My Week, the old Mossback returns
Well, another day, another week, another year, there are ones that stick out, but for the most part, they all run together after a while.
This week is starting out like most, I’m sitting here drinking my morning coffee, pondering the week ahead of me. The big news this week will be the weather, it began snowing yesterday while I was out walking, and the snow continues to fall as I type this. So far it has been a light snow, we’ve only received a couple of inches. The heavy snow is forecast to arrive later today, and continue on through Tuesday.
It’s still relatively warm outside, and my apartment is back up to 70 degrees again, so all is well right now. The really cold air arrives this evening, with temperatures falling until Monday night, when we may get as cold as -7 F (-22 C), with a strong northwest wind driving the wind chill readings to around -25 F (-32 C).
Monday and Tuesday are forecast to be brutal as far as the temperatures and the wind, so I may just take a day off from walking on at least one of those days. Yes, I’m going to wimp out. There comes a time when you have to ask yourself how many times do you really want to face weather like that.
When you’re younger and full of vim and vigor, weather like that is one thing, something to be overcome, and a source of bragging rights. I’ve been out ice fishing, rabbit hunting, and even steelhead fishing in weather conditions like what are forecast, and when helping out at a relative’s farm, there was no choice but to face such weather. Farm animals have to be tended no matter what, and there were always other chores requiring one to go outside. But I have to face it, I’m getting old. Brutal weather is no fun any longer. I’ll get enough of the weather while I’m working, there’s no need for me to add to my exposure to it for “fun”.
Changing the subject, yesterday I played with the new Tokina lens a little more, and loved the results. The subjects that I photographed were rather bland as far as color, so with some time on my hands, I shot a few photos with that lens indoors. I’m not going to post those photos, as they were of colorful packaging that I found to test the color rendition of that lens on, and all I can say is that the results were spectacular! Spring, with colorful flowers and butterflies can’t get here soon enough for me!
So, I have added a widget to my blog that will do a countdown to the first day of spring, as a way of reminding myself that it really isn’t that far away. Later, I will change it to countdown to the days when I am starting longer trips or my vacation times.
I know, a person isn’t supposed to do that, some crook may stumble onto my blog, know when I’m going to be out-of-town, and burglarize my apartment while I’m gone. All I can say is that I’ll have everything that’s valuable to me along with me while on any of those trips, and I have renters insurance as well. 😉
OK, back to the new Tokina lens, I haven’t shot many photos with it yet, but the few that I have taken have strengthened my resolve to purchase a long prime telephoto lens, the Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6 L series is the one that I am saving for, as you may well know by now. Modern zoom lenses are great, but they can never quite match the performance of a fixed focal length lens.
I look at the photos that I have shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), and it’s hard to believe that there are better lenses out there. When I look at the photos that I have gotten with the Canon 70-200 mm L series lens, it gets even harder for me to believe that a prime lens can be better, but the few photos that I’ve gotten with the Tokina tell me otherwise.
As I’ve been typing this, I have been looking out the window from time to time, watching the snow coming down steadily, blowing around at times, and building up on the cars in the parking lot. I so much want to get back to shooting good photos again, and spring is still just over two months away, which seems like forever right now. I have to tell myself that things will improve before spring technically arrives. A nice day or two towards the end of January will get the birds behaving as if spring were here for the time that the nicer weather lasts. Those types of days will become more frequent through February and early March. It really won’t be all that long, I have to remember that patience is a virtue.
Well, I’ve finished my breakfast, I suppose that there’s nothing left to do but bundle up and face the snowstorm.
Yup, there’s a real snowstorm happening out there!
Today was one of those rare instances when the weather outside was worse than what it looked through the window. For one thing, a lot more snow had fallen than what my view led me to believe. There’s some one stuck in the parking lot even as I type this. And, that leads me to something else I have to say about today’s walk, twice I climbed the three-foot tall snow bank on the edge of the sidewalk to avoid possibly being hit by out of control vehicles.
People are such complete idiots when it comes to driving in this kind of weather. There’s a bunch of them that refuse to drive more than 15 MPH when it’s slippery, and another good size bunch that think that they should still be driving at 10 MPH over the speed limit, which where I walk is 40 MPH. When the two types of drivers meet, there’s trouble!
Both of the times when I planned my escape up the snow bank, there were fast travelling vehicles coming up on the very slow drivers, both times, the drivers going too fast waited until it was really too late to slow down, and they began sliding all over the road trying to keep from hitting the slow vehicles.
Turns out that I never was in any danger, but you never know where a vehicle that’s out of control is going to end up.
Those were just the two near collisions that I watched close to me, there were many others, as people refuse to slow down for anything, as if saving a second or two were worth life or limb.
Anyway, before I go off on a really long-winded rant about the way that people drive, I had better change the subject.
I shot a few photos today, but they are bad, other than they are a record of the weather, so I went back to July of 2013 for this one to kick this post off.
Now, for the opposite kind of weather.
It was hard getting around today, not just for cars but for me. What I thought was an inch or two of new snow turned out to be around four. That’s not really all that much, but on top of bare ice left over form the ice storm a couple of weeks ago, it made walking tricky in places. I was wearing my Yak Trax, but their effectiveness is greatly reduced in conditions like today. So, I did only the three-mile long version of my walk today, even though my legs are trying to tell me that we went much farther than that.
The snow falling today is synoptic snow, that is, it is due to a storm, not lake effect. Synoptic snow is heavier and harder to walk through than the light, fluffy lake effect snow that we get most of the time.
Well, that’s about it for the day.
This storm is the real deal! I can’t say how much snow has fallen since it began, but last night I went out to help a couple of people who were stuck in the parking lot, it looked like about a foot then. It was hard to tell though, because the wind was blowing and drifting the snow around so much. There was a three-foot high snow drift near where I had parked my Forester, I’m sure that there are even bigger drifts around than that.
This is one time when the storm has actually been worse than what the first warnings indicated that it would be. Every time that I checked the online forecast yesterday, they had upped the total snowfall forecast, so I stopped checking it after a while, hoping that the predicted snowfall wouldn’t go up any more.
I haven’t been outside this morning, but I can tell from looking out the window that it’s brutal out there. When I first got up, there was a heavy snow-band over the area, I could hardly see the woods 100 yards south of my apartment. The snow has let up a little since then, but the wind hasn’t. It’s blowing and swirling the snow around, and now that I can see the trees, I can see them swaying in the wind, which is never a good sign when they don’t have any leaves on them.
The actual storm system that brought the bulk of the snow yesterday has moved on to the east, the snow that has been falling this morning is all lake effect snow.
It’s funny, I know that it’s bad out there, I’ve seen plenty of snowdrifts and stuck vehicles in my life, but there’s a part of me that wants to go out there and experience firsthand just how bad it is. So, I guess I’ll get something to eat and take a stroll through the apartment complex. I’m not going to walk down the main road to the trail today, there’s no need for me to be in the way of the vehicles trying to get around in this weather.
Sure enough, it’s nasty out there! My guess of about a foot of snow was about right, I haven’t seen a storm total yet, but from the updated season snowfall, we’re now over a foot for this storm.
I’m not sure how far I walked today, I went all the way around the apartment complex, my guess is between one and two miles. I got a little extra exercise shoving vehicles that were trying to move out of the snowbanks that they were stuck in.
I’m sure glad that when I bought my Forester that I opted for the winter weather package. Even though I seldom use the heated seats, the windshield wiper heaters and the heated mirrors were worth the cost of the package. I say that because I moved my Forester to a portion of the parking lot that had been cleared so that they can clear where I normally park. Not only does the winter weather package make it easier to get and keep the windows and mirrors clean of snow, there’s Subaru’s legendary all wheel drive system to love as well. While other people couldn’t get out of the parking lots, my little Forester walked right through the snowbanks with no problem at all.
I learned a couple of things today, one is that there’s a nice little picnic area on the other side of the apartment complex from where I live that I never knew was there before. I also found out where all the birds are hanging out, I saw more birds today than I have in a month around here. They are all hanging out around feeders that people here in the complex and the surrounding homes have put up for the birds. There were small trees near feeders that were full of finches, Juncos, chickadees, and the other tweety birds that stick around here all winter. I also found a large flock of snow-covered mallards on the banks of the creek that flows through the complex. Smart birds, snow is actually a very good insulator, and when they are covered by the snow, it makes it harder for predators to see them.
I almost wish that I had taken a camera with me, but conditions were far too bad for photos. So, I went through my past photos for this one from July of last year.
Tomorrow is forecast to be very much like today, so I may do the quick walk around the apartment complex again. Good news though, the forecast is calling for a moderating trend and possibly a January thaw this weekend, I sure hope so, they are running out of places to put snow just about everywhere.
It’s still very cold, but the sun is trying to break through the clouds, there was a good sun dog earlier this morning, but it’s gone now. The wind is still fierce, as I can see the leafless trees swaying in the wind, and snow swirling in front of my window.
Every one is still working to dig out from this last storm, and the wind is making it difficult. As soon as an area is cleared, the wind drifts what had just been cleared full of snow again, and that applies to the roads, sidewalks, and everything else. We’re over four feet of snow for the season, the snow banks are getting so high that it’s hard to see over them.
The good news is that today may be the last of the brutal cold for at least a while, and we may get a January thaw starting this weekend.
I’m back from a walk around the apartment complex again today, this time I brought my camera and the L series lens with me, since there was some sunshine.
I don’t know why, but it felt colder today than it did yesterday, even though it wasn’t snowing. The wind yesterday was strong and steady, today, it was gustier and swirled more, maybe that’s the reason it felt colder.
I stopped off at the creek where I had seen the snow-covered mallards yesterday, and I shot a few photos even though the mallards didn’t have much snow on them today.
Two things to note, one is that the mallards use that spot to rest because it is where the road crosses the creek, and at the first sign of danger, the flock swims into the culvert under the road so that they are completely out of sight.
The other thing is that while I have said that I haven’t been testing the limits of the Canon 60 D bodies, when it comes to dynamic range, I have been. You can see that the white of the snow was blown out in some of those photos, even though the ducks are exposed correctly. I had some trouble with that while I was on my vacation to the UP this last fall, it wasn’t snow then that showed the problem with the lack of dynamic range with the 60 D bodies, but the sky and clouds in some of my landscape photos. I won’t rehash that right now, I’ll just say that if the Canon 60 D body has a weakness it is that its dynamic range is less than some other cameras on the market in close to the same price range.
No matter what brand of camera gear that you buy, or how much you spend, there are always trade-offs. I chose Canon because of the availability of quality lenses that fit my needs as far as the types of photos I shoot, and in the price range that I can afford. The 60 D body was the best that I could afford at the time, and I was aware of its limitations. So while its dynamic range capabilities may not be the best, overall, it is still exceeding my expectations. So far I have been able to work around the short comings as far as dynamic range through either careful composition, or cropping.
That’s why I spent so much time researching cameras and lenses, so I would have realistic expectations as far as what their capabilities were, and that they would be the best choices for the photos that I shoot.
Anyway, here’s my favorite photo from today, a fox squirrel dreaming of spring.
Well, that’s it for today.
Another very cold but sunny start to the day. The sunshine didn’t last long yesterday, and there was more lake effect snow most of the day and into last night. The roads have become skating strips, the salt that they use doesn’t work when it’s as cold as it’s been, or so they say. They haven’t been putting anything on the roads, not even sand or gravel which would give drivers at least a little traction.
I’d better leave it at that, or I’ll go off on a long rant about the roads, the government, and work, so I’ll change the subject.
Before the Nikon camera that I used to have died, I began researching its replacement. I had chosen the Canon line, for reasons that I won’t rehash now, and one of the lenses on my wish list was the 400 mm L series prime telephoto. When the Nikon died before I expected, I was forced to make the switch sooner than I had planned, which is why I purchased the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens).
Anyway, after using the Beast for a while, and looking at other lenses that fit my Canon body, I switched from the 400 mm lens to the 300 mm L series prime telephoto as far as my want list. Part of that is because of the close focusing capabilities of the 300 mm lens, it focuses on subjects half as far away as does the 400 mm lens. The other part of the reason was because I couldn’t get a good photo of a bird in flight with the Beast at the time. I thought that it was due to the long focal length, but it turned out to be the Optical Stabilization built into the Beast. But then, I decided to purchase a true macro lens, so I didn’t think that close focusing in a long telephoto was that important. But, it’s hard to get close enough to insects such as dragonflies and butterflies with a 100 mm macro lens.
Before this becomes extremely long, I’ll sum it up by saying that I am back to being undecided between the 300 mm and 400 mm lenses. The 300 mm close focuses and has Image Stabilization, the 400 mm is slightly sharper. The 300 mm retains auto-focus when using a 1.4 extender, the 400 mm doesn’t. The two lenses are very close in price, with the 300 mm lens $100 more expensive because of the IS.
A lot of my indecision has to do with my flip-flopping back and forth on purchasing a teleconverter as well. One of the things that led me to check out the 300 mm lens in the first place was from talking to another birder who was using the 300 mm and a 1.4 extender, which yields an effective focal length of 420 mm. His set-up worked very well, as we shot photos of a redstart while standing side by side. But, after seeing the quality of photos that I was able to get from the Beast, I crossed an extender off from my want list. That is until my brother bought a beast of his own, and showed me the photos he got from it with an extender behind it. That, and reading how well the Tokina macro lens that I just purchased works while using an extender behind it, so now I’m back to having the extender on my want list.
If I photographed only birds, the hands down choice would be the 400 mm lens, to get the very best quality photo possible. But, that isn’t the case, I’ll shoot about everything that there is to see in nature, and dragonflies and butterflies are some of my favorite subjects. That makes the 300 mm lens a better choice.
The best solution would be to have both of those lenses, but that’s not in the cards right now.
I went for my walk today, I walked to the street first to see how it and the sidewalk looked, and to my surprise, the sidewalk had been cleared. So I set off towards the park where I normally go. When I arrived at the trail to the actual park, it was covered in more snow than I cared to slug through. Instead, I walked to the dead-end street in one of the sub-divisions that surround the park, thinking that I could get to the park that way, as there is an entrance to the park at the end of the cul-de-sac in the sub-division. No luck there, the entrance to the park had been plowed shut with a four-foot snow bank to climb over to get into the park.
I could walk all the way around the park and enter it off from the main road that runs past it, but I decided not to bother today, I wandered around in the sub-division watching the birds at the bird feeders there.
I did shoot a few photos, nothing special, just snowy trees, because even though it’s been very cold, it’s still beautiful.
Now then, the warm up is forecast to begin in earnest tomorrow, and if you can believe this, rain on Friday night into Saturday. It may even be above freezing with sunshine on Sunday, if so, I’ll be going somewhere other than around home for my walking that day!
I overslept by two hours this morning, it’s been a long time since that’s happened. I’ve had to work late every night this week, I guess that it finally caught up with me. I feel as if I were hung over and would like to go back to bed and sleep a while longer, but the sun is trying to shine through a thin layer of clouds.
It’s still cold, but at least it has warmed up to almost average, rather than the way it’s been so far this week. The warm up is predicted to continue, but with its own set of problems. The forecast calls for close to an inch of rain Friday into Saturday, that’s going to create a huge mess! We have over a foot of new light fluffy snow, but it is resting on a layer of crusty snow that had begun to melt, then was covered by freezing rain, then frozen solid again. The rain will soak into the new snow, but not the crusty snow, at least not until it too begins to melt. On top of that, after the rain ends, it will dip below freezing again at night, causing everything to re-freeze again.
Well, at least the good news is that the next week looks to be about average as far as temperatures, maybe even slightly above, so we will have a January thaw lasting long enough to melt most of the snow. The wildlife can really use that.
I’ve been seeing deer in the evening as I drive for work, they’ve been digging through the snow and ice trying to find enough food to survive. This thaw will certainly help the deer out, as well as the birds.
It’s well past time for breakfast and my walk, so off I go.
I’m back, I lost the sunshine soon after I began my walk, which was a shame. Not only did the birds all disappear, but for the first time in two months, the sunshine felt warm. You may say that I am crazy, but I felt the first faint hint of spring while the sun was out. And spring can’t arrive soon enough.
I walked down to, and then through the sub-division again today, and since there had been a few people who entered the park, knocking down part of the snow bank which stopped me yesterday, I went into the park as well. The going was tough, and the few times that I stopped to think about shooting a photo, I found that I had to wait for my heart to stop pounding and for my breathing to settle down before I could remain steady enough for a photo.
For the first time in at least a week, it felt good to be outside, and it felt even better getting a couple of photos of a bird, even if the photos aren’t great. Spring is drawing nearer, it really isn’t that far away now. I know that there’s some rough weather left to be overcome, but the end of it is in sight.
It’s Thursday, I should be planning something for this weekend, but with the weather forecast calling for heavy rain, I’m going to wait and see what happens before I make any plans. I’ll just go with the flow, which could be considerable if we get as much rain as they are predicting. 😉
If it is raining as hard as they say it will be on Saturday morning, I may spend some time at the camera store checking a few things out. One good thing about the terrible weather, I’ve put in enough overtime to be able to afford a 1.4 teleconverter, if I can find one compatible with my lenses.
I didn’t write anything before I went out for my walk, I had some things to take care of first. It’s warmer, just above freezing, but it’s also foggy and very gloomy today.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather, I’m sure that it’s because of the rapid change in the weather. That has me wondering, do rapid changes in the weather affect wildlife in the same way? In some cases, it seems to, other times, it doesn’t.
I’m afraid that we’re going to end up with a sloppy mess around here, it’s already starting to become one, and the rain which is on its way hasn’t begun to fall yet. The snowbanks along the sidewalk are at or above waist level to me now, that’s a lot of snow. There’s still a foot or more of snow on the ground in most places that haven’t been cleared. It was difficult getting around in the park today because of the amount of snow, and the fact that it is just beginning to thaw a little, making it heavy.
One of the red-tailed hawks seemed to be following me around, but kept its distance most of the time I was out there. I shot a couple of photos of it perched about two hundred yards away, but there’s no reason to post them. Not when as I was almost done with my walk, the hawk decided to give me a break and do a fairly close fly by.
I’m not 100% positive, but I think that the hawk is “Bruiser” the mate to Bertha, the very large Red-tailed hawk the resides near here. This one doesn’t look stocky enough to be Bertha, but it could be the light. I’ll have to check to see if she’s missing a few flight feathers the next time I see her.
To prove that I’m a glutton for punishment, I tried to get a good photo of a crow in these conditions.
I shot that one at +2 full stops EV.
Then, to prove that I am crazy, I tried to get a good shot of the crow in flight.
Sure enough, trying to get a good photo of an all black bird in the weather conditions like today is a fool’s errand. But, if I were to see a rare species on a day like today, at least now I have some idea what settings would result in a photo that I could use here.
That’s it for what I have to say about my walk, time for a few other things. My order from Cabela’s has arrived in the store, and I should go over and pick it up, they may be less crowded today. 😉 That store is always crowded, and besides, I think I may make some other stops when I do go, specifically, the camera store.
Yup, I’m going to ramble about photo gear again, sorry if I make your head hurt Mr. Tootlepedal. I am gong to try to ramble less this time, and be more on point.
OK, I’m torn between the 300 and 400 mm L series prime telephoto lenses from Canon.
There are two reasons that I would like either of them, they are much lighter and smaller than the Beast, therefore easier to carry on long hikes, and photo quality would be at least marginally better than what the Beast can produce.
The strongest thing going for the 400 mm lens is absolute photo quality, it is one of the sharpest lenses in Canon’s line. The cons are that it doesn’t focus to less than 11 feet, and it doesn’t have Image Stabilization.
But, the cons are also pluses in a way, because of its limited focus range, that lens is quicker to auto-focus, great for birds in flight. One of the reasons the lens is so sharp is that it doesn’t have the added optics for IS, if you can hold the lens steady enough. I have also found that I have to turn the IS off to get sharp photos of birds in flight most of the time.
The biggest thing going for the 300 mm lens is that it is more versatile, because it will focus to just under five feet, making it a near macro lens. It also has IS, good in low light, but which I would probably turn off for bird in flight photos.
The cons are that it isn’t as good optically as the 400 mm, even without adding a 1.4 extender, which I would end up doing. If I do add the extender, then the 300 mm probably wouldn’t be any sharper than the Beast, just easier to carry. I’m not sure that I can justify spending that kind of money just to get a lens that’s easier to carry.
Now, the next logical step that I had forgotten about, I have the excellent 70-200 mm L series lens, which if I add an extender to, becomes a 98-280 mm lens, almost the same as the 300 mm lens, but the zoom will focus one foot closer, even with the extender. So, for larger insects that are difficult to get close to, the L series plus an extender would get me to where the 300 mm prime would.
The fly in the ointment is compatibility, as far as the extender, and which one will fit my lenses. I would like to use one behind the Tokina macro lens to increase its magnification. I would like to try an extender behind the Beast for longer range photos as I am often forced to shoot while birding in the Muskegon area. And, if I can add and extender to the L series lens that I already have to shoot the photos that I would otherwise use the 300 mm prime lens for, then that makes my decision much easier.
Truth be told, I’d lean heavily towards the 400 mm prime just to get the very best quality photos possible, but it’s harder to justify that when looking at the versatility of the 300 mm prime. If that versatility is no longer a factor, then my decision has been made, it will be the 400 mm prime.
So, I will go to the camera store tomorrow and see if I can find an extender that will work with my lenses.
Well, it’s warmer, and it rained all night last night. It’s a gloomy, sloppy, slippery mess outside right now, a good day for some indoor shopping. After breakfast, I’ll take the Beast and the Tokina macro lens to the camera store with me, and try out a few extenders. I may shoot some photos in the store using my camera body, come home and review the photos on my computer, then make my decision as to whether an extender will work for me.
Maybe by the time that I’ve finished that, and picked up my order from Cabela’s, some of the small lakes that have formed overnight will have drained.
Well, I’m back from the camera store and my other errands, and I have a brand new Tamron 1.4 tele-converter to play with. I did shoot a few photos with both the Tokina macro lens, and the Beast, and considering the poor light, they came out well enough that I could use them in my blog if they had been of anything worthwhile to post. I can see some slight drop off in photo quality, but it isn’t as much as I had feared, less than the drop off that comes from cropping severely.
I think that the thing that surprised me the most was how well the Optical Stabilization of the Beast worked with the extender, I shot fairly sharp photos handheld at 700 mm in very poor light and very long shutter speeds for a 700 mm lens. I also tried out the 400 mm prime telephoto lens as well, it’s everything that it’s cracked up to be. Well built, sharp as a tack, and best of all, much easier to carry than the Beast.
While I was there, I did a little more checking on tripods and heads, as well as a LED panel light to use for macro photography, so it was a very productive trip.
So, I think that I’ll slip on one of the new pair of hiking socks that I got, and take a walk with the L series lens with the tele-converter and see if I can find something to photograph in the fog.
I’m back again, it was a horrible day to try out a new piece of photo gear, the rain was changing to snow and sleet, as the winds were picking up out of the northwest. I’ll get to the photos in a second, but first, there was something very satisfying about my walk today, how comfy I was despite the nasty weather.
The footing would have been treacherous, hard packed snow turned to ice and covered in water, but my Yak Trax got me through OK. The new New Balance boots, along with my new hiking socks, kept my feet dry and toasty. I didn’t mention this before, but I had also ordered a Polartec neck sock, nothing more than a tube of material that acts much like a scarf would, only better. It sure does keep my neck warm, and the cold breezes from going down my back. So I walked along about as comfortable as a person can be in weather like today.
Now then, on to the photos. Being such a rotten day, all of these were shot at ISO 1600, which sure doesn’t do much for photo quality. However, I could tell as I was shooting these that the tele-converter added a great deal of versatility to the 70-200 mm L series lens, for close ups….
…birds in flight…
…and not a single one of those photos were cropped.
I’ll be the first to admit that these aren’t very good, but when you consider that they were all shot handheld at around 1/60 of a second, the lens wide open, and the 70-200 mm lens (now 98-280 mm) zoomed all the way to 280 mm, I can see possibilities there.
The tele-converter works as it should, it reports the correct focal length and aperture to the camera, which is a good thing. It get the 70-200 mm lens to where I want it as far as being able to close focus almost like a macro lens, and it increases the reach of the lens more than I thought that it would.
And, I have been holding out as far as the best photos from today.
And here’s the only cropped photo from today.
There is some drop off in photo quality from what I would expect from the L series lens, but it’s hard to say how much of it is from the Tamron tele-converter, and how much is from the slow shutter speeds I used today. Still, these last two aren’t bad considering the weather today.
The good news is that they are forecasting sunshine for tomorrow, so I’ll have a better idea of what the new tele-converter can do then.
Well, that’s it for the day, and the week, thanks for stopping by.