Along Lake Michigan, January 18th, 2015
Since the weather forecast called for a mixture of snow and rain overnight, giving way to some sunshine shortly after dawn, I headed over to Lake Michigan again, hoping to shoot a few good photos of the waterfowl and whatever else I could find. The forecast was correct in that I drove over to Grand Haven, my first stop of the day, in a rain/snow mix. The precipitation did end about the time I arrived there, and it was just before dawn.
I parked in a city park on the south side of the Grand River channel that leads to Lake Michigan to see if I could spot any waterfowl, even though there wasn’t enough light to try any photos yet. Silly me, I was sitting there viewing several rafts of ducks in the pockets of open water that were interspersed between packs of ice floating down the river. It was getting lighter by the minute, and as I thought of exiting my vehicle to see if there was enough light to photograph the ducks, I looked over to see that the walkway extending out to the lighthouse was still lit up.
I could see that the rest of the city lights were turning off, so I quickly grabbed the camera that had the 300 mm prime lens and 1.4 X extender on it to shoot this.
I know, I should have used the tripod, as the shutter speed was way too slow to get a sharp photo, and in fact, I did try for a better photo, but by the time I got the tripod set-up, the lights had turned off. But, that will remind me to do it right the next time I’m there that early. 😉
To make up for that shot, here’s one from later in the day, a grey, grey squirrel.
If you’re familiar with grey squirrels, you know that they have two color variations, the one seen here, and also, some are all black. For years, I tried getting a good photo of a black grey squirrel with my old Nikon, but never did. I have shot several good images of the black ones with my Canon, however, it dawned on me that I had never tried for a good image of a grey one. Now I have. Well, at least as good as I could get in the low light of the day, since the sun never did burn through the clouds.
So, the story from this day was editing the images I shot this day. For one thing, I learned how to make the noise reduction feature of the Canon Digital Professional Photo software function. In my earlier attempts, the software froze, and never did any noise reduction when I tried it. Since the light was so poor most of the day, I had to shoot at higher ISO settings, which of course resulted in a great deal of sensor noise in most of the waterfowl photos.
I also did a lot of tweaking to the exposures of most of the waterfowl and other photos from the day. While no software can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, doing the editing of the images from the day made it so that the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time. I would have come home with just a handful of photos if I hadn’t edited these.
Also, no amount of editing can make up for the lack of light. I shot this red-breasted merganser shortly after my failed attempt to get a good shot of the lighthouse.
If only the darned waterfowl would hold still, I’d have a chance for a good photo. But, that’s seldom the case. I was quite surprised at how skittish the waterfowl were, the only reason that I tried for the merganser when I did was that some one walking their dog well away from the channel was causing the waterfowl to move away from me, and out of camera range. So, I had to try that photo when I did.
When the merganser did slow down enough for the slow shutter speed that I was using could freeze his motion, he had turned so that what little light that there was at the time was wrong.
I knew that more people would be arriving to walk along the channel as the day progressed, so I shot what I could find in range, even in the very low light.
No award winners there, that’s for sure, but by reducing the noise and tweaking the exposures, you can see what species the waterfowl are.
Sure enough, as the people began going for their morning walks, the waterfowl either flew off to other locations, or moved to the north side of the channel, out of camera range. So, I packed up and drove to Harbor Island, but the river there was completely frozen over, so there wasn’t much to see. I continued on to the north side of the channel, and debated trying to walk the ice-covered walkway.
It didn’t matter, the ducks decided to leave well before I got close to them.
I could have, and probably should have, switched over to shoot ice formations found in the river.
But not me, I was there for birds, sort of.
One of the cool things about the ice on the river was the sounds that it made as it collided with itself. So, I switched over to shoot a video, hoping to capture the few remaining ducks and the tinkling sounds coming from the ice.
And hearing the sounds coming from the common goldeneyes as the came in for a landing prompted me to try catching the sound from a flock of them as they flew past me.
I wouldn’t call either of those a great success, but I hope that it gives you an idea of the sounds that go along with the sights that I see. Also, it highlights one way of identifying some species of birds by sounds when you can’t see them well enough to ID them.
So, there I was, trying not to slip and fall over the railing as I worked my way carefully along the ice-covered breakwater, with flocks of ducks flying past me at regular intervals, but I couldn’t get close to any of them, until four male goldeneyes came in for a landing close enough for me to shoot these.
Considering the poor light, not bad. A little noise reduction, and a few tweaks to the exposure, and I have photos worth posting, rather than deleting as I used to do.
I considered switching modes again, this time to landscape photos.
The lighthouse would have been a fine subject if I had put more thought into these.
But, the footing was treacherous everywhere that I tried to walk, it seemed as if everything near Lake Michigan at Grand Haven was covered in ice. Also, the clouds would occasionally spit a little rain or snow at times, and I didn’t want to be changing lenses at those times. So, I walked back to my vehicle and swapped to the 70-200 mm lens for this one.
I shot several others not worth posting, then in the shelter of my vehicle once more, I switched to my two wider angle lenses in turn, but neither of them produced an image worth posting. It wasn’t the fault of the lenses, but my unwillingness to risk a slip and fall on the ice while carrying my expensive gear. Not to mention, it was cold out there exposed to the wind.
So, I packed up once more, and headed north to Lake Harbor Park, on the Mona Lake channel to Lake Michigan. There, I found one of the resident mallards taking a bath….
….then striking a pose….
…before drying his wings.
This subtly colored, but beautiful female mallard hybrid was still there.
She was making herself look pretty for this shot.
I also found this gal there, it looks like a female green-winged teal, but since she was hanging out with the other mallards, she may also be a hybrid.
I thought that the light was improving a bit, but that was just while I was around the mallards. Farther down the channel, it grew darker again, just as I spotted a few other species of ducks, like this male bufflehead.
He was hanging out with this female red-breasted merganser.
I looked back at the bufflehead just in time to catch him “saluting” me.
I swear, that’s the duck equivalent of giving me the finger, as shortly after that, he dove, and I never did see him again.
I shot a few photos of the ice formations there as well.
Most of the goldeneyes that I saw at Grand Haven were males, but here at Lake Harbor park, I saw mostly females.
Again, noise reduction and tweaking the exposure saved these photos, for what they’re worth.
My next stop was the Muskegon River channel, where I shot my gull portrait of the day.
And then, caught this female common goldeneye in flight.
Other than her, and more ice, there wasn’t much else in range of the camera, so I headed to the other end of Muskegon Lake to visit the aptly named Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, where I spent some time shooting songbirds.
That’s also where I got the grey squirrel from earlier in this post.
It wasn’t the only mammal around.
But mostly, it was birds that I photographed. You may have noticed that the chickadee was on a bird feeder, something that I rarely do. I suppose that what I did do is much the same, I sat down on a picnic table close to the feeders and caught these birds as they came and went.
This cardinal was so close to me that I was cutting off her tail with the camera in the landscape position.
So, here she is with the camera in the portrait position, these were not cropped at all.
Funny, I used to crop photos, but do no other editing. Most of these weren’t cropped at all, or just a little, but I edited them to reduce noise, and improve the exposure slightly when needed.
Still, it doesn’t help when the birds don’t play nice, I had this male cardinal all lined up for a great shot, but as I pressed the shutter, he turned away from me.
This one tried to hide, but not very hard.
Juncos can be difficult to get close to, I lucked out, and had one perch this close to me as seen through the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens).
Getting the noise reduction software to work sure helped those out.
Finally, my last stop of the day was the Muskegon County wastewater facility. I did the quick tour, no snowy owls in sight, but I did find one bald eagle just on the edge of the Beast’s range.
As you have seen, we never did get the promised sunshine this day, oh well, I should know by now to never believe a meteorologist. 😉
Okay then, now for some boring camera talk. As I speculated earlier, as I learn how to edit the images coming from my Canon 60D bodies, I’m happier with them than I have ever been. I’d still like to upgrade to the new 7D Mark II, but I’m no longer chomping at the bit the way that I was when it was first announced.
Part of my conversion to some one who post-processes his photos has been learning the details of the different camera models. My 60D has the same sensor as the original 7D has, so theoretically, the image quality from both should be the same. Straight from the sensor, that’s probably true. However, Canon programs their more expensive camera bodies differently than they do the lower end models.
Probably the best example of that is the 70D and the 7D Mk II, they share the exact same sensor. But, the reviews of both models say that the 7D Mk II is much better as far as noise at higher ISO settings. How can that be, if they have the same sensor? The answer is the software programmed into the camera by Canon, the 7D Mk II does a better job of editing the images in the camera.
If software is the reason, then what difference does it make if the software is programmed into the camera, or in some other software, say Lightroom, for example. It doesn’t matter, other than the time that it takes to edit the images outside the camera in post-processing, rather than having the camera’s software do it automatically.
Since I have learned that no camera can faithfully record many scenes due to the limitations of the current sensors built into cameras, post-processing is required anyway. So, I may as well do the noise reduction with software, as well as fixing the exposure weaknesses in the images coming from my camera.
Yes, I’d still like to upgrade to the 7D Mk II for its better weather sealing and auto-focusing system, but until I max out what is possible with my current camera, then I can wait until the new 7D has been on the market long enough for Canon to offer rebates on it, to save some money.
Well, since this post is already quite long, and the text has disappeared again, it’s time to wrap this one up!
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!