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

Archive for July, 2014

Lane’s Landing, Muskegon, taunted by hummers

The Sunday before last was hot and humid, so I left early for a birding trip to the Muskegon area, starting at Lane’s Landing. Lane’s Landing is within the Muskegon State Game Area, and it has become one of my favorites places for birding.

Almost as soon as I had finished showering in insect repellent, I found this song sparrow to warm up the camera, Beast (Sigma 150 -500 mm lens), and myself.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always seem to get better photos if I shoot a few right away after I’ve turned the camera on. I have no idea why that would be, maybe it’s just one of my superstitions, but I’ve gotten to the point where I always shoot a few photos as soon as I turn the camera on, even if I just turn around and delete them. Anyway, here’s the sparrow.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I hadn’t taken more than a few steps down the trail when I spotted a male ruby-throated hummingbird.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

You can tell it was a male by the spot of red on its neck. I’d love to get a really good photo of one of the males, that wasn’t it, and neither were these.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

The little bugger was really out of the range of even the Beast, but you can see he was sticking his tongue out. In fact, he seemed to be having a lot of fun taunting me.

The little bugger was really out of the range of even the Beast

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

The females and juvenile hummers will pose nicely for me.

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

But not the males, here’s another one teasing me.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

I should do what most people do to get the really good photos of hummers, put up a feeder for them, and wait for them to show up. Then, I may even get a good photo of one in fight, rather than this lame attempt.

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

But, I’m a pig-headed fool that would rather track down “wild” hummingbirds in their natural habitat and shoot poor photos of them.

That’s why I’ll never be one of the famous nature photographers, although, I’m not sure that the really famous ones should be called nature photographers any longer. A good many of them shoot most of their photos in zoo-like parks, places where guides have built blinds near nests, or bait animals to come close to pre-built blinds. Doing those things may result in great photos, but I’m not sure that it qualifies as nature photography, it’s more like shooting models in a controlled environment where the photographer doesn’t need any outdoor skills to speak of, and seldom has to deal with poor lighting, as the blinds are placed in advance in spots where the lighting will be as good as it gets.

Oh well, before I get started on a really long rant on that subject, here’s a few of the birds that I saw between the hummers. I’ll start with this chipping sparrow that was pointing the way to the common gallinules that I shot on this trip.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified flycatcher

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

I got to the part of the marsh where I found the gallinules, or moorhens.

Common gallinules in a marsh at Lane's Landing

Common gallinules in a marsh at Lane’s Landing

That was shot at 150 mm to give every one an idea of what I have to work around at times. The gallinules are those black spots behind the reeds. By picking small openings between the reeds, I was able to zoom in and get photos to crop down to this.

Common gallinule

Common gallinule

Not great, but it’s a start, and at least I can make a positive ID from the photos that I got. I would have liked to have gotten closer, but the adult was well aware of my presence, and would head for cover whenever it could see me clearly. So, we played hide and seek for the photos that I did get.

I thought about going back to my Forester, grabbing the tripod, and setting up with the 1.4 X extender behind the Beast to see if I could get better photos, but I’ve had mixed results with the extender used with the Beast. For close-ups, that set-up works great, but for distant shots, I’ve had a hard time getting sharp photos. So, between that and the heat, I decided that I’d wait for another day to try that out.

I had planned to go all the way to the Muskegon River while I was at Lane’s Landing, but when I got to the wooded area, I was met by a wall of mosquitoes that weren’t deterred the least by the insect repellent that I had put on. As hot and humid as it was, I thought that I had sweated enough to reduce the effectiveness of the repellent, but I had brought the bottle with me for just such an occasion. I re-applied more repellent, but it hardly slowed the skeeters down at all, so I turned around and headed back. On the way, I shot these.

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

This common yellowthroat would sing a little…

Male common yellowthroat singing

Male common yellowthroat singing

…then preen to make himself more attractive…

Male common yellowthroat preening

Male common yellowthroat preening

…then sing some more.

Male common yellowthroat singing

Male common yellowthroat singing

There were dozens of goldfinches gobbling down thistle seeds,but I could not get the light right for a good photo, so I tried something more artistic, it didn’t work.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

This pewee posed nicely for me.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

I saw several monarch butterflies….

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

…and I tried very hard to get THE shot of one with the light shining though its wings.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Close, but I hope to do better.

A catbird singing is always worth a photo!

Male grey catbird

Male grey catbird

And to wrap up the Lane’s Landing portion of this post, a female common yellowthroat that also posed nicely for me.

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

She even waved goodbye as I was leaving.

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

As hot as it was, I decided to head over to the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility to see if I could find any shorebirds. My thought was that since the birding there is done from inside a vehicle, I could run the AC and be comfortable as I drove around slowly looking for birds. That almost worked.

I spotted a pair of upland sandpipers before I had left the main entrance road at the wastewater facility, so I stopped to shoot a few photos.

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Because of the heatwaves rising up from the ground, I couldn’t get a good photo, no camera or lens, no matter how good, ever could. It’s impossible to get a good photo in atmospheric conditions the way that they were that day unless you can get very close to your subject.

I decided that since the open area around the wastewater facility was out as far as photography, that I’d continue on to the wooded area north of there that’s also part of the Muskegon State Game Area. I shot this along the way.

Spotted sandpiper and red-winged blackbirds

Spotted sandpiper and red-winged blackbirds

I hung out in the wooded area for a few hours, walking slowly in the heat, and pausing often, but I think that most of the wildlife had found deeply shaded places to sit out the heat of the afternoon. I did shoot these.

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I did do some playing around with camera settings, trying different things, which I’m putting to good use now, but the photos that I shot while there aren’t worth posting, here, or have already appeared in past posts.

I probably should have taken a nap and tried later in the evening, but, it since it was a Sunday, I decided to head home to sort through the photos I had taken instead. It was a good day in spite of the heat and skeeters. Most of my trips to the Muskegon area are, and most result in another lifer for me as far as birds.

The fall migration of shorebirds has begun, so I’ll be returning soon, possibly this weekend if the weather is more conducive to photography.

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


Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata

The Common Gallinule is a bird in the family Rallidae. It was split from the European Common Moorhen by the American Ornithologists’ Union in July 2011. It lives around well-vegetated marshes, ponds, canals, and other wetlands in the Americas.

The Gallinule has dark plumage apart from the white under-tail, yellow legs and a red frontal shield. The young are browner and lack the red shield. It has a wide range of gargling calls and will emit loud hisses when threatened.

This is a common breeding bird in marsh environments and well-vegetated lakes. Populations in areas where the waters freeze, such as southern Canada and the northern USA, will migrate to more temperate climes. This species will consume a wide variety of vegetable material and small aquatic creatures. It forages beside or in the water, sometimes upending in the water to feed. Its wide feet allow it to hop about on lily pads. It is often secretive, but can become tame in some areas. Despite loss of habitat in parts of its range, the Common Gallinule remains plentiful and widespread.

The Common Gallinule will fight to defend its territory. The nest is a basket built on the ground in dense vegetation. Laying starts in spring, between mid-March and mid-May in northern hemisphere temperate regions. About 8 eggs are usually laid per female early in the season; a brood later in the year usually has only 5–8 or even fewer eggs. Nests may be re-used by different females. Incubation lasts about three weeks. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These fledge after 40–50 days, become independent usually a few weeks thereafter, and may raise their first brood the next spring. When threatened, the young may cling to a parent’s body, after which the adult birds fly away to safety, carrying their offspring with them.

On to my photos:

Common gallinule

Common gallinule

Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Juvenile Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

Common Gallinule and young

This is number 165 in my photo life list, only 185 to go!

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

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Some leftovers

I think that the photos that I’m shooting this summer are going to last me well into the winter as far as getting them posted into my blog. That’s especially true because the fall bird migration has begun.

While birding in the fall isn’t as good as it is in the spring, I still hope to pick-up a few more new species for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. Fall birding isn’t as good as spring birding because there are still leaves on the trees making it difficult to find and photograph the birds, and, for many species, the males have molted out of their colorful breeding plumage.

I’ve skipped posting any species in the My Photo Life List project a few weeks this summer, because I’ve posted so many other posts. I’m getting near the half-way point as far as the number of species, and I’d kind of like to get past that milestone. I have photos of more than enough species to get past half-way, it’s just a matter of doing the posts. I’ve had too many other good photos that I wanted to share instead.

That’s okay, I have a feeling that I won’t be shooting many photos over the winter months. So, if I have photos left over from summer and fall, and plenty of Life List posts to do, I’ll have the time this winter, as I’d rather not post so-so photos of the same few species of birds every week.

I still have to do posts on a birding trip to the Muskegon area the weekend before last, and another on a scouting trip that I took to the Haymarsh State Game Area this weekend. I don’t want to get into too many details, but the Haymarsh SGA is just northeast of Big Rapids, Michigan, about the same distance from my apartment as Muskegon is. I used to be familiar with that area, one of my uncles lived less than ten miles from there. But, It’s been 35 years since I’ve been there.

It was hot, humid, with occasional showers and thunderstorms on Sunday, so it seemed like a good day to do a scouting trip where I’d be driving more than hiking. Being a state game area, the Haymarsh SGA is open to hunting, but it is also a great place for birding during the majority of the year when hunting season is closed. There’s even a campground there now, so I think that I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there in the future.

In the meantime, I’ve got photos to share, not all of them great, but I think that most of them are interesting, even if the quality isn’t that good.

I’ll start with this unidentified beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace.

Unidentified beetle on Queen Anne's Lace

Unidentified beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace

Future thistle flowers.

Future thistle flowers

Future thistle flowers

One day while I was getting set to photograph some flowers in a field, I noticed a turkey trying to hide in the grass.

Hiding turkey

Hiding turkey

While I was shooting the flowers, the its curiosity got the better of the turkey, and she stuck her head up to see what I was up to. I had set down the camera body with the 300 mm lens on it, and only had the Tokina 100 mm lens for this shot.

Turkey at 100 mm not cropped

Turkey at 100 mm not cropped

But, how many people can say that they shot a turkey with a macro lens. 😉 She ducked back down in the grass, I finished shooting the flowers that were my main goal, then picked up the long lens. The turkey stuck her head up again, and I was ready, she wasn’t expecting that.

Turkey at 420 mm not cropped

Turkey at 420 mm not cropped

I suppose that  I could have fooled around with her a bit more, but turkeys are a dime a dozen, and the males are more interesting, at least more colorful.

Male turkey

Male turkey

Male turkey

Male turkey

I shot this chipping sparrow with the 300 mm prime lens and 1.4 X extender….

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

…compare that one to this one shot with the Beast. (Sigma 150-500 mm lens)

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

…There’s not much difference between the two lenses, other than that the sparrow posed better for the image shot with the 300 mm.

Here’s another chipping sparrow picking up its take-out order.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

An unidentified butterfly.

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

I found this insect climbing the stem of timothy grass, I wish that I had been able to get closer, and a better image.

Unidentified strange looking insect

Unidentified strange-looking insect

I wouldn’t have known that it was an insect if I hadn’t seen the legs.

Other insects are much easier to shoot.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Japanese beetle

Japanese beetle

I found this odd whatever it is.

Unidentified unkown

Unidentified unknown

I have no clue what that is, it could be trash, but I thought that the way the grass was growing through it was cool.

I got a few other birds.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Here’s a few other things that I saw.

Blue vervain

Blue vervain

Unknown pink flower

Unknown pink flower

Oak leaf

Oak leaf

I don’t think that I need to explain many of these.

Female northern cardinal in flight

Female northern cardinal in flight

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Sumac

Sumac

Fungus that attracts flies

Fungus that attracts flies

Heal all

Heal all

Queen Anne's lace flower floating down the creek

Queen Anne’s lace flower floating down the creek

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe watch two oblivious women walking past

Whitetail doe watching two oblivious women walking past

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Swamp milkweed flowers

Swamp milkweed flowers

Six spotted tiger beetle eating an ant

Six spotted tiger beetle eating an ant

Six spotted tiger beetle eating an ant

Six spotted tiger beetle eating an ant

Small white flowers that look similar to Queen Anne's lace

Small white flowers that look similar to Queen Anne’s lace

Green fly

Green fly

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

American crow eating unidentified bread

American crow eating unidentified bread

Unidentified red beetle eating milkweed leaves

Unidentified red beetle eating milkweed leaves

Well, that’s it for the photos.

I’ve had an odd thought lately, that I need two of the 1.4 X tele-converters. I’ve been swapping the one that I have back and forth between the Tokina macro lens, the 300 mm prime, and even the Beast a couple of times. I purchased the extender to use behind the Tokina macro lens to increase the working distance and magnification, and the extender really does the trick.

Since I had an extender, it led me to purchase the 300 mm prime lens, which wouldn’t be as good for either birding or close-ups without the extender. As much as I’m switching back and forth, I could use a second extender, but I think that I’ll hold off and save up for a Canon. The Tamron works great, but I can’t help but think that the Canon would be a touch better behind the Canon 300 mm prime.

But, before I prattle on any longer about that. I think that I’ll stop here for now.

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


What I’ve learned recently, passing on some tips, part II

I’m going to start this post by going back to something that I said a couple of posts back, do not trust any one review of any photo equipment. I watched one comparison review of a Sigma 150-500 mm lens (affectionately known here as the Beast) and a Nikon 80-400 mm lens. The reviewer dismissed the Sigma lens as junk, not worth the money. I disagree.

Sandhill crane in flight

Sandhill crane in flight

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

However, it’s taken me a little over a year to learn how to get images like those two consistently from the Sigma lens, and all of the learning didn’t come while I was using that lens, much of it came from my trials and tribulations with the two Canon L series lenses that I own.

I will admit that both of the L series lenses are of better quality, and can produce better photos than the Sigma lens can, even on the Sigma’s best days. They should, the L series lenses are Canon’s top of the line professional grade lenses.

But, before I prattle on any longer, I should say that much of this will be specific to the equipment I’m using, the Canon 60 D bodies, the Sigma 150-500 mm lens, the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L series, and the Canon 300 mm f/4 L series lens.

However, the larger point that I’ll be trying to make is that photography is much like putting a puzzle together, and that the more one learns, the smaller the pieces of the puzzle become, and you find that there are more of the pieces than what you thought when you started on the puzzle. Also, that unlike a puzzle, there are more than just one way to fit the pieces together. And that’s the key to what I’m going to attempt to explain, it’s how you fit the pieces together, using your equipment’s strong points to over come any weaknesses that they may have. I hope that it makes sense when I’m done.

Okay then, the major problem with the two L series lenses is that they do not auto-focus accurately, or I should say that from what I’ve learned in the past two weeks is that they don’t auto-focus accurately where I want them to focus. Here’s a photo to illustrate this section of the discussion.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Looks good, doesn’t it? Well, the sparrow is slightly out of focus, and you’d be able to see that if I had cropped that image down as I had intended to do.

I use just the center focusing point on the body that I use for birds and wildlife, and I had that focusing point directly on the sparrow. But, the 300 mm prime lens either has a much larger center focusing point than the Sigma lens has, or, it is programmed to use the center point as a suggestion, and then, look for things closer to the camera in the frame near the center point and focus on those things instead, in this case, the leaves to the left and slightly in front of the sparrow. (remember that the lenses of today have a processor of their own, and also contain the algorithms that the camera communicates with and uses to determine when things are in focus)

Okay, so I have begun doing a few things to assist getting the subject that I want in focus to be in focus. One is using the rear button auto-focus of the Canon body, it speeds up the auto-focus and is slightly more accurate as well.

I still use the hybrid auto-focus mode, where the camera will auto-focus as if it were set to one shot auto-focus, unless it detects motion, then the body switches to servo (continuous) mode. If I can get the auto-focus to switch to the servo mode, I usually get the best photos that way. If it doesn’t switch to servo, and I can see that the subject is out of focus, then I take advantage of Canon’s full-time manual focus and tweak it myself.

You may ask why I don’t just use the servo mode of auto-focusing to begin with, well, that exposes a few of the weaknesses of the 60 D body. In the full-time servo mode, the camera doesn’t alert you to when anything in the frame is in focus, and the shutter will fire whenever you press the release. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the biggest weakness that I’ve found with the 60 D is the focusing screen, I simply can not tell when the focus is dead on many times. So, when I shooting the full servo mode, I get lots of (most of them) out of focus images.

In the hybrid servo mode, the focus point flashes and the camera beeps to tell me when the camera and lens have something in focus, and the shutter won’t fire unless it does have something in focus.

It may help me to see what is or isn’t in focus if I pressed the depth of field preview button, but, my fingers can’t find that button when I’m hand holding the camera, the button is in a very poor spot.

I’ve begun using the Av exposure mode and stopping the lens down to get a greater depth of field, taking a “shotgun” approach to my images, if everything in the frame is in focus, then the subject certainly will be. That’s why that photo looks as good as it does, even tough the sparrow isn’t exactly in focus. Of course, when using long lenses, it’s almost impossible to get everything in the frame in focus, but more depth of field helps, it saved that image.

Although, that means that I’m shooting at higher ISO settings and/or some extremely slow shutter speeds to get the greater depth of field. I’ve learned that when used with quality lenses, the high ISO capabilities of the 60 D body is much better than I had been led to believe. I now have the wildlife body set to go up to ISO 3200 rather than restricting it to below 1600 as I did before. Especially with the 300 mm prime and the Tokina macro lens, the sensor noise hasn’t become a major issue for me yet.

Another equipment strength that allows me to do what I’ve been doing is the Image Stabilization (Optical Stabilization, Vibration Reduction, depending on the manufacturer) of both the 300 mm prime and Sigma lenses. I can get relatively sharp, useable photos when shooting at shutter speeds down to around 1/100 sec. That’s really pushing it when using 300 mm and up focal length lenses.

Okay, so what does any of that have to do with the improvements in the images that I shoot when using the Sigma lens. Well, I thought that the Sigma auto-focused accurately most of the time, I was wrong, or at least I was off a little.

Over the past few months, I’ve been using the 300 mm prime almost all of the time for my long lens, and the things that I do to get that lens to focus correctly have become second nature. So, when I started using the Sigma lens again, I continued to do the same things that I do with the 300 mm lens, and those things are what have improved the quality of the images shot with the Sigma.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

Not too shabby for a lens that’s supposed to be junk and not worth the money. 😉

I’ve also found that the same focusing techniques that I learned to use to get good photos with the 300 mm lens works well with the Tokina macro lens.

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

None of those from the Tokina have been cropped at all! I was using the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter behind the Tokina lens for those. I’m thinking of having that last one blown up to an 11 X 17 inch print just to see how it looks.

Probably the most surprising thing to me is how much better the images from the Sigma lens are when I shoot close to the close limits of its focusing abilities. The Sigma has always done well on birds and wildlife, but I was never impressed by its close focusing abilities. Using the same techniques as I stated above, I was able to shoot these, starting with the same dragonfly as above.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

The 300 mm lens is at it’s best close up, so I was quite pleased that I had it on the camera when I saw this clear-winged hummingbird moth.

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

But, a few days later, I spotted another of the moths when I had the Sigma lens on the camera.

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

Clear-winged hummingbird moth

A few posts ago, I said that one of these days I needed to post a good image of a water strider, to my complete surprise, my best so far came from the Sigma lens.

Water strider

Water strider

Again, not bad for a junk lens!

So, by not settling for the soft images that I often got from the 300 mm lens because of the way that the auto-focus functions, I learned to use various camera settings to overcome that, and it has improved the photos that I’m getting from some of my other lenses as well.

I started this post out with the image of a sandhill crane in flight, I used the Sigma lens to shoot that photo. A year ago, shortly after I had purchased that lens, I was of the opinion that the Sigma lens couldn’t handle birds in flight well. I was wrong again. I had to learn when to use the action mode of the Optical Stabilization, and when to turn it off completely.

Sandhill cranes in flight, not cropped

Sandhill cranes in flight, not cropped

When birds are flying past me close to the horizon, I can use the action mode of the OS for shots like that last one. But, when birds are flying almost directly overhead, I have to turn the OS off completely for shots like these.

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

By the way, there’s no banding on the hawk’s tail, which means it’s a juvenile, I wonder if it is one of Bertha and Bruiser’s young?

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

Because I wasn’t willing to settle for poor images, I tried different combinations of setting until I found the ones that work for birds in flight. But, I think that I have hammered that point enough, time to move on.

Another thing that I have started doing is that when I first see a species of flower blooming for the first time this year, I shoot one or two quick photos of it as I did with this one.

Unknown

Unknown

Then, I look at the quickies that I shot and analyze the images to figure out the best angles and lighting that will net me better images later. One problem with that is that the flowers can disappear before I get back to them, either they get picked by some one, or they get mowed down. That’s what happened to this flower, the next time I went back to look for it, it was gone, but, it’s a risk that I take.

I have exceptional depth perception, and I think that it’s harder for me to visualize how some flowers will look in a two-dimensional photo. To paraphrase my youngest brother, photography is the art of making the three-dimensional world look good in two dimensions. So, by looking at photos even if I know that I’ll never post those photos, it helps me to see the best angles to shoot at later.

Taking the quickies also lets me check what exposure I need to shoot at. It seems that every species of flower, no matter what color, reflects light differently, and since our images are formed from reflected light, how the flowers reflect light determines what the correct exposure should be. The sensors in our cameras also record different colors differently.

Some flowers have somewhat porous surfaces that don’t reflect as much light as flowers that have a smooth, waxy surface. That’s what I look at first when I see a species of flower that I’m going to photograph for the first time, the surface of the flowers to see how much light they are going to reflect, the more reflected light, the more I adjust the exposure compensation down. And, it doesn’t matter if the flower is in full sun or shade, that same rule seems to apply. But, I’m far from being an expert, so I’ll just throw a few of my flower photos in for now.

Sweet pea

Sweet pea

Rabbit's foot clover

Rabbit’s foot clover

Butterfly weed

Butterfly weed

Bee balm

Bee balm

Hawkweed family?

Hawkweed family?

Assorted flowers

Assorted flowers

The main flower in that last image is a Michigan lily, and it brings up the last point that I’d like to make, which lens to use.

Where the lily was growing, I couldn’t get the entire flower in the frame using the 300 mm prime lens. The same applied to the Tokina 100 mm lens.

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Aha! I have a brand new 10-18 mm lens that focuses down to less than 9 inches, maybe that would be the correct lens?

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Close, but no cigar.

But wait, I have the lens stopped down as if I still had the Tokina lens on the camera, maybe if I open up the aperture I’ll get what I want?

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Nope, I’d better shoot butterflies for now, and try again the next day.

Male eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Male eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Orange spotted purple butterfly

Orange spotted purple butterfly

Orange spotted purple butterfly

Orange spotted purple butterfly

Well, back to the Michigan lily, this time with the 15-85 mm lens to see how it does.

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

I think we have a winner! That last one was shot at approximately 50 mm with me holding the camera directly under the flower and using live view in the LCD display to see what I was shooting. Using live view with the screen rotated sure beat lying down on my back with the bugs crawling on me in the jungle where the lily grows!

Okay, to wrap this up, the most important thing I have to say is that it pays to play! Different camera and lens settings, different lenses, different angles, and different lighting. There are lots of “rules” when it comes to photography, but the only hard and fast rule that I know of that always applies is try it, it may not work, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know what could have been.

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


What I’ve learned recently, passing on some tips, part I

As I said a few posts back, I’ve been spending some time watching online tutorials and equipment reviews in an effort to improve my photography skills. Most of the stuff that I started watching, I quit not very far into the video, as most of them aren’t very good. However, B&H Photo has posted some really good tutorials, I’ve watched one with Tim Cooper on Creating Dynamic Landscape Photographs twice so far, and I’ll probably watch it again soon.

There’s so much great information contained in that hour and a half long video, that I may even take notes the next time I watch it. I’ve been putting what I learned from that video, and some other sources, to the test the past week or so, and this will be the first of two posts that I’ll do passing on what I’ve learned.

One segment of the video is on white balance, and how your camera can be fooled if the scene you’re shooting contains large amounts of the color blue, or the colors yellow through orange to red. The second time I watched the video, it dawned on me that while I wasn’t shooting landscapes, there were times when the auto white balance of my camera may have been fooled by the color of the subject I was shooting. So, as a test, I set the white balance of the second body I have to daylight and left it on auto on the other body.

Here’s the results of my mini test. The first photo was shot with white balance set to auto and I used the 300 mm prime lens.

Indian love call day lily auto white balance

Indian love call day lily auto white balance

The same flower shot with the second body, Tokina macro lens, and the white balance set at daylight.

Indian love call day lily daylight white balance

Indian love call day lily daylight white balance

Another test subject.

Unidentified yellow flower shot with auto white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with auto white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

Unidentified yellow flower shot with daylight white balance

I think that you can see that the colors were much better when I used the daylight white balance versus auto. The differences between the two aren’t as dramatic here where I’ve reduced the quality of the photos for posting here, but in the full versions, using daylight white balance won hands down. So, from now on, I’ll be setting the white balance manually for both camera bodies. It does make a difference!

My test would have been more accurate if I had used the same lens for each photo, but the 300 mm prime and the Tokina 100 mm macro lens are both superb lenses, and are very close as far as image quality.

That brings up something else. It took me a while using the Tokina lens to get my camera dialed in as far as the best setting to use for it, and of course, it took me a while to learn how to get the best from it. I’ve said before that every new lens, every bit of photo gear for that matter, has come with a learning curve, and the more that I use the equipment that I now own, the more apparent that becomes.

When I first began using the Tokina lens more often this summer, I would have rated it as equal to, or slightly less sharp than the 300 mm prime lens. Not any longer. The more that I use that lens, the better my images become.

Yellow lily

Yellow lily

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Pokeweed flowers

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

English plantain

English plantain

English plantain

English plantain

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Timothy grass

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

Unidentified tiny white woodland flower

Enchanter’s nightshade

White clover

White clover

Pokeweed seed pod

Pokeweed seed pod

Fly

Fly

Wasp vs wasp

Wasp vs wasp

For me anyway, there’s only one way to learn to get the best from my equipment, and that’s to use it, a lot! Reading the manual or watching the online tutorials do help, but the only way that I’ve found to apply the “book learning” to actual improvements to image quality is go out and try what I think I’ve learned, look at the photos to see what I’ve done right, and what I’ve done wrong, then go out and try it again.

Nothing illustrates that better than this dragonfly that I shot yesterday!

Dragonfly, not cropped at all

Dragonfly, not cropped at all

I almost feel as if I should hold off from doing this post now, as my photos for it are so last week, and I could easily replace the ones so far with even better ones from this week.

But, that sort of proves the point that I was in the middle of making, there’s nothing like experience as a teacher.

Amy, one of the people who follows my blog, and does her own blog here, posted something a short time ago that I’d like to respond to. She read an expert’s opinion that beginning photographers shoot too many photos, and that they should slow down, put more thought into their photos, and shoot fewer but better photos.

Well, yes and no. I see a problem with the expert’s thinking, how does a beginner know how to get a great photo if they haven’t shot enough photos to learn their equipment and what it takes to get a great photo?

I’m still of the opinion that you should shoot many photos, to learn from them. If you shoot a lot of photos and just delete them when you see that they’re bad, you weren’t learn anything from them. But, if you can figure out why the photos came out poorly, then you’re learning what not to do the next time.

I probably still don’t put enough thought into many of my photo, but I’m getting better at thinking before shooting.

I’ve said all of that before, many times, so I’m probably boring you, as I’m even boring the subjects of my photos.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbirds dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbird dozing

Juvenile eastern kingbird dozing

I’ve learned how to use the digital filters that are programmed into my Canon 60 D body. I doubt if many of you care, but the digital filters are there to take the place of using real filters when shooting in black and white. And, we all know that “real” photographers shoot in black and white, so I just had to play around one day when the clouds were too good not to try out the red filter programmed into my camera. Here’s the view in color….

Creekside Park in color

Creekside Park in color

…and two in black and white.

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

Creekside Park in black and white

When shooting in black and white, the red filter adds contrast, it’s one of the tricks used by Ansel Adams when he photographed the landscapes that he is so famous for.

Now, I’m going to have to find the quick photo guide that I used to carry in my bag when I shot film to jog my memory as to what the other color filters are for. 😉

We all know that “real” photographers do street photography, so here’s my effort from last week.

Chipping sparrows

Chipping sparrows

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Okay, so it was a bike path and not a street. And, there’s nothing creative about the dove photo, it’s one of my more typical bird portraits.

I do like the shot of the chipping sparrows taken while I was laying on the ground though, it reminds me to try out different angles from time to time.

We’ve all heard that “real” photographers shoot in manual, so I tried it a few times this past week, and to tell you the truth, I see no advantage in using manual for the type of photography that I typically do. There are times when switching to manual is a must to get good photos, such as night photography, or when using a graduated neutral density filter. Maybe I haven’t worked in the manual mode enough to see the benefits? As long as I’m using the light meter in my camera, and I get he correct depth of field and exposure, I see no difference in what mode that I used to get the photo. If I were using a better light meter than the one built into my camera, as many good landscape photographers do, then I could see shooting in manual.

I’ve also heard that all “real” photographers shoot in RAW, so I also tried that this past week, and for me, there was no real advantage to it. I ended up with two photos of each subject, one huge file in RAW, then another much smaller JPG file. I could see that if I shot in RAW all the time that I’d be filling external hard drives up almost as quickly as I could purchase them. 😉

The advantage to shooting in RAW comes when you post-process your images, and since the only post-processing I do is cropping, there’s no advantage to shooting in RAW for me. That may change one of these days, if I ever get Photoshop, Lightroom, or some other photo editing software. First, I would need a new computer, as mine is old and outdated, much like me.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos for this post, some were shot in manual, some were in RAW originally, since there’s no real difference, I’m not going to bother noting which are which. If you think that you can tell which are which, more power to you.

Juvenile blue jay

Juvenile blue jay

Kwanso day lily

Kwanso day lily

Boneset buds

Boneset buds

Yellow day lily

Yellow day lily

Moth

Moth

Vibrating juvenile barn swallows

Vibrating juvenile barn swallows

Barn swallow feeding one of its young

Barn swallow feeding one of its young

Juvenile barn swallows

Juvenile barn swallows

Moth on alfalfa flower

Moth on alfalfa flower

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

To wrap this up, I’ll say that it pays to play. Even if something doesn’t work for me, I learn from it, and can apply it to the photography that I do. In the next post, I’ll continue that theme, and also discuss what I’m learning about the lenses that I’m using, and how what I learn from using one lens helps me to improve when using other lenses.

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


A special D, for Mister T

Since Mr. Tootlepedal said that he was looking forward to more chickadee photos, I’m going to start this post with them.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Those two images were cropped slightly for composition, these next two weren’t cropped at all. I wish that young birds didn’t vibrate as they beg for food, makes it hard to get a sharp photo of them.

Black-capped chickadee parent feeding its young

Black-capped chickadee parent feeding its young

“Oh boy! Already chewed bug, my favorite, thanks mom!”

Black-capped chickadee parent feeding its young

Black-capped chickadee parent feeding its young

A nuthatch looked on, and I know from reading his blog that Mr. T enjoys a good nuthatch photo, but this one will have to do.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I caught this juvenile chickadee looking for food on its own.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

“I’d better watch mom and see how she does it.”

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

“Okay, she grabs one of these things….

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…holds it with her feet as she pecks it….

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

….oh wow, there’s goodies in here!”

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

“Look mom, I did it all by myself!”

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Well, that’s it for the chickadees for now, time to move on to other subjects, like this flowering hedge, at least that’s what I think it is.

Flowering hedge?

Flowering hedge?

One of my woodchuck buddies was out in the open.

Woodchuck

Woodchuck

This chipping sparrow was tearing apart any landscape cloth that it could get to for use in a nest.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

I was able to get a few shots of a female indigo bunting, but her beautifully colored mate has eluded me so far.

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

The bee balm has begun to bloom.

Bee balm

Bee balm

Bee balm with requisite bee

Bee balm with requisite bee

As is the Canada thistle. As I was getting ready to shoot this photo, the moth that you can see on the right landed on the flower.

Canada thistle and moth

Canada thistle and moth

But when I moved to get a better shot of the moth, it flew off, so I had to settle for the flower.

Canada thistle

Canada thistle

Both of those were shot with the Tokina macro lens, I switched to the new 10-18 mm lens for this image of Queen Anne’s lace.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

Then, switched back to the Tokina for this one.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

While I’m on the subject of Queen Anne’s lace, it makes a fine umbrella for bugs!

Wasp using Queen Anne's lace as an umbrella in the rain

Wasp using Queen Anne’s lace as an umbrella in the rain

I would say that it’s tough for the bugs to lug around though. 😉

Not all of the red-winged blackbirds have left yet.

Female red-winged blackbird acting like a wife

Female red-winged blackbird acting like a wife

I know, after a caption like that, flowers are required.

Tiger lily in the rain

Tiger lily in the rain

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

And, maybe I can get a catbird to sing a love song.

Male grey catbird singing

Male grey catbird singing

This robin looks like it had just visited its barber, and was not pleased with the results.

Juvenile American robin

Juvenile American robin

The milkweed is almost done blooming, but I found a bumblebee on one of the last flowers.

Bumblebee on milkweed flowers

Bumblebee on milkweed flowers

Bumblebee on milkweed flowers

Bumblebee on milkweed flowers

The bull thistle is just opening up.

Bull thistle

Bull thistle

I’m seeing more monarch butterflies than I have over the last several years.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

As I stepped out of my apartment door one morning, I was greeted by a flock of geese, and just couldn’t resist playing.

Canada goose portrait

Canada goose portrait

Canada goose eating

Canada goose eating

And, to wrap this up, a few photos of the turkeys on a day when I caught them in the sun for a change.

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

I’m sorry that I didn’t write more (you’re probably not), but I went to Muskegon today, got a lifer….

Common Gallinule

Common Gallinule

…a few ho-hum shots of other species, and a few good ones.

Sandhill crane in flight

Sandhill crane in flight

So I’ve been busy sorting and deleting photos since I got back home.

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


Once again I find, myself way behind

Even though I’m trying to be more selective when I shoot photos, even though I’m trying to be more selective in the photos that I post, I just did a count of the photos that I have saved to post, and it’s 160 images. So, I’d better get right to the photos, starting with a crow. (I won’t post all 160 in this post, although it may seem like it)

American crow

American crow

The story behind this next one is better than the photo. On one of the mornings this past week, I wasn’t feeling very well, so I sat down to take a long break. There were two male catbirds, one on either side of me, engaged in a singing war. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a video about the ability of catbirds to mimic the songs of other birds. Well, these two were going at it for all they were worth.

One would pause, then start an entirely new song made up of snippets of other bird’s songs. The second catbird would then stop singing, as it listened to the song the first was singing. Then, I would hear the second one softly practicing what the first one was singing, before it added a few touches of its own, then singing his new song full volume. Upon hearing the second catbird’s song, the first one would stop to listen and learn his competitor’s song, then add a few of his own touches, before singing the new version full volume. The two of them went back and forth like that the entire time I sat there, with each trying to out sing the other. I didn’t want to interrupt the two of them, so this is the best photo I was able to get, and hearing the two of them going at it sure did make me feel better.

Male grey catbird singing

Male grey catbird singing

In fact, the catbirds cheered up a very gloomy day, and after hearing them singing, I felt well enough to swap lenses to the new 10-18 mm lens for these two images.

Highbush cranberries

Highbush cranberries

Pine needles

Pine needles

Since it had been raining, the turkeys were out in the open to dry off.

Turkeys

Turkeys

And, I’m a sucker for a snake in the grass.

Garter snake

Garter snake

This female cardinal was gathering food for her young.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

And, this robin was wolfing down mulberries.

American robin

American robin

My timing was off, so I didn’t get a photo of a berry starting on its way down the robin’s throat, just this one of the robin with a lump in its throat as one of the berries went down its crop.

American robin

American robin

Here’s a few photos that need no explanation other than the captions.

White lily

White lily

Female house finch

Female house finch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Dianthus

Dianthus

Inside out mushroom

Inside out mushroom

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Red beetle

Red beetle

Since I’m so far behind, I shouldn’t post multiple photos of the same species of birds, but I love swallows!

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

You may have noticed that there are more images of birds in this post than what there have been lately, I getting back in practice for the fall migration, which is already starting. I see the flocks of some species of birds, such as starlings, growing larger everyday, and other species, like red-winged blackbirds, are becoming rare.

It won’t be that long before there aren’t any of these birds around to shoot.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Alder flycatcher

Alder flycatcher

Unidentified juvenile flycatcher

Unidentified juvenile flycatcher

Unidentified juvenile flycatcher

Unidentified juvenile flycatcher

Nor will there be any insects.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Damselfliy

Damselfly

Sometimes a bird is just an excuse to shoot a photo.

American robin

American robin

I could have cropped in on the robin, but I like that one the way that it came out of the camera.

Anyway, I decided that I needed some practice on birds in flight, so I chose about the hardest large species of bird to get a good photo of, crows.

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

Looks like I need more practice!

Here’s something you don’t see everyday.

Whitetail doe and fawns

Whitetail doe and fawns

While it’s not unheard of for a doe to give birth to triplets, it is extremely rare. I think that there was another doe hidden in the brush along the creek that I didn’t see.

I’m sorry that I didn’t get the entire third fawn in the frame, but it was moving, and there was very little light, and as a result, my shutter speed was extremely slow. I was afraid that any movement by the deer would result in a blurry shot, so I held off until I saw that the fawn was moving out of the frame, and shot just a second too late. If I had moved the camera, then the focus wouldn’t have been right, and the deer would have been out of focus.

Whitetail doe and fawns

Whitetail doe and fawns

I say that there must have been another doe, for the fawn that I cut the head off from bolted and ran off before the three others did, and it’s very unlikely that it would have done that under the circumstances, unless its mother had called to it, or if she had taken off herself. And, I’ve seen the doe and her twins before, along with a doe with a single fawn, so I think the five of them were together that morning.

To finish this one off, a species of bird that I’ve been ignoring lately, a black-capped chickadee.

A happy black-capped chickadee

A happy black-capped chickadee

I think that the little guy was glad to see me from the look on his face, he even struck a pose for me.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

If you’ve been missing chickadees, don’t worry, I’ve been using them as practice subjects this past week, so you’ll be seeing more of them shortly. 😉

Tomorrow, I’m going to do some serous birding in the Muskegon area, as there are already migrating birds moving through the area. That also means that I’m going to fall even further behind as far as posting photos. Oh well, it’s a tough job, but some one has to do it. 😉

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


Ju Dee, Ju Dee, Ju Dee, or, lost in my own little great big world

Okay, so I do a terrible Cary Grant impersonation.

The reason for even trying is that a local reader of my blog had decided that they would like to accompany me when I went on one of my of my hikes. I’m not sure why she wanted to go along, I think that she thought that I was some kind of critter whisperer or something, and that when I step into the woods, the critters come running to me like in a Disney cartoon.

But, before I go any further along that line, I have to apologize to Judy for asking her to lug my tripod, and then not using it, even though there were times when I should have. I have a one track mind, and the reason that I wanted the tripod along was to shoot a specific species of flower, spotted bee balm. However, the spotted bee balm was a long way from reaching its peak.

I had great plans to always use my tripod for macro photography, but those plans sort of went by the wayside. I found that there were many times I simply could not set the tripod up in such a way as to be able to shoot the subject that I wanted to shoot. I started using the macro lens handheld, with disastrous results. Okay, I needed practice using it handheld, so for most of the last month, that’s what I’ve been doing. When I see a specific species of flower that I know that I should use the tripod for, then, I bring it with me and use it the next time I know I’ll see that species of plant, otherwise it remains at home to reduce the weight that I have to carry. I get into routines for no real reason, and then it becomes hard for me to break those routines. Right now, one of those routines is getting better using the macro lens handheld, so I forget the tripod entirely, even when I should or could use it.

So once again, I’m sorry that you carried the tripod with us for nothing, Judy!

One the great side of the ledger, I actually enjoyed having some one to talk to while I was hiking! After what had happened over the last few years, I had forgotten that there was such a thing as pleasant company on a nature walk.

It’s been several years since any one went along with me on any of my hikes, and I would say that I’m used to getting lost in my own little world, except, nature isn’t a little world, it’s a great big wonderful world, that never ceases to amaze me! The little world that I get lost in is that of my own thoughts, since I’m so used to be alone.

That brings me to something about myself that is very hard to explain, getting completely immersed in nature.

But, since the time that I have begun this post, I have decided that I should devote an entire post to the subject of how deeply immersed in nature I become at times, so I’ll focus the rest of this post on that day.

It was an enlightening day for me in a way, I knew in the back of my mind that I have been so intent on photographing insects and flowers that I haven’t been paying much attention to other subjects, and that hit home almost as soon as we started walking on the boardwalk that takes you across a corner of Pickerel Lake. I was so intent on finding water flowers or dragonflies to shoot that Judy had to point this turtle out to me.

Painted turtle basking in the sun

Painted turtle basking in the sun

I did see a water strider, and one of these days, I’ll get a good photo of one, until then, this will have to do.

Water strider

Water strider

I tried the new 10-18 mm lens out on this dead tree that’s very close to the boardwalk, to see if I could get the entire tree in the frame, I did.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

But, that shot isn’t really all that great, I should have gotten down lower. The problem is the fence along the boardwalk to prevent people from falling into the lake. The next time I’m there, I’m going to see if I can shoot through one of the openings in the fence, or maybe from under the fence to get a better angle on the tree.

Here’s a few more photos that really don’t need any explanation.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Wasp or fly?

Wasp or fly?

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

White moth

White moth

White mushroom

White mushroom

It’s kind of funny, Judy was wondering why I wasn’t photographing more of the things that we were seeing along the trail, but, that’s from my new attitude towards photography. Many of the things that she asked if I was going to shoot were in poor light, or not very good examples of what ever species they were. It’s kind of nice not coming home with 400 images to sort through, most of them not very good,  to come up with a few for a post. I’ve learned to go for good shots to begin with, since I’m outside every day, I have no trouble getting enough photos for my blog.

We did see a few birds, or I should say that I saw a few birds. Judy was afraid of spooking them, so she stayed well back, and I doubt that she saw very many. They were all the more common species of birds, and few of them were willing to pose for me on this day.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

So, we walked along, with me occasionally shooting some of the other subjects to be found.

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Green spider

Green spider

Butterfly on milkweed

Butterfly on milkweed

The butterfly was actually hanging upside down on a drooping milkweed flower, but looking at the image as I shot it, it just didn’t look right, so I rotated it. It still doesn’t look quite right, but at least it doesn’t give me vertigo looking at it. 😉

We reached the spot where the spotted bee balm grows.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The flowers weren’t much farther along than last week, but I did capture this wasp or bee feeding on either the nectar or pollen.

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

And, I tried for a good photo of the actual flowers.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The tripod wasn’t a complete waste of energy for Judy to have carried it, I used the case as a background for this shot to help make this grass stand out from a boring background.

Unknown grass flower

Unknown grass flower

Continuing on, Judy pointed these tiny mushrooms out to me, the heads of them were only about a half an inch (12 mm) in diameter.

Orange mushrooms

Orange mushrooms

I cropped this next one down, and I can see a tiny insect on the mushroom.

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

You may not have been able to see the insect with the smaller size of the photos here, but it’s on the left third of the head of the mushroom. I’m not sure, but I think that what look to be crystals or spots of lighter color in the mushroom are grains of sand. I’m loving the Tokina macro lens!

I also used it for these two photos.

Unidentified mushroom

Unidentified mushroom

Lichens and mosses

Lichens and mosses

But, I should have switched to the new 10-18 mm lens for that last one. I wasn’t trying to get super close, I was going for the vibrant colors, which I almost got, but the short depth of field of the macro lens means some of what’s in the photo is out of focus, detracting from the quality of the image. With the close focusing ability of the wide-angle lens, it would have been a better choice of lenses. I almost went back to re-shoot that, but didn’t want to take the time, silly me.

Here’s a few more photos that need no explanation.

Unidentified round flower

Button bush

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

Black jelly mold?

Black jelly mold?

Beetle on a lilypad

Beetle on a lily pad

Here’s an image where my one track mind took over again. I saw this bee balm and knew how I could capture it almost instantly.

Bee balm

Bee balm

I love the lighting in that shot.

Judy was looking at the way that the tendrils of a vine were wrapped around the stem of the bee balm, I tried lowering the camera slightly as well as stepping back, but then I lost the lighting that I wanted for the flower itself. You can see that I was getting a few of the petals of the flower over-exposed in this next photo.

Bee balm

Bee balm

It was one of many times that I should have done two things. One, take more time explaining to Judy what I was doing and why so that I wouldn’t seem like such a jerk. Two, I should have taken more time looking the lighting over, I may have been able to get a good photo of both the flower and the vine, which would have been even better than the flower alone. But, I didn’t do either.

I did shoot a couple of dragonflies.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I found another of the orange butterflies on swamp milkweed.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

This butterfly was being dive-bombed by bees or wasps, and would flinch whenever the smaller insects got close.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

I tried to time a photo to see if the smaller insects were stinging the butterfly or not, but even I’m not that good. 😉 So, another shot of the butterfly will have to do.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

I was able to get a couple of photos of pickerel-weed that are better than before.

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Judy pointed these out to me.

More unidentified round flowers

Bur reed

While I was sizing up this fungi for this photo.

Fungi

Fungi

And finally, as far as photos, this cardinal in jail.

Male northern cardinal in "jail"

Male northern cardinal in “jail”

It makes one wonder how birds are able to fly through the tangle of branches.

It was a very good day, and if Judy ever wants to come along again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat, as she is the first true nature lover that I’ve met in at least the last five years, other than a few of the people from the Muskegon County Nature Club. They tend to be serious birders who use spotting scopes and/or high-powered binoculars and bird from a distance, which doesn’t work out well for my efforts to photograph birds.

If you would like to read Judy’s take on the day, see photos of me crawling on my belly while shooting some of the photos in this post, or for just a good laugh, you can find a post that she did here.

That’s it for this one, except for this quote I found….

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

…thanks for stopping by!


Least Flycatcher, Empidonax minimus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Least Flycatcher, Empidonax minimus

The least flycatcher is a small insect-eating bird. It is the smallest Empidonax flycatcher in eastern North America.

The least flycatcher is between 5 and 5 3⁄4 inches (13 and 15 cm) long, with a 7 1⁄2 to 8 1⁄2 in (19 to 22 cm) spread. It typically weighs around 11 grams (0.39 oz). Adults have greyish-olive upperparts, darker on the wings and tail, with whitish underparts; they have a conspicuous white eye ring, white wing bars, a small, short bill and a short tail. The breast is washed with grey and the sides of the belly with yellow. It is similar in appearance to the larger eastern wood pewee.

Their breeding habitat is open deciduous or mixed woods across Canada and the northern United States. They make a cup nest on a fork in a small tree. These birds migrate to Mexico and Central America.

They wait on an open perch low or in the middle of a tree and fly out to catch insects in flight (hawking), also sometimes picking insects from foliage while hovering (gleaning). They sometimes eat berries.

The song is a dry che-bec. The call is a sharp whit.

On to my photos:

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

This is number 164 in my photo life list, only 186 to go!

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

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Meet the Fab Four

The photos for this post were shot over the course of several days, of four recently fledged eastern kingbirds and their parents.

I don’t think that I have to do any build up for the photos, so ladies and gentlemen, meet the fab four!

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

It wasn’t long before one of their parents, I suspect the father, swooped down, and shoved some food down one of the young bird’s throat.

Adult eastern kingbird feeding its young

Adult eastern kingbird feeding its young

I say that I think that it was the father, as he only took time to look over his shoulder…

Adult eastern kingbird  and its young

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

…then he was off to find more food for its young.

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

At one point, one of the young thought that dad was returning…

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

…but it proved to be a false alarm.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

A few minutes later, mom showed up with more food, the young ones sure do pay attention to where the adults are!

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

Adult eastern kingbird feeding its young

Adult eastern kingbird feeding its young

I think that the second adult was the mother, as she spent more time looking over all the young ones…

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

…checked me out thoroughly….

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

Adult eastern kingbird and its young

….decided that I didn’t present a threat to her young, then she was off.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

So, a day or two later, there they were again.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

I didn’t see either of the adults feed the young this time, instead, whenever one of the adults took flight to pluck an insect out of the air, it chattered non-stop to keep the attention of the young on what it was doing. I never saw any of the young go after an insect, but they watched the adults intently.

So, the next day, the fab four had each perched in a small tree by itself.

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Juvenile eastern kingbird

I shot a few photos of a couple of the young, but there’s no need to put them in this post. I wish that I had been able to catch one of the young in flight, but there was always something in the way that blocked my view. To be honest, I spent more time watching the young kingbirds capturing their own food for the first time than I did trying to shoot photos.

The same was true the next day, I was watching the young kingbirds, when this titmouse distracted me.

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

I thought that the titmouse was trying to hide from me as it crouched lower on the branch.

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

But no, it was digging a caterpillar out of the bark of the branch.

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

Juvenile titmouse

One of the fab four tried to trick the titmouse into feeding it…

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Juvenile eastern kingbird

But, it didn’t work.

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Its siblings seemed quite amused by that.

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

Juvenile eastern kingbirds

So there you have it, short and sweet this time. 😉

On one hand, I feel bad for not having gotten photos of the kingbirds in flight, but since they are black and white birds, getting a photo of them in flight exposed correctly is hard to do, beside, it really was too much fun watching the young learn to hunt on their own.

Since then, I’ve seen the entire family spread out in the small trees in the field in the park each day, with the adults keeping a watchful eye out for hawks…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

… or other predators. I thought it odd that when the hawk flew over, the adult kingbirds didn’t attack it immediately as I’ve often seen them do. They waited until the hawk was moving off, then chased it to attack. Maybe they did that so that the hawk wouldn’t know that the young were around?

Anyway, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!