My Week, Going, Going, Gone?
I was up way too early for some one who works second shift, but that’s what happens when I go to bed so early on a Saturday night. Not only am I waiting for the temperature outside to climb above 10 F, but I’m waiting for the sun to come up as well. Hard to take bird photos in the dark. 😉
It promises to be a good day, very sunny, but very cold, twenty degrees below the average temperature for this time of year. We’re on the wrong track as far as temperatures. January averaged six degrees below average, February was nine degrees below average, and so far for March we’re ten degrees below average.
However, as much as I whine about the weather, it doesn’t seem to listen, or change, so I guess that I’m stuck bundling up when I do head out for my walk.
The good news is that the snow has been melting a little each day, even when temperatures have remained a little below freezing. The sun is that strong this time of year, and we’ve been having a few sunny days of late. We’re down to just seven inches at the official reporting station in Grand Rapids, although there are still many drifts that are two to three feet high in places.
The forecast for the week is cool, of course, but from looking at it this morning, there’s a good chance that what remains of the snow will be gone for the most part by the end of the week. Just in time for spring to officially arrive.
Once spring does get here, I’ll change the countdown to spring widget to countdown until I begin my vacation in May. I’m really looking forward to having two weeks off, even though I’m afraid that I’ll be starting my vacation a week too early to go camping. But, that’s still two months away, the weather patterns could change by then.
Even if It’s too cold to camp out the entire time, I’m sure that there will be stretches in there where I can get in several short trips, which wouldn’t be all that bad. Even if the entire two weeks are warm enough to camp, I’ll have to come home at least once to do laundry and replenish my food supply.
With some time to kill, I have finished my 150th post for the My Photo Life List project, I’m making steady progress on that, and with the spring migration just getting started, I should be able to add more species to the photos that I have already saved. I also hope to get better photos of some of the species that I have already posted.
That should be fairly easy, I hate to sound as if I’m bragging, but my skills as a photographer, helped along by good equipment, continue to improve. I look back at the photos that I shot of the sandhill crane in flight that I shot last week while it was raining lightly, then think back to what those photos would have looked like if they had been taken with my old camera, and all I can say is that there’s a wold of difference.
The sun is coming up, and I thought about doing a daybreak walk, but then I looked at the current conditions from the local weather station, and if they are correct, we’ve tied the record for the coldest temperature for the date at 5 F. Even if we didn’t tie the record, it’s still cold out there, at least for March.
I’ve thought about going someplace to hike today, but with the weather being much more like a pleasant winter day than early spring, I see no reason to go anywhere else but here. I think that instead of travelling somewhere that I’ll try taking all my camera gear for the first time this year. It will make a good trial run to see how well that I can carry it all at one time, since I’ve added to my kit over the winter. If it turns out to be too heavy or too awkward, I can turn around and come back home, shed some of it, then finish my walk.
Okay, so I was wrong, it didn’t feel like a pleasant winter day, it felt like a brutally cold winter day out there today! I had hoped that the bright sunshine would make it feel warmer than the actual air temperature.
The wind, which was forecast to be rather light is what made it feel so cold, I had my neck gaiter pulled up over my nose the entire time I was out there. Even with my gloved hands in my pockets, my fingers went numb. Oh by the way, for the meteorologist who forecast a light wind, a light wind does not roar through the treetops, nor cause the trees to creak and moan as they sway in the wind, you were wrong!
Needless to say, I brought back very few photos, and I’m not going to post any of them, at least not yet. I hope to get a better photo to kick this post off with than any from this morning.
There is some good news though. Before leaving this morning, I made some adjustments to the tripod case and the shoulder strap, and it stayed put while walking today. I took all my photo gear except for the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), as I had mentioned earlier, as a trial run. That’s probably why the wind came up so strong. 😉
Anyway, everything worked as it should today, as long as I leave one of the longer lenses home. While I carried the 70-200 mm L series lens and Tamron extender today, I could have just as easily carried the Beast. So, at least the trial run worked well. I still think that some sort of wheeled cart or wagon would be better than strapping twenty pounds of camera gear to myself, but it works well if I have to carry it.
Now then, I’ve just gotten done complaining about the cold, but I may go for a repeat later this afternoon after it has warmed up as much as it’s going to. I saw very few birds, I think that they were all frozen where they had perched for the night, and hopefully they’ll thaw out in the sun so I can get some photos worth posting for the day.
Well, I’m back after round two, but I wouldn’t call this round a hike, I wimped out and drove the mile and a half to the park. It was still cold, but the birds had thawed out since this morning!
I saw two first of the year species.
But most of my photos are of the same few species that have been appearing here of late.
And, there are plenty more photos of those species still to go if I need them later this week. I think that I’ll save one series of photos that I shot for Thursday, the first day of spring, unless I get something better between then and now. And, I’ll save the rest just in case I have another slow day like this morning, when all I photographed was this holly…
…and this pine cone.
By the way, all the birds were shot using the Beast, the holly and the pine cone were taken with the L series lens.
This afternoon, I walked as much of the park as I could twice, but all the birds were in one small section of the park, the area most sheltered from the wind. So, I stood there freezing until the birds got used to my being there, and came out in the open a little more than usual.
Now it’s time for me to thaw out again.
Another sunny, but very cold start to the day, with the temperature very close to record cold. At least it doesn’t look as though the wind is as strong as yesterday.
I’ve been trying to find the good side of this cold, and one thing may be that some of the invasive species of insects will be killed of by this cold, such as the emerald ash borer. If that’s the case, then we’ll get a reprieve from the damage that they have been doing to our ash trees, at least temporarily. As long as any survive in North America, they will eventually return to Michigan. But anything that slows down any of the destructive invasive species will be welcome.
I spent some time this past weekend adding to my wish list of photo gear to purchase in the future. Most of the items are gizmos and gadgets to use with my macro set-up and tripod. Most are to make setting up for macro photos faster and easier, it’s amazing how a few bucks here and there add up quickly. However, I know me, and if it isn’t quick and easy, I’m not going to take the time to do it the right way, so I’ll be adding to my gizmo and gadget collection as I can.
I may be adding one more big-ticket item, other than a long prime telephoto lens to be used as my walking around lens on longer hikes, and that is an EF-S 10-22 mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens. I love the 15-85 mm lens that I already have, but seldom use. So, why would I purchase an even wider lens? Well, the wider lens would allow me to get more creative in my photographic endeavors.
It’s all about perspective. Telephoto lenses compress a scene, making everything in the scene to appear to be closer together than what they are in reality. Wide angle lens do the opposite, they make things in a scene appear to be farther apart than what they really are. The super wide 10-22 mm lens would be fun to play with, but that’s a long, long way off.
My brother and I have been talking about that subject, and I’ll probably wait to see what his photos look like before I take the plunge on a lens like that. I think that once the weather around here warms up, I’ll do more playing with the 15-85 mm lens as well, to see if what I have in mind will work before deciding whether I want to try an even wider lens.
Well, it’s finally warming up a little outside, so it’s time for me to get moving.
Warming up a little was right, very little. It was another day of bone chilling wind chills, and the birds hadn’t thawed out yet while I was out there. In spite of the sunshine, I shot a total of two photos, both are junk. I was too slow on the shutter for a cardinal taking off early on my walk, and on the way home, I missed a gull in flight because my “trigger” finger was so cold that it wouldn’t work correctly.
It’s a good thing that I saved these from yesterday. 😉
The first one I consider the be almost perfect, except the jay turned its head at the last second, so you can’t see his head. But the color and sharpness are close to perfect. In the second one, the jay is coiling up to leap into flight, so it isn’t quite as sharp as the first.
The Beast is an excellent birding lens!
Time to get cleaned up and visit my mom.
While walking yesterday, and a lot of the time since then, I’ve been thinking about my future camera gear purchases, and trying to prioritize them. For a while I had convinced myself that purchasing the 70-200 mm L series lens was a mistake, even though it is the lens that I’ve used the most this winter. I’ve been making do with that lens until I can afford the one that would be better for what I’ve been shooting.
But then, I remembered the times this past summer when I used it for what it is really intended to be used on, and buying it wasn’t a mistake. It will eventually become my least used lens, but there will be times when it will be the lens to use, landscape photography where the 15-85 mm lens is too short.
The thought had entered my mind that I could use the Tokina 100 mm lens, with or without the Tamron 1.4 extender in place of the L series lens for landscapes, and it would work very well as far as photo quality, but that set-up would require that I spend much more time on my set-ups, and a lot more fooling around. I’m not one to fool around, so that probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
The gadgets and gizmos for when I’m using my tripod for macro photography will be nice things to have, eventually. Until I use that set-up more, I’m not sure just how many of those things I’ll really need. I could afford those things now, but I think that it would be wiser to continue saving for a long prime telephoto to use as a walking around lens on longer hikes.
I won’t bore you with the rest of my thoughts along those lines, other than to say that as one is purchasing camera gear, it is a good idea to re-assess what you already have, and what you need the most.
Okay, as far as the weather today, it’s still sunny, and a lot less cold than what it has been the past two days. It may even make it above freezing while I’m walking today. I’ve even put the Beast back on the critter camera body in hopes of getting some photos today.
Oh, one more thing before I venture out. My “confused” light theory is hogwash! Still, there’s something atmospheric that affects photo quality, something that I’ve never read anything about so far. However, there has to be a reason why my photos a week ago Sunday came out so poorly, and my photos from this Sunday so well, when conditions were very similar overall. About the same amount of sunshine, temperatures, and wind, the exact same lens, camera body, and of course, photographer. The photos from my day in Aman Park were trash, yet the ones from this Sunday were some of the best that I have ever taken. Well, it’s something to think about today while I’m out.
I’m back after spending way too much time out there taking bad photos of birds. The weather is forecast to go downhill after just this one day of fantastic weather, so I tried to “stock up” on photos in case I have more days like yesterday. I tried too hard, and shot photos that I knew would be crap even as I shot them.
The weather was so nice, and we’ve lost so much snow, I took the back way out of the park for the first time in at least two months instead of going through the subdivision. Things are looking up at least a little. If only we could get three or four days in a row like this, rather than one great day, one warm but rainy day, then a week in the deep freeze.
Oh well, enough of that. Here’s a few photos from today, I’ll add a couple of more from today later this week when I have time to explain them.
Time to get cleaned up for work.
Well, it’s a very gloomy day out there today, with a little light rain falling. Hey, at least it’s rain and not snow! The unsettled weather is going to stick around here for the next few days, before we plunge back into the deep freeze for the weekend, of course.
Other than ranting about the weather, or how much I’d like to be putting my new photography gear to use, I don’t have a lot to say, so I suppose that it’s time to get going.
I’m back, and as I expected from the weather conditions, I shot very few photos, and I saved two.
The first photo is one of those that I love, in spite of the boring subject matter. The second, of the waxwing, is to remind myself of the huge flock of waxwings that I saw today. I conservatively estimated 50 waxwings in the flock, but I think that there were many more than that. There were times that I could see 10 or more in the air at the same time as they searched for food.
And, the waxwings weren’t alone, there were dozens of robins and Juncos throughout the park, with lesser numbers of the common species such as blue jays, woodpeckers, and chickadees. I probably saw more birds in the park today than I have seen since early last fall, and more than I have seen anywhere other than Muskegon.
However, with the gloomy light, rain, and fog rolling off from the ,melting snow, it wasn’t a day for photography. That’s why I attempted so many shots that I knew would be bad yesterday, including this one, the first turkey vulture of the year.
Back on Sunday morning when it was so cold that I had to worry about frostbite, I posted a photo of holly, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I did a better job of it yesterday.
Hmmm, they don’t look much different in the small size in my post, but trust me, this second one is head and shoulders better than the first.
Also from yesterday, this series of a female red-bellied woodpecker, ending in her rejecting a possible suitor.
Here comes the male, and maybe it’s me, but I can hear him saying “Hey babe, you’re cute!”.
But she wanted nothing to do with him, despite his trying to sweet talk her.
And here’s the male, looking quite dejected about being rejected.
Well, that’s all for today. I still have a series of photos from Sunday that I’m saving for tomorrow if needed, since it’s the first day of spring. The weather may not be much better tomorrow, but it would be nice if it was.
The first day of spring, or is it April Fools Day?
It snowed a little overnight, just enough to cover the few patches of bare ground that had appeared the past few days. It’s still gloomy out, but since the temperature is back below freezing, the fog from yesterday is gone.
It is looking like another weekend stuck here at home, the forecast for Saturday is for mixed precipitation, then “sharply colder” for Sunday.
I had been hoping that most of the snow would be gone by this weekend, but it won’t, there was too darned much of the stuff to begin with. I’ve been thinking about going to the ledges of Grand Ledge, as it is east of here, and they have received less snow in that direction, since they are farther from Lake Michigan. However, I drive that way each night for work, and as of last night, there’s still way too much snow left for me to go drift busting along the ledges. Maybe next weekend. I’m overdue for another trip to Muskegon as well.
I should be in a much better mood. For one thing, my knees are much better, even my right knee, which I thought that I had damaged permanently back in January. But, they are coming around, my left knee is close to 100% and the right one is still a bit tender if I stress it too much, but it continues to improve.
Also, it looks as if I take advantage of lower online pricing, and a $100 rebate from Canon, that I’ll be able to swing the purchase of the 300 mm L series prime lens that I would like to have as an alternative to the Beast for longer hikes by the end of the month. One of the big online retailers has that lens for $130 off the list price, and if I purchase before the end of March, there’s the rebate from Canon to knock another $100 off, saving me $230 total. That will be tough to swing, but it is also tough to pass up saving that much money. I’ll have to stop at the bank on my way to work this afternoon to set that purchase into motion.
Now, if the weather would only improve to the point where longer hikes were possible!
It’s looking a little brighter outside, so I guess that it’s time for me to get a move on.
Well, it’s now officially spring, so I went looking for a few signs that it’s coming, with limited success.
I’m going to go back to my purchasing the long prime telephoto lens that I have wanted since even before I purchased the Beast. I wasn’t getting fired up about making the purchase, mostly due to the crummy weather we’ve had around here which has shortened my walks so much.
However, now that I’m back, I am getting excited about the new lens. Why? It was too cold today to carry the Beast with the wind chill as low as it was today, but the 70-200 mm lens just isn’t long enough for birding, even with the Tamron extender behind it.
I had to make use of the constant manual focus capabilities of my Canon body and the L series lens to get that shot. The auto-focus would not lock on the finch.
That’s another reason that I’m looking forward to the new lens, even though it may not be needed yet. Using it now will give me the time I need to learn its foibles, and to dial in my camera body for it.
Here’s a sign of spring taken with the Beast the other day.
I had forgotten how long it took me to learn the Beast, and to get my camera body set-up to get photos of that quality with the Beast.
Every lens that I own has a few tricks that I’ve had to learn in order to get the most from the lens, I have no doubt that the new one will be the same. I may as well start learning those tricks early.
So, a little while later today, after the finch photo, I found that the snow that had been covering the British soldier lichens had melted.
While that photo doesn’t come close to matching the quality of one that I shot earlier this year with the Tokina macro lens, it’s a good photo. However, it would have been even better if I had used the tripod, but I didn’t have it with me today.
Once again, the lens that I’m going to purchase would have been just the ticket today. It focuses almost exactly as close as does the 70-200 mm lens, which would have gotten me “closer” to the lichens with the new lens’ extra length. Using the tripod, I could have stopped the lens down more for more depth of field. It hit me that I could carry that lens with the Tamron extender and my tripod, and come very close to what I can do with the Tokina macro lens.
So on cold or rainy days, I could get by with the new set-up, and not feel as if I were passing up shots because I wasn’t carrying all my gear with me as has been the case the past few months.
Now then, for a true but boring sign of spring.
I tried shooting a few birds in flight today, but didn’t get any photos that are really worth posting. I had good luck with one of the red-tailed hawks, but I’ve posted a lot of photos of them lately, so no need for more. That applies to the photos of geese headed north as well.
Which reminds me, I saw many flocks of birds of all sizes on their way north today, another sure sign of spring.
Oh, and a rather odd thing happened today on my way back home. A car pulled over next to me, and an attractive young woman told me that she always saw me walking with my camera, and handed me a gift card for a free cup of coffee at the local convenience store, now how nice was that? I’m sure that she’s affiliated with the store, but still, it was a nice gesture, and one of these cold days, I’ll stop in at the store, and get a coffee to warm up with.
Wow, I looked at the gift card that the young woman gave me yesterday, and it isn’t for a free cup of coffee, it’s a $10 gift card, several cups of coffee! That has to be a sign that my luck is changing, although I’m tempted to return the gift card. It seems wrong to accept it, even though I didn’t solicit it in any way. I have no idea why a complete stranger would think of handing me a $10 gift card.
The other big news, I took the plunge and ordered the EF 300 mm f/4 L IS USM lens this morning, I just couldn’t pass up saving almost $250 on it. In a way, it seems silly to purchase that lens when I love the photos that the Beast turns out, but there’s the reason that I’ve nicknamed the Sigma lens the Beast, it’s heavy and huge. This new lens will be much more appropriate for walking around with.
The underlying reason that buying a lens to use rather than the Beast bothers me a little is that I have to admit to myself that I’m a wimp, and that I’d rather not lug something as large and heavy as the Beast around. 😉
Okay, so I’m a wimp that would rather not carry a camera/lens combination that weighs 6 pounds and is as large as a small log. And, it isn’t just carrying the Beast, it’s trying to swing it around to catch birds in flight, or even just raising it up to my eye. It’s trying to find a safe place to set it down when I take a break, or try to use my other camera body and lens. The Beast is so big and heavy that I can’t just let it dangle on the end of my camera’s strap.
The 300 mm prime telephoto uses the same tripod mount that fits the 70-200 mm lens that I already have, so not only is that lens lighter than the Beast, it’s much more compact as well, making it much easier to handle all the way around. Or, at least that’s what I’m hoping.
I’ll still use the Beast, especially if it ever warms up around here, but having a lighter alternative to it means that I’ll be more likely to use my other gear more often, and I’m looking forward to that. The 300 mm prime is a pound and a half lighter than the Beast, that’s more than my Tokina macro lens weighs, so I’ll be more likely to carry and use the Tokina.
Having said all that, with nicer weather today, the Beast is going back on the camera for the walk today, bbl.
I’m back, and how can one not love a lens that can do this?
Pluck a bird the size of a robin from the top of a tree and have the photo come out like that, yes, the Beast is a great birding lens. As if I haven’t said that enough times already.
When I tried to move so that I didn’t get the shadows, the cardinal took off on me, darn.
One of the smaller hawks, I can’t tell if it’s a sharpie or a Cooper’s hawk, came blasting past me as I was walking in the subdivision on my way to the park, resulting in this interesting photo.
And here are a couple of long shots of a crow alerting the rest of the birds to the hawk’s presence.
I have no idea why they do it, but crows seem to blink a lot while they are squawking.
Here’s a sure sign of spring.
And to round out the day, a couple of shots of Bertha, the female red-tailed hawk.
As you can see, it was a beautiful day today, but it isn’t going to last. There’s rain and snow in the forecast for tonight, then colder tomorrow with scattered snow, and even colder for Sunday.
One more thing about my order this morning, I also ordered a gadget to go with the macro fine focusing rail that my brother gave me, but not a gizmo. Looking at the gadget, it dawned on me that it comes with its own gizmo, so I don’t need another one. 😉
Well, the one day of great weather has come and gone, now it’s back to the clouds and cold for the weekend. Officially we’re down to three inches of snow on the ground, but there’s still so much snow in most places that getting around is still tough to do.
This week is looking depressing as well, cloudy and cold until Thursday, but the good news is that it should get up to around freezing each day. Maybe we will lose all the snow by next weekend, and it’s a long way off yet, but the forecast for next weekend looks good right now. I should be so lucky.
Other good news, the new 300 mm prime telephoto lens was shipped yesterday afternoon, and I should have it in my grubby little hands by Tuesday.
I was getting all fired up and looking forward to the arrival of the new lens until I saw the weather forecast for the week. But, there’s nothing that I can do about the weather other than complain, and that doesn’t seem to be doing any good.
Still, it will be nice to have a good, lightweight alternative to the Beast to use while hiking, but the thought lingers in the back of my feeble little mind that it was a lot of money to spend on an alternative to a lens that produces photos that I love. And, the reality is that the new telephoto lens is actually a better choice as far as lenses for the weather this week than what the Beast would be.
As I have been purchasing lenses, each one up until this last one has increased my capabilities as far as the types of photos that I can take. First, there was the Beast for birds and other wildlife. Then, the 70-200 mm lens for foul weather birding and longer landscapes. Next, the 15-85 mm lens for landscapes and as a near macro lens. Finally, the Tokina 100 mm macro lens for true macros. This prime telephoto will only make it easier for me to shoot the same photos that I could otherwise shoot with one of my other lenses.
In a way, I almost wish that I had ordered the 10-22 mm lens that I mentioned earlier. That lens would put a new perspective on things, and I’d have fun exploring just what it could do.
I know that when the new telephoto lens arrives that I’ll have fun with it as well. One of my reasons for purchasing that particular lens is its close focusing capabilities for butterflies and dragonflies. The only problem is that there aren’t any of those around right now.
I’m back from my walk, and I thought about deleting most of what I typed before I had left, for it is mostly buyer’s remorse. The new prime telephoto that I’m getting may not add very much direct capabilities, but I think that it will be of more value to me than I had thought.
In a trial run of sorts, I carried the 70-200 mm and Tamron extender today, even though I could have carried the Beast. I also brought my tripod along as well. I made a point of testing how well I can carry and use my new gear as I would like to use it on longer hikes. I won’t bore you with the all the details other than to say that I can see myself carrying the tripod almost daily from now on, which will have a huge impact on the quality of some of my photos. I alternated between wildlife and macro photos, although I used only one body today, changing camera settings as I went.
Things went extremely well, and they will only be better when I carry both bodies so I’m not changing settings all the time. I would have brought both bodies today, but with the snow and sleet falling at times, I didn’t want to go overboard. 😉
I stared with a pair of mallards in a temporary pond that the melting snow left behind.
Then, I set-up and began shooting lichens.
I would have photographed more of them, but the wind and snow picked up, and I wasn’t going to freeze for bad photos. 😉
But, when Fred began posing for me again, I just had to photograph him.
He’s such a ham!
I forgot to change to aperture priority for this one, so the depth of field is too short, but even though the photo isn’t great, I can still see the possibilities of using my tripod more often.
Things didn’t go without a hitch though, I had a little trouble with the locks on the tripod head for tilting and swiveling it. I took care of that problem when I got home, lubricating the threads of the locking handles, it works like a charm now. So I guess that these test runs are a good thing, as conditions couldn’t have been much worse for photography than they were today. That applies to the carrying bag for the tripod as well, it gave me fits the first time that I used it, with it properly adjusted, I didn’t have a problem with it today.
So, I’m looking forward to the arrival of the new lens, and being able to carry it and my other gear at the same time without killing myself. With the weather forecast to be poor next week, it will give me a chance to put the new lens through its paces to see how well it performs.
If it performs as well with the Tamron extender as I hope it will, then The Beast will be reserved for trips when birding is my only objective.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!