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

Going short and going crazy Part II

It seems like forever since I did the first post on this subject, learning how to more effectively use my shorter lenses and/or get better landscape photos. To refresh people’s memory, my eyesight runs towards excellent vision at distances, but with less angle of view than the average person’s vision. That, and having never owned very wide-angle lenses in the past, are my excuses for not getting good images while using my shorter lenses. 😉

Anyway, this post will have a few more fall color photos shot from around home here as I tried to get better using those short lenses, along with birds, flowers, etc.

But, before the I get to the photos, a short review of what I’ve been learning. One of those things has been how much going from a wide-angle focal length to even a short telephoto focal length changes the apparent distances between objects in an image. Towards the end of this exercise of using my shorter lenses, I did something that I should have done long ago, and probably should do every now and then as a reminder.

Remember, I’m used to shooting at 420 mm (300 mm prime plus 1.4 X tele-converter) or 500 mm with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) when shooting birds and wildlife.

So, I put the 15-85 mm lens on my camera one day, set at 15 mm, and picked out a brush pile in the woods that looked to be way off in the distance when looking through the viewfinder. I snapped a photo, which I won’t bore you with, then, zoomed to just 35 mm. Wow, that brush pile sure got closer in a hurry! I shot that photo, then went to 50 mm, and the brush pile dominated the scene. At 85 mm, I couldn’t get the entire brush pile in the viewfinder.

Then, I went the other way around, I picked out an object at 85 mm that looked to be off in the distance, then zoomed out step by step, stopping at more focal lengths on the way down. I saved the images that I shot, and look at the often to remind myself just how much a small change in focal length can make big differences in what a scene looks like in an image, lesson learned, I hope. 😉 It isn’t just how close or far an object in a scene is to the camera, it’s also all the distances in the scene. As an example, trees that look to be two feet apart at 85 mm look to be 10 feet apart or more at 15 mm.

I know that a few of the people reading this will think that I’m a complete dope, especially since I have said in the past that I absolutely love the 15-85 mm lens because of the zoom range of that lens makes it the lens that’s the most fun for me to play with. But, I have also said that I need to play with it more, and that still applies.

That said, only a few of the fall color photos in this post were shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I shot far more with each the 10-18 mm lens, to open up small scenes, or the 70-200 mm lens, to get just the foliage that looked the best in an image.

I’m going to start with a HDR image that’s an epic fail, as I tried to get too much in an image.

Epic fall fail

Epic fall fail

I like the yellow off to the left, but the main part of the scene that I liked were these parts, shot a day or two later.

Less of a failure

Less of a failure

Here’s a scene that I shot fairly well at first.

Not bad

Not bad

But, then I messed up by taking a few steps back and zooming out to get a small, brightly colored tree in the foreground.

Another epic fall fail

Another epic fall fail

Just because a tree has good colors doesn’t mean that it should be included in a photo. In fact, I’m learning that smaller trees do not photograph well no matter how beautifully they are colored.

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

I do kind of like the first one of those, but the rest were rather disappointing, other than the colors.

Parts of a larger tree seem to make better subjects.

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 3

Fall abstract 3

But then, I’m a sucker for backlighting, or any lighting on leaves like these.

Autumn still life

Autumn still life

I’m a bit frustrated right now, for one thing, I’m tired of posting crappy photos, and for another, some of the true landscape photographers whose blogs I follow have been posting images that are true works of art.

It’s no surprise that the scenery in a suburban county park in southern Michigan doesn’t measure up to the Canadian Rockies, but I feel like a fool posting even my best images from around here.

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 3

The best of the lot 3

If you’d like to see some truly spectacular photography of one of the most beautiful areas on the face of the Earth, than I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog!

As for me, I’m better sticking to things that I’m half-way good at…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

…which includes sneaking up on unsuspecting critters….

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…and catching their reactions…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel saying “My nut!”

…and finding beauty on a smaller scale.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

White daisy or aster?

White daisy or aster?

So I have deleted all the “what not to do” photos that I had saved for this post, and I’ll post these instead.

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Turkey

Turkey

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 2

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 3

I wouldn’t normally post this next one, as I have far better photos of hawks in flight, but I wanted to record this, as it is the second of two hawks.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The first had landed in a tree that was really out of range of what I would normally shoot.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

But when the one in the tree began calling, and the second hawk flew over to respond to the calls of the first one, I had to shoot them both. Then, I shot this scene…

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 4

…and the hawk flew over to see what I was up to.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I’ll still be playing with all my lenses to try different things, here’s a mushroom at 200 mm…

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

…and the same one at 35 mm, and a lower angle.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

All the images of the heron have been of Keith, the grasshopper hunting heron, but as you saw above, he’s not fussy about what he eats. He’s also the only heron I have ever come across that regularly lets me get this close to him.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Maybe I should combine fall foliage images with wildlife images?

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Those were a double test of a sort, seeing if I could resist zooming in on a squirrel, and seeing how the same scene looked here in my blog in both landscape and portrait orientation.

I’ve still much to learn about using my short lenses effectively, but that doesn’t mean that I have to prattle on about it, or post the poor images here. And speaking of short lenses, while the Tokina 100 mm macro lens is a short telephoto, I think that I should begin using it on birds now and then.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

So, that about wraps up this post, I’ll have several better posts from Muskegon and Pickerel Lake coming up soon. But, I’ve been busy, I had to do a driving test, drug test, and take a physical for my new job that I start next Monday. I’ve also been visiting the dentist, using up the benefits from the dental insurance I have for now.

Just in case you missed the link I put in this post earlier, here it is again.

I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog! You’ll be glad you did!

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

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28 responses

  1. Debra

    Umm your photos look pretty awesome to me.

    November 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    • Thank you! However, my photos are the pits compared to what a good photographer gets.

      November 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm

  2. The colours in the autumn foliage pictures are amazing. I also loved the squirrels especially the one with a nut in his teeth.

    November 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    • Thank you Susan! The squirrels are such clowns that I have to keep shooting them as they are always good for a chuckle.

      November 5, 2014 at 2:19 pm

  3. Kerry’s photos are exceptional and he also had an incredible location to work with. What I like about yours is that you’re willing to experiment and learn. BTW… I loved the foliage shot with the fox squirrel hiding in it. Your last “epic fall fail” (your words, not mine) might have looked pretty fantastic if you’d filled the frame with just that marvelous, brightly colored tree.

    November 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    • Thank you for the very kind words! I am willing to try about anything, maybe some day it will all start coming together for me.

      November 6, 2014 at 3:00 am

  4. If you are going to compare your location with the Rockies, you are always going to come up short on grandeur. Stop beating yourself up and enjoy what you do take. I enjoy them.

    November 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I wasn’t trying to compare my location to the Rockies, but my skills to those of a good landscape photographer. I am seeing some improvements in my abilities, but there are times when it seems like the progress should be easier.

      November 6, 2014 at 3:03 am

  5. I agree with Gunta and Mr T. You are too much of a perfectionist – your shots are wonderful! I loved all the squirrel pictures and your fall colours are beautiful.

    November 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I know that there is no such thing as a perfect photo, but I seem to be so far away from coming close at times.

      November 6, 2014 at 3:04 am

      • I have read articles and books about artists who said the same thing all their lives but their audiences always disagreed with them!

        November 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

      • Thanks Clare! I hardly consider myself an artist yet, but I am moving slowly in that direction.

        November 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

  6. I looked at the colors more than composition in the foliage photos, and they’re excellent. Though I dream about how great it would be to be paid to be in the woods I wouldn’t want to be a professional nature photographer because I think there would be too much pressure and it would take all the fun out of it for me. I don’t want to lose sight of my real goal, which is simply to show people how great nature is and show them what they’re missing.
    I think the white flower is an aster. I’ve never seen a daisy with the flowers coming off the stem in that way.
    I like the shots of the heron with a vole! I’ve heard they hunt fields but I’ve never seen one do it.
    The mushroom looks like it might be a shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) which is one that I’ve never seen.
    I think my favorites are the squirrel shots, especially the one hanging out in that beautiful maple tree.

    November 5, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    • Thank you Allen! Your right, I have learned to dial my camera settings in to get pretty good color no matter what the light is like, so I have made progress. The leaves are about gone now, which is too bad, I’d love to be able to re-shoot a few of these and get the composition better. I’m not sure that I’d want to be a professional either, but I’d rather that my photos didn’t look like those of a beginner.

      Thanks for the IDs and for the nice words, I was feeling a bit down as I worked on this post.

      November 6, 2014 at 3:15 am

  7. Thanks for the shout out, Jerry–much appreciated.

    Subject matter is, of course, a major component of the appeal of a photograph and, let’s face it, a municipal park in Muskegon doesn’t quite measure up to the Canadian Rockies–no offense to Muskegon’s park system. (Truth is, I went out in central Indiana to photograph a couple of times before the leaves disappeared completely and, just a few weeks removed from the Rockies, it was quite a comedown, let me tell you.)

    That all said…let me suggest the following protocol as you continue to hone your landscape skills: continue to critique your own images, but work down to the point where you can tangibly identify WHY they work or fail…in YOUR eyes. Why, for instance, aren’t the “small tree” photos working for you? Really push yourself to ID the why factor. I think that’s a major, major key to improving because it will help you identify proclivities that you can then search out–and implement–in the field.

    November 5, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    • Thank you very much, the shout out was well deserved, believe me. This post was the culmination of four weeks of trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, topped off with having accidentally deleted the half-dozen of what I thought were my best images I meant for that post. I did learn a great deal, like if I walk up to a small tree and shoot a snapshot of it, I shouldn’t be surprised if I end up with a snapshot of a small tree. 😉

      Seriously, I learned to shoot in all lighting conditions, I actually prefer clouds and even light rain if I can keep it off the lens now. I learned how much my wide-angle lenses change what I see in real life to what the images produced by those lenses look like. But, I won’t bore you with what you already know, but I do have to say thanks for all the help that you’ve been to me, both in comments and in your posts!

      November 6, 2014 at 1:43 pm

  8. I love how you experiment with lenses and share with the rest of us. It helps us all to learn and grow as photographers! I find fall colors very challenging. The beauty of it is hard to translate to a flat non-three dimensional image. I do think the images with the high contrast backgrounds (the deep blue sky and the black limbs of the tree) make the rest of the photo really pop. Keep up all the great work! And I agree with the other reader…that mushroom is a shaggy mane.

    November 5, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    • Thank you very much! I’ll keep plugging away at what I’ve been trying, and hopefully it will help a few people out.

      November 6, 2014 at 3:06 am

  9. Nenkin Seikatsu

    I like “dud photo #1”

    November 6, 2014 at 7:01 am

    • Thank you very much! I hope to do better someday.

      November 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

  10. Beautiful. I love the various animals and the colors of autumn are spectacular!

    November 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      November 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

  11. Big like for this post !
    Cheers,
    Michel 🙂

    November 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    • Thank you Michel!

      November 6, 2014 at 1:27 pm

  12. First off, I wish I could get the dud photos you do. 🙂

    But on a more serious note – I know you are passionate about your craft and want to perfect all areas of it, but the fact of the matter is that we all have our areas where our gifts and talents really shine. For example, I have written 6 contemporary romance novels. Then I got the brilliant idea that I wanted to write historical fiction. I’m a writer, right? Shouldn’t I be able to write another genre? Well, I found it was an effort in frustration. As much as I LOVE history – learning about it – writing it fictionally turned out to be a whole different ball game. Like I was meant to play baseball but was trying to play football, you know? I spent a lot of time berating myself thinking I should be able to master something that maybe I’m really not gifted to do. Anyway, my point here is that you are fantabulous wildlife/bird photographer. And personally I think your landscape/flower shots are awesome, too. But perhaps you will never master landscape photography to the degree you desire because your talent lies in a different area. Just a thought to help you not get tooooooo frustrated with it, and maybe remember your own advice given to me – ENJOY IT. 🙂 That’s my 2-cents which is probably worth zero, and it’s meant to be encouraging, so I hope that’s how it comes across. I think you are brilliant and so gifted and talented and when I grow up I want to be half the photographer you are.

    BTW, loved the fall foliage squirrel shots. 🙂

    November 9, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    • Thank you again! I should have put it in the post, but didn’t. A lot of my frustration happened because I accidentally deleted the 6 images that I thought were my best that I was going to use to show what I had learned. I used to do well with landscapes in the days of film, but it’s been so long that I have forgotten what I used to know. One of these days it will come back to me, especially if I go someplace with real landscapes to shoot.

      November 9, 2014 at 10:37 pm

      • Considering your incredible aptitude for understanding the most technical aspects of photography, and your determination to master each thing, I’m sure you will achieve the results you are looking for! Maybe you just need to plan a trip east or west. 🙂

        November 10, 2014 at 8:21 am

      • Thanks! I have learned the technical aspects, but now it’s time for me to learn how to apply them. 😉 And, with the new job that I started today, I could see having the money for a trip out west in a year or two. I’d never have been able to afford one working at my last employer.

        November 10, 2014 at 6:43 pm