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

Around home, Before the deep freeze

Where do I begin? It’s been so long since I shot many of the photos that will appear in this post that I don’t remember many of the details of where and when I shot them, other than they were all shot around my apartment as I went on walks around here. From my last post, you know that I spent a lot of time on the road over the Christmas weekend, driving back and forth to various places along Lake Michigan. I decided to save money and stay home over the New Years weekend. Not that there were many things to photograph around here, or good light when I did want to shoot a photo.

During one week in December, we went an entire week with just seven minutes of sunshine, Lake Michigan was working overtime to produce the lake effect clouds that kept this area so dreary for most of the month.

So, I think that I’ll skip way ahead, and start with a photo from yesterday, when there was some sunshine.

Reflected selfie

Reflected selfie

There’s a couple who walk their dogs daily in the same park that I walk, and they decorate the entrance gate to the park, as well asย a couple of the small trees in the park, and that’s one of the ornaments that they put out for every one to enjoy. In one way, I wish that the reflective coating hadn’t begun to flake off from that ornament, in another way, it adds interest to that image. I shot some of the other ornaments at the same time, those photos may appear in a later post, but I should stay away from them now. Otherwise, I’ll be wanting a fish-eye lens to play with to get the same effect as the reflection shots. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yesterday was the first time that I went for a walk while carrying my monopod with the new ball head attached to it, and I was looking for interesting things to try that set-up out on, but this was the best thing that I could find.

Ice and snow

Ice and snow

I have been trying that set-up indoors, I won’t bore you with those photos though. However, I’m liking the ball head on the monopod, it works well so far. I even tested the limits of what the ball head can hold by putting the 300 mm prime lens on it to go from this, shot at 1/400…

Running water

Running water

…and slow the shutter down to get this at 1/15.

Blurred running water

Blurred running water

The ball head has a quick release plate, so I don’t have to screw the monopod to the camera body or tripod mount of the lens if so equipped, which makes it much easier to use. I can hold the monopod vertical, the position it is most stable in, and tilt the camera as needed using the ball head, works like a charm with the macro and wide-angle lenses! The 300 mm lens is pushing the capacity of the lightweight head that I bought, but I found that it will work in a pinch.

Now then, let’s go back in time to the middle of December, so that I can post the photos in the order they were shot, more or less. I’ll start with some fungi, just because I liked the way that the light that day fell on them.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

You can see, not every day was cloudy, it just seemed that way. ๐Ÿ˜‰

American crow

American crow

Most of my photos of birds looked more along these lines, high noise, low resolution.

American goldfinches

American goldfinches

Since I’m on goldfinches, here’s one that was taking a bath in a creek.

American goldfinch bathing

American goldfinch bathing

And, here it is drying its wing feathers…

American goldfinch drying its feathers

American goldfinch drying its feathers

…then noticing me watching it.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Maybe I’m losing my touch, but I can’t seem to get many birds to pose for me lately. I’m not the only one complaining about that, several other people I have spoken to have been saying that all the birds seem very skittish this year. I have no idea why that would be, but that’s how it’s been the last few months.

The poor light also interfered with my attempts to shoot macro photos, here’s one of the better ones of late.

Unidentified plant

Unidentified plant

It’s hard to get the lens stopped down for a good field of view needed for macros, and like a dummy, I don’t carry my flash or LED light in poor weather, as I’m worried about ruining them, and/or battery life in cold weather.

In some areas of the country, they get rain, which allows fungi and lichens to become good subjects for photos, then sunshine to shoot photos of those subjects. Around here, as I’m sure that I’ve mentioned more than a few times, we get rain and nearly continuous cloud cover for days after this time of year. Well, on one rainy day, I noticed this brightly colored lichen.

Lichen

Lichen

And, as I was trying for photos of the lichen, I noticed these tiny fungi growing nearby on the same tree.

Tiny fungi

Tiny fungi

I switched to the macro lens for these, but they’re not very good since the light was so bad.

Tiny fungi and other growing things

Tiny fungi and other growing things

Tiny fungi and other growing things

Tiny fungi and other growing things

As is almost always the case, I saw things through the macro lens that had escaped my notice before. That section of the tree had a miniature jungle growing on it, but I was frustrated trying to get better photos.

Tiny fungi and other growing things

Tiny fungi and other growing things

I don’t know if some of those things are mosses or what they are, but they looked interesting through the macro lens even if they didn’t photograph well.

Of course, it’s hard to get good photos when many of the days when I was trying looked like this.

Snow, fog, wind, no light

Snow, fog, wind, no light

However, the snow never stuck around for more than a day or two until New Year’s Eve, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

On the same day as I shot that last photo, I was very surprised to find this heron taking shelter from the storm in the brush along the creek in the park.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I couldn’t find an opening in the brush to get a clearer shot of the heron, and while I was trying, the heron took off.

Great blue heron flying on a snowy, foggy day

Great blue heron flying on a snowy, foggy day

Macro photos aren’t the only type of photos that need some light for depth of field, here’s a muskrat taken on one of the many dreary days here.

Muskrat in the rain

Muskrat in the rain

Its eyes are relatively sharp in that photo, but the rest of it is blurry because I had to shoot with the lens wide open, hence, no depth of field with the 300 mm prime lens.

I have to keep telling myself that I walk for the exercise, the photography is just something to make the walking more interesting, but it’s becoming harder to convince myself of that as I immerse myself deeper into the photography. So, I tell myself that even though the images are crap, they’re still a record of what I saw when walking, like the heron and muskrat.

Trying to think positively, we’re about half-way through January already. While February is often the coldest winter month around here, I can already tell that we’re getting longer hours of sunlight, even through the clouds. March is a wet, sloppy month, but by then, it’s warming up, the birds are singing spring songs, and those birds that migrated south are beginning to trickle back to this area, so, it won’t be long now. The first flowers of spring will soon be appearing shortly.

So, I have to accept the fact that for a few months each winter, good nature photos are going to be few and far between, unless I’ve saved some from the summer months, like this one.

Monarch butterfly from during warmer weather

Monarch butterfly from during warmer weather

Now then, back to what’s normal around here this time of year, fungi that I had to use the flash on to get any usable photo at all.

Unidentified fungal objects 2

Unidentified fungal objects 2

One good thing, I’m getting better at controlling the flash built into the camera.

Dew

Dew

I’m also learning to take advantage of every second of good light that I get.

Teasel

Teasel

Frosty morning 1

Frosty morning 1

Frosty morning 2

Frosty morning 2

I had all summer to hang around the ponds and shoot mallards in action, but did I? Of course not, I waited until winter to shoot them.

Mallard fight

Mallard fight

Mallard fight

Mallard fight

The victor!

The victor!

That was because I had plenty of other subjects to shoot.

Here’s another photo of one of the plants from earlier in this post.

Unidentified again

Unidentified again

I like that one, with the frost and the vine in the background, it was shot with the 300 mm prime if any one is interested. I’m using this time when I don’t see very much to shoot to experiment more, sometimes, as in the last one, they work, most of the time I get to wear out the delete key. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I did find a few other birds, starting with these unhappy bluebirds, and by the way, who ever heard of unhappy bluebirds?

Eastern bluebirds

Eastern bluebirds

Maybe they were unhappy because they knew this was in their future.

Ice patterns

Ice patterns

Back to the birds.

American crow

American crow

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

"wood" stork

“wood” stork

Yup, I’ve been so bored on a few days that I’ve had to resort to shots like that last one. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But, spring will get here eventually.

Leaf buds

Leaf buds

And, spring better get here, or the smug squirrel from an earlier post will have exploded from over eating.

Fox squirrel eating box elder seeds

Fox squirrel eating box elder seeds

Fox squirrel eating box elder seeds

Fox squirrel eating box elder seeds

I suppose that I should quit whining about the weather here during the winter months, it is what it is, and I’m not able to change it. We did have two sunny days in a row here the last two days, but unfortunately, I had to work, and didn’t have time for a walk. However, with the sun came very cold temperatures, we set record low temperatures the last two days as well. That’s the way it goes here, the only sunny days we get areย when the wind is straight out of the north, bringing Arctic air into the state.

The forecast is for a warming trend this next weekend, we may make it above freezing for a day or two, that will seem like a heat wave!

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Michigan, at least for nine months of the year, and our winters aren’t as harsh as most of the northern state’s winters are. ย The Great Lakes, which produce the almost constant cloud cover also moderate out temperatures compared to Wisconsin or Minnesota, as examples.

Maybe when I retire I’ll become a “snow bird” a resident of one of the northern states that travel south for the winter. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well, that wraps this one up, I’m about caught up in using the photos that I have saved for future posts, I may go to Muskegon this weekend to stock up again. It would probably be Sunday, as I have volunteered to work Saturday if they need me there. Trying to save up for that new computer as quickly as possible. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

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24 responses

  1. Lots of good pictures, my favourites were the heron and the squirrel and your reflected selfie so well wrapped up.

    January 15, 2015 at 3:00 am

    • Thank you Susan! I was certainly wrapped up that day, it was cold!

      January 15, 2015 at 9:10 am

  2. There were many lovely and interesting pics in this post. I actually like the way the Christmas ball is flaking…it’s very artsy! More interesting than the usual baubles.
    Other favourites include the mainly black and white shot called “ice patterns” as well as dew, teasel and frosty morning (1).
    The heron looks suitably mournful in the snow. I feel like shivering just looking at the pic!
    The squirrels look very fat and cuddly and so real on my screen with the beautiful fur detail.
    I’m not a fan of our hot, humid weather here but I think I may go a little stir crazy if I couldn’t see blue sky for weeks on end! Sending you some of our glorious sunshine in exchange for a light showering of snow to cool us down. Be safe on those snowy roads! ๐Ÿ™‚

    January 15, 2015 at 4:40 am

    • Thank you Jane! I like the artsy look of the flaking ornament, but I was really digging the fish-eye effect of the reflection, I wished that I could have found one to do both ways.

      It’s been cold, we’ve set records for low temps the past two days, colder than it’s been in twenty years here. But, at least we saw the sun, now, we’ll have a week of solid clouds again to make up for it.

      January 15, 2015 at 9:14 am

  3. I think you’ve got a lot of good shots here Jerry, but my favorite is the black and white ice patterns.
    I can tell that those mushrooms were tiny! I think they are one of the marasmius clan.
    The netted seed pod looks like a Chinese lantern seed pod. They’re usually grown for their reddish orange pods that hold the color when dried.
    The yellow buds are bitternut hickory. We don’t see too many of those here but I know where one or two are.
    That heron looks just about frozen! We’ve had essentially the same weather that you’ve had. The few sunny days have been cold and the cloudy ones not much warmer. It can’t go on forever though. The skunk cabbages will be poking up through the snow before we know it.

    January 15, 2015 at 7:52 am

    • Thanks Allen! Those mushrooms were tiny, the largest were only about 1/4 inch in diameter, and for some reason, the one that came out the sharpest was the smallest of them all. I liked the buds on the bitternut hickory, simply because they are one of the few things with some color showing.

      I can’t believe that a heron is still hanging around here as cold as it has been. The only open water has to be moving water, so the heron has few places to search for food.

      We’re forecast to get a slight January thaw this weekend, I hope that the same holds true for you too. I know that spring is just around the corner, one of these days very soon, I’ll hear the first cardinal beginning to sing. And, you’re right, not long after that, the skunk cabbage will begin to appear.

      January 15, 2015 at 9:29 am

  4. The fungi soft-focus pix are really lovely! And how did you get so close to that heron??? PS, not sure why your birds are skittish but down here, it’s all the hawk activity. *sigh*

    January 15, 2015 at 8:46 am

    • Thanks Lori! I think that hawks and other predators may have something to do with why the birds are skittish here, but there’s something else at play that I can’t put my finger on. I was surprised that the heron sat still for so long as well, I took several shots from several angles as I tried to find an opening in the brush, without success. I think that the heron didn’t want to leave its sheltered location. I felt bad in a way, but there are plenty of similar locations along that creek.

      January 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

      • As I was reading your reply, another hawk flew by my window and the sun is barely up! They are very hungry. Which makes me wonder if it’s food-chain related. It often is.

        January 16, 2015 at 7:23 am

      • Thanks Lori, you could be right about the hawks being the problem.

        January 16, 2015 at 9:37 am

  5. Great pictures…may I know which camera you have??

    January 15, 2015 at 9:50 am

    • Thank you! I use a Canon 60D, actually, two of them. One is always set-up for wildlife, the other for macros or landscapes.

      January 15, 2015 at 10:58 am

  6. OOoooooh, I love that selfie reflection – that is so awesome!! And the ice crystals, that was super-cool, I loved being able to see the 6 sides of the crystals! (especially since I was just teaching my preschoolers about snow and ice yesterday!) I also thought the teasel with the frost on the tips was impressive. The grumpy blue birds made me laugh! I am grumpy in this weather, too! ๐Ÿ˜€

    For so many years I joked about “snowbirds” (especially for the 3 years I lived in Florida) but now that I am over 50, I totally understand why people want to fly away from these frigid temps for a few months! I am a Michigander through and through but the older I get, the harder these cold temps are! Thanks for the monarch, I nice reminder that warmer temperatures are coming.

    January 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    • Thank you Amy! What I’m finding while looking through the macro lens makes me wish that I had been more serious about photography when I was younger, and could better stand the cold. Neither the cold or snow used to bother me, but as you say, as we age, we lose our tolerance of winter.

      January 16, 2015 at 12:37 am

  7. UFO 1 carried off today’s prize for me. I hope that the lake relents and you get a ray or two of sunshine soon.

    January 15, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    • Thanks Tom! If your weather and our weather continues as it has for both of us, it will be a slow winter for photos.

      January 16, 2015 at 12:28 am

  8. I loved the frosty teasel and the chinese lanterns. What would the heron eat in such cold temperatures? The fish and frogs must be right at the bottom of the lakes and ponds hibernating or very sluggish at least.

    January 15, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    • Thank you Clare! I’m not sure what the heron has been finding to eat, most likely fish. The creek is a small shallow one, so the heron would have no trouble reaching fish thet were hugging the bottom. And, a sluggish fish is probably easier for the heron to catch.

      January 16, 2015 at 12:27 am

  9. I agree, that selfie shot was great! Very nice catch indeed. But that poor heron looks totally miserable. Aren’t they supposed to migrate to better weather?

    January 16, 2015 at 2:03 am

    • Thank you! Yes, the heron should have been gone a couple of months ago, but a few seem to stick around most of the winter. There was one that hung out at a golf course all year for several winters, I didn’t see it last winter. I don’t know if it died, or moved south since last winter was so cold.

      January 16, 2015 at 9:36 am

  10. Love your selfie. Think it’s my favorite shot of the lot. You made me feel (almost) guilty for not being home to share the gloomy weather. I’m appreciative of the fact that you grab your gear and head out despite the less than nice conditions.

    January 16, 2015 at 11:05 am

    • Thanks Judy! I wouldn’t feel guilty at all about missing out on the gloom around here, enjoy the sunshine, I would be. And as far as going out in less than nice conditions, what choice do I have. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m not ready to hibernate through winter yet, so I bundle up and trudge onward.

      January 17, 2015 at 8:01 am

  11. Love the heron! Great pics!

    January 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    • Thank you Sheila!

      January 17, 2015 at 7:58 am