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

Pushing the limits, learning what works, part II

I shot plenty of other subjects other than the sandhill cranes during my two latest trips to Muskegon, and the photos in this post will be a few of them.

But first, I was very disappointed with the image quality of the photos of the cranes that I shot on those two mornings. I did a very poor job of assessing the situation and preparing for what was going to happen on both days. Too often, I chalk that up to birds being somewhat unpredictable, but in the case of the cranes, it wasn’t as unpredictable as all that. I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but I allowed my prejudices about the gear that I have dictate what lens(es) I used, which is a big no-no.

I have a tendency to focus on my failures, rather than my successes, and I do have some successes from time to time.

Green heron in flight

Green heron in flight

But that’s enough of that already. The big news is that I found a B&H video on the art and craft of landscape photography with the speaker being Robert Rodriguez Jr.. There’s very little talk of camera gear, settings, or even composition, it’s him tracing his progress as a photographer, what motivates him, what he looks for in a scene, and so on. It hit me in a big way, for one of his main points was to start shooting what you love.

I’ve complained that the lower peninsula of Michigan has no mountains, no waterfalls, no rocky shorelines, etc. But, I do love Michigan, for other reasons. It’s funny, I had just read something that some one said about Michigan, that it was like a giant water purification machine, and that’s true. The sand and gravel that I’ve complained about does a great job of purifying any rainfall that lands here. Adding to that, in the lower peninsula, most mining is done for four things, sand, salt, limestone, and gypsum, all of which are water permeable, and work in conjunction with the sand and gravel above to help purify the water.

Good, clean water we have in abundance, not just the Great Lakes, but plenty of small inland lakes and streams, it’s the cold clear water in our streams that makes Michigan a great place for trout fishing.

Plenty of water means that plants thrive here, Michigan is the opposite of the more arid western states, here we can’t see the forest because the trees are in the way, blocking our view. In the summer, Michigan is all blue skies, green vegetation, and blue water, with a few other things thrown in for good measure. I just need to practice more to capture those things in a better way than this.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake

I knew that one wasn’t great, it was a practice shot, that I did even before I watched the video. What’s funny is that I also shot this one before watching the video…

Fern

Fern

…and it’s very similar to one that Robert Rodriguez Jr. showed in his presentation.

By the way, here’s a link to the video if you’re interested.

So what I need to do is to quit looking for places in Michigan that look like other parts of the world and instead, photograph what it is about Michigan that I love. That, and learn to see the world through my wide-angle lenses, as I have said before.

I also stumbled across several videos from Canon showing some of the features of the 7D Mk II and how to use them. Why Canon makes it so difficult to find these videos is beyond me, it was from watching some of them about the 60D that really helped me learn to use that camera. I’m not going to go into detail about the tips and tricks, other than to say that I’m going to begin putting them into use my next time out, which may be today if I finish this post in time.

In the meantime, here are the birds from the last two days at Muskegon.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

 

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

 

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

 

Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated sandpiper

 

Lesser yellowlegs, least sandpipers, and semi-palmated sandpipers in action

Lesser yellowlegs, least sandpipers, and semi-palmated sandpipers in action

 

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

 

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

 

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

 

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

 

Hen turkeys and poults

Hen turkeys and poults

 

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I have a series of photos of the nuthatch, 10 images shot in 5 seconds showing how much the smaller birds move around as I’m attempting to get a sharp photo of them, but since most of you know full well how hard it is to catch a small bird perching perfectly still, I’m not going to upload all the rest, just that one when the nuthatch paused for a second. It’s the same with these.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

This one was a little chatterbox, but it took me a few tries to catch him talking to the rest of the flock.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

A tip for all the birders out there, when you find chickadees, you’ll usually find other birds in the same area. It’s well-known that our all year resident birds form loose flocks during the winter, but I’ve always found that except for when they are nesting, if you find chickadees, you’ll also find the other year-round residents, along with warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, and other families of birds. Not only that, but getting close to a few of the chickadees seems to make the other birds less fearful of me, and then they will allow me to approach them a little closer than they would otherwise. Maybe when they see that I posed no threat to the chickadees, they understand that.

By the way, that reminds me, I just read an article about the vision of birds. Science has known for some time that birds can see much better than humans, well, it turns out that they can also see more of the light spectrum than we can as well, including some of the UV light. That’s how they can tell each other apart. Some species, such as the chickadees all look-alike to us, and we can’t tell the males from the females. But, when researchers began checking what the two sexes looked like in UV light, it turns out that there are differences in the plumage of the sexes, and even some variations in individual birds, which is how they recognize each other.

I had decided not to post the photos of a bald eagle that I shot, since they were taken when the fog was very thick, but I changed my mind, and here’s the best of the lot.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

I shot another eagle in flight, it may have been either a bald or golden eagle, it looked too large to be a bald eagle, but since it’s a poor photo, even worse than the one above, I haven’t changed my mind about one. But, here are a few more birds, starting with a male cardinal looking for food…

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

…to feed to its offspring.

Juvenile female northern cardinal

Juvenile female northern cardinal

Sometimes, you stumble across situations that just don’t look right, such as a hawk on the ground…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…being watched by a great blue heron perched in a tree.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Honestly, those two were shot from the same spot, within seconds of each other. Normally, you see the hawks in trees and herons on the ground or in the water, but in this instance, the birds were reversed. However, it just hit me, maybe the heron was watching to see if the hawk had been successful in capturing a rodent, since herons will eat rodents as well. Could it have been that the heron was seeing if it was worth looking for rodents in the field that the hawk was in?

I shot other things than birds, like this young buck.

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

This chipmunk….

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

…and this red squirrel.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Then, there were the insects.

Unidentified colorful beetle

Unidentified colorful beetle

 

Fly

Fly

 

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

 

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

 

Cabbage white butterfly?

Cabbage white butterfly?

 

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

I had several requests for more spiderweb photos, so I looked for some…

Spiderweb with spider

Spiderweb with spider

…then moved closer to get this photo of the spiders underside…

Spider

Spider

…and here’s its topside.

Spider

Spider

I found a few frogs at Lost Lake.

Green frog

Green frog

 

 

Green frog

Green frog

As well as a few flowers.

Turtlehead flowers

Turtlehead flowers

 

 

Turtlehead flowers

Turtlehead flowers

 

 

Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye weed

 

 

Water lily

Water lily

 

 

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

 

 

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

There are times when I have a good idea…

Water lily

Water lily

…but my execution is wrong…

Water lily

Water lily

…and not even Lightroom can save it. Other times, I get it right, at least I think that I do.

Pastel morning

Pastel morning

Or, I find the humor in nature, like this dragonfly perched on a branch where the end of the branch looks like a dragon’s head.

Dragonfly and dragon

Dragonfly and dragon

Well, I think that it’s time for me to eat breakfast, then head on out to see what I can find to photograph today.

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

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37 responses

  1. The great blue heron in flight and also the one in the tree are two of your best shots I think. Thank you for the chipmunks, always so adorable.

    August 23, 2015 at 3:31 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! You can’t help but love a chipmunk that poses where a shaft of sunlight looks like a spotlight hitting it.

      August 23, 2015 at 3:42 am

  2. Love the 1st shot of the Solitary sandpiper!

    August 23, 2015 at 5:06 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! They are cute birds in their own way.

      August 23, 2015 at 6:05 pm

  3. Lots to like in this post.

    August 23, 2015 at 6:01 am

    • Thank you Victor!

      August 23, 2015 at 6:06 pm

  4. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographic work along with the presentation by Robert Rodriguez. Interesting: his comparisons of music and photography. And in deed, I did print out some of my pictures some time ago which was a great experience 🙂
    He is good in interpreting his thoughts about his work, especially when it comes to fitting his (more or less) theoretical thoughts into the presented photographic artwork. [Which forces the audience to constantly turn their heads to the right side 🙂 ]
    I also liked much his comparison with language usage and the knowledge of his camera gear. That’s what I was thinking – for this sunny Sunday morning, which in the meantime has already turned into afternoon 🙂

    August 23, 2015 at 6:18 am

    • Thank you very much Michel! There’s a lot of food for thought in that video, I may have to watch it again to absorb it all. That’s when I have the time to watch it again. 😉

      August 23, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      • Me too. I’ll bookmark your post.
        🙂

        August 24, 2015 at 2:34 am

  5. Your photography has come a long way since I’ve been reading this blog and the photos in this post are some of the best I’ve seen here.
    The shots of the shore birds are excellent but especially the Solitary sandpiper. I don’t think you could do anything to improve it.
    That shot of the single water lily is one of the best I’ve seen and I’ve seen (and taken) a lot of them. I’m guessing that you used a long exposure to get the water looking the way it does, but whatever you did is excellent.
    I watched part of that video and will have to come back to watch the rest. I agree with the thought that you don’t really have to go anywhere to find beautiful things to photograph. From what I’ve seen Michigan is a really beautiful place. I think you could easily spend a lifetime right there, trying to show it. You’ve got a great start with this post!

    August 23, 2015 at 8:43 am

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’m also sorry for taking so long to reply, for some reason this last post generated more comments than usual, and your’s was pushed back a page before I got to it, I almost forgot about it since I couldn’t see it. It’s a funny thing, I wasn’t going to shoot any shorebirds unless I saw a lifer. So, the only ones I shot are the ones that looked a little different to me. I could improve the solitary sandpiper shot, if I used Photoshop to remove at least part of the rock that distracts the eye from the sandpiper’s reflection in the water. 🙂

      The water lily is another funny story, I saw it the way that photo looks, and used the polarizing filter since I had it on the lens. I looked at the image on the back of the camera, didn’t like it, so I removed the filter and moved a few feet to change the reflections I got. When I imported the photos into Lightroom, I skipped right over that one to work on the “good” ones. Once I finished with them, I went back to the one that I did post expecting to just mark it for deletion, and was wowed by it myself. So, as if I didn’t know already, never trust the display on the back of a camera, and polarizers do work under the right conditions.

      Yes, Michigan is a beautiful state, but it’s a subtle beauty, it doesn’t smack you in the face the way that the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone do. That just means that I’ll have to work harder.

      August 24, 2015 at 1:11 pm

  6. Another beautiful set of photos, Jerry. Yes, your Michigan is a beautiful place, and I am glad you share it with us all. Love the green frog!

    August 23, 2015 at 11:26 am

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I have the feeling that I’m just getting started showing the world the better sights in Michigan.

      August 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm

  7. Beautiful! Yes, shoot the things you love and show us how you see Michigan. The Solitary Sandpiper, the second Mourning Dove shot, the Red-tailed Hawk, the water-lily, the beetle and the pastel morning – all superb!

    August 23, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! There is a lot to love about Michigan, now, it’s up to me to present it as well as I can. I think that other than the last post, I’m doing well overall, and should become better with time.

      August 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm

  8. Even if you say your was disappointed with the image quality of your photos, they were still interesting for me who don’t have cranes in my area. I know your feeling, but I was so glad to see photos on them.

    About mountains, waterfalls, shorelines, etc… it’s almost the same for me but I discovered I can have a lot of fun searching beauty on plain grounds. After all, this makes us more creatives, more attentive, don’t you think? And one more thing about places, I noticed that many times I don’t post some of my shots because I am frustrated when I compare them to those of other people, but I discovered that I enjoy even bad photos from other parts of the world because it’s more interesting than what I have. Maybe it’s better to share those landscapes/birds/etc we have in our area, some will appreciate them. There are huge difference between landscapes, plants, trees, birds, insects, even rocks, not to mention that light is so, so different in each place of the Earth.

    I like your photos of shore birds like yellowlegs, sandpipers and other.

    Mourning dove it’s interesting. We have here only Eurasian collared dove and European turtle dove.

    Turkeys -we don’t have wild turkey only in farms.

    Very interesting to read about how chickadees see. And yes, I always thought they look the same.

    Eastern chipmunk looks so nice!

    I hate flies, frogs, snakes, any reptiles and other creatures…even if your photos of them are good, I still don’t like them.

    That lonely Water lily is so beautiful, and those soft shades of blue and green! Beautiful.

    August 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornel! What you say is true, with our blogs being able to reach the world over, what looks familiar and plain to us may very well be something that some one else in another part of the world has never seen before. Sorry about the frogs and insect that you don’t care for, but they are some of the things that I see, and I find them good subjects for photography most of the time, as many are brightly colored.

      August 23, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      • You don’t have to be sorry, I can handle this. It’s part of your story, and it’s fine. I often see a lot of photos of frogs and other creatures.

        August 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

  9. The solitary sandpiper was the standout for me in another excellent portfolio. I look forward to the results of your study of the video talk. If your landscapes get up to the standard of your other pictures, they will be stunning.

    August 23, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I put some of what I learned from the video into practice today, but in a less than ideal area. Technically, the photos are very good, now I need to find better scenes to shoot.

      August 23, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      • That’s the hardest part unless you have a lot of time to spare and are very patient regarding weather conditions.

        August 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      • Unfortunately, my spare time is spent searching for birds, but weather isn’t a problem, very little keeps me inside.

        August 25, 2015 at 12:31 am

  10. Loved reading your thoughts about shooting what you love and the special things about Michigan. Michigan’s landscapes are unique and I look forward to seeing more pics. Most of my usual local walks are in dry bushland – very different to your greenery and beautiful lakes! Seeing so much water is special for me as it’s a bit of a luxury here. The rainforest and waterfalls I’ve posted are really just in small isolated areas. Every place has things to love about it I think. We have a tendency to think people won’t be interested in our own patch of the world because we’ve lived in it for most of our life. Share what you love and I think people respond to that. This was a stunning collection of bird, insects and furry critter shots. I do love your squirrels. I was very happy to see great spider shots there too. Thank you, Jerry, for sharing more of beautiful Michigan and its wildlife. 🙂

    August 23, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Jane! When I read about how dry other parts of the US, or other parts of the world are, it’s hard for me to relate. Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes to start with, then we have thousands of inland lakes, ponds and marshes as well. Like I said in the post, plants thrive here due to the availability of water. Now, I have to figure out how to catch all that in my camera. 😉

      August 24, 2015 at 4:02 am

  11. It’s wonderful to travel with you along your journey of finding your passion in photography. Indeed, your Michigan is truly beautiful, and the wildlife and nature available to you is remarkable.

    Delve deep into it, you’re already an expert!

    August 23, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    • Thank you very much Emily! There are advantages to living in a less densely populated area, and in a state that has placed an emphasis on preserving open spaces.

      August 24, 2015 at 4:03 am

  12. I love your photo album; each image is so interesting and so engaging, such a pleasure.

    August 24, 2015 at 12:04 am

    • Thank you very much Charlie!

      August 24, 2015 at 4:05 am

  13. Your first sandpiper shot may be one of your all-time best! It’s stunning. I’d be so proud to have that shot in my portfolio.

    Love the variety of insect shots you present. Even with your macro lens, you are probably still nose to nose with them, aren’t you? It would take nerves of steel – perhaps not so much for the dragonflies, but for the rest of them.

    Keep up the good work.

    August 24, 2015 at 9:13 am

    • Thanks again Judy! That was a pretty good shot of the sandpiper, I do get lucky once in a while. With the macro lens, I’m down to just over a foot from the subject, and I never think about it while looking through the camera. If I shoot with the 300 mm lens, when I can’t get to within a foot, then I’m about 5 feet away. I have to crop those photos though, so I prefer working close with the macro lens.

      August 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm

  14. How much did the chipmunk pay for that lovely portrait? 😉 Also love the water lily shot–elegant!

    August 24, 2015 at 10:28 am

    • Thank you Lori! I should have paid the chipmunk, as he was on a stump in the shade at first, then moved to where the sunbeam hit him just right.

      August 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      • The first one’s free. He’ll bill you next time! 😉

        August 28, 2015 at 6:48 am

  15. Couldn’t agree more with the suggestion to shoot what you love. It’s that passion that makes for great shots. Seeing how you’ve improved with the nature shots over time, I look forward to seeing you show off your “neighborhood”!

    August 24, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! Like I replied to Allen, Michigan is a beautiful state, but it’s a subtle beauty, it doesn’t smack you in the face the way that the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone do. That just means that I’ll have to work harder.

      August 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm

  16. Amazing photos, amazing wildlife and an amazing blog. Thank you very much for sharing- it’s a totally different world to the one that I inhabit but I love seeing your life through your photos.

    August 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    • Thank you very much! I appreciate the nice comments on my photos, as every part of the world is different, yet in may ways, the same.

      August 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm