My Week, at peace with nature
I’m sitting here on a Monday morning after a great weekend of being outdoors chasing birds, and thinking how great it is to be at peace with nature. It also occurs to me how much of that peaceful feeling comes from being at least a little knowledgeable about nature. I’m finding that nature photography gives me about the same feeling inside as fly fishing does, becoming one with nature, while always learning at the same time.
One can not be a good fly fisherman for trout unless one is a keen observer of everything nature, from the weather, the behavior of wildlife, the insects near the river, the mood of the fish, everything plays a part, nature is one giant web woven together of many seemingly different pieces.
So it has become with my photography, I spend more time watching than photographing, and that in turn, leads to better photos.
That in turn leads to a calm peaceful feeling that up until now, I’ve only know while standing in a river with a fly rod in my hand.
It’s not that nature is always quiet or peaceful, to the contrary, it is often noisy, and there’s the continuous struggle for survival taking place. In the wild, it’s eat or be eaten.
So why does spending so much time in nature lead to such a peaceful feeling in me, it will take a greater mind than I possess to figure that one out, perhaps Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or John Muir did, but that I haven’t read enough of their works to learn the answer to that question.
Without really realizing what I’ve been doing in my life, I now live a lifestyle that could be said is much like that of Thoreau while at Walden Pond. It works for me.
Well, enough deep thoughts for one day.
Today is forecast to be the last of the great weather that we’ve had around here, basically all summer long. We had a few short heat waves, but for most of the summer and all of this fall, the weather has been excellent. The forecast is for much cooler weather, with rain for the next seven days at least. Cooler doesn’t bother me, I like cool, even the rain doesn’t really bother me, I like walking in the quietness of a rainy day. But, I’m sure that rain will limit my photographic output, but even that doesn’t really bother me.
It is time to get out there and enjoy the sunshine while it last though, be back later.
I’m back. I set off with every intention of photographing the last wildflowers of the year while there was sunlight and before the cold snap hit. Too late, most of the wildflowers disappeared over the weekend, and the wind played havoc with my attempts at any close-ups of flowers. This isn’t a flower, but it’s as close as I could come today.
There were many changes to the landscape over the weekend, many of the leaves fell from the trees, and most of the flowers were gone, so I got a work out from carrying all my camera gear for nothing.
I’m going to have to start carrying just part of my kit or something, I’m not sure what the answer is quite yet. I noticed on Saturday, while birding at Roselle Park, that having all the extra stuff draped off me as if I were a Christmas tree interferes with my ability to shoot photographs while using the Beast, especially moving targets, or in thick brush.
Yesterday at Muskegon, I carried just the Beast, I was never very far from my vehicle, as I did a series of relatively short walks near the lagoons and around small woodlots there, and I found photographing birds much easier, imagine that.
I have had some success carrying just two cameras with me, but I’m not sure that’s the answer.
Having a camera bag over one shoulder, and the bag holding my tripod over the other shoulder, with both of them shifting around as I move, and getting tangled up in the brush is a royal pain while trying to hold a camera with the Beast attached steady.
I have some ideas, some of them may sound crazy, in fact, I’ve been thinking of doing a post on just some of the crazy ideas that I have swirling around in my head. Those ideas go way beyond camera gear and how to carry it, believe me, they could make for a humorous post.
Another thing that I put my finger on today is that using the Beast to shoot flying birds works much better at lower angles. It’s hard to hold the Beast steady while it is pointed nearly straight up. I shot a number of photos of a turkey vulture today, too many really, but I need the practice.
Here’s my best (sharpest) photo of the day.
And here’s two that I shot with the vulture almost straight above me, so that the Beast was nearly vertical.
The last one isn’t too bad, I had realized how shaky I was with the Beast pointed straight up, and tried doubly hard to hold it steady for that one.
The photo that I have chosen as the wallpaper on my computer for the day is this one, even though it really isn’t a very good photo.
I chose that one for the look of surprise in the woodpecker’s eye as it realized that I was standing less than 15 feet from it, needless to say, it didn’t stick around long after that shot. I do love sneaking up on critters!
I could post a technically better photo of the woodpecker, but there’ll be plenty of chances for them later on, when they are one of the few species of birds left around here over the winter.
I did shoot a few more photos of palm warblers, but I posted enough of them last week, and they may show up later this week, so I’m not going to bother with them now.
I was going to attempt to photograph the blue jays in flight carrying acorns outside my apartment when I got back, but I was interrupted by a neighbor just as I was going to switch lenses. He asked me if I photographed birds, or knew anything about them, for he had seen a large brown bird that he thought was a hawk perched on the roof rack of a car in the parking lot. He pointed to my Forester, must be that one of my hawk buddies came looking for me. 😉
The neighbor had tried to photograph the hawk with his point and shoot, but the hawk didn’t stick around long enough. That would have been a photo that I would have liked to have seen! He and I ended up talking wildlife and photography for quite some time, so no blue jay shots today.
Another morning of sipping my coffee, listening to the geese passing by, and a few other birds calling from time to time. The clouds are starting to roll in ahead of the rain that’s expected for this afternoon, which will put an end to this string of absolutely fantastic weather we’ve been having. Not only has it been mild for fall, but we’ve seen much more sunshine than we do in an average autumn, almost 50% more. It’s the middle of October, and we still haven’t had frost here yet, and it’s only been in the last week that I’ve worn a jacket while on my daily walks, other than a rain jacket when it has rained.
One of the tidbits of information that Brian (I got the name wrong before) of the Muskegon County Nature Club passed on to me on Sunday was that the time of the year that you see a migrating bird can be as useful in identifying it as the field marks. Birds are very predictable in their migration, which in the dark recesses of my brain, I knew. Think the swallows of Capistrano, or the buzzards of Ohio, two examples of how predictable birds can be as far as their migration patterns. My mom would mark her calendar each spring when the hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles would return, so she would know when to get the feeders ready for their return in future years.
Well, just what I didn’t need, a major hassle has reared its ugly head, the automatic payment to the nursing home that my mom is in didn’t go through this month. The nursing home “upgraded” their computer system, which is where the problem most likely occurred, but it still means that I have to dig through my mom’s stuff and find her checkbook, then drop off the payment to the nursing home, along with verifying the account and balance. Why me?
I’ll get back to how predictable bird migrations are at a later time, but I’m going to eat breakfast, then go for a walk before I tackle the nursing home problem.
I’m back from my walk, I’ve dug through the boxes that I never unpacked when I moved, and I’ve found my mom’s checkbook. I still have to run the check to the nursing home, but I’m taking a break for water and to cool down before doing that.
A question, why is it that when you go looking for something, it is in the bottom of the bottom box in a stack? I couldn’t have buried my mom’s checkbook any deeper without using a jack hammer to take out the floor of my apartment.
Since I have a few moments, I’m going to insert the few photos from today, even though they are junk.
I tried one shot of a blue jay carrying an acorn, but after that, I told myself that I didn’t have time to play, and that I had to move along.
I can shoot flowers faster, as I don’t have to stalk them, just pick a good specimen and shoot away, but the wind caused me problems today.
This one’s for Emily, two species of birds in one shot.
A flying great blue heron, out of range, but still good practice. I went up 1 1/2 EV for this shot, I think that’s the most that I’ve ever intentionally over-exposed a photo. That should also give you an idea how gloomy it was today.
The light today was dull and lifeless, so my photos came out dull and lifeless. Oh well, I had better get used to that, as dull and lifeless light will be the norm around here for at least the next 4 months.
Two things taken care of today, I dropped the check off at the nursing home, and still had time to renew the lease on my apartment for another year, so that’s crossed off my to-do list.
It’s cloudy and I’ll call it cool this morning, after some much-needed rain overnight. It’s still warmer than average, but that isn’t going to last much longer.
There’s rain in the forecast for the next eight days, but a lot of that will be lake effect rain, quite scattered, and mostly in the afternoons. The waters of Lake Michigan are still in the low 60’s (17 C), and with cold air crossing the lake, it will be cloudy as long as the wind is out of the north or west, with the scattered rain. The forecast for the coming weekend is cooler and wetter yet, one reason that I went birding both days last weekend. The way that it looks now, this weekend will be a good one to stick close to home.
Looking ahead, there’s the long Thanksgiving weekend approaching, I’ll have to start giving some thought as to what I’ll be doing then. It’s firearms deer hunting season then, which severely limits my options. I have my new tent/cot to use, if the weather is nice enough to use it if I decide on a trip somewhere.
I’m back from my walk, it was a day of brainstorms and an epiphany or two.
It was a cloudy, gloomy day as I walked along enjoying the cool weather and fall colors. I wanted to photograph the colors, but I doubted how the photos would come out in such low light, and, I could never line up a shot without getting at least some of the man-made features of the park that I walk in, or surrounding the park, in the photo.
First epiphany, it doesn’t matter, the photos I take while on my daily walk aren’t going to be award winners anyway, so why shouldn’t I shoot what I see, even if there is some sign of human existence in the shot? So, I started shooting.
That led to the second epiphany of the day, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more”!
That has nothing to do with where I live, but it applies to my camera and lenses. I couldn’t believe how bright the colors of the leaves looked when I viewed that photo on the LCD display of the camera.
I love my little Powershot, but being a compact digital camera, its low light performance is crap. The Nikon D50 that I wore out wasn’t much better in low light situations, that photo would have been terrible if taken with the Nikon. However, as you can see, the Canon 60D did very well with this shot, I was impressed when I reviewed it on the LCD screen of the camera.
The small LCD screen has fooled me before, as far as proper exposure, and how sharp a photo is, but one thing that I’m learning is that if I can get a shot that looks good on the small screen, I can also make adjustments to the camera to get the photos to look good on the computer as well.
Here’s another wide shot from today.
These two are OK, but I can do better! I should have taken and used my tripod to be able to reduce the ISO and to stop down the lens for more depth of field which I couldn’t do holding the camera. These were shot at about the limits of what I can do handheld. The shutter speed for both photos was around 1/100 second, with the 70-200 mm lens wide open at f/4, and an ISO of around 320 if I remember correctly.
I should have used the second body set up for landscapes and the 15-85 mm lens as well. And, with the adjustment options that I have with the 60D, I think that there are even more things that I can do to improve on these. We’ll see if those brainstorms that I had today work as well as I hope that they do. 😉 I’ve already made adjustments to the second camera body for tomorrow, and I will take it and the tripod along for more testing.
There were plenty of birds in the park today, but with the dreadful light and intermittent rain, I only took one photo, of a robin feeding on pokeweed berries, just because I’ve never seen robins eating pokeweed before.
And, my final photo of the day is junk, but it’s fun too.
I’m probably just wasting space with that one, but it was taken not far from the door of my apartment. I have looked out the window to come face to face with geese, squirrels, and other birds and wildlife from time to time. I may not live near the stunning scenery that other bloggers I follow do, or the more exotic wildlife, but this is home, and it is what it is.
I walked home in a windblown mist, my kind of day, oddball that I am. I don’t know why it is that I enjoy that type of weather as much as I do, but I do. Part of it is coming back to a warm, even cozy apartment, but I just like being outside in bad weather for some strange reason. I did an entire post on that subject early on in my blogging, so I won’t prattle on about that any longer, other than to say that I just closed the windows in my apartment a little. They had been fully open for the past month or so. It’s cooled off enough that I have the windows a quarter of the way open now. It won’t be long and even I will have to close them completely.
Very cloudy, cool, and rain this morning. I won’t be trying any landscapes with the second body mounted on the tripod today, and here I was stoked to see what I could come up with. It may very well be that I won’t come back with any photos at all today, as there’s no gaps in the rain when I checked the radar a few minutes ago. It’s so dark due to the thick clouds that I had no idea what time it was until I checked, and it’s much later than I thought. Oh well, it’s been a marvelous summer and early fall, so I’ll try not to complain about the constant cloud cover that will be around for the next five months, not too much anyway.
I’m back from my walk, and it could just be that clouds will no longer be an excuse that I can use for my bad photos.
I changed my mind this morning while eating breakfast, I told myself that it was too dark for birding, that I may as well take the landscape body and short lens and shoot a few shots handheld to see what effect the setting changes I had made would have on my photos on a day like today. I may be on to something!
The rain did add a foggy look to most of my shots from today, I did much better when shooting at short to medium range.
I saw a number of hermit thrushes today, and when I managed to get fairly close to one, I took a chance even though I had just the 15-85 mm lens with me.
Too bad that the thrush started to fly off just as I pressed the shutter release, but that’s the breaks. I went back to shooting more colorful (and stationary) subjects.
OK, so there’s no award winners in the shots from today, I’m still amazed at how well these turned out given the absolutely horrid weather conditions for photography today. Had I used the tripod, and stopped the lens down to f/8 or f/11, I think that these would have been even better, I know they would have been better. But, I didn’t want the camera and lens exposed to the rain and fog any longer than necessary. I wished that I had an umbrella to block the rain so that I could have used the tripod.
Another of my crazy ideas, I wonder if I could adapt one of those small umbrellas that you wear as a hat to the tripod for use on days like today? Now wouldn’t that be a sight to see, me standing out in the rain shooting photos with a little hat umbrella over my camera? 😉
That still wouldn’t deal with the fog though, but it is an idea.
I’m beginning to understand what all those adjustments that I can make to my camera are for, and how other photographers can get great photos under “bad” lighting. Of course it helps a great deal to be using a camera that actually responds to the adjustments that I make and does turn out good photos.
Just for the record, none of the photos have been edited other than cropped. I didn’t resort to “juicing” the colors to get them to look that vibrant, the colors in the photos are very close to what I was seeing in real life.
I haven’t done a Great Lakes water level update in a while, as the rate of increase slowed over the summer, after some dramatic increases this spring, because of the record rainfall that we received. Here’s the short version, all five of the Great Lakes are up an average of 12 inches (30.48 centimeters) since last year, with the highest increase occurring in Lake Superior which is up 15 inches (38.1 centimeters). Only Lakes Huron and Michigan are significantly lower than average now, the other three are near or above their average levels. This represents a total increase of 20.84 trillion gallons (78.89 trillion liters) of water into the five Great Lakes in the past year.
It’s cool with a little sunshine trying to burn through the clouds and fog left over from last night. I’m almost disappointed that it isn’t cloudier. 😉 I wanted to play around with getting good fall foliage shots in the rain again.
I know that the shots I’ve posted so far this week are nothing special to most people, but they are to me. I’ve seen some great photos of autumn colors taken on cloudy days and/or while it was raining, and had always wished that I could do as well. I thought that I was the reason that I couldn’t match what others could do, but it turns out that it was the equipment I used. That’s an excuse that I try very hard to avoid, as it’s too easy to do that, than to learn how to use the equipment properly. I always keep the old saying, “It’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools” in mind whenever I have difficulty with something, but I think that another old saying applies equally, “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”.
Well, enough of that, time for a walk.
I’m back, I was actually a little disappointed that there was bright sunshine today, as I wanted to build on what I had learned the last two days as far as photography in the rain. I didn’t know it when I shot the photos that I did today, but I managed to get a few that show how important it is to learn how to adjust the setting of a camera, and use a tripod more often.
I’ll start with this photo of a robin. This was shot with the camera body set up for wildlife using the 70-200 mm lens.
Same body, same settings, zoomed in closer.
I looked across the field from where the robin was, and saw a little color that I thought was worth trying to get a photo of. I used the same lens, body, and settings for this shot.
But then, I decided to try out the second body, set-up for fall colors, using the 15-85 mm lens, and mounted on the tripod.
The first landscape shot is OK, but it looks a little washed out, and not as sharp as it should be. That’s even though the 70-200 mm lens is a tad sharper than the 15-85 mm lens used for the second shot. I used auto white balance for the first, and manually set the white balance for sun in the second. I used program mode for the first, aperture for the second. It amazes me how much difference that a tweak here and there in the camera settings can make such a large difference in virtually identical equipment. I should probably list all the differences in set-ups between the two bodies, but I think that the results are dependent on the particular camera that one is using.
That, and using the tripod, by mounting the camera on it, I was able to stop the lens down to f/20, while the first shot was taken at f/10 handheld. I didn’t expect that kind of difference!
But what I find most interesting is that the set-up for wildlife that worked so well for the robin did such a poor job of the foliage in the landscape photo, even the foliage in the robin photo came out extremely well.
OK, since I didn’t use the same lens from the same spot and I didn’t shoot at the same angle in each photo, it isn’t really a true test, or is it? The differences I see in those two photos are the same differences I see whenever I compare my wildlife settings to my landscape settings when it comes to landscapes.
I really haven’t tried it the other way around, using the landscape setting for wildlife, as I usually have the short lens on the landscape body. However, since the “stock” camera settings had to be changed in order to get good wildlife photos, I would assume that if I used settings on the other side of “stock”, as I use for landscapes, that the results would be less than ideal.
My other photos for the day, grapes dangling from a maple tree.
On the way home, I looked up to see a pair of Cooper’s Hawks circling together.
A flock of starlings decide to move out of the area.
Then, the two hawks were joined by a third, but I couldn’t get all three in the frame at one time, one was always too far from the other two.
Eventually, one broke away from the other two and did a fly by for me.
Rain is forecast to move back in for later this afternoon and tomorrow, in a way, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t want to lose my train of thought as far as photography in the rain. I’ve saved the changes I’ve made to my set-up so far, but they still need more tweaking.
What a day, and I don’t mean that in a good way necessarily. I checked the weather first thing this morning as I always do, and it was hard to tell what the day was going to be like. The forecast was for increasing rain, but looking at the radar and satellite , it looked like there could be some sunshine later in the day.
So, I did another post about my trip to the UP, keeping an eye on the weather while doing so. I couldn’t decide whether to go to one of the local parks in the area, or just do the long version of my daily walk, and I couldn’t decide whether to try for photos of the colors, or go birding. As iffy as the weather looked, I decided against birding with the Beast, which was probably a mistake. If I had held out longer, it would have been a great day for birding, but I didn’t.
Instead, I opted for the long version of my daily walk here and carrying the two short lenses, both camera bodies, and my tripod. At first, it looked as though the light rain that was falling was about over with, and that the skies would clear. That didn’t last long, as it soon began raining hard again.
I shot a bunch of very bad photos that I knew better than to try in the first place, but I wanted to see if the adjustments I had made for the weather worked, the jury is still out on that question.
Just about the time that I got to where I could have shot photos worth shooting, the rain stopped, and the clouds began to break up, almost instantly. The problem was, that all the shots worth shooting were to the south of me, and with the low angle of the sun this time of year, I would have been shooting straight into the sun. I did mange one photo as the light changed.
I was rather frustrated by the weather, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong camera settings. So, I sat down under the picnic shelter in the park and took a long break. That helped my attitude a little. I decided to spend the rest of my walk birding, even though I didn’t have the Beast with me, and I could have used it.
While I was at Roselle Park last weekend, I saw more bluebirds in one place than I have ever seen before. I think that the entire flock that had been in Roselle Park last week had moved to Creekside Park today. I saw flocks of ten to twenty at a time flying past me, mostly out of range, but not all of them were smart enough to avoid my camera.
However, I still had the ISO locked at 100, so the first photos weren’t very good. I realized my mistake just in time to catch one of the stragglers flying past me.
My last three shots of the day, and week, are just close-ups of some common subjects.
I may have to rethink how much I reduce the quality of the photos that I post, the photo of the sumac here isn’t nearly as sharp as the original.
I thought that the oak leaves looked like a bouquet of flowers in real life, I suppose it’s the fact that photos are only two dimensional is the reason that my photo doesn’t look the same as what I saw.
Well, another week in the books, I’m not yet sure where I’ll be going tomorrow, as I have no idea what the weather will be like, and neither do the local meteorologists. 😉
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!