My Week, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!
For a change of pace, I slept in until my normal time this morning, as I’m in no hurry to go out into the ice and snow. The freezing rain that began in the evening yesterday is about over, we may get some snow on top of the ice later today, what fun!
The weather forecast for the rest of this week is for about average winter conditions, no bitter cold or any warm ups in sight, just occasional lake effect snow. And of course, almost constant cloud cover.
I should have spent some quality time with the manual for my camera yesterday, learning how to better control the flash, but instead, I filled out the forms for my mom’s Medicaid, so that project is almost out of the way. I just need to have some copies of documents made, then I can mail the package in.
My right leg, which I injured in a slip in the parking lot at work Friday is feeling much better today, I can bend my knee again, although I still have to be careful with it.
I feel like such a slacker the past two weeks, I haven’t done a walk of over three miles. Last Sunday I used the excuse of the snowstorm to wimp out, yesterday, it was my gimpy leg that I used as an excuse. I have a feeling that I’ll do the same today, it will depend on the conditions of the trails. Once it turns colder later today, what’s left of the snow pack will re-freeze to a solid mass, which may or may not hold my weight as I walk. If it does, walking will be easy, if not, it could be very slow going.
I have two days off from work this week due to the Christmas Holiday, but the way that the weather forecast looks right now, I doubt if I will do anything special either of those days.
It was another slow go today for my walk because the slush that remained on the ground was just starting to freeze. It was easier walking on the bare ice when I could find it, thanks to my Yak Trax.
To my surprise, it had just begun snowing when I stepped outside, and boy howdy, did it ever come down hard for about an hour! The new snow stuck to all the ice-covered everythings outside, it was sight to behold.
I’m only going to post a few photos today here, then as I have time, I’ll do an entire post with the photos from the last two days.
There was a bumper crop of berries and seeds this year, but with all this ice, I’m afraid that the birds and other critters will have a difficult time getting to them. That probably applies to many insects covered in ice for the insect-eating birds as well.
I doubt if I will do any chasing of birds for a while because everything is encrusted in a thick layer of ice, no need to stress the poor little birdies anymore than necessary!
I wasn’t the only person in the park taking photos today.
There were plenty of subjects for photos.
As I got back to my apartment, there was a flock of geese just outside, checking to see if I was home I guess. 😉
That’s it for today, sorry it’s so short, but I have other things that I have to get done this weekend.
Well, back to normal around here, the freezing rain is a thing of the past for me, although there are thousands of people in the area who have lost their electrical service due to the weather. I feel so bad for them, with this happening just before Christmas. Some of those without power may not have it restored until well after Christmas.
As long as it has taken me to complete my routine daily walk the past two days, I had better get moving quickly this morning, and I may not be able to do the entire thing. I’ll have to keep an eye on the time today. It’s much colder today, so hopefully the slush has frozen solid, but with new snow falling on top of the ice, it could be tricky going, so I’m on my way.
Well, getting around was no problem today, I was able to finish my normal three miles in about the same amount of time as it usually takes me. I am a little bummed out though, twice, the clouds thinned out, and there were a few short moments of sunshine and blue sky each time. I was hoping that all the ice left from the freezing rain would make it look as if the world had been covered with diamonds. That wasn’t the case though, the snow that fell after the freezing rain prevented the ice from sparkling in the sun except for a few trees. Here’s the best photos that I could get.
It didn’t help in that it never stopped snowing either, as you may be able to see in a couple of the photos. I’m sure that the snow flakes in the air blocked a good deal of the possible sunshine.
I did shoot a few photos of Bertha the large red-tailed hawk, but she was really too far away for the L series lens, so there’s no need to post those photos. It’s the same with a couple of photos of a Cooper’s Hawk being harassed by a crow, as a small bird flew to better cover.
I am also a little disappointed with the way that my photos look in my blog, I guess size does matter after all. I could change things around to get the photos to display larger, but I have visited blogs that have the photos displaying larger than I can see on my computer screen all at once, I have to scroll around the photo to see it all. I think that having to scroll to see the entire photo often diminishes the impact of the photo. Since I have no idea what the people who read my blog have as far as computer screens, I really don’t want to go any larger with the way that the photos display. If any one cares to see them full size, they can click on them for the larger view.
That’s it for today, time to shower, then visit my mo in the nursing home.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I have the day off from work! It’s very cold and cloudy as I start this, but the forecast is for sunshine today, and I can see that the clouds are thinning as I’ve been working on another post for the My Photo Life List project. I posted a day early to avoid posting anything on Christmas Day.
I think that I’ll do my regular walk this morning, even though I have the day off, and there will be sunshine. I could go to Muskegon, but nothing out of the ordinary as far as birds that have been seen there lately. It may be warmer with sun on Saturday, that would be a better day to go there. Instead, I’m thinking that this afternoon, I’ll go for a drive and see if I can get some really good photos of the ice and snow covering everything. There’s more ice and less snow to the east of here, so I think that I’ll drive along the Grand River and see what I can see.
I really don’t want to chase birds right now anyway, as with the ice coating everything, from seeds, to berries, to nuts, and even insects, the birds, and all critters are going to have a rough go of it for a while.
I’m back, I did a shortened version of my extended daily walk, if that makes any sense. I did about 4.5 miles, rather than the 6 miles that I do on most weekends, but it’s still more than the 3 miles I do during the week.
I took both bodies, the L series lens on the wildlife body just in case, and the landscape body with the 15-85 mm lens for the snow scenes. I shot almost 250 photos with the landscape set-up, and got some spectacular shots if I do say so myself. But, that said, I may have messed up. With sunshine and some clouds, I attached the polarizing filter to the lens, and didn’t try any shots without it. I think that the filter “killed” most of the sparkles coming off from the ice and freshly fallen snow from overnight.
Stopping to shoot that many photos made even the in between version of my walk take much longer than if I had done the full 6 miles, and I also waited in places for the light to change as the sun would hide behind clouds for a few minutes at a time. I also talked to several other people out taking photos. So, there will be no drive in the afternoon, as it is already getting dark after I sorted through the 250 shots from my walk.
Sorting hasn’t been easy. Some of the scenes will be familiar to you, as it is impossible to create new landscapes, even if the ice and snow does make them look somewhat different. On top of that, I shot several scenes from slightly different angles, and at different focal lengths, and it’s darned hard for me to choose which one I like the best.
For example, I have posted a photo that includes the playground equipment in the park, and the earlier one was already a repeat. But, here are three very similar ones from today.
Inserted into this post, number three looks like the clear winner, but seen full size, number two is my favorite.
Anyway, here’s a sampling of my photos from the day, I’ll do another post with some of the rest, once I manage to trim them down a lot more.
As it’s Christmas Eve, I just splurged and had a cup of very good Earl Grey tea, and a cigarette. My supper will be just a club sandwich, I do live high on the hog, do I not?
I have a bottle of white wine in the fridge for later, after I unpack my wine glasses. I’ve lived in this apartment for just over a year, and I still haven’t unpacked everything. Since I had planned to continue looking for a condo to buy, I didn’t want to unpack, then have to turn around and pack everything back up again. But, then the Nikon died, and I used the money I had saved for a down payment on a condo to purchase the new Canon and lenses, and so I sit down to a supper of a club sandwich. I think that the trade-off was worth it though.
And of course if I weren’t lusting after a true macro lens and an L series prime telephoto lens, then I wouldn’t have to scrimp so much now, either. 😉 But, I’d rather have a true macro lens than a fancy dinner any day!
The 15-85 mm lens did a very respectable job with the close-ups that I shot today, much better than the L series lens does. That only makes me want a true macro lens even more.
What a way to wake up on Christmas morning, finding out that my automatic coffee maker had bitten the big one and no longer works. No problem, I got out the percolator coffee pot that I use while camping, the coffee it brews is better than what comes from the coffee maker, even if it takes a little longer.
It definitely looks like Christmas outside, with light snow falling on top of the ice and fluffy snow that fell earlier this week.
I should go somewhere today, even if it were only to Palmer or Aman Park, just for a change of pace. But, I really don’t feel like driving even a short distance in the snow, I get enough of that at work. So, I guess that I’ll do my thing around here again today. It’s rather pointless for me to travel anywhere, anyway. I’m not going to chase birds or any other wildlife until conditions for them improve significantly.
The long range weather forecast is looking mighty grim, with colder than average temperatures all the way through the month of January. I’m afraid that it’s going to be a tough winter for all wildlife, despite the large food supply that there was at the beginning of this winter.
One of the people out taking photos yesterday told me that her bird feeders have been busier than she can ever remember them being in the past. I suppose that the birds are luckier than some of the other wildlife, people do feed the birds, the deer and other mammals have to rely on what nature provides.
OK, I’m back from my walk, and it was a different world out there today. The thermometer may read ten degrees warmer, but it felt at least that much colder than yesterday in the sunshine. The sunshine itself helped it feel warmer, but there was no wind to speak of yesterday. Not so today.
Just for the record, I did about 4.5 miles again today, I could see no reason to walk down past the trailer park where I normally do on weekends.
I did shoot more photos than what I thought that I would before I left, though none can compare to yesterday’s lot.
Not only are stores pushing the limit for how soon they put out their holiday displays before a holiday, nature seems to be following suit.
With the snow and wind, I took just the L series lens with me, and shot a few close ups of ice covered things.
I also spotted this fox squirrel about 150 yards away. Normally I wouldn’t post this photo, but it serves two purposes. One is that it shows what the weather was like. The other is that I couldn’t figure out why the squirrel would be out in the open the way that it was. If I could spot it as far away as I did, it seems like a hawk would have even less of a problem, since their eyesight is better than mine.
Here’s a cropped version, showing that the blob is really a fox squirrel.
Well, that’s about it for the day. I’m foaming at the mouth to go and pick up a macro lens. I know that I have mentioned the Tokina 100 mm macro lens as the one that I will purchase, but it has two drawbacks. One is that it has the old-fashioned drive for auto-focus, the other is that it has slightly above average chromatic aberration.
The auto-focus being slow doesn’t bother me that much, and in truth, neither does the chromatic aberration. Since you focus manually most of the time for macro photos, how quick the auto-focus functions is somewhat meaningless. The chromatic aberration is slightly more troubling, but the lens still rates as one of the very best macro lenses.
However, Canon is offering a rebate on their non L series 100 mm macro lens, which brings that lens down in price to where I should do a little more research on it, and more comparison between it and the Tokina. At first glance the Canon lens is $150 more than the Tokina, which is enough more that I would go with the Tokina hands down. But, if the prices are closer after rebates, and the specs of the Canon are in line with the Tokina, I may go with the Canon.
Anyway, that’s my project for the evening, make a decision between the two. I’m going to have to pick up a new coffee maker to replace the one that died this morning, so I plan to stop at the camera store as well and pick up the macro lens that I decide on, as it will be my Christmas present to myself this year.
Well, I finished my comparison shopping yesterday, the Tokina is still the winner. The Canon 100 mm macro lens is a much newer design, with a lot of things going for it, other than price. Even after the rebate, it is $75 more than the Tokina, and that’s without the extremely overpriced lens hood, which costs another $50. The lens hood is a must according to reviewers, as the Canon lens is prone to flare without it. So, that puts the Canon lens at $125 more than the Tokina.
The Tokina is a tad sharper than the Canon, or the Tamron 90 mm macro lens, which I checked out at my brother’s suggestion. If I intended to use any of the lenses I was checking out for other than just macro work, I may be tempted to hold off and go with the Canon, but that isn’t the case. I’m sure that I would use any of the 100 mm lenses for other than macro photos on rare occasions, but 95% of the time, it would be for macros, since I have both the 15-85 mm and 70-200 mm lenses already. I’ll live with slow auto-focus, a lens that changes length as it focuses, and the possibility of a little chromatic aberration to save $125.
So, it’s time for food, and then a walk.
Well, I’m back from my walk, and a trip to the camera store.
My walk was rather uneventful, as it was snowing at a good clip for the entire time I was out there. It really wasn’t snowing as hard as it looked, the snowflakes were quite large, and were often stuck together as they fell. I shot a grand total of four photos. One was of a blue jay that flew past me just as I was turning the camera on as I stepped out the door, which didn’t turn out well. I really should have the camera turned on and set to go as often as that has happened lately.
Here’s the one photo that I saved, and the only reason for posting it is so that I have at least one photo from this day.
Just as I was worried about, it has become the same old same old around here the past few weeks, made even worse by the ice storm. I did see a few birds, but didn’t chase any to attempt a photo.
OK, for my trip to the camera store, that was quite enlightening. I did a little bit of playing with a Tokina lens on a 60 D body, and instantly fell in love! The way that the body and lens functioned together was even better than I had hoped. It was if they had been designed to go together specifically. Of course photo quality is the ultimate test, which I haven’t gotten to yet. But, having the two components function together well will make quality easier than having to fight a lens and body that don’t work well together.
The Tokina doesn’t have a small switch to turn the auto-focus off, instead, it has a clutch mechanism built into the focusing ring of the lens. Push the focusing ring forward, and it auto-focuses, pull the ring back, and you have manual focus, quick and easy, even wearing gloves.
The auto-focus alert system on the Canon 60 D body still functions even when I have the lens set to manual focus. I get the flash of the focus points in focus, along with the beep. So, as I focus the lens manually, not only can I see by eye when it is in focus, but the camera alerts me as well. It works most excellently!
And here’s the same shot cropped.
For any one interested, those were shot at ISO 100, f/6.3, and a shutter speed of 1.5 seconds. The camera was mounted on the tripod, and I used the self timer to limit camera shake.
The auto-focus of the Tokina lens is a little slow, but it isn’t as bad as I expected from the reviews that I read, it is well within what I can live with. I’m not going to use this lens to shoot birds in flight or anything like that, just macros and landscapes.
Woo hoo! I’m a very happy camper! I can still get slightly closer to the subject than I did for those two photos. I haven’t shot anything colorful yet to test that part of the lens’ performance, and I can tweak that to some degree in the settings available to me with the 60 D bodies. Be prepared for an onslaught of macro photos for the next few days!
I checked on a few other things while at the camera store, I’m afraid that the Pelican case that I’ll need to hold all my kit will run me just over $200, so I’d better keep on saving. That’s true anyway, as I still have one more big-ticket purchase in mind, the Canon 400 mm L series prime telephoto.
I knew that my tripod was a piece of junk, I’ll have to replace it one of these days, but there will be no big rush for that. Before I purchase anything relating to a tripod, I have to do a lot more research first. I think that a better head on the tripod I already have would go a long way towards getting better photos with a tripod, so I’ll see about how compatible different parts of a tripod system are.
I already have a good Manfrotto monopod, and I’ll have to see if I can get a good head to fit both my tripod and the monopod for the time being.
I know, I’m rambling now, I’m waiting for the camera battery to recharge so I can play with my new toy a bit more before work. 😉
Well, it’s official, we’ve had enough snow to make this December one of the top ten snowiest Decembers on record, a rather dubious achievement if you ask me.
But, the good news is that it may make it to freezing today, with a little sunshine, maybe. The forecast for tomorrow is for well above the freezing mark, so it could be warm enough to melt the ice off from all the trees, which would be a really good thing.
As much as I would like to be outside trying out the new lens, I’m waiting out the clouds, as it does indeed look as if there will be at least some sunshine today.
With it being warmer tomorrow, I could go to Muskegon to do some birding, but I think that I will pass on that. Places near Muskegon received 18 inches of snow in just six hours one day earlier this week. That, and other than a few tundra swans, there are no species of birds being reported to eBird that I don’t already have photos of. So, I may just hit Palmer or Aman Park tomorrow, since the price of gas shot up fifty cents a gallon this week.
One of the other things that I checked on at the camera store yesterday was 1.4 tele-converters ( extender). That would turn the Tokina lens into a 140 mm macro, allowing me to shoot at slightly greater distances, and/or achieve even more magnification.
My brother is using an extender behind his version of the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and is turning out some really great photos. A 1.4 extender turns the Beast into a 700 mm lens for a little more range, which would be a good thing.
An extender would also be helpful behind the 400 mm telephoto that I plan to purchase as well.
The problem is one of compatibility. The Canon extenders are built to fit just their L series of lenses for the most part, so I would have to go with another brand. The salesperson at the store told me to bring in all my lenses when the time comes for me to make that purchase, and we would try all of them out with different extenders to see if they work. That’s about the only way to do it. There are no reliable lists or charts that one can go by. I found that you can’t even rely on Canon’s compatibility lists online, as those said that I could use a 25 mm extension tube behind the 15-85 mm lens, but the manual for the lens says otherwise. The good thing is that the two brands of extenders most likely to work with all or most of my lenses are half the price of the Canon brand extenders.
The downside to an extender is that I would lose the ability to auto-focus with the Beast and the 400 mm prime telephoto lens that I am planning to purchase. But, I don’t see that as too big of a problem for what I intend to use the extender for. Two instances that come to mind are the peregrine falcons and the golden eagle that I photographed at Muskegon. They sat perched long enough for me to have gotten a few shots without the extender, then I could have added it for some better shots using manual focus. Something else for me to weigh.
Well, I see sunshine, time for breakfast, then try out my new toy!
In a cruel twist of fate, there was sunshine while I walked down the road both ways, but during the time that I was in the park, the clouds were thick, and the light was dead. I even tried waiting the clouds out while I was in the park, and that didn’t work. No problem, I got some very good shots as far as checking out the new Tokina lens, and it is everything that I had hoped for and a bit more.
It is slow to auto-focus, and it tends to hunt for a focus on occasion, I knew that when I bought it, for its intended purposes, that’s not a big deal. But, just so any one who reads this and may be interested in that lens, I’m letting you know.
Here’s my first shot with it outdoors, a blue jay in a pine. I missed with the focus as I had the camera set to use all 9 focus points, but I think that it is still a pleasing photo.
Since the reviews that I read on this lens said that it was somewhat prone to chromatic aberration, I gave it the torture test by shooting photos where I knew that I would get out of focus ice in the frame.
If any one thinks that this lens is prone to chromatic aberration, they haven’t used the Nikkor 70-300 mm lens that I used to have. I would say that the Tokina passed this test with flying colors by not adding colors! There may be a hint of chromatic aberration in a couple of these, but not enough to be a major problem.
I took a few test shots to check the sharpness as compared to photos that I have taken with the 70-200 mm L series lens.
I love it! The subject may not be anything special, other than that I can compare this photo to one shot earlier with the L series under similar conditions.
I would call it a toss-up when I view the two of these full screen, maybe a slight nod in sharpness to the Tokina, with a slight nod to color rendition to the L series. But, I haven’t fine tuned a set-up for the Tokina yet. It’s a little hard to judge, since the exposures are slightly different, and there’s more snow stuck to the trees in the photo taken with the Tokina. But, other than to have taken a photo with each, that’s the best test I could come up with.
Since there are more than a few people who consider the L series lens I have to be one of the finest lenses ever made, the fact that the Tokina can hold its own is a great testament to the Tokina. Now all I need is some better weather and subjects to photograph!
Changing the subject, you didn’t want to be in the woods today. While I was taking a break hoping for better light, it sounded as if there were running water everywhere. I could hear the water running down the trees under the ice, along with it dripping from the trees. Anytime that the wind picked up at all, large chunks of ice, snow, and occasionally branches would come crashing down as well.
The birds seemed to be enjoying this break in the weather, I saw more today than in the last week.
And, with a few songbirds out in the open, one of the Cooper’s hawks made an appearance.
The birds, other than the first blue jay, were all shot with the L series lens on the wildlife body. It’s a bit of a pain carrying two camera set-ups and my tripod, but I think that those last two shots prove the worth of doing so.
Well, that’s it for today.
It’s bright and sunny outside, not only that, but it’s getting warm! This will be the warmest day in a month, by far, getting well above freezing. This weather won’t last though, it’s back to the deep freeze tomorrow.
For the record, we’ve received just short of three feet of snow at the official reporting station for Grand Rapids so far this season. Areas to the west of where I live have already gone over the three-foot mark, and places in the UP are approaching ten feet already.
I think that I’ll go to Aman Park for a change of pace this morning. It isn’t the greatest place for birding, but it’s OK. I’ll have some opportunities to try out my new macro lens there.
I’m also going to try something that I’ve had in mind for a while now, I’m going to take the wildlife body with the Beast on it, and the landscape body with the Tokina macro lens, and of course, my tripod. My plan is to carry just a long lens on one body, and the macro lens on the other body most of the time, and leave the other two lenses home, or in my vehicle. That is, unless I’m going somewhere that there’s the possibility of shooting landscapes. I’ve done this a few times already, it does work well, and then I am able to shed some weight by not carrying everything.
That’s my plan for when I go to places that I am very familiar with, when I go somewhere new, I’ll bring the 15-85 mm lens along as well for landscape shots. But, there will be more on that in a post coming up. Time to get moving.
It was a good news, bad news kind of day today. The bad news, it’s hard to find good subjects for a macro photo when there’s almost two feet of snow covering everything. I can also see from the very few photos that I shot with the new Tokina lens that I’m going to have to invest in a few accessories to really get the best from it. The number one item will be a light source of some type. I’m thinking of trying an LED panel rather than a flash so that I can see how the light is playing on the subject that I am trying to shoot, f/2.8 doesn’t cut it. The depth of field is so short that little of the subject was in focus in the photos that I tried today, I should have let the ISO float rather than keep it at 100.
The good news was that the birds were enjoying the weather even more than I was today.
The hairy woodpecker was the only bird that I managed to get a photo of for the first two-thirds of my hike today. The Beast hadn’t suffered any let down during the vacation that it has had since it turned so cold, but my timing was way off. I got it back!
I saw a golden crowned kinglet hoping across a frozen pond, and every so often, launch up in flight to capture what I believe were crane flies that the kinglet scared off from the ice. The kinglet was working in my direction, so I hid behind a tree with the camera held in the almost ready position, waiting for the kinglet to get close enough for a photo. It almost worked like a charm, the kinglet came into view, I lifted the camera to my eye, and found that my breath had fogged the viewfinder to the point where II could barely see through it. I pointed and hoped.
One out of five attempts, not bad.
I told this red-bellied woodpecker that it should get its head straight….
I was able to get four of the five species of woodpeckers common to southern Michigan, here’s number three, a downy.
I brought a plastic bag to use if I had wanted to set the Beast down on the ground while shooting with the macro lens. I never did use the bag for that, but I did use it to sit on while taking a break sitting on a snow covered log. While I was taking a break, a couple of more species of birds posed for me.
Not bad for a ten minute break, but then I was off to chase a few more of our common tweetie birds.
Including the fourth species of woodpecker for the day, a male pileated.
The only somewhat uncommon bird of the day were these two sharp shinned hawks. I heard them long before I saw them. When I did see them, I thought that they were blue jays at first, but a closer look proved me wrong. What these two were up to, I have no idea. There were two blue jays with the hawks, the hawks were chasing each other most of the time, with the jays trying to warn the other birds. But every so often, one of the hawks would chase off the blue jays. Then, the hawks would start screeching at each other, and then go back to chasing, the blue jays would return, until one of the hawks would chase them off again.
I’m not going to post any of the photos that I shot with the Tokina, the subjects weren’t that interesting, nor were the photos very good. I did well enough with the birds today.
This isn’t a knock on the lens, but I can see that there’s going to be a learning curve to get to the point where I get great macro photos from it regularly. Like I said, some of it will entail purchasing a few needed items. Most of it will be learning how to use the lens effectively. I can go into more detail as I progress along that learning curve.
So, that winds up another week, since this will be posted after Christmas, I suppose that I should limit myself to saying Happy New Year to every one. Well, that and say that I hope that every one had a merry Christmas as well.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!