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.
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.
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.
A second swan was preening a short distance from the first.
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.
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.
The swan shot me a look as if to say that it wasn’t its fault that I missed. 😉
But then, this redhead duck nearby decided to show the swan how to pose for a photographer.
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.
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.
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.
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….
…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…
…the eagle or one of its friends did another flyby…
…then, my catch of the day!
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.
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.
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.
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!