My Week, back home
It’s never fun to return from a vacation. I still have a lot of unpacking to do, along with all the other stuff involved, like making sure everything is set for my next trip, whenever that will be.
Still, I managed to get in the extended version of my daily walk, in fact, I forced myself to do it, while carrying all my camera gear. One thing that I learned on my vacation is that I’m either getting old, or that I need to do more to get back in shape.
I have come to the conclusion that I will never be able to just sit down and relax for very long while I’m on a trip somewhere. I spend enough time sitting around by myself at home, and when I’m out in the woods, as long as there’s light, birds and critters to see, and places to explore, I’ll be on the move until my body gives out, like it has the past two trips this year.
Eating better while on a trip would help, but taking time to eat cuts into the short amount of time that I have on these trips. Sitting around a campfire in the evening is too much like sitting behind the wheel of the truck at night, nothing to do but think to myself, and I do enough of that at work. I’m either going to have to find some one with the same interests as I have to go along with me on these trips, or face the fact that I’ll be on the go until I can’t go anymore.
Anyway, I managed a few shots from today.
One thing that I noticed on vacation is that I was out of practice shooting small birds in the brush. I saw thousands of warblers and other songbirds migrating, but I had a difficult time capturing many of them because I hadn’t been doing enough small bird photography lately. So, that’s the reason for so many of these photos today.
After waiting for the overnight rain to clear the area, I did the full extended version of my daily walk carrying all my gear again. It seemed like such a waste in a way, but, birds, and other things are where you find them, as you will soon see.
I’m actually writing this on Monday, as I did the entry for Saturday. I’ve been so busy unpacking and putting stuff away, that this is the first chance I’ve had to start this week’s post. I picked up my tent/cot Sunday, the thing is huge! I have to make room to be able to set it up inside my apartment. I also got together with my brother, his wife, my sister, and her husband, and a couple of my nieces Sunday, so I’ve been busy. Here are the photos from Sunday.
While walking in the deep wooded area, I spotted a new to me species of warbler. I was going crazy trying to keep up with it as it moved around in the thickest brush it could find, but I did manage one shot that came out well.
The rest of the photos were junk, and I knew it without having to look at them. Out of desperation, I took the lens hood off from the Beast, turned the flash on, in hopes that there would be enough light reflected off from the foliage to light the warbler. It worked.
I know that this juvenile song sparrow was a male, because it was trying to sing softly from time to time, getting ready for next spring, when he will be singing for real.
That’s it for Sunday.
I’m getting caught up, so it’s time for a walk. The weather is cool and clear, so it could be a good day.
It was a good day! Most of my walk today was rather mundane, until I was almost home, when this young hawk swooped in to land on a branch almost right over me.
Here’s a few more, only one of these is cropped at all.
Knowing that the hawk would eventually fly away, I stood there holding the camera on it for as long as I could hold the Beast up, which wasn’t long enough. So, I would rest my arms until the hawk seemed to have spotted something of interest, then I would hold the camera on it until my arms got tired again. After doing that a few times, I shed all the rest of my camera gear, as the hawk seemed in no hurry to leave.
I was considering setting up the tripod, and switching the quick release plate for it from camera body number two to the Beast, but in anticipation of the hawk spreading its wings, I found that I had the Beast set at 250 mm so that I wouldn’t chop the hawk’s wings off. So, I had either a brainstorm or a brain fart, your call.
The hawk watched intently as I set up the tripod, switched body II from the short lens to the 70-200 mm L series, mounted the camera on the tripod, and changed all the camera settings from what I used for landscapes to ones that would work for the hawk taking flight. I even set the drive mode to burst, thinking that there would be a chance for the camera to shoot several photos before the hawk moved out of the field of view of the camera. I stood there with my finger on the shutter release and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.
The hawk seemed quite amused by me standing there watching it, and even talking to it, practically begging it to fly. A guy rode by on a bike, the hawk watched him pass, then went back to looking for food, while keeping an eye on me.
Here’s a cropped photo from the L series lens.
Here’s one that has not been cropped at all. At the time I thought that the hawk was scratching, but now I think that it was really flipping me off.
You can see that I was set up with the hawk near the bottom of the frame, expecting it to leap up and off the branch when it took flight. My back up plan was having body I with the Beast setting at my feet with the OS turned off, ready for a bird in flight photo.
No such luck, the hawk leaned forward, rolled down off the branch and out of the camera frame, as I hit the shutter release to fire a burst of empty sky photos, the hawk dropped, spread its wings, and then proceeded to do an impersonation of a ruffed grouse by weaving in and out of the trees as I grabbed the other camera and tried to get a shot of the hawk in flight. I did get the hawk in the viewfinder several times, but couldn’t get a focus lock before it dodged behind another tree. Better luck next time, at least I got excellent photos of it perched.
Wouldn’t you know, I get home from my vacation, and the price of gas is dropping like a rock.
I’ve just posted another species in the My Photo Life List series, I know that I’m jumping around, taking species out of order of when I shot the photos, but what difference does it make? A quick count of the species “on file” that I have saved on my computer tells me that I’m just over 160 species, very close to the half-way point of 175.
I just hope that I don’t become a birding snob in doing that series. While on my vacation, I stopped at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, and attempted to strike up a conversation with a few of the birders there. That did not go well, if one isn’t carrying the play at home version of the Hubble Telescope, a pair of 20X power binoculars, and carrying your birding lens in a wagon, the serious birders can’t be bothered to chat. If your birding stories don’t start with sitting in a blind in sub-zero temperatures for three days and nights without food or water, it doesn’t count. Oh well.
The weather is unseasonably warm, but there’s a good breeze today, so it shouldn’t be too bad out there. But, I’d better get a move on before it does get too hot for me.
Well, unseasonably warm and sunny was the forecast, as I was eating breakfast, a layer of thick cloud cover moved in, and it was pleasantly cool for my walk.
I saw quite a few birds today, many more than usual. They were all fairly common species, and the light wasn’t that great with the thick cloud cover, so all I did was play for the most part. To get back in practice for small birds, I would get them in the viewfinder and get a focus lock, but not actually shoot the photo, except for these two.
I think that the woodpecker qualifies as meeting my target of a wallpaper quality photo of the day. Since I’m both judge and jury, that makes it easy to hit my target. 😉
The birds that I saw were obviously small flocks that had stopped to feed on berries and seeds in the park, there were plenty of goldfinches, song sparrows, robins, flickers, and others migrating, and they were joined by chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches, and titmice that are permanent residents here.
I think that I’ll call today’s entry done, and work on sorting more of the photos from my vacation last week.
Well, the sun is out today, it’s cool now, but the next few days could be interesting. The forecast is for a heat wave of sorts, with scattered showers and storms through Sunday, then turning much cooler.
I still haven’t put everything away from my trip, I still haven’t tried setting up the tent cot yet, and I still haven’t finished all the posts I plan to do from my vacation. Busy, busy, busy. Time for food.
I’m back. I’m thinking that I should have closed the windows before I left, not because of coolness, but because of the heat. Here it is the first of October, and other than over-nights while in the UP, I have yet to put a jacket on this fall. What an incredibly great summer and fall we’ve had here. Just a few hot and humid days, in early summer and early fall, but other than that, pleasantly warm temperatures for the most part.
I did something stupid today, not that it’s unusual for me, but I took just the Beast with me today. I’ve been carrying all my camera gear since I arrived home from vacation, to get into better shape while doing my daily walk, I thought that my body could use a break today. There was very little wind for a change, it would have been a great day for flower photos of the few flowers left. Silly me.
I did shoot one flower photo though.
I’ve also chosen that one as my wallpaper for the day, not that it is great, but I like it more than the rest of my shots from today. Here’s the other two contenders.
There were about the same number of birds around as yesterday, but they were more scattered around the park today. Once again, I played for the most part, getting a focus lock on birds, but not shooting the photos as none would have been all that great. I did shoot this one though, not because it is good, but as yet another example at how well the Beast attached to either of the 60D bodies can pick birds out of very thick foliage.
That shot was not cropped at all, I was quite surprised that I was able to get a focus lock on the goldfinch, I was shooting through a tunnel of leaves that wasn’t even as big in diameter as the Beast is. I probably should have left that photo out, and I should probably also quit bragging about how well the Beast performs in thick brush, but I am continually amazed by the Beast’s performance in that respect.
My other bird shot of the day is of a hawk in flight. I think that it was the same hawk as on Tuesday, but I can’t be positive. Once again, it landed almost directly over me. However, this time it didn’t stick around for an extended photo shoot, I hadn’t even gotten the camera on it before it took flight again.
Because of how quickly everything happened, I didn’t have time to turn the OS off on the Beast, or to adjust the exposure at all. Still, not too shabby considering everything like shooting through the trees to get the hawk.
I’ve finished emptying my Forester, and putting almost everything away, so my workload is getting lighter. I do have to replace a mantle on my lantern so it’s ready to go when the need arises. I’ll have to move furniture around to set up the tent cot inside, I also need to give the Forester a bath and a good cleaning inside while the weather is still good, and renew the lease on my apartment for another year.
Another sunny pleasantly warm day for the first of October, but changes are on the horizon. Checking the weather radar, there are a few scattered showers to the west, but I don’t think that they will make it here before I complete my walk today. Just to be sure, I had better get a move on.
I’m back, there was no rain, very few birds, and little else to photograph today. I brought my entire kit with me today, hoping to find a few flowers to photograph, but there were few good specimens to be found. Here’s the only one I thought worth shooting.
At the creek in the park, I played around a shot a couple of reflection shots, that I’m not completely happy with.
I may not be happy with them, but they do serve as a learning experience for me, so they aren’t a complete waste.
I have decided that the only other photo that I saved from today, of a Cooper’s hawk in flight, was a complete waste, so I have deleted it.
I suppose I could talk about the government shut down, but I really see little reason to. Most people think that it is due to “partisan bickering” because that’s what the media tells them, without ever considering what’s really going on or why.
The truth is, 95% of the media doesn’t know or understand what’s going on, they just repeat what others in the media say. The 5% who do have the intelligence to know what’s going on characterize the fight between the parties as partisan bickering so as to position the media as better than the politicians.
The latest non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report says that the Affordable Care Act isn’t going to be affordable at all, not to individuals forced to buy insurance policies that will cost much more than first forecast, or to the government, which will go bankrupt within ten years from the cost of this new entitlement.
Oh well, why bother, no one cares until they get hit with the bill, then they will grumble and blame both parties for the cost, even though this is their chance to fix things before they get hit with the bills.
On a lighter, but just as boring of a note, I have added a long prime telephoto lens back onto my want list. In fact, I’m back to the one that I originally had on my list before I was forced to start buying new camera gear before I was ready when the Nikon died.
I love the Beast, but it’s still a beast no matter how well it functions. I missed shots of wildlife while on vacation because I didn’t carry the Beast with me at all times, and part of the reason that I didn’t have it with me at all times is its weight. There were other reasons for not carrying it, like the crowds at some of the more popular attractions such as waterfalls, but the main reason was how much it weighs.
At a little over 4 pounds, it’s simply too heavy to carry all the time on a day like last Tuesday, when I hiked well over ten miles total. It’s too heavy to keep it on quick little birds in the brush, or larger birds in flight. I know, I do get some of those shots with the Beast, but I miss many of them, which of course, you don’t see.
So, I have added the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM back to my want list. However, since the Beast does perform as well as it does, I’ll be in no hurry whatsoever to make that purchase.
The 400 mm is rated as one of the sharpest lenses that Canon makes, it’s about the right length for what I’ll use it for, and best of all, it weighs just over half of what the Beast does. I wish that it had IS, but at the price of $1339, one can’t have everything. That lens is light enough that I could use it on the tripod, I’ve never tried using the Beast on the tripod that I have as I know the tripod couldn’t handle the weight.
In reality, my want list is really quite short now, it consists of the Tokina 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens, the EFS 400 mm lens, and a couple of small items like a remote control for the 60D bodies.
It’s warm, humid, dark, and gloomy this morning, after a little rain overnight.
The next few paragraphs may sound as if I am bragging, I suppose that I am in some respects, but it’s more than that. When I first turned on the computer this morning, I went to the public view of my blog and watched the slide show at the top of the page run through a few times. Then I scrolled through the last few posts that I’ve done.
I’m darned proud of the photos that I shot while on vacation, even if a few of them have a picture postcard look to them. I think that more than a few of them surpass the photos that I shot during my last trip to Yellowstone, which was the zenith of my days as a film photographer.
Part of that is due to the huge improvements to the quality of the lenses made these days over what I had to work with back then. However, that brings up another reason for me to be proud, assembling the photo equipment that I have that is as good as it is on the budget that I have to work with. It’s not as if I had an unlimited budget to go out and purchase top of the line camera bodies and lenses, it’s almost the opposite, I chose mid-priced items that work very well for what I photograph.
Having two camera bodies worked out extremely well for me while I was on vacation. I mentioned this before, but while I was shooting the sunrise over Portage Bay with one body mounted on the tripod, I was using the second body and the Beast to capture these photos, which wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t had two bodies.
On the tour boat to the Pictured Rocks, having two bodies came in extremely handy again. I took both bodies set up for landscapes, one with the 15-85 mm lens, the other with the 70-200 mm L series. The tour boat is on a schedule, they don’t pause to let photographers switch lenses back and forth, and I didn’t have to. I would grab the body with the correct lens for the subject at the moment and shoot away.
So, if I’m not bragging, what’s the point to all this?
My point it to show other budding photographers out there who are on a tight budget what can be accomplished if you ignore advertising hype and expert opinions, and shop carefully and wisely. Lenses are the determining factor in photo quality, put your money into the best lenses you can afford, and just about any camera on the market currently will produce very good photos.
I am very proud of the photos I have gotten with my new kit, and I am also very proud of the way that I put the kit together. The two EOS 60D bodies aren’t going to impress serious photographers, they are considered entry-level bodies. But, by taking advantage of Canon’s rebates, I got both bodies for about the same price as one EOS 7D, which is considered to be a serious camera, but has the same sensor as my 60D.
I put my entire kit of the two bodies, three lenses, and filters together for about what an EOS 5D Mk III costs without any lenses, and for a lot less than what the top of the line EOS 1D goes for. Would I get better photos from either of those bodies, maybe, but I doubt if any one seeing the photos here on my blog would be able to tell the difference, it would only be if I printed the photos to a very large size that any one would be able to see the differences.
There’s one more aspect of this that I want to mention, well, really there are two. It’s probably obvious, but my passion for photography as an art form has returned, mostly because of how good my photos are now. I’m quite proud of the subject matter that I was able to shoot using the old Nikon, but not in the actual photos of that subject matter.
And, I am using that renewed passion for photography to help in my efforts to quit smoking. I mentioned my want list, I want those things now, but can’t afford them. I want to take more trips like my vacation last week, but I have to watch my pennies. I’ve always known that I could save a lot of money if I quit smoking, but there were few things that I had a strong enough desire for to make myself think twice every time I go to light up a smoke, I do now!
OK, I get done with that long-winded speech, back from my walk, and I have to apologize for the poor photos from today. Hey, it was one of those days. One doesn’t get to see and photograph great things in nature every single day. Here’s what I think is my best photo from the day.
It was dark and gloomy, with the threat of rain at any time, so I took only the L series lens with me. Of course that meant that I saw warblers passing through the area.
It really wouldn’t have mattered which lens I had used, there simply wasn’t enough light for good photos today.
Even though I think that the sumac photo is my best from today, it’s in portrait orientation, which doesn’t work well for computer wallpaper, so I guess that this shot will have to do for a day.
It’s Friday, so I have been thinking about what to do over the weekend. I would like to go to Muskegon to chase birds, but the weather forecast for the weekend is looking bad. Rain and storms on Saturday, rain and wind on Sunday, so I’m not going to make any plans at all, but wait to see what the weather is really like.
I have three projects for this weekend, rearrange my furniture to make enough room to try out the tent cot, clean up the hard drive on my computer, and finish sorting photos for the rest of the posts about my trip last week.
I sure lucked out in picking the right week for my vacation! We’ve had some rain here, but there’s been a lot more in the UP this week. And speaking of rain, it rained here heavily overnight, and there’s more substantial rain in the forecast for the next four days, so I may not be getting many photos. That also makes me glad that I made no big plans for this weekend.
Well, it didn’t really rain while I was out walking, a few sprinkles at times, but it was so humid that it may as well have been raining from the way that it felt out there today. It’s been so dark and dreary all day that I still have to have a light on inside as I type this at 3 PM. Those are hardly conditions that are conducive to photography. I did try though.
I’m afraid that I missed my target of a wallpaper worthy photo everyday, but it wasn’t my fault for a change.
I could go on about my efforts to quit smoking, but I won’t, other than to say that having a goal is helping to overcome the cravings, big time!
I could tell you about the pack of wild animals that I saw in the park, but I won’t. After all, they did bear a resemblance to humans, and I’m in a good mood, so I’m not going to spoil it any more than it was earlier today.
So while I may have a few things that I would like to say, I won’t bore you any longer with any of those topics, instead, I call this week done and over with, and take care of some more inside chores. Oh, I did clean up the hard drive in my laptop, I have saved all my photos taken with the Nikon or Powershot to the external drive I have, and deleted them from the laptop. It sure has sped this thing up! Who knows, I may even begin shooting in RAW and see just how much of a difference that makes.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!