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

Around home, 13 days to go!

Well, today is February 1st as I begin working on this post, and the 13 days to go refers to when I’ll be ordering my new iMac computer! At least I hope that it will be just 13 more days.

I probably should be out walking right now, as it is a Sunday, but there’s a snowstorm raging outside, and I decided to catch up on some things inside, one of them being getting my taxes filed, along with some mundane chores such as laundry.

The taxes have been filed, and with the refunds that are due me, that money will put me over the top of what the new computer will cost. If I remember correctly, it doesn’t take but a week or two for the refunds to show up in my checking account. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll wait until my next payday, which is February 13th, and a Friday the 13th at that.

I have more than enough saved to purchase the base model iMac that I was originally going to purchase, but after Apple lowered their prices right after Christmas, I decided to go for the top of the line 21.5 inch display model, the one with a faster quad-core processor vs. a dual-core, 16 GB RAM and a 1 GB RAM video card, which added $500 to the price of the base model. Just enough more to make me wait another two weeks to pull the trigger on the purchase, but it will be worth it to have a machine built to do what I intend to do, edit photos.

I’m still not quite used to budgeting based on getting paid every two weeks though, I know that I made a good chunk of money this past week at work, so the paycheck that I receive on the 13th should be a good one. I’ll hold off until my next payday to be sure that I have not only enough to buy the computer, but to pay my bills for the month as well. 😉 Then, the tax refunds are only for insurance so to speak.

Since I’ve been working as much as they’d let me the past two weeks, I haven’t had many chances to get outside to shoot photos, but it will be worth it to have the new computer. And, the weather hasn’t been that great either, since it is winter in West Michigan. We haven’t gotten much snow until the storm today, but it has been cold, cloudy, and dreary most days.

But hey, we’ve turned a page on the calendar, it is February, the shortest month of the year. I’ve already heard birds singing their spring songs, so they know that spring isn’t that far off, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the first of March, signs of spring will be appearing no matter how bad the weather is, so that will be something to look forward to.

I say that even though it’s now February 2nd, groundhog’s day, and the snowstorm yesterday was the real deal. We received over a foot of snow, and today, the temperature has dropped into the bone chilling range. Even though I’d have the time for a walk today, I’m going to chicken out again. I’ll continue to work on my inside chores, and get them out of the way before spring does arrive.

It has dawned on me that I may have already ordered and possibly received the new computer by the time that I post this. I don’t have enough photos saved to fill out a post, and from the weather forecast for this coming week, I may not add many either. We’ll see, and it will also depend on my work schedule.

That’s the downside of seeing and/or hearing some of the first signs of spring, it gets me all wound up for the better weather to come later in the year, and that makes it harder to deal with the brutal cold that often sets in this time of year. Going for a walk when the wind chills are well below zero Farenheit and I have to trudge through over a foot of snow just doesn’t appeal to me any longer, I’m getting too old for that. And, that’s what the weather forecast is calling for most of this week.

So, what to write about until then? Well, I guess that I’ll start with the photos that I do have saved.

Icy morning 3

Icy morning 3

You may have noticed that I titled that one Icy morning 3, that’s because this is the first of the series of photos that I shot.

Icy morning 1

Icy morning 1

I liked that one, but knew that I could find a better photo in the ice patterns than the that, so I continued to view different portions of the ice through my viewfinder, this is the second shot.

Icy morning 2

Icy morning 2

And eventually, I found the image that I began with, my favorite of the lot.

As you can see, we do get some sunshine around here at times, but it’s a rare treat, rather than the rule. So, I played with another shot of some ice patterns, this is the normal exposure.

Ice patterns 1

Ice patterns 1

Typically, I then go down with the exposure to increase the contrast, but in this instance, I went up for this one.

Ice patterns 2

Ice patterns 2

I found that I liked the slightly overexposed version, which surprised me. It never hurts to play around, I learn a little more every time that I do. That now includes playing during post-processing my images to make up for poor light. My last post from along the lakeshore was filled with images that I tweaked the exposure on, here’s two shots of mallards that I have also post-processed. The first was easy to tweak.

Swimming mallards

Swimming mallards

All that I had to do was lighten up the shadows a little to bring out the green in the males’ heads.

Now, you would think that as I walked towards the mallards that they would fly away from me, no such luck, as then, I’d have had good light for a mallard in flight photo. They turned around, and flew straight at me so I had to shoot this one as the male passed me, and got between myself and what sunshine that there was.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Not great, the only reason that I’m including it is because I was able to salvage it using the editing software that came with my camera. It took a lot of adjustments to get it as good as it is, for what it’s worth. However, I’m seeing the value of editing more, the more often that I try it. Before editing, the mallard was mostly a dark blob, I’m amazed at how well this one turned out with the software that I currently have to use.

Anyway, on the same day that I shot the video of the house finch singing, there were plenty of other birds in the same thicket as he was. Here’s another male house finch eating lunch, which I shot while searching for the one that was singing.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Here’s a dark-eyed junco fluffed up against the cold.

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

And, here’s a goldfinch that was also fluffed up against the cold.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think that I see the first hints that the goldfinch is a male, and beginning to grow his brighter summer feathers.

All the birds in the brush were staying well hidden, and here’s why, one of the worst photos of a Cooper’s hawk that I have ever posted.

Hidden Cooper's hawk

Hidden Cooper’s hawk

I could not get a focus on the hawk, with it behind so much brush. But, I wanted to include the reason that all the birds were staying deep in the brush that day, including the house finch that was doing the singing. I think that I’d stay hidden with a predator so close to me!

I spooked the hawk while trying to get a clear view of it, then, the small birds came out into the open a little more for these photos.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

When the birds were hunkered down in the brush to avoid being seen by the hawk, it was easier for me to get close to them, as the birds were more afraid of the hawk than me. With the hawk gone, their fear of humans took over again.

One of the mornings when I had a chance to walk, I was out just at sunrise, a golden one at that.

Golden sunrise

Golden sunrise

As the sun rose, the light changed to icy blue.

Icy blue morning

Icy blue morning

I’m not sure if I caught both colors in this next one, or if it was just a lens flare. 😉

Golden icy blue morning, or lens flare

Golden icy blue morning, or lens flare

The early morning light gave me plenty of opportunities for photos outside of the box which I typically shoot from.

Icy morning 1

Icy morning 1

Icy morning 2

Icy morning 2

Icy morning 3

Icy morning 3

Icy morning 4

Icy morning 4

Icy morning 5

Icy morning 5

I’m not quite sure if I like all of those or not, especially the sumac, but it was fun to play shooting photos that aren’t in my usual style. It never hurts to play around with shots or settings that one normally doesn’t, it’s always a learning experience even if the images end up getting deleted in the end.

With ice crystals covering many things, I headed for the British soldier lichens that grow on a fence at the entrance to the park, as I had found very interesting ice crystal formations there on an earlier day. Once again, I tried, and failed, to get a good photo of the complex ice crystals on the lichen.

Ice crystals 1

Ice crystals 1

The best examples were in the shade for the most part, sheltered from the sun that was already beginning to melt the ice formations that it hit. I attempted to use my monopod with the new ball head attached so that I could stop the lens down for more depth of field, but I was foiled by the fact that when the county plows a small parking area for the dog walkers, they push the snow right up against the fence. With the piles of snow in the way, I couldn’t find a good example of the ice crystals that I could use the monopod on, until I found this less complex formation.

Ice crystals 2

Ice crystals 2

One of these days, it will work out so that I find something like that with a less jumbled background and where I can get set-up properly for a good photo, maybe. 😉

Maybe it’s time to go back to birds.

Pigeon in flight

Pigeon in flight

I didn’t have time to turn off the IS as the pigeon flew past me, so there’s the ghosting present in that photo as a result, darn.

Okay then, as I was heading towards home one morning, I heard a flock of blue jays making a fuss in the apartment complex across the street from the one that I live in. I kept an eye out for what would be causing the jays to carry on like they were, and soon, one came flying straight at me with something in its beak. It landed almost directly over my head, and set a piece of pizza crust down in the crotch of the tree. Then, the jay hopped to a branch where it could look back at where it had come from.

Blue jay

Blue jay

After a few minutes, the jay went back to where it had placed the pizza, picked it up, and moved to a better location at which to dine.

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Blue jay eating pizza

Sorry for so many of the blue jay, but I thought that it was an interesting glimpse into their behavior.

On a sad note, this is all that remains of one of the woodlots that I walk past when I do go for a walk around here.

Ex-woodlot

What used to be a woodlot

Funny thing about myself, I look at that photo and I’m struck by how I should have set-up and done a HDR image of the scene, even though it’s a throw away type of photo. The snow is blown out, and now, that bugs me when it didn’t use to bother me.

In one of his recent posts, Allen, who does the New Hampshire Gardens Solutions blog was worried about birds and small animals finding water in the winter that they could drink. Here’s one source of liquid that I’ve seen both birds and squirrels use in the winter.

Frozen sap

Frozen sap

That tree had been damaged and the sap was flowing from the wound. As cold as it’s been around here, the sap eventually freezes, but I’ve seen small birds and squirrels drinking the unfrozen sap either from where it flows from the wound, or from the drops at the tips of the icicle that form. Chickadees in particular will land on the icicles, and drink the drops of sap off from the end. Squirrels tend to go for the sap as it exits the wound in the tree, but I’ve seen them reach up to slurp the drops coming down as well.

The next two are rather boring, if I had others, these would be deleted. The first is a shot of the sun on a cloudy day, as the image came from the camera.

Old Sol

Old Sol

This next one is a HDR that I tried, just to see what I’d get.

Old Sol, HDR

Old Sol, HDR

It made the sun look more like the moon, which is why I was prompted to try that shot.

The next one is quite boring as well, but it was the only photo that I shot that day, and it seems silly to walk that far and not come back with at least one photo.

Boring ice

Boring ice

That’s every photo that I have saved on my computer right now, other than bird photos for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. Speaking of that, my next post in the series puts me at the half-way point, not too bad for having started it almost exactly two years ago. I have 29 more species saved after the half-way point, so I should be able to stay ahead of my posting schedule for those.

Since I’m developing a case of spring fever, despite the bitterly cold temperatures outside right now, I’m going to throw in my last butterfly photo that I saved for just this time of year.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I’ll tell you, it’s so tempting to run over to the Apple store and pick up one of the base model iMacs and use the time during this cold spell to get it set-up the way that I want it. But, I’ll hold off, since I know that I’ll be happier with the better model in the long run, besides, the cold doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. Now that I’ve been working on this post for a few days, the countdown is down to 10 days until I order the model that I really want.

I’d also like to get outside and shoot some photos, but I know that getting my housecleaning and other chores done before the weather gets nicer will pay off in the long run as well.

I may not be posting much for the next few weeks, other than species of birds once a week. It will depend on the weather, my work schedule, and a few other things. So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy preparing for spring! That, and hopefully setting up my new iMac when it arrives.

I’ll have to set-up Apple’s Boot Camp to run windows on my Mac in order to use the software that came with my GPS unit and a few other bits of software that I have. I have a copy of Windows Vista on hand, and while Vista stinks, I doubt if I’ll be using it very often. I have a copy of Lightroom to install and set-up, along with the 4 Tb external drive. Since I’ve never used a Mac before, I think that it will take me at least one full day of getting it set-up the way that I want it. I’m also trying to decide if I want to go with a traditional mouse, or with one of Apple’s trackpads, decisions, decisions. 😉 I tried the trackpad in the store and really liked it, but I wasn’t using the software that I’ll be running on my Mac. I’ll probably buy it with the mouse to begin with, then add the trackpad later, that sounds like a plan.

Can you tell that I’ve been doing some planning and getting very excited! Between the new computer and seeing spring on the horizon, I may well burst. 🙂

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

 

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25 responses

  1. Please don’t burst, I would miss your blog! Liked the icy photographs and you had some good bird pictures too.

    February 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    • Thanks Susan! I promise that I won’t burst, at least not until the flowers begin blooming, then all bets are off. 😉

      February 6, 2015 at 7:58 pm

  2. 10 days left!!
    Only 10.

    I liked very much that ice cristals and birds fluffed up against the cold.
    That blue jay looks so nice!

    I am sad for that woodlot… I have the same problem here. I don’t know why but some people know just to cut, cut and cut… What for? For money? …

    February 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    • Thank you Cornel! The countdown is down to seven days now! I don’t know why they are clearing the woodlot, but I’m sure that something will be built there, either homes or stores.

      February 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

  3. I think my favorites are the ice crystal and the sun. I’ve been trying for a long time to get a shot of a fully formed ice crystal like that, but I never see them. Maybe tomorrow morning since it’s supposed to be 15 below zero here tonight. The cold just keeps on coming!

    I’m glad the birds and animals can find places to drink. You wouldn’t think it would be a problem with all the snow but it can be as dry as a desert in winter, as you know.

    You got a lot of great shots of the birds. I can’t wait to hear your reaction to Lightroom-there will be no such thing as throw away photos once you get that up and running. Actually that’s not entirely true; there has to be something there worth working with in the first place, but you know what I mean. You’re going to have a lot of fun!

    February 5, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I looked long and hard for the best ice crystal I could find, and by then, my fingers were frozen. 😉

      Along with tree sap, I’ve seen some critters eating snow to get water, but I can’t remember specific species. On days when there’s a heavy frost, birds, squirrels and rabbits will drink the drops of water left when the sun melts the ice. They have ways of finding the liquids that they need.

      I can tell that I’m going to love Lightroom, and that I’ll also be even happier with the cameras that I’m using now. Best of all, I’ll have a new computer to run everything on!

      February 6, 2015 at 8:05 pm

  4. I love so many of these shots! I am sorry you have lost your local wood lot as, no doubt, are the birds and animals who used to shelter there.

    February 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    • Thank you Clare! It’s a shame, one very small patch of woods was cleared last year for a storage unit. At the same time, the land to the east of the park where I walk was partially cleared, and now one of the last bits of woods is being cleared. The birds and critters that lived there will have to move, but other species that prefer more open areas will move in, I hope.

      February 6, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      • It’s always best to be optimistic! Animals usually try to adapt to their surroundings if they can.

        February 6, 2015 at 8:14 pm

  5. Another packed post full of treats. I just hope that your new computer fulfils your hopes for it as I am very impressed by your patience in waiting to get exactly the right model for you.

    I liked your set of icy morning pictures. You made good use of your bit of sunshine.

    February 5, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’ve never used a Mac before, so it will take me a while to get up to speed, but I think that it will be worth it.

      February 6, 2015 at 8:08 pm

  6. I really need to look at your post again and again! So many interesting and beautiful shots! Your excitement about your new computer and spring coming is infectious. I was smiling the whole way through as I read your enthusiasm!

    You see so many different birds on your walks. It’s not like that for me here. There are not many different birds to see out in the open eucalyptus forests and in the rainforests you can hear them but they are often small and hidden in the canopy. It’s not that we don’t have many bird species in Australia. It’s just that where I live I don’t see so many. I think my favourite bird one was the fluffed up dark-eyed junco. It just looks like a round ball of feathers. Adorable. I grew up reading a lot of North American literature which often mentioned blue jays and goldfinches, so it is special for me to see them in your post.

    The ice pictures are wonderful and I also loved what you did with the flowers, bushes and trees. The images are very moody. The different tones are lovely…some warm, some cool.

    And what a lovely monarch picture to end with. Yes, do stay inside during a snowstorm! No need to freeze! 🙂

    February 5, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    • Thanks Jane! If you think that I’m excited now, wait until the spring flowers begin to bloom!

      I have to remember that there are people in other parts of the world that have never seen the birds that I see daily, and remember to include more photos of those birds.

      I’m having more fun with my camera than ever, when I do get a chance to take it out. I really like playing with different subjects in different light than what I used to go for all the time. The more that I play, the more that I learn.

      February 6, 2015 at 8:32 pm

  7. I loved the blue jay captures and the art of ice!

    February 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    • Thank you Donna!

      February 6, 2015 at 8:10 pm

  8. Love your icy shots. Spent a lot of time looking at the first ones trying to figure out whether they were color shots or b/w. They’re gorgeous.

    Also really loved that fat dark-eyed junco. Man, it must be cold! Hope the weather turn around soon.

    February 5, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    • Thanks Judy! Just like last winter, the temps are averaging close to 10 degrees colder than average so far this winter. More sub-zero weather ahead for the coming week as well, enjoy sunny Arizona!

      February 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm

  9. Exceptional post,the pictures are amazing.Jalal

    February 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

    • Thank you very much!

      February 6, 2015 at 8:11 pm

  10. Beautiful !! Will keep this post in my bookmarks.
    Cheers,
    Michel 🙂

    February 6, 2015 at 2:24 am

    • Thank you Michel!

      February 6, 2015 at 8:12 pm

  11. Ah, sounds like spring!!! Our prediction is (almost) right! Just as soon as we get through the next week of terrible cold & more snow, that is. *sigh* PS, love those landscape shots, esp the icy morning ones. And the blue jay with his/her takeout very amusing!

    February 6, 2015 at 5:42 am

    • Thanks Lori! I figure that there are several more weeks of cold, but with every passing day, more signs that spring will eventually make it.

      February 6, 2015 at 8:13 pm

  12. So many great photos, I can’t pick a favorite. I’m so happy you are getting the exact model computer that you really want and are willing to wait the extra amount of time to get it! You’ll have it all figured out in no time! You are very persistent in that regard, you tackle challenges head-on and like to master what you are doing! Have fun and I am looking forward to seeing what your new set up can produces.

    Think spring – it can’t be too far away now, right?! 🙂

    February 7, 2015 at 9:09 am

    • Thanks Amy! I was going to settle for a less well equipped model of iMac, but when Apple lowered their prices right after Christmas, it put the top of the line model within reach. So, I can wait an extra week or so to get that one. I’m sure that I’ll have no problems figuring out how to use the Mac, it’s a matter of time as far as getting everything hooked up and installing all the software that I’ll be using.

      And hopefully, I’ll get everything up and running before the weather gets nicer, as I’m beginning to feel spring coming despite the cold. 🙂

      February 7, 2015 at 9:16 am