My Week, Two out of three ain’t bad!
Well, I’m going to start with a little about my trip to Muskegon on Saturday. I was able to get poor photos of two of the three species of waterfowl that I went after, the Barrow’s goldeneye and king eider. Of course both of those birds stayed on the far side of the channel, so I had to shoot at a much greater distance than I would like. Not only that, but it began to snow while I was photographing the eider, which does nothing to improve photo quality.
However, the eider stayed in one small area long enough for me to shoot quite a few photos holding my camera and the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), and it was very close to where I had parked. So, I decided to see if the new Manfrotto tripod and head that I just purchased could handle the Beast. It does! In fact, the new tripod handles the Beast much better than the old one could handle my short lenses, so I’m a really happy camper! Now I’ll have to pick up another quick release plate to install and keep on the Beast so that I can use it on the tripod when conditions are right.
But, like the idiot that I am, I focused manually as I have to do when using the Tamron 1.4 tele-converter with the Beast, completely forgetting that I could have switched to live view, zoomed in on the eider, and gotten the focus dead on, rather than slightly off as I did. Another lesson learned!
I’ll get to the photos of the lifers in just a second, but first, a couple of my best photos from the day, taken while the sun was out, and before the snow picked up.
Woo hoo! I got the green of the common goldeneye’s head!
As I was shooting and checking the photos from yesterday, I was thinking how bad most of the photos that I shot when I first saw a species were. As time goes on, I see those species more often, and I can be more selective when photographing them, and how much better the photos of the following species are when compared to the first photos.
Give me some sunshine, the Beast, Tamron extender, and some willing subjects, and even I can get some good photos. Some of those were cropped slightly, but for the female merganser and the long-tailed duck, I had to zoom out to less than the 700 mm the Beast and extender are capable of.
OK, for the not so good photos of the lifers.
Okay, so those aren’t great, they do meet my minimum requirements for the My Photo Life List project, and at least I have a few photos of both of these species. If the weather and/or these ducks would have cooperated, my photos would have been even better, and hopefully, the next time that I see them I’ll get better photos.
Overall though, the trip was more productive than I thought that it would be. The Beast with the Tamron extender works better than I had thought that it would, especially when I can zoom to less than 500 mm and use the Beast at a focal length where it is sharper than at full zoom. I lose less in photo quality using that combination that what I would if I cropped the photos down to get the birds to appear the same size that they do when using that combination.
The new Manfrotto tripod may have cost me a bit more than what I really had wanted to spend, but it is proving to be a very wise purchase. I knew that its rated capacity was high enough to hold the Beast, but manufacturers often overstate the capacities of things that they produce, not so with the Manfrotto tripod, I was quite astonished by how well it handled the Beast.
Now I have to remember the full capabilities of my camera all the time.
I hate to sound like a broken record, the weather outside is cold, cloudy, with snow, but that’s been the story of this entire winter. Almost everyday when I look outside to check the weather, it looks the same as the day before, except that the snow piles continue to grow. We’re now well past 7 feet of snow for the season and closing in on 8 feet. We may reach that mark early this week if the forecast is correct. We’ve at least tied the record for the most snow cover on the ground for the month of February, it’s now a matter of how much the snow on the ground packs down in relation to how quickly the new snow piles up on top of what is already there as to whether or not we break that record, my bet is that we will.
The good news, what little of it there is, is that we may get above freezing for a few hours later this week, and we may start to see warmer weather next week. I sure hope so!
Today is one of those days where I would just as soon stay indoors. I wouldn’t mind the cold if there wasn’t too much snow on the ground to prevent me from being able to get around, and I wouldn’t mind the snow so much if it wasn’t accompanied by the bone chilling cold that has been the norm this winter. But, I’ll bundle up and head on out, even if it is just down the street and back.
Once I get back, I may play around with both the new Tokina macro lens, and the Beast mounted on the tripod. I may not post any of the photos, but by playing around indoors, I’ll get more familiar with the controls and how everything works.
I’m back, and to my surprise, I have a photo from today.
Other than that, it was the same old same old, snow and cold. I did make it through the subdivision and into the park, I even opened up part of my trail again. But, half of it was enough for one day, besides, turning around and walking the section that I had just opened will make it easier to keep open.
I had been walking through the park, then coming back home via the sidewalk along the roads, but the county has abandoned trying to keep the sidewalks clear, so they’re in worse shape than the path that I have kept open.
One more thing from today, the birds are becoming a little more active with each passing day, despite no real let up in the snow and cold. I hear them chattering away, with a few singing as well. They seem to think that spring is on its way, I hope that they are right.
Well, I’m going to bore every one this morning, talking about the weather and photography.
First the weather, it seems as if every morning when I open the window blinds that I see exactly the same scene, cloudy skies, leafless trees, and snow-covered cars in the parking lot. The only things that change are the amount of snow covering the cars, and their positions in the parking lot, otherwise my view is exactly the same as it was almost three months ago. I am so tired of this crap.
As far as temperatures, at least the cold this week isn’t as bad as it has been for most of the last two months, but it’s still 10 to 15 degrees below average. That is an improvement over nearly 30 degrees below average, but it’s hard to tell the difference. There is hope though, the forecast is calling for temperatures near to just slightly below average for the end of this week, and we may get above freezing next week.
Okay, enough of the weather, now for photography.
I set the Beast up on my new tripod, with the Tamron extender behind it. I shot a few photos of the potted plant that I purchased last week, just for practice. I think that somehow or another, that the Tamron extender allows the Beast to focus closer than what the Beast will alone. I shot a few photos at 700 mm just over six feet from the flower. By sheer coincidence, my brother reported the same thing this morning, that his version of the Beast focuses closer when using an extender behind it. A 700 mm macro lens, just what every one needs! 😉
The other thing that I learned is that I have to turn the Optical Stabilization off when shooting with shutter times longer than one second, or the photos are fuzzy no matter how well I focused. That may apply to shutter speeds of less than one second, as the photos that I shot of the eider on Saturday while I had the Beast on the tripod are not as sharp as the ones that I shot handheld. I thought that I had missed the focus, but it could be that the OS is causing the fuzziness. I need a good sunny day to check that out. There isn’t enough light in my apartment to shoot at shorter shutter times to verify if the OS has to be turned off whenever I use the tripod.
The photos that I shot up close with the Beast turned out quite good once I shut the OS off, but the focusing is extremely touchy at close range, just the slightest turn of the focusing ring was enough to go from in focus to completely out of focus, or vice versa. The only way that I will ever get a good photo at the range I was shooting at will be when using the tripod and using live view to focus.
No matter what though, the new Manfrotto tripod handles the weight and size of the Beast much better than I thought that it would, I can see myself using the tripod much more often in the future.
I fooled around with all my lenses, with and without the Tamron extender, then some how or another, I got serious about getting a good photo using just the Tokina 100 mm macro lens.
I liked the backlighting that I was getting from the light coming though the window, but it wasn’t enough to get the photo that I wanted, so I ended up playing with the new LED light panel, the flash on my camera, and a LED penlight that I have. I’ll spare you all the bad photos and insert just the one that I liked the best.
That was shot with the LED light panel providing the backlighting, the flash on my camera diffused with a tissue to kill the shadows, and hand holding the LED penlight on the center of the flower. If any one is interested, that was shot at f/16, ISO 100, and a shutter speed of 15 seconds using the Tokina 100 mm macro lens.
You know, this rotten weather may be a blessing in disguise. I have been learning so much from my indoor testing, much more than what I would if I was out wandering around. Everything from the functionality of my equipment to lighting and composition, shooting under controlled conditions is working very well.
Time for my walk, be back later.
I’m back, and while I was walking, a few rays of sunshine were able to weave their way through the clouds and snowflakes. I would say that the warmth from the sun offset the wind chill by about an equal amount, so it felt like the 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 C) that the thermometer said.
I saw more birds in more places than I have in weeks, I assume that they are returning to their summer ranges. I don’t mean birds that are known as migratory, but even birds that are year round residents here have summer and winter ranges, depending on what food supplies are available. In the winter, they seem to form flocks, most often near where people have feeders out for them. In the summer, they spread out for breeding, with individuals staking out their own territory. Today I saw birds in trees that haven’t held a bird in weeks if not months, another sign that spring is on its way.
I was even able to get a few photos, that’s two days in a row now!
I tried for a better shot of the hawk, but then I ended up with a branch passing right behind its head.
I’ll be glad when the weather warms up enough for me to carry the Beast instead of the L series lens.
Looking at all four of my lenses, without a doubt, the Tokina 100 mm macro lens is hands down the best lens that I own. The 70-200 mm L series lens can produce photos that would put it in second place, but I have to fight that lens to get it to produce its best photos. The auto-focus isn’t as accurate, and I seem to have more trouble getting the exposure correct with it than I do any of my other lenses. The EF S 15-85 mm lens comes very, very close to matching the best that the L series can produce, with the Beast coming in last as far as photo quality.
However, I get a much higher percentage of the best that the Beast can produce without having to fight it. In fact, it produces more great photos than what the L series lens does, even though the L series is capable of blowing the Beast away when everything is right.
I’ve been carrying the L series most days, as it is weather sealed and rated to handle the kind of weather conditions we’ve had here, but I’m tired of fighting it for a while. The Beast may be a pain to carry, but it least it turns out good photos 99% of the time without having to fuss with it.
Other news today, the county at least attempted to open the sidewalks back up, so I was able to do a much longer walk today than I have been able to for close to a week. There’s little snow in the forecast, so things are looking better on that front. I had opened half of the trail through the park, other people finished the job for me yesterday. Some hardy soul even walked the trail out of the back entrance to the park, but I’m not about to tackle that for a while. There’s two to three feet of snow covering that trail.
Hopefully, today will be the last of the bitterly cold days for a while at least. The temperature overnight fell to close to zero Fahrenheit, but at least there’s sunshine and a light wind today. The forecast is for a slow warming trend, and we may even make it above freezing for at least a few days next week!
I did finish my income tax returns this weekend, as soon as I get my refund, I’ll pick up a case to carry my new tripod in, along with another quick release plate so that I’ll have one on each body, plus the Beast. Then I should be all set as far as equipment for the foreseeable future. Before I prattle on any longer, time for a walk.
I’m back. I think that the county has come up with a diabolical strategy for dealing with the large snow banks along the road. They’re sending trucks out with the large drift plows attached at the front of the trucks, and the drivers leave the drift plows raised, but let the end of the plow dig into the snow banks. They have the plow at the center of the truck set two or three inches high, which spreads the snow out evenly on the shoulder, hoping that the sun and residual salt will melt the snow. It sure was tough walking along the road because of that.
However, when I got to the park, walking was actually easy for a change, as there had been quite a few people out walking yesterday and this morning before I got there.
We had a couple of hours of sunshine yesterday afternoon, and not only did that get people out walking in the park again, it began to at least compress the snow pack on the ground.
If you look carefully, you can see that the snow right along the fence is deeper than the surrounding areas by two inches or so. The fence is “holding” the snow up, and not letting it compact down as the sun shines on it. I saw many examples of that, the snow around clumps of weeds was higher than the surrounding areas as well. It’s hard to believe that a few hours of sunshine, even as cold as it was yesterday and today, can make that much of a difference. The snow was level yesterday when I walked.
I could also tell that the snow was compacting down as I walked off of my beaten path. The snow is no longer light and fluffy, and I didn’t sink in up to my knees the way I have been doing. It will be interesting to see what the official measurement of the snow on the ground is after today, it looks like we won’t be breaking the record after all.
Of course now that I said that, the sun will melt some of the ice off from Lake Michigan, the lake effect snow machine will crank up again, and we’ll be back to where we were yesterday morning. 😉
Oh, before I forget, the sun is doing most of the compacting of the snow, but heat from within the Earth is playing a part as well. That’s why even though we’ve gotten almost 8 feet of snow for the season, we have less than two feet on the ground to show for it. It hasn’t been because the temperature has been enough to thaw any of it, that’s for sure!
The birds are certainly enjoying the sunshine, I heard the first goldfinch song of the year this morning, and the birds were out in force today.
I would have had a few more photos, but I haven’t been happy with the photos that I’ve been getting with the L series lens and Tamron extender together, so I made some tweaks to my camera settings, but went too far. The adjustments I made today would have been okay on a cloudy day, but not for a day like today with the beautiful and plentiful sunshine out there.
Very cold again this morning, the temperature dipped down below zero Fahrenheit yet again. But, that’s because the clouds that were forecast to move in overnight never made it, and the wind went completely calm. So, I’m fooling around indoors here for a while, letting the sun do its magic, and warm things up a bit before I venture outside.
For the first time since November, the long-range computer models are forecasting above average temperatures here starting next week. I had been thinking of digging my snowshoes out of storage, but if it warms up as quickly as they are saying, I may need fins and a snorkel instead. 😉
The rapidly melting snow may cause some flooding inland, but it won’t add much to the Great Lakes water levels, as much of the water contained in the snow that’s on the ground here came from the lakes in the first place. The moisture that created the snow came from water evaporating from the Great Lakes, so it is a circular system. Some of the water from the snow melt will seep into the ground to replenish the underground aquifers, so there will be a slight net loss of water to the Great Lakes from the snow falling here, then melting.
No matter where it goes, I for one will not be sad to see the snow go!
Speaking of going, it’s time for me to go for my walk.
As if to remind me that there’s still a lot of winter left to go, the clouds streamed in just as I was beginning my walk, and it felt like one of the coldest days of the year, even though there was little wind to speak of.
I walked to the park, and even though the pathways were still relatively easy to walk on, I turned back early because of the cold, and because my legs have been really bothering me the last two weeks.
I didn’t mention it before, but one night at work, the air ride suspension for the trailer malfunctioned, causing the trailer to ride several inches lower than what it should. When I got to the Lansing branch, the trailer was so low that I had an extremely difficult time unloading and loading it. The company has an electric pallet jack at that branch, but the trailer was so low that the electric lift couldn’t be used. So being the idiot that I am, I did it by hand, or I should say leg, and my knees still haven’t recovered yet.
I don’t want to go on in detail about my problems at work, other than to say that it is time for me to have a meeting with my boss and the union steward, as management does nothing to make my job easier, not even maintaining the casters on the carts that I have to roll around.
Anyway, that’s one of the reasons that I have been slacking off as far as how far I have been walking each day lately, I’m trying to get my knees ready for spring.
I didn’t see much point to walking any farther, I had a couple of photos to post today already, and between the cold and my legs, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, so I turned around and came home. I had seen what I had wanted to see, that despite the cold today, that the birds were still behaving as if spring were just around the corner.
Sorry for so many chickadees lately, but I haven’t posted any photos of them for a while, and they’re so cute that seeing the always cheers me up.
Time to make plans for the weekend, Sunday may be a wonderful day. If it is, and the king eider and Barrow’s goldeneye are still hanging around in the Muskegon channel, I may go back to see if I can get better photos of them. The one project that I didn’t work on last weekend was checking out the cheap dry bag that I have to see if I can fashion it into a raincoat of sorts to protect the Beast, so that’s on my list of things to do. I think that I will also work on my camera bag, repositioning the dividers in it to hold the gear that I want to always have with me.
I’m bummed, really bummed. My almost new Subaru got hit by the snowplow here at the apartment complex yesterday, not what I needed at all. There’s not much damage, but enough to require that it be repaired. I’m still waiting to hear from the company that does the plowing here, so I’ll change subjects.
The weather is much warmer than yesterday, with some sunshine again today. With almost 90% of the Great Lakes covered in ice, we’ve lost the lake effect clouds for a while.
The weather forecast for Sunday has changed considerably, so I don’t know if I’ll be going to Muskegon or not, it depends on the status of my vehicle as well.
So, I’m going to eat breakfast, get my walk in, and go from there, be back later.
I’m back, I was rather preoccupied while I was walking, between the status of my vehicle and some things going on at work.
It was a lovely late winter day, sunny, not too much wind, and close to average temperatures for a change. The birds are digging this weather, I think that I heard the song of a bluebird this morning, but I couldn’t spot the bird itself. But every day this week, there have been more birds singing and carrying on as if it were spring already.
I even got a couple of bad photos of a cardinal singing, here’s one.
As you can see, it had picked a spot where it was surrounded by branches, and I never could get a clear view of him.
A little later, I tried to get a clear shot of another cardinal, this one was too tricky for me as well.
Well, I’ve talked to the owner of the company that does the plowing here, and of course he denies that one of his employees hit my Subaru. In fact, he tried to deny that they had even plowed here yesterday, until I pointed out the fresh snow piles that had resulted from when they plowed, so he had to admit that he did have some one here, but still denies that it was his responsibility. It made no sense to argue, so it looks like I’m screwed.
Cold, cloudy and snow here again today, the gloomy weather fits my mood.
This weekend looks to be cool, but with the possibility of some sunshine, so things may be looking up. I’m going to play it by ear as far as what I do this weekend, I may go to Muskegon, but that isn’t set in stone.
Next week is still looking warm as far as the forecast, I sure hope so! However, after next week, the long-range forecast takes us back to colder than average. The good thing is that average for the end of February, first of March, is much warmer than the first half of February, so there may be a few good days ahead.
I’m going to change my normal routine today. I’m going to go to my insurance agent’s office to discuss having my Subaru repaired, then stop at the camera store which is right around the corner, and pick up a case for my new tripod. If the body shop, which is also in the same area, can fit me in, I’ll get an estimate of the repair costs.
If I have time when I get back home, I’ll try to get a walk in.
My legs are slowly improving, again. My job puts way to much stress on my knees, things have to change, but I’m not going to go into that now. But, another day off from walking would help, so if I don’t get a walk in today, it won’t be such a bad thing.
I’m back, and things went better than I had expected at the insurance agency and the body shop. At least the preliminaries have been taken care of, and things are looking a little brighter for that part of my life.
I decided to wimp out and not go for a walk today, even though the snow has stopped for the most part, and there’s even a bit of sunshine from time to time. I have some things that I can do around the apartment, such as, I dug up the cheap, spare dry bag that I have for kayaking, and it will be a bit tight, but I can turn it into a raincoat for the Beast. I can work on that today, as well as a few other things.
Back again, I’ve gotten a lot done today! I cleaned and reorganized both my camera bag and backpack, along with doing some cleaning in the kitchen. I probably got more exercise inside today than I would have if I had walked.
Since there’s no photo from today, here’s one from Sunday at Muskegon.
Even though I shouldn’t, with brilliant blue skies outside, I’m going to Muskegon to freeze my fingers off, and hopefully get a few better photos of the rare visitors there. The temperature is down in the single digits again, the warm up that they have been forecasting refuses to get here, maybe later this coming week.
I may go on a snipe hunt as well, we’ll see, it all depends on what the weather is like there.
I’m back, and it’s evening already. I sorted through my photos from today, took a nap, then talked at length with my brother, so the rest of this will be short. There’s not much for me to say anyway, I went to Muskegon, walked up and down the channel shooting ducks….
…then, after my fingers were frozen, I drove over to the wastewater treatment facility to look for a Wilson’s snipe, which I didn’t find. I did find a few horned larks, here’s my best photo of one of them.
I’ll add a few of my other photos from today to next week’s post, after I have culled them down more.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!