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

My Week, Onward and upward

Sunday

I ended last week as it was sinking into my thick skull that I am actually getting good at digital photography. I don’t quite know yet why that was so difficult for me to accept, but it was. Now, I’d like nothing more than to build on that, and get even better.

After today, the weather is forecast to be poor for photography for the next three weeks, yuck! So, I’m planning on some indoor photography in the near future, Frederick Meijer’s Gardens here in Grand Rapids, and the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It just so happens that there is an orchid show at the gardens next weekend, I’ve been to one, it was beautiful! At least it is nature related. 😉

The Air Zoo is history, something I haven’t done much on lately, but seeing the historic aircraft will be a treat for me, even if not to my readers. 😉

Here I am all fired up to go out and get some great photos, and the weather refuses to cooperate! There’s a front passing through the area, it’s gloomy, windy, and of course snowing once again, with harder snow headed this direction. For the record, we’ve now topped 5 feet of snowfall for the season, and we’ll add to that just about every day for who knows how long. The lake effect snow that falls doesn’t usually amount to very much, just an inch or two a day, but it has been a near constant thing this winter so far.

I don’t mind trudging through a snowstorm now and then, but when that becomes my daily routine, it gets old after a while. I’m even tired of taking photos of the snow as it falls for the record here.

I was going to go to Aman Park today, as it is the most sheltered from the wind of all the places that I go on a regular basis, but I’m asking myself why I should bother to drive that far today. The weather is too bad for me to carry the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), so even if I saw birds, I doubt that I would get good photos of them. Just about everything else worth photographing will either be swaying in the wind, or buried under the snow. I can trudge through a snowstorm and not take photos here just as well as I can there.

I wish that the camera store that I shop at was open on Sunday. Today would be a good day to shop for the odds and ends that I would like to add to my camera gear.

Since I have decided to postpone my quest for the perfect lens for birding, and not purchase a 400 mm prime telephoto for a year or two, that will allow me to purchase some of the other things that I need and will probably make more of an improvement in my photos anyway.

One of those items is a light source. The built-in flash unit on my, or any camera that I know of, just doesn’t cut it for nature photography. I’m leaning towards an LED panel light, rather than a flash unit. I know that my brother has tried many different methods for lighting while doing macro photography, up to and including one of the ring lights that attach to the front of a macro lens. He gets his best results using a flash unit, and holding it in his hand, with a cord running to the camera to control the flash, rather than mounting the flash on the hotshoe of his camera.

I like the idea of an LED panel light, as I can have it on to see how the light will play on the subject that I’m shooting, and, it doesn’t have to be connected or attached to the camera.

The other area I need to work on is holding the camera steady. I would say a tripod, but I am looking for more than just a tripod.

I have an inexpensive tripod already, it works, sort of. It isn’t very steady, when I used it the last time I could see camera motion from my pulse as I rested my finger on the shutter release to check the exposure settings. That’s not good.

I also have a good Manfrotto monopod, but I seldom use it, as it simply screws onto the camera. As large and heavy as the monopod is, that has always seemed like a recipe to ruin the threads on the stud, or in the threaded insert of my cameras. I would also have to remove the quick release plates that fit my tripod from my camera bodies before I could use the monopod as well. That increases the chance of damaging the threads on the various items, as well as the chance of my losing a quick release plate.

A good tripod suitable for my needs is quite expensive, more than I can afford to purchase right now, it would cost nearly as much as the 400 mm prime lens, but I think that I can come up with a system in piecemeal fashion.

So, this is what I’m thinking. I can purchase a good tripod head fairly soon, and I’ll be able to attach it to the legs of the tripod that I already have, or the monopod that I have, depending on which of those would work the best at the time I need something to steady the camera. It would take only a few seconds to switch the head from the tripod legs to the monopod. I think that I could also attach the head to a window clamp so that I could use it for birding from my vehicle in places like Muskegon, where I shoot many photos from inside my Subaru.

Then, once my bank account has recovered, I can purchase a better set of legs to use. I think that all the pieces have ways of attaching together to make what I have in mind feasible, but I’d like to check that fist to see if it will work. I would like to put together a list of the items that will work together, along with prices, so that I can plan everything out.

Well, I’m back from my walk, and I think that it’s just as well that I didn’t bother going anyplace today, other than around here. It was sure cold and windy today! I know that there are windchill charts that you can use to calculate how cold it feels like outside in the wind scientifically, but I have one of my own. When it’s so cold that my eyeballs begin to ache, it’s really cold!

You have to really feel for the wildlife stuck outside in this kind of weather, I spent two hours out there, and that was enough for me!

I shot a couple of photos today, they’re fair, so I’ll start this post with an older one first.

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

That one was shot last weekend in Muskegon, handheld using the Beast and the Tamron extender for a 700 mm focal length.

Okay, for today’s photos.

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Blue jay

Blue jay

Hey, at least I got a photo today, that was more than I expected.

The photo of the jay, and for that matter, the first photo of the gull, bring up something that I have been forgetting to say.

Since the spot where there’s a footbridge across the creek in the park that I walk in everyday was somewhat sheltered from the wind, I stood there for a while so that my eyeballs would stop aching. I was just standing there, not trying to hide at all. At first, there wasn’t anything around for me to even try to photograph but as I stood there for a while, birds and a fox squirrel emerged from their hiding places, and that’s when I got the photo of the blue jay. The squirrel got quite close to me, the end of the bridge in fact, then it stood there looking at me as if trying to figure out what I was. So I talked to it, and it was off like a shot. I was wearing my usual parka, which is orange and grey, hardly what I would call camouflage of any sort.

Last Sunday at Muskegon, most of the waterfowl were on the south side of the channel when I pulled into the parking lot, which was good, since I was on the south side of the channel. I hadn’t taken more than a few steps from my vehicle before all the waterfowl began swimming to the other side of the channel, out of range of the Beast even with the extender. I did get close to a couple of ducks that had been underwater when I started walking down the channel, but the rest had all crossed the channel.

Once I had gone as far as I could, there is a bench there, so I sat down to see if the ducks would return, and they did. That kind of surprised me, as I was still out in the open, and they could see me just as well as when I had been walking. The only difference was that I was sitting still, rather than moving. Even though I moved around a little on the bench to get in position to shoot photos, the ducks didn’t seem to mind.

My point is, as long as you’re quiet and not moving, wildlife doesn’t seem to mind the presence of humans no matter what you wear.

Completely off subject, my brother just sent me what is close to the perfect photo of a chickadee. It’s a head shot so sharp that you can see the chickadee’s nostril and little pink tongue.

Monday

The really cold air is settling in from the north, we’ll be below zero fahrenheit several nights this week, and only in the low teens, if that, for high temperatures. If there’s a bright side to the cold, it could be that it will be a little brighter around here. The wind is out of the north, which means less lake effect cloudiness, if we’re lucky. There’s no sunshine in the forecast for the next eight days, but I think that the forecast may be incorrect on that.

Since I had some time on my hands yesterday, I did some playing around with macro photos using my tripod. I also saved the basic settings that I used for those photos to the custom mode of the landscape body, just as I have saved bird in flight settings as the custom mode of the wildlife body.

It now takes me less than a second to be ready to shoot macro or landscape photos correctly using the tripod, which makes it much more likely that I’ll use the tripod. As it was, I had to fumble my way through half a dozen pages in the menu to make the changes needed from shooting handheld.

Just as when I shot the really good landscape and waterfall photos during my UP trip, my tripod doesn’t do that poorly when the camera is set up correctly. There’s some slop in some of the adjustments which shouldn’t be there when everything is locked down, but when I use the mirror lockup and a two second delay with the self timer, I was able to get some very sharp close ups.

Macro test using a penny

Macro test using a penny

That, by the way, is as close as I can get, and the most magnification, using the Tokina 100 mm macro lens and the Tamron extender. That photo was not cropped at all.

Another thing that I learned is that a good light source of some kind is an absolute must! That photo required a 30 second exposure time. Of course it was taken indoors using the ambient coming through the window of my apartment, but exposure times that long aren’t going to work well outdoors, and the light inside was about the same as I would find outdoors in a shaded spot.

If there’s a hint of breeze in the air, it would be enough to ruin any close ups of flowers or insects on plants which could move with exposure times that long.

So, to sum up my testing from yesterday, the camera, lens, and extender are fantastic! My tripod may not be the world’s finest, but I can make do with it for the time being. However, I do have to purchase a light source.

I can see how tricky lighting for macro photography is going to be. The front edge of the lens hood was about four inches above the tabletop for the photo of the coin. There’s no way to get light from a light source mounted on the camera’s hotshoe on the subject being photographed.

Anyway, I am leaning towards taking my time in replacing my tripod, just as I have postponed purchasing a long prime telephoto lens. I want to have some money this year to go out and use the equipment that I already have.

Last year, just about every extra dollar I could squeeze out of my budget went to cameras and lenses, and that left me very little to use on excursions to places other than those close to home. I could easily put myself into the same situation this year, but I’d rather not.

This year, I’d like to travel more, and hit more spots than what I have the last few years, and that won’t happen unless I stop buying camera gear. 😉

I have my new tent/cot, or cot/tent, whichever you prefer, which will make camping a lot easier than dealing with a full size tent. I have also learned that I can sleep well in the back of my Forester if need be, which is even easier yet.

Somewhere during typing this, I went for my daily walk, and didn’t bring back a single photo. So, I’m going back to August of last year for this one.

Moth or butterfly?

Moth or butterfly?

I don’t have much else to say today, since it’s the day I visit my mom in the nursing home.

Tuesday

Sunshine! It’s very cold, but the sky is almost clear as I sit here typing this and drinking my coffee. We deserve it.  Since Dec. 1, Grand Rapids has had just 15.8% of possible sunshine. That compares to an average of 23%. The most sun we have seen on any single day this month was 57% on the 3rd.  We’ve didn’t officially have a single minute of sunshine from the 16th through the 20th.

Today is the 43rd day in a row with 4″ or more of snow on the ground in G.R.  The record for most days with 1″ or more of snow on the ground in G.R. is a whopping 117. Interestingly, that was 1903-04, a very cold winter and the year we had our worst spring flood on the Grand River. That string ended on March 23rd.  Second place was 1978-79 at 107 days ending on March 13th. Third place is 105 days ending 3/21/1963. (The statistics are from a local meteorologist’s blog that I follow)

I did a silly thing and stopped at the camera store on my way to visit my mom yesterday, but that story will have to wait until I get back from my walk. I want to get out there and enjoy the sunshine, even if it is only 5 degrees F outside!

I may have been out there too early, I don’t think that it really mattered. It was very cold, bitterly cold in fact. It felt colder today than any other day so far this winter, even though there have been days when the temperature was lower, or the wind higher.

I also had equipment problems, some how the diopter of the wildlife body was way off today. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I waited until I was back inside before fixing it. I used the L series lens and Tamron extender today, the L series lens is a very sharp lens, but it doesn’t auto-focus accurately all the time on the wildlife body, I often have to tweak the focus manually. Since everything in the viewfinder was blurry today because of the diopter being out of adjustment, I had to take what the lens and camera came up with. So, I ended up with a mixed bag, with many photos completely out of focus.

Here’s the best of the lot.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Fox squirrel trying to stay warm

Fox squirrel trying to stay warm

Lichen

Lichen

Patterns in ice

Patterns in ice

With the sunshine, I was hoping for more, and better photos, but that was all I could come up with today.

I thought that the sun would bring more birds out, but the cold cancelled out the sunshine. The wind was really rather light, but any wind when it’s as cold as it was is enough to overcome the sunshine as well. I stopped in areas sheltered from the wind a couple of times, hoping that the sunshine would feel good, but it didn’t. In fact, when I got to the lowest point as far as elevation in the park, it was sheltered from the wind, but it felt even colder there because of the cold air pooling there.

So, before I whine any longer about the cold, I’ll change the subject to my visit to the camera store yesterday.

First of all, I ended up talking to the two least knowledgeable of the sales staff there. That’s one reason that I do as much research online as I can, in fact, I’m thinking about making purchases online as well. I do try to buy local if I can, and part of the reason for that has been because of the knowledge of the sales staff as far as knowing the product line and being able to make recommendations.

However, the two people I dealt with yesterday had no knowledge of the products that I was asking about, LED light panels and tripods. This could turn into a very long rant if I’m not careful, I’ll only say that I asked if they had a geared tripod head that I could look at, and neither knew what I was talking about. The best part of the trip there was when the store got very busy, and I had the chance to play with the display models on my own, and figure out all the features, because not only didn’t the sales staff know the features, they had told me the opposite of how the things I was looking at actually function.

I went there in the first place to pick up an LED light panel. Since I’m planning to go to Meijer Gardens this weekend for the orchid show, and other things indoors, I thought a good light source would be handy to have.

The LED panel that I bought is less than half the size and weight of a speedlight, which is a good thing. The output seems very good, as the LED panels are meant for use while shooting video. I haven’t tried it for any photos yet, I will today or tomorrow indoors, so I doubt if I will post any of the test photos.

I also picked up a Joby Gorillapod to hold the LED panel in place if I don’t attach it to the camera. Like I said, I haven’t tried it out yet, but this looks like a winning idea so far. I can use the Gorillapod as a tripod for subjects close to the ground, or attach it to the tripod, a convenient branch, maybe even wrap the legs around the barrel of the camera lens if needed. I will post a photo or two sometime if this set up does work the way that I think that it will. I’m almost positive that I’ll be able to get the light where I need it.

I had talked myself out of purchasing a tripod for my camera, thinking that I could get by with the one that I have. But, I looked over a carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod that has changed my mind back again. In the first place, it is much more reasonably priced than I thought that a carbon fiber tripod would be, and in the second place, it looks like it was designed for macro photography. It is also less than half the weight of my current tripod, even though it is much steadier than the one that I have now.

If I had listened to what the store clerk told me, I would have thought that it was one of the worst engineered items of all times, and I would not be thinking of buying it. I even asked how you were supposed to use it for macro photography close to the ground, and the clerk’s reply was that I would need another tripod. Yeah, right, I’m not about to purchase several tripods to cover a range of heights, let alone carry them all.

However, a few minutes of my playing with it, and I had figured out how to use it. The neat thing about it is that you can raise the center post of the tripod all the way up, press a button, and the center post swings to the horizontal position, great for sliding closer or farther away from a subject while doing macro photography. With the legs splayed all the way out, it puts the camera nearly at ground level. It’s a very well-engineered piece of equipment, I fell in love with it!

They sell sliding rail systems that you mount to your tripod for just that purpose, to move closer and farther away from a subject. With the tripod that I looked at, I wouldn’t need one of those, making the tripod somewhat more affordable when compared to an aluminum one that doesn’t have the sliding boom feature that the Manfrotto does.

Since that model is about a third of the cost that I thought that I would have to pay for a good carbon fiber tripod, I have added it to my list of things to purchase relatively soon. It’s sturdier than my current tripod, but weighs a fraction of what the one that I have now weighs, making it more likely that I will have it with me, and it sets up easier, making it more likely that I’ll use it.

Wednesday

Sad, bad news today. The officials at the Kent County airport have been shooting snowy owls this winter. So far, nine have been killed. I could hardly believe it when I read the news, the owls are a protected species, yet it seems that they are being killed at several airports across the country, due to the possibility of plane/owl collisions.

If there is any good news on that subject, it is that public outrage over the killing of the owls once the news was leaked about what was happening has caused the officials at the airport to switch to trapping and relocating the snowy owls.

I understand the need for air-passenger safety, a snowy owl sucked into a jet’s engine could lead to a catastrophe, but there has to be a better way of dealing with the owls than shooting them.

In weather news, we’re back to cold, windy, and snow for today, we had our quota of sunshine for the week yesterday. The longer range forecasts are looking just as grim as they have all winter, continued very cold with occasional snow. The next three weeks are looking exactly like the last three weeks, minus the short thaw that we had. I’m getting really bummed out about the weather.

I shouldn’t be, I had a feeling that this winter was going to be a rough one, how, I don’t know, but I had that feeling.

If there’s an upside to the weather, it is that because of it, I have been earning close to $100 a week in overtime pay that I wouldn’t otherwise get, which is helping me to afford all the recent purchases I have made. If this keeps up, I’ll have that new tripod a lot sooner than I could otherwise hope to.

I’m still ticked off about how uninformed the staff has become at the camera store that I shop at. One of the jerks that I dealt with on Monday is the same one that told me that you had to have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 to auto-focus when using a 1.4 tele-conveter, wrong!

Anyway, I’m going to bring my new panel light along today, despite the cold, and see if I can shoot a few test shots with it.

I’m back, and I have to say that the weather out there today was simply lovely, if you’re a polar bear. However, I may be big and fat, but I’m no polar bear.

I did take my new panel light with me, but it’s hard to concentrate on photography while warding off frostbite. 😉

The only photos that I shot were of lichens, and they are not very sharp, so I’m not going to bother posting them.

The panel light doesn’t put out as much light as I had hoped, or needed under conditions as they were today, but I want to use the panel light for additional lighting, not the main source of light as it was today. So, the jury is still out deciding if the LED panel was a wise purchase or not. I think that it will work as I had in mind for the right subjects in better weather.

What has surprised me is the Gorillapod. They have been on the market for some time now, but they always looked too gimicky to me. But, in playing with the one that I purchased, it works very well. I can wrap the Gorillapod around the lens hood of my lenses, and it and the panel light are light enough so having them out on the end of the lens isn’t a problem. On the shorter lenses anyway, I haven’t tried that set up on the Beast, as the Beast is heavy enough all by itself.

I can see that I’ll be able to position the panel light just where I need it one way or another using it mounted to the Gorillapod.

Looking at the filter on the front of the L series lens, I can see why I’ve not been getting sharp photos the past few days, it’s filthy. Well, let me rephrase that, it has a coating of what is probably salt spray from the roads that I walk along getting to and from the park. I’ll give it and all my lenses a good cleaning after I finish this today.

I know that I have a serious case of the winter blahs right now. There are photos that I probably could be getting, but I’m not. I’m getting geared up, and fired up for spring if it ever arrives. I want to photograph flowers, butterflies, and other subjects which aren’t around right now. That’s okay, this winter may be costing me money as far as the camera gear that I have been buying, but I’m saving a lot of money by staying home most weekends for the time being.

I have decided that my finances are in good enough shape that I’ll purchase the tripod that I fell in love with on Monday. That will be my final “big-ticket” item for the foreseeable future. The poor weather will give me time to play with my new gear indoors, even if I don’t post the photos here. That way, when spring does get here, I’ll familiar with how everything works together, and it should result in better photos sooner this spring than if I had waited until then to start using my new gear.

For the photo for today, I’m going back to last Sunday for this one of a demure female long tailed duck.

Female long tailed duck

Female long-tailed duck

Time to clean some lenses.

Thursday

There’s more sunshine streaming through my windows this morning, normally that would have me rushing out in hopes of some good photos, but not so much this morning. As harsh as this winter has been so far, and looks to be for the next three weeks, I’m not going to chase birds or any wildlife when they are struggling to survive. It’s only a couple of degrees above zero fahrenheit, so I’m in no rush to get out there today.

I see that the countdown to spring widget that I added to my blog is very optimistic, as it now reads one month til spring. It may not be until April or even early May before the traces of this winter are gone.

I cleaned all my lenses yesterday afternoon, then set up the L series lens and Tamron extender for some near macro photos indoors using the tripod. I was very pleased with the results that I got, especially when I used the new LED panel light. As I expected, with the light mounted to the camera’s hotshoe, there was glare on the subject, and the light was rather harsh. So I switched the light to the Gorillapod, dimmed it a little, and set it up to the side slightly, and the results were about perfect. I have very high hopes for this set up once spring finally arrives.

I also checked the pricing of the tripod that I would like to purchase from several of the large mail order camera retailers, and found that the prices were significantly lower if I were to purchase through one of them. So much lower that I could buy the tripod and a ball head suitable for my needs for what I would pay for the leg set at the local store that I normally shop at.

I would normally feel guilty about going into the local store, spending an hour asking questions, then making the purchase online, but since the personnel at the local store not only didn’t know their product line, but gave me misinformation, I won’t feel guilty if I do decide to make the purchase online. Or I should say, I’ll feel less guilty. 😉

I do try to buy local when I can, but one thing that the local store have to do for me to shop there is provide service and information, if they can’t, then I’m better off saving money by doing my shopping online.

I’ll be back after my walk.

Call me crazy, but I felt the first hints of spring today, I swear that I did!

I’m not about to start packing away my winter clothes, far from it, in fact, I suspect that we’re going to get even colder weather in February than what we’ve had so far.

But, for the first time since last fall, I could feel the warmth of the sun penetrating all the way in to my tired old bones. It felt so good that there were several times when I just stood there soaking it up.

At first, I thought that I may have been imagining it, but when I got to the metal footbridge over the creek, I could see that the sun was melting the snow on the railings. Ten degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun was strong enough to melt snow.

That means that while there’s still a lot of winter left to endure, the corner has been turned and that I’ll begin seeing more signs of spring coming soon.

I even managed a few photos today.

I took the L series lens and the Tamron extender, and when that combination focuses correctly, the results are excellent!

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

However, the one problem that I have had with the L series lens since I purchased it, is that the auto-focus is off a touch at the close up end of its range. The Tamron extender seems to make that problem even worse.

When I shot the test shots indoors yesterday, I had to switch to manual focus, use live view, and zoom in to get the focus correct. That’s par for the course with the L series lens. Today, I tried a few lichen photos, but every one of them is off slightly as far as focus.

The L series lens focuses better when I use it on the landscape body, I have thought about switching the intended use for the bodies, but the wildlife body works so very well with the Beast, and the landscape body works so well with the 15-85 mm lens and Tokina macro lens, that I’m afraid that I’d regret making the switch. Once spring gets here, the L series lens won’t get much use anyway.

Anyway, here’s a few of the other photos from today.

Park decoration

Park decoration

Snow on burdocks

Snow on burdocks

Blue jay trying to get my attention

Blue jay trying to get my attention

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

I saw a few other birds, but they didn’t pose as nicely as the jay did, and as I have said, I’m not going to chase them until the weather gets nicer.

I think that I may have come up with a way of relieving myself of any feelings of guilt about purchasing the tripod that I would like online. It’s the leg set that is on sale online, for $80 off the regular price, the price that the local store is asking. I’ll see if the local store will match the online price, if not, I’ll purchase the legs online. When they arrive, I’ll purchase the ball head from the local store. It works for me.

Now, it’s time for a shower and a nap before work.

Friday

As I have proof read what I have already written, one thing that I forgot to add stands out. It was sunny with a light wind on Tuesday, but the sunshine didn’t feel warm to me. The conditions were almost exactly the same on Thursday, but I could feel the sun’s rays penetrating my clothes and warming up from the core. Could the angle that the sunlight hits the Earth have changed so much in two days? I would say that I had been imagining the sun’s warmth, but I also saw that it was melting the snow, not just on the footbridge railing, but on one of the benches in the park.

We are gaining several minutes of sunlight each day, so maybe there was enough of a change. One thing I know for sure, it sure felt good to feel Old Sol again yesterday.

There’s no chance that I’ll be feeling the sunshine today, as the clouds are back, along with a stiff west wind. Conditions are going to get even worse for the next day or two. I’m not looking forward to working tonight at all, as they are predicting close to blizzard conditions for tonight into tomorrow morning.

I think that I’ll go to Frederick Meijer Gardens on Sunday, I’ll have to remember to make sure that both camera batteries and my new LED panel light are fully charged before I go.

I can’t quite understand how I have gotten myself all charged up over purchasing the tripod that I fell in love with this week. The clerk at the store told me that model was being discontinued, but I don’t know whether to believe that or not. Sales people will say a lot of things that aren’t true if they think that it will lead to a sale. But, when I see that the big online retailers are all discounting that model by 25% and offering free shipping, then, that starts to bother me. It could be that the local clerk was correct, if so, it was about the only thing that they got right. 😉

I’ll save my ranting about the tripod for later, right now, it’s time to report on my walk today, not that there’s a lot for me to say. The word for the weather today is dangerous.

Between the bitter cold and the high winds, frostbite was a distinct possibility. For most of the time I was out there, I had my neck sock pulled up over my nose, and my knit cap and hood of my parka pulled down to my eyebrows, leaving just my eyes exposed. It was still cold, the kind of cold that makes my joints ache, and affects my thought process. It’s really hard to believe the difference from yesterday when it felt pleasant, despite the cold.

I wimped out and walked through the subdivision to reach the park, rather than walk up and over the hill that I have to go over if I take my normal route to the park. That hill isn’t really much of a hill, but it is the highest point around, and completely exposed to the wind. I’m glad that I took the coward’s way to the park, the thought of battling the wind had no appeal to me what so ever.

Walking through the subdivision, I did see a few birds huddled around bird feeders in the yards along the way, but I didn’t shoot any photos of them, or anything else for that matter, it was too darned cold.

Just for the record, right now, after my walk the temperature is 3 degrees (-16 C) with a 28 MPH wind, I must have been crazy to venture out today. 😉

The forecast for both tomorrow and Sunday is much the same, although the winds will be a little lighter. If the forecast is correct, I may stay indoors tomorrow and start my income taxes, and my spring housecleaning in my apartment. That way I’ll have those things out of the way when, or maybe I should say if, the weather ever gets better around here.

Looking at the longer range forecast, we may see a moderating trend next weekend, I sure hope so, even though my guess is that it won’t last long.

Well, I took a short break from this to get a nap in before work, and to order the tripod that I want so badly. I may have been crazy to do that as well, but I don’t think so. I couldn’t pass up the chance to get a light carbon fiber tripod for under $300. If that model is being closed out, the new model will probably be more costly, that’s hard to say. I do know that the one that I just ordered is much lighter than its aluminum twin brother, about a third less weight, and I know that the new one will be much steadier than the one I’m currently using. I also know that being able to rotate the center column 90 degrees and slide it horizontally saves me from buying an accessory to do much the same thing. So in the long run, I should have less money into this set up than if I had gone another way.

Since I didn’t shoot a single photo today, here’s another from last Sunday.

Male mallard macro

Male mallard macro

That one was a test of sorts, I shot it using the Tokina 100 mm macro lens just to see how sharp it was, it passed the test in my opinion, even though the mallard turned its head at the last second.

Saturday

Any thoughts that I was having about going for a walk today were just put soundly to rest by the white out that occurred outside my window. The garages, which are less than 100 feet from my window disappeared in the snow. I could barely make out the line of cars parked 25 feet from where I’m sitting. I had enough of that last night.

I could whine about all the problems I had driving for work last night, but I’d rather forget that last night ever happened. This storm has been the real deal, the authorities in Indiana had closed most of the major expressways, other than the toll road, so I had to slug it out on the back roads to and from our branch in South Bend.

Here in Michigan, they’re having trouble keeping the roads open due to the number of abandoned cars left where they got stuck and couldn’t go any farther.

There are two bright sides to this storm, one, I made a few extra dollars last night in the way of overtime. The other is that my little Forester handles deep snow with no trouble at all, so I could weave my way around the few stuck vehicles that I had to avoid on my way home from work, once I had finally gotten back to Grand Rapids.

It feels weird knowing that I’m not going for a walk today, I can’t remember the last time that I skipped a day. It was probably a little over a year ago, when I was moving from my old apartment to this one.

As I type this, I can hear people outside working to get their vehicles unstuck, so it’s just as well that I not venture out anywhere today. I had the passing thought of going to the orchid show today rather than tomorrow, but I think that I will stay home, do my taxes, and clean my apartment.

Since there won’t be any photo from today, I went back to my photos from my vacation this past fall for this one.

Grand Sable dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Grand Sable dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There’s no spring-like weather in the forecast for this upcoming week, so I chose that one because it reminds me of spring, even though it was taken in the fall.

Well, I guess that since I’m not going for a walk today that I really don’t have anything else to say, other than I’m sick of winter and I hope that we get an early spring.

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

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20 responses

  1. Anonymous

    Depressing about the owls! Hopefully it has stopped.

    It’s a Cabbage White butterfly.

    January 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

  2. Anonymous

    It’s a Cabbage White butterfly. Hopefully the Owl shooting has stopped!

    January 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    • Thank you for the ID. For the time being they have stopped shooting the owls, we’ll see how long that lasts.

      January 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

  3. As always, interesting blog with great photos! I’m with you on the whole never-ending-winter thing. I really don’t mind the snow, but this arctic cold is a real pain. Literally. As for the store’s lack of knowledge, maybe a nice sit-down with the manager is in order. He/she should be making sure the employees know what they’re talking about. Cord Camera just closed the majority of their stores, and if your local store isn’t careful they could suffer the same fate.

    January 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    • Thanks Jan. You’re right about this cold, it is a pain.

      The local camera store here seems to be branching out into giving more classes all the time, and they seem to all fill up, so maybe that’s their way of staying in business.

      January 25, 2014 at 3:28 pm

  4. I was happy to read that you’ve decided you’re getting good at digital photography. Sometimes we are hardest on ourselves. As for the shooting of snowy owls~~how could they? I almost cried reading about it. Hopefully, someone will see this situation is corrected.

    January 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    • Thanks Kathy, my pursuit of perfection results in good photos, but it also blinds me as to how good I am at times.

      As to how could they shoot the owls, well, three years ago, one of the owls got sucked into a plane’s engine on take-off. Fortunately, the pilot was able to abort and return to the terminal, and no passengers were injured when the jet engine exploded. But, the cost of the engine was $300,000. Some would say that an owl is worth more than that, I don’t know. If the plane would have crashed, then you have to ask if an owl’s life is worth more than the lives of people. Hopefully, they will be able to trap and relocate the owls so that no one has to make that decision.

      January 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm

  5. I am really sorry about the weather. It must be particularly frustrating when you are wanting to try things out.

    January 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    • Thanks, the weather, every one complains about it, but no one does anything about it. 😉

      January 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

  6. Tragic about the snowy owls, but a dilemma about the damage they can do to planes, not to mention human life. But you’d think they could come up with some other solution than to shoot those wonderful creatures.

    Your photos are showing radical improvement since I first started following you. Own it! I wish I could pull off half of your meticulous approach to dealing with equipment and settings.

    January 25, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    • Thank you! Hopefully the trapping and relocation of the owls will work.

      I’ve been so busy mastering my new equipment that I never noticed how much I was improving.

      January 25, 2014 at 6:34 pm

  7. I wonder why they can’t put some kind of screening over jet engines so things can’t get sucked into them. If the openings were big enough I wouldn’t think it would stop the airflow any.
    I’ve had a Gorilla pod for a while now and find that it comes in real handy. I don’t use my LED light enough though. I sometimes forget that I even have it, which always makes me kick myself when I see a blurry macro shot.
    I’ve noticed the stronger sunshine too, and have had a dripping roof even on real cold days.
    You’re going to have to talk your brother into doing a blog so we can all see his photos.
    I don’t know if he could match that shot of the flying hawk though!
    Drive carefully!

    January 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    • That’s an idea about a screen for the engines, but I don’t think that it would work. Those engines pull in so much air that they can pull a full grown man off his feet and into them. As soon as a large bird hit the screen, screen and all would be sucked into the engine.

      I bought the Gorillapod in part because you said that it worked well for you. Once I get all my gear together, I’ll snap a photo or two to show how it all works together.

      My brother’s not one for typing, or talking for that matter. I’ll ask my brother to send me a few of his photos, and I’ll start doing a guest photo feature much like Tootlepedal does.

      January 25, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      • That’s a great idea!

        January 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm

  8. Love the squirrel shot–that’s something you should try to sell!!! On a technical note, I hear you about the monopod/tripod conundrum. I don’t have the super-heavy lenses you’re using so I don’t use a tripod and don’t need to keep the plate threaded on but I can imagine how frustrating that would be. Haven’t had any threading issues with the monopod (same brand you’re using) but I will be very careful now when I put it on off/take it off the camera. Thanks for the tip!

    January 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    • Thanks Lori! The squirrel photo had to be cropped too much to sell.

      Tripod inserts in cameras are one of the things that are most often damaged, maybe I’m being too careful, but better safe than sorry.

      January 27, 2014 at 9:25 am

  9. Love the pictures of the birdies! And your Christmas crown represents Christmas so well, with all the snow!

    January 28, 2014 at 12:36 am

    • Thank you very much, I’m glad that you enjoyed them.

      January 28, 2014 at 12:41 am

  10. That Fox Squirrel made me think of turning up the heat!

    That’s a great macro test photo of the penny. I need to get a macro lens…

    February 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    • Thanks! I don’t know which brand of camera that you have, but the Tokina 100 mm f/2.8 is made with several different mounts, and I can heartily recommend it!

      February 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm