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

Around home, Frosty mornings

One of the many things that I like about my new job is while I may not have time to walk everyday, when I do have time, it is usually early in the morning. I love being out at dawn, always have, even when I was a kid.

If you were to go back and read posts from when I’ve been camping, you’d find out that most of the time, I’m up well before sunrise, and I’ve finished my coffee for the morning about the time the sun begins to appear over the horizon.

Sunrise over Lake Huron

Sunrise over Lake Huron

It’s definitely my favorite time of the day, the night and diurnal critters are on their way home to sleep, and the daytime critters are just waking up and becoming active.

Much the same happens around sunset, but in the opposite direction. Besides, sunsets fade to black, and that has a sense of finality to it, another day done.

Maybe that’s why I prefer spring over fall, despite the colorful fall foliage, it’s the promise of a new year and new life, while fall fades into winter.

Anyway, because of my schedule, I’ve been able to get outside for my walks as early as there has been enough light to shoot photos of subjects other than the sunrises themselves. Even though December was slightly warmer than average, that often meant that most of the world outside my door has been covered in frost.

Frosty grass

Frosty grass

That was shot on the same morning as the ice crystals on the British soldier lichen from the last post.

Water is an amazing substance, the only substance that expands as if freezes, and the number of shapes that it solidifies into as it freezes never ceases to astound me. It’s one of the reasons that I purchased a macro lens and tripod, but of course, I didn’t have the tripod along that morning. That would have been the smart thing to do, and you know where that leaves me. 😉

In my defense, the frost that I saw close to home wasn’t very impressive, it wasn’t until I got to the local park, where there was standing water around that I saw frost worth taking the trouble to photograph correctly. I considered coming home for the tripod, then driving to the park to shoot photos, but by then, the frost was beginning to melt anywhere that the sun hit it.

Frost beginning to melt in the sun

Frost beginning to melt in the sun

And, while there were a few frosty mornings, I learned that trying to photograph frost on cloudy days doesn’t produce great photos. At least for me, there has to be some sun to make the ice sparkle, or it isn’t worth shooting. So, most of the photos that I’m about to bore you with were all shot on one sunny morning as I ran around like a madman, looking for the best examples of frost before the sunshine melted it away.

The closer that an object was to standing water, even just a puddle left from rain, the larger the ice crystals had grown. As you can see here, the stalks of grass lying just above a puddle had the largest ice crystals.

Ice crystals 1

Ice crystals 1

I lay down on my belly, trying to get closer, but that only helped a little.

Ice crystals 2

Ice crystals 2

So, here are a few of the other frosty images that I have to share with you.

Frosty dandelion seeds

Frosty dandelion seeds

Frosty green 1

Frosty green 1

Frosty male leaf 1

Frosty maple leaf 1

Frosty pine cone

Frosty pine cone

Frosty sumac

Frosty sumac

Frosty green 2

Frosty green 2

Frosty male leaf 2

Frosty maple leaf 2

Frosty green 3

Frosty green 3

I did take a few seconds out to shoot this chickadee…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…that didn’t stick around very long at all.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Here’s a nothing photo that I’m kind of proud of. I saw the dead remnants of a Queen Anne’s lace flower, and took several photos, making adjustments all the time to get a good image. In my first attempts, I had the lens stopped down too far, and you could tell that there was a fence in the background. I kept opening up the aperture until I got all the flower head in focus, with everything else blurred. Then, I noticed that the center was too dark, so I dialed in the flash for this one.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I still didn’t get what I was trying for, but taking some time to review my photos, make adjustments, then shoot again made this much better than my first attempts. If only I did that all the time! Then, maybe alien life forms wouldn’t be coming for me. 😉

British soldier lichens

British soldier lichens

That one, and this one, were both shot as I looked for more of the lichens with ice crystals. I like this one because it does look like a British soldier, complete with arms and legs.

British soldier lichens

British soldier lichens

Since it was sunny, and all the frost had melted by then, I went looking for other things to shoot with the Tokina macro lens, as I was having fun with it.

Stump close-up

Stump close-up

Images with patterns are usually good candidates for B&W photography, but I didn’t like the B&W version of that stump, this one was better.

Dead stump B&W

Dead stump B&W

And, I couldn’t resist this thistle seed head.

Thistle seeds

Thistle seeds

I was almost back home when I found a block of ice in the trail, where it came from, I have no idea, and it wasn’t there as I was outbound. But, by laying on the ground and getting close, I was able to photograph the bubbles of air trapped in the ice.

Air bubbles in ice

Air bubbles in ice

By changing how far into the block of ice I focused on, I could get different patterns completely.

Air bubbles in ice 2

Air bubbles in ice 2

Air bubbles in ice 3

Air bubbles in ice 3

Air bubbles in ice 4

Air bubbles in ice 4

And, by shooting with the block of ice between the sun and myself, and focusing on the surface of the ice, I got this abstract.

Air bubbles in ice abstract

Air bubbles in ice abstract

I see that I haven’t included a shot of a squirrel yet, and several readers like my squirrel portraits, so here’s one for them.

Smug fox squirrel

Smug fox squirrel

Now then, I need something of a challenge for Allen.

Bottom of ????

Bottom of ????

Not that it matters, by I tried photographing that with several different lenses and techniques to get everything in focus, for that one I used my 15-85 mm lens and the on camera flash. Here’s the top of the same stuff.

Top of ???

Top of ???

I assume it’s some type of shelf fungi, but I’m probably wrong about that. I’m also probably wrong in thinking that this is a crane fly that I saw on the bottom of the stuff.

Crane fly?

Crane fly?

Okay, if I hard an extremely difficult time getting that photo. It doesn’t look like it, but it was a very dark day. If I used the flash, then, I didn’t get the colors in the insect’s wing.  Without the flash, my shutter speeds were way too slow for a sharp image, that’s the best I could do, even opening up the lens until most of the insect was out of focus. But, with so little light, how did the colors appear on its wings, and why does it matter which direction that you shoot relative to the sun when there seems to be no sunlight? Those are questions that I can’t answer.

I shot this on a foggy, frosty morning.

Frosty, foggy morning

Frosty, foggy morning

But, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I tried a HDR using Photomatix…

Frosty, foggy HDR

Frosty, foggy HDR

…but that’s not right either. I want something in between, but couldn’t get it, as I don’t have the patience to wait twenty minutes each time I try to create a HDR image.

That’s how long it takes my old computer to process each image in Photomatix that I attempt. Another thing is that I’m starting to have trouble with the text disappearing in WordPress as I work on my posts lately. Each time the text disappears, I have to reboot the computer, but at least when I reboot, what I had already typed is still there. I have several keys that I have to hit extra hard to make sure that they work, and along with the occasional blue screen of death, they all add up to I need a new computer. Oh, I forgot, the left button on the mouse stopped working over a year ago. Luckily, I have the touchpad to use. 😉

So, I think that it’s time to order that new iMac, I’ve been looking at. I’ll save you the details, but I think that I can swing it much sooner than I expected. I’ll know for sure soon, like later this weekend.

Anyway, I’d better throw in a couple of good bird photos…

American tree sparrow eating berries

American tree sparrow eating berries

…I said good bird photos!

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

That early morning light sure is special! I just wished that there had been more of it, rather than so many dreary days that made photos like this the norm for December.

Coral fungi?

Coral fungi?

Well, I’m off to the Apple store, wish me luck!

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

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24 responses

  1. The sunrise, the ice pictures, the fox squirrel, there’s no end to the delights on this post.

    January 3, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    • Thanks Susan!

      January 4, 2015 at 8:11 am

  2. That’s funny Jerry, it got cold here so that’s exactly the same thing that I’ve been doing and I have a lot of similar ice and frost photos.
    I think your unknown crust fungus is white rot fungus (Phanerochaete chrysorhizon.) it’s a hard one to get a good shot of on a good day when everything is working right.
    The morning light on the birds really is beautiful. I’m usually up before the sun but not outside, and I really have to work on that.
    That fox squirrel looks like he’s all tangled up in the branches, so I don’t know why he’s so smug.
    I think that last yellow fungus is a coral, possibly a staghorn coral.
    Good luck with the new computer!

    January 3, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    • Thank you Allen! Ice and frost was about all there was to shoot for most of December, now it looks like the frost is going to be replaced with snow.

      Photography would be so much easier if everything was flat and you didn’t have to worry about depth of field to account for the curvature of things. 😉 I find that going to a wide-angle lens close is the only way that I can get everything in focus with a DSLR.

      The first hour of sunlight in the morning and last hour in the evening have a magical quality, but I prefer morning light, it’s more neutral than evening light.

      The squirrel was tangled in the branches, feeding its fat little face when I caught it, which is why it looked so smug.

      I failed trying to get the new computer early, I tried to finance at 0% through Apple planning on paying it off the end of the month, but with less than 60 days at my new job, Apple turned me down. It’s another of those things, I had the money in my checking account to pay it in full, but that didn’t matter. So, I’ll have to wait two weeks to a month to make the purchase in cash.

      January 4, 2015 at 8:21 am

  3. I know what you mean about spring versus fall and morning versus evening. The only exception is there are time when I enjoy fishing in the afternoon into the evening as I know I’m heading into the best of the day. Nice shots of the British soldier lichen!

    January 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    • Thanks Bob! I know what you mean about fishing, I prefer to fish into night as well, even though early mornings have produced some of my best fish.

      January 4, 2015 at 8:22 am

  4. Great photos and story to go with it! Love the Chickadee photos, and the air bubbles in the frozen ice block. Thanks for sharing!

    January 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    • Thanks Judy, glad you enjoyed the photos!

      January 4, 2015 at 8:23 am

  5. I really love macro photography as it’s often like looking into another world, such as in your “alien” lichens. There is a lot of beauty and amazing patterns and colours to see when we examine things closely. Frozen water can create such fascinating pictures. As you can imagine, I don’t see that much here in Queensland! 🙂 The frost and bubbles pictures are so pretty. Thanks for the squirrel pic as well – such entertaining critters. I especially liked this post, even if the snowy owls were missing. 😉

    Good luck with the computer purchase. How exciting! I only have an inexpensive netbook and it’s very slow at the moment, mainly because I’ve filled up the memory with photos! I need to organise it better. I am not very computer savvy though, even though I have a son doing software engineering. I started out with this computer stuff a bit late in life.

    January 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    • Thank you Jane! I’m loving macro photography, but I have a long way to go before I’ll be good at it. Don’t worry, there’ll be a few more snowy owl photos soon.

      I’m not sure if you can plug an external hard drive into a netbook, but if you can, that may be an option for you for photo storage. Either that, or store them online if you can.

      January 4, 2015 at 8:33 am

  6. Beautiful photos, all of them. The ice crystals on various things are especially nice.

    January 3, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    • Thanks Lavinia! I don’t really like the cold, but if there are pictures to be shot, I’ll put up with it. 😉

      January 4, 2015 at 8:24 am

  7. The house finch is outstanding! And I am going to guess….is that the bottom of fungus???

    January 3, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment! Yes, it is the bottom of a fungus, but I wasn’t positive of it.

      January 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

  8. Beautiful sunrise!

    January 4, 2015 at 12:41 am

    • Thank you Sheila!

      January 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

  9. I like the idea of you lying on your belly among the frost to take a better picture. You are a hero. Some beautiful frost pictures here.

    January 4, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m sure that you like the idea of my laying on the ground much better than I did as cold as it was. I’ll do a lot for a photo, I did draw the line at laying in puddles though.

      January 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm

  10. The early morning finch shots are beautiful! I really enjoyed this post with so many ice crystals and frost pictures to look at and a black-capped Chickadee too.

    January 4, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    • Thanks Clare! If only I could get all the birds to perch so nicely in the morning, then I’d be getting photos like that more often.

      January 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm

  11. I hope you will soon be having lots of fun figuring out your new computer! And you will have plenty of frosty, snowy things to photograph now!

    I was thinking of you as we drove to Big Rapids this weekend for my brother-in-law’s retirement party. As we passed Muskegon, I saw lots of places I would like to check out sometime, especially the Maple River State Game Area.

    Too many great photos in this post to list but I especially liked the male house finch, the squirrel and the crazy way he is perched in those trees! and the soldier lichen.

    January 4, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    • Thanks Amy! Yeah, I’ll have way too many frosty, snowy things to photograph for a while, it will seem like forever.

      The Maple River State Game Area is a long way from where I go birding when I post about Muskegon, however, I have been there, and it is an excellent place for birding. I used to go there with my kayak or canoe and paddle the man-made wetlands before I got my expensive camera gear. I’ve considered going back and hiking, I never get around to it.

      The squirrels aren’t very fussy about how they perch in the trees while they’re eating. 😉

      January 5, 2015 at 4:41 am

  12. Love the macro shots! Tell us again–is this a macro attachment or a separate lens? The sharpness and color quality are excellent!

    January 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

    • Thanks Lori! Most of the macros were shot with a true macro lens, a Tokina 100 mm f/2.8 lens. It’s the best lens I own as far as sharpness and image quality, despite being one of the least expensive lens I purchased and being outdated. It doesn’t have IS, OS, VR, or any other type of stabilization, and the auto-focusing is slower than a sedated snail since it’s the old screw drive system.

      January 5, 2015 at 8:46 pm