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

Mostly monarchs

I spent most of this past week chasing monarch butterflies around, and playing with all my photo equipment and new software. I know that I’ve shot too many photos of the monarchs, but this is the first year in some time that I’ve seen so many around here. They’ve been everywhere that I’ve gone, and there was one period of time when I was watching five at one time. So, here goes.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Okay, enough of them, at least for now. Still, it’s good to see so many of them when their numbers are said to be decreasing rapidly.

In my last post I had a few images of a female northern cardinal that I thought were really good. But, what I think are really good images keeps changing.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

These were shot with the 300 mm prime lens, 1.4 X tele-converter, and I used the new EX 320 flash unit.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

That reminds me. I don’t shoot in burst mode, I press the shutter release for each photo. However, I’m not exactly slow on the shutter, and so far, the EX 320 flash unit has kept up with me. I have it set-up for “quick flash”, which means it doesn’t have to recharge completely before it will fire again. As long as it has enough of a charge to send out the needed light for the exposure settings, it will fire whether it’s fully charged or not. For fill-in flash as I’ve used it most of the time, I have yet to have to wait for the flash, even after firing six to ten shots relatively quickly.

While I’m on the subject of flash, here are two of my playing around photos. I used a very slow shutter speed along with the flash for these images of moving water.

Water abstract

Water abstract

Water abstract

Water abstract

The strobe effect of the flash unit tries to freeze the motion of the water, while the slow shutter speed blurs the motion. One of these days I’ll strike the correct balance between the two effects.

I didn’t go to Muskegon this past weekend, there haven’t been any reports of special species of birds there, and, I used the gas money that I would have spent getting there and back to purchase the pro version of Photomatix software for HDR photos.

I was going to start with the beginner version, then upgrade later, but I changed my mind, and here’s why.

The tone mapped version….

Tone mapped HDR

Tone mapped HDR

…and the exposure fusion version of the same scene.

Exposure fusion HDR

Exposure fusion HDR

You can see that in the tone mapped image, the shadows are almost completely gone, which doesn’t look as natural as the exposure fusion version, which has shadows, but you can see what’s in the shadows. Since you can’t do exposure fusion in the beginner version of Photomatix, I decided to go all the way to the pro version. There’s no sense in learning one method of HDR only to turn around and learn a second method later.

But, I have one last tone mapped image to share, just because of the clouds in it.

HDR testing

HDR testing

I don’t want to get too technical and explain the differences between tone mapping and exposure fusion, so I’ll leave it at this. I see more realistic results while having to make fewer changes when I use exposure fusion. But, I’m also learning that loading properly exposed images into the software is key to getting natural looking photos out, no matter which method I use.

The first few videos that I watched over simplified things. They said that you should set your camera up for automatic exposure bracketing at plus and minus 2 stops. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s far better to get an exposure correct for the brightest part of the scene, and one for the darkest part of the scene. Then, fill in between those two with as many shots as it takes going one stop at a time. It’s more work while you’re shooting photos, but a whole lot less work when you load the images into Photomatix.

Anyway, enough of that for now. Here’s a few more of my recent photos.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male house finch

Male house finch

The only mushrooms that I’ve seen lately have all been the toadstool type, and very short. I’ve been hoping to find a taller one so I can photograph it from the side with the 10-18 mm lens.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Butterfly

Butterfly

Carpenter bee

Carpenter bee

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Song sparrow blending in

Song sparrow blending in

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Fly

Fly

Fly

Fly

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

So, I finally found a taller fungus, and it was on a day when it was raining. It was the first day in at least two months when I had brought only one camera body and a long lens with me, when I’ve normally brought the second body, the macro and 10-18 mm lenses with me. Oh well, this one shot with the 300 mm prime will have to do.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Little did I know at the time that over the upcoming weekend, I’d have a few opportunities to shoot fungi with the short lens, and even play with lighting. But, that’s another post, for now, time to wrap this one up.

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

Advertisements

19 responses

  1. Your Monarch butterfly photos are gorgeous; what an amazing way to start the new day.

    September 9, 2014 at 2:59 am

    • Thank you Charlie!

      September 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

  2. Wonderful butterflies!

    September 9, 2014 at 5:47 am

    • Thank you Susan!

      September 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

  3. Very beautiful, love the monarchs!

    September 9, 2014 at 8:04 am

    • Thank you Michael!

      September 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

  4. You have surpassed yourself today. The butterflies were truly gorgeous.

    September 9, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    • Thank you Tom!

      September 10, 2014 at 2:36 am

  5. The shots of the monarchs are excellent. I’m glad you’re seeing plenty there-I’ve only seen 3 here all summer.
    I like the fly macros and your landscapes reminded me that I’ve got to watch that photomatix video. I’ve got it bookmarked but I haven’t had time yet.

    September 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks Allen!
      I don’t know where they all came from, but there are far more monarchs this year than there have in the last few years put together.

      September 10, 2014 at 2:38 am

  6. Before looking at your monarch photos, I never realized that their wings are translucent. Your shots are amazing.

    September 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

    • Thanks Judy! I am fixated on getting a great shot of the wings of a monarch with backlighting so that the wings look like a stained glass window. I’ve seen it in real life once or twice, but I’ve never gotten a photo, yet.

      September 10, 2014 at 9:23 am

  7. So happy to hear you’ve got so many Monarchs up that way! I haven’t seen too many around here but it’s a bit early for us to see the migrants coming through. Lovely pix!

    September 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

    • Thank you Lori! I’ve been seeing a steady stream of monarchs heading southwest, it’s been a good year for them.

      September 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

  8. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I love the butterflies.

    September 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    • Thank you Clare! I was afraid that I posted too many, but I don’t think so.

      September 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      • I don’t think so either!

        September 10, 2014 at 2:10 pm

  9. Really great monarch photos, Jerry. Also, the female cardinal shots were very sweet.

    September 15, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    • Thanks Amy!

      September 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm