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

Archive for October, 2014

Pickerel Lake, the long and short of it

First of all, big news! I have accepted a new job, and given notice to my present employer. The pay per hour at the new job isn’t that much more than where I’m working now, but it’s a much better company, and I have the option of working as much overtime as I want, and still be home every night if that’s what I choose. The company tries to keep drivers working 50 to 55 hours a week for the first 90 days, no problem, I can use the money.

With winter coming on, that’s not all bad, for I doubt that I would be shooting many photos over the winter months, and it gives me the chance to work and collect plenty of overtime pay, and get in a better position financially. After I’ve been with the new company 90 days, I can bid on open dedicated runs, which are usually five-day a week runs, with two days off if I choose. If not, I can still work the one extra day for a bigger paycheck. No matter what, I’ll always have one full day off, as the company shuts down on Sundays.

The dedicated runs vary in length, but most are 9 to 10 hours per day, five days a week, and a driver can make extra money by working another run on his “off” day. I’ll also have the option of doing some longer overnight runs if I choose, which pay even more. Maybe the best thing is that I have options. They give all drivers the chance to bid on any open runs every 90 days, so I wouldn’t be stuck doing the exact same run day after day after day. They are also very good at working with drivers who want an occasional day off. Options are good, and even better is the feel that I get from every one that I talk to about the company, whether they work there or not. It’s one of the few trucking companies held in high esteem by both employees, and people who have heard about the company, the exact opposite of the company that I have been working for.

Anyway, I’m not sure how that will affect my hiking, or my blogging. My plan is to work my tail off over the winter, get my bills paid, and save some money. Next spring, I’ll back off a little, by then, I’ll know which runs are open, and I can pick one then.

In the meantime, I’ll be able to get caught up on my blog here, and start posting to the My Photo Lie List again.

So now then, about my day at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve. This was very early on in my attempts to get more familiar with my wide-angle lenses. As I started out, I fell victim to my old habits, “O0o, pretty colored leaves, and a reflection! Grab the 10-18 mm lens and shoot!” without looking the scene over in detail before shooting.

Pickerel Lake wide

Pickerel Lake wide

Wrong lens! Too much sky, too much uninteresting water, and neither the foliage or the reflection are as dominant as I wished it to be. Well, that was early in the morning, and unfortunately, in the short amount of time it took me to realize my mistake, move closer to the trees, and switch to the 15-85 mm lens, the wind had picked up enough to add some ripples to the lake, spoiling the reflections to a large degree.

Pickerel Lake, not as wide

Pickerel Lake, not as wide

One thing that I’m learning in landscape photography is what to leave in an image, and what to leave out. If the sky and/or lake aren’t interesting, I should leave them out.

Pickerel Lake, long 1

Pickerel Lake, long 1

That was shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), who would have thought that it would be a great landscape lens?

Pickerel Lake, long 2

Pickerel Lake, long 2

However, even at 150 mm, it was not quite the correct lens, I would have been better off at around 120 mm, but silly me, I hadn’t taken the 70-200 mm lens, as I was carrying enough weight already, with two camera bodies, four lenses, and my lighting equipment. I wished that I could have balanced these a little better, as far as the amount of sky and lake to go with the leaves. But, I did the best I could with what I had, here’s most of the rest of the shore of Pickerel Lake in a series of images that I wish I could stitch together in a panorama.

Pickerel Lake, long 2

Pickerel Lake, long 3

Pickerel Lake, long 3

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 5

By the time I got to the shoreline farthest from me, I was getting about the right balance.

Pickerel Lake, long 5

Pickerel Lake, long 6

The Beast also shot this one.

Golden brown

Golden brown

Then, I was an almost winner, almost in the right spot at almost the right time, an adult bald eagle flying past the fall foliage.

Bald eagle in the fall

Bald eagle in the fall

I got the eagle at its closest approach to me.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

I had planned on cropping down on the eagle as I was shooting these, but there’s really no reason to. I get better images of eagles on a regular basis, and these images double as landscapes, I just wish that the eagle had been closer.

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

I’m impressed by how well the Beast performed for these, here’s a 500 mm landscape as another example of what it can do in good light.

500 mm landscape

500 mm landscape

Having seen the eagle and foliage together, and with flocks of geese returning to the lake, I decided to try geese and foliage shots.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

The geese gave me photo ops that the eagle hadn’t.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

 

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

Another case of being an almost winner, if the geese had been a little closer, and the surface of the lake smoother, this would have been a stunner.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

I couldn’t resist zooming out for this next one, to me, it says fall in Michigan, with geese honking away on a lake ringed with fall color.

Fall in Michigan

Fall in Michigan

My next stop was the small pond that normally produces a few photos for me, on this day, a turtle was all I could come up with.

Painted turtle basking in the autumn sun

Painted turtle basking in the autumn sun

It has been a wet fall here, so I was hoping to find a few mushrooms and such, I wasn’t completely disappointed. Here’s the view that I would have settled for in the past.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

But, with my short lenses, I can get down low now days, and get a better shot.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

The reason that I use a shorter lens is to get the depth of field to get all the mushrooms and some of their surroundings in focus. I also find the vari-angle display of the Canon 60 D body helpful, I don’t have to lay on my belly in the dirt to shoot those shots. 😉

As I was walking along through the fallen, colorful leaves, I looked for opportunities to shoot those scenes.

Along the trail

Along the trail

Along the trail

Along the trail

I’m throwing this next one in as a reminder of what not to do!

Flubbed photo

Flubbed photo

It was a great scene, but I shot it in portrait orientation, missed the composition by a mile, and ended up with way too much uninteresting foreground, with the colors virtually disappearing because I missed the composition.  I cropped that section out of a much larger image. If I had spent a few more minutes analyzing the scene, that could have been my best photo of the day.

I continued on, and found a few interesting things to shoot clustered in a small area. As I was getting ready to shoot them, I decided that this was worthy of a photo.

Mushroom cove 1

Mushroom cove 1

With the Beast set aside in a safe spot, I shot this…

???

???

…these….

Unidentified mushrooms

Unidentified mushrooms

…decided that they would look better with more light, so I broke out my lighting equipment for this one…

Unidentified mushrooms

Unidentified mushrooms

…and this one…

Lichen, mold, fungi, or what the heck is this?

Lichen, mold, fungi, or what the heck is this?

…and this one, which I believe is a slime mold, but I’m probably wrong about that.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

I was using either the LED light, the flash unit, or both for those, it sure takes a lot of light for macro photos! While the day had started mostly sunny, by then, the clouds had mostly obscured the sun. But, a break in the clouds prompted me to shoot this scene a second time.

Mushroom Cove 2

Mushroom Cove 2

About the mushrooms and other things in the photos above, I hate to ask, but maybe Allen, who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog can ID a few of those things.

So, I continued along the way, still looking for things to photograph, as always.

Along the trail good

Along the trail good

As Tom, (Mr. Tootlepedal) pointed out, there’s a lot to landscape photography as far as getting the composition right so that the elements of an image lead a viewer’s eyes around an image well, this is a fail.

Along the trail, fail

Along the trail, fail

There’s something about the second one there, that confuses my eyes as I view it, I don’t know how else to describe it, or what I did wrong though.

I don’t know what these growths are either.

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

I do know that these are leaves though. 😉

Leaves

Leaves

Okay, another mystery to me.

Slime mold??

Slime mold??

I don’t know if the orange things were one of these again…

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

…as this was the end of a log right on the trail, and I’m sure that the orange things had been crushed by other hikers, but, I don’t know what they looked like before they were crushed. Anyway, here’s a closer view of one.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

On a completely different track, there were several species of waterfowl on the lake, but I never got a good shot of any of them other than the geese. However, here’s a bad photo of a pied-billed grebe for the record.

Pied-billed grebe

Pied-billed grebe

My main goal, besides landscapes, was birds of course, but herds of humans had interfered with my photographing birds all day long. I finally got close to a few.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

That didn’t mean that I got good shots though, I was in too much of a hurry, as I could hear another herd of humans approaching. I did get two of a ruby-crowned kinglet displaying his ruby crown though.

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Then, the kinglet let me know what it thought of me. 🙂

Male ruby-crowned kinglet's butt

Male ruby-crowned kinglet’s butt

About that time, the herd of humans tramped past me, and that was the end of the birds.

I shot this scene which I really like…

Fall marsh

Fall marsh

…in fact, I like the image more than I thought that I would, however, I should have shot this to process in Photomatix to create a HDR image to control the blown out sky. There’s no definition to the clouds at all since they are so badly blown out. (over-exposed) I’m still learning, but one thing that I need to remember is when in doubt, don’t slack off, set-up and shoot for a HDR image.

Maybe that could be spruced up a bit in Lightroom? I hope to be able to afford a new computer by next spring, and if so, I’ll be adding Lightroom to my software, which right now is limited to what Canon ships with their cameras, and Photomatix. I’d do more HDR landscapes, but it takes my poor 10-year-old computer forever to process each image, I don’t have the patience for it.

Anyway, I do quite well on a single leaf as it is.

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

And to wrap this up, two shots of a female downy woodpecker, since this post is short on birds.

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

As sort of an afterthought, I’m going to throw in a photo of a monarch butterfly from an earlier hike.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Well, it’s time for me to go do my driving test for my new job, so I’ll have to cut this short. Yeah, right, like I ever do a short post. 😉

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

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Going short and going crazy Part I

Okay, I’ve been writing short blurbs about learning to use my shorter lenses more effectively, it’s time to go into detail on that subject. I could have titled this post “Learning to see” or “I knew the words, but I didn’t know what they meant”.

First, a little about me, specifically, my eyesight. This is not to brag, it’s an explanation of what I have to work around when I’m trying to photograph landscapes. Every time that I’ve had my eyesight tested, two things stand out. One, I have much better than average eyesight at distances, and two, I have much better than average depth perception. While those attributes are some of the reasons that I’m able to spot wildlife as well as I do, I think that the latter is what causes many of the problems I have when shooting landscapes. I see the world in enhanced 3D when compared to most people. Photography is a two-dimensional art form however. So, it is hard for me to relate what I see in “enhanced three dimensions” when the result is only in two dimensions.

Oops, I forgot the third aspect of my vision that affects my photography, I have poorer than average peripheral vision. I don’t have tunnel vision, but it’s close. When you add up all the aspects of my vision, it’s as if I’m walking around looking through a telephoto lens. That’s probably not good for shooting landscapes, but I wouldn’t know, because this is the only eyesight that I’ve ever had. 😉

A little more background, when I shot film, the shortest lens that I owned was a 28 mm lens, and not a very good one, so I seldom used it. I shot most off my landscape photos with either a 55 mm or 135 mm lens.

So, fast forward to the present, I’ve always wanted a good wide-angle lens, and now I have two, the 10-18 mm and 15-85 mm EF S lenses from Canon. I also have the 70-200 mm lens, which, while it isn’t a wide-angle lens, it’s still shorter than the 300 mm prime or the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) that I use for the majority of my photography, since I shoot birds and wildlife the majority of the time.

I’ve read a great deal about photography, and the way that lenses of varying lengths can change a scene. Telephoto lenses bring things closer, but they also change the apparent distance between objects in an image, “moving” things closer together. Wide-angle lenses do the opposite, they make things appear to be farther away, and also increase the distance between objects in an image. But, since I’ve never really used a wide-angle lens very much, I couldn’t related to what the things that I’ve read apply to the images I was trying to capture. Certainly not to the degree of change that the 10-18 mm lens makes at 10 mm, it’s been a whole new world for me.

My problems begin as soon as I bring the camera up to my eye, my first instinct is to zoom in on a subject, the same way that I would if it was a bird, deer, or other critter. I have to remind myself that I want a wide view. The second problem relates to my tunnel vision, I only look at the center portion of the scene in the viewfinder, and pay little attention to the rest of the scene that I’m about to capture.

However, my biggest problem is not slowing down to think about what I’m trying to capture in a scene. That hit me when I was up north on the color tour earlier in October, and is what has prompted me to spend more time using my shorter lenses. But, even slowing down and thinking about a scene doesn’t help a great deal if I don’t know how the final image is going to look if I don’t know how to relate what I see in the viewfinder when using my shorter lenses to what that final image will look like.

I can be walking along, look over and think “Oooo, pretty trees!” and slap one of the short lenses on the camera and begin composing the shot. I see several brightly colored trees standing together, with several more nearby, and think that I can get them all in one shot, which I can. But, then the two individual stands of trees “get lost” in the overall image. That’s because the wide-angle lenses increase the apparent distance between the stands of trees. Even though it runs counter to the title of this post, I would have been better off shooting each stand of colorful trees separately, so that they are the prominent part of the image, without “dead space” between the trees.

You may think that I would see that when I look through the viewfinder, but I don’t, because I look at each stand of trees independently as I’m looking through the viewfinder. Because of my eyesight, each stand looks great through the viewfinder, not so good in the final image.

The progression this month has been as follows, I went up north, shot many fall foliage images that I’m not completely happy with. That’s even though they are head and shoulders above the images I shot a few years ago, which I shot in the middle of the afternoon, an absolute no-no for landscape photography.

With cooler weather, I began carrying four lenses each day on my walk, a long lens for birding, my macro lens, and the two short lenses. Then came a day when it was raining, so I took only the 300 mm prime lens, which was a huge mistake. It was one of those magical days when the leaves seemed to create light themselves, and practically glow from within. I wasn’t able to take advantage of that, since I had just the long lens with me. For a few days after that, I carried the 70-200 mm lens with the Tamron 1.4 X extender behind it for birding, and at least my two short lenses on my daily walks. I haven’t been able to bring myself to carrying the 70-200 mm lens on weekends, as I may miss shot like this.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Okay, with that one out of the way, shot near Muskegon last weekend, back to the subject at hand.

I’ve shot way too many poor images, some of which will end up here as what not to do, unless you like to delete poor photos. 😉 But, I’ve been learning, or at least I hope that I have.

Where do I start?

One of the first things that’s really hitting home is why excellent landscape photographers start before sunrise, quit shooting when the sun gets very high, then shoot in the evening to after sunset. You can shoot at almost any angle when there’s no harsh sunlight, no harsh shadows, and the most even lighting. Cloudy days work well also, I find the darker the clouds, the better they appear in photos.

Related to that, unless there are interesting clouds that add something to an image, there’s no reason to include much, if any of the sky in a photo. Not getting the sky in an image makes getting the exposure correct much easier, especially if there’s a milky white haze overhead, which I find to be the worst possible lighting for landscapes. I’m better off shooting insects….

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

…or flowers on those days.

White aster?

White aster or daisy?

Okay then, I shot this next scene several days in a row, with the camera in both landscape and portrait orientation, and wasn’t happy with any of them. Then, I used the 70-200 mm lens for this one.

Unnamed creek

Unnamed creek

I loved it, except, I didn’t get very much of the leaves above the creek in the image. So, I shot that same scene again and again over several days, but wasn’t happy with any of them, until this one.

Unnamed creek

Unnamed creek

The second one was shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I think it was around 50 mm that I used for that. If I went wider, the leaves in the creek tended to disappear, and the leaves overhead took over the scene. I think that the second one struck the best balance overall. The first image has the better lighting though, that’s what I get for not knowing how to capture a scene when I see it.

Here’s another very important lesson I am learning, I may not be able to move things around within a scene, but there’s nothing stopping me from moving to change a scene.

Sumac

Sumac

Nicely colored sumac, but the wide-angle lens at the angle I shot that one at increased the distance between the fronds of the sumac, resulting in too much blank space. By moving off to the side, zooming in a little, I was able to turn the scene above into this one.

Sumac take two

Sumac take two

These next two show how moving a few feet can change a scene also, but instead of zooming in to decrease the distances between objects, I went wider to increase the distances.

Woodlot

Woodlot

Not bad, I shot that with the 15-85 mm lens at 15 mm. As I started to walk away, I decided to try the 10-18 mm lens for this one.

Woodlot number two

Woodlot number two

Moving just a few feet to the edge of the trail changed the image a lot, and going shorter with the focal length opened up the woods a bit more, or at least I think so. I much prefer the second image.

You may have noticed that there’s little to no sky in any of those. One day I went to Pickerel Lake Nature preserve and I came to a spot that I really wanted to shoot, even though I knew that I’d end up with a blown out sky in the image, and deep shadows in the bottom of the image as well. I did, but, I used Photomatix HDR software to come up with this.

Pickerel Lake, first try

Pickerel Lake, second try

Two things about that one that I liked, I got the exposure correct for one. The second thing was that in the first HDR version, the small branches in the top of the image were severely ghosted because they moved with the wind between the images that I shot to compile into the HDR image. I used the Photomatix selective de-ghosting to get the small branches sharp in the image. But, what I didn’t like is that the image had no “zing” it looks dead. So, I tried again, this time playing with the sliders to edit the image before I saved it.

Pickerel Lake, take three

Pickerel Lake, take three

That’s extremely close to what I saw when I decided to shoot that scene. And it brings up something I’ve been meaning to say about the Photomatix software. It works well, but I need more practice with it. That I’ve said before, however, I have been watching online tutorials about how to get better at using the software, and there are not any good tutorials that really explain the adjustments you can make using the sliders that control various aspects of the image. In every tutorial I’ve watched, the person doing it says to just play with the sliders until you get what you want. That’s not a lot of help! Most of the people doing the tutorials don’t even know what the sliders do, they just slide them back and forth in the trial and error method of editing the images they are working with. Oh well, I’m getting better at playing with Photomatix, I suppose that’s all that counts. 😉

A couple of more things I have to say. I don’t think that any of the images so far, or those to follow are anything great, some aren’t very good at all, but I am seeing improvements in my images. Also, there are no large sweeping vistas around here to photograph, so I’ve been limited to just how much I can play around. That all said, here’s a few more of the results of my playing.

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 5

Creekside Park 5

Creekside Park 6

Creekside Park 6

Creekside Park 7

Creekside Park 7

Creekside Park 8

Creekside Park 8

Creekside Park 9

Creekside Park 9

Creekside Park 10

Creekside Park 10

Creekside Park 11

Creekside Park 11

Creekside Park 12

Creekside Park 12

Creekside Park 13

Creekside Park 13

Creekside Park 14

Creekside Park 14

Creekside Park 15

Creekside Park 15

Creekside Park 16

Creekside Park 16

Creekside Park 17

Creekside Park 17

Creekside Park 18

Creekside Park 18

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, I have many more to go, but I’ve prattled on enough for one post, and fall foliage isn’t the only subject that I’ve been shooting. So, here’s a few birds for your viewing enjoyment.

Goofy female northern cardinal

Goofy female northern cardinal

Goofy female northern cardinal being bashful

Goofy female northern cardinal being bashful

Unidentified sparrow

Unidentified sparrow

Male House finch

Male House finch

Male red-bellied woodpecker

Male red-bellied woodpecker

The next two are of a lifer for me, an orange crowned warbler, which don’t have orange crowns. I don’t name them, I just shoot them. 😉

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Finally, one of the last day lilies of the year.

Day lily

Day lily

I’ll have a lot more fall colors in the next few posts, along with more to say about what I’ve been learning while shooting them.

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


Millennium Park, October 11th, 2014

Kent County’s Millennium Park is a unique, ambitious project to reclaim 1,500 acres of heavily used land for public recreation. It is the largest park close to where I live, and a good spot for birding. I’ve been there a couple of times before, so I won’t go into great detail about the park in this post.

I did check the online maps before I went though, and had decided to check out a different section of the park to start my day there. When I arrived, I couldn’t find the parking lot for that section of the park, so I parked along the road to do a quick check of that section.

I had just started down the trail, when I spotted a tiny raptor crossing the sky above me, but I was too slow to get a shot of it. As I was looking around, hoping that the unknown raptor would appear again, I saw this squirrel laying flat on the crossbar of a power pole. I thought it strange for a squirrel to be out there in the open with no food around, and when the squirrel started moving, I found out why it was acting so strangely, it was drunk.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

It must have been eating fermented berries and not feeling very well. 😉

A few feet later, a cedar waxwing that posed for me, but in a shadow.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

The trail I was on looped around a small pond drained by a small creek. As I was walking near the creek, I heard something crashing through the brush on the other side of the creek. I caught a glimpse of a deer, and managed to get to a relatively open spot before the deer to wait for it.

Young whitetail buck

Young whitetail buck

The was the second of two shots the bucks stood for before he took off back into the thick stuff. But, that was enough to convince me that I needed to spend more time in the area, and that I should find a better place to park than along the road. I paused along the way for this flower.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

And, the drunken squirrel had made it to the top of the power pole.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

That seemed like a poor place to sober up, for there was a red-tailed hawk perched near my Subaru when I returned to it.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

And, after I found a parking lot on the other end of that part of the park, as soon as I started down the trail, I found another hawk, this one was hiding.

Red-tailed hawk hiding

Red-tailed hawk hiding

I know, far from my best hawk photos, but I still thought it strange for the drunken squirrel to be on top of the power pole with so many hungry predators all around it.

Next up, a species of bird that I find it very hard to get a good shot of, a brown creeper.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Not only are they always on the move…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…they stay on the shady side of trees for the most part…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…and their color blends in well with tree bark. I must have worn this one out, for it perched behind a few leaves and actually stayed there.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

I watched for quite a while, waiting for it to come out into the open, but it didn’t move until I tried to get a good angle on it so there wouldn’t be the leaves in the way, then it was gone.

Next up, a monarch butterfly. I shot a few images of it with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens)…

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

..then, I started to walk away, since I have posted too many photos of monarchs lately. But, I made myself go back, switch to the second camera body with the Tokina macro lens on it, and shoot way too many more photos of the butterfly.

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

I have many more, but I won’t bore you with all of them now, I’ll dole them out over several posts.

The part of the park I was walking in was a newer addition to the park overall, and the trails didn’t go far. So, I headed over to the core of Millennium Park to check that out.

It wasn’t long before I managed a shot of a white-crowned sparrow.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

I got to the narrow isthmus of land between two man-made lakes and spent some time watching the double crested cormorants that perch on the far side of one of the lakes.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Well, that one isn’t perched, but these two were squabbling over a choice perch.

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

There was a pair of mute swans.

Mute swans

Mute swans

Then, I spotted two small birds flying up into the trees near the cormorants, pausing for a while, then swooping down to catch something.

Merlin

Merlin

They were merlins, a lifer for me, or at least I suspected that they were. This image isn’t great, but it does help me nail down my identification of the pair of falcons as merlin.

Merlin in flight

Merlin in flight

The checkerboard pattern under the wings confirms my hunch, along with their small size. Another lifer on my list!

While I was shooting more photos of the merlin, a cormorant came crashing into a tree.

Double crested cormorant crashing

Double crested cormorant crashing

I am happy to report that the cormorant survived the crash, but it was touch and go there for a few seconds. 😉

Anyway, here’s a wide view of the far end of the lake.

Lake at Milennium Park

Lake at Millennium Park

That one, and the next few photos were all shot with my newer 10-18 mm lens, more for practice than anything else. I say practice, because I’m still not very good at being able to tell what an image shot from my two short lenses will look like when I view them full size on the computer. But, I’ll go into more detail on that in a later post. I thought that this oak tree would be a piece of cake, but other than capturing its color, it really isn’t a good photo.

Early oak colors

Early oak colors

In almost every review that I’ve seen of the 10-18 mm lens, they included an image shot with the lens pointed almost directly at the sun, and I’ve been amazed by the photos. I assumed that they had been doctored, now, I’m not so sure. The blown out area in the top center of this photo is from the sun, but somehow, the rest of the image came out very well as far as the exposure.

Into the sun

Into the sun

Arriving at an old railroad trestle that has been converted into a walking/cycling bridge over the Grand River, I shot this one. There’s very little barrel or other distortion that normally comes with lower cost super wide-angle lenses. I almost wish that the lens had a little distortion, so you could tell that I was using a 10 mm lens. 😉

Old railroad trestle

Old railroad trestle

The subject matter, the Grand River, isn’t great in these next two, but I’m happy with how they turned out, which is better than what the scene looked to the naked eye. The green leaves looked dull and washed out in real life, The lens and camera deepened the colors and added some contrast.

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking  downstream

The Grand River looking downstream

Just a short distance from the bridge, I hit a bird bonanza, all of these were shot as I stood in one place.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse in flight

Tufted titmouse in flight

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

This red squirrel was on the other side of the trail and must have been there in the open the entire time I was shooting birds.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I decided to take a few steps closer and then crop this image.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

As you can probably tell, it was a fantastic day, I think the red squirrel was sitting there soaking up the autumn sun. It isn’t often that one sits still for very long. Speaking of not sitting still….

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

…I tried for some time to get a good shot of the sapsucker, but most of them looked like this.

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The sapsucker would not sit for me to get a good photo. But, a little farther down the trail, I spied a yellow-rumped warbler feeding on berries….

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…the warbler spotted me…

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…and struck a pose for me.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

But, the wind moved something around which either change the exposure, or was between myself and the warbler, which is why the last one looks a bit odd. Things worked out okay, the warbler moved to a better spot for this one.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

This next one was another short lens practice shot, but I think that it marks a change in the way that I shoot landscapes, even though it’s a ho-hum photo.

Reflections

Reflections

When I first got to where I shot that one, there were ripples on the water from the wind, and there were reflections of the clouds obscuring the reflections of the trees. That didn’t stop me from shooting several poor photos though. Then, I stopped to think about what I was doing, and what I wanted the scene to look like in an image. I waited for the wind to die down, and for the clouds to move so their reflections weren’t mixed with the reflections of the trees, and I’m actually happy with the way that one came out. The subject isn’t special, but that image is a huge improvement over the first few images I shot there. It could be that there is some hope for me yet. 😉

Next up, a song sparrow that paused for a photo…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…before hopping down to the ground to eat.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I got back to where the cormorants hang out, and decided to get some practice shooting flying birds.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

This one was directing traffic.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

There were a few turtles watching the cormorants.

Turtles

Turtles

Two more flight photos.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

On my way back to my car, I got this juvenile pied-billed grebe.

Pied-billed grebe

Pied-billed grebe

If its head and bill look too large for its body, it’s because the grebe was already beginning to sink into the water to hide from the big bad photographer. 😉 A grebe’s first choice is to dive away from danger, their second choice is to run across the surface of the water. They only fly when they are forced to because the first two options won’t do.

To wrap this one up, a shot of the other grebes close to where the one above was, but these were on the other side of the lake, frolicking in the late afternoon sun.

Pied-billed grebes

Pied-billed grebes

A great day to be outside, the merlin were a lifer for me, and a good selection of other birds to photograph, what more could I ask for?

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


Where is fall going so fast?

Well, I’m still way behind in my blogging, in fact, I’ve fallen even farther behind. All of the images in this post were shot on my daily walks around home, and I have too many for one post saved. I also have plenty of images from a day in Kent County’s Millenium Park, and two trips to Muskegon to get to as well, and now, a days worth of images from the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve.

I’ve been busy looking for a new job, along with visiting my dentist, the only reason that I have time to do this post is because I’m skipping my usual daily walk to do this post, so I have time to attend a job interview a little later today. So, this post will be heavy on photos, and short on words. Since I promised these in my last post, I’ll start with two images of milkweed seeds.

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

If any one is interested, those were shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, not cropped at all, but the small size in which they appear here doesn’t do them justice.

Also in my last post, I rambled on about how some birds will pose for me, even better in some respects is catching them as they are eating. This is a terrible photo, but it is of the last rose-breasted grosbeak that I’ve seen.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

The grosbeak was with a flock of cardinals, this female took a break from eating to strike a pose for me…

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

…before she went back to feeding her face.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

This male, possibly her mate, was hanging around, I guess he had eaten his fill already.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

But, birds aren’t the only things that I shot the past few weeks, here are a few of the other subjects.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

I don’t recall having seen mushrooms growing from a woodpecker’s nesting hole before.

Autumn skies

Autumn skies

Aster, no extra lighting

Aster, no extra lighting

Aster, with lighting from the LED panel light

Aster, with lighting from the LED panel light

A few days later, the mushrooms from above had grown, but the lighting was poor to say the least, but I managed this shot.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Since it is fall, I’m seeing quite a few interesting leaves to photograph.

Grape leaf

Grape leaf

The wasps sure do build elaborate nests.

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

Okay, back to a few more birds.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Juvenile female turkeys

Juvenile female turkeys

Juvenile male turkey

Juvenile male turkey

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

My interesting leaf of the day on one particular day just happened to define the season quite well.

Falling fall

Falling fall

I see many blue jays, but getting a good photo of one is usually harder than this one made it.

Blue jay

Blue jay

They typically are much too wary for me to get so close to one while it’s on the ground, and they do not photograph well against a blue sky. Speaking of being on the ground, and birds looking for food, I had just sprawled out on the ground to shoot a caterpillar, when this vulture flew over me.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

I shot that with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) then set it down, grabbed the second body with the Tokina lens on it for these.

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

I was still on the ground when a second vulture flew over, so I grabbed the Beast again…

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

…I didn’t like the way that the vultures were eyeing me as they flew overhead while I was laying on the ground. By the way, do you know how hard it is to shoot a bird directly overhead while laying on your back?

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

I really didn’t like the way that one was looking me over! That wasn’t cropped at all, I guess the way to bring the vultures in close is to lay down like something dead, and wait for the vultures to swoop down to look you over. 😉

Another seasonal shot.

Goldenrod going to seed

Goldenrod going to seed

And, another.

Leaves

Leaves

It’s that time of year, and I’m a sucker for leaves.

Leaves

Leaves

Lots of leaves

Lots of leaves

I’m not sure what you’d call that color, but I liked it. I’ve deleted most of the fall foliage shots from this time frame, even though some were shot on sunny days. The colors grew more intense as time went on, and I’ll have plenty of images of fall foliage from later, when the colors were more intense. However, here’s a couple for the record.

Maple tree

Maple tree

Maple tree

Maple tree

I’ve gotten to the point where I prefer to photograph fall foliage on cloudy days, it’s even better if it is raining lightly. That’s a good thing, since it has been cloudy with off and on rain for the past week. I have plenty of images from around here that are much better than the ones from earlier, when there was sunshine, so those two will do for now. Besides, it’s time to get back to the birds.

House finch

House finch

I spotted a male bluebird, but it would not come out of the shade for me to get a good photo of it.

Male bluebird

Male bluebird

This female did though.

Female bluebird

Female bluebird

I love sneaking up on turkeys!

Male Turkey

Male Turkey

I love it even more when they stop running so that I get a good photo!

Male Turkey

Male Turkey

In a recent post, I had images of a great blue heron that I named Keith, for Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones due to the way it had the feathers on its head raised. Well, this isn’t Keith…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…this is Keith, eyeing a flock of crows.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

The crows must have known about herons eating anything that doesn’t eat them first, for the crows took off.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

And, I got a shot of Keith, which for some reason looks fuzzy here in my blog, when it doesn’t when I look at it on my computer.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I haven’t gotten any more photos of Keith with the feathers on his head standing up, but he’s been in the fields of the park almost every day lately, so I have plenty of images of him for later posts, when I get to them. Good old Keith is getting quite used to me photographing him, so I’m getting lots of images of him. It’s kind of weird having a heron around that let’s me walk up to it so close that I can fill the frame of the camera without cropping. What’s even weirder is that there have been days when I wasn’t going to shoot any more photos of the heron, as I have more than enough, and the heron walks over towards me so close that I don’t have to crop the images at all.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

That’s all that I have time for today, sorry for the rushed nature of this post, but I’ve been busy.

I’m sure that my next few posts will be of photos that I’ve shot at places other than around home, but here’s a hint of what’s to come. On my trip up north to photograph the colors there, I wasn’t happy with the way that I shot most of the landscapes. I’m not used to “seeing” through my shorter lenses, and knowing what the image that I shoot while using the short lenses will look like when I view them on my computer. On top of that, it was raining one day around home, so I took only the 300 mm prime lens with me, and the colors of the trees that day were almost magical because of the lighting that day. But, I couldn’t get photos of the colors that day because I had only the long lens with me.

So, for the next few days, I took the 70-200 mm lens, and my short lenses with me to learn how to use the short lenses more effectively. That has carried over while I’ve been on my longer hikes away from home on the weekends. Not only that, but I’ve also been learning how to use my longer lenses for better landscapes. For example, many of the landscape shots that I took at Pickerel Lake last weekend were shot with the Beast set at 150 mm.

But, I’ll get into the details when I have the time to work on the posts that include those images, for right now, it’s time for me to go see about a new job.

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


I see you, now what do I do?

A couple of posts ago, I speculated that I could do an entire post or two on playing peek-a-boo with birds, where they spot me trying to photograph them, they attempt to hide behind whatever is handy, and when they find that I still keep shooting, the birds take off.

On the other hand, there are some birds that when they see me shooting their photo will pose for me instead of moving on. As I speculated in the past, it may be the bird equivalent of a selfie.

Well, I’m going to continue that theme for this post, and probably the next one that I do about my daily walks around home, which is the focus of this post by the way. I’m still way behind in my blogging, so it may be a while before I get around to another post from around home.

Anyway, I’ll start with a tufted titmouse, mostly because it surprised me to find it where it was. They spend most of their time in wooded areas, and towards the tops of trees. Every once in a while I’ll see them lower, even on the ground, but seldom out in an open field like this.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Well, fairly open field, there are a few bushes in the field, but no real trees. I took a few steps closer for this one, which I composed as I did as a bit of an artsy image.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

I got serious about getting an image to crop, but the 300 mm prime lens began acting up, and would not focus on the titmouse, even though it was posing nicely for me.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Eventually, it grew tired of my fooling around, and shot me that impatient bird look, letting me know that he was tired of posing when I couldn’t take advantage of it.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Next up, a white-breasted nuthatch. They typically pay no attention to me when I’m trying to shot a photo of them, they continue to go on about their business of looking for food.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

When they do pose, it’s either like this….

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

…or this.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Most robins are more than willing to pose.

Juvenile American robin

Juvenile American robin

We’ll take a little break from the birds for a while for a few flowers.

Asters

Asters

Asters

Asters

Aster

Aster

Picking up on another theme, a couple of the last summer flowers of the year.

Spotted knapweed

Spotted knapweed

Woodland sunflower?

Woodland sunflower?

Now then, back to the birds, and a rotten little bugger at that. I spotted a ruby-crowned kinglet out in the open, but I could tell that it was going to take off on me, so I shot too quickly to get a good photo.

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Sure enough, it was gone before I could shoot a better one. I tracked the kinglet down in a pine tree…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…but the light was horrible there, so I got ahead of the kinglet to wait for it to come to me, I shot too quickly again…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…I got the focus right, and the camera and lens steady, the kinglet ducked….

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…and then decided to move on…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…I was too quick yet again…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…the kinglet spotted me…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…and was off again…

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

…I have another set of photos much like these, but I won’t bore you with them. Sometimes though, a bird not wanting to be photographed can get me a good photo if I try hard enough.

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

We’ll take another short break from the birds for a few other things, like these milkweed seeds.

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

I almost hate to post that one, because a week or two later, I got some real winners of milkweed seeds, but you’ll have to wait for them. 😉

I used the new EX 320 flash unit for this next one, totally on a lark, but it worked better than I expected.

Sumac

Sumac

I don’t remember why I decided to try the flash, there must have been a reason that I did, but I can’t put my finger on it.

I deleted the image of the sumac without the flash, there’s no reason to post it other than to show how much the flash did improve that image, so, you’ll have to take my word for it. Instead, here’s another image of sumac.

Sumac

Sumac

This red squirrel was barking away at something, I tried to catch it with its mouth open, but missed.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

In the low light at the time, the squirrel’s barking was enough movement to make that image less sharp than I would have liked. On the other hand, there was no movement from this grasshopper at all.

Grasshopper just hanging out

Grasshopper just hanging out

Back to the birds, this time, a common yellowthroat that saw me sneaking up on him…

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

…turned….

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

…and struck a pose.

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Here’s a white-throated sparrow…

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

…when it noticed me taking its picture…

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

..it struck a pose to show every one how it got its name.

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

Here’s a song sparrow that was posing for me…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…until it spotted some food…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…then, it was off!

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Speaking of food, when birds slow down to eat, it’s a good time to get a good photo of them, like this Nashville warbler eating an insect…

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

…I swear, this was a burp…

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

…at least the warbler had the manners to say “Excuse me”.

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

I’ll have more on birds eating in my next post from around home, for right now, I’m going to end this one with an image of a palm warbler, just because I can.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

I still have three posts to do on my weekend trips, and 150 images from around home to get around to posting one of these days, not all at once though. 😉 It would be rather slow as far as the number of photos that I’m shooting, except for the foliage right now. It’s near peak color time, so I’ve been busy. You may be seeing fall foliage images into December, not that it would be all bad. 😉

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


Muskegon trip September 28th, 2014

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on September 28th, 2014. The weather during my previous two trips had not been the best for photography, however, there were plenty of new to me birds to shoot. On this day, I arrived early on a glorious early fall day, great for photography, but I didn’t find a lifer. Oh well, you can’t have everything.

When I arrived at the wastewater treatment facility, I headed straight for the grassy cells, where the shorebirds had been hanging out the last two times I had been there. There was nary a shorebird to be found, unless you consider great blue herons to be shorebirds. 😉

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

So, I headed over to the lagoons, and began shooting the northern shovelers there.

Male northern shoveler landing

Male northern shoveler landing

 

Female northern shoveler

Female northern shoveler

Male northern shoveler

Male northern shoveler

I managed a couple of so-so images of blue winged teal in flight.

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

Reflections can be odd things, I don’t know how the top of the teal’s wing showed up in that second image, but I’m glad it did. I hope that the next time I’ll be able to get a sharper image.

Before I forget, the people who moderate eBird reports for this region have just increased the numbers of many species that can be reported from the Muskegon area, I’m taking the liberty of copying and pasting this little tidbit from the Muskegon County Nature Club’s blog.

 

  •  Snow Geese – up to 200 allowed in fall
  • Trumpeter Swan – none allowed now, since it’s locally rare there
  • Gadwall – 300 allowed in winter; used to allow just a handful
  • American Black Duck – 250 allowed in winter now
  • Northern Shoveler – 7,500 allowed at fall peak
  • Ruddy Duck – 13,000 allowed at peak (this is one of the peak sites in the US; counts higher than this will require some documentation of count methodology)
  • Eared Grebe – 7 in spring, 8 in fall; the only site in Michigan which allows more than 0)
  • Shorebirds – substantially relaxed filters compared to inland southern Lower Peninsula counties, especially for species like Red Knot, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Baird’s Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, etc.)
  • Red-necked Phalarope – only site in Michigan where allowed – up to 20 in late Aug/early Sept
  • Common Raven – allowed year round, up to 4 when family groups around
  • American Pipit – up to 500 in fall, one of best sites in Michigan
  • Swallows – all species except Purple Martin allowed at exceptional levels in August and into September
  • Grasshopper Sparrow – up to 35 during breeding season; highest filter in Michigan
  • Savannah Sparrow – up to 125 during fall when they are abundant on the roadside
  • Brewer’s Blackbird – up to 50 during March through October, highest filter in Michigan
  • Orchard Oriole – up to 5 during breeding

The huge number of ducks there actually make it difficult to find some of the species that are there in lower numbers, like American wigeons. Trying to scan a flock of several hundred shovelers to find the few odd ducks is not something that I am good at.

Each of the lagoons there is approximately 1 mile square, and seeing most of the surface of both lagoons covered in resting waterfowl is a sight worth seeing, even if I don’t manage to see a lifer. Plus, you can also get an idea about the diversity of bird species to be seen there!

Anyway, back to the photos, in this case, three of the hundreds of coots there.

American coots

American coots

Working the vegetation around the lagoon was a flock of palm warblers, here’s one looking for, and finding breakfast.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

And, I had never noticed how much palm warblers and American pipits looked alike in their fall plumage until I found this pipit near the warblers.

American pipit

American pipit

The differences are a lack of facial coloring and heavier chest barring on the pipits.

Next, a teal, but I couldn’t tell if it was a green or blue winged at the angle I shot this at.

Unidentified teal

Unidentified teal

I believe it’s a blue-winged, but I’m not 100% on that. Next up is my shot of the day, although the species is fairly common.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

That’s straight out of the camera using the 300 mm prime lens, no cropping at all.

With all the other waterfowl around, there are plenty of mallards also.

Female mallard landing

Female mallard landing

Next up, one of the thousands of ruddy ducks.

Ruddy duck

Ruddy duck

And, while they are a bit drab in the fall, here’s a few more of the northern shovelers.

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

This male was showing a little of the colors on his wings…

Male Northern shoveler

Male Northern shoveler

…but, I thought that an in flight photo would allow you to see the colors better….

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

….until this guy posed for me.

Male Northern shoveler

Male Northern shoveler

I can’t wait for next spring when the waterfowl are in their full breeding plumage again!

Here’s my gull portrait for this trip.

Herring gull

Herring gull

As you know, I have two Canon 60 D bodies, the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), and a Canon 300 mm prime lens. So, for my last two trips, I’ve had both bodies set-up for birding, each with one of the long lenses on it. I spotted a northern harrier working the grassy cells and managed to get in location as the harrier approached me. I grabbed the camera with the 300 mm lens on it, thinking it would be the best choice for a bird in flight.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

But, that lens refused to lock onto the harrier and track it…

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

…until the harrier was past me for a butt shot.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

I should have used the Beast.

A short time later, this great blue heron landed almost on top of me…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…then decided that it should hide, so I used both lenses for these, see if you can tell which lens shot which image.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I cropped the center third out of the overall images for all three of those, just because there was no need to include all the boring vegetation in the images.

A short time later, I found an egret perched in a pine, and did the same, used both lenses for these images, none of which have been cropped.

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret

There may be some difference if I were to print these images in an extremely large size, but I can’t detect much difference in image quality between the two lenses in these images, or those of the heron.

I hate to keep harping on those two lenses, but it’s a quandary that I face every day as I’m choosing which lens to carry. In good light, the Beast holds its own, but as the light level falls off, then, you can really see how much better that the 300 mm prime lens is, if I can get a photo with it.

I’m going to jump ahead here, to my last two photos of the day, shot at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. The vegetation is extremely thick there, there are places along the trails where you can’t see more than four feet, unless you’re looking down the trail. I was carrying the Beast, and found a warbler in the very dense leaves.

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

I know, horrible image, but I didn’t even let the camera and lens steady up before I hit the shutter release as I had been too slow on previous attempts to get the warbler’s picture. A few seconds later, I was able to get this one.

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

Still not great, but at least I can ID the warbler from these images, something that I couldn’t do with the naked eye because of how poor the light was. I also know from experience that the 300 mm prime lens would never have been able to focus on the warbler where it was perched among the leaves in that low of light. If I had the time to manually focus, then, the an image from the 300 mm prime lens would have been much better than the one that I did get from the Beast.

So, which lens I should carry depends a great deal on the light on a given day, plus the conditions that I can expect to find the birds in. I’m hoping that someday, when I can afford a Canon 7 D Mk II body, that the 300 mm prime lens will focus much better on that body with its better auto-focusing system. For now, I have to make do as best I can with what I have. Therefore, the question remains, should I take the Beast to get an image even if it is a poor one, or take the 300 mm prime lens which could very well cause me to miss a photo if conditions aren’t right for it.

Anyway, back to the wastewater facility for these last two.

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

By the time that I arrived at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, it was mid-afternoon, hardly prime time for birding, so I shot these.

Hawkweed?

Hawkweed?

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Stacked dragonflies

Stacked dragonflies

Berries

Berries

Asters and bees

Asters and bees

That last one was shot with the Beast set at 150 mm. I saw the green bees on the flowers, and zoomed in for a few shots of the bees, but the images came out horrible. The Beast does not do well up close, but, I still had a hard time figuring out why the images were so bad. Then it dawned on me, I was shooting almost straight down at the flowers and bees. I know that when I’m shooting birds flying almost directly overhead that I have to turn off the Optical Stabilization of the Beast, or I get blurry images. I think that I should have turned off the OS for the photos of the bees as well, since the lens was pointed straight down.

My last two photos from the day, an unidentified flycatcher perched in a sumac tree.

Fall flycatcher

Fall flycatcher

I did zoom in on the flycatcher, but I still can’t ID it.

Fall flycatcher

Fall flycatcher

Not a great day, not a bad day, just an enjoyable day. I still have another post to do on yet another trip to Muskegon, I would have combined the two into one post, but the next one will be heavy on bald eagles. 🙂

However, I’m thinking that unless I see something special show up on eBird as far as new to me species of birds, that I won’t be going to Muskegon as often this winter. The waterfowl are still in their fall plumage, and will be for a few more months. So, while there are thousands and thousands of them to photograph, in some respects, it is rather pointless, since I’d rather have photos of the from in the spring.

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


Where did the summer go II?

Well, once again I find myself way behind in my blogging, the photos in this post were shot back in September. All of the images in this post were shot on my daily walks around home, and I have too many for one post saved. I also have plenty of images from a day in Kent County’s Millenium Park, and two trips to Muskegon to get to as well.

This summer, I suspended doing any posts in the My Photo Life List series, I’d like to get back to doing those posts, but it will have to wait until I get caught up. That may be a while. However, once November rolls around, subjects to photograph will become fewer and farther between as winter sets in. I hope to get back to one post per week of a general nature, and do one post per week in the My Photo Life List series.

For the past month, I’ve had migrating birds, fall foliage, the year’s last flowers, along with the resident wildlife to photograph, meaning lots of photo, some of them are even good. 😉

I could do an entire post or two on playing peek-a-boo with birds, where they spot me trying to photograph them, they attempt to hide behind whatever is handy, and when they find that I still keep shooting, the birds take off. Those of you who photograph birds already know this quite well, but I’ll throw in a few for the heck of it.

On the other hand, there are some birds that when they see me shooting their photo will pose for me instead of moving on. As  I speculated in the past, it may be the bird equivalent of a selfie.

The bird’s willingness to pose doesn’t seem to go by species, it seems as if it has more to do with the bird’s mood that day. Case in point, I’ve been closer to this red-tailed hawk in the past, it’s even remained perched in clear view long enough for me to change lenses. But, on this day, when it saw me…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…it tried to hide behind the only leaf nearby…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…and when it heard the shutter still going….

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…it said “I’m out of here”, and off it went.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Here’s an example of a bird selfie. I was sneaking up on a cedar waxwing…

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

…it spotted me…

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

…and struck a pose for me.

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

About the same thing happened with this chipping sparrow, but I’ll leave out all but the two posed images.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Some birds pose for me, but become impatient with how long it takes me to get the shot that I want, like this juvenile white-crowned sparrow. I got this image, but thought that I could do better by getting a little closer, and better lighting…

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

…as I was getting lined up for a better shot, the sparrow shot me the “Hurry up, I’m not going to pose all day” look…

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

…and so I shot this one as it struck a pose.

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Then, there are the birds that don’t seem to care if I’m close to them or not, they continue to go about their business foraging for food whether I’m shooting photos of them or not.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

On a different subject, I often see Cooper’s hawks when I’m on my daily walks, usually flying at a high rate of speed below treetop level. One day, I spotted a flock of vultures soaring high above me, but one of the birds in the flock was much smaller than the vultures, it was a Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

I wonder if the hawk was soaring with the vultures as a way to hide from possible prey? Most wildlife ignore vultures, since vultures seldom kill their own prey, so by remaining close to the vultures, the hawk may not have been noticed by squirrels or other birds that the hawks prey on. I would have missed the hawk if I hadn’t noticed that one of the “vultures” looked so small.

Back to the birds that pose for me, some prefer to spruce themselves up a bit…

House finch preening

House finch preening

…before they pose.

House finch

House finch

Then, there are birds that are often difficult subjects to work with, they go out of their way to avoid having a good photo of them taken most of the time, such as great blue herons. However, every once in a while, one will do something strange for them, like land in a tree right in front of me.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

This one even allowed me to walk all the way around it for a little better lighting.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

That’s not a heron, how did that get in here? It was a practice shot of the fall colors before I went on my trip up north.

Back to the heron, which doesn’t seem to mind having its picture taken.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It doesn’t like dogs though, for as a dog walker went past, the heron took off.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

But, it didn’t go far, not as far as I thought that it would, so I missed the landing photo.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Birds aren’t the only thing I shot.

Hairy or cow vetch?

Hairy or cow vetch?

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

Fallen color

Fallen color

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Woolly bear caterpillar

Woolly bear caterpillar

Woolly bear caterpillar

Woolly bear caterpillar

Back to the birds, these next three were shot on a very dark and gloomy day.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

How dark and gloomy? Here’s a downy woodpecker in action.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

I used the flash for that last image, and the highest shutter speed I can use is 1/250 second, which wasn’t fast enough to freeze the woodpecker’s head as it probed for food. Luckily, the light was better when I shot these.

Turkey

Turkey

Another turkey was taking life easy.

Turkey

Turkey

Now then, back to the heron that doesn’t mind having its picture taken.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

That heron seems to have developed a taste for grasshoppers, but it wasn’t having much luck finding any. It thought that if it disguised itself as Keith Richards that the grasshoppers wouldn’t pay attention to him.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

But, the disguise didn’t work, so the heron went back to looking like a heron.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Sorry for so many heron photos, but after a summer of seeing very few of them, having one close enough to shoot images that don’t need to be cropped at all is too much for me to resist.

I’ve reached my quota, so it’s time to wrap this one up. I still have lots of images from around home, and from several excursions on weekends, so it may be November before I’m fully caught up again. Oh well, I’m sure that things will slow down by then.

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


Northern color tour, 2014, Part II

As I ended the last post, I was on my way back into East Jordan, Michigan to eat breakfast after having spent the morning shooting good but not great photos of the Jordan River Valley.

Of the many things that I had been learning so far, a few stand out. One, once I get the camera set properly, I get much better color saturation as far as the fall foliage in lower light, and rain if possible. The colors of the wet leaves really pop, whereas dry leaves on a sunny day tend to be washed out a little. Two, I need a lot more practice with the Photomatix software to get really good HDR images. I suppose that’s understandable, I’ve only used that software a few times so far, and never for really broad landscapes like the ones I shot at the Landslide or Deadman’s Hill overlooks.

Maybe most importantly, I seem to choke when shooting well-known landscapes, the same thing occurred last year while I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I do much better when I find some out of the way place on my own. So, on my way back to town, as I was enjoying the views from the bottom of the Jordan River Valley, I was looking for suitable subjects to photograph. I spied this scene as I was driving along.

Horse in the fall

Horse in the fall

Of course, the sky is blown out (over exposed) because the sensor of my camera can’t handle the dynamic range from light to dark in the scene. I wanted to shoot for a HDR image, but the horse in the foreground wouldn’t hold still. So, I waited until it moved out of the frame for this one.

No horse in the fall, HDR

No horse in the fall, HDR

Now, the sky is exposed correctly, but I lost some of the pop of the color of the leaves, more practice is called for! I need to become better at using the adjustments within Photomatix to get the desired results, rather than just loading three images and hoping that the software does everything for me.

I arrived in East Jordan, which is on the shores of Lake Charlevoix, a large inland lake which in turn, empties into Lake Michigan. The Jordan River empties into the south arm of Lake Charlevoix there in East Jordan.

Unlike Petoskey, Traverse City, or Charlevoix, which have become huge tourist traps, East Jordan remains more of a working class town, although the population explodes in the summer months. East Jordan is the home of the East Jordan Ironworks, which produces manhole covers and storm sewer grates. In fact, these next photos were shot less than a block from the factory.

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

A second swan was preening a short distance from the first.

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

These are another species of bird that has to be heard to be fully appreciated, as their call sounds like some one blowing a trumpet, which is of course, how they got their name. I stood there shooting a few photos, when the two swans began calling to each other, then joined together for these.

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

Another birder/photographer pulled into the parking lot where I was standing to get these photos, and we began a conversation, which caused me to miss one of the swans with its wings spread.

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

The swan shot me a look as if to say that it wasn’t its fault that I missed. 😉

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

But then, this redhead duck nearby decided to show the swan how to pose for a photographer.

Redhead duck

Redhead duck

Redhead duck

Redhead duck

Redhead duck

Redhead duck

The light, as you can obviously see, was terrible, with what little sunlight there was reflecting off from the rippled surface of the water, with the ripples caused by the wind. I was using the 300 mm prime lens, and like the complete idiot that I am sometimes, I forgot that I had purchased a polarizing filter just for such occasions. I’ve never tried it, but the filter sure couldn’t have hurt, and would have cut down on at least some of the glare coming off the water. In my defense, I was engaged in conversation with the other birder, and, I was also eyeing the scene for a landscape photo.

I tried several, but they came out horrible, and in the middle of my fumbling around, a bald eagle flew over us. By the time that I switched cameras, this was the best I could do.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Remember, this is in East Jordan, and within sight of the ironworks factory!

I got my tripod out to set-up for a HDR image, at the same time, one of the swans decided to stretch its wings, and I was quicker this time.

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

If only that mallard hadn’t been following the swans like a puppy dog to photobomb my photos. 😉

I got my HDR image, one of the best I have done so far.

The Jordan River in East Jordan

The Jordan River in East Jordan

It isn’t that special as far as the view, but it is the closest that I’ve come to getting the scene exactly as I saw it through the viewfinder. It also looks much better full screen. 😉

I shot a few photos of a flock of blue-winged teal….

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

…but they wouldn’t stop feeding long enough to pose, they must have been extremely hungry. So was I, time for a great breakfast at Darlene’s! The best food, homemade baked goods and pastries in the northern half of Michigan.

After some food, I went to the other side of the river to walk through a nature preserve there. I started by shooting this thistle…

Thistle

Thistle

…the eagle or one of its friends did another flyby…

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

…then, my catch of the day!

Juvenile male wood duck

Juvenile male wood duck

Juvenile male wood duck

Juvenile male wood duck

I sure wish that I had remembered to test the polarizing filter! But, these are still some of my better images of a wood duck, so maybe my luck is changing.

The trails at the nature preserve were all overgrown, so I didn’t go very far, but I did find these two cosmos still blooming.

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos

Since the trails at the nature preserve were overgrown, and it was early afternoon, I decided to start back towards home, hoping to beat the traffic, and to give me time to stop and shoot a few more fall foliage photos. I also decided that I need a lot more practice “seeing” scenes through my wide-angle lenses, so I wouldn’t bother trying for perfection or getting images to load into the HDR software, I’d go back to basics and work on composition. I’m not sure how that went.

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

The Jordan River Valley seen along M 66

Yeah, I know, I didn’t have to have the road in that last shot, I did that on purpose just for the heck of it.

Overall, I’m very happy with the color and sharpness of these, and it began to feel more natural shooting these, and many others that I won’t bore you with.

I also stopped at a scenic overlook near Cadillac on my way home for these.

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

Near Cadillac, Michigan

All in all, a great weekend!

I learned a great deal about landscape photography, and while I’m not satisfied with the images from this trip, they are still a huge improvement over what I got my last two trips to the same area. A lot of the improvement came from thinking ahead, and shooting the Landslide and Deadman’s Hill areas early in the morning when the light is much better at those places than in the afternoon or evening.

I don’t have to worry about rain or clouds when shooting fall colors, in fact, I got better color in the rain than during the few minutes of sunshine that there were.

Changing light is a bear, no matter what, I need to slow down and think about what I’m doing at those times, rather than shoot and hope.

I need to remember all the gear that I have now, such as the polarizing filter when shooting the waterfowl.

Most of all, I need more practice both shooting landscapes and using the Photomatix software. When I first started this blog, I would shoot a few landscapes of the places that I went to show readers the visual appeal of those places, but I’ve moved away from doing that. As a result, it’s now rare for me to shoot any landscape photos, I need to return to my old ways just so I remember how to shoot landscapes.

A word about the Photomatix software for HDR images, it works very well, but I thought that the final images were soft when I first began playing with it. I now save the images in 16 bit Tiff format when I finish in Photomatix, and then use the software that came with my Canon cameras to convert from Tiff to Jpeg format, and I think that I get sharper images that way.

Some type of HDR software is a must for good landscape images, the sensors of a digital camera, while very good, can not handle the dynamic range of even simple landscapes. I wish that I had shot series of images for the landscapes in this post as I did in the previous one, but, I needed to get back to basics first. I suppose that if I had Lightroom, or some similar software, I could tweak the images to make them look better. That probably also applies to the HDR images that I did shoot as well.

But, that’s all new to me, since I was one of those people who believed that editing images using software was cheating, so trying to think of how I can edit an image as I shoot it is something that I’m not used to doing.

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


Northern color tour, 2014, Part I

Well, I’m back from my trip up north. As per usual, things did not go as I had planned, but it was great to get away for the weekend. And, I learned a great deal about photography, myself as a photographer, and places to go here in Michigan. I’ll touch on all three of those things as I go.

I started out from home just before noon on Saturday, later than I would like, but with my work schedule, that’s the best that I could do after getting everything loaded into my Subaru. Traffic was quite heavy for a weekend, a portent of things to come. I also saw a few scenes along the road that I would have liked to have stopped to photograph, but between the traffic, and wanting to make it to Petoskey with enough time left for photography, I didn’t stop until I got to the rest area on US 131 north near Cadillac, Michigan.

The weather was living up to the forecast, raining more than not, and windy. So, when I stopped at the rest area, I thought that it would be a good time to get my landscape camera body set-up for the conditions, while stretching my legs.

Camera set-up shot

Camera set-up shot

While I was playing with the camera settings on the one body, I heard, then saw, a flock of sandhill cranes flying over, so I grabbed the second body with the 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter on it for this shot.

Sandhill cranes in flight

Sandhill cranes in flight

Hearing the croaking warbling of the cranes still gets to me the same way that hearing the call of a loon does, hence the rather poor image of the cranes compared to others I have posted recently.

Back on the road, I passed a juvenile bald eagle perched just above the highway, and an American kestrel that was also in range of the camera had I stopped. But, silly me, I wanted to get to my destination, and didn’t want to take the time to stop for them, or the gorgeous displays of fall colors that I was seeing while driving.

When I got to Petoskey, it was a madhouse, much like when I went to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last summer, complete with traffic jams, and just way too many people for my tastes.

Every year, I read about how beautiful the drive along M 119 from Petoskey, north to Cross Village is during the fall, and apparently, so have thousands of other people. As a matter of fact, M 119 is known as the “Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route”, which has me wondering how it received that designation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely drive, except for the traffic, and no places to pull over and photograph what scenery there was. I would guess that the route is best viewed as a passenger in a vehicle, rather than as the driver.

M 119 is a narrow, twisty road, and after two days of heavy to moderate rain, many places along the road were covered by water. That made dealing with the traffic even worse, as a lot of people were trying to avoid driving through the puddles, and hogging what little pavement that there was to drive on. So, I didn’t have much of a chance to really take in what few views that there were. In my opinion, there are many other back roads in the area that offer as good or better views, with a lot less traffic, and with places to pull off the road to enjoy the views.

However, the drive wasn’t a complete waste, as along the way, I saw a sign pointing to a nature preserve owned by the Little Traverse Conservancy, of which I’m a member. Actually, they own several preserves along M 119, but I only stopped at this one.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve.

A great place to escape the traffic, and stretch the legs out, even if it was raining moderately hard at the time. I started by visiting the interpretive building….

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

Elizabeth Kennedy Nature Center

…amazed by how much stuff that they packed into that small building. I also had a chance to talk to the resident manager of the preserve, he was very informative. Then, despite the rain, I set off for a short walk down to the Lake Michigan beach and back.

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Lake Michigan beach looking south

Lake Michigan beach looking south

Lake Michigan beach looking north

Lake Michigan beach looking north

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Thorne Swift Nature Preserve

Because of the rain, I didn’t take my tripod, I should have. I did take my umbrella, which the wind destroyed the first time that I opened it. Without it, I had a hard time keeping the lens free of rain drops, so I didn’t linger over any of the photos, I simply pulled the camera out of my rain jacket and shot as quickly as I could.

I was a bit surprised at how small the waves were on Lake Michigan, as strong as the wind was, but that shore is in the lee of Beaver Island, and somewhat protected from the gale that was blowing at the time. Because of the rain and fog, I couldn’t see the island well enough to attempt to photograph it.

Not wanting to deal with the traffic on my way back to Petoskey, I took the back roads, and doing so planted a seed in my brain that I should have allowed to grow faster than I did. On the way, I stopped to shoot these three deer in a field, using a wide-angle lens to also get the trees behind the deer.

Northern Michigan in the fall

Northern Michigan in the fall

I should have gotten the exposure right, but I thought that I would end up deleting that image, but it plays into what I’m learning.

A little further down the road, I came to an open marshy area too good not to photograph, despite not being able to keep the rain off from the lens. 😉

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

Northern Michigan marsh

If there had been less wind or rain, I would have gotten out my tripod and shot the scene to create HDR images so that I could have gotten the sky exposed correctly. But, I still wasn’t allowing that seedling that had been planted in my brain to grow, after all, this was just a no-name marsh in the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan.

I made my way back through the traffic jams in Petoskey, and continued to the southeast to East Jordan, Michigan, where I stopped for a bite to eat before continuing to the Graves Crossing State Forest campground, where I spent the night. I slept in the back of my Forester, which isn’t the most comfortable arrangement, but I used my skills as a truck driver to make it work. To be a good over the road driver, you need to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime, and besides, the back of my Forester was dry. I woke up several times during the night, and it was still raining every time that I did wake up.

At 6 Am, I did roll out, and I could see stars above me, so I fired up the camp stove and brewed a pot of coffee. While I was drinking the coffee, I shot a few photos in the campground, using the flash, since it was still dark.

Stump in the dark

Stump in the dark

Fungi covered stump in the dark

Fungi covered stump in the dark

Neither are very good, but at least I didn’t get my feet in the second one. 😉

As soon as it was light enough to see, I wondered over to the Jordan River, set-up my tripod, and shot these.

The Jordan River looking upstream

The Jordan River looking upstream

The Jordan River looking  downstream

The Jordan River looking downstream

My goal on this day was to shoot the Jordan River valley from the Landslide and Deadman’s hill scenic overlooks, and as I starting driving to get to the Landslide area, it began to rain. I stopped to shoot this one on the way, just to be sure that I could get a shot under the conditions at the time.

On my way to the Landslide

On my way to the Landslide

The low fog had me worried, so I stopped again for these.

On my way to the Landslide

On my way to the Landslide

On my way to the Landslide

On my way to the Landslide

Not great, but it was just light enough to see, and it was raining lightly, so I thought that I was good to go.

I didn’t mention it earlier, but the previous day, I had stopped at Deadman’s Hill to check to see how far along the colors were, and the parking lots were jam-packed! There are two parking lots, one for long-term parking for people hiking the North Country Trail, or the Jordan River Valley Trail, which is a loop off from the North Country Trail. The second lot is for people visiting the scenic overlook, and like I said, there wasn’t a place to park in either lot the day before.

I could tell by the lack of tire tracks in the dirt two-track that leads to the scenic overlook that I was the first person to drive back to the Landslide area that morning. So, I parked, strapped my camera gear to myself, and started the short hike from the parking lot to the scenic overlook. That’s when panic set in!

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

NO! The sun was coming out! Not only that, but there was uneven lighting all across the valley, what the heck do I do? I’m not prepared for this at all!

I told myself to calm down, but it didn’t help much. I tried going small, shooting just small parts of the valley at one time.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

No, no,no! The last one, shot with the 70-200 mm L series lens wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted either.

I was at a complete loss as to how to set-up to shoot the entire valley. I told myself that this view was one of the reasons that I had purchased to Photomatix software to create HDR images, but I’ve never had a chance to shoot such a large view as the one before me since I had purchased the software. It wasn’t as if I could shoot the scene, run the images through Photomatix to see how they turned out, adjust my settings and try again.

To make matter worse, the clouds began to roll back in, so the lighting was constantly changing. I would think that I was set-up correctly, but when I went to actually shoot the images, the light had changed again. I did the best that I could.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook, HDR image

I tried again.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook, HDR image

Oh no! Now there’s something else going on, the sky and clouds are turning pink as the sun rises! Now what do I do?

Try again.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook, HDR image

I sure wished that I knew what I was doing! That could have been the shot of the trip, but I blew it, so I tried again, but by this time, the clouds had closed in for more even lighting.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook, HDR image

Thoroughly disgusted with my lack of ability, I gave up. I had a lot of respect for really good landscape photographers before, now, I have even more!

I tried to console myself by thinking that I didn’t know how the HDR images were going to turn out, and that I may be pleasantly surprised when I processed the images once I arrived back home. But, my mood was not helped when I blew a great shot of a northern harrier, with help from the 300 mm prime lens.

Male Northern harrier in flight

Male Northern harrier in flight

I had seen the harrier coming towards me as I was driving to the Deadman’s Hill area, and managed to get pulled off the road and stopped in time to get the harrier in the viewfinder as it was passing me. But, the darned 300 mm lens would not focus on the harrier thirty feet from me, it insisted on focusing on the trees 100 yards behind the harrier. I couldn’t get the bird in focus until it had pulled up, and turned away from me, but then, I didn’t have time to adjust the exposure correctly.

I arrived at the Deadman’s Hill area early enough so that I was just the third vehicle there, much better than the day before. I grabbed my photo gear, and headed up the hill for these.

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook, HDR image

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook, HDR image

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook, HDR image

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook, HDR image

The rest of these are as they came straight out of the camera.

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman's Hill scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Deadman’s Hill scenic overlook

Still not great, but I’m making progress, these are ten times better than the photos that I shot the last time I was there in the fall.

One thing that I learned was not to use the live view mode to shoot landscapes, I can’t see the details well enough on the small screen to get my compositions correct. I did much better when I used the viewfinder, even if it’s a pain to do so when the camera is on the tripod.

I’m getting better at setting the camera up to get images to be processed in Photomatix for HDR images, but I need more practice. The same could be said for my shooting large-scale landscapes like the Jordan River Valley overall, and in processing the images later.

I thought about reshooting both places, but I was frustrated at that point, so much so that I knew my second effort would be even worse than I had done already. And, it was already 11 AM and I was hungry. So, I decided to head back into East Jordan for breakfast, and to do a little birding, and that’s where the next post will begin.

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


Palmer Park, September 27th, 2014

Last Saturday, I went looking for a black-crowned night heron that has been seen often just a few miles from where I live. I didn’t find the heron, it was probably too late in the morning by the time I arrived where it has been reported. Since I was starting out close to home, I decided that after looking for the heron that I’d wander around Palmer Park to see what I could find there, as it is also close to where I live.

I also went there because it was a warm day for the end of September, and Palmer Park is heavily wooded, so I could stay cool in the shade, along with shooting a few practice photos of fall colors.

The day started out well, I noticed this feather in the grass outside of my apartment as I was loading my camera gear into my Subaru.

Dew on feather

Dew on feather

I arrived at the pond where the black-crowned night heron has been seen, but instead of it, I found this great blue heron moving to a different spot to hunt.

Great blue heron in flight over a marsh

Great blue heron in flight over a marsh

That’s far from my best shot of a heron, but I liked the background, the heron is just an excuse to post that image. 😉

So, I’m being all stealthy, standing in tall weeds and brush looking for the other species of heron, when a kingfisher lands in a tree closer than I have ever been to a kingfisher before.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Of course the sun was behind the kingfisher, so the images I shot are junk, but I had to shoot another to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Isn’t that the way it goes? I have dozens of photos of them shot in good light, but at distances too far for a great photo. Then, when I have one right next to me so close that I don’t have to crop the images, the light couldn’t be much worse.

I shot this photo of a pair of unidentified ducks at the same pond.

Unidentified ducks

Unidentified ducks

I only shot that because the ducks weren’t mallards, so this will help me to remember that this little pond is worth checking from time to time, not only for the night herons, but species of waterfowl as well. It’s remarkable how some of the small ponds in the middle of a very developed area attract so many species of birds these days. This little pond was very similar to the one where I found the least bitterns, trumpeter swans, and other waterfowl this spring.

Anyway, it was off to Palmer Park after that, and as I was getting my camera gear strapped to myself, I spotted this pair of mourning doves.

Mourning doves

Mourning doves

I had just started my walk when I spotted a number of very small mushrooms and other fungi, but I managed to botch every photo of them that I shot one way or another. They were in very deep shade, so I needed extra light, and if I got the light and exposure correct, I missed the focus, or vice versa. I couldn’t even get this shot right.

Berries

Berries

I’ve noticed that I have a difficult time switching gears when it comes to the range of subjects that I attempt to photograph. I had started the day in “bird mode”, and trying to shoot macros was more than my feeble brain could handle at that time. It has worked the opposite way other times, when I start the day shooting macros, I often blow my chances at birds, until I’ve shot a few. Oh well, I think that more practice will help.

I even needed to warm up on other kinds of photos.

Virginia creeper and trees

Virginia creeper and trees

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

Sycamore tree

Sycamore tree

I’m loving the 10-18 mm lens, I can stand almost under a tree and get the entire tree in the frame.

Sycamore tree

Sycamore tree

Or, get really close to something, and use that lens’ depth of field to get everything in the frame in focus.

Insect tunnels on a tree

Insect tunnels on a tree

A little later, I tried the Tokina macro lens again, first on this very uncooperative katydid…

Katydid

Katydid

…that kept turning away from me as I attempted to get a photo, and then for this one that posed nicely for me.

Katydid

Katydid

Those were taken on the boardwalk, at the far northern end of the park, and I had started out at the southern end of the park. I saw very few birds, as you can tell from my photos, I don’t know why, but that’s the way that Palmer Park has been for some time now, very few birds. I may have to cross this park off from my list of places to go, as not only have I seen few birds there, the boardwalk is getting to the point where it is tricky to walk along. The boardwalk has been technically closed for over a year, but I didn’t think that it was in that bad of shape. It is now, as there have been no repairs to it at all.

Anyway, having reached the far end of the park, I sat down for a break, and shot this leaf floating down Buck Creek.

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

And then, these two, trying to get the reflections.

Reflections 1

Reflections 1

Reflections 2

Reflections 2

On my way again, I found this doe that wanted to play peek-a-boo with me.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I zoomed all the way to 500 mm for this one.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

As long as there was a blade of grass or two between us, the doe seemed fine with my being there. So, I mounted the flash unit to my camera for this one.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Even with the flash unit dialed way down, you can still see it in the deer’s eyes.

Then a rather odd thing occurred, I could hear a small plane flying overhead, and I was quite surprised to see that the doe seemed very interested in the plane.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I found it interesting to watch the deer watch the plane, as they aren’t supposed to pay any attention to things above them, which is why people hunt deer from tree stands.

I checked the ponds on the north end of the park to see if I could find any wood ducks, but no ducks at all, not even a mallard. But, I did shoot a 500 mm landscape.

Yellow

Yellow

Then, found another deer to play peek-a-boo with.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I didn’t try the flash again.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

In the same dark area, I found a downy woodpecker.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

And, crossing over Buck Creek, I saw these bubbles on the bottom of the creek.

Bubbles

Bubbles

I spent the rest of my time there practicing shots of the fall colors which are just getting going around here.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

I met another photographer who was out shooting photos of fungi, so I shot this one to remember our conversation.

Coral fungi

Coral fungi

I shot that using live view with the camera just off the ground. The shutter speed sounded very slow, so I fired up the LED panel light, and tried again.

Coral fungi

Coral fungi

I posted the second one to remind myself that I need to replace the reading glasses that I lost so that I can see what I’m doing. 😉

Speaking of seeing, I’m still learning how to see through the 10-18 mm lens.

Palmer Park

Palmer Park

Palmer Park

Palmer Park

I’ve never had a lens this wide before, so it’s been a real learning experience using it. I was hoping to really practice with it at this pond, which in past years has produced some good images for me. But, this year, mats of floating vegetation are covering the surface of the pond, limiting the reflections on the surface of it.

Palmer Park pond

Palmer Park pond

At least there was a heron at the pond, on the far bank, can you see it at 10 mm? How about at 500 mm and cropped?

Great blue heron at Palmer Park pond

Great blue heron at Palmer Park pond

It was a grand day to be outside, even if the photos of the day turned out to be rather ho-hum, like another downy woodpecker in Virginia creeper leaves.

Downy woodpecker in Virginia creeper leaves

Downy woodpecker in Virginia creeper leaves

Downy woodpecker in Virginia creeper leaves

Downy woodpecker in Virginia creeper leaves

As you can see in the second image, the woodpecker was eating the berries produced by the Virginia creeper.

Like I said, the weather was what most people would consider perfect, a far cry from what I’m expecting this weekend. I have a post to do on another trip to the Muskegon area, lots of images from around home that I could fill two posts with, but rather than stay home and blog, I’m heading up north this weekend.

There are gale warnings posted for northern Lake Michigan for tonight into tomorrow, with on and off rain, possibly mixed with snow, in store for me when I get up north. I’m heading to the Petoskey, Michigan area tomorrow, and I hope to shoot photos along the Lake Michigan shore. Then on Sunday, I plan to photograph the Jordan River valley, which is in my opinion, one of the prettiest places in lower Michigan in the fall.

If I were to delay my trip by a week, there would be few leaves left on the trees as rapidly as fall is progressing this year. Last year, I went to the UP the last week of September, and I was too early as far as fall color, this year, the places I went last year have already hit their peak color for the year.

So, I’m going to travel light and sleep in the back of my Forester, as I don’t want to deal with either my tent or tent/cot in the type of weather that I’m expecting. Besides, sometimes bad weather produces better photos than good weather.

And, speaking of my Forester, right now, I’m off to have the 20,000 mile service done on it, so I’m out of here!

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