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

Labor Day weekend

Saturday

Let’s see, when I published the last post, I had cut my Saturday walk short because I wasn’t feeling well. After drinking copious amounts of water, and taking a nap, I was feeling much better. I went online to check the weather forecast, and saw that the temperature outside was a full 10 degrees lower that what the morning forecast had predicted. So, I went out and did the part of my morning walk that I had skipped.

I’m going to start with two photos, one done right, the other one not so right. Normally I would start with the worst one, then show the better one, but with my new theme, I have to change my ways.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

That one was my second attempt, here’s the first.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

When I saw the mantis the first time, I shot the second photo because I didn’t want to crash through three feet of brush to get to the spot that would produce the better photo. I was quite pleased with myself for having spotted the mantis over 30 feet from me when I first saw it, and getting close enough that it almost filled the frame.

But, I hadn’t walked more than a few yards down the trail when I thought to myself, “Quit being lazy, go back and do it right!”, so I did, which is how I got the first photo.

I brought my tripod, and even used it for a few shots.

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Grass "flower"

Grass “flower”

Grass "flowers"

Grass “flowers”

Grass "flower"

Grass “flower”

I did a cropped version of the last one, the detail was great, but I didn’t like the over look of the photo, so I went with the wider view here.

One last photo from today.

Blue damselfly

Blue damselfly

Not perfect, but not bad. I had to use manual focus, but didn’t have time to set up the tripod and switch the camera to live view.

But, doing things the right way sure is paying dividends for me as far as the quality of the photos I’m getting overall. Even better is having a camera that responds to doing things the right way, unlike my old camera which didn’t. The better that my photos become, the more likely it is that I am willing to take the time and put forth the effort to get the best photo possible.

I did run into trouble while using my tripod, it is a Vanguard, not the world’s finest by any test. I paid just over $100 for it, the legs seem sturdy enough, but there’s a bit of play in all of the adjustable parts, and I have to be very careful to make sure everything is locked securely. It works fine when I have the 15-85 mm lens on the camera, it’s tolerable when using the 70-200 mm lens, but it would never hold up if I were to mount the Sigma 150-500 mm lens to it. Maybe I’ll win the lottery one of these days and be able to afford a good tripod.

Sunday

If there were such a thing as a day wasted outdoors, today was an example of it, for I have few photos to share. But, no time spent in the woods is ever really wasted, it just wasn’t a good day as far as photography.

It should have been a fair day for photos, I was up at 5 AM, and at Palmer Park just after sunrise, 7:30 AM to be precise. I was up so early because the forecast was for sunny skies early, and rain in the afternoon. I should know better by now, the entire five hours I was in the park, it was cloudy and hazy. Now that I’m home and typing this, it’s sunny.

There were plenty of birds around, but I never got close to any, or if I did, I would have been shooting almost straight up towards a milky white sky. My one bad bird shot of the day is this one.

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

The wood ducks around here are extremely wary. There were a few of them hanging out in a flock of mallards, and I could tell that they were wood ducks because they immediately swam for cover as soon as they spotted me through the brush. Meanwhile, the mallards continued to play, but I didn’t shoot any of them. I shot that at 500 mm, and cropped the photo somewhat to show you how far away from the ducks I was, and I was peering through brush when the wood ducks spotted me, they have incredible eyesight.

Deer, however, do not.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I shot that one just to see if I could pull it off. I shot that handheld using the beast set at 150 mm and 1/30 Sec. It may not be a shot in the dark, but it was close.

Here’s another that I shot just to see if I could do it.

Falling leaf

Falling leaf

I would say that I was bored, but I really wasn’t, I was a bit disappointed though. I thought that being in the park so early that I would see tons of wildlife, but what do I know. Being in a heavily shaded park on a day with a heavy overcast did work in one way, it was cool, even if my photos aren’t.

There were many interesting fungi around, I passed many of them without trying for a photo since the light was so low. I thought about changing lenses and just shooting the fungi, but Palmer Park is known for owls, and it was an owl kind of day, I thought. No luck there, so in spite of no light, the rest of the photos from today are of fungi.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

Wait, that’s not really a fungus, it’s a wasp nest, complete with wasps! I gave it a wide berth, then decided to see if I could pull that shot off. Handheld at 1/25 Sec. Not great, but not too shabby either for how little light that there was.

Every photo from today was shot using the beast with the camera setting the ISO to 1600, and the fastest shutter speed of the day at 1/400 of a second. Other than the shot of the wood duck, the beast was set at 150 mm for all the rest. It was that kind of day.

There’s supposed to be a strong cold front headed this way, and passing through the area overnight. The temperatures tomorrow are forecast to struggle to 70 degrees ( 20 C), that will definitely be a change from what we’ve had the past two weeks, and I hope that it happens, as I’m tired of the heat and humidity again, and I may start complaining if the weather doesn’t change soon.

I’m keeping an eye on the radar, if it looks like thunderstorms are heading this way, I may venture out and try my hand at getting photos of lightning strikes.

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve again, I hope for better luck then as far as a few birds.

Monday

Well, the storms were a bust, nary a drop of rain in my part of Michigan. It didn’t cool off overnight either.

I spent some more quality time with the manual for my Canon 60D camera yesterday evening, I’m liking loving this camera more everyday, if that’s possible. If I read the manual correctly, there may be a way for me to save all the settings I use when I do close-up photos, and change everything back and forth with the turn of one dial. That would speed things up considerably for me.

I also read some of the online reviews of the 60D that were written when that camera was first introduced to the market. As usual, I find the experts amusing. Their biggest knock against the 60D is that Canon simplified the controls to be more like Canon’s Rebel line of entry-level cameras, and that the 60D has an aluminum and plastic body rather than a magnesium body. Actual photo quality doesn’t seem to matter much to the experts. To them, a camera can only be considered a serious camera if the controls are so convoluted as to preclude the average Joe from being able to navigate his way around the controls.

The 60D shares the exact same sensor as the 7D, which the experts love. The sensor may not be everything, but it is the determining factor as far as the quality of the photo that the camera electronics start with, and therefore plays a major role in the quality of the final photo that we see.

To sum up the reviews that I read, “Great photo quality, but the controls are too easy, just like one of the Rebel line of cameras, so it can’t be for serious photographers”. I like things that are easy to use!

Anyway, the reason that I threw that in here is that as you may know, I would like to have a second camera body. I was going to save towards a 7D, but now I’m not so sure.

The 7D does have features that I would like to have, such as the full metal body and better weather sealing, however, the question is, are those things worth it to me, being on a limited budget. Since Canon has introduced the 70D, I see that online retailers are beginning to discount the 60D bodies, as if Canon was going to discontinue the 60D. If the prices drop much more, I may be better off picking up another 60D as a second body. That would give me the most bang for my limited bucks, and I think that the photos that I am getting from my current 60D speak for themselves.

Right now, I could buy a 60D online for $600, a 7D would cost me close to $1,500. I don’t think that the quality of the photos I would get from the 7D would be twice as good as what I’m getting from my current 60D, and there’d be no learning curve if I had two identical bodies. The cost difference between the two bodies would “pay for” a good macro lens. Things for me to ponder today as I wander around the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve. And, since it is getting a bit light out, I’d better get moving.

I’m back. In a weird quirk of weather, the temperature dropped almost ten degrees from the time I left home to when I got to Pickerel Lake. It was a day of promise!

Striking sunrise

Striking sunrise

Starting down the trail, it wasn’t long before I was seeing wildlife.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Eastern poebe

Eastern phoebe

I got to the larch swamp, and ran into a predicament that I run into quite often, what do I shoot, the flowers….

Unidentified flowering object

Turtlehead flowers

..or the birds?

Ruby throated hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbird

…the flowers…

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…or the birds…

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

…or the flowers…

Aster

Aster

…or the birds?

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

What I really wanted was that second body, so that I could set it up on the tripod with one of the short lenses on it and photograph the small flowers that the Beast doesn’t perform that well on, and keep one body with the Beast on it to get shots like these.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

In case you haven’t guessed, I decided today to order a second 60D, even if it is an “entry-level camera, fit only for beginners”. I simply can’t turn down an opportuninty to save $300 on a camera body that performs so well for me. Given the wide range of subjects that I shoot on a day like today, the second body will see a lot of use.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Unidentified flowering objects

Unidentified flowering objects

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Garter snake (For Emily)

Garter snake (For Emily)

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Most of the time, the factor limiting the quality of my photos is the fact that I’m not willing to stop every few feet, set all my gear down, swap lenses, shoot what has caught my eye, swap back to the Beast, then strap all my gear back on myself to continue on. That’s not going to change. The flowers and fungi here would have come out much better if I had shot them with a shorter lens, but it’s too much of a hassle to swap back and forth all the time. If the Beast wasn’t such a beast, it would be much easier to swap lenses more often. But, with its size and weight, I need a solid surface, usually the ground, to set things down on so that I don’t accidentally drop something while swapping lenses.

I’m more than happy with the 60D! With the Beast mounted to it, it does an excellent job of picking small birds out of the foliage, as seen in the first few photos from today. When I use the shorter lenses as I should, it does an excellent job on flowers, insects, and other subjects, as seen in my photos from Saturday in this post.

So, why should I worry about what the experts say?

Well, enough of that babble, time to get this published, then head to Applebee’s for a free steak dinner!

Since I haven’t got this theme completely figured out, I’d better insert a good photo rather than end on that last one.

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

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

Advertisements

25 responses

  1. Two bodies good, money saved good, Photos of UFOs very good even with wrong lens.

    September 2, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    • Thanks, my thoughts exactly, saving money is always good.

      September 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

  2. You got some great shots, no matter what lens you were using. it’s a good thing you went back for the praying mantis shot. It was so humid here all weekend I couldn’t keep lenses from fogging up. The white flower after the phoebe is a turtle head (Chelone glabra). I like the sunrise!

    September 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    • Thanks! I think that relief from the humidity is headed your way, if only for a few days. It was very nice here today, it cooled off after sunrise.

      For the mantis, that’s one of those times that I had to stop settling for less than my camera will delivery. This isn’t the old days of using the junk Nikon any longer. That’s also why I should change lenses more often. The Beast won’t focus closer than around 11 feet, which leaves just one angle to shoot mushrooms from, and a very short depth of field to boot. A shorter lens would give me more possibilities as far as angles, and then I’d also get the entire subject in focus.

      September 2, 2013 at 8:00 pm

  3. plantsamazeme

    Beautiful Grass Flowers, nicely done. Birds are beautiful as usual. It did cool off today, finally. The first flower pic, white, is turtlehead. Thanks for sharing your walk with us.
    🙂

    September 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    • Thanks for the comment and the ID!

      September 2, 2013 at 8:01 pm

  4. There’s no way I could choose a favorite from these. They’re all beautifully done! As always, thanks for inviting us along on your walks!

    September 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    • Thanks Jan, anytime.

      September 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm

  5. I so enjoy your blog and am slowly learning the art of photography. Wonderful pics!!

    September 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    • Thank you! And, so am I.

      September 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm

  6. Your shots have taken a quantum jump in quality. Don’t know how much is getting more familiar with the camera and/or lenses; or possibly the new blog theme may be showcasing them better, It’s likely a combination though not sure how much weight to credit to give to either factor. A long winded way to say your images are looking quite wonderful.

    September 3, 2013 at 1:26 am

    • Thanks! The biggest improvement is the new camera and lenses. Added to that, because they are so much better than my old stuff, I’m making adjustments more often, and being more selective as to when I shoot.

      September 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

  7. Enjoy your photos, especially since you’re shooting in my backyard! Thanks for the praying mantis photo lesson

    September 3, 2013 at 8:59 am

    • Thanks Judy! The difference in the mantis shots is the difference between settling for a good snapshot, or taking the time to get the best light and angle.

      September 3, 2013 at 9:05 am

  8. The grass “flowers” are stunning.

    September 3, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    • Thank you, and thanks for checking out my blog!

      September 4, 2013 at 1:27 am

  9. Wonderful nuthatch photos. I love the expression on its face!

    September 4, 2013 at 3:09 am

    • Thanks, it was busy finding breakfast, which is why it looked so happy!

      September 4, 2013 at 9:02 am

      • 🙂

        September 4, 2013 at 9:13 am

  10. Great shot of the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar! It brings back memories of my childhood days when I used to be curious with the bug world and looked for all these things and tried to identify them. It’s a completely different world down there! And, quite fascinating!

    September 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

    • Thanks!

      “What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of a child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.” ~ Sigmund Freud

      September 4, 2013 at 9:30 am

  11. The new look & the new photo gear (& a new way of looking at the subjects?) have taken your blog to a new level! The thoughtful selection of close-ups make the reader feel like they are right there. Love the captures, esp. the chipmunk!

    September 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

    • Wow! Thanks for the great compliment! My old camera and lens wouldn’t have gotten the chipmunk under the near dark conditions where the munk posed so nicely. Quality is breeding quality, my new gear is capable of stunning, so now I am willing to put in the effort that it takes to achieve that when it is possible. I got lazy using the old Nikon, because it produced junk no matter how hard I tried.

      September 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

  12. I love the falling leaf. Great mushrooms! The phoebe is sweet – such a characteristic pose, also the nuthatch – amusing! And a very pretty confusing fall warbler, if that’s what it is.

    September 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    • Thanks, I still haven’t figured out what warbler that is.

      September 9, 2013 at 1:02 am