something to me to make it halfway through the list in one year, since I started in January this year.
Enough of that, time for a walk.
I’m back, and it’s getting warm out there, warm enough that my eyelids were sweating. 😉
Most of the resident summer birds are gone, even the eastern kingbirds have left. So, I was quite surprised to see a pair of Baltimore orioles fly past me, sorry, no photo. But, it points out that bird migration is such an unpredictable thing, the resident orioles have been gone for weeks, yet birds from even farther north are passing through the area now.
I suppose that there is some logic to that. The birds that travel farther north arrive at their home range later in the year, and because of that, breed, nest, and raise their young later in the year as well. Still, you would think that the residents would hang around until the food supply began to diminish, so that they would be in better shape for their trip south.
I did manage a few photos, starting with one from last night actually, the nearly full moon.
I was working on my blog last night, looked out the window, saw the moon, and realized that I had never tried the Sigma lens out on a moon shot, not too shabby.
Anyway, my walk today was like most days, a little of this and a little of that, nothing special until I was on my way back, I’ll get to that in a second here. In the meantime, enjoy these two shots of regular guests here.
Sorry for so many shots of the finches lately, but I’m training a few of them to pose for me. I get a little closer each day, eventually I’ll get THE shot of a goldfinch that I’m looking for. The turkeys I shoot any time that I catch one out in the sun, they are very wary birds, and quite colorful if you catch them in the right light.
The only thing out of the ordinary that happened today occurred as I was on my way home. I looked ahead of me to see a Cooper’s hawk gliding just inches above the path.
I haven’t seen any hawks around here lately, not even the red-tailed hawks that nested across the street from the park, so it was good to see a raptor around here again. The hawk landed on the ground ahead of me, what it was hunting for, I have no idea. I’ve never seen one actually make a kill, but I have seen them flying very low before, maybe they cruise along low to remain unseen by their prey, then swoop up to make a kill? It would be a good tactic, since most other birds of prey swoop down, and therefore the Cooper’s hawk’s prey may not suspect danger from below.
I remember having them almost hit me back at the old apartment complex, they would be flying very low through the trees just as the one above was doing, and the hawks and I would “meet” while rounding corners of the sidewalks. If you were to go back through the archives of my blog, you’d find some very blurry photos that resulted from those encounters.
Hmm, that brings up a couple of other things. At the old apartment, I would see the hawks of all species there using the updrafts created by the air heated by the sun beating down on pavement to gain altitude. I would see the Cooper’s hawks gliding just inches above the streets and sidewalks. I wonder if the heated air rising off from pavement helps them to glide that low with minimal flapping of their wings? I’ll also bet that it is a lot easier for them to spot prey while they are gliding along a man-made opening like the path or sidewalks.
Anyway, I was going to try and get closer, but a jogger coming from the other direction spooked the hawk, and I never saw it again.
That’s it for today, time to get cleaned up and visit my mom. I don’t know if I’ll have time for a walk tomorrow, I have a dental appointment at noon.
No walk today, I got home very late last night, actually, early this morning. Two big traffic jams caused me to not get home until 2 AM. I have the dental appointment at noon today, so between sleeping in later, and having to be there at noon, I am going to miss a day for the first time in nearly a year. That’s OK, my legs have been feeling tired the last week or so, maybe a day of rest will revitalize them.
I don’t want it to sound as if I am an expert on hawks, hardly, but I do think that there is something to what I observed yesterday. Hawks are very intelligent birds. The red-tailed hawks at the old apartment complex would show up on Wednesday afternoons, as the lawn service mowed the grass on Wednesday mornings. The hawks would pick off the rodents injured by the lawn mowers, and/or find the ones that were exposed with the grass being shorter.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Cooper’s hawks would use paved paths and sidewalks for hunting purposes. They have to receive some lift over pavement to help them stay aloft with minimal use of their wings, and they have a clearer sight path to possible prey in the opening of the path. In the “wild”, I see them either perched low in trees, or hurtling through the woods in search of possible prey.
Dashing through trees to catch birds is a dangerous way to hunt. In a study of more than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the wishbone. So the hawks probably like having a clearing close to the edge of a wooded area where they can fly without the danger running in to anything.
Next up, my vacation. I am submitting a request for the last full week in September, and it should be approved, no problem. I hope that the trees retain their leaves until then, so that I can capture some good landscapes with the fall foliage in full color. The way things are going this year, that may be iffy, but typically, the first of October is the peak for color in northern Michigan.
Speaking of landscapes, I realized something over the last two weeks. While I was up north at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I was shooting objects, more than true landscapes, which is why my heart wasn’t truly into it. The reason that I love flora and fauna photography so much more is that those photos are of things that I “discover” myself. I hunt them down to photograph them, not so with the subjects that I shot on the trip up north.
This past weekend, while at Muskegon, I “discovered” the clouds reflecting off from one of the lagoons there, I am inserting that shot here, even though I have already posted it before.
It still isn’t as good as I would have liked it to have been, but it was impossible for me to get the exact angle that I wanted. If there had been a hill to stand on to get me higher above the water, I could have tilted the camera down more, which would have produced a better photo. I did try tilting down from where I was, but the foreground was rather ugly, as you can see. I tried zooming in to cut the foreground out, but then, I lost the grand scale of the view.
But, the point to all this is that I worked this shot, unlike the photos taken on the trip two weeks ago. The difference being, this is something that I “discovered”, I wasn’t walking up to a known landmark and snapping a photo. I put more effort into the photo above than I did in all of the ones from the trip up north combined, and it shows, at least I think that it does.
I’ll have to keep that in mind whenever I try landscape photos. I know that when I take my vacation that I’ll be shooting a few landmark type photos, I’ll need to work on those, rather than settling for a postcard type shot. But, the biggest lesson that I re-learned is to seek out beautiful landscape besides those that are landmarks. Yes, at one time I knew that, but it was something that had slipped from my memory over the years.
One more thing for today, on my way home from the dentist, I stopped at the camera shop and checked on a few things, primarily a split prism focusing screen, but that store doesn’t carry them. I’m not willing to take a chance on a $20 knock-off from China, even if it is that cheap. I may switch over to the live view for macro shots, which is the only time I need help with focusing anyway. With the camera on the tripod, that won’t be a problem. It’s worth a shot, or two, or three. 😉
I also checked on a couple of other things, nothing worth babbling on about.
The heat continues to build, and it’s only forecast to get worse over the next week, possibly longer. Because of that, I’m not going to carry the beast with me for the next few days, just the two shorter lenses. That is, unless I begin seeing migrating birds passing through the area.
I was going to photograph some flowers on Monday, but didn’t feel like taking the time to switch lenses, because it is much harder to do so with the beast on the camera. Its weight and size demand that I find a solid spot to set things down on, and with dew covering the grass that morning, the ground wasn’t an option. I rationalized my decision not to change lenses by telling myself that the flowers will be better subjects later in the week when there are more of them open to choose from. What it really boiled down to is that I was too lazy that day to make the effort. Carrying just the two shorter lenses removes at least one of my excuses for laziness.
I’m back, I was all set to try to photograph some of the flowers using the live view while the camera was mounted on the tripod, but there was a stiff wind from the southwest that’s pushing the hot air in. I played with the live view mode yesterday after I returned from the dentist, I think that it will work well for stationary subjects, and that the camera has to be on the tripod for it to work well. Now I need to find stationary subjects.
I did attempt a few handheld shots as I would normally do, they’re nothing special, so they’ve been deleted.
I probably should have just deleted these next two, I’ve posted many shots of hawks in flight, and most of them show the hawks much closer than these two. However, these are the sharpest shots of a hawk in flight that I have gotten, and that’s saying something.
How strange is it that I go for nearly a month without seeing a hawk here at home, then see a Cooper’s hawk on Monday, and a red-tailed on Wednesday?
The red-tailed was circling the field, and moving a little closer to me with each circle. I thought about just standing there to get a closer shot, but if the hawk would have followed the same pattern of circles that it had been making, by the time it had gotten closer to me, the light would have been all wrong. So, I took a chance and walked down the trail to be in a better position, but as soon as I moved, the hawk broke off from the pattern it had been flying, and headed somewhere else, darn.
I stood for a while at the same patch of wildflowers going to seed where I have been “training” the finches and the male indigo bunting to pose for me, just so that the birds would become more used to my presence. I did shoot one photo of the male bunting, I’ll post it, what the heck. It’s not as good as my earlier ones, but I don’t have any other photos from today to post.
The main reason for posting that one is a test of sorts. Since I have changed themes, and I’m posting larger photos, the disk space that each photo required was higher. So, I have begun to reduce the quality of the photos slightly more to cut down the file size of each photo. The bird is nothing special, I almost deleted that shot. However, how sharp the plants were in the original version really caught my eye. That makes this a good photo to judge whether or not I’m losing too much sharpness at the new settings for quality that I’m using. It isn’t as sharp as the original, but it’s OK for my blog. I don’t want to post full quality photos anyway. I just read another blog about how some one had stolen the content of one of that blogger’s posts, and that the thief had posted that content as their own.
A line of thunderstorms moved through the area last night, bringing some much-needed rain! The winds were so strong at one point last night that I had to slow down a little because the wind was blowing the trailer around behind me. I can tell you, that’s not a comfortable feeling!
All day yesterday, the meteorologists were telling us that there probably wouldn’t be much, if any rain last night, wrong again!
As for today, the clouds have lingered on, and with the rain, the humidity has shot up, a lot. There wasn’t much of a breeze, so I thought that I would try shooting flowers in the live view mode to see how well it worked. However, the light was so dim today that shutter speeds approaching a full second would have been needed at the apertures that I would have wanted for any photos. I’ve never had good luck shooting with those long of exposure times outdoors, there’s always enough movement in the subject to cause the photos to be blurry, even when using a tripod.
There were a lot more people in the park than I expected, given the weather. And, the people there today were in groups, wandering all around the park. When the young mothers bring their children to the park to play on the playground equipment, it only bothers the birds in that area. With groups of people all over the park, I never got close to a single bird, well, not close enough for a photo.
I only shot one photo for the day, only so that I could say that.
It isn’t even very good, but it is the only one that I even attempted.
Since there were no other photos, or a lot to talk about as far as my walk today, I had typed a long dissertation on photography, but, it was too long, and too technical for this post, so it has been removed to appear in another post in the future.
Well, I did it, not very well, but I tried. What I’m talking about is setting the camera up on the tripod, and shooting in live view to get the focus perfect. That’s going to take some practice, but I can see the possibilities there. On the plus side, switching to live view and using the 10X magnification does allow me to get the focus more precise than auto-focus does. On the down side, when zoomed in 10X, I missed on the composition and exposure that I wanted. But, changing the way that I do things is going to be like baby steps, learning as I go.
I’ll insert the photos, then continue to prattle.
I found using live view to be somewhat of a pain in the rear, mostly because this was the first time that I used it. I quickly figured out that the way that I normally make any adjustments wasn’t going to work. For example, scrolling through the exposure solutions that the camera came up with to pick the combination of aperture and shutter speed that I wanted to use. Using live view required that I switch to the aperture mode and set the aperture that way. No big deal.
I would set the camera and tripod in place, and use auto-focus to get the focus close. Then I would switch the to manual focus, enable the live view, zoom in, and then manually tweak the focus.
I think that I should have tried zooming to 5X to start, I also need to read the manual again. I didn’t necessarily want what I was focusing on to be the center point of the photo, but I wasn’t sure if, or how, I could change that. I knew that if I focused on a spot, then moved the camera for the composition that I wanted, that I would lose the focus.
Somewhere in there, I forgot to switch from partial spot metering to center weighted, so my exposures are off a little. I stood there trying to remember what else I had to change, but it escaped me at the time.
OK, enough babbling, I’m not a brook. The biggest thing is that it worked, what I wanted in perfect focus came out in perfect focus, now it’s just a matter of putting what I learned today into practice.
I went back to playing human tripod for these next few.
I made one other mistake when trying the live view, I used the 15-85 mm lens rather than the L series, the lens that the live view would be even more useful for. However, two things struck me while using the 15-85 mm. One was that the focusing ring on that lens is very narrow. I’d never had to manually focus that lens before, the auto-focus works so well, or so I thought.
That was the other thing that I noticed, the auto-focus that I used to get close looked perfect in the view finder, but when I zoomed in 10X in live view, that lens did require a slight amount of tweaking of the focus.
Anyway, I’m going to stick around here tomorrow and do the extended version of my daily walk, and begin planning my vacation next month. Then on Sunday when the heat is forecast to return with a vengeance, I’m going to go to Muskegon for the day to escape the heat.
I learned quite a few things today, things that I should have already known. There will probably come a time in the future when I saw exactly the same thing about exactly the same things. I’ll get to those as I go.
It’s warming up around here, it wasn’t too bad today, but it’s only going to get worse for at least the next week. I’m going to do my best not to complain, but looking at the forecast and seeing the high temperatures and the humidity levels, that may prove to be impossible.
I did the long version of my daily walk today, and heard very few birds. There haven’t been many singing for well over a month, but I usually hear a few chirps or alarm calls now and then, but there were even less today than normal. I saw even fewer birds, I may have to resort to shooting mallards again.
I could shoot more fungi, something that I haven’t done much with my new gear.
OK, one of the things that I seem to need to relearn almost daily is that if something catches my eye to make me think about photographing it, then it is worth getting the best shot I can.
I saw a few of those, but I couldn’t see the tiny purple flowers with my unaided eye. I took the shot above as a throw away shot of sorts, just to see what it would look like blown up on the computer. After doing so, I wish that I had put more effort into getting the best shot that I could.
I did try very hard for these next few, but the bees wouldn’t sit still for me.
I learned that trying to shoot in the live view mode when there is any wind at all is an exercise in futility. Getting set up and making the necessary adjustments to the camera went much better today. But, I would get zeroed in on a flower, then the slight breeze blowing from time to time would start the flower I had chosen dancing like Gene Kelly in his prime.
I learned that when flowers stop moving in the wind that they never return to the exact spot that they were before the wind moved them. That required me to start the process of getting the precise focus over again right from scratch.
I learned that flowers can be perfectly still for many minutes, as long as you have your camera pointed at a different one.
I learned that as soon as you point your camera at a flower that hasn’t moved in five minutes, it will begin dancing at the exact moment that you are ready to press the shutter release.
I think that you get the idea. Here’s the rest of the photos from today, minus all the blurry ones I shot in live view.
Since this post is already too long, and with too many photos, I’m going to end it here. Since I’m going to Muskegon tomorrow, be prepared for at least one post full of shorebirds. 😉
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!