In this post, I’m going dwell on a few things having to do with photography and gear, my efforts at photographing every species of bird seen regularly in Michigan, and I’m even going to do some bragging. This will end up being a long post, but with plenty of photos to keep every one interested.
I’m going to start with the My Photo Life List project that I began just over two years ago, I got another lifer last weekend, moving me closer to 250 of 350 species of birds seen regularly in Michigan. I never dreamed that I would be this far so soon, but maybe I underestimated myself. I know critters, I may not know each individual species of bird, but I know animal behavior, including that of birds, it is something that I’ve been observing my entire life. I have great eyesight, and excellent depth perception, which helps me to find birds. I know the State of Michigan, and where I can find the correct habitats to find the species of birds that I’m looking for. The skills that I learned and honed when I hunted serve me well for getting close enough to birds to get reasonable good photos of them. So, is it any wonder that this past weekend I “bagged” a species of bird on both the Federal and State endangered species list?
Unfortunately, I didn’t see either of its parents, but I will one of these days, it’s only a matter of time. By the way, isn’t that about the cutest bird that you’ve ever seen?
It stands out well in that photo, but here’s one of my very first shots of it, as seen through the 300 mm lens with the Tamron 1.4X tele-converter behind it, for an effective focal length of 420 mm, and cropped quite a bit.
You can see that it’s a tiny little thing, able to hide in the footprints that people left on the beach. Luckily, like most species of small birds, the piping plovers are hyper-active, running up and down the beach in search of food. If that one had held still, I never would have picked it out of the background. I’ll tell you, those plovers can really run when they spot food!
That was shot with the same set-up as the previous photos, the 300 mm L series lens, Tamron 1.4X tele-converter, on the Canon 7D Mk II camera. So, here’s where I start a discussion on camera gear that some may find boring, but others may find it helpful.
The two things that stand out most about the 7D Mk II are its incredible auto-focusing system, and the superb metering and exposure system, which I have commented on before. I seldom have to adjust the exposure when using the 7D, as compared to the 60D bodies that I have. Well, all that changes when I add the Tamron tele-converter, then, the 7D gets finicky, even erratic, when it comes to getting the exposure correct. I have to shoot, check the exposure, adjust, and keep shooting all the time, when I’ve gotten used to concentrating on other aspects of photography, and let the 7D handle exposure on its own. I believe that there’s a reason that the 7D doesn’t perform as well with the Tamron extender as it does without it, but his is mostly speculation on my part.
You see, when a company other than Canon builds a lens for a Canon camera, they don’t do it under a license from Canon, which is meaningless at first. But, that means that Canon doesn’t share any information with other lens manufacturers, Canon would prefer that you purchase Canon lenses for your Canon camera, the same holds true for Nikon, Sony, and any other camera manufacturer.
In order for companies such as Tamron, Tokina, or Sigma, to name a few, to build a lens for a Canon camera, they have to reverse engineer the lens. In the past, when everything was mechanical, that was relatively easy and straight forward, they would get a Canon camera and lens and take measurements of the components to make sure that their product would fit a Canon camera.
All that changed when cameras and lenses went digital. Now, not only do the other manufacturers have to get the physical dimensions correct, but they have to “hack” the software programmed into the Canon cameras and lenses to write software into their lenses that will communicate properly with the Canon camera. Since the Tamron tele-converter that I own was built long before Canon released the 7D Mk II, the tele-converter may not communicate with the 7D as well as it should. As you can see by how sharp the photos of the plover are, the optics in the Tamron are very good, but in the digital age, optics alone are no longer enough.
So, you may remember that I was planning to purchase a Canon 400 mm L series lens the first week of July, but those plans were changed when the Tokina macro lens died. I spent part of the money I had saved towards the 400 mm lens on a Canon 100 mm macro lens instead. Well, with the money that I had left over, I just purchased a Canon 2 X tele-converter, in part, to see if I really wanted the 400 mm Lens. I can put the 2 X extender behind my 70-200 mm lens to turn it into a 140-400 mm lens, which could be very good for flying birds, we’ll see. The extender will also turn the 300 mm lens that I have into a 600 mm lens, for critter portraits or longer range shots.
I was going to do a blurb about theory, and how many reviews say that the 2 X extender degrades image quality too much, as did two commenters to my blog when I mentioned purchasing one in the past.
On the other hand, professional wildlife and sports photographers use 2 X tele-converters, and get images that can be sold, so there must be a trick to them.
Again, this is speculation on my part, but I believe that using the 2 X extenders behind a great lens, and in front of a higher end camera is the secret to how the professionals get by using the extenders, and many hobby photographers don’t.
I haven’t had very much time to play with mine yet, but I can already tell that it was a worthwhile purchase. The first thing that I noticed about the 2 X extender is that it slowed down the auto-focusing of the 300 mm lens to the pace of a sedated snail, it’s really slow. So slow that I didn’t think that it was ever going to find a focus, but it eventually did.
The second thing that I noticed when using the extender is that it gets me close, really close!
The third thing that I noticed is that the metering of the 7D was just as accurate with the extender as it is without, unlike the Tamron extender. It has to be that the software in the Canon tele-converter is up to date and the 7D Mk II communicates with it properly, while to older Tamron tele-converter doesn’t.
Okay, it isn’t quite as sharp as my lenses are without the extender, but the difference isn’t that much. I’d lose more in image quality if I cropped down from an image taken at 300 mm than I lose with the extender to get this close.
The auto-focusing with the 300 mm lens is too slow for action shots though.
So, the next step was to try the extender with the 70-200 mm lens, now a 140-400 mm lens.
Did you notice the second goose surfacing as the first one passed it? Here it is as it breaks into a run to race the goose in the foreground. I wish that their positions had been reversed so that you’d have a better view.
I don’t know the reason for the game, but many of the geese would all dive at the same time, then, pop up above the water to gain speed, and finally hit the water as if to see who could create the biggest splash.
But, none of my splash photos were timed right, I got the splashes, but not the goose that made it.
In good light, that set-up had no trouble tracking the geese as they played around in the pond. It can even track a slow flying large bird well.
I do get more bad images while using the 2 X extender that what I do without it, but that’s to be expected. It didn’t help that it was a very cloudy day with very little light today, but I can see that it was a good purchase despite some short-comings.
That was shot from about 12 feet (3.6 meters) away from the monarch, I didn’t crop that image at all, and it’s not bad. It isn’t as sharp as I could get using the Canon 100 mm macro lens, but I couldn’t have gotten close enough to the butterfly to use that lens.
Speaking of that, you may ask how the new Canon macro lens is working out, well, very well!
Switching gears yet again, I continue to practice my landscape photography, both at sunrise…
…and during the sunnier parts of the day.
You may be able to tell that I’ve been watching more instructional videos in what little spare time that I have. 😉 One thing that I’m learning is that each expert has his or her own way of doing things, that may be in direct opposition to what other experts say to do. For example, I watched one video, that I picked up a few pointers while watching, where the presenter said to always use just the center focusing point no matter what. If you didn’t like to composition that using just the center point gave you, you should focus on what you want to be in focus, lock the focus, then recompose. His logic behind that was that you may forget to switch back to the correct focus point later.
By that logic, should we ever change any setting? We could forget to change it for the next subject that we would like to photograph.
I will say that his way may work for some types of photography, but not for small birds that move all the time, and certainly not for macro photography, where precise focusing is extremely critical!
One of the things that made the most improvement to my landscape photos was following a tip from Tim Cooper in one of the videos that B&H camera has online. That is, focus one-third of the way into the scene that you’re trying to photograph. The reason that it works so well is that you use the entire depth of field that your camera and lens can give you. If you let the camera focus on the background, as it usually does when shooting landscapes, then much of the foreground will be out of focus. Being focused on infinity and beyond “wastes” depth of field. So, what I do is to focus, either manually or in auto-focus, on something that I judge to be one-third of the way into the scene, then turn the lens to manual focus so that it can’t re-focus when I set the camera and lens up on the tripod. I’ve also been using a tripod religiously for my landscape photos, it really does make a difference.
By the way, almost all my landscapes and macro photos are still shot with one of the 60D bodies, they are more than enough camera for those types of photography. The 7D Mk II is a specialized camera designed with the avid wildlife or sports photographer in mind. Most people don’t need its auto-focusing system, or the improved metering system. Unless I want to use the 7D features such as the bulb timer or ability to do time-lapse photography, I’ll continue to use the 60D for landscapes and macros.
Anyway, back to the videos that I’ve been watching. I’ve found them to be very helpful to me in my quest to improve my skills. Sometimes the tips that I pick up are what help, but just seeing the work of other photographers, and hearing how and why they shot a particular photo is enlightening. I’m also learning that my wildlife photos aren’t all that bad either. I may not be shooting exotic species from Africa or Alaska where the critters are baited to get the photographers close and with the light right, I’m just shooting what I see in West Michigan, where and when I see it. I know that this is an unreasonable goal, but I’m working towards being able to get a good photo of anything, anywhere, at any time.
My life would be so much easier if I could train birds to perch out in the open, in good light, with nothing in the background to distract the viewer’s eyes.
Even if I do catch a bird out in the open, I don’t crop that photo to remove the background, because I liked the color combination, even though the green leaves are a distraction.
But, that’s not the way that I see most birds, most of the time, I’m shooting up at them from under the canopy of trees.
This has to be the ultimate in foolhardiness, shooting through a leaf to get a poor shot of a house wren. 🙂 Even though I would like all my photos to be perfect, I still like to have fun trying things that I shouldn’t.
Who knows, one of these days it may be a rare bird, not a female oriole, that I catch feeding on mulberries while hanging upside down.
Or maybe, it will be something like a pine marten that I catch peering at me through the leaves, and not a red squirrel.
I haven’t found many videos that discuss getting better wildlife photos, and that’s probably just as well. With one exception, most of them are of some renowned wildlife photographer showing photos of exotic critters that they photographed on a very expensive wildlife tour where the guides bait the critters to get the perfect set-ups, and the photographers have an itinerary of what they are going to shoot and when. The photographers arrive at the site or hide well in advance, and already know which lens to select and set their camera up to get the best photos. Then, it’s a matter of waiting for the polar bear, lion, zebra, or what have you to arrive, and begin shooting photos.
If I sound a little jealous, maybe I am, but to me, that’s not wildlife photography, at least not how I think it is. To me, it’s spotting something that I’d like to photograph, then using my outdoor skills to get myself into position to get the best photo that I can. Otherwise, you may as well go to the zoo and shoot wildlife there, to me, there’s not much difference if you’re shooting baited or trained wildlife. Sometimes my way works, as with the piping plover, sometimes it doesn’t, as you can see from my other photos.
I will say this though, a zoo is a great place for a beginner to go to practice their skills as a photographer, then, they can concentrate on photography and not have to worry about finding things to photograph.
Anyway, enough of that, you’d think that flowers would be easier subjects to photograph, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Getting the right light isn’t easy.
And I suppose that I could do as some photographers do, carry a spray bottle with water or glycerin to spray the flowers to catch them with water drops on them.
But, as with my bird and wildlife photos, I shoot what I see when I see it, and that also applies to insects.
I really should stop watching the videos from wildlife photographers, I always go on a rant about how baiting isn’t real wildlife photography to me. But, I do learn from the videos, and that’s what counts. So, I keep on shooting what I see when I see it, and hope for the best.
Now, I’m going to eat breakfast, then go to Muskegon to practice my sunrise photos at first, then try for some bird and dragonfly photos using the 2 X tele-converter to see how well it works.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
One of the things that I like about the schedule that I’ve been working the past few months is that when I do get out with my camera, it is at sunrise or shortly after. That means that many times I have better light to work with, and rather than a plain snapshot like this…
…I can get an image like this.
Instead of this…
…I can get this.
Of course it doesn’t always work like that, but if I keep my eyes open, there are many more possibilities for more dramatic photos at dawn than there are during the middle part of the day.
I could prattle on and on about how much I’m enjoying playing with all my camera gear, and how my confidence grows with every passing day, but I’ve said that before. So, I’ll try not to say too much as I share a few more of the photos that I have saved from around home. Some of these go back to the middle of May, and they may not all be great, but I like them.
The thing is, some of these were taken so long ago that I’ve forgotten what they were.
Another reason why some of these were saved is because of the cuteness factor.
Here’s another flower that I’m not sure that I’m identifying correctly.
I thought that this next one was soapwort, but I think that I was mistaken.
I know that this next one was a rose though.
I suppose that this is a good place to throw in a few birds photos.
If you’ve ever heard a willow flycatcher, you know why I put singing in quotation marks. It isn’t a song, it’s more like a raspy insect, but they do put their hearts into it when they make the sounds that they do.
Back to the cuteness factor, and what’s cuter than a mother mallard…
…keeping an eye on her youngsters…
…as one of them does its yoga stretches…
…then hams for the camera…
…before joining his siblings in a feeding frenzy.
If those don’t put a smile on your bill…
…then this one won’t either.
Back to a few more flowers.
Here’s a series of photos of a whitetail doe as she checked me out, then but on a bit of a show for me to display how graceful they are.
It’s been a beautiful, but all too short of summer so far, the weather has been cool most days compared to many summers in Michigan, and we’ve gotten more than enough rain to make all the plants grow like crazy.
Now then, aren’t you all glad that I didn’t bore you to death with more of my ramblings on photography?
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
On the second day of my three days off from work for the 4th of July, I went to the Muskegon area once again. I set-up to shoot photos of the sunrise over my favorite marsh in the Muskegon County wastewater facility. But, it turned out to be a rather boring one for wider shots, so I was limited to a few tighter shots of various subjects. If only the water didn’t have the sickly color that it does in these photos, it would be great!
I was playing around, waiting for it to become light enough to shoot other types of photos, when the thought occurred to me to try this one.
I couldn’t resist trying to make a HDR image of the same thing.
The sandhill cranes were there after having spent the night in the marsh.
And this time, two deer came along to look the scene over. I was not able to get both the cranes and the deer in the same photo, not like the last time I was there.
I’m probably a bit off my rocker, trying to shoot wildlife photos before the sun has even risen above the horizon, but pushing the limits of my camera and my own skills may pay off one of these days. Besides, it gives me something to do while I’m waiting for better light.
A short sidebar here, the Canon 7D Mk II may not be the low light camera that some people claimed that it was when it was first introduced, but I’m learning that it is better than I gave it credit for. Yes, there’s still a lot of noise in my photos shot at high ISO settings, almost as much as in photos shot with the 60D. However, I’m finding that after cleaning up the photos in Lightroom, those shot with the 7D are much better than what I could ever hope to get with the 60D.
So, I keep working at getting better images all the time, and here’s a couple of examples of what the 7D can do even at ISO 6400.
It helps when the birds let me get as close as this to them.
That wasn’t cropped at all, which helps a great deal to produce a good image, that and having used the 300 mm L series lens on the 7D. Those aren’t my best photos of a catbird, but they’re pretty darned good for having been shot when there was just enough light to see well.
Anyway, it turned out to be a good thing that I had made a stop at the wastewater facility, I was able to get better photos of a short billed dowitcher than what I’ve gotten in the past.
I even found one of the dowitchers posing with the American Avocet to show you size comparison.
And, I got my best photos of the avocet to date.
I found a few other things to shoot while at the wastewater facility, like a great blue heron and its reflection.
I caught a deer looking over one of the man-made dykes to see if I was on the other side, but I had fooled the deer, and was behind her instead.
I also found a patch of rabbit’s foot clover…
…and tried a macro shot of one of the flower heads, but there wasn’t enough light yet for this to be good.
Then, it was on to my main destination for the day, Lost Lake in the Muskegon State Park.
It was a warm weekend, not hot, but I’m one of those who prefers cool weather to hot weather. Lost Lake is about the perfect place to beat the heat on a summer day. The wind coming over the waters of Lake Michigan, which is still only around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C), and the shade from the forest provide natural air conditioning on a hot day.
That reminds me, another benefit of getting out at dawn is that it’s cooler in the summer, along with less wind, and more critters.
Anyway, on my way back to Lost lake, I stopped to shoot this scene.
That’s a HDR image, here’s the best my camera could do in one image.
It’s really nothing special, just a small clearing in the forest, but I just love those places where the light makes it all the way to the ground, and new growth is occurring. It can be nearly as dark as night in the thickest parts of a swamp forest like that. It will be there in just a few short years as the new growth eventually blocks out the sun in this spot also. But, other clearings will open up as trees are blown over by the wind, as their roots don’t go very deep in the wet soil of a swamp like this.
That’s one thing about nature that many people forget, nothing is permanent, nothing is forever. It was over 100 years ago that the fires in northern Michigan left the area a virtual wasteland, but nature can heal itself if given the chance. The places that I remember as a kid, which was 50 years ago, have changed a great deal over time, they no longer look the way that I remember that they looked back then. Even the worst of areas that were burned have some new growth now, and will eventually become forests again if allowed to. But, I should have a few photos to illustrate what I’m talking about before I go too far down that trail, so instead, I’ll return to the things that I saw along the trail to Lost Lake.
The hummingbirds were enjoying the early morning sun as they warmed themselves and looked for insects at the same time.
Meanwhile, I found these growing on the first floor.
And, there were squirrels everywhere, here’s just one that there was enough light to photograph.
I caught this chipmunk as it was gathering food.
And it decided that if it had to sit still and pose for a few photos that it may as well enjoy a little snack while doing so.
This raccoon was on its way up a tree to spend the day sleeping in the shade.
Arriving at Lost Lake, I was greeted by this scene.
I made my way around the lake to the observation platform, and spent the rest of my time there photographing the flowers…
…and fungi that I found.
One of the many reasons that I had to gone to Lost Lake was to try out the new Canon 100 mm macro lens, which I used to shoot the rest of these.
The pink Pogonia orchids were past their prime, but I shot this one to try out the new lens.
I found this little yellow flower, but I have no idea what it is.
I know that these are Atlantic blue-eyed grass flowers.
And, I also know that these are bladderworts.
I believe that the is a cranberry flower, but I could be wrong.
I found this plant or moss growing in the very shallow water along the lake.
The sundew photos came out well!
I found this grass or sedge also growing in the shallow water of the lake.
It had an odd growth pattern down lower on the stem, which I found interesting.
While I was shooting those photos, this came flying past me, but all I had with me at the time was the 100 mm lens, so this is cropped severely.
Finally, to end this one, a dragonfly…
…and a damselfly.
I’ll be returning to the shores of Lake Michigan this weekend, since the weather forecast is calling for the warmest temperatures we’ve had in nearly two years. Since we had such a cold winter, and cool spring and early summer, the waters of the Great Lakes are still quite cool. I’ll use nature’s air conditioning, rather than running the AC at my apartment. If I didn’t have an appointment early Monday morning, I would have gone camping somewhere this weekend, but that’s the way that it goes sometimes.
This time when I go to the lake, I hope to shoot a few photos along the beach, where ever I decide to go, for the newer readers of my blog who may not have seen my earlier photos of the beaches. We do have some great sandy beaches here in Michigan, but I find that they become a bit boring after a while, they are miles and miles of water, sand, and sand dunes. To some one who hasn’t seen them, they look spectacular at first, but I suppose that I take them for granted, having grown up here.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
With three days off from work for the 4th of July holiday, and a good weather forecast, I decided to spend my first day off, July 4th, at Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary.
I’ll start with a few nuts and bolts, a link to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service web site which has some information, including good directions, on the sanctuary. Michigan Garden Clubs, Inc. is a management partner for Loda Lake, and here’s more about the sanctuary from their website.
“Loda Lake is an area that includes a small spring-fed lake, a bog-like wetland area, a creek and riparian marshy areas, oak forest, pine plantations, and an early successional old farm site. Botanist Clayton Bazuin noted, “Loda Lake is ideally suited as a wildflower sanctuary and although near one of Michigan’s busy highways, can still be a natural reservoir of wild plants. This is due to the large number of ecological associations it affords in which they may survive”. Loda Lake is the only Wildflower sanctuary in the National Forest System, a project supported both financially and botanically by the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan for over seventy years. Informational signs are located at several locations throughout the area, including several around the remains of the structures. A resurgence in restoring the area has led to several new native plant restoration efforts, along with the development of educational and information tools, including trail guides, maps and a teacher’s guide. With the assistance of the Garden Clubs, the Forest Service has been able to identify over 500 plant species within the Wildflower Sanctuary, as well as identifying several cultural sites and historic trails.”
And, here’s how the sanctuary came into being.
“Loda Lake was once a virgin pine forest. In the late 1890’s the Pere Marquette Railroad harvested the timber before selling the land to the Hansons, railroad stockholders. Full of stumps and
logging debris, Mr. Hanson felt the land was worthless. Thomas Hunt, a family friend, convinced him that it could be successfully farmed using scientific methods.
The Hunt family farmed the area for several years. Mr. Hanson later built a substantial summer home with several outbuildings on the other side of the lake. The remains of the farm buildings and the Hanson dwellings are highlighted on the Cultural trail.
The land was declared “sub-marginal” in 1937 and sold to the U.S. Forest Service. At that time, the Federated Garden Clubs of Michigan, now Michigan Garden Clubs, were looking to establish a wildflower sanctuary in the state. A cooperative agreement was signed in 1949, a partnership that continues to this day.”
Before I get to my day there, and the photos, I have a few other things to touch on, the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary is the perfect tie in for this.
The State of Michigan has more public land than any other state east of the Mississippi River, and in a way, Loda Lake is a great example of why that is.
When the first Europeans got to what is now Michigan, they found it covered in great forests, but considered the land too marshy or poor for farming. However, the population of the United States was growing at a rapid rate, and that required housing for the people coming here from Europe. The forests of Michigan supplied much of the timber for the new houses. Michigan led the nation in lumber production from the 1850s to the 1880s. Since Michigan is rather flat, it was relatively easy to cut down the trees, and float them down the nearest river to sawmills that lined the shores of the Great Lakes. The lumber from the sawmills could be loaded onto ships and transported to booming cities that ringed the Great Lakes, such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, to name a few.
In less than half a century, most of Michigan’s great forests had been cut, and most of what trees that were left burned in a series of massive wildfires fueled by the debris left from the logging. Some of the fires were so hot and intense that the soil was destroyed, and to this day, very little will grow in these places. The rivers had been all but destroyed by floating millions of logs down them. Michigan was left an environmental disaster.
After the logging and fires, most of Michigan became farmland, but the majority of the farms failed, due to the poor soil here, and that’s not just because of the fires. Michigan is a product of the glaciers during the last ice age, at least the Lower Peninsula is. For the most part, Lower Michigan is a pile of sand and gravel left here as the glaciers melted, so the soil isn’t suitable for growing farm crops. There isn’t much topsoil here.
So in many respects, the history of the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary represents the history of lower Michigan. The land was logged, some one attempted to farm it, the farming failed, so the land was sold in this case, but simply abandoned in other cases, and became the property of the United States Government. Again, in other cases, the land became the property of the State of Michigan.
That’s part of the legacy of Michigan’s history, another part is this. So many people witnessed the destruction of an entire state’s environment as quickly as it happened here, that conservation efforts took hold here as they have in few other places. Many groups sprang up to preserve what little was left of nature here in Michigan, and/or to rehabilitate what had been destroyed. You know the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, comes to mind. Most of what had been here had been destroyed in less than a person’s lifetime. That’s one of the many reasons that Michigan has the largest system of State Parks, Recreation Areas, and State Forests of any state in the US, and more land open to the public than any state east of the Mississippi River.
So, with that part done, it’s time for me to get going on my day there at Loda Lake. I’ve seen it featured in many blogs, and in articles in the newspapers, but had never been there until this day. Unfortunately, my timing was off, and there weren’t many of the flowers that it’s known for in bloom at the time. That’s okay, for it’s a popular place in the early spring, and I’d rather scope out a place when there are fewer people around. That gives me the chance to get a true feel of a place, and the feeling that I got at Loda Lake is that it is truly a magical place. I could understand why so many people worked to preserve it for future generations. What makes it so special is that there are a number of different types of habitat coming together in one extended area. Or as the botanist said in the quote from earlier in this post, “This is due to the large number of ecological associations it affords in which they may survive”.
Well, guess what besides flowers love that type of area? Birds, and I saw a good number of both species and overall number of birds there. In fact, I think that I’ll have to make this one of my regular birding stops since it isn’t much farther from home than Muskegon is. I even got another lifer there, with the possibility of several more.
But, since this is about a wildflower sanctuary, I should begin the photos with a few of the flowers that I found, even though I shot most of these during my second walk through. I had arrived at sunrise, and many of the flowers hadn’t opened for the day during my first lap, I shot mostly birds then. Since the trail is only 1 and 1/2 miles long, it was easy enough to do two full laps, with lunch in between. So, here are the flowers, in no particular order.
Seeing the bee on the indian pipes surprised me, I didn’t think that they were true flowers since the plants lack chlorophyll. The bee didn’t hang around long, so here’s a better shot of the indian pipes.
Later, I found one of the indian pipes pointed up, and saw that they are indeed true flowers.
While my timing as far as time of the year for the most flowers was off, my timing for the weather couldn’t have been better! Good light and almost no wind made it easy to get the photos that I did, and it was a great way to test out the new Canon 100 mm L series macro lens.
In addition to the flowers there were plenty of fungi and a few lichens to be seen there.
I’m not sure if this next one was a fern or a sensitive fern, which isn’t a true fern. I was a bit busy shooting birds at the time, which you’ll see shortly.
I think that this next photo will get Allen’s interest, I believe that it’s a slime mold, but I have no idea which species.
To give you an idea of the size, the two horizontal lines of the stuff in the center and rear of the frame are on pine needles, and the wet bit of plant towards the foreground is a blade of dead grass, with another pine needle cutting the lower left of the frame.
Okay then, now for the birds, and these are only the ones that I tracked down for good photos, except for this first one. It’s a female least flycatcher running across the forest floor collecting feathers to line her nest.
How she could see where she was going as fast as she was moving, I have no idea, but she sure was in a hurry and never stopped moving.
These are much better, and I’ll start with the lifer, a veery.
It was mighty nice of him to perch out in the open like that to sing, as usually they stay well hidden in the leaves, like this one tried to do.
In fact, most of the birds that I did get photos of typically stay hidden in the leaves, but getting there early had its advantages.
These are the ones that make me smile the most though, as I walked out onto the boardwalk over the bog, I found a family of blue-grey gnatcatchers looking for breakfast.
Any one who has tried to photograph small birds can relate to this next series. The smaller birds never really stop moving, these are from a series shot in slow burst mode with the 7D and took less than three seconds to shoot, and I deleted the blurry ones in the series.
It took you longer to scroll through those than it did for me to shoot them, and you can see that this was a hungry little thing, very intent on finding insects hidden in the leaves.
Anyway, I have a few more photos to share, a mother mallard and her brood crossing the lake, as it reminds me of the serenity of the place.
The one “landscape” type photo that I shot there. There’s really nothing special about it, but I like it, it shows the way that the forests in northern Michigan look in most places.
And finally, one that I forgot to insert earlier in this post, a prickly pear cactus.
So, that’s all the photos, and all that I’m going to ramble on about this trip to Loda Lake, as I’m certain that I’ll being going back many times in the future. It really is a one of a kind place.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I can’t think of a unifying theme that would cover these photos, other than I’m going crazy shooting, and keeping, more photos than ever, and all of these were shot around home. Maybe it’s because I no longer get out every day, but only a few times per week due to my new job, that I’m having more fun than ever playing with all my camera gear. I’m trying different techniques, different angles, and different lighting when I can, sometimes those things work, sometimes they don’t, but I’m enjoying shooting whether the photos turn out to be keepers or not.
There isn’t much more to say about these, other than I’m learning how subtle changes in lighting or the angle that I shoot at can have a major impact on how much that I like a photo, so here goes.
On one of the few days between when the Tokina macro lens died and I replaced it with the Canon 100 mm macro lens, I spotted an interesting colored leaf.
I tried to get as close as I could to the insect, since it was so brightly colored, but didn’t have time to get out the extension tubes before the insect left, so here’s the best that I could do.
I’ve seen this behavior from mourning doves a few times, I haven’t figured out why they do it, but they’ll take a twig and fling it around.
They don’t fly off with the twigs to use in their nests, the only thing that I can think of is that the doves are flinging the twigs around to dislodge either seeds or insects, or maybe they just like to move things around to their liking. Anyway, I shot several series of photos of this dove tossing the twig around, but here’s one photo of the dove without the branch, as I like its hairdo.
I have another short series of photos of bird behavior, this time of a male Baltimore oriole as it looked for food, I assume for its young. I think of orioles as birds of the treetops, that’s where I typically see them, so seeing one on the ground was unusual.
He hopped back into the weeds, and came out with something.
Then, decided it was what he wanted, dropped whatever it was, and went back to searching for something else.
That is, until I got too close to him.
You can tell that the kingbirds are raising their young, no large bird is safe from their attacks if the large bird ventures too close to the kingbird’s nests.
From birds flying overhead, to things on the ground, I shoot them all.
But, I like this one better, even if it’s of the wrong end of the insect.
Let’s see here, what else do I have saved, more flowers of course!
I wonder why it is that so many times when an insect lands on a flower that I’m photographing, the insect looks okay, but the flower doesn’t look as good as it did in the photos I shot before the insect appeared?
And, it seems to happen all the time. I’ll be minding my own business, trying to get good photos of a flower…
…then some bug has to come along to change my train of thought….
…and I forget to get the good photo of the flower.
Oh well, that’s the way it goes I suppose. I did get a good close-up of a single milkweed flower though.
It’s hard to get a shot of milkweed without some type of insect in the frame, from ants to butterflies. I would prefer that the insects land off to the side of the flowers, so that I don’t get distracted.
Maybe it isn’t a bee, it looks like it could be a species of fly.
I know that this hasn’t been my best post, but I’m short on time. You see, I had a fantastic 4th of July weekend, with three days off from work. The weather was close to perfect, good light, cool mornings, pleasant afternoons, and almost no wind. On Saturday, I went to the only wildflower sanctuary in the federal forest system, Loda Lake. I may not have been there at the best time for flowers, but it’s a magical place that I fell in love with. I have lots of photos that I’m working on from that day, including yet another new species of bird for the My Photo Life List project.
Then, on Sunday I went back to Muskegon and added to the huge number of photos to work through and post, including some very good photos that don’t include any birds.
On Monday, I just walked around home here, but with the continued good weather, I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.
The forecast for this weekend isn’t looking as good, not even close. There’s rain in the forecast for both of my days off, so I should be able to do some catching up around here.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Doing this second post about my trip to Muskegon on the 26th, which actually covers the first half of my day, seems weird to me. I should do them in order from now on. Anyway, after reading reports that an American avocet and American wigeon had both been seen at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility over the past week, caused me to break my vow not to return there until fall. I have photos of an American wigeon, but they’re not great, and I’d never seen an avocet before, so I needed photos of that species for the My Photo Life List project I’m working on.
With my new work schedule, it’s easy to get to Muskegon well before sunrise, so that’s what I did. There weren’t many clouds in the sky to add color to the sunrise, but I still set-up one of my 60D bodies with the EF-S 15-85 mm lens attached, mounted on my tripod, to see what would develop. It was still dark as I was setting up, but I could hear sandhill cranes nearby, so I was hoping for photos of them once the sun rose high enough for wildlife photography.
I began shooting series of photos to turn into HDR images as the sun began to rise, but it did look as if the sunrise was going to be rather boring, as you can see.
But, I hung around with the camera still set-up just in case, besides, it was still far too dark for a photo of the cranes. That didn’t stop me from trying though.
I even removed the landscape set-up from the tripod, and attached the 7D Mk II with the 300 mm lens on it to the tripod, and tried my very first wildlife HDR image, although the results were not as good as I hoped that they would be.
Then, things got really interesting! As the first rays of the sun hit the dew covered grasses, a mist began to form to create a thin layer of fog near the ground, which the sun’s early rays turned to a bright orange color!
This was enough to keep me hanging around to see what developed next, the sunrise got better.
Then, a whitetail deer came wandering along.
This is when I got so lucky I couldn’t believe it, I only wish that my skills as a photographer would have been up for this shot. The deer decided to look down into the marsh, right behind the flock of cranes, with the orange-pink glow of the sunrise as a background.
Not good, I kept trying though, and finally got this one, the best of the lot.
I didn’t stop shooting with the landscape set-up though, here’s what I think is my best shot of just the sunrise.
I paused from time to time to shoot more photos of the cranes.
A short break from the sunrise photos for a second or two. Sandhill cranes and herons are relatives, but their behaviors are very different. Herons will perch somewhere in an elevated place, such as a tree, stump…
(Taken on an earlier trip to Muskegon)
…or man-made object…
…to stay safe from predators.
The sandhill cranes on the other hand, look for marshes or other bodies of water of the right depth so that they can stand in the water away from shore to stay safe from predators, as they are doing in the previous photos.
At sunrise, the herons fly to the water to hunt for fish, frogs, or other things.
Whereas at sunrise, the sandhill cranes fly to dry ground where they forage for insects and the other things that they eat.
As you can see, I blew a great opportunity there when the flock of cranes that I had been watching decided that it was breakfast time. I didn’t do any better when the next crane flew off either.
The cranes didn’t have to go far for food, so they never got very high above the ground, all they had to do was fly above the dike that had created the marsh, so I had to shoot fast.
So, if you see sandhill cranes in the water, they are there primarily to rest, although they may eat a snack or two while they stand in the water. They spend most of the daylight hours in open fields looking for food.
Now then, back to the sunrise. I tried a few more HDR images, but for some reason, the later ones look as if I faked them. I don’t know why the dark halo around the sun showed up, it must have something to do with how the camera sensor reacts to very bright sunlight.
So, instead of using the wide set-up, I used the 300 mm lens for these.
I probably should have experimented more with other lenses and set-ups, but I was shooting other things with that set-up in between the sunrise photos, and was too busy to play. The 300 mm lens let me keep just the parts of the horizon that were turned the brilliant orange color in the frame for those photos. I didn’t do that in Lightroom. In fact, I played with the color balance in an attempt to tone down the orange a little, but switching to the cloudy or shady setting only made the orange even more pronounced. That’s about what I saw, and it is what the camera saw.
That’s it for the sunrise.
The Muskegon County wastewater facility has been recognized for the efforts that management puts into making the facility a wildlife friendly place.
Which is the reason that I’m able to get the photos there that I do, like the American avocet, seen here with a lesser yellowlegs for size comparison.
And here’s the avocet by itself.
I also tracked down the American Wigeon, but it absolutely refused to turn to face me so that I could get a photo that showed its light stripe on its forehead.
Here’s a few of the other ducks that are still around.
And, if you didn’t get enough of the upland sandpipers in the earlier post from a few weeks before, here’s two more.
I could have spent yet another entire day there, but I had orchids to photograph that day at Lost Lake.
I’m sorry for the rather disjointed writing of this post, but I’m getting ready to leave on a trip north to the only national wildflower sanctuary in the United States, Loda Lake to see what I can find there.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I’m jumping ahead again, and while I have a few good shots from previous trips to the Muskegon area, most of them were shot on gloomy days. This past weekend, there was sunshine for a change, and my original plan was to hike in Muskegon State Park, and spend some time at Lost Lake there, to photograph the flowers and dragonflies. Even though I said that I wouldn’t be going back to the Muskegon County wastewater facility for a while, that was my first stop on this day, to shoot photos of two species of rare birds that had been seen there. I did manage to get them both, but I’m doing the posts on this trip in reverse order, so my next post will include the rare birds.
The Lost Lake area in Muskegon State Park is a great place to find some rare plants and flowers this time of the year, and I had one in mind that I really wanted to shoot photos of, the rose pogonia orchids. So, I set out with all my photo gear, finding a few things to photograph along the trail leading back to the lake. Those photos will appear a bit later in this post, as I want to start out with the star of the show, the wild orchids.
I got back to Lost Lake, and was happy to see that I had timed this trip just right, the orchids were in full bloom. But, this is when my Tokina macro lens died on me. It wouldn’t do anything, so I sat down for a few minutes to weigh my options. I decided to use my EF-S 15-85 mm lens with the middle length extension tube behind it so as to be able to fill the frame with the orchids. It worked out well enough.
I had set-up my LED light on the Gorillapod tripod to add the extra light that I needed to get those photos, that’s a great set-up for macro photos. The extension tubes work well enough, but they limit the range over which a short lens will focus to such a degree as to make it necessary to play with the tubes to get the right one(s) behind the lens for the exact distance from the subject that you want to be to fill the frame with the subject. That didn’t bother me too much on this day, as I had planned to spend most of the day there.
However, many of the flowers that I hoped to shoot are either done for the year, or haven’t begun to bloom yet. I found one pathetic Atlantic blue-eyed grass flower, not worth taking a photo of, the same with the bladderworts, they were few and far between, and not very good specimens for photography. I couldn’t find the large colony of pitcher plants that used to be there, but the sundew are spreading like crazy as the water level of Lost Lake rises, and makes the soil around the lake even wetter than it has been in recent years.
So, I went looking for other things to photograph.
That was good, this one is even better.
I was very pleased with the way that the 15-85 mm lens performed while using it with the extension tubes.
In fact, seeing these photos contributed to my having decided not to try to have the dead Tokina lens repaired, but to purchase a new Canon 100 mm L series macro lens instead, especially since the Canon is weather sealed, which is important to an all-weather photographer such as myself. If I can get photos as good as this one with the new Canon lens, I’ll be a happy camper for sure!
I went the other way for this photo, I dug out the 10-18 mm lens to put its large depth of field and close focusing abilities to use for this photo.
Those were all shot with one of the 60D bodies, but it didn’t seem to matter which body I used, these were with the 15-85 mm lens and extension tube on the 7D Mk II.
I have to say, having all my camera gear, well, most of it, sure made photography fun and interesting! I used the LED light for some of those images, my flash unit with either the LED light that is has, or the flash itself as a slave removed from the camera, to get those photos.
I picked up a Canon 100 mm L series macro lens today (Thursday) after work. The Tokina may have had good optics, but the 15-85 mm lens with the extension tube was close, and much easier to use than the Tokina. The new Canon macro lens is even easier, I took a few test photos with it outside my apartment, and didn’t get a single bad photo, despite poor light for all but one image, and a slight breeze blowing the flowers around. It will auto-focus all the way down to at least close to one to one…
…the small yellow flower was about 1/4 inch across and the image wasn’t cropped at all. The faster auto-focus kept up when the flowers moved in the breeze, 25 shots and not one out of focus. The IS is the same, not one blurry because of camera shake either. It’s even much lighter than the Tokina. The topper, it performed equally as well on one of the 60D bodies as it did on the 7D body! How I wish now that I had saved for the Canon lens in the first place, but it never would have been in my budget while I worked at my old job. Oh well, live and learn.
Wait a minute here, I’m not being totally fair to the Tokina. What I learned while using that lens for the last year and a half I put into use today while trying out the new Canon, without even thinking about it. If I had been starting from scratch with the Canon, my results wouldn’t have been close to as good. Still, the new Canon is a much easier lens to use, so it will be worth it in the long run.
It just so happens that I stumbled onto something about Loda Lake, a Federal Wildflower Sanctuary about 70 miles north of where I live. I’ve heard about it before, and I’ve seen the signs for it, and always meant to stop and check it out, but never have. That’s the reason that I picked up the new Canon, I have plans to go there this weekend if the weather forecast is correct. It will be good to get up north again, and check out a new place that I’ve never been to before.
Back to our regularly scheduled post.
When I wasn’t shooting true macros, I stayed busy shooting dragonflies with the 300 mm lens.
It’s always good to have a long lens set-up and close by at all times, for I never know what’s going to show up.
Their parents were around also, but wouldn’t pose for me. I could see them moving around through the trees, but stayed well hidden.
I also heard a veery singing, but I wasn’t able to track it down for a photo. I did find a few birds though.
Since we’ve had so much rain this year, I kept an eye out for fungi…
…but that’s the only good one that I saw. I do believe that I found two different slime molds though.
I took off my backpack that holds my camera gear, grabbed the camera set-up for macros, but in that short of time, the sun had moved enough so that the leaf canopy blocked almost all the sunlight, and it was nearly pitch black on the log where I found those were. I tried to get a better close-up, but even with extra lighting, the images were too poor to share.
After I had been at Lost Lake for a while, the water-lily opened up, as they close at night.
I didn’t think about it at the time, but it would have been a good time to test out the 7D Mk II’s ability to take time-lapse photos and shoot a series capturing one lily opening over time. There wasn’t much wind, so it would have been great. Maybe next time. Besides, I was using the 7D to shoot rodents.
So, you’ll have to make do with this one photo of a fully open water-lily.
My most unusual photos of the day came as I hiked back to the parking lot to leave, a robber fly eating a ladybug.
But, I hate to end a post on that note, so I’ll add one photo from the first part of my trip, while I was at the wastewater facility at sunrise.
Yes, I went crazy shooting more HDR images of yet another sunrise, although that wasn’t one of them. That photo was shot with the 7D and 300 mm lens, and is just as it came out of the camera. In my next post, I’ll cover the foggy sunrise, the rare birds that I found that morning, and a few surprises as well.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!