My Week, the snow goes slow
Per my usual Sunday routine, I’m sitting here drinking my coffee early in the morning, looking back at the last week, and forward to the week ahead. It looks as if we’ve turned the corner as far as the weather, it will be cool this week, but we’ll also be losing the snow.
I’m hoping that I’ve also turned the corner as far as bad luck, February was a tough month, what with my Forester getting hit in the parking lot and a few other things that I would rather forget. So far, March is looking much better.
One area of my life that still needs improving is my employment. I’m not going to bore you with what transpired at work of Friday, especially since what did happen had zero effect on me directly, but it was about the perfect example of what small-minded, pathetically petty individuals are in management of the company that I work for.
OK, the short version of what happened. One member of management hid in the parking lot to photograph another member of management when he parked in some one else’s assigned parking spot to make it easier to load his vehicle to make a special delivery. Of course the special delivery was necessitated by the fact that the first member of management, the one hiding in the parking lot, and who is in charge of making sure that the correct products get to the correct customers, can’t do his job correctly. It’s so ridiculous that I have a hard time fathoming why the owners put up with that crap, but the owners eat that stuff up. It’s not job performance that counts there, it is how good one is at stabbing co-workers in the back. The owners reward the backstabbing, but then can’t figure out why members of management can’t perform as a team, duh!
Well, enough of that, the only reason that it matters here is that I have two weeks of vacation time coming that I want to use up before starting another job. I’ve been flipping back and forth whether I should take both weeks together, or one week off, a week back at work, then the other week. What difference does it really make, I’ll take both weeks together, the second and third weeks of May. There, that’s decided.
It’s partly cloudy and cool this morning, I’m going to head on over to Aman Park right after breakfast. I may not bring back any special photos going there, but I can use the change of scenery.
Well, it turned out to be a rather odd day as far as lighting goes. I’ve had a few days like today when I’ve been at the wastewater treatment facility near Muskegon, and rarely around home, but I’m not sure what causes it. I could tell as I was looking through the viewfinder that most of my photos were going to come out on the poor side, but other than getting close to things, I couldn’t figure out how to make my photos any better.
There was a strong wind today, and as I think back to the days when I’ve had similar problems in Muskegon, those were also very windy days.
Anyway, here’s my best shot of the day.
And since they are the only birds that I got good photos of, here’s a couple more.
How bad was the lighting? So bad that I couldn’t get the exposure correct on a chickadee perched in the sun.
I saw a large flock of bluebirds, and despite taking over 20 photos of them, here’s the best of a very poor lot.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t post that photo, but since these were the first bluebirds that I have seen this year, I feel that I have to.
The trails weren’t too bad at first, just as I expected, they were packed down well. However, stepping off from the hard packed trail was not advised, as the snow is still rather deep.
And, I made use of the odd lighting for this shot, although I’m not sure that it really works as well as I had hoped.
Oh, by the way, all these have been shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) as that’s the only lens that I brought on the actual hike. I did carry my tripod again, and I’m going to have to do some work to the case that I bought for it.
The case is great, it’s water-resistant, well padded, and it even has a storage area inside of it for odds and ends. However, the shoulder strap is so slippery that it slides off my shoulder every few steps. I think that I can attach a layer of some other type of material around the strap to make it less slippery, and so that I don’t have to keep pulling it back into place hundreds of times a day as I did today.
Back to my walk, I can tell that I haven’t been lugging the Beast around often enough, as I was getting arm weary on the last loop of the trails. On top of that, as it got warmer, the hard packed snow on the trail was melting just enough so that there was a thin layer of water on top of the snow to provide lubrication. I was beginning to slip slide around a lot more than I wanted to.
I found a log that didn’t have two feet of snow on it to sit on while I took a well deserved break, and to decide whether or not to finish the entire last loop.
Looking off to my side, I spotted these two critters.
Here’s a closer shot.
As I was working my way towards the coons, I was surprised to spot this common goldeneye swimming in Sand Creek.
I had the goldeneye dead to rights, that should have been one of my best photos of that species, but it’s one of the worst.
While I was chasing the duck, the coons disappeared, even though I did try to find them for better photos.
I returned to the log to finish the break that I had begun, and decided that I had enough for one day. I had almost fallen while going after the coons and the duck, and I didn’t feel like re-injuring my knee since it is doing quite well now.
Adding to my decision to cut my hike short were the strong winds, and the fact that when I reviewed the photos I was getting and saw how poor that they were, I saw no point in continuing. Oh, and I was getting tired of fighting the strap on the tripod case as well.
However, I’m not done for the day yet. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo of an odd pine cone that I found. I decided to shoot a few more photos of it this afternoon for Allen (New Hampshire Garden Solutions).
Here’s the best angle that I could find to show that the “sprouts” aren’t really sprouts, but a part of the cone itself.
And here’s a couple of the seeds from the cone.
And finally, one more, just because.
The last four were shot using the new Tokina macro lens. Having it set-up on the tripod sent me searching my apartment for other tiny objects to photograph, but I remember Mr. Tootlepedal’s admonition not to get carried away like so many other people do.
The wind that made my day yesterday less than ideal has pushed even warmer air into the area, it’s above freezing at sunrise! The weather forecasts for the week are calling for a roller coaster ride as far as temperatures, well above freezing for a day or two, colder for a day or two, then warm again, but no big storms to drop any rain or snow.
Since there was still 16 inches of snow on the ground yesterday, that weather forecast is just what we need to melt the snow slowly enough to not cause any flooding.
The scientists who calculate such things are saying that we set an all time record for the most ice on the Great Lakes the first week of March, but only by a couple of tenths of a percent. Since they had to recalculate twice, I think that they may have tweaked those numbers a little to get us above the old record. 😉
All in all, things are looking good around here, the bird migrations have begun, since I have seen cedar waxwings and bluebirds in the past two weeks, as well as seeing reports from others. It won’t be that long until the first flowers of the year appear, I am so ready for spring!
Well, it’s not quite spring yet but today promises to be spring-like, so it’s time for food, and for me to head on out there.
First thought of the day, what a magnificent day! I fooled around out there for almost three hours, the meteorologists sure missed the forecast for today. It was predicted to be cloudy, wrong!
Second thought for the day, all winter long, while I seldom carried the Beast around and never for any longer distances, that made it very easy to forget just how much it weighs. The Beast by itself weighs 4 pounds, the body attached to it adds almost 2 more pounds, so that’s 6 pounds to deal with while trying to take photos.
The third thought for the day was about reasons that my photos didn’t come out well yesterday. As I was walking today, the thought occurred to me that it could be because the light is “confused”. There’s still a lot of snow on the ground, and it has begun to melt, then re-freeze several times. The surface of the snow is shiny from the thin layer of ice on the surface, but the surface isn’t smooth, it has a pebbly appearance to it.
So, we get bright days like yesterday and today, and my thinking was that there’s all this light bouncing around off from the snow-covered surfaces, coming at the camera from all directions which makes focusing more difficult, as well as metering the light.
It seemed like a good theory, but my photos from today disprove it, at least to some degree.
The only thing wrong with that one is that he was facing the wrong way. I included it because he was singing at 75% of full volume today, it won’t be long now until they will be in full song!
My other photos from today.
I shot a photo of the tree that has the odd cones, it’s a short needled evergreen, so I assume it’s a fir or spruce, but since it’s in a subdivision, it may not be a native tree.
I think that the next one speaks for itself!
The little guy looks happy!
I haven’t shot many mallards lately, and none of them in flight, so here’s a few.
And the surprise of the day, sandhill cranes! What they are doing here while we still have so much snow on the ground, and very little open water, is beyond me. But, it’s more proof that the birds have begun migrating north already.
That’s all that I have time for today, time to get cleaned up and visit my mom.
I hate waking up to an entirely new weather forecast, but that’s what happened this morning. The new one is for cooler temperatures for the next week than the old one had predicted, we may even set a record low temperature or two in the coming week. Oh yeah, more snow in the new forecast as well. It looks as if the Beast will be going back into hibernation for a few days after today.
At least it’s still warm today, and we’ll lose a little more snow to make room for the new stuff coming on Wednesday. It’s also cloudy today, so the snow melt won’t be as dramatic as it was yesterday. We’re down to around a foot of snow on the ground now, I was hoping to see some patches of ground appear soon, but it looks as if that won’t happen this week.
I did the 149th species in the My Photo Life List project this morning, I may slip in another one later this week just to hit 150. Why that matters, I have no idea, other than that I like nice round numbers. 😉
There is a down side to posting, and that’s all the drive by likers and followers who are only looking to increase their own blogs stats by obligating me to reciprocate. I love blogging, and I really appreciate the people who do follow my blog and take the time to comment, but there are times when I’m going through the list of people who liked a post or followed my blog, and I wonder if it’s worth it. Of course it is, I’ve started going back through some of my earlier posts from springs gone by to see what I saw and when I saw it to compare previous years to this one, and to plan when I should go where. Having a record of what I’ve done and seen is very helpful, and it’s fun to see my previous posts, and how this blog as “matured” over the years. Well, enough of that, time for a walk.
I’m back, and there may be something to my “confused light” theory, for from the weather today, I would have thought that my photos would have been less than stellar. However, the majority of the photos that I shot today came out sharper than the past two days when it was sunny. It didn’t start that way though, there wasn’t enough light to freeze this blue jay.
The light wasn’t much better when I got to the park, in fact, by then it had begun to sprinkle lightly. But fortunately for me, large birds in flight are much easier to photograph than songbirds flying!
Because of the combination of snow on the ground to reflect light up at the underside of the birds, plus my saved bird in flight settings , these came out better than I expected, or could have hoped for. By the way, I turned the OS of the Beast off for those photos.
Also in the park, I found a blue jay sitting still.
And Fred, the friendly fox squirrel was busing chowing down on a few of the crab apples that the robins and waxwings left.
Fred is kind of a messy eater!
Since the new forecast this morning predicted the light rain, I had taken my spare dry bag from kayaking to use a as raincoat for the Beast, it that worked like a charm! I was able to keep the Beast covered until needed, then quickly slip it out of the dry bag, shoot the photos that I wanted, then quickly slip the Beast back into the bag.
Since it was warm, and the Beast was protected, I spent a lot of time in the park enjoying the last of the good weather for the time being.
On my way back home, I shot these photos that I am extremely proud of, even though they are far from perfect.
Shooting through all the obstructions, into what sunlight that there was, and the overall very poor lighting made those photos some of the ones that I have worked the hardest to get right! They are far from perfect, but given the conditions, I’m proud of them!
If there’s been a bright side to this rotten winter it is that I’m getting better at photography under horrible conditions. Other than the first two photos from today, of the blue jay taking off, I’m very proud of all of these, even though I have shot better photos of all the subjects. Taking photos under ideal conditions is easy, days like today tests one’s abilities.
Two steps forward, one step back.
The Beast has gone back into hibernation for a few days, as it’s cold, cloudy, and snowing right now. The good news is that the heaviest snow is missing the area where I live, just 60 miles to the south, they are getting dumped on. It’s snowing so hard in Battle Creek that the city has suspended the bus service there! The bad news is that we’ll probably set a record low temperature overnight.
Right now the forecasts are all over the place as far as the weather for the next week, other than the temperatures are going to continue to swing wildly up and down. Where the forecasts differ, it’s in how wide those swings are. We’ll continue to lose snow overall, we’re down to around a foot of snow right now. It can’t go quickly enough for me, it’s been over three months since we’ve seen the ground here not covered in snow, and I’d love to see some green grass for a change.
If I type any more, it would be just my whining about the weather, so I suppose that it is time for breakfast, and for me to go out and face this latest winter blast.
I’m back, and the joke was certainly on me this morning! I had barely gotten started on my walk before the clouds began to break up, and it’s turned out to be a nice day today, albeit a little on the chilly side. It was a bit hard to get around since the hard packed trail had been covered with fresh snow and I had to feel my way along to prevent going off into the deep snow.
I took the L series lens with the Tamron extender, but I almost wish that I had taken my 15-85 mm lens for a few landscape photos.
But, the area doesn’t really lend itself to landscapes, since it’s a residential area.
I did track down a singing cardinal for a few photos of it.
A flock of blue jays moved through the park, but they were all on the bashful side.
The robins were more cooperative. Here’s two photos of the same robin, the only difference was that I went down 1/3 stop EV for the second one.
And for the last photo of the day, I spotted Bertha and Bruiser circling across the road from me, which put the light behind them most of the time that I could see them. I waited til the last possible second for this one before Bertha disappeared behind some trees.
I’m always surprised to see that the hawks have spotted me no matter how hard I try to stay out of their sight. You can see her looking at me as she flew past, even though I was in some pines as you can see.
With the weather turning as nice as it turned out to be, I was out there for over two hours, so that’s all I have time for today.
I’m fooling around this morning, waiting for it to warm up at least a little before I head out for my walk. The temperature outside is somewhere close to the record low for this date of 2 F, although it’s sunny with light winds. I wouldn’t mind the cold so much if I hadn’t already had my fill of it this winter.
A couple of months ago, I joined a Meetup group of photographers, but haven’t had a chance to attend any of their meetings. They’ve had several since I joined, all but one on week nights, which don’t work for me because I work nights. They did have one to photograph the butterflies at Meijer Gardens on a weekend, but they didn’t announce it until the day before, and I already had made plans for that day. So far, I’ve not been impressed by the way the organizers run the group, but, I’ll give it a while longer before I drop out. It could be that this winter weather has curtailed their usual activities. I’m not sure how many nature photographers are active in the group, or how often they have nature related outings.
I’m sorry, but I’m a bit bummed out this morning. Having to wait for the temperature to climb above 10 F in mid-March does that to me. 😉 It doesn’t help when I see the extended forecast, and it’s well below average for the next week. Sooner or later, and it looks like later, this winter has to come to an end.
So, I’m going to pretend that it’s nice out there, and even take the Beast despite the cold.
In a reversal of yesterday, when the clouds unexpectedly moved out of the area to give us a nice day, today, the clouds unexpectedly moved in, almost ruining what had been showing promise of being a nice day, despite the cold start.
It was still sunny as I began my walk, and right off the bat, Bertha, Bruiser, or perhaps one of their offspring, surprised the heck out of me by dropping out of a tree quite close to me. I didn’t have time to make any adjustments to the camera, or even zoom in, I just pulled up and shot.
It happened so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to ID which of the hawks that it was.
With a hawk in the area, this blue jay was hiding.
A little farther along, I caught this one trying to stay warm.
Getting to the far end of the park, I thought that I saw a hawk land in a tree quite some distance from me out of the corner of my eye, I tried to see what the bird was using the Beast, but the bird was so small that I couldn’t get a good look at it. I dismissed it as probably a dove, and walked on, my mistake. The bird was a hawk, a sharp-shinned hawk, and a few seconds later, it came screaming out of the trees almost right on top of me.
By the time that I calmed down and regained some composure, the hawk was between myself and the sun.
With that hawk in the area, all the birds had stopped singing, so I took a break for a few minutes to let them calm down. I watched Fred the friendly fox squirrel come out of hiding to get a drink by licking the water running down a tree branch from snow melting on the branches.
Here’s the close-up.
Now you can all say that you’ve seen a squirrel’s tongue, at least in a photo. 😉
With the sharpie gone, this male cardinal came out of hiding as well…
…and posed nicely for me.
On my way back out of the park, I heard the song of a song sparrow, but he was in some one’s backyard, so no photo. However, I did spot a flock of red-winged blackbirds that must have just arrived. It’s too bad that the clouds had moved in by that time, here’s my photo just for the heck of it.
Well, that’s just for the record, even if it is a crappy photo.
Since I had to wait so long for it to warm up before I went out, that’s all I have time for today.
Yippee! It’s 35 degrees warmer right now than it was at this time yesterday!
The bad news is that this weather won’t last long, tomorrow is forecast to be ten degrees colder than average, Sunday, it’s back to twenty degrees below average.
Oh well, I’m going to enjoy this shot of warmer weather!
The calendar says that there are just six days left until the official start of spring, and man, do I wish that the weather would see that and turn around for good, but I’m afraid that it won’t happen this year. It would be nice if all the snow on the ground was gone by then, we’re down to less than a foot on the ground right now.
I’m doing my happy dance! I certainly enjoyed the warmer weather today. How warm? We’ve already made it to 50 F (10 C) for the first time in over three and a half months!
On top of that, I’m doing my happy dance because of the photos that I shot today!
Warning! Way too many photos, especially robins and raptors.
I saw one of the red-tailed hawks near me, but as I was changing the settings on my camera and the Beast, I lost sight of it. I spotted a passing gull, and normally I would post the photo that I shot, but not today. I took two or three steps forward, and was thinking of changing the settings back, when Bruiser came out of the tree that he had perched in to do a great fly by for me! He even screamed to tell me to get ready!
He almost fooled me, his crop was full, as you can see in the photos, I thought that it was Bertha, Bruiser’s mate, but Bruiser is the one missing a few flight feathers. But, with his crop full, he looks almost as stocky as Bertha.
I brought my new tripod with me, and fought the case the entire time I was out there. That’s the only negative from today, and I’m not going to dwell on it. But, since I had fought the case all the way to the far end of the park, I decided to test the Beast as a macro lens, and test how well the new tripod handles the Beast.
It works quite well I would say.
I had just packed up and changed the camera settings back to critter settings when I noticed a large bird over my left shoulder, I thought that it was a hawk, and wasn’t going to bother shooting it at the distance from me that it was. But then, I figured what the heck, I’ll shoot it anyway, and I’m glad that I did. Because, it wasn’t a hawk, it was an adult bald eagle. If I hadn’t dawdled making up my mind, this would have been much better.
A second or two later, a juvenile eagle followed the adult, I got a fair photo of it, but since it returned later on, and much closer to me, the first photos were deleted. 😉
Before the eagle returned though, I shot a few other things.
As I was leaving the park, the juvenile eagle returned for its encore performance.
Then, on my way home, I shot a couple of photos of a pair of chickadees that were looking for a place to build their nest. By then, the wind which is driving the warmer air into the area was blowing so hard that I could not hold still for most of the photos that I attempted. The chickadees were popping in and out of existing holes in the trees, but all the photos that I shot of them doing that came out blurry because the wind was trying to blow me over. Here’s the best that I managed to get.
Since I was out there for so long today, I don’t have time to talk about the tripod case, or how well that the tripod handled the Beast, so I’ll throw that in tomorrow. Right now, it’s time for work.
It was cloudy when I got up, so I’ve been fooling around inside waiting to see if the sun would come out. It has, so I’ll be headed out the door shortly. It’s much cooler than yesterday, and it has dawned on me, one of the things that has made this winter seem so bad is that we haven’t had very nice weather on any of the weekends.
I’ve decided not to bore any one, whining about the carrying case for the tripod, or raving about how much that I love the tripod itself, but I have something else to bore you with.
My brother purchased a geared slide set-up for fine focusing when doing macro photography. The unit that he bought worked in two axis, but you really only need one, to move the camera nearer or farther away from the subject. The second axis, from side to side isn’t as important, that can be easily accomplished by adjusting the tripod. Besides, the unit that he bought was quite tall when using both axis, as well as heavy. So, he took it apart so that he just used the one axis, and sent me the unused portion of his unit, since it is two of the same rails bolted together. So, now I have a geared slide rail set-up for use when doing macro photography. Now then, if the weather would get nice enough so that I could do some macro photography, I’d be all set.
Well, I’m back. I don’t know if it was the change in weather, or what else could have caused it, but it was a very slow day around here today. However, the very warm wind yesterday sure did a number on the snow that is left. For the first time in at least two months, I didn’t have to stay on the well packed trails to get around, and there are even a few patches of bare grass that are showing up! The more the better! And besides, it’s hard to top a two eagle day like yesterday.
My photos from today are really nothing special, other than you can see bare ground in a few of them, and blue skies in others.
This pair of deer were quick to find the areas without snow to look for food!
This chickadee was also checking out possible nesting holes, just like the ones from yesterday.
I thought that the lighting would make this next shot better than it is, but it’s still OK.
Just like the cardinal above, this junco was looking for food without having to dig through the snow.
In the sunshine, it felt warmer than the actual air temperature, and this is one of several squirrels that I caught snoozing in the sun.
This cardinal turned her head at the last second, or it would have been a good one.
And finally, a white-breasted nuthatch gathering materials to build a nest with.
I watched it run up the tree and deposit that beak full of whatever it was in a hole in the tree, between the nuthatches and the chickadees getting ready to nest, one would almost think that spring was just around the corner. 😉
Well, that’s all I have to say for today, and therefore, for the week, so that’s it for this one, now it’s nap time!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!