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

Some random thoughts from around home

I’m still way behind in my blogging, this is one of the photos that I have saved yet to go into a post.

Trout lily

Trout lily

If you’re familiar with the trout lily, you’d know that they flower here in Michigan towards the end of April, first of May, I’m still that far behind.

Anyway, I’m going to throw a few random thoughts together, and see if I can build a coherent post around them.

When I was looking for a computer to replace my old laptop, I had settled on a 21.5 inch display iMac, with extra ram in order to run Lightroom. Then, I found out that getting extra ram made the computer a special order item, so for about the same price, I purchased a 27 inch display iMac, but with only the standard amount of ram, thinking that I would add more later. That was a wise choice, I absolutely love the larger display, and Apple charges $200 per 8 GB or additional ram, while I can purchase it and install it myself for $50 per 8 Gb, a huge savings!

It’s not that the new iMac is slow, hardly, it screams compared to my ten-year old laptop, but more ram will help when I am running Lightroom, or it should.

I got two more species of birds towards my Photo Life List yesterday, eared grebes…

Male eared grebe

Male eared grebe

…and red-throated grebes.

Male red-throated grebe

Male red-throated grebe

Going back to my last post on identifying birds, I was working on it for a few days, and between my last trip to Muskegon, when I got the grebes, and the comments that were made by readers, I had an idea. I thought about turning a few photos into black and white images devoid of any color or other ways to ID the birds other than by shape.

Grebe profile

Grebe profile

You can see that grebes ride low in the water, have small pointed bills, long , thin necks, and that their heads are triangular-shaped, rather than round, like most ducks. But, I ran into several problems, the first being that most ducks have at least small patches of white on them, so they don’t convert to B&W as well as the grebe did. Then, I’d have to catch each species that I was going to do at the same relative angle, so viewers would have the best frame of reference to go by, and finally, getting all the species to appear at their correct relative size to one another.

I did do a conversion of the easiest species of duck, just to show what I had in mind.

Black scoter

Black scoter

Even with an almost all black species of duck, that bright yellow portion of its bill would be something that I would haveΒ to find a way to change. It would be much, much worse doing most species of ducks that have lighter, or even white areas within their plumage.

I’m sure that there’s a way I could do that, but it would mean hours and hours of work, time that I don’t have right now.

Besides, Cornell University has put together a series of videos that does much better explaining how to identify birds than I could ever hope to, here’s the link

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=1270

Anyway, my backpack to hold my camera gear arrived today, and so I loaded it up, boy, did I ever. It’s heavy, that’s for sure, I don’t know how far I’ll be able to tote it, but it is comfortable, with wide, well padded straps and more than enough room for me to put all the stuff I would like with me, other than a birding set-up, which I’ll carry in my hands as always. I’d show you photos, but all but my two longest lenses are in the pack, along with my flash unit and LED light. I’d have to take it outdoors to photograph it. πŸ˜‰

I may find that I can do without an item or two, and it may be surprising that one of them is the Tokina macro lens. I’ve said that it’s the sharpest lens that I own, the only rival is the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L series lens. But, that lens won’t do macros, or it wouldn’t until I purchased the extension tubes.

Unidentified fluttering object (Skipper, I believe)

Unidentified fluttering object (Skipper, I believe)

That’s what I can do with the 70-200 mm lens and the extension tubes. I think that it’s just as sharp as the Tokina, and with better color rendition to boot!

But on the other hand, this is what the Tokina can do without extension tubes.

Unidentified fly object

Unidentified fly object

By the way, the butterfly was shot with the 7D Mk II, the fly with one of the 60D bodies.Β Isn’t it a bummer to have so much very good gear that I have a hard time choosing what to use?

I may have to though, not only is the pack that I bought very heavy when fully loaded, it isn’t very convenient either. I have to take the pack off, un-strap the tripod, unbuckle two straps, then unzip the main compartment to get to the extra body or any of the lenses. It would be ideal for when I go to a specific place to take specific photos, as during many of the recent vacations that I’ve taken. Having to do so much to get to my gear would be fine when I got to a scenic spot to shoot landscapes, or to an area where I was going to shoot many species of flowers all close to one another. But, to have to do all of what is required to access the second body for a macro shot of a flower I see along the trail seems a bit much, and I’d likely skip it and do the best that I could with which ever long lens I happen to be carrying that day.

But for almost daily use, I think that I’m going to have to purchase another, smaller, but more convenient to get to my gear quickly. I’ll think about it for a while. Β The one that I did purchase has been discontinued, so I got it for over $100 of the normal price, that would almost pay for the other, smaller but more convenient, one that I almost purchased instead. I wouldn’t mind taking the backpack off and quickly unzipping a flap to get to the second body for one or two photos.

As it has been, I’ve carried an extra camera body, the Tokina Macro lens, one of the wide-angle lenses, and accessories in the holster bag that I have. When the temperature is cool enough, Β I carry my lighting gear and another lens in the pockets of my coat or the vest that I have, so I’m not adding that much weight when I put it all into just the backpack, but it sure seems a lot heavier for some reason.

Maybe lugging all that weight with me would force me to slow down, I’ve been moving too fast as I’ve been out hiking this spring, which is why I haven’t been getting many photos of smaller birds. They require a slow pace, stealthiness, and quiet, not some one on a mission to cover as many good birding spots in a day as they can, which is what I’ve been doing.

Serious birding is all but done for a couple of months, the trees are entirely leafed out now, making it difficult to spot many of the smaller birds. Young birds are appearing as they fledge, making identification a real chore, and the males of some species are already beginning to molt to their non-breeding plumage.

Speaking of the trees being all leafed out, this is the greenest June in Michigan that I can remember!

Green!

Green!

While other parts of the country are getting too much, or not enough rain, the weather here has been just what the plants love. Β It’s made it rough to get good photos, as many days look like this…

Foggy

Foggy

…or this…

Grand Haven fog

Grand Haven fog

…not like this.

Sunny day for a change

Sunny day for a change

It’s not as if it’s been foggy or rainy all the time, and we aren’t that much above average when it comes to total rainfall, it’s been that it rains a little almost everyday. We may get a few peeks at the sun in between the showers, but we’re well below the average amount of sunshine that we normally get. So, I have lots of photos like these.

Wet oak leaves

Wet oak leaves

Wet cherry blossoms

Wet cherry blossoms

Wet shagbark hickory leaves

Wet shagbark hickory leaves

This one doesn’t have any water drops, but it was shot on the same day as the last one.

Shagbark hickory leaves

Shagbark hickory leaves

It’s funny, a year ago I was opposed to doing any post-processing of photos, now, I can’t understand why I held that view. One of the small things that has helped improve the quality of my photos is removing chromatic aberration from the photos shot in lower light. I can’t say that I’ve noticed any chromatic aberration in any of the photos that I’ve shot with my Canon camera or lenses, at least not what I used to get from my old Nikon, but just a simple click in Lightroom telling it to remove any chromatic aberration makes a slight, but noticeable difference in the appearance of my images. They look a little cleaner and sharper, enough so that I’ve set the default in Lightroom to automatically remove the chromatic aberration in all my photos when they are imported from the memory cards to my computer.

Of course, the true beauty of Lightroom, or any good post-processing software, is being able to “fix” what the camera has trouble reproducing correctly, such as in this series of a male turkey wooing a potential mate.

Male turkey displaying for a female

Male turkey displaying for a female

Male turkey displaying for a female

Male turkey displaying for a female

Male turkey displaying for a female

Male turkey displaying for a female

If these had been better to begin with, I would have spent more time getting them correct, but as it was, I was able to do quite a bit in a very short time. Since the turkey is very dark, when I exposed correctly to capture the subtle colors in its plumage, everything else in the frame was overexposed, including the grass, which turned out a sickly shade of yellow in the original images. This is one of the few times that I’ve made any adjustments to color in any of my photos, so these aren’t great, but I can see the possibilities there.

I could spend much more time on those photos, but all I had time to do was make them acceptable to post here, I spend far more time on images that look good to begin with. It takes much longer to do subtle changes to optimize a photo than it does to correct obvious flaws.

One thing that I have been doing frequently is this. I love the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but the out of focus areas in a photo in the background (known as bokeh) have a harsh, geometric appearance. Since to many people, bokeh is everything these days, I have been using the radial filter tool in Lightroom to soften the backgrounds in some of my images.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I can reduce the sharpness and clarity of the background to make it more pleasing to the eye, and keep the main subject sharp, just a subtle change makes a big difference in the overall appearance.

I find myself adjusting the exposure tenths of a stop, and sometimes that isn’t a fine enough adjustment, and I go down to hundredths of a stop, who would have thought?

I’ve watched a few more how to in Lightroom videos, and it seems that each presenter has his or her own way of doing things. That’s okay, as since I’m still learning the software, seeing different options is very helpful to me. One thing that does stand out though, is that each person appearing in the videos concentrates on just one form of photography, one person shoots mostly landscapes, another does still life photos, and one does architectural photography. It sure would be easier for me, both in Lightroom, and as far as all the gear that I’d like to have with me if I didn’t attempt to photograph everything in nature and beyond.

I’ve been working on this post for nearly a full week now, and I was going to repeat some things that I’ve said in the past, but I won’t. I will say this, because the weather pattern here has been so poor for photography, and because I like seeing my bank account grow despite the buying splurge that I’ve been on lately, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at work. It’s now the predawn hours of a Sunday morning, and it rained off and on yesterday, so I worked close to 14 hours, after two 12 plus hour days before yesterday. The forecast for both today and tomorrow, the two days that I have off from work, call for more of the same, scattered showers and thunder showers, some may be heavy, as in more than an inch of rain in an hour. What I wouldn’t give for one clear, dry day on one of my days off!

However, that isn’t likely to happen soon from the weather forecasts this morning, there’s at least the chance of showers every day for the next ten days. I’m sitting here working on this, and trying to decide what to do today, and where to go. I’m sure that I’ll be in the same boat tomorrow morning as well. But, enough of whining about the weather, it is what it is.

So, what I’m going to do is dump some of the better photos from around home shot over the past months in this post and call it good, sorry if it doesn’t live up to any one’s expectations, but I’m too far behind in posting. Because of the long hours I’ve been putting in, I haven’t had time to get out to shoot more photos, or catch up in posing the ones that I’ve shot already shot.

Male northern cardinal and white flowering tree

Male northern cardinal and white flowering tree

Bee on honeysuckle

Bee on autumn olive

Bee on honeysuckle

Bee on autumn olive

Fox squirrel enjoying lunch

Fox squirrel enjoying lunch

Blue jay

Blue jay

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Cedar waxwing enjoying lunch

Red squirrel enjoying lunch

Red squirrel enjoying lunch

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

Magnolia warbler

Magnolia warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird siinging

Grey catbird singing

Lincoln's sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrow

Blue-headed vireo

Blue-headed vireo

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Common grackle in flight

Common grackle in flight

Unidentified grass about to flower

Unidentified grass about to flower

White campion?

White campion?

To add to my difficulties in catching up, it looks as if I’m having internet problems, or WordPress problems, and I’m not sure which, if any, of these photos is going to show up when I publish this. So, I’ll end with this one, a few seconds of sunshine ahead of the next rain shower headed my way.

Green before the storm

Green before the storm

My blog is supposed to be a chronicle of what I see as the seasons change, on a more frequent basis than I’m going to be able to do this year. I suppose that’s okay, as I do still have the photos from this spring, even if they never get posted to my blog. I still have far too many photos saved to ever hope to be able to post them all, so I’m just going to have to delete the versions saved for blogging, and keep the full size versions to look back on myself, sorry.

Things should get better in the next few months. I have plans to purchase a Canon 400 mm f/5.6 L series lens next month, which will about complete the camera gear that I’d like to have. That’s the lens that I added to my wish list first, but somehow, I’ve gotten sidetracked, and it will be the last lens that I purchase in the foreseeable future. After I have that lens, I’m going to purchase a smartphone, probably an iPhone 6+ after the lens. Then, when I’m sitting at a loading dock for hours, I can work on my blog instead of being bored out of my mind as I am now. That will be a good thing, being paid to work on my blog. πŸ˜‰

I sat at one place for four hours on Friday, so I’d have had plenty of time to type out what I wanted to say, then, I can insert the photos from my computer at home. At least I hope that I can insert the photos, I’m having trouble doing that this morning for some reason, so I’m not sure how many will actually show up when I post this. So, there’s really no reason to continue for now, until things get back to normal.

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

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31 responses

  1. Oh my, what wonderful photographs! I especially liked the trout lily and that fox squirrel, so cute.

    June 14, 2015 at 3:59 am

    • Thank you Susan! I realized that I hadn’t been filling the squirrel quota lately, I hope to do better in the future.

      June 14, 2015 at 5:51 pm

  2. Oh, I do admire the beautiful close-ups of the insects. I’ve love to have that much detail in mine. I would like to be able to blur the background more too. I’m getting seriously interested in shooting in RAW and using lightroom one day. I feel like I’ve stretched my camera as much as I can now. And I will have your posts to refer to when I do change cameras! What a great resource. The red eye colour of that male eared grebe is startling. I think my favourite is the male yellow warbler against the white flowers though. A beautiful collection again, Jerry. Thank you. We’ve also had an extremely weird year so far with weather. Very odd stuff. You had a long white winter and now summer is white from fog!

    June 14, 2015 at 5:20 am

    • Thank you Jane! I’m hardly an expert when it comes to shooting in RAW or using Lightroom, but I’m learning. I couldn’t believe the difference that it made in my images, it’s worth it if you can try it. I thought that the horned grebe’s eyes were cool, but the eared grab has even cooler eyes. It has been a weird year, in a way. We’ve had other years like this, I’m glad that they run in thirty year cycles, so once this cycle is done next year, both the winters and summers should return to normal.

      June 14, 2015 at 5:57 pm

  3. Each photo showed up very good here. Average data amount per photo is, according to the Firefox’ analytic function, about ~150 kb. (I did not check all the photos.)
    Good idea, to get an iphone to write whilst waiting at loading docks!
    Cheers,
    Michel πŸ™‚

    June 14, 2015 at 6:07 am

    • Thank you very much Michel! I’ve been napping when I’ve had to wait long periods of time at a loading dock, but that screws up my sleep schedule. Blogging would be better.

      June 14, 2015 at 5:59 pm

  4. That shot of the lighthouse is superb!

    June 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

    • Thank you very much! I almost deleted that one, I’m tired of looking at the fog. πŸ˜‰

      June 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

  5. Every shot showed up just fine on this side, Jerry.

    Too bad you’re getting so much rain but as you say there isn’t anything you can do about it. I guess I’ve been lucky weather wise over these almost 5 years of blogging.

    I think I’d feel naked if I went anywhere without a macro lens but if you can do the same with a bigger lens, why not?

    The bee on the honeysuckle is actually on an autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) which is a very fragrant invasive that bees and birds love.

    That’s a great shot of the fly, and how could anyone not love that squirrel?

    Thanks for the tips on duck identification. I don’t see many ducks for some reason but when I do they’re usually mallards or wood ducks.

    I hope your weather improves soon!

    June 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

    • Thank you very much Allen! Our total rainfall amount is that much higher than average, it’s the way that it’s been coming that’s odd. Today was a perfect example, I think that it rained for between 5 and 15 minutes in every hour I was out today. Sometimes in a downpour, other times, just sprinkles, enough to keep everything wet, and the mosquito population increasing at an alarming rate!

      Until I tried the extension tubes, I did feel naked without the macro lens, it was the one lens that I always took, along with a lens for birding. The extension tubes aren’t perfect, but they can make any lens up to around 200 mm a macro lens.

      It’s funny, but until I started learning about ducks, all I ever saw were mallards and wood ducks. Now, I chase them whenever I can, they seldom hide in trees like other birds do. πŸ˜‰

      I’m hoping for a change in the weather pattern too, but it won’t come this week, there’s rain in the forecast for every day this week.

      June 14, 2015 at 6:24 pm

  6. Such a wonderful variety of shots as always and so beautiful too. I have had a strange year like you and hardly get out at all to photograph nature. I really miss it! Our weather has been strange too – slightly dryer than usual but much cooler and we’ve had a lot of high winds. A smartphone would be so useful (I wish I had one!) I have said it before – you have got to get yourself a minion to carry all your gear about! πŸ˜‰

    June 14, 2015 at 11:34 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! Unfortunately, minions don’t come cheap. πŸ˜‰ I’ve missed a lot of the things that i like about Michigan this time of year by working so many hours, but in the end, it will be worth it.

      June 14, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      • I’m sure it will! That’s what I have been telling myself about all the driving I have been doing.

        June 15, 2015 at 5:08 am

      • You’re doing what you’re doing for family, I’m just a greedy cuss out to make extra spending money.

        June 15, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      • Ah no! That’s not true πŸ™‚ You haven’t had an easy time recently and you’re making up for lost time now.

        June 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm

  7. Your gray day shots are looking just fine. I think it’s great that you see room for improvement and strive for it, but if you look back to the beginnings of your blog, you’ll see how very, very far you’ve come. I’ve never understood this thing people have about not using software to improve their images. I think back to when I had prints made from slides and the colors would never match because of adjustments made during processing. How wonderful that these days we can control the adjustments thanks to Lightroom or other software. It’s a gift, not something to sneer at.

    June 14, 2015 at 11:53 am

    • Thank you Gunta! Much of the improvement in my photos is because of better equipment, going from a low-end Powershot, to a Nikon D50 with a very poor lens, to the Canon gear I use now. My opposition to post-processing was all based on how many photos that I saw where people just slide the sliders for sharpness and saturation to the max, and turned so-so images into horrid monstrosities and called it art. Not in my opinion, but I should have known that it didn’t have to be taken to extremes.

      June 14, 2015 at 6:05 pm

  8. Great photos as usual Jerry. The smart phone is a good idea for working on a post in down time.

    June 14, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    • Thank you Tom! The iPhone will also give me access to weather radar and maps while on the road, great things for a truck driver to have.

      June 15, 2015 at 2:39 am

  9. LOVE the Grand Haven fog again and the male Cardinal in the white tree.

    June 14, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Babsje!

      June 15, 2015 at 2:40 am

  10. Wow, that macro of the fly is freaky good!! Those eyes – shudder! LOL Also, what a treat to see the cedar waxwings!

    I am with you about the weather – it’s a giant ugh on my side of the state, too. Where I normally walk the beagles, it floods in the spring when everything thaws and then with the spring rain, but usually it dries out by now. But this year, it is still under so much water! Which then means mosquitoes. Oh well, nothing we can do about it but grumble a little. πŸ™‚

    Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, Jerry, about the blog. You know you have a lot of people out here who really admire and appreciate you and your work, and we’ll be here whenever you post, and enjoy whatever you photograph. Life takes different turns and sometimes we just have to adjust a little to meet the current conditions.

    June 15, 2015 at 9:15 am

    • Thank you Amy! I’m saving the close-up of the fly for later. πŸ˜‰

      This weather is the pits, rain Saturday, Sunday, and again today, after another dense fog advisory this morning. At least I lucked out and got a couple of hours of not bad lighting today.

      I know that I shouldn’t worry too much about keeping up with my blog, but I hate being behind in anything.

      June 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      • Yeah, I know what you mean about never liking to be behind. I am that way about my e-mail. I can’t stand for my e-mail in box to be overflowing, and sometimes when I get really busy and can’t keep up with all the blogs I follow, I end up with so many notifications in my in-box and then I get stressed trying to “catch up”. I know that probably sounds silly, but it’s the way my screwy brain works. LOL

        Maybe just set some new/different goals for this season of your life. Like posting once or twice a week and posting x amount of photos, something like that. I find if I have manageable goals I feel better about life and don’t get so overwhelmed by “gotta do’s”.

        June 15, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      • Thank you! I hate being behind in anything, I suppose that’s one reason I make a good truck driver, I’m never late. I do set goals, unfortunately, my dispatchers at work don’t have the same goals, and wave money in front of my nose, and I’m all for forgetting the goals for a while.

        June 16, 2015 at 12:01 am

      • Hahaha πŸ™‚ Well, with the day and age we live in, where none of us feel very secure about the future, we need to make the money while it’s there to be made because who knows what tomorrow will bring! And for you, it’s good to get the extra to put toward the gear you want. Someday when you retire your blog is going to be the most awesome one out there! πŸ™‚ Oh, that’s right, probably none of us will be able to retire!

        June 16, 2015 at 7:56 am

      • Thanks again! I’m going to retire, even if I have to live on beans and rice as Dave Ramsey puts it. But first, I’m going to have all the camera gear that I need so that I can sit back and relax, shooting thousands of photos, odd are, one or two will be good. πŸ˜‰

        June 16, 2015 at 4:11 pm

  11. Love seeing all your wonderful photos- so many different mammals, insects and birds to look at and enjoy! I’m going to try to upload or is it download a video of my garden on my blog now! Fingers crossed it works.

    June 15, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    • Thank you very much! I hope that posting the video works out okay for you.

      June 15, 2015 at 11:58 pm

  12. lovely words & photos!

    June 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      June 15, 2015 at 11:57 pm