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

What more could I ask for?

As far as photography gear, not much if anything, other than a way to lug all of it around. I’m now carrying three lenses and two camera bodies daily, and I typically use four or five lenses each week. If it’s a nice sunny day, I carry one body with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) attached, if it’s cloudy and dreary, that body has the 300 mm prime with the extender attached. In the holster bag that I have, I carry the second body, the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, and usually, the new Canon 10-18 mm lens. If I see something on one day that I can’t get the photo that I would like using those lenses, I’ll switch what I carry, which so far has been to swap the 10-18 mm for the 15-85 mm lens.

The only lens that I seldom use is the Canon 70-200 mm L series lens, which is odd, because a lens of that focal length is considered to be a “must have” by many photographers. I knew that once I had completely filled out my kit that I wouldn’t be using that lens often, which is one of the reasons that I opted for the cheapest of the five L series lensesย of that focal length that Canon produces. I would almost consider purchasing that lens to have been a mistake, but I know that there will be times when it will fit the bill for landscape photos. I used it often to photograph many of the waterfalls when I went to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last fall when I couldn’t get close enough to use the 15-85 mm lens, so I know that I will use that lens on occasion.

My latest purchase was the Canon EX 320 speedlite, which I’m still playing with, learning how to use it most effectively. I wish that it had a bit more output, but how well I can control it and its flexibility make up for that, at least that’s what I’m seeing so far. For example, on one my morning walks, I bumped into one of my song sparrow buddies. I asked him if he would pose for me, and that if he would, I’d make him a star on the Internet. His reply was “Oooo, I’ll bet you say that to all the birds!”….

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…which is true, but he doesn’t have to know that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Not wanting to take a chance on missing fame and fortune, he did a little primping…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Then posed for a few photos so that I could see how well the flash did while shooting toward the sun casting deep shadows on the sparrow.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

No red-eye, which I’ve always had trouble with before when using a flash on wildlife, and the images look natural, and not as if I had used a flash. But, I had plenty of practice dialing the flash unit in when I went to Muskegon the last time, learning how far I could shoot effectively with the unit, and filling in the shadows in poor light. This photo, that a couple of people liked in particular from the post that I did on that trip, the Baird’s sandpiper….

Bairdโ€™s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Bairdโ€™s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

…was much better than the images that I shot without the flash. The EX 320 couldn’t overcome all the shadow, but it lessened it enough to make a pleasing image.

Here’s a nuts and bolts photo from one of my tests of the flash.

Testing the wireless flash function

Testing the wireless flash function

And here’s the resulting photo.

Teasel

Teasel

I’m taking this slow, and step by step. As you could see, I set the flash unit up off camera, and fired it wirelessly, with it pointed up toward the flower to provide backlighting. That’s the first step, eventually, I’ll let the flash built-in the camera to fire as well, since I can adjust the power ratio between the two units. That will give me the image that I have in mind for some subjects, but, one step at a time.

More flash examples, a yellow moth mullein without the flash.

Yellow moth mullein, no flash

Yellow moth mullein, no flash

Not bad, but with the flash, I can do better!

Yellow moth mullein, flash

Yellow moth mullein, flash

And, the final photo.

Yellow moth mullein, flash

Yellow moth mullein, flash

Now, a white moth mullein, just the flash version.

White moth mullein

White moth mullein

A side note, it was easier to get the flash correct for the white flowers than it was for the yellow ones, but yellow is a color that’s always hard to expose correctly it seems.

However, the main thing is that I’m able to get images that look natural without any harshness from the flash!

I did shoot a few photos without the flash as well, starting with this cardinal asking if his feathers make him look funny.

Male northern cardinal molting

Male northern cardinal molting

They do,ย but he doesn’t have to know that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

BTW, that was shot with the Beast, as were the other birds so far. The mullein flowers were shot with the 300 mm prime lens. I threw that in because one day started out gloomy, so I took the 300 mm prime lens, but the sun came out while I was walking. I forgot to make the required adjustment for these two.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Other than I forgot to adjust for full sunlight with the prime lens, the other thing of note was that the cardinal was imitating a robin, pulling worms out of the ground, which I’ve never seen before. I missed the shot of that, because it dawned on me that I hadn’t adjusted the camera, and the cardinal grabbed a worm while I was making the adjustments, darn!

After making the adjustments, I shot this bee on great blue lobelia.

Carpenter bee on great blue lobelia

Carpenter bee on great blue lobelia

Carpenter bee on great blue lobelia

Carpenter bee on great blue lobelia

You can see that the bee waved hello to me, either that, or it was flipping me off. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The ironweed is blooming.

Ironweed

Ironweed

Ironweed

Ironweed

Ironweed

Ironweed

And, it attracted this colorful beetle.

Unidentified beetle

Unidentified beetle

Unidentified beetle

Unidentified beetle

I’ve also been seeing quite a few honeybees lately.

Honeybee on self-heal

Honeybee on self-heal

Honeybee on burdock

Honeybee on burdock

Honeybee on burdock

Honeybee on burdock

I used the flash on the bee on the burdock, which makes this a good time to mention one short-coming of using a flash, shutter speed. My Canon 60 D camera will synchronize with the flash at shutter speeds up to 1/250, which is a relatively fast shutter speed. However, it isn’t fast enough to freeze any motion of a subject. I’ve had that trouble with birds, and you can also see that in the last photo of the bee.

Here’s a photo of the burdock without a bee.

Burdock

Burdock

The flash isn’t the only thing I’ve been playing with, I’ve never had an ultra-wide angle lens before, so I’ve been testing out the new Canon EF-S 10-18 mmย f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens whenever I think of it.

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Because of the large depth of field of a lens that short, and because the 10-18 mm lens focuses down to just over 8 inches, it works great on larger flowers that I have trouble getting the entire flower in focus with a longer lens. And, it’s fun to play with, testing things like depth of field.

Depth of field test

Depth of field test

I got as close to the fence rail as I could and still get it in focus, and the barn was about 100 feet away from me. I focused manually on a point about a third of the way to the barn, stopped the lens down to f/16, and was able to get both the rail and the barn in focus.

The more that I play with that lens, the more uses I find for the 15-85 mm lens that I’ve had for a while, but never thought of using for some subjects, such as these flowers.

What's left of a purple cone flower

What’s left of a purple cone flower

Purple coneflower

Purple coneflower

It escapes me at the moment

It escapes me at the moment

When I purchased the 15-85 mm, I tried it on flowers, since it focuses down to around a foot, but always at 85 mm, trying to use it as a macro lens substitute. It never dawned on me to zoom out, get closer, and use that lens’ depth of field to get entire large flowers in focus.

So, I’ve been playing with both of those lenses whenever I have the chance. But, when you think of wide-angle lenses, you usually think of landscapes, and I have been shooting a few of them lately. There’s not a lot of beautiful scenery around here, but that hasn’t stopped me from testing my equipment, so that when I do visit an area where there is scenery worth shooting, I’ll be prepared.

That brings me to the subject of dynamic range. No modern digital camera has the capability of matching what our eyes see as far as dynamic range, which simply put, is the difference between the brightest and darkest areas in a scene. In no type of photography that I can think of is that more apparent than in landscape photography.

Even in the best lighting, there are usually shadows that hide details in a photo, yet our eyes have no trouble making out the details when we view the scene in person. The old way to get around these problems were to use graduated neutral density filters when shooting the photos, and burning and dodging in the darkroom while producing prints from negatives back in the days of film.

I was looking into purchasing the required neutral density filters, and then learning to use them. However, I follow the blogs of several very talented landscape photographers, and none of them bother with hassle of trying out the various filters and getting them set-up correctly, they do all the corrections with software these days. Not only are the filters a pain to use, but a full set is quite expensive.

If you’ve followed my blog for very long, you’d know that I’ve been opposed to post-processing other than cropping, and maybe tweaking the exposure a little. I hate the fake looking photos created with software that seem to be all the rage these days. However, the more that I tried to learn how to use filters even before I purchased them, the better that a software solution looked. So, I sucked up my pride and downloaded a trial version of software to create High Dynamic Range photos.

So, here’s my second attempt at a HDR photo using software.

Creekside Park, High Dynamic Range

Creekside Park, High Dynamic Range

And, here’s the best that I could get straight out of the camera.

Creekside Park, no editing

Creekside Park, no editing

I really hate to say this, but the HDR photo comes very, very close to what I saw when I shot the photos, much closer than what I was able to get straight out of the camera. There was better than average light that day for that photo, a bit cloudy and hazy, so the shadows weren’t as pronounced as they would be on a sunny day.

It’s rather obvious from the watermark what company’s trial software I downloaded, Photomatix. They seem to get high marks from about every one from what I saw while doing research. The beginner version is $40 US, the pro version is $100 US, which makes even the pro version cheaper than one quality filter, and I would need several filters for each of my lenses.

I said that this photo was my second attempt, my first came out just as well, a still life that I shot inside my apartment., which I’m not going to post. However, I was quite pleased with the results from both of my attempts, as the images look natural to me. Maybe my vision is impaired by adding up the cost of filters versus buying software. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As soon as I opened the software to try it out, I found out why so many HDR images look so unnatural. I suppose I should tell you how the software works before I get to that. I won’t go into all the ways that you can do a HDR image, just the “standard” way that I used. You shoot three photos, one under-exposed by 2 stops, one at no exposure compensation, and one over-exposed by two stops.

You load the three images into the software, and it blends them together using bits and pieces of all three to bring out the details in the shadows without blowing out the brighter areas in the image. Essentially, it increases the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor by a little over four stops by doing the blending. There are plenty of places on the web to learn more, or you can ask in a comment.

Anyway, back to how fake many HDR images look. The software comes with pre-sets to create fake looking photos if that’s what you prefer, I don’t. In the trial version, you can also tweak color saturation, contrast, and overall brightness, along with a few other settings that I haven’t tried yet. The pro version allows the user to make even more changes to the image than the trial version does, but the only reason that I know that is because I watched a couple of online tutorials on how to use the software.

I know that I used to say that using software to improve the quality of an image was cheating, but, I guess that I’m starting to see things differently. Maybe it’s the cost of all the filters that I would need clouding my judgement again. Besides, even a full set of filters wouldn’t have improved my test image by very much, since there’s no sharp lines between bright and shadow to delineate how I would place a graduated neutral density filter.

So, for right now, I’m leaning toward going over to the dark side and start using software to post-process some of my photos, mainly landscapes when needed.

I still see no need to post-process a photo like this if you get it right in the camera.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

And, that goes for most of my photos these days. These may not all be great, but they’re good enough to represent the things I’ve seen this week.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Pokeweed berries

Pokeweed berries

Side note here, after my mom’s funeral, I stopped at a park near where the service was held to look for an olive-sided flycatcher that has been seen there. I didn’t find it, but I did find a different lifer, and Acadian flycatcher.

Acadian flycatcher

Acadian flycatcher

Some people would think it horrible of me to stop to chase birds on my way home from my mom’s funeral. Well, I’ll end this post with a photo of my mom out for a hike with one of my nieces.

My mom hiking with my niece and my dad.

My mom hiking with my niece and my dad.

My dad took that photo so it is at least 20 years ago that it was taken, but it could have been taken at any time in her life while she was still able to get around. My mom loved the outdoors, unless there were too many bugs. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, I don’t feel bad about chasing a bird in the woods near where my dad grew up while on my way home from my mom’s funeral.

I was going to add a poll to this to ask if you thought that post-processing photos was cheating or not, but that part of WordPress seems to be on the blink today. So, any thoughts on the HDR photos that you include in your comment would be appreciated.

I see that now the poll shows up if you’d care to share your opinion on post-processing photos.

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

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37 responses

  1. Wow, what a lot of stuff you carry around. Still you take wonderful pictures, I particularly liked the song sparrow and your comments.

    August 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    • Thanks Susan! If I wasn’t a wimp, I’d carry all of it around with me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      August 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

  2. Jerry, I am glad you tried out the Photomatix HDR software. You can see that you can bring out that dynamic range without making the photo look fake. In fact it looks more natural, more realistic. I use the Pro version from time to time. Most of the time I use Topaz Adjust. It isn’t a HDR software that you have to make several exposures, but you can get the similar results with one exposure. I might do a post myself soon, about it. Anyway, they have a free trial.

    August 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    • Thanks Bob! You’re right, the two HDR photos I’ve done look more natural than what I can produce in my camera. I’ve heard of Topaz Adjust, maybe someday, I have to learn Photomatix for now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      August 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      • I mentioned you in my next post that I will probably publish tomorrow. Just a thought, Topaz Adjust is half the price of Photomatix. Also you only have to one exposure. Just saying………
        The adjustments that I made in the images on my new post were made with Topaz Adjust. Look for it tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

        August 25, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      • Thanks Bob, and thanks in advance for the mention! I’ll be looking forward to that post.

        August 26, 2014 at 2:42 am

  3. Sometimes what you see and what the camera gives you are significantly different so post processing is necessary.

    August 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    • Thanks Bob! I’m stubborn, and I’ve tried to hold out as long as I could, but it looks like I’ll be joining those who post-process images.

      August 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm

  4. Wow, this post is just chock-full of goodness! And I should mention that your last post made me cry and this one made me laugh and smile. To me, the ability to evoke strong emotions is one measure of good blogging/writing.

    I enjoyed all the photos and learned a lot from all of this — too much to specify. Your blog is always a wonder!

    August 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I have to give most of the credit to my bird buddies that make it so easy to come up with cute and funny captions.

      August 26, 2014 at 2:30 am

  5. Stunning pictures and very funny posting. ๐Ÿ™‚

    August 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      August 26, 2014 at 2:31 am

  6. Zyriacus

    There is nothing shameful about cropping or clipping a photo. Neither it is shameful to bring out a little more brilliance. As long as the picture is technically ok, you will have to overcome the difference between the impression the lens and the mechanism renders and what your eyes have seen. Your photography is a very valid example of this difference.

    August 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    • Thank you for taking the time to leave such a wise comment!

      August 26, 2014 at 2:32 am

  7. I do the processing because I find it interesting and fun. Sometimes it wasn’t necessary, sometimes I make a reasonable image worse.

    In many cases it can make a picture relate much more closely to what you saw as you found out. When you use the settings on your camera as skilfully as you do, you are in effect processing the pictures as you go.

    If I change the white balance setting on my camera, I am making decisions about the outcome which are governed by software.

    Don’t get too keen on photo editing though or you won’t have enough time to go out and take more of your splendid pictures.

    August 25, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I guess it’s because I’ve seen so many bad photos made even worse by people who try to overcome their poor photography skills by going overboard in editing, that makes me shy away from any post processing. I do take advantage of almost every setting available to me on my camera trying to save the best possible image in my camera so that I haven’t had to fall back on post processing. But, I suppose that what I do in the camera is basically the same thing, although I equate setting the white balance to loading the proper film into a camera back in the old days to get the best possible photos under the conditions at the time.

      You have no need to worry, I’m still going to work as hard as ever to get the best possible image in the camera and do as little post processing as possible.

      August 26, 2014 at 2:41 am

      • Good.

        August 26, 2014 at 9:53 am

  8. The flash does a great job by the looks. I like that sparrow in the first shot!
    I think your beetle is a goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus.) That’s a good shot of it. I just saw one the other day and was able to look it up.
    I think, if post processing is cheating then people like Ansel Adams and everyone who came after him was cheating. I use Adobe Lightroom to dodge and burn photos sometimes and it’s no different than what he did in the darkroom. The trouble with it is, It’s sometimes hard to know when to stop.

    August 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I’m not ready for Lightroom yet, or I should say that my old computer isn’t ready for it. I still plan on working to get the best possible image in the camera first, and save just landscapes for doing any post-processing, at least for right now.

      August 26, 2014 at 2:45 am

  9. Jerry, your posts are like a great book!
    Most enjoyable and gorgeous pictures.

    August 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    • Thank you very much Robyn!

      August 26, 2014 at 2:46 am

      • ๐Ÿ™‚

        August 26, 2014 at 2:54 am

  10. I know what you mean by over-doing the processing and I don’t particularly like some of the results. Some people use their shots to create an artistic impression of what they see but you have the need to record exactly what you see in a scientific way. If the software helps you do that by showing details that would be masked by shadow then you go ahead. All the shots are so good I just can’t select favourites so I won’t. Also, I believe the best thing you could have done is to go off to photograph wildlife after the funeral. Your Mom was probably cheering you on.

    August 25, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    • Thank you Clare! I think we are in agreement on most things that you mentioned. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      August 26, 2014 at 2:47 am

  11. My faves were the beetle/ironweed shots. Re: your poll, I think another category should be offered – something like, “OK, but noted. I enjoy seeing photos that have been enhanced, but it seems unfair to me to compare enhanced photos to unenhanced, without some kind of annotation. (Don’t distort my reality without letting me know you are doing so!)

    August 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    • Thank you for a very thoughtful comment, Judy! You’re right, I’ll be sure to mention it if I do enhance a photo, but they will be few and far between, I hope. Although, you could say that I’ve been enhancing the images inside of the camera up to this point by using all of the options available to me to record the best possible image without doing any post-processing.

      August 26, 2014 at 2:58 am

      • Using available options to record the best image, to me, is not what I would call post-processing. I’ll be happy if you just continue to do what you do so well.

        August 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      • Thanks again! You don’t have to worry, I won’t be going crazy with Photoshop like so many people do. For one thing, my poor old computer won’t run that software. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Besides, not to brag, but my bird, bloom, and bug photos are pretty good without tweaking. The only type of photos of mine that I’m not happy with are landscapes on cloudy days when the camera sensor can’t handle the scenes.

        August 27, 2014 at 10:03 am

  12. I suppose you already know how I feel about post-processing. I see it as a false premise, those who object to post-processing. You’re already engaging in post-processing when you use an image in jpeg rather than RAW. That format is already making some of the decisions for you without any input from you. (Just for kicks shoot a purple or red flower in both jpeg and RAW and see what happens.)

    Having said that, I wish I had the patience that you do with the technical end of the camera. But I still wouldn’t shy away from using software to get precisely the image I had in mind when I clicked the shutter.

    August 26, 2014 at 12:21 am

    • I just happened to stumble onto this post after commenting here. It’s done by a landscape photographer I greatly admire. I think he speaks to your question quite nicely in this post:
      http://garyhartblog.com/2014/08/25/roll-over-ansel/

      August 26, 2014 at 12:53 am

    • Thank you for your input, and for the link! I have avoided doing any post-processing as much to force myself to learn the technical end of the camera as much as I have shied away from it because I’ve seen so many poor photos that the photographer attempted to turn into good ones in post. But, I think that I have about reached the limits of the 60 D as far as image quality, particularly for landscapes, so the only way to continue to improve my photos is to start doing some post-processing.

      August 26, 2014 at 3:04 am

  13. Such a lovely capture of your mom with your niece. I tell you Jerry, don’t know what happened but all of a sudden BAM your photos rock!! Keep doing what you’re doing. Love the barn through the tree knot. Brilliant vision.

    August 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    • Thanks Emily! I’ve been trying one thing at a time for almost a year, then, I started putting all the things that I tried together just a few months ago.

      August 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm

  14. Can’t quite remember how I got here, but this was a really interesting post. I’ve always been very anti post-processing as it seemed like cheating, but now I understand it! It really annoys me when landscapes just don’t look the same, because of all the different exposure levels needed. I don’t think I’ll be doing much post-processing myself (I can barely keep up with downloading my photos and tagging them) but I won’t be so anti in future.

    And the ‘it escapes me at the moment’ – Rudbeckia I think. That one keeps escaping me too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    August 31, 2014 at 7:19 am

    • Well, however you found my blog, thank you for taking the time to comment! I was also very opposed to post-processing, until I started pricing all the filters that I would need to get the quality of landscape images that I would like. I found that I would have to spend in excess of $1,000 US and also lug all that stuff with me to achieve what software can do in just a few clicks of the mouse.

      August 31, 2014 at 8:35 am

      • Mmmmm – that is rather a lot! I shall be interested to see how you get on with the software, and how much difference it makes. My camera is only a bridge with a zoom, but I love using it. I’m too lazy to carry round loads of lenses – this one’s heavy enough as it is!

        August 31, 2014 at 8:51 am

      • Yeah, the lens that I use for birding most of the time weighs just over 4 pounds (2kg) by itself, without the camera.

        August 31, 2014 at 9:37 pm