Muskegon trip Aug. 10th, more shorebirds
This post is the second from the trip that I made to Muskegon on August 10th, 2014, you can see the first one here.
I may as well start with a few photos of a pectoral sandpiper which I have also used to update the post on them that I had done earlier in the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, since some of my earlier photos weren’t as good as these.
Not only weren’t some of the photos very good, I had incorrectly put a few photos of an upland sandpiper in that post.
Identifying shorebirds is still difficult for me, but the more of them I see frequently, the easier it is becoming. The first time that I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility to photograph shorebirds, they all looked alike to me. I’m getting better, I could tell that the pectoral sandpiper wasn’t a yellowlegs…
…nor was it a solitary sandpiper, as this is.
I’m learning to spot the slight differences in the color patterns on their backs, in their bills, and leg color, all of which are clues to their ID.
Another thing that I’m learning is how to get good photos of them. The first few times that I tried I had a very hard time getting the exposure correct. With the sunlight reflecting off from the water and rocks, it results in “confused” light entering the camera. Confused lighting isn’t easy to work with, but getting closer helps a lot, along with checking the images and adjusting the exposure for each and every situation. You can see some of the reflections from the water in the first photo of the pectoral sandpiper. However, those aren’t the worst offenders as far as reflections, it’s the ones that you can’t see which make photography difficult.
One thing that I meant to try was to use a polarizing filter to cut down on the reflected light coming from the water and rocks, but I haven’t shelled out the big bucks for one of those filters to fit the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) yet. It takes an 86 mm filter, and they don’t come cheap for a good one of that size. I do have a polarizing filter for the 300 mm prime, but I didn’t want to do any testing and risk missing a photo of something special. It turns out that I didn’t see any birds that fit that category, but you never know around Muskegon.
Another thing that I want to try is using fill in flash to help when the lighting is less than ideal. I’m jumping way ahead, but just before I packed it in for the day, I found a treasure trove of birds to photograph, but on the north shore of the lagoon. That meant that I was shooting towards the sun, and my photos from that spot are not what I wanted, but they’ll have to do.
The only photos that I had up until them of the Bonaparte’s gull were of juveniles, or adults after they had molted. I didn’t know it when I shot that photo that just a bit later I would get a chance to photograph another of the gulls while perched on shore.
Still, the light was wrong for that shot, but it was the best that I could do, birds don’t always perch where I would like them to for the best images. 😉
I used to use the flash on my Canon Powershot camera for fill-in flash quite often, but that camera seemed to be programmed to get good results that way. My old Nikon was junk, but I learned some bad habits from it, like not using fill-in flash. I also made a poor decision in purchasing an off brand flash unit that had little control over the unit’s output for the Nikon.
I thought about trying the flash on my Canon to improve the gull photos, but as large and long as the Beast is, I didn’t think that the built-in flash would work well. I could have been wrong. It’s been rainy the past two days, so I’ve been playing, but not with the Beast on the camera. However, the results when using the flash and the 300 mm prime lens have been encouraging so far.
Still, if I’m going to get serious about using a flash more often, as my brother keeps telling me I need to do, I need a better, more controllable flash than the one built-in on my camera.
I’ve been researching Canon’s speedlites, and I’ve settled on the 320 EX. It can be used as a wireless slave in addition to or instead of the camera’s flash. That means that I don’t have to have the flash mounted on the camera in order to fire it. The camera will do that wirelessly, meaning I can hand hold the flash off to one side for macro photography. In addition, I can have the camera on a tripod, point the flash at the camera and press a button on the flash to trigger the camera’s two second shutter delay, and it’s the same as pressing the shutter release on the camera using a two second delay. The two seconds will allow me to position the flash before the shutter fires. I can even trigger the camera remotely with the flash, and have the flash not fire, just like the remote control that I was going to purchase.
So, that flash will kill two birds with one stone, not only will it work as a flash, but it will also work as the remote control that I needed. Speaking of birds, it’s time for a few more.
I included the killdeer because I saw so many of them, dozens at least.
This spotted sandpiper was jumping from rock to rock in search of food…
…and seemed quite proud of itself after making the leap without getting wet.
I tried to catch a jump, but I missed, a little early on the shutter.
By using the sparse brush along the dike that created the lagoon, I was able to sneak up on the short-billed dowitcher from the last post.
A little closer.
I almost got even closer to the dowitcher, but a bird that I hadn’t seen as it hid in the rocks took off when I spooked it, and spooked the dowitcher as well. Birds weren’t the only critters hiding between the rocks.
I did get two poor shots of the dowitcher in flight.
I also saw a small flock of semipalmated plovers, they’re such cute little birds!
The look like killdeer, but they’re less than half the size, only have one black band at the neck, and have slightly webbed feet, which if you look closely at the last photo, you can see.
For the other birds that I saw, there were quite a few hawks….
….another juvenile bald eagle…
…a great blue heron…
…a common raven…
…and last, but certainly not least, a sandhill crane.
I had mentioned earlier in this post that I had found a treasure trove of birds along the north shore of one of the lagoons. That’s where I shot the gulls and plovers. But, by that time I had nearly baked my brain again in the hot sun as I stalked the shorebirds from this post and the last. Since I had been sick that morning from too much sun the day before, and since the light was so poor on the north shore of the lagoon, I decided to call it quits for the day. The rest of the photos were shot as I drove slowly towards the exit of the wastewater facility.
I’ll probably be going back this next weekend, I know of no other place where I can see and photograph the variety of birds that I do there.
I think that I’ll pick-up the flash unit tomorrow if it is in stock locally, that will give me time to read the manuals for it and my camera, and test it out around home here before I try it on some rare bird that I may spot.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!