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

Pickerel Lake, November 1st

I’m starting this post on the morning after my first real day at my new job, with a trainer to teach me the paperwork that this company does. We ran mostly local, we did get as far as Lansing, Michigan, but that’s not that important. What is important is the feeling that I get about this company, on one hand, every one is very laid back, but with a very purposeful attitude. The company culture seems to be “We have a job to do and we’re going to do it”. What I like best so far is that there never seems to be any sense of panic when things don’t go as planned.

At many of the places that I’ve worked, especially the last company, the same problems pop up time and time again, and each time, management goes into panic mode, running around like chickens with their heads’ cut off, no matter how many times they’ve had to deal with the same problem. That accomplishes nothing, most of the time, it makes things worse.

At Holland Special Delivery, where I work now, so far when a problem comes up, every one stays calm, knows that the same problem has come up before, and knows how to deal with it.

But enough of that right now, I should really keep those thoughts in separate posts, and this one is about a day spent at the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve.

As it turns out, it was the last nice weekend as far as the weather, since then, it has gotten wet and cold here. Most of the brightly colored leaves had already fallen from the trees, but I decided to shoot a few landscape photos anyway, just for practice, and to better learn my equipment. If you remember one of my recent posts on a trip to the same place, I shot a few photos of the far side of the lake using my Sigma 150-500 mm lens set at 150 mm.

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 4

I love the color and sharpness of that one, but even at 150 mm, the Beast was too long of a lens for the best image that I could have gotten. So, on this day, I tried the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, first with the 1.4 X tele-converter, for an effective focal length of 140 mm….

Pickerel Lake long again

Pickerel Lake long again

…then, the same lens without the tele-converter, 100 mm.

Pickerel Lake 100 mm

Pickerel Lake 100 mm

Looking at and comparing those images, so many things come to mind. How quickly the trees shed their leaves for one thing. In the post that the first image was taken from, I estimated at that time that 125 mm would be the best focal length to get the best possible composition, balancing how much of the sky, the trees, and the lake I would get in the frame. To my surprise, I still think that 125 mm would be about the best focal length for that scene. I was also surprised at how much difference dropping just 10 mm of focal length, from 150 mm to 140 mm made. What doesn’t surprise me at all is how good of an image the Tokina 100 mm macro lens produces. Here’s an image from my last post that I also shot with the Tokina lens.

Fall Mallards

Fall Mallards

It may be outdated, with the old style screw drive auto-focus system, and lacking any type of stabilization, but optically, it is the best lens I own, beating even the Canon 300 mm prime L series lens, which is from Canon’s “Professional” line of lenses.

While I’m at it, I should also throw in a few words of praise for the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter. As you can see in the two photos of the trees on the other side of the lake, there isn’t much drop-off in image quality when I use the tele-converter behind the Tokina lens, or the 300 mm prime lens for that matter.

Enough of that gibberish, at least for a while. My next shot was of a junco. They’ve been back for a few weeks, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of one until this day.

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

And, there was a mixed flock of waterfowl resting in the middle of the lake, out of range of even the Sigma lens, otherwise known as the Beast.

Mixed waterfowl

Mixed waterfowl

One of the attractions at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve is a larch swap, although getting a good view of it is difficult. Here’s an image shot with the Beast zoomed in to 500 mm.

Autumn larch

Autumn larch

And, here’s a “close-up” of a larch tree, shot with the Canon 10-18 mm lens.

Autumn larch 2

Autumn larch 2

In between those two, I found a heron hunting along a creek that feeds the larch swamp.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Since I’m still learning to use my shorter lenses, and that includes the Tokina macro lens, and there weren’t many birds around, I did some playing with various subjects, starting with a bright red berry, shot with the Tokina.

Bright red

Bright red

Then, a patch of what I think are two species of lichens, which I shot with the 10-18 mm lens, trying to get everything in focus.

Unidentified lichens

Unidentified lichens

I was distracted from getting a better shot of those lichens, by these, which were shot with the Tokina.

Unidentified lichens 2

Unidentified lichens 2

Looking up, I saw this scene, which I shot with the Beast.

Berries and leaves

Berries and leaves

A few clouds in the sky to add some interest would have been nice for this next one, but I wanted to capture the day.

Pickerel Lake short

Pickerel Lake short

That was shot with the 10-18 mm lens, I looked for a more interesting foreground, but that was the best that I could find.

Along the trail, I spotted these tiny little mushrooms, but they were in a bad spot for a photo.

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Since they were growing down in a “valley” in the log, I couldn’t get enough of what I wanted to get in focus in focus, due to the extremely short depth of field as close as I had to be to the mushrooms to get them to show up in any photo.

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Maybe if I had taken my tripod along and used it, I could have stopped the aperture of the Tokina lens down enough for a better photo, but I’m doubtful of that, as uneven as the scene was.

A little later, I got into the middle of a flock of chickadees, and was following one, trying to get a photo of it. I caught it with the Beast at 150 mm just as the chickadee was landing on a branch over my head.

Black-capped chickadee landing

Black-capped chickadee landing

I quickly snapped another photo…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…then began to zoom in…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

You know that you’re close to a chickadee when it fills the frame at 150 mm and you have so little depth of field at slightly longer than 150 mm that the chest of the chickadee is in focus, but its head is starting to get fuzzy because of a short depth of field at f/10 at that focal length. The chickadee took off after that, or there would have been a head shot of it. πŸ˜‰

Along with the chickadees was one of the largest flocks of tufted titmouse that I have ever seen. Not only was the area filled with them, but they were foraging for food down on the ground, which is slightly unusual for them.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Usually, they stick to the treetops, but on this day, I had to try to find one above the leaf litter on the ground, something that wasn’t easy.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

If they weren’t half buried in the leaves, then, they wouldn’t sit still for me.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

But, I finally caught one in good light, and somewhat out in the open.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

I couldn’t tell what the titmouse had found to eat, I assume it was an insect that had formed a cocoon of some type for the winter.

Now then, a short break from my hike that day. I’ve done a second day with a trainer at my new job, and a day solo. The reason for riding with a trainer wasn’t for driving purposes, but to familiarize me with the paperwork, of which there is an incredible amount.

My first day solo, we got hammered by a snowstorm, and the results of the snowstorm have strengthened the feeling that I have about my new employer. I slugged my way through the lake enhanced snow, first going north up the Lake Michigan shore line towards Muskegon, then back south to South Bend, Indiana, and back. That really isn’t that important, other than what great weather to have on my first day solo, but because of that, they wanted me to call dispatch at each stop.

You can imagine that snow and trucking don’t go together well, every one runs late, there are more equipment problems, and many highways were closed completely at times. So, each time that I called in, I could hear other conversations in the background, as dispatchers other than the one I was speaking to dealt with problems. It was the same when I closed out for the night, I had to wait while the lead dispatcher dealt with two drivers stuck in traffic because I 94 was shutdown. Another driver had a flat tire on the road, two drivers had to get motels because they had run out of hours and couldn’t legally drive any longer, and so on. No one blew a cork, no one threw a temper tantrum, you could tell that it had been a long day for the dispatchers, but it was so different from any other company that I have driven for before. It was, there’s a problem, we’ll handle it, then move on to the next one attitude from every one.

Good news for today, I’m headed east to Detroit and back today, so I’ll be out of the snow most of the time on my run.

Back to my hike, I shot several photos of a mixed flock of waterfowl, this first one has American wigeons, ring-necked ducks, and possibly other species.

American wigeons and ring-necked ducks

American wigeons and ring-necked ducks

The wigeons have the light heads, the ring-necked ducks have darker heads. I wish that I had been able to get closer, but that’s the best that I could do, the same with this one.

Redhead and ring-necked ducks

Redhead and ring-necked ducks

I’m finding that Pickerel Lake is a good place to see ducks, but not so good for photographing them, as they stay too far from shore for me to get close to them.

I didn’t have that problem with these freeze-dried mushrooms.

Freeze dried mushrooms

Freeze dried mushrooms

Yes, it was below freezing that day, although the bright sunshine and light wind made it feel warmer than it really was. It was the first really cold day of the fall season, and I’m not sure, but I think that this is a slime mold that got caught in the cold.

Slime mold????

Slime mold????

I moved in closer for this next image.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

And, nearby, was this puff-ball.

Puff ball and lichens on a fallen tree

Puff ball and lichens on a fallen tree

These next two photos didn’t come out quite as well as I had hoped, but they’re still very cool.

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Maybe someday I’ll learn what all the things that I photograph are, but that may be a while, if it happens at all. :0

But, speaking of moss, here’s a few photos of other mosses.

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

Those were all shot with the Tokina macro lens, of course, and only the last image was cropped at all, and then, just a little. One nice thing about the leaves being off from the trees, there was sunshine on the mosses, so I had some good light to work with. The mosses also grew where I could get into a steady position so I could stop the lens down for more depth of field.

Not all the leaves had fallen yet.

Love the color

Love the color

It isn’t a good photo, but I worked hard to get this next one.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

The problem with the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve is that it is too popular, there are so many people there that getting close to wildlife can be difficult. About the time that I find a critter, herds of people come past, frightening off most of the wildlife away. Not so with this chipmunk sunning itself.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I worked my way around it for these, so that there wouldn’t be any shadows.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

But, the chipmunk didn’t cooperate as well as I had hoped, as you can see. It moved enough so that it was partially hidden. Oh well, at least I could see that it kept its ears clean. πŸ˜‰

One last image from the day, mother nature is decorating for the Christmas season early this year.

Christmas colors

Christmas colors

That’s all the photos from this hike.

I haven’t been for a walk at all this week, I knew that was going to happen. I’ve been averaging 11 hours a day at work, and as short as the daylight hours are, I haven’t been able to get a walk in. That may change, I hope that it does, but for right now, I need the money.

I’ve finished my first week on the new job, the hours are long, but so far, things are going better than I had hoped. I won’t bore you with any more of the details, but I’ll say that I think that I made a wise choice in picking Holland Special Delivery as my new employer. One thing that they stressed when I talked to recruiting was that they worked with their drivers, but all trucking companies say that, most of them lie. Not so with HSD, they really do work with their drivers. It’s so nice to go into work when the attitude of every one is pleasant and helpful, it’s no wonder that they have so many people still with the company after 15 or twenty years. I can see myself retiring from them, especially since I’ll be making around 50% more than I did at my last employer. πŸ˜‰

I didn’t get a chance to walk at all this week, but it’s Saturday morning, and I’m headed out the door shortly. I also have tomorrow off from work, but I think that I’ll probably stay home, as there is another snowstorm in the forecast for tomorrow.

I have quite a few photos left, from two trips to Muskegon, and a few from around home left to post. When I get the time, I’ll start posting to the My Photo Life List project as well.

I have the feeling that we’re in for a long, cold, snowy winter here in West Michigan, some parts of the upper peninsula have already seen over three feet of snow fall. Closer to home, there are places just to the west of me that have gotten a foot of snow this week, although outside my door, it has been just a few inches.

However, it isn’t either the snow or work that will affect my photography the most, it’s the constant overcast skies from the lake effect clouds that has that honor. Any sunshine is rare this time of year, so it’s just as well that I work as much as I can over the winter months, so I can afford a new Canon 7D mark II next spring!

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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29 responses

  1. Lots of interesting pictures, I loved the chipmunks and the autumn colours.

    November 15, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    • Thank you Susan! Unfortunately, both the autumn colors and chipmunks are gone for the winter, but I’ll have a few cute squirrels coming up.

      November 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm

  2. Gorgeous fall colors, you landscape photos are so inviting.

    November 15, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    • Thank you Charlie!

      November 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm

  3. The clean-eared chipmunk is lovely! I am so pleased you are happy so far with your new employer. Your close-ups of the mosses are so good too. Hope you are having a nice relaxing week-end.

    November 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    • Thank you Clare! My new employer is a good one, so while I won’t have as much time to take photos for a few months, in the long run, it will be much better. My weekend is too relaxing, we’re getting a snowstorm, so my time outside today was limited.

      November 15, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      • It’s a pity when you have free time and you can’t get out – you start to suffer from ‘cabin fever’. We had a rain-free but misty day today but I had no chance to do any gardening. Tomorrow is meant to be wet again so still no much-needed garden work!

        November 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      • I was able to get out on Saturday, and walked five or six miles, but it’s too cold for me to just sit somewhere and enjoy the outdoors. It’s hard to relate to your plans for gardening when I look out my window and see snow falling. πŸ˜‰

        November 16, 2014 at 3:15 am

  4. I love “bright red”.

    November 15, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      November 15, 2014 at 5:39 pm

  5. I am so glad your new job appears to be the improvement that you were hoping for. Life is so much better when you are happy at work. I love the pictures of the chipmunk. You are so clever to see and capture him through that undergrowth.

    November 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Brandy! My new employers do seem great so far, and making more money to go with that is good also.

      Seeing critters is easy for me, I’ve spent so much time out in the woods that it is second nature for me.

      November 16, 2014 at 3:20 am

  6. Beautiful photos, as always, and your macros are amazing. I about wrenched my neck today trying to photograph Tufted Titmice (Titmouses? :D), so I’m very jealous of the shots you managed to get. As a side note, it sounds like your new job is with a very level-headed, responsible company. Nice change from working with the Stooges, eh? πŸ˜‰

    November 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    • Thanks Jan! Titmice are one of those species of birds that I see almost everyday, but getting photos is another story. And yes, the change in employers has been like night to day!

      November 16, 2014 at 3:22 am

  7. I hope they’re paying time and a half for training overtime, Jerry. I can see some companies saying “no overtime while training.” In any case I’m glad you found such a great job. It sounds a lot like the company I worked for-just plain nice people.
    That red berry is a barberry berry. Whether or not it’s one of the invasive ones, I’m not sure.
    The lichens after it are common powder horns (Cladonia coniocraea,) which aren’t really all that common.
    The fungi that look like yellow dots are lemon drops (Bisporella citrine,) and they are fairly common at this time of year.
    I think the slime mold is actually a crust fungus, but I’m not sure which one.
    The moss is one of the haircap mosses, probably common haircap (Polytrichum commune,) but I don’t think those spore capsules don’t go with that moss.
    I was just taking some shots of chipmunks and larch trees against a blue sky, so there’s more proof that great minds think alike! Your shots of the chipmunk are better than mine though.

    November 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    • Thanks you for the identifications Allen! The company that I’ve gone to work for is the real deal. Looking at their pay scale on paper, they aren’t the highest, but they don’t use every trick in the book to keep divers from getting the pay that they promise. As you say, they are plain nice people.

      I thought that the berry was a barberry, but that was a guess from having seen your blog. πŸ˜‰

      Come to think of it, I have seen what you think is a crust fungus before, at different times of the year. I had gone looking for the slime molds from a previous post for better photos, but with the cold, I didn’t find them.

      You’re right, the spore capsules don’t go with the moss in the photos. The haircap mosses were growing with another moss, but I didn’t shoot photos of the other species, other than the spore capsules.

      And as far as the chipmunk, I cheat, the Beast at 500 mm is an unfair advantage when shooting small birds and critters. πŸ˜‰

      November 16, 2014 at 3:47 am

  8. Another fine set of shots. I liked the titmouse best. I am glad that your new job looks promising but a bit worried about all this snow. I hope that you keep safe while driving through it.

    November 15, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    • Thanks Tom! Dealing with the snow, and crazy drivers, is part of the job. I was fortunate in that the truck driving school I went to sent us to a state government run facility that included a skid pad. There, they put us through a number of driving situations on an extremely slippery surface so that we learned how to handle a big rig under the worst of conditions. It was fun, sliding a truck around in a way where no one could be injured. But in the real world on the roads, it has made me a much safer driver.

      November 16, 2014 at 3:31 am

  9. It’s always such wonderful nature therapy looking at your blog. The colours are just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your part of the world with me as I sit here on a dry 43 C (109F) day melting! “What I like best so far is that there never seems to be any sense of panic when things don’t go as planned.” Sounds like a relaxing place to work. Best wishes with your new job. πŸ™‚

    November 15, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    • Thank you Jane! There’s no place on Earth quite like the Great Lakes area, and in Michigan, we’re smack dab in the middle of the Great Lakes. I’d rather have our cold and snow than your heat, please remind me of that come February when the snow piles are over my head. πŸ˜‰

      November 16, 2014 at 3:25 am

  10. Thank you again for the brillant photos !! Hope, the early snow will not affect your driver’s work. Here, only one inch of snow usually causes a complete traffic brake-down. And all the kids are happy, ’cause the schoolbus by then is canceled of course πŸ˜€

    November 16, 2014 at 6:24 am

    • Thank you Michel! An inch of snow around here is nothing, we measure it in feet. πŸ™‚ It takes several inches of snow or solid ice before schools close.

      November 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

  11. Another fun bunch of photos, but I was happiest to see the encouraging words about your new job. Whew! What a relief.

    One of my favorite components of reading your blog is the comments from your regular readers – you’ve amassed quite a collection of groupies. Always fun to read their feedback.

    November 16, 2014 at 8:54 am

    • Thanks Judy! The new job will be a relief eventually, right now, I’m still a bit nervous about getting the tons of paperwork correct, and re-learning how to find shippers and receivers. For the past five years, I’ve had a dedicated run to the exact same places night after night, now, I have to learn to size up loading docks and such again also. But, working at a well run company is great!

      I wouldn’t call the people who comment to my posts groupies, most of them are either better photographers than I, or much more knowledgeable about the subjects that I photograph.

      November 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

      • Groupies or no – such an interesting group, with lots of knowledge. The whole blog environment is great for that, isn’t it?

        November 16, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      • Well, for the most part the blogosphere is very good, but there are always a few jerks in any environment. But I’m lucky, very few jerks here, other than myself. πŸ˜‰

        November 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

  12. While journeying through the blog, I imagined as though I was in the midst of the natural setting you have depicted with your artistry. Real gems. Refreshing.

    November 26, 2014 at 12:28 am

    • Thank you very much!

      November 26, 2014 at 3:26 am

      • My pleasure.

        :))

        November 26, 2014 at 8:20 am