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

Christmas weekend, along Lake Michigan

This post will cover photos that I shot on Christmas eve, Christmas Day, and the weekend following, at various locations along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

However, before I get to the photos, a few other news items from more recently. I arrived home this morning at 2 AM after having worked 16 hours, fighting non-moving traffic in downtown Chicago during “rush hour” made worse by a severe snowstorm. I walked through the entrance way of the building, and noticed a large puddle of water on the floor, and thought that it had been made by snow melting since the door to the building doesn’t always latch properly when the winds are strong, and the snow builds up under the door. But, when I opened the door to my apartment, I heard water running in my dining room, not good. The dining room is where I store my camera gear, and the floor had an even larger pool of water than the hallway had. Water was running down through the light fixture in the ceiling, as well as down the wall.

I lucked out though, none of my camera gear was wet, other than the holster bag that I had on the floor was slightly damp where it touched the carpet. I grabbed all my stuff and moved it to a safe location, then called maintenance.

The maintenance/security guard arrived in a matter of a few minutes, looked the situation over, then called the more skilled person on call. That person arrived in less than ten minutes, checked the apartment upstairs to see if the leak was coming from there, then deduced the water was from the hot water heating system we have. He shut down the boiler, then called the service company that handles the service on the heating system, as well as an emergency clean-up contractor.

To make a long story short, they had the leak repaired and the majority of the water removed by 5 AM and I was able to go to bed! I was impressed then, it strikes me as even more impressive after I got up later today, less than three hours to fix the leak and clean up the majority of the mess that had been made!

I have a fan left by the clean-up contractor running in the dining room to help dry out the carpeting, and a hole in the ceiling drywall that they had to cut open to access the burst pipe, but other than that, you’d hardly be able to tell that the dining room and kitchen had been flooded last night. They’ll have to come in and clean the carpet as well as tack it back down next week, and also repair the drywall once it has thoroughly dried.

I thought that I had been hit by another major disaster when I saw what was going on last night, but it has turned out to be just a minor inconvenience. In a way, I lucked out, for I had been scheduled for another mid-day run to Chicago for work, but when I saw the mess when I opened the door, I called dispatch and told them I wouldn’t be able to make it in on the scheduled time. I got my schedule changed to do a better run on Saturday, when the weather should be better. I’m loving my new employer, one that works with the employees rather than trying to shaft them all the time.

On a related note, you may read in the news of a huge pile-up of cars on I-94 in Michigan due to the snowstorm that hit us yesterday and today. One person dead, a truck carrying fireworks on fire, over 100 vehicles involved in the crashes at last count, and people being evacuated within a five-mile radius in case the truck on fire explodes.

I should have gone for a walk today, since I have the day off, but I only slept a few hours due to my schedule being so mixed up, and I don’t feel like going out and battling what amounts to a blizzard.

Besides, I had another reason to stay in, I had a package delivered with some goodies inside on Wednesday.

You know that my plan is to buy a new iMac when I saved up enough money to do so. That plan includes using Adobe Lightroom to manage and organize my photos on the iMac, as well as to edit my images when it is called for. So, since I needed Lightroom, and an external hard drive to store photos on seemed appropriate, I went ahead and ordered both Lightroom and a 4 TB external drive to connect to my new iMac when I get it.

It may seem silly to have purchased those items before the computer, but I know me, and if I had the computer first, I’d start using it before I had everything that I needed to be set-up properly, then have to re-do everything later. This way, when I do get the computer, I’ll be able to plug the hard drive in right away, and get Lightroom set-up to store all my images on it right from the get go.

4 Tb sounds like a huge amount of storage space, but I’ve nearly filled a 1 Tb drive with my images shot in jpeg, and images shot in RAW are 3 or 4 times the size of jpegs, so I don’t think that a 4 TB drive is overkill at all.

One other item that I purchased was a small, light-weight ball head to fit either my tripod leg set-up, or the monopod that I have.

In a previous post, I went on at length about the fact that I should carry and use my tripod more often. I also related that the 3 way head that I use on the tripod is almost as heavy as the tripod legs alone. The 3 way head will hold either of my long lenses with no problem, but I seldom use either of those lenses mounted on the tripod. So, I’ve been looking for a way to cut down on the weight of the gear that I carry each day, and/or a light weight solution to how I carry the tripod.

I can’t believe that no one makes a light weight carrying bag to hold a tripod set-up, either that, or I haven’t been able to find one yet. I wish that I knew some one who knew how to sew, I’d have one made for myself.

Anyway, as I was looking at a lighter alternative to the 3 way head that I have now, an idea struck me, try one of the ball heads on my monopod. I’ve had the monopod for years, but seldom used it, even though it doubles as a walking stick. The biggest drawback to me was that when I attempted to use it for macro photos, I’d end up holding the monopod at weird angles, and have to put more effort into holding the monopod steady than I would have to when using the camera by itself. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to shoot macros with the monopod nearly vertical, making it much better to use, and use the ball head to get the weird angles required at times. We’ll see, even if the ball head doesn’t work out well on the monopod, I can still use it on the tripod legs, and reduce the weight of the head by 2/3.

I know one thing, I do have to carry something that will let me get the macro shots that I want, when I want. You may remember that a while back I posted a photo of an ant trapped in pine resin.

Future fossil

Future fossil

I’ve been planning on going back and trying for a better photo than the one that one. Well, one sunny day a few weeks ago, I looked at where the ant had been, and the pine resin the ant was trapped in was gone. That goes along with having tried to get very good close-ups of the ice crystals in a recent post, without something to steady the camera, I couldn’t get the images that I wanted. If I don’t get it right the first time, there may not be a second chance!

I’ve already tested the ball head on the monopod here at home, and I think that it will make a fine set-up while hiking. I haven’t installed it on the tripod yet, maybe that will never happen, but it should work out fine that way as well.

Now then, I’m finally going to get around to the Christmas weekend and a few newer photos. With four days of play time, I made the most of it, visiting several places along the lake, looking for birds and some good light for a change. One of the places that I went was the Grand Haven break water, looking for both a common eider and a great black-backed gull, both of which had been reported there through eBirds. I found the great black-backed gull for the first time on a dark and stormy morning, and managed a few photos of it, however, on a return trip, I was able to do better. Before I get to the gull though, I’m going to start with a HDR image of the lighthouse at Grand Haven.

Grand Haven, Michigan lighthouse

Grand Haven, Michigan lighthouse HDR

The reason that I tried going with a HDR image was that I was trying to increase the contrast between the waves breaking against the lighthouse and the sky in the background. I shot close to 100 photos of the waves, and most looked like this if they weren’t edited.

Grand Haven, Michigan lighthouse

Grand Haven, Michigan lighthouse

If I got any contrast between the water and the sky, then the lighthouse was underexposed. If I exposed the lighthouse correctly, then the waves disappeared into the background. I’m not entirely happy with the HDR image here, but I’m still learning how to manipulate images in Photomatix.

By the way, these images are all out of order, not that it is a big deal, you’ll never know the difference. 😉

Okay then, here’s the great black-backed gull.

Great black-backed gull

Great black-backed gull

That’s a species of bird that I needed as I continue trying to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan for the My Photo Life List project that I began two years ago. I’m now well over 200 species, but they keep getting tougher all the time. I never did see the eider, although I stopped at the Grand Haven breakwater three times in four days.

For the shot of the gull above, I was north of it, meaning I was shooting toward the sun, so the photo isn’t the greatest. A jogger ran between the gull and myself, spooking the gull away. I walked a short distance away, and waited, the gull returned, and I was able to shoot better photos, although the black-backed gull had joined a flock of herring gulls. I prefer to get just the one species in the frame for the images I use when I post a specific species, but these will work. They show the differences in size and coloration between the black-backed and herring gulls.

Great black-backed gull

Great black-backed gull

I was hoping that I could get just the black-backed gull in the frame, but about then, a person walking their dog walked between myself and the gull, spooking the gulls once more.

Gulls taking flight

Gulls taking flight

It was hard to pick out just the one gull in the flock, but I did mange to zero in on the black-backed gull for this one.

Great black-backed gull in flight

Great black-backed gull in flight

Since these were shot at Grand Haven on the sunny day that I was there, I’m going to throw in this photo, even though it has nothing to do with nature, I just love this house.

A house in Grand Haven that I've always liked

A house in Grand Haven that I’ve always liked

I changed the subject from gulls, but I’m going back to them, even though these photos are nothing special. With lots of common herring and ring-billed gulls around, I practiced my bird in flight techniques for a while.

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

It was a rather cold day, so I returned to my Subaru to warm up for a while as I waited in hopes that the Black-backed gull would return, but it stayed out of camera range for the rest of the time I was there. I did however, shoot these next two photos, neither of which have been cropped at all, while waiting. The first was shot with the Canon 300 mm prime lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it.

Ring-billed gull at 420 mm

Ring-billed gull at 420 mm

This one was shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to show how much difference 80 mm makes as far as getting closer to a subject.

Ring-billed gull at 500 mm

Ring-billed gull at 500 mm

Quite honestly, even though I’ve done this before, I was surprised how much of a difference that extra 80 mm made.

For the snowy owl fans, I did go to Muskegon over the Christmas weekend also, and did see a few of the owls, here’s one.

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Several posts ago, I had many photos of a flock of eagles fooling around relatively close to me, but in horrible light. On one day that I went to Muskegon when there was good light, there were a few eagles, but they stayed out of range of the camera for the most part. Here’s two that were close enough for me to even try for photos.

Immature bald eagle threatening an adult

Immature bald eagle threatening an adult

Immature bald eagle threatening an adult

Immature bald eagle threatening an adult

Immature bald eagle and an adult

Immature bald eagle and an adult

Those aren’t very good, and here’s why. There’s a flock of gulls in the foreground, behind the gulls, the two large dark objects are the eagles, with several crows nearby.

Gulls, bald eagles and crows

Gulls, bald eagles and crows

That gives you some idea how far the eagles were from me.

One of my stops over the weekend was Lake Harbor Park and there were a few eagles there as well, but once again, they stayed well out of camera range for a good photo.

Two bald eagles at Lake Harbor Park

Two bald eagles at Lake Harbor Park

While I was there, I also shot a few photos of hybrid mallards, I’ll start with one that has a black head.

Hybrid male mallard with a black head

Hybrid male mallard with a black head

Here’s another male of mixed heritage.

Hybrid male mallard

Hybrid male mallard

Maybe it got too close to me, I zoomed out for these next two.

Hybrid male mallard

Hybrid male mallard

Hybrid male mallard

Hybrid male mallard

By the way, those last two aren’t the same duck, it seems most of the mallards there at Lake Harbor Park were hybrids, as few of them were colored like a true mallard. I suppose it goes right along with this duck, a black duck/mallard hybrid.

Black duck/mallard hybrid

Black duck/mallard hybrid

Black duck/mallard hybrid

Black duck/mallard hybrid

Here’s a male mallard (I think) from Grand Haven.

Male mallard

Male mallard

It’s getting so that it’s hard to tell if a duck is really the species that you think it is around here, the mallards are mating with several different other species, and you can’t be sure of what species they are. Here’s yet another mallard with slightly different coloration, also from Grand Haven.

Male mallard

Male mallard

The only other photo that I shot at Lake Harbor Park was of this stump, just because I liked the colors.

Colorful stump

Colorful stump

I could have had a field day with that stump if there had been better lighting and I had brought my macro lens and tripod while walking the trail, maybe the next time. 😉

On one of the days in Grand Haven, I shot photos of the steam locomotive on display in a city park, trying out the 10-18 mm lens.

Steam locomotive

Steam locomotive

I posted images of this before, but they were shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I was trying to do better, but the fence there made it difficult to show the locomotive without the fence blocking it out.

Steam locomotive

Steam locomotive

That was the best that I could do without the fence getting in the way. Here’s two photos about the locomotive.

Steam locomotive information

Steam locomotive information

Steam locomotive information

Steam locomotive information

And, here’s the entire train from a different angle.

Steam locomotive and rail cars

Steam locomotive and rail cars

Also at Grand Haven, I shot this flock of common goldeneye ducks as they flew past.

Common goldeneye ducks in flight

Common goldeneye ducks in flight

Here’s a juvenile long-tailed duck that was playing in the surf.

Juvenile long-tailed duck

Juvenile long-tailed duck

It was hard to keep track of it, as a wave that was breaking would approach, the duck would dive under the wave…

Juvenile long-tailed duck diving under a breaking wave

Juvenile long-tailed duck diving under a breaking wave

…and I never knew where the duck would pop up next. Oh well, I have posted much better shots of long-tailed ducks before, and I’m sure that I’ll get more later this winter when the larger flocks arrive.

Another stop that I made was at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, where I found these birds.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Not a great haul, but not too bad either.

I’ll finish this post with two more images of a snowy owl, this one had darker plumage than the others that I saw.

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

So, that wraps up another one. If I left any spelling mistakes, I’m sorry, I’m rushing this one to finish before I leave for work.

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

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31 responses

  1. Excellent photogrqphs, I liked the ones of the sea crashing against the building. So glad that the water in your apartment didn’t do worse damage and that it was mended so quickly. Hope you have caught up on your missed sleep by now.

    January 10, 2015 at 9:50 am

    • Thank you Susan! I certainly lucked out in that there was no real damage to any of my things, it was only the building that suffered any damage, and it was minimal. Now, if I could only get the lights to stay on and not trip the circuit breaker, I’d be all set. 😉

      January 10, 2015 at 9:29 pm

  2. Is the snowy owl a female?

    January 10, 2015 at 9:56 am

    • Well, according to the experts, almost all the snowy owls that migrate to my area in the winter are young males. So, I have to take their word for it, as I wasn’t able to tell.

      January 10, 2015 at 9:31 pm

  3. Great shots! Glad to hear none of your equipment was damaged. To bad we can’t train birds to perch in trees rather than on utility poles.

    January 10, 2015 at 10:15 am

    • Hope your supply of snowy owl shots never runs dry. I am so entranced with them. Lucky you got home while your ceiling was still where ceilings are supposed to be. I can only imagine the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you walked in.

      January 10, 2015 at 11:11 am

      • Thanks Judy! I guess I’ll have to go to Muskegon again and stock up on snowy owl photos, as they’ll leave come spring. Yeah, when I walked though the door and saw the water running out of the light fixture, I could only think of the worst possibilities. Turns out that it was so bad after all, nothing of mine was damaged in the slightest.

        January 10, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    • Thanks Bob! I agree, trees would be nicer, but utility poles don’t have branches for the birds to hide behind. 😉

      January 10, 2015 at 9:33 pm

  4. Great shots! Glad you didn’t have any worse harm from the water leak. Reminded me of my last apartment when the lady upstairs turned on her bathtub and then left for the store… it’s was raining in my hallway and I about freaked out! You wrote this.. “I can’t believe that no one makes a light weight carrying bag to hold a tripod set-up, either that, or I haven’t been able to find one yet. I wish that I knew some one who knew how to sew, I’d have one made for myself.” I do sew, made a simple, lightweight carrying case for a speaker’s tripod once when Kat was doing Speech & Debate comps back in high school. Let me know if you have an idea what you might want. ~SueBee

    January 10, 2015 at 10:41 am

    • Thank you very much, both for the kind words, and the offer to sew something together for me to carry my tripod in. I’m going to keep looking for a suitable lightweight bag, it doesn’t have to have been made specifically for a tripod, something like a bag to hold tent poles would work just as well.

      January 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      • You’re quite welcome. Very good idea!

        January 11, 2015 at 9:11 pm

  5. awesome snaps 🙂

    January 10, 2015 at 11:32 am

    • Thank you!

      January 10, 2015 at 9:42 pm

  6. I love the tree sparrows. I have a monopod but rarely use it because either you have to walk with the camera screwed on or you have to stop and screw the camera on by which time the bird has flown. A quick release fitting would be ideal.

    I don’t know if there is a ‘highlights and shadows’ adjustment in Lightroom but if there is, it can be very useful with the sort of problems that you were having at the sea side.

    January 10, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    • Thanks Tom! You brought up another reason that I seldom used the monopod, attaching the it to the camera via the threaded stud. Not only is it slow and clumsy, but it’s a good way to damage the threaded insert in a camera body. The mini-ball head that I purchased does have a quick release, the same style as the three-way head on my tripod. It’s a Manfrotto 494 Mini Ball Head with RC2 Quick Release if you’re interested. I’m not sure that it would work with your 70-200 mm lens though, you’d have to check the weight.

      Yes, Lightroom comes with adjustments to the highlights and shadows, it’s very capable of doing a great deal of editing along with organizing photos.

      January 10, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      • It would work with pocketcam and might easily work well with my 70-300mm which is a lot lighter than the 70-200mm. I shall check it out.

        January 11, 2015 at 4:03 pm

  7. You highlighted the best thing about apartment living, Jerry. Just call someone and the damage is repaired at no cost. How great that must be! Good thing your cameras and lenses were out of the way though. That would have been a real disaster.
    You’re going to love Lightroom. One of the areas it really shines in is in fixing exactly the kinds of exposure problems you saw with the lighthouse. If part of the shot is over or under exposed you can “paint” what the correct exposure would have been right into the photo. It comes in real handy with bright sunshine and snow shots!
    That’s quite a train. Do they ever run it? We have one near here that you can ride on, but I can never seem to go and get photos of it.
    I like the shots of the sparrows and seeing a snowy owl is always a treat. I wonder why that one had darker plumage. I’ve never seen a shot of one that looked like that.

    January 10, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    • Thanks Allen! Yeah, I was quite surprised in a good way how little damage that there actually was, and how quickly that they got the mess cleaned up. There’s still some work left to be done, but I’m not going to sweat it, it’s their problem, not mine. 😉

      I’m sure that I’ll love Lightroom once I’m able to use it, I’ve been watching a few online tutorials to learn how to use it since it doesn’t come with any manual from what I’ve heard.

      That locomotive was one of the larger ones used in Michigan, but as far as I know, it just sits there, which is a shame.

      The snowy owls are white as adults, but their first feathers are brown so that they blend in with the grasses on the tundra where they are hatched. The brown one was probably a late hatching chick that hasn’t grown as any of its adult feathers yet. Most of the other photos I see of snowys around here are the browner ones, I’ve been lucky in getting the whiter ones so far.

      January 10, 2015 at 10:09 pm

  8. Great set of shots! We have a lot of Mallard hybrids here, especially in town parks and near farms that keep white ducks. The only true Mallards I see are right out in the country. I love the shots of the American Tree Sparrow.

    January 10, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Those mallards sure are scamps, aren’t they?

      January 10, 2015 at 9:53 pm

  9. What a enormous post full of lots of goodies. Firstly, so sorry to hear of the water disaster. I can’t imagine how you felt coming home to that after such a long and difficult shift! I’m surprised at how quickly it was sorted out though. Not sure we’d get such great service here. Did you have to use a “persuasive” voice or did they just do their job well without and pushing?
    Secondly, getting some new toys in the mail are always exciting. Am looking forward to reading about how the new computer and all your other gear works out. It will be so much easier not having a blue screen of death and a faster speed, as well as a nice new screen.
    I’m very glad to got to add another bird photo to your list with the greater black-backed gull.
    I really liked the lighthouse pic – lovely red and the massive spray of water was great.
    I also like the house on the water you included. Imagine being living so close to the water like!? Would be lovely.
    I think gulls are so beautiful with their streamlined bodies and their fresh grey and white colouring. I actually have a post coming up about a dawn birthday breakfast on the beach (thermos and biscuits) and the main feature was a very friendly seagull who just wouldn’t leave me alone. I got some lovely shots of him flying and sitting in front of the sunrise though.
    Also love your mallard pics again – the colours are so vibrant and I like their sheen. Thank you for including more snowy owl pics – I’ve not seen them with the darker markings.
    Anyway, I hope there are no more water disasters in store for you and I am very glad you weren’t part of that terrible car pile up. Enjoy your purchases and be safe on those snowy roads.

    January 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    • Thank you Jane! I think that the reason that they completed the repair and clean-up so quickly was that it was cheaper that way because it was the building that was being damaged by the water, the carpeting and drywall, not my personal belongings. 😉

      New toys are always good, and I can’t wait util I have enough saved for a new, faster computer that doesn’t crash occasionally. I’m also anxious to see what a little tweaking will do for my photos!

      Living near the water of the Great Lakes would be great, any water for that matter. My grandparents and an uncle had houses on smaller inland lakes, and another uncle lived on his boat during the summer months after he retired. Maybe that’s why I’m attracted to water the way I am. 😉

      Not only are gulls beautiful, they make great subjects to practice photography skills on, since they are fearless of humans for the most part. Whenever I get rusty shooting birds in flight, I’ll go back to shooting the gulls for a while.

      January 11, 2015 at 8:38 am

  10. P.S. My brain is fuzzy this week. Sorry about all the mistakes in my previous comment! I should have checked it first.

    January 10, 2015 at 10:56 pm

  11. I thought about you when I heard about the blizzards and that pile-up with the firecrackers on the news. Good to hear that you weren’t involved. Stay safe on them crazy roads with all this bizarre weather! Also glad your camera gear wasn’t damaged.

    January 10, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    • Thanks Gunta! I still have a hard time imagining that people can be so dumb while driving in white out conditions. I was nearly involved in a wreck similar to that one the previous evening on the same highway, but about 100 miles farther west. Two Indiana plow trucks were going very slow in the middle two lanes, and I could see their flashers and traffic backing up behind them. I slowed down, got in the right lane, and cars and trucks went whizzing past me until they were right on top of the plows, then it was panic time. There were cars and trucks sliding everywhere, I just picked my way through while crawling along, got past the plows, then had open highway because every one else was jammed up behind the plows. Scary!

      January 11, 2015 at 8:23 am

  12. So sorry to hear about the water leak! You must have been freaking out when you heard the water in the wrong place!!! BTW, I totally understand the importance of organization when you’ve got so many photos. When I finally bought a new desktop after my 8 yr old laptop couldn’t keep up anymore, I decided to get a backup drive with at least as much as the computer. Storage is so cheap nowadays that it just makes sense. Have fun with your new system!!!

    January 11, 2015 at 9:55 am

    • Thank you Lori! I’m sure that I will have fun with the new system, once I have it complete.

      January 11, 2015 at 8:32 pm

  13. Love the wildlife photos, you have so many amazing pictures…I have a soft spot for steam locomotives so thank you for including that, it was special.

    January 11, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    • Thank you Charlie! I love old steam engines also, so I had to include it.

      January 12, 2015 at 8:21 am

  14. I really liked the HDR image of the Grand Haven lighthouse! I didn’t know ducks cross-bred, so once again I have learned something new! I am going to check out e-bird to see if anything interesting has turned up in my area. 🙂

    I saw a video from that I-94 crash, it literally made my heart hurt to watch. Such an awful thing and really miraculous that only 1 person was killed.

    Was glad to see more snowy owl pictures!

    January 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    • Thanks Amy! Mallards will mate with just about any other species of duck from what I’ve read, maybe that’s why they seem so happy all the time. 😉

      I still have lots to learn about the Photomatix software that I use to create the HDR images, but that won’t happen until I get a faster computer. I don’t have the patience to wait while the software processes each image that I attempt.

      January 14, 2015 at 9:38 am