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

Around home, Looking back, looking ahead

Well, it’s the end of another year, it’s true, the older one gets, the faster the years go by!

The biggest thing that happened this past year that was my mother passed away back in August. While I miss her a great deal, what I don’t miss is watching her slowly whither away due to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The second biggest thing in my life in 2014 is that I got a new job, one that pays so much better than my last one that I’ll actually be able to have some money in my checking account again.

It’s been slow at work the last two weeks, what with Christmas and New Years, and I don’t get paid for the holidays since I haven’t worked there long enough to qualify for the benefits the company has. However, even with what seemed to be a lot of time off from work, I still earned more than I would have at my last job. For example, I had most of five days off last week, they did call me in to work a few hours Friday afternoon, but I spent the better part of those five days out shooting photos. I was out on the Grand Haven pier when I received the call to come into work. πŸ˜‰

When I do work, the days tend to be long, ten to twelve hours long, so I don’t have the time for my daily walks those days any longer, but that may change next spring when I will be able to bid on any open dedicated runs the company has.

But, it isn’t just the money that has me loving this new job. One thing is the way that they treat their employees. One of the biggest complaints that I had about a previous employer, not the last one, but an earlier one, was that they made you work the holidays even when they couldn’t find any loads for the drivers to run. You couldn’t make any money just sitting around, but they wouldn’t let you go home either. It made no sense to me, I’d rather be home with the time off not making any money than sitting in a truck somewhere not making any money!

So, things are much better on that front, I like looking at the balance in my checking account and seeing that’s there’s money left at the end of the month, rather than having to juggle bills to make it to the next pay check.

Okay then, I have started using the Canon Digital Photo Professional software that came with my camera to edit photos that I shoot in RAW. It does do some editing, but it isn’t great, nor easy to use. To make things worse, my poor old computer is on its last legs. I’ve been getting the blue screen of death from time to time the last few months, and I’m still using Windows XP, since it makes little sense to upgrade on this old of a machine.

I still shoot mainly jpegs, but when the subject is more important, like the snowy owls, I switch and shoot RAW, because I don’t have the room on this old computer to store all the photos that I shoot in RAW. It takes forever to do any editing because of how slow this computer is, or to do HDR images in Photomatix. I tried to reduce the noise in several of my images shot at higher ISO settings, and the computer couldn’t handle it. I waited twenty minutes, and the image was still being processed, that’s longer than I have patience for. πŸ˜‰

So, you may remember that I’ve been looking at new computers, and have settled on an iMac. I thought that I had one all picked out, but things have changed. Earlier this week I looked at how much money was in my checking account to see how much progress I had made in savings towards the new computer so far. Then, checked the price of the model that I had picked to see how far I still had left to go. Woo hoo! Apple has dropped the prices of the iMacs, andΒ by enough so that I’ll be able to purchase the next one up from the one that I had picked and for a little less than my original pick! Sometimes it pays to be broke and have to wait to make a purchase. πŸ˜‰ The model that I’m looking at now will have 16 GB of RAM, plus aΒ NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 1GB GDDR5 video card with one GB of Ram.

I’ve been also watching tutorials on using Lightroom in what little spare time that I have, so once I make the purchase, I’ll have an idea of how to use it. It looks easier to use than the software that came with my camera, but time will tell. I thought about purchasing Lightroom now, so I could begin to learn it, but looking at the system requirements, it may not even run on my current computer, so I’ll have to wait.

I may find that I’m a lot happier with my Canon 60D cameras once I begin tweaking the images from them in Lightroom. From watching the tutorials online, I can see that I could overcome some of the weaknesses of the 60D with a few tweaks here and there. However, one thing still sticks out in my mind from the short time that I played with a 7D Mk II at the camera store, how well all my lenses performed at all distances on that body compared to how they perform on the 60D. I’m sure that my images will be better once I tweak them in Lightroom, but Lightroom can’t overcome poor auto-focusing, and can only reduce noise, and not restore the resolution I lose at higher ISO settings with the 60D. So, the 7D is still on my wish list, but I’m in no big hurry to rush out and make that purchase yet.

Can you believe it? I’m actually excited to begin doing some post processing of my images, more so than buying a new camera body. That probably sounds silly to most of the readers who already post-process, but a year ago, I considered it to be a way of making up for not getting the camera settings correct to begin with. How little I knew!

I do tend to forget how much my images have improved, as I’m always trying to make them the best that they can be. Now on a typical day, I usually end up changing nearly every setting that I can access through the “Q” button at some point if you include both bodies. A far cry from when I switched over from my old Nikon, where I was afraid to make any adjustments, to the new Canon gear I currently use.

I’ve learned that no matter what, one is still limited by the camera sensor’s ability to record the image that a lens passes on to it. Until some one develops a sensor that can match what the human eye can see, I’ve come to the conclusion that post processing is a requirement for improving my images.

If I had needed more to convince me, the snowy owl from the last post was it. In some of the images that I shot, over 95% of the bird was exposed correctly, but I’d still get some blown out highlights, unless I dropped the exposure to the point where most of the owl was underexposed. The Canon DPP software isn’t great, but it did allow me to tone down the blown out highlights, and make the images look much better. I’d do a before and after, but you’re probably sick of seeing snowy owl photos. πŸ˜‰

So, here’s what could be my best shot of the month from around home, one that I did nothing to.

Ice crystals on British soldier lichen

Ice crystals on British soldier lichen

That brings up something else. Last year at about this time I had just purchased my first quality tripod to use, rather than going for a cheap model that was worse than hand holding my camera. I swore that I would use the tripod much more often, whenever it was called for. While I did use the tripod much more this past year, I still haven’t learned to carry it with me all the time as I should. Of course, I can’t use it if I don’t have it with me.

I’ll see something that I wished that I had the tripod to use, so I’ll carry it for a few days, and never use it, then go back to leaving it home.

The carrying bag that I bought for the tripod is great for traveling, the case is well padded, but it doesn’t do well as a carrying bag while hiking. Also, I bought a heavier duty tripod head, one strong enough to support the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I almost never mount the Beast to the tripod. The heavy-duty head weighs almost as much as the legs do, and when in the carrying bag, it and the head weigh far more than the legs. I may have to purchase a light-weight ball head that will work for macros and landscapes so that I’ll be more prone to carrying the tripod with me daily, as with the ice crystal above, I never can tell when I need it.

Anyway, after the month of November, when we set records for the amount of snow for the month and one or two record low temperatures, December was slightly milder than average. We were in the running to set the record for the least amount of snow for the month until a lake effect squall this morning dropped enough snow to put that record out of reach. The stats say that it was a drier than average December, but you wouldn’t have guessed that if you lived here. It looked like this outside for almost an entire week.

Foggy December day

Foggy December day

I chose to play with that image in Photomatix to produce this HDR image seen in an earlier post.

Foggy December day HDR

Foggy December day HDR

Photomatix has a button labeled “Double Tone Map” and I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder what that does?” I promise you, I will never, ever click that button again!

A huge mistake if there ever was one!

A huge mistake if there ever was one!

While it was damp most of the month, there was very little rain and almost no snow, which is how we ended with below average precipitation for the month. Besides the week of fog, there were many days that looked like this.

Dreary sunrise

Dreary sunrise

Or, if I was lucky, the morning looked like this.

Another dreary, but colorful morning

Another dreary, but colorful morning

However, it was warm enough on a few days to see a few of these.

Wooly bear caterpilar

Wooly bear caterpillar

Most of the photos of birds that I shot looked like this…

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

…due to the very high ISO settings that I was forced to use because it was so dreary most of the month. Still, that didn’t stop me from trying to catch the junco in flight.

Dark eyed junco in flight

Dark eyed junco in flight

I could have used a lot more light for this guy!

Golden crowned kinglet

Golden crowned kinglet

Golden crowned kinglet

Golden crowned kinglet

As quick as he was, I’m surprised any of my photos turned out. We did have some sun, and I tried to make the most of the short time when there was some sun.

Back-lighting

Back-lighting

A few leaves left

A few leaves left

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

Unknown garden plant

Unknown garden plant

In some bad news, they have begun clearing another small woodlot that I walk past on my way to the park when I do my daily walk. I was afraid that was going to happen when the property changed hands late this past summer. That woodlot is where I get many of my turkey and deer photos, like this fawn.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

After posing for a few photos, she started trotting off…

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

…to join her mother, who was stomping her foot to warn the fawn that humans are not to be trusted.

Whitetail doe and fawn

Whitetail doe and fawn

As gloomy as the weather was, I was very surprised to get these images of a red-tailed hawk in flight.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

And, I was very pleasantly surprised that these photos came out as well as they did. At the time, I had little hope that I would save these, as the lighting was some of the worst that I’ve dealt with lately.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

The squirrels have been busy packing on the pounds to tide them over the winter.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

On one day, I noticed that a red-bellied woodpecker seemed to be drinking the sap or sap and water combination on the side of a tree.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

A red squirrel chased the woodpecker off so that it could lap up some of what ever was on the tree.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel

Every once in a while I get in an artistic mood and try converting a photo to black and white. I’m not sure which version I like better.

Frozen leaves B&W

Frozen leaves B&W

 

Frozen leaves color

Frozen leaves color

I know which version of this shot I like best.

Grand Haven lighthouse B&W

Grand Haven lighthouse B&W

Grand Haven lighthouse

Grand Haven lighthouse

I think that I’ll wrap this post up with an ode to the color brown, which like Rodney Dangerfield, don’t get no respect.

Brown on brown

Brown on brown

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

Teasel

Teasel

Wait a minute, it’s a holiday, I can’t end on brown, I need something more colorful to ring in the New Year….what could that be?

British soldier lichens

British soldier lichens

…or maybe…

Icy sumac

Icy sumac

…I know, the last flower of 2014!

The last dandelion of 2014

The last dandelion of 2014

All in all, 2014 was a good year for me despite my mom’s death, I hope that 2015 is just as kind to me.

Happy New Years to every one!

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

Advertisements

37 responses

  1. It sounds like that new computer will have enough ram! Certainly enough to run Lightroom. Speaking of Lightroom, about 90% of the time that I use it is spent tweaking exposure settings that I’m not happy with.
    You’ve got some great shots in this one, especially the deer and hawks, and that red squirrel is bordering on obese! I think I like the color versions of the icy leaves and crashing waves best. The icy leave shot should be framed-I love the patterns in the ice. I was out shooting ice today myself. I wish I’d seen some icy sumac berries.
    That unknown garden plant is either an ornamental cabbage or an ornamental kale.
    Here’s to a great 2015. Happy New Year!

    December 31, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I’m planning on this next computer to last another ten years, so I’d rather load it up when I buy it.

      Since I haven’t actually tried Lightroom yet, I can’t comment on it too much, other than it looks much easier to use than the Canon equivalent.

      I liked the color version of the leaves as well, but I preferred the B&W of the lighthouse because I could get more contrast between the wave and the sky.
      A Happy New Year to you as well!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:27 am

  2. Thanks for another great post and a very inspiring year. Your attention to detail always amazes me and your photos delight time after time. I have not posted for a while, largely because I am not happy with my photos. Having perused your photography basics tab, I followed your advice and decided to buy a new point and shoot rather than a DSLR camera because I know I would not take the trouble to buy, carry and change lenses. I have gone for a Canon Powershot SX700HS which has manual control. If I can get the hang of that then hopefully I can improve.

    Have a great 2015 with lots of fulfilling adventures in the wild. It is not just your photography that inspires, it is your ability to see and hear and communicate.

    December 31, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    • Thank you Brandy! Don’t let the quality of your photos stop you from posting, I enjoyed your posts. My photos were terrible in the beginning when I started blogging.

      I hope that the new camera works well for you! Most people are better off with a compact digital than a DSLR, unless you plan to print your photos to larger sizes.

      Here’s to a great 2015 for every one!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:31 am

  3. Love the photos! 60D? Lucky! I am still on my T2i! Hoping to upgrade this year! Great photos, happy new year!

    December 31, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    • Thanks Sheila! I’m not positive, but I believe that your T2i and the 60D share the same sensor, and therefore the same theoretical image quality. The 60D has more bells and whistles, which sometimes get in the way. πŸ˜‰

      January 1, 2015 at 7:34 am

  4. Wow, what a beautiful collection of images! Love them, Jerry. I think I prefer the coloured version of the frozen leaves but both are great. I love delicate ice crystals and lichen pics so the combined one you have featured is pretty special. Too many to comment on without an essay. πŸ˜‰

    Sorry to hear about your mum’s deterioration and death. My mum is still alive but has had a condition for much of her life which affects her personality and cognition. It has been very difficult to watch her in such a state and as she gets older it becomes much worse. It is sad for her and sad for her loved ones. Being the only daughter I feel a great deal of responsibility. So I understand some of the stress you’ve been through. It is difficult because you grief while they are still alive for who they once were.

    Anyway, I am very glad that you feel you can embrace the editing software without guilt now as you realise that it’s just about the gear limiting you. Looking forward to what you have to offer us in 2015. πŸ™‚

    December 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    • Thank you Jane!

      Sorry to hear about your mother, sometimes it’s harder to watch a loved one slowly deteriorate than it is to lose them.

      January 1, 2015 at 7:37 am

  5. Sorry to hear about your mom passing. I fully understand, having lot a few relatives to Alzheimer’s now.

    Hope you get more free time for your walks in the future.

    December 31, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    • Thank you Lavinia! I’m looking forward to your next monthly update on your blog!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:38 am

  6. A really good summary of your year. Even though the conditions haven’t been good this past month you’ve still been able to get some beautiful shots – the fawn and deer and the hawk ones are great. I am sorry the woodlot is being cleared. I can’t bear it when places like that in or near towns are got rid of – they are little havens for all sorts of creatures and, for some towns-people, the only chance they get to see wild things. Those icy leaf shots are really lovely – I can’t decide which I like best. Have a very happy new year!

    January 1, 2015 at 2:24 am

    • Thank you Clare! It’s a shame that they are clearing the woodlot, but that’s “progress” I suppose. I could go into a long rant about how the tax structure in Michigan encourages development of land, but I won’t.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos, Happy New Year to you and yours!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:41 am

      • Thank-you very much Jerry!

        January 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

  7. It’s great to read that things are better for you now even though you lost your mum. Your year in pictures was a delight to look at with the very first one being an absolute winner.

    January 1, 2015 at 4:16 am

    • Thank you Susan! Your the only one to have commented on that photo, when it’s my favorite of the bunch.

      January 1, 2015 at 7:42 am

  8. Happy new year and my very best wishes for 2015 for you !!
    Cheers,
    Michel πŸ™‚

    January 1, 2015 at 4:59 am

    • Thank you Michel, and a Happy New Year to you as well!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:42 am

  9. Happy New Year!

    January 1, 2015 at 5:08 am

    • Thank you Dana, and a Happy New Year to you as well!

      January 1, 2015 at 7:43 am

  10. Wow, wow, wow, that first photo of the lichen with the ice crystals is amazing!!!

    Is the unknown garden plant possibly flowering kale?? I don’t know if someone else said that already, I didn’t read all the comments. πŸ™‚

    Personally, the two shots of the leaves, I prefer the color version over the b&w, I think it looks so cool and stark with just the touch of brown color, but the light house I like the b&w over the color for some reason. πŸ™‚ I like it when you get all artistic and play around with your photos! LOL

    So glad to hear you are enjoying your new job. Happy New Year, Jerry and I hope it will be a great year for you. Thanks for always putting up with my questions and being a patient teacher and for all the inspiration you give me to keep going and get better at this blogging thing! God bless!

    January 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

    • Oh, I forgot to say congratulations on purchasing a new computer soon! I had read recently in that dps newsletter about computer monitors, and how you need to make sure you have one that is calibrated correctly for colors because a janky monitor can make your photos look bad, which was something I had never considered before!

      January 1, 2015 at 9:32 am

      • Thanks again, I sort of knew that about monitors, a couple of us had a discussion about that a year or so ago. I’ll use some of my old photos that I’ve had printed to dial in the new monitor when I get it.

        January 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I wished that I had my tripod so I could have gotten closer to the ice crystals, but maybe next time. The plant is an ornamental kale according to the plant experts here. πŸ˜‰

      Your selections of the color vs B&W are the same as mine, the leaves disappear into the ice in the B&W, and there’s not enough contrast between the wave and the sky in the color version of the lighthouse.

      2015 is is shaping up to be a good year for me if things go as planned, I hope that they go as well for you!

      January 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

  11. plantsamazeme

    Happy New Year! Great post, so much to see. Trust me, no one reading this blog is tired of seeing your Snowy Owl photos.
    πŸ™‚

    January 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

    • Thanks Chris! Maybe I should go chase the owls again this weekend, as I’m beginning to run low on owl photos.;)

      January 1, 2015 at 1:27 pm

  12. First of all, so sorry for your loss! Did not know about your mom’s passing–I know you had mentioned visiting her in past blog posts. Wishing you a happy 2015 and many wonderful photo moments!!!

    January 1, 2015 at 10:31 am

    • Thank you Lori! And a Happy New Year to you too, if I haven’t already said that.

      January 1, 2015 at 1:37 pm

  13. Sounds to me that you have all your ducks lined up to make 2015 a good year.

    Funny, I can’t really decide which of the three foggy images I like best. Certainly, the middle one is the most dramatic. But, I’m really looking forward to your post processing adventures. Pretty sure that there are new frontiers of photo info out there for me.

    I’m excited to see what you’ll produce this year. Hope we can go for a stroll together sometime this spring. Happy New Year, Jerry.

    January 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    • Thanks Judy! You escaped GR at just the right time, it’s in the low twenties with wind gusts to 40 MPH and occasional snow, same as yesterday.

      The middle foggy image is closest to what I saw that day, the third one is too artistic for me. πŸ˜‰

      It’s funny, less than a year ago I was opposed to post processing, but after trying to get good photos of an approaching thunderstorm this summer, I realized that I would have to try HDR images to overcome the limits of the sensor in a camera. I taken a more critical eye to my images, and I’m tired of getting 99% of an image exposed correctly, but with the white cheeks of a chickadee blown out (as an example) because my camera can’t handle the contrast. I’ve dabbled a little in post processing, and now I find that I can’t stop, I find something that needs to be tweak in almost every photo.

      See you next spring when you get back, and we’ll go for another walk then.

      January 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

  14. I am glad that you have entered the dark side of post processing as I am sure it will make your already excellent shots even better. I hope that your new computer lives up to your expectations and that you get to pick the choicest routes when the time comes.

    I like the squirrel shots because I like squirrels. Happy new year.

    January 1, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    • Thanks Tom! May your 2015 bring you all the things that you wish for as well, I’ll do my part by adding a few more squirrels to my photos.

      January 2, 2015 at 6:08 am

  15. It’s been such a happy, busy time, but I kept your post open to make sure I’d put in my two cents worth (probably not worth a whole lot more!) I can only offer a great deal of sympathy for what your mom went through, and you, too, of course. I watched my mom go through the same and I could only call it “dying by inches.”

    I can’t wait to see what you’ll do with the software that’s available these days and I just bet you’ll love the new iMac. I wouldn’t give mine up for love or money. Hate to even have to muddle through with Windows to help some friend out of a jam. Lightroom also has some fantastic tutorials (free) through youTube, but I vaguely remember you referencing some already.

    Just a very mild critique… the lighthouse shot – you need to watch your horizon. πŸ™‚
    (hope you don’t mind?)

    January 2, 2015 at 1:36 am

    • Thanks Gunta! Sorry to hear that your mother had Alzheimer’s, it isn’t any fun watching a loved one whither away.

      Now that I’ve begun doing some post processing, I can’t stop, I see something that needs tweaking in most of my photos. The new iMac will be a lot better for that.

      I seem to have trouble with horizons, or barrel distortion in the Sigma lens. This is the second time you said something about my horizons being off, and both times they were photos that included one of the Great Lakes and were shot with that lens. I was trying to keep the buildings vertical rather than the horizon level, maybe the buildings are tilted? The flagpole looks vertical to me, maybe off a touch, but not much.

      January 2, 2015 at 6:15 am

      • Hmmm… I hadn’t considered the problem of barrel distortion or keeping buildings vertical. Given my scenic views of the ocean I am perhaps overly tuned into tipsy horizons.

        January 3, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      • Well, I’m not sure about the barrel distortion, but it’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Maybe it’s the Great Lakes themselves, I’ve used the levels on the tripod and/or the electronic level in my camera, and still gotten tilted horizons some of the time.

        January 4, 2015 at 8:26 am

  16. Stunning photograpghs!… Blogger High Five and toast to your post!.
    Cheers, Aquileana πŸ˜€

    January 6, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    • Thank you! I’ll have to pass on the toast though, I’m about to leave for work. πŸ˜‰

      January 7, 2015 at 5:09 am