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

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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,ย 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 fromย Tiffย 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!

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23 responses

  1. Wow, gorgeous fall colors. I think MI is my favorite state in the fall ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

    • Thanks Ingrid!

      October 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm

  2. Such beautiful, beautiful pictures. Thank you.

    October 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    • Thank you Cynthia!

      October 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  3. Wonderful autumn colours and I loved all those water birds.

    October 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      October 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  4. Jaw-dropping color in the foliage. Don’t know that I agree for HDR as a must for landscapes. I never use it… perhaps I’m doing something wrong? ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    • Thanks you very much Gunta! I may have overstated HDR software, but you are editing your landscapes to get the same end results. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      October 9, 2014 at 1:51 pm

  5. I too, loved the fall colours and the shots of the Trumpeter Swan stretching its wings were awesome.

    October 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I should have shot a video, not only are the swans an awesome sight, I love the sounds that they make.

      October 10, 2014 at 2:09 am

  6. Fall landscapes are tricky, even with lightroom. I’ve shot what I thought at the time would be great photos that turned out so blah that even lightroom couldn’t salvage them. As you point out, the type of light and the direction it comes from can make a huge difference. I’ve had pretty good luck shooting sunlit shots this year, for reasons I don’t fully understand yet.
    In any event you got some great color in these shots and that’s all that matters.
    I’m amazed by how big those swans are. I never realized that until I saw the ducks with them!

    October 9, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    • Thank you Allen! I did do some things right, and I got very good color saturation without “juicing” the images as so many other people are doing right now. I’ve watched a couple of tutorials on Lightroom, and think that it would add the finishing touches to my images, but if I ever crank up the color saturation to make up for having shot poor photos to start with, I hope that some one shoots me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Trumpeter swans are the largest of North American waterfowl, I think that their wingspan is even longer than mute swan’s.

      October 10, 2014 at 2:15 am

  7. Great autumn colour but even greater swan shots.

    October 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    • Thank you Tom!

      October 10, 2014 at 2:16 am

  8. Wood ducks AND stretching trumpeter swans?? All in one day? Are you kidding me? You must have been jumping for joy. I’m smiling on your behalf.

    October 9, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    • Thanks Judy! I was pleased to get both the swans and a wood duck, but I was too busy trying not to blow the chance to do any jumping for joy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      October 10, 2014 at 2:18 am

  9. Wonderful, wonderful swan photos – especially that one with its wings stretched out! I actually liked the photo bombing mallard! ๐Ÿ˜€ How cool to see the redhead duck, and now I do know for certain that the duck I shot on that pond near Mt. Washington NH was a juvenile wood duck, thanks to your photos! I am already chomping at the bit for the spring migration and hoping to see more waterfowl than I did last year, especially now that I have more zoom with my new camera! ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    • Thanks Amy! The swans were something special as was the wood duck, of course. I don’t know if you’re familiar with eBird, but I use it some times to let me know when and where I have the best chances of seeing certain birds.

      October 10, 2014 at 2:27 am

      • I have read about ebird on your posts before, definitely need to get keyed into that site!

        October 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm

  10. Lovely swans!!! It’s so cute to see the ducks nearby, too. Do they ever get into squabbles? I would imagine they have enough space to share but who knows? BTW, you were saying that the low-light was tricky but did you notice how nicely the bright colored flowers “pop” in cloudy conditions? The flatter tones don’t do well but those pinks and purples–just gorgeous!

    October 11, 2014 at 8:55 am

    • Thanks Lori! I’ve seen mallards, Canada geese, and mute swans in squabbles, but never any of the other species of waterfowl, although it may happen during breeding season.

      Colors and light are so tricky that I try to shoot everything under a variety of lighting conditions to see what works best, and the background makes a huge difference also.

      October 11, 2014 at 9:43 am

  11. My favorite time of year, autumn. The colors of the trees are amazing!

    October 18, 2014 at 12:44 am

    • Thank you! It has been a good year for fall colors here, I hope that it is in Ohio as well.

      October 18, 2014 at 2:19 am