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

My Week, Old Mossback

Sunday

It’s fairly early on Sunday morning, and as is usual, I’m sitting here drinking coffee, looking back at last week, and forward to the week to come. Right now, they look pretty much the same, cold and snowy.

I ended last week’s edition of this series during a snowstorm, I’m beginning this week in the middle of a “lake effect snow event”. What’s the difference you may ask?

From a practical standpoint where I live, there is no difference, it’s snowing and blowing outside just as it would be in a snowstorm. But, a lake effect snow event is limited to just the areas downwind from one of the Great Lakes, and only extend inland for a few miles.

So, I bundled up and headed out into the snow and cold, and it wasn’t bad going until I got down to the trail that I normally walk. There, I turned into the wind-driven snow, and managed to go about a hundred yards, busting through two foot high snowdrifts, until I stopped to ask myself why. That was a bad thing to do, as I didn’t have a good answer to that question other than I was doing it for the exercise.

Looking around, I didn’t see any of the young health fanatics out there with me, so again, I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing.

I thought back to all the times I had strapped on a pair of snowshoes and slugged my way through the snow. It was a lot easier when I was younger, and doing crazy things like that just for fun was a source for bragging rights. But, I’m not a young buck any more, there’s nothing for me to prove, and with age is supposed to come wisdom, like an old mossback buck who has survived to old age.

It’s hard to admit to myself that I’m getting old, and sure, I could have walked the length of the trail and back, I did it yesterday. As a matter of fact, my legs had been letting me know that I had just done it yesterday.

So, I turned around so my hood would block the wind as I stood there telling myself that I was a wimp if I didn’t walk the trail, and I could see that the wind was filling the trail through the drifts that I had just busted through.

I considered coming back home to pick up my snowshoes, but the snowfall this year has been all light and fluffy snow, which makes snowshoes much less effective.

I could go on, but I’ll come to the point, I decided that I was old, and that it was time to take it easy for a change. So, I went back to the road, and walked down to the first stop light. Then, I went through the subdivision near the trail that I walk, working my way to a part of the trail that provides access for the people of the subdivision, and walked the trail only in one direction. All told, it was the same distance that I usually walk, but it sure was a lot easier going for most of the length that I walked.

Walking in the subdivision was good for some amusement, watching cars sliding around as they tried to make their way through the snow, getting caught in the wind-blown discharge of a snow-blower was not so amusing. 😉

I shot one photo today, to show the weather as well as I could.

Red, white, and blue, and white, and wind

Red, white, and blue, and white, and wind

That pretty much sums it up!

Monday

There’s sunshine pouring through my windows as I type this morning, I’m trying not to get too wound up, as I’m afraid that the clouds will fill back in before I get out there. Very often in winter, the wind will go calm overnight, which causes the clouds from the previous day to break up, it gets very cold overnight, but then the next morning, the wind picks up again, and the clouds are blown back in again.

It is cold, just 9 degrees Farenheit  (-13 C), but if there’s little to no wind, that won’t bother me in the least. And, it has warmed up since the overnight low was 3 degrees (-16 C).

The weather forecast has been revised slightly, we may get above freezing for a few hours towards the end of the week, but I am not very optimistic that we will see the temperatures they are forecasting, as we have too much snow on the ground for those temperatures to come true.

I wouldn’t get so bummed out about the weather if it wasn’t so early in the winter season for the type of weather that we’ve been having around here. Winter hasn’t even “officially” arrived yet, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the snow piles outside my windows. At least we make it past the winter solstice this week, a milestone on the way back to spring, that will help.

It would also help if we had at least a few of those beautiful winter days which have been absent so far this winter. We didn’t have the typical start to the winter, with one of those heavy wet snowfalls and then sunshine after. We turned cold first, then the lake effect machine kicked in, and it’s been snowing and blowing ever since. The pause in the snow today will not last long, the next system is headed this way, with it expected to hit this afternoon, and another tomorrow.

Oh well, time to take advantage of this break in the weather and get on out there.

Sunshine! Wonderful, glorious, mood altering, life-giving sunshine!

It didn’t start that way, I thought that my worst fears were going to come true, because as I stepped out of my apartment, I found that a band of clouds had set up from west to east, blocking the sun from view. As I walked, I hoped that the band would move, but looking around, I could see other clouds building in the distance, and I was almost positive that they would fill in before the band overhead moved on. That didn’t happen, in fact, the clouds that had been rolling in all just disappeared as if by magic.

With some good light for a change, I shot almost 200 photos today, but most of them didn’t turn out that good. I tried to shoot too many close-ups with the 70-200 mm L series lens handheld, since I didn’t bring my tripod. The L series is a fantastic lens, but it does not auto-focus well at short-range, I have to manually focus it for the best results.

Here’s a few that I did save.

Frost on ex-flowers

Frost on ex-flowers

Milkweed seeds and pods

Milkweed seeds and pods

More frost

More frost

Frost on a pine

Frost on a pine

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

Frozen berries

Frozen berries

Frost on Queen Anne's lace

Frost on Queen Anne’s lace

Hoar frost on trees

Hoar frost on trees

Ice formation on the pavement

Ice formation on the pavement

The neighborhood Christmas tree

The neighborhood Christmas tree

Frost on ex-berries

Frost on ex-berries

I was wishing that I had a macro lens to get good close-ups of the frost and ice, but I did the best I could with the lens I have. That’s doubly true now that I have inserted the photos into this post, as the ice/frost hardly shows up at all in these smaller versions of the photos.

I probably should have taken the 15-85 mm lens along for the close-ups, as it does much better handheld than the L series does, but then I wouldn’t have gotten these.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Starling

Starling

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Blue jay

Blue jay

The birds were out in force today, they were enjoying the sunshine as much or more than I was. If I had set my mind to it, I could have come home with 200 photos of just birds, but other than the hawk, I only shot photos of birds that perched close to me, I didn’t do any chasing. While the birds hardly seemed stressed at all, I thought it best to let them enjoy this short break in the weather and not bother them. After all, a we have several more snowstorms on the way for later this week.

Today has been the sunniest day since the Thanksgiving weekend, by far! I know that the lack of sunshine affects my moods, and I have also noticed the same effect in wildlife, particularly birds. Not only did I see many more than I have in weeks, they were far more vocal as well.

So, I enjoyed watching and listening as they flitted about, and I looked for the best subjects to photograph, with the best light and background. For some reason, I had a hard time finding good backgrounds for the shots I took today. White just doesn’t cut it, but that’s about the only color I could find behind the things I wanted to photograph the most.

I have noticed a “deficiency” in my current line up of lenses, no chromatic aberration. 😉 My old Nikon lens would add some color to the out of focus snowflakes present in a photo all on its own. Not so with my new lenses, I get true to life color even in parts of a photo out of focus, I kind of miss the greens and purples that the Nikon added. 😉

I sure needed a day like today, it has done wonders for my mood. I’d like to be out there basking in the sunshine even as I type this, but it’s my day to visit my mom in the nursing home, so I had to curtail my time outside, and what I write here today.

Tuesday

Back to normal, cloudy, cold, with light snow falling. I should say that while it is still below freezing at 20 degrees F (-7 C), that’s still much warmer than yesterday. However, I’d take the sun and cold with little to no wind over the clouds, wind, and snow, at least more often than it does occur around here. But, that also shows how much of a difference Lake Michigan, and all the Great Lakes, make to our weather around here. The wind coming across the lakes is warmed significantly, which is what produces the clouds and snow, and keeps us warmer than we would otherwise be.

How cold has it been this season so far? Cold enough that a freighter making a delivery of coal to the power plant on the shores of Muskegon Lake got stuck in the ice and had to have a tugboat assist to make it to the docks. Since ice is forming rapidly on the Great Lakes also, I’d be willing to bet that there will be more stories of ships trapped in the ice over the next few weeks and needing to be rescued.

It was really nice to see the sun yesterday, we were fortunate that the clouds held off all day, and I was even able to see the full moon rise last evening on my way to Lansing. Now that’s a rare winter day around here, when I can see both the sun and moon rise with no clouds blocking my views!

To continue on a subject that I wrote about last week, I just received the December Email from the Little Traverse Conservancy, here’s a link to the newsletter. If you were to click the link for the newsletter, you’d see a list of preserves that have the parking lots plowed over the winter, which ones have groomed trails for cross-country skiing, and that the LTC just added another 200 acres to the Aldo Leopold Preserve on Marquette Island in the Les Cheneaux island chain. Oh yes, there’s a small section asking people to donate, which one could easily miss unless they looked for it.

Well, as much as I would like to head north and hike one of the preserves, that’s not possible today, so I suppose that it’s time to head on out around here.

Sure enough, it was cloudy, cold, snowy, and windy.

Another snowy day

Another snowy day

I know, that photo looks almost the same as one that I posted last week, but it’s the most pleasant view that I can come up with that shows how hard it was snowing, and how deep that the snow has gotten.

The only thing out of the ordinary today was this doe eating some of the highbush cranberries in the park.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

And here she is after cropping a photo.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I got sidetracked by some birds in the brush that I was using to hide my approach closer to the deer, and she must have spotted me, for she took off soon after that last shot. I didn’t get any photos of the birds that had distracted me either.

The thought occurred to me today that maybe I should bundle up in another layer or two of clothes, and stand at a street corner and shoot photos of idiots trying to drive in this kind of weather while talking on a cell phone.

I haven’t had to dodge any cars yet, but I have been keeping an eye out, because I have seen a couple of women hit the snowbanks when they’ve missed a corner. The same thing happens each time. Their car starts to slide, their eyes get really big, they attempt to steer with just one hand, they start screaming into their cell phone to give the person on the other end of the conversation the play-by-play of what’s happening, they panic, slam on their brakes, and they slide into the snowbanks.

Most guys put their cell phone down when they find themselves in trouble, but not all, I saw on guy ditch his car the same way that the women have. I’m not saying men are smarter, but only that continuing the conversation isn’t as important to them, guys have plenty of other stupid ways of ending up in a snow bank.

But, the fun doesn’t end when any of them hit the snowbanks, most of the time anyway. Since they are in a state of panic, they put their vehicle in reverse, and without looking (that would require that they put their cell phone down) they beginning backing up into oncoming traffic, causing even more panic when horns start blowing and the drivers of the approaching cars start to panic as well.

Okay, it’s been funny so far because I haven’t witnessed any accidents, I hope that it continues that way. But, I can’t believe how many people risk life and limb just so they can continue to jabber away on their phone.

Well, I really don’t have anything else to say about today, other than I wish that we would get more days like Monday, and fewer like today.

Wednesday

I didn’t write anything before I went out for my walk today, I’m tired of whining about the weather, just as I’m sure that you’re all tired of reading my whining.

The only real change in the weather today is that it was a few degrees warmer than it has been, and there were only occasional flakes of snow falling. I managed to salvage two photos from today.

Snow scene

Snow scene

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

I saw a few large birds, geese, mallards, hawks, and crows, but the small song birds were in hiding, or visiting neighborhood bird feeders today. I did watch a blue jay ripping apart a bird nest from last year, looking for insects that may have been hiding in the nests, but it was too far away for a photo. I’ve seen other species of birds doing that occasionally, but blue jays seem to search out old nests far more often than the other birds.

Santa saw the exposure setting from the photos past few days, and he informed me that  he won’t even be delivering any stocking stuffers such as neutral density filters to me for Christmas. He said that I needed a neutral density filter this time of year like I needed a hole in my head, I suppose that he’s right. It’s so nice of him to keep such a careful eye on my bank account. 😉

So, I think that Santa and I will make a trip to the camera store later this week and look into Pelican Cases. I doubt if I will be able to convince Santa to bring me one though, they are rather pricey. I’m almost certain that he’ll tell me that I can get by with my current camera bag for the time being. In fact, Santa is being a Scrooge this year, and has already nixed the camera case. I whined a little, and asked about an LED light panel to use once I receive my Tokina macro lens next month, and he told me that I didn’t need the light until after I had the lens.

If you can believe this, the weather is forecast to go downhill for the rest of the week. The next two days are supposed to be warmer, maybe even above freezing, but with fog, snow, rain, and freezing rain, oh joy! Then, there may be another snowstorm on the way for the weekend. I have my doubts about that, it may just be hype to get people to tune into the weather, as all the meteorologists are saying is that the storm is a possibility, and to keep watching the weather forecasts from them to see what the weather will hold for us. This wouldn’t be the first time that they have cried wolf for the sake of ratings.

Well, that’s it for today.

Thursday

Well, so much for weather forecasts! A strong wind overnight has blown in some warmer air, and it is already above freezing outdoors for the first time in several weeks. The sun is trying to burn through haze, it isn’t as sunny as Monday was, but it’s much brighter than forecast. There’s no snow, rain or freezing rain within hundreds of miles according to the radar, but the meteorologists are still warning that the precipitation is coming.

The same holds true for the weekend storm that they were, and are, predicting, sort of. They are backing off their earlier predictions of a major storm, in fact, they just skimmed over the forecast for the most part, and resorted to their typical “stay tuned, because we don’t really know what’s coming” routine.

I’m tempted to take the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me today for the first time in a while for some bird photos, but I think that I’ll stick to the L series lens and take my tripod instead.

It was relatively balmy outside today, I enjoyed myself a great deal, even though the sun was never able to burn through the haze. It’s warm enough that the snow is melting so quickly that you can see a thin layer of fog close to ground as the moisture from the melting snow rises up from the ground.

Between the fog/haze, and the fact that today was a day or two before the winter solstice meant that the light was a bit strange today, but in some ways, I liked it.

Winter scene

Winter scene

Once again, I have to say that when I get the L series lens dialed in, it produces fabulous photos! It’s so sharp that I can’t imagine how any lens could be any better, and that goes for the color rendition and saturation as well. Full size, that one almost looks 3D. Of course, this one’s not too shabby either.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

As I was walking near the creek in the park, I saw a flock of goldfinches bathing and preening, here are the only two photos that I was able to get.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

That goldfinch didn’t splash around in the water, but let the water splash up on him. Others were splashing around a lot more than I would have wanted to do in this weather, it may have been above freezing today, but not enough for me to want to go for a swim!

I also shot a few photos of ice crystals today.

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

Ice crystals

As these are my first real ice photos with my new set-up as far as I can remember, they didn’t turn out too badly, I can’t wait for some real sun to see how much better I can do.

I did shoot a couple of photos of a cardinal, but I’m not going to add them. The cardinal looked almost black despite the fact that I had increased the exposure to the point where the sky was beginning to look blown out from being overexposed. After the winter solstice on Saturday, the light should begin to slowly improve again.

Friday

Well, the mixed bag of precipitation did finally arrive last night, accompanied with some patches of thick fog. Luckily, I was almost done with my run for the night before the roads became treacherous, although the short drive home from work was no fun.

It’s much the same this morning, with the temperature just below freezing, with drizzle and light rain falling. The freezing rain is forecast to continue all day. I am not looking forward to driving 350 miles in this crap tonight for work. I may end up doing my run tomorrow instead of tonight, we’ll see later on. For the time being, I’m going to get something to eat, then go out and see how bad it really is.

It’s bad! If it hadn’t been for my Yak Trax, I would have turned around and stayed inside for the day.

For those of you who may not know what Yak Trax are, they are like tire chains for your shoes and boots. They are made of rubber or other elastic material that stretches over the soles of your boots, and have metal springs attached to bite into ice, and they sure do work!

Anyway, as I stepped outside and was checking my camera settings, a blue jay flew past me, so I shot it, even though I knew the photo wouldn’t be very good.

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

I seem to be very good at catching flying birds at times when they have their wings folded up.

For the rest of the photos from today, I was wishing that Santa had brought me the Tokina macro lens already, even though Christmas is a few days away. Some better light would have helped as well. I did set up my tripod for a few of these during times when the rain let up for a time, and I also used the flash for a couple of them as well.

Ice on a dried plant

Ice on a dried plant

Ice on Queen Anne's lace

Ice on Queen Anne’s lace

Ice on rose hips

Ice on rose hips

Ice on ?

Ice on ?

Ice on goldenrod

Ice on goldenrod

Ice on a white pine

Ice on a white pine

Ice on crab apples

Ice on crab apples

Ice on seed stems

Ice on seed stems

Ice on honeysuckle berries

Ice on honeysuckle berries

Ice

Ice

You may have noticed the recurring theme in the photos, ice.

There was also a stiff wind out of the northeast that didn’t help my photography as well. I did set up the tripod a few times, but most things were moving around in the wind too much to make using the tripod worthwhile.

It would have been a little better if I had taken the 15-85 mm lens with me as well. For all these photos, I was trying to stop the L series lens down to get enough depth of field to keep everything that I wanted in focus actually in focus, but that was close to impossible with so little light and shooting at 200 mm. Some of the shutter speeds these were shot at were close to a full second, and mounting the camera on a tripod works well under those conditions, until the wind causes the subject that you’re shooting to move while the shutter is open.

What I ended up doing for most of these shots today was to shoot at less than 200 mm to get the depth of field that I needed, then cropped the photos as much as I could to get close-ups. Even then, I didn’t get as close to some of the subjects as I wanted, nor did I always get the depth of field that I wanted. Using the flash helped, I probably should have used it for more of the photos.

Saturday

Another cloudy, foggy, gloomy day.

I slipped on the ice covering the parking lot at work yesterday evening, and did something to my right leg, I’m not sure what. I feel some pain, but it’s more discomfort than pure pain, I’m not sure how to describe the way that it feels. I do know that it bothered me in my sleep last night, I woke up numerous times having to shift my position to relieve the discomfort. Anyway, because of that, I’m not sure how far I’ll be able to go today when I go out for my walk. To tell the truth, I’d rather not venture out at all the way that my leg feels, but I have little else to keep me occupied. Well, that is other than to fill out the paperwork from the government to keep my mom in the nursing home.

Every year for the past three years, I have received a rather unwanted package from the government just in time for Christmas, a booklet of forms that have to be filled out to re-qualify my mother for Medicaid to pay for her care in the nursing home. I suppose that I understand why that is required, up to a point. It seems to me as if I would just have to list any changes to her financial situation, but no, I have to fill out multiple forms as if she were qualifying for the first time. With a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it’s not like her condition is going to improve to the point where she can leave the nursing home.

I say government, as the way Medicaid is set up, it is a Federal program, administered by the states, and here in Michigan, the state has passed the oversight of the program down to the county level. So, the package of forms I get come from the county. I’m not looking forward to filing out those forms, as the instructions are written in typical government speak, otherwise know as gibberish.

But, back to the weather, it is forecast to go downhill quickly today, right now, we’re getting a break from the freezing rain and drizzle from yesterday. The forecast is for it to return with a vengeance this afternoon, if it is as bad as they are predicting, there may be no walking anywhere tomorrow.

Well, I’m back, and with my gimpy leg and the conditions out there today, it took me much longer than normal to do just my daily three-mile walk. We had about two feet of snow on the ground before the rain and warmer temperatures arrived, now we have about six inches of heavy slush, topped with a hard ice crust on top. The crust wasn’t hard enough to support my weight, breaking through the crust was no problem, but pulling my feet back up through it was the problem, especially my injured right leg.

I shot quite a few photos of ice encrusted subjects today, but I think that I will save all but one for a future post. So, I am just going to put the few bird photos that I shot today in here.

The right way to take a selfie

The right way to take a selfie

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

It’s been just a few days since I tried any serious bird photos, and I found that my timing was off. I was a split second too late to get photos of a white breasted nuthatch, chickadees, and a few other birds.

Earlier in this post, I put in a shot of a blue jay in flight with its wings folded up at the time, well, here’s another. Again, I was a split second late on the shutter release, so it isn’t really a good photo, but I find it humorous. How are birds able to do this to me all the time?

Blue jay impersonating a rocket

Blue jay impersonating a rocket

Male northern Cardinal

Male northern Cardinal

Red tailed hawk in flight

Red tailed hawk in flight

At least the hawk had its wings spread in that one. I don’t think that the hawk in that photo is Bertha, the very large red-tailed hawk, I suspect that it is one of her offspring, as the body doesn’t look stocky enough in the photo for it to be Bertha.

Canada goose that I flashed

Canada goose that I flashed

Yes, I flashed a goose. I had high hopes for the photos of the geese that I used the flash for, but it turned out that they were really nothing special, other than red-eye. 😉

As I said I shot quite a few photos today of ice encrusted subjects, and I stepped outside of my normal style for some of them. I’ll have to look at them again before I post them, if I do. Another reason I’m not putting them in this post is that round II of the ice storm is forecast to be even worse, so I’ll have more opportunities to do a better job on some of the subjects that I shot today.

So, that about winds up another week. I’m sure glad that today was the winter solstice, and that the amount of daylight, and the angle of the sun, is only going to go up from here. It did take me much longer than normal to do my walk today, by the time I had done a preliminary sorting of my photos from today, and taken a short nap, it was dark outside already.

Before I end this one, I’d like to wish every one a Merry Christmas, and I hope that Santa brings you all the love and joy befitting the season, along with any goodies that your heart desires.

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

6 responses

  1. I had all kinds of things to say about your great photos but the comments were off and now I’ve forgotten them all. I will say that it was an excellent post with plenty to see and read, and I enjoyed it.

    December 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    • Thanks, I don’t know what the deal with the comments is, I have them turned on globally, but for the past few posts, I have also had to turn them on for each post.

      December 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

  2. Another set of beautiful shots! I got a kick out of your selfie shot! And I have to say, sitting back with a cup of coffee and watching idiots try to drive on snow and ice while talking on their cell phone can be highly entertaining. 🙂

    December 26, 2013 at 10:03 am

    • Thanks Jan, the way people drive is also very profitable to the body shops!

      December 26, 2013 at 10:05 am

  3. maybe ill start taking my camera out in the cold. i was walking around when it was below 0F and it made a little buzzing click when i turned it on, so i haven’t had it out.

    looks like you like doing the up close shots and macro shots so the zoom and macro that you mention in the later post would be cool to have

    January 30, 2014 at 11:01 am

    • Thanks.

      I have a Canon L series lens which is supposedly rated to handle cold weather, but I wonder about my camera at times. On really cold days, I do leave it at home.

      January 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm