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

It’s the light, the little things, and practice

I know that I haven’t reached expert status yet when it comes to photography, but I do believe that I’m making steady progress in that direction. I’ve also attempted to pass on what I’ve been learning, it seems so simple when you hear a true expert tell you how he or she was able to capture such great photos as they are displayed in the videos that I’ve been watching. I’d like to continue passing on tips or other things that I learn, but I’m finding that what works for one person may not work for another. Some of that is gear related, not every one uses the same camera(s) and lens(es) as I do.

Here’s an example of what I’m learning, you may remember that I wrote at length about the difficulty that I had getting a good, sharp focus when using the 300 mm L series lens on my 60D bodies, with one of the bodies being slightly better with that lens than the other. No need for me to repeat all of that now. Since then, I purchased the 7D Mk II camera, and all those focusing problems have gone away, the 300 mm lens performs like a champ on that body. I had similar, but less severe problems with the 70-200 mm L series lens as well.

Continuing that theme, how I get a good, sharp focus with the 7D body is completely different from how I do it with either of the 60D bodies, no matter which lens I’m using. There are even slight differences between the two 60D bodies.

The lens that I own that needs the least help in getting great photos is the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) as far as my longer lenses. The wide-angle lenses perform well enough that I’ve noticed few problems with any of the bodies, but that may be due to the increased depth of field with them. I haven’t tried the new Canon 100 mm macro lens on the 7D yet, but by looking at my photos with that lens on the 60D body, it performs very well when I use the same tricks to get a sharp focus with it as I do with the other L series lenses.

The same applies to every aspect of photography, different camera and lens combinations can change how I set exposures as another example.

So, the best advice that I can give any one is to learn their equipment, it may be that you haven’t hit the right combination of doing what it takes to get really good photos from the gear that you’re using.

I find that watching the online tutorials is helping me a great deal as well, not so much with technique as learning composition and other more creative aspects of photography, but you have to take things the presenters say with a grain of salt. Most are sponsored by a manufacturer of some type of gear, and they may shade the truth slightly from time to time in order to push you towards their sponsor’s gear or make you believe that only the most expensive items will work well.

The other reason for what I believe to be major improvements to my images is having begun to use Lightroom, and as I said before, not so much for editing, although that helps, but by enabling me to see what the how image I’m looking at through the viewfinder will appear when I press the shutter release. Before I started using Lightroom, I went with what looked best to me as I saw it in the viewfinder at that moment, and I’m finding that it may not produce the best final image. For that, I may need to move slightly in one direction or another, or compose the shot differently by using different focus points available to me in the camera. Cameras see things slightly different from what our eyes do, at least my eyes, so I’m learning to see what the camera sees, and not to try to force the camera to record exactly what I see, which the camera may not be able to do.

I watched several videos where Nat Geo photographer Michael Melford discussed some of his best photos, and one of the tips he offered to improve your photography is to study artwork of the great painters to learn how to use the light, and for composition. I would say that studying the works of great photographers is much the same. The nice thing about the videos from B&H that Michael Melford did is that he often included his first image of a scene or subject, then he explains what he did to get to the image that was finally published. I could attempt to repeat what he said, but here’s the link to the video if you’re interested.

Well, I think that it’s about time to get to some photos. I’m certainly not another Michael Melford, but I’m going to do a series of photos to show what can happen if you’re patient, and not willing to settle. I had photographed these day lilys before, they are near the picnic shelter at the park that I walk in around home, and the shelter makes a nice place to take a break. It was cloudy when I got there, so I broke out my flash unit for this one, just for practice.

Day lily

Day lily

A few minutes later, the sun broke through the clouds for this one.

Day lily

Day lily

And then, a miracle of sorts happened, the sun was lined up just right to shine straight down into the lilys!

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

As you can see, I tried several different views and flowers before I got that last one, which is my favorite of the lot.

On an earlier day, I happened into some great lighting as the sun broke through the clouds to illuminate the leftover low fog that had formed overnight.

Sun on fog

Sun on fog

Sadly, I blew it on that day, I was running around like a madman looking for something to shoot in the magical light of that moment. Some of these are okay, but some of them I’m not very happy with, even though I converted a few to black and white.

Boneset in the sun

Boneset in the sun

Boneset in the sun2

Boneset in the sun 2

Boneset in the sun3

Boneset in the sun 3

Thistle seeds in the sun

Thistle seeds in the sun

JVIS0407

spider web in the sun

JVIS0432

spider web in the sun

JVIS0426

spider web in the shade

JVIS0418

Queen Anne’s lace in the sun

JVIS0419

Queen Anne’s lace in the sun

JVIS0437

Abstract 1

JVIS0439

Abstract 2

Artsy chicory

Artsy chicory

I know that I’ve said this before, but I’m much better at photographing wildlife. So much so, that while I was in the middle of shooting those, I let myself get distracted by shooting these.

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

I just can’t help myself, when I see a bird that close to me, I just have to shoot it. Here are a few others from later that same day.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Grey catbird, do they always sit where they have a shadow across them?

Grey catbird, do they always sit where they have a shadow across them?

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

And, here’s how squirrels eat mulberries, first they sniff them…

Fox squirrel sniffing mulberries

Fox squirrel sniffing mulberries

…then they taste test them…

Fox squirrel tasting a mulberry

Fox squirrel tasting a mulberry

…and if it tastes good, they wolf the berries down as quickly as they can.

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Fox squirrel eating mulberries

Finally, they pose to make sure that their photo appears here in my blog.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

On the other hand, red squirrels prefer to dine without a camera sticking in their face.

Red squirrel eating mulberries

Red squirrel eating mulberries

Red squirrel eating mulberries

Red squirrel eating mulberries

While I’m at it, I may as well include the rest of the photos that I shot that day and saved to post in my blog.

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Spotted knapweed

Spotted knapweed

First signs of fall's approach

First signs of fall’s approach

Great lobelia

Great lobelia

Bee balm

Bee balm

Caterpilar

Caterpillar

I have this problem, most of the time, the latest photos that I’ve shot are my favorites. There are exceptions, yesterday I went to Muskegon, and while I came home with quite a few photos, none of them really struck me as very good. On the other hand, I went out today, and brought back more good images than I thought that I would. But, you’ll have to wait to see how well the new Canon 7D Mk II can track a flying hummingbird until I used up some of my earlier photos. 😉

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

Advertisements

23 responses

  1. I liked the spider web but all your shots today were good. I really will have to try to get up early one of these day.

    August 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Getting out early works best if there’s some sunshine, from what you and others have said about the weather there this summer, you can sleep in. 😉

      August 11, 2015 at 12:16 am

      • Very true. Oddly, the every early mornings have often been the best of the day and I have missed them.

        August 11, 2015 at 6:23 pm

  2. I like that backlit daylily and the spider webs are excellent!
    That fox squirrel seemed pretty pleased with himself for eating all those mulberries.
    Nice shots of the cardinal flower and great lobelia. I never see either one of them.
    One of the things that’s good about having a blog is how you can look back and see how you’ve improved. I like to think I’ve learned a little in the last 5 years, and I know that you have!

    August 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    • Thanks Allen! Over the time that I’ve followed your blog, your macro photos have improved a great deal, and I’m still trying to catch up shooting the very tiny things you see.

      I am able to catch wildlife in action, even if it’s just a fox squirrel feeding its face, I’d prefer to have the photos that I shoot be as good as they possibly could be. That isn’t always possible, but even if the photos aren’t great, people who read my blog, as well as myself, can learn the behaviors of the various critters that I photograph, and that’s what it’s really all about for me.

      August 11, 2015 at 12:26 am

  3. The back-lit day-lily is beautiful and the spider webs with dew drops on are lovely. Has the Flicker got its eye shut on the second shot? Seeing your shot of the leaves that have changed colour makes me think how fast this year is racing past.

    August 10, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Yes, the flicker is blinking in the second photo, they do that a lot for some reason. This summer is racing past, some of it has been the weather, I’m afraid that we’re going to have an early and disappointing display of the fall colors.

      August 11, 2015 at 12:12 am

      • It seems that way. Not enough warmth and sunshine.

        August 11, 2015 at 5:33 pm

  4. Lovely video….inspirational.

    August 10, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      August 11, 2015 at 12:10 am

  5. Watched the video you linked to and that just about ate up all of my blog time. Still, I enjoyed a quick trip through all the lovely shots both the artistic ones and the critters!

    August 11, 2015 at 12:51 am

    • Thank you Gunta! Sorry the video was so long, but I loved it. Ever since I was a little kid reading my grandparent’s National Geographics, I’ve admired the photography they publish.

      August 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      • No need to apologize. I loved watching the video, but there’s a limit to the hours in my day!

        August 11, 2015 at 3:52 pm

  6. I loved the shots of the day lily and, of course, the squirrels. Lots of good advice to budding photographers here.

    August 11, 2015 at 4:19 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I may be running low on squirrel photos, I may have to restock my supply.

      August 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm

  7. The light is indeed very beautiful in these shots, Jerry. Early morning is my favourite time to be up and about. The “miracle” lily shots are superb and I also loved the spiderweb shots. Of course they are all wonderful though. Thanks for all the great advice! 🙂

    August 11, 2015 at 5:23 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I hope that you’ll like the next post just as much.

      August 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

  8. Wow, Jerry. Love those spiderweb shots. Indont think I have ever seen one as dense as the one in your shade shot. Looks like a trampoline!

    Your goldfinch portraits look like they could have been modeled after some of the classic Audubon prints. They have almost a uni-color look, which is very appealing.

    More spiderwebs, please. Thanks.

    August 11, 2015 at 8:01 am

    • Thanks Judy! That spider had been busy, that’s for sure. The goldfish photos were shot just a few minutes later, but looking away from the sun rather than towards it. It was great light. I’m all for more spiderweb shots, up to a point, but you’ll have to convince the spiders to spin webs where I can photograph them, and if you can see about adding lots of dew, I’d appreciate it. 😉

      August 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm

  9. A wonderful collection of great photos, Jerry, as always! I love spider webs. “Arachnid Brigadoons”, I call them. One can see them in them in the morning dew in all their dewy-jeweled glory, only to disappear in the heat and light of the midday sun.

    August 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! You describe the spider webs much better than I could ever hope to, which is why I resort to posting photos.

      August 14, 2015 at 12:02 am

  10. loved every capture, well done!

    August 23, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      August 24, 2015 at 4:04 am