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

Muskegon Nov. 9th, 2014, shooting in the rain

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on November 9th, 2014, and it will be a relatively short post compared to some of the others that I have done recently. It was cold, windy, and with frequent rain showers that day, hardly good weather for photography.

However, bad weather for photography often presents the most opportunities to shoot photos, a bit of a quandary for some one like me.

Since I began my blog, I have often shot the most interesting photos in really crappy weather, and I’ve often written that bad weather is the best time to observe wildlife in action. Critters have no choice but to continue to live as they always do during spells of bad weather, and with fewer people outside, I can get closer to the action than on nice sunny days when there are more people around.

So, to begin with, when I arrived at the grassy cells of the Muskegon wastewater facility, I stopped at the far edge along a drainage ditch to scope the area out to see if anything was around so that I wouldn’t spook it. As I was looking the area over, a great blue heron came gliding towards me, and landed close enough for me to shoot this photo, which hasn’t been cropped at all.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Apparently, the heron didn’t like the sound of my camera, for it quickly wound up for take off….

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…but it didn’t go far.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

You can see the raindrops hitting the water in the creek, to give you some idea of the conditions that I was shooting under. And, given those conditions, I’m happy with the resulting photos, which were shot with my Canon 60 D and the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens).

How bad was the weather? This video that I shot later in the day will give you a better idea of what the weather was like.

Not a nice day at all, or a good day for photography! And, my talk about the weather isn’t just an excuse for the poor quality of most of the images that will be in this post, it also brings up why I’m drooling over one of the new Canon 7D Mark II cameras.

The 7D is a highly specialized tool, designed for sports and action photography in low light situations. It has the best weather sealing of any camera on the market today, and it has several other features that would have been useful on a day like this one. The super fast auto-focusing system, that works much better than my camera in low light situations would have been nice, as would its capabilities at high ISO settings.

But, the 7D is too much camera for most people, there’s no reason to spend what a 7D costs unless you’re as crazy as I am to be out on a blustery, rainy day, trying to shoot flying birds, such as an eagle coming at me carrying a dead mallard in its talons, and landing on a power pole.

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

The eagle looked at me…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…then at a flock of gulls approaching…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…and decided that it could find a better place to finish lunch than being mobbed by gulls hoping to steal the mallard from the eagle, or with a photographer shooting pictures of it…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…but it paused and looked at me as if to ask “Hey Mr. Photographer, are you getting this?”…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…and with that, the eagle was gone.

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

I’m under no illusions that a 7D would have produced great photos of the eagle, but there would have been a significant improvement in the image quality if I had been using it, rather than my 60D, which doesn’t handle high ISO settings as well as the 7D does.

I could be like most people, and stay home in bad weather, but I see the most interesting things when it’s nasty outside.

Later on, I saw a peregrine falcon go zooming past me, resulting in this terrible photo.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

I watched as the falcon made repeated dives through a flock of gulls off in the distance, but none of the dives resulted in a kill. Then, I saw the falcon and a gull coming at me at a high rate of speed, too fast for me to get a photo. It was as they passed me that I saw that the falcon must have ticked off a gull, for the gull was chasing the falcon, rather than the other way around.

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

With a stiff tailwind, the gull did a respectable job of staying close to the falcon for quite a way, but the falcon’s speed eventually allowed it to pull away from the gull.

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

I see something as interesting as that, and of course it had to be on a rotten day to capture it. 😉 However, that seems to be about normal for me, which is why a Canon 7D would be a wise choice as my camera.

That doesn’t hold true for most other photographers though, like I said earlier, the 7D is a specialized tool for sports and wildlife photographers. Some one shooting landscapes or portraits would be much better off with a different camera than the one that is best for the subjects that I shoot.

Nikon and Sony are way ahead of Canon as far as sensors, even the sensor in the brand new 7D Mark II comes up short against the cameras produced by the other two brands. That’s what makes choosing the right camera for yourself so tricky, it’s about more than the absolute image quality that can be recorded by the sensor. You have to be able to get the shot before the sensor records it, and that’s where Canon seems to have made most of the improvements in the 7D Mark II, with one of the best auto-focusing systems on the market today.

I went with Canon for more than just the camera bodies. In researching lenses, it was Canon’s lens selection that made me switch from Nikon to Canon, as they seemed to have the best selection of lenses that fit my needs. A camera body is worthless without a lens, and vice versa.

But, enough of that other than to say that just because I’m drooling over a 7D Mark II doesn’t mean that it is the best camera for you, it probably isn’t.

Back to the photos that I wished I had a 7D for, a male ring-necked duck in the rain.

Male ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck

The rain let up now and then, and during one of those times, I shot this series of a rough legged hawk.

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk

Rough legged hawk

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

I included all of those because they show the way that the rough legged hawks hunt, which is completely different from the red-tailed hawks. The rough legged hawks will hover over a spot, touch down, look around, then repeat that over and over.

The red-tailed hawks either soar overhead until they spot prey, or perch somewhere to watch for prey, like this red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

There were plenty of waterfowl around, but in the poor light that day, I didn’t shoot very many photos, however, since green-winged teal are a new species for me, here’s a few of them that I saved.

Green-winged teal

Green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

During one of the brighter moments, I saw a flock of tundra swans flying over.

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

It’s good to see so many of them, when they were close to extinction not that long ago.

Finally, three photos of a horned grebe, the first, just after it surfaced.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Then, it spotted me.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Then, dove out of sight.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Okay, I lied, one more image to show how bad the weather was, a male bufflehead duck battling the waves.

Male bufflehead duck

Male bufflehead duck

You know it’s a windy day when the waves on the small man-made lakes are over a foot in height!

I shot one other video that day, it’s horrible to say the best about it. I think that I’ll post it anyway, for several reasons. It will give you an even better idea how bad the weather was. You can tell that the wind was buffeting me, and that I was not able to stand still in the wind. As it starts, it shows a large number of gulls soaring in the wind, but then, a flock of northern shovelers fly between myself and the gulls. At about the eight second point of the video, you can see that the ducks and gulls seem to take evasive action, and a bird swoop through the flock of ducks from a completely different direction than what the gulls and ducks are moving. It comes in the upper right hand corner of the frame, then exits out of the frame very quickly.

It may have been the falcon again, but I’m not sure, but something caused the flock of ducks to split apart as they took evasive action.

And, that leads me to the last thing that I have to say in this post. Once I purchase a 7D next spring, I’ll have three camera bodies, the 7D and two 60D bodies. I could sell one of the 60D bodies, but I doubt that I will. The 7D will be my wildlife body, one 60D I’ll use for landscapes and macros so that I don’t have to change settings back and forth all the time. Also, the 60D has the vari-angle display, that I love for landscapes and macros, the 7D doesn’t have that feature.

I think that I’ll keep the second 60D body set-up for videos, to shoot more of them in the future. As you can see, I need lots of practice at shooting videos. 😉 It would help if things didn’t happen to distract me from my intended subjects as in the last video. I go to shoot gulls, a flock of ducks fly past, causing me to focus on them, rather than the gulls. Then, something causes the flock of ducks to split up and change directions, as all the time, I’m fighting the wind and trying to capture the scene and keep the fast moving ducks in the frame.

That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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16 responses

  1. I enjoyed the videos and loved the shots of the blue heron, what a majestic bird.

    November 23, 2014 at 10:23 am

    • Thank you Susan!

      November 23, 2014 at 7:03 pm

  2. I do enjoy the videos as they give such a good idea of the conditions in which you look for wildlife. Why is the Horned Grebe called a horned grebe? I liked the shots of it and also the Green-winged Teal.

    November 23, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    • Thank you Clare! The horned grebe in my recent posts are in their fall plumage. During breeding season they look like this.

      November 23, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      • Thank-you! All is made clear!

        November 24, 2014 at 10:22 am

  3. That’s some pretty rough weather you were out in. Then again I’ll take crazy weather over dull brightly-lit sunshine any day. 🙂

    November 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    • Thank you! After over three weeks of the weather in that post, I’d take one of those dull brightly-lit sunny days just so I can remember what they are like. 😉

      November 23, 2014 at 7:07 pm

  4. Thanks for going out in such crappy weather – the heron shots were terrific. You make me feel guilty for being such a slug when the weather is less than perfect (well, you don’t actually make me feel bad enough to do something about it, though!) 😉

    November 23, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    • Thank you Judy! I’ve had some of my best days outdoors in crappy weather, whether I was fishing, hunting, or shooting photos. I’m crazy, but I prefer being out in bad weather.

      November 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm

  5. I’m surprised that a heron can fish in water that’s being disturbed by raindrops since they have to see through it.
    I’m also surprised that the hawk doesn’t get tangled up in that bird netting.
    I’m not surprised that you were out in that weather. That’s what you have to do if you want to get ‘the shot.” I hope there are drier days in your future!

    November 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

  6. Thank you Allen! Remember, herons will eat frogs, insects, snakes, or anything else that they can find that doesn’t eat them first. I’m not sure that there are fish in the drainage ditches anyway. Besides, what else does a heron have to do on a rainy day? 😉

    At the rate the weather has been around here, it will be next June before we finally dry out again, if we’re lucky. We set the record for most snow ever in November, 29 inches, with over a week left in the month. It started raining on top of the snow on Saturday, it’s still raining hard Sunday night,and the forecast is for more rain tomorrow before it turns back to snow for the rest of the week.

    November 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm

  7. I wait happily for a self portrait of you with your legs graining under the weight of your three camera bodies and your massive pile of lenses. Meanwhile you are not doing too shabbily with the kit that you are using now.

    November 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    • Thank you Tom! I guess that I’d have to get out my pocketcam to shoot the self portrait, otherwise part of my gear wouldn’t be hanging off me. 😉

      November 25, 2014 at 6:13 am

      • That did occur to me too after I had published the comment. Perhaps a handy mirror would help.

        November 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

  8. Fabulous pics and I enjoyed the vid as well. Always lovely to see the birdlife in your area. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    November 25, 2014 at 6:26 am

    • Thank you very much! I would say that the pics are almost adequate, although the subject matter was interesting.

      November 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm