Muskegon, November 30th, in a fog
This post is about a trip that I made to Muskegon on November 30th, and it will be relatively short. The weather report had promised a nice morning, with a front arriving during the mid-afternoon, bringing some rain. They were wrong, it was already raining lightly by the time that I got to Muskegon just after sunrise. Making things worse as far as photography, there was also a fog developing, which became so thick at times that it was hard to see the birds, as you will see. I did get the bird that I went after though, a snowy owl.
But, back to the beginning of the day, two bad images of a rough-legged hawk taking flight.
Here’s a red-tailed hawk for comparison.
I also shot these very poor photos of a snow bunting, which ticks me off, since this is the first time that I’ve seen one out in the open.
I tried the noise reduction software that came with my camera on this next image, it didn’t help.
I saw a number of bald eagles, and shot photos equally as poor as the ones so far, but one eagle did perch close enough to me for a few photos of it playing with its food.
You can see that the eagle had been banded (ringed), which I didn’t know still took place with bald eagles, since they have become so numerous around here. Anyway, here’s a uncropped image of the eagle moving so that I couldn’t see what it had killed that morning.
By the way, these were shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), and as well as that lens performs in good light, in poor light, it doesn’t do well as you can see. One more from it, of the eagle letting me know that it didn’t appreciate being photographed as it ate.
I also had the Canon 300 mm L series prime lens set-up with the 1.4 X tele-converter on the second camera body, and used it for this one.
I have to say that the Beast produced images that look almost exactly as the scene looked, fog and all, but that the 300 mm lens was able to cut through the fog, and produce a much better image, most of the time. Later, I saw a golden eagle, and the 300 mm prime produced a sharper, clearer image, but the color of the golden eagle’s neck didn’t reproduce accurately, so I’ll I have use the ones from the Beast.
I even tried running an image through Photomatix HDR software to get rid of the noise, and for more accurate color, but it didn’t help.
That’s funny, the software not helping, because I saw this scene…
…and tried a HDR image of it…
…and Photomatix removed most of what little fog that the fog that the wide-angle lens had captured. I had forgotten that telephoto lenses make a fog look thicker than it is, and wide-angle lenses make the fog look less thick. Darn, I liked the scene as it appeared to the naked eye, with fog partially obscuring the silo and woods behind it.
You’re probably wondering if I was able to shoot any good photos, sort of, I got close enough to the snowy owl to get a few good ones.
But, I made a mistake while shooting those. Because of the poor light, I opened up the aperture of the Beast so that I could shoot at a lower ISO setting. Then, to make sure that I got the owl’s face perfectly in focus, I switched from using the center focusing point to the highest one available on my 60D. The owl was ten to 12 feet above me, so I was shooting up at more of an angle than it looks in these photos. I was worried that if I used the center focusing point, I’d get the owl’s chest in focus but not its face. It did work great while the owl was perched.
I had shot quite a few photos of the owl, then stepped back a short distance while I reviewed a few images to see how well that they had come out. It was then that the owl decided to give me a great photo-op, by circling around me, which I completely blew!
In the first place, swinging the Beast around isn’t easy. In the second place, the owl was so close to me that I couldn’t get him all in the frame at 500 mm. To make things worse, do you know how hard it is to find a white bird against a white sky? And, to top everything off, I still had the camera set to use the highest focusing point.
I couldn’t figure out why the camera wouldn’t focus on the owl as it flew past me at first, then, I remembered the focusing point, and tried to keep the right one on the owl instead of keeping the owl in the center of the viewfinder.
I did get it’s far wing in focus, sort of. The camera didn’t like focusing on a white bird against a white sky very much either.
But, the real killer was this one.
I had the upper focusing point on the owl, but then, most of the owl was out of the frame. The owl had made a tight circle around me, landed in the same spot it had taken off from, but didn’t stick around long after. He took off for the far side of the field, and I was left to kick myself repeatedly for not getting better photos because of my stupidity.
You may ask why I didn’t switch the focus point as the owl flew around me, I didn’t have the time. The owl’s flight lasted less than 10 seconds, and I have to push three buttons to change focusing points.
Anyway, I did get very good shots of a great blue heron, although the first one isn’t that great. I was as surprised to see a heron still there, and the heron was surprised to see a human out on a day such as it was.
Two things about that photo, one, I didn’t have a chance to get set before I began shooting, so I missed the composition that I would have liked. Two, that was also shot with the Beast in the fog, why these came out so clear is beyond me, but I’m glad that they did.
The heron kept coming almost straight at me.
Needless to say, none of those were cropped at all. I only wish that the black drainage pipe wasn’t there, I wonder if I could Photoshop that out? 😉 Those were shot at ISO 3200, the eagles at ISO 1600, there are times when I’m not quite sure why images end up looking as they do. The eagles at a lower ISO were horrible, this heron came out well.
Anyway, I also shot a whitetail deer running.
And, I caught two mature bald eagles having a conversation.
But, not long after that, I decided to pack it in and give up for the day, since the weather was going downhill even more than it had been. I did find another heron though on my way out.
Okay then, with the promise of better weather yesterday, December 6th, I returned to Muskegon again. All the way over as I was driving, I could see a bright full moon as it was about to set in the west. Guess what happened? Just as I got off from the expressway, the clouds rolled in for a few hours.
So, I got to the Muskegon County wastewater facility just at dawn, as I had planed, but instead of sun, I got cloudy skies. I shot over 600 photos, but I’m going to have to decide how many to bore all of you with that look like this.
As I sat there shooting the eagles, I got images of them threatening to pounce on the others, them sliding around on the ice, and one of the eagles falling as it slid on the ice, and so on. But, they were all shot in the pre-dawn light as the one above. I haven’t decided how many to use. There were actually eight eagles in sight, but one stayed out of the frame the entire time. No matter how poor the images are, it still impressive to see so many eagles all together like that, and watch how they interact.
I did get a snowy owl in better light, but wasn’t able to get as close to it.
I also shot another video of the huge number of geese there.
I lost the focus about half-way through, but the sound is still impressive.
I guess that this one is finished, I don’t have much else to say that isn’t boring.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!