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

Archive for September, 2015

Beauty is not art

Beauty is not art, something that I continually forget. So, even though I catch a fantastic sunrise, take care to get everything just right, and get what I think is my best image technically of a sunrise, getting the colors of the sunrise reflecting off not only the water, but some of the rocks and vegetation, it’s just a photograph.

Super sunrise

Super sunrise

I may have worked hard, very hard in fact, to get everything in that scene to look as close to what I saw at the time that I shot the series of images that I used to create the HDR image that you see here. I loved the colors, from the deep blue sky almost directly overhead, to the brilliant yellow-orange of the sun behind the clouds. I loved the way that the light played off from the rocks, and even the dark shadows within the rocks. I loved the tension between the very smooth water, and the crushed rock that made up the shoreline, but none of that makes this photo a work of art, because it is the reality that I saw at the time.

I am learning that when it comes to photography, reality isn’t considered art, you have to alter reality in your photos to have them thought of as works of art.

That’s a problem for me. I grew up admiring the artwork of John James Audubon, and the photographs of wildlife and landscapes as seen in the National Geographic magazine. You may remember that a few years ago, I had the opportunity to see a traveling exhibition of Audubon’s artwork, and even did a short post on it, and you can find that post here.

In that post I noted that Audubon was not the first to undertake the mission of painting every species of bird in the United States, he followed in the footsteps of Alexander Wilson. The difference between their works was that Wilson painted birds on a stark, bare background, whereas Audubon painted birds surrounded by their natural settings. He often portrayed them as if caught in motion, especially feeding or hunting. Audubon based his paintings on his extensive field observations.

I can do that.

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Maybe not very well, but I can do that.

When it comes to the photos that I grew up with in the National Geographic magazine, I had heard that the photographers who shot the photos were considered to be some of the best nature photographers in the world, but that carried a caveat that I wasn’t aware of at the time. That caveat is that most of the photographers who work for Nat Geo think of themselves as photojournalists telling a story, not artists.

Because of the demands of the magazine that they shoot for, showing not only the wildlife itself, but where and how the wildlife lives, the photos that appear in Nat Geo are in the genre of natural history photos, not artistic photos.

I did not know that until recently. I thought that a good photo was a good photo no matter what, how little I knew, and they say that ignorance is bliss. I was very blissful, shooting photos in the same vein as Audubon’s artwork, and Nat Geo photographers. I thought that you were supposed to include some of the background in a photo to show people the types of places that they may find the wildlife in my photos. Not only that, but every once in a while, the colors in the vegetation around the wildlife are quite pretty as well.

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

 

Juvenile indigo bunting in a cornfield

Juvenile indigo bunting in a cornfield

I thought that it was even better to capture the critter’s personality in my photos, as this series of a bald eagle having a bad feather day does. The eagle was in the process of molting, which must be uncomfortable at times, for the eagle started out holding its wing out for a while.

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

It thought that it had found the feather causing the discomfort…

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

…but removing that feather didn’t help much…

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

…so the eagle thought that maybe if it moved around a bit, that would help…

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

 

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

 

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

…but a tail feather was out-of-place.

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

I didn’t put the photos of the eagle with its head up its tail in here, 😉 I waited until it was working on wing feathers again…

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

Bald eagle having a bad feather day

…until the eagle decided that soaring for a while may make it feel better.

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

 

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

 

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

 

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

 

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Okay, maybe those aren’t great, but how could any one resist cute, as in a baby red squirrel?

Baby red squirrel

Baby red squirrel

Especially when it was obvious that the squirrel had eaten a few too many fermented berries, and was drunk….

Drunken baby red squirrel

Drunken baby red squirrel

…looking for a warm, sunny spot to sleep it off.

Drunken baby red squirrel going to sleep

Drunken baby red squirrel going to sleep

Even I knew that there was nothing artistic about the photos in either of those series of photos, they fall into the class of photos too interesting not to post. I have to ask myself how many people get to see the expressions on an eagle’s face as it preens, or see a drunken baby red squirrel?

But, what about this one? Is the bokeh smooth and creamy enough? Did I get too much of the stick that the dragonfly is perched on in focus?

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

I suppose  that I could shoot all the subjects against the blue sky, then I wouldn’t have to worry about blurring the background.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

 

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

It seems to be working so far.

Multiple mallards in flight

Multiple mallards in flight

 

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

 

American kestrel

American kestrel

I’ll bet that the blue background doesn’t work well with birds that are mostly blue in color though.

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

 

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

But for most birds, the blue works well enough.

Rocket robin in flight

Rocket robin in flight

I wonder if it would work for dragonflies?

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

 

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

Fair, what about butterflies I wonder?

Monarch butterfly in flight

Monarch butterfly in flight

Monarch butterfly in flight

Monarch butterfly in flight

Not bad, but I need more practice on the insect in flight photos.

Of course I’m being silly again, but having tons of fun while I’m at it. 🙂

Along with more practice shooting insects in flight, I need more practice when it comes to black and white photography. I did shoot this weathered stump in color…

Weathered stump

Weathered stump

…intending to convert the photo to B&W.

Weathered stump B&W

Weathered stump B&W

But, the B&W version still doesn’t look the way that I wanted it to. I may need to do more playing in Lightroom, more so than when I’m shooting with an eye towards B&W.

I need a few flowers in this post to finish it off.

Asters

Asters

 

Bindweed

Bindweed

 

Dandelion

Dandelion

Okay, so beauty may not be art, so I’ll finish this one off with a subject that sure isn’t shot in an artistic style, and I think that we can all agree that it isn’t beautiful either.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

 

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

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If only I had known

The forecast was for clear skies, and as I left my apartment yesterday before dawn, I didn’t see a cloud blocking any of the stars. I had slept in later than has been my regular routine, as my shift at work is changing starting this evening. For at least the next few months, I’ll be starting work at 5 PM, rather than 2 AM, so that means there will be fewer sunrise photos here for a while, but there may be sunsets at times. It wasn’t until I was approaching the Muskegon County wastewater facility, and the first light of dawn was breaking to the east, that I saw that there were a few clouds to the east to produce this kind of sunrise.

The first light of the day

The first light of the day

I zoomed in a little, hoping that you’d be able to see the numerous ducks that have arrived as they head south for the winter, but that didn’t work.

There's hundreds of ducks there, honestly

There are hundreds of ducks there, honestly

Those two were shot towards the north end of the storage lagoon, near where the wastewater is treated, and if I had included anything along the edge of the lagoon to create a leading line, it would have been of the equipment and machinery, not great subjects for a photo. So, even with the light constantly changing, I decided that I had to get to a better spot from which to capture the glorious light show that was unfolding before my eyes.

Sunrise over the lagoon

Sunrise over the lagoon

I could resist doing a cloudscape or two, but I’ll only include one.

Cloudscape

Cloudscape

If I had known that there would be that type of sunrise, I would have gone to Grand Haven, and climbed the stairs to shoot the sunrise from the North Ottawa Dunes Nature Preserve, rather than the same old same old.

However, things went very well going to the wastewater facility to start the day, I got two more lifers as far as species of birds, a female blackpoll warbler…

Female blackpoll warbler

Female blackpoll warbler

 

Female blackpoll warbler

Female blackpoll warbler

…and sanderlings.

Sanderling

Sanderling

 

Sanderlings

Sanderlings

 

Sanderling

Sanderling

I also found a couple of other species that I don’t often see, so here are two of my snapshots of them.

Wilson's snipe

Wilson’s snipe

 

Juvenile black-bellied plover

Juvenile black-bellied plover

Neither of those birds would move to let me get better shots of them, sorry about that, you’ll have to forward any complaints to the birds for not being more cooperative.

I’m getting ahead of myself, back when I was shooting the cloudscapes at sunrise, I also shot these.

Flying duck at dawn

Flying duck at dawn

 

Flying ducks at dawn

Flying ducks at dawn

 

Northern shoveler at dawn

Northern shoveler at dawn

 

Geese flying into the sunrise

Geese flying into the sunrise

It’s too bad that the geese don’t show up in that photo in its small size here in my blog.

Northern shoveler in the pink light of dawn

Northern shoveler in the pink light of dawn

It was soon light enough to try to get a good photo of one of the hundreds of killdeer there while they were flying.

Killdeer in flight

Killdeer in flight

One thing led to another…

Killdeer landing

Killdeer landing

…and I became obsessed with the killdeer and their reflections on the water…

Killdeer and rocks

Killdeer and rocks

…there were plenty of opportunities for me to play…

Killdeer flock in flight

Killdeer flock in flight

…too bad I can’t control the bird’s actions 😉 …

Killdeer flock in flight

Killdeer flock in flight

…and I liked how three birds became one, but their reflection gave them away.

Killdeer flock in flight

Killdeer flock in flight

As many killdeer as were there, there were even more starlings.

Starlings in flight

Starlings in flight

I paused shooting flying birds for a second to shoot this…

Dew on grass seeds

Dew on grass seeds

…but then I just had to shoot one more killdeer testing the water.

Killdeer testing the water

Killdeer testing the water

The American pipits have arrived as they journey to their winter home.

American pipit

American pipit

 

American pipit

American pipit

I like this next photo, even though I did everything wrong, and knew that I was doing so when I shot it.

Spotted sandpiper on the rocks

Spotted sandpiper on the rocks

I also tried to find a way to show you how many swallows were there, as some were perched on the power lines as others came and went.

A few of the thousands of swallows seen

A few of the thousands of swallows seen

A few hundred of the thousands of ruddy ducks that will stop at the wastewater facility this fall have arrived, here’s a male…

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

….and a female.

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Just for the heck of it, here’s a blue-winged teal.

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Some one liked the earlier photos of dew covered spider webs that I posted, so I spent a little time shooting a few more of them.

Dew covered spider web

Dew covered spider web

 

Dew covered spider web

Dew covered spider web

I was also able to test the 300 mm lens with the doubler behind it out on a great blue heron.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I also put that same combination to use for a few photos of a Cooper’s hawk…

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

 

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

…being harassed by a murder of crows…

American crow

American crow

 

American crow

American crow

 

American crow

American crow

None of those were cropped, which would normally be a good thing, however the shortcoming of it is that I wasn’t able to get any of the action shots as the crows would dive bomb the hawk, or the hawk retaliating towards the crows.

I did get a shot of the hawk looking at me to ask if it didn’t have enough trouble with the crows, and did I really need to be bothering it too?

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Well, I suppose that’s enough of another big batch of snapshots that I’ve posted, so it’s time to wrap this one up.

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


Who am I trying to please?

I think that I’m beginning to understand why so many photographers are shooting their photos with the aperture of their lens close to wide open, and only parts of the subject in sharp focus, it’s a snob thing.

Grand Rapids has a large camera club, reputed to be the oldest in the United States, so I decided to check out their website to see if it would be possible for me to attend their meetings in order to get some feedback as to how my photos stack up as far as quality. Well, they feature a photo of the month, and what did this month’s photo just happen to be? A male cardinal. Cool, there’s some nature photographers in this group was my first thought, but then I read why the person who picks the photo of the month picked that particular photo.

The judge chose that photo because in their words, “the photographer did a good job of focusing on the bird’s head and used a shallow depth of field to blur the background”.

I guess that it doesn’t matter that the majority of the subject, the cardinal, is blurred as well.

Then I read the blurb from the photographer who shot the photo, and it turns out that they have a spot outside their garage set-up with a bird feeder to attract the birds and a fake branch attached as a place for the birds to perch on their way to or from the feeder, and the photographer shoots their photos through an open window of the garage.

Okay, I guess that the fact that the situation is controlled by the photographer is okay with me, but that’s not how I photograph birds.

I figure that I have about three seconds (if I’m lucky) from the time a small bird perches somewhere to when they move to another location as they look for food. During that three seconds, the birds do not sit still, they are twisting and turning as they look for food, and/or possible predators. If I move too quickly getting the camera pointed at them, the birds will spook and fly off, so that leaves me little time left to get the bird in focus and the exposure set, and no time to be fooling with the aperture to get the perfect depth of field.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Sometimes, I luck out.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

By the way, these were shot using the Canon 7D Mk II, 300 mm L series lens, with the 2X tele-converter behind the lens, and the images have not been cropped. Any one who says that you can’t get a sharp photo with the 2X extender behind a good sharp lens hasn’t learned how to use one properly, as you can see. These are as sharp as a tack.

Anyway, I began to wonder when and how bokeh (the out of focus background in a photo) became more important than the subject of the photo. More importantly, I began to wonder who decided that, and why.

I think that I have at least part of the answer.

In one of the how to become a better photographer videos that I watched recently, the presenter began one of the segments with the admonition to quit photographing everything as if you’re using a point and shoot camera.

That may require a little explanation for some readers. Because of the physics of light, camera lenses, and sensors, the compact digital point and shoot cameras have a much larger depth of field at any aperture than does a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). The same holds true with the cameras in cell phones, it’s almost impossible to get something out of focus while using one.

So, back to the presenter in the video. At the time I watched it, it didn’t dawn on me, but he went on to say that we’ve spent a lot of money on a DSLR and lenses with wide apertures, which are more expensive than lenses with smaller maximum apertures, so we should use those wider apertures to throw the background out of focus and to get great bokeh. Now I get it, why the bokeh in a photo has become so important, it’s a snob thing.

You want the perfect bokeh in a photo not because that’s what most of the general public prefer, it’s to let your fellow photographers know that you’re using a DSLR with an expensive lens attached to it! That’s why it’s become what the judges in a photo contest look for, so that they know that you’re a “real” photographer, using “real” equipment, and not a point and shoot, or horrors of horrors, a cell phone.

I may be wrong about that, but I don’t think so. Wildlife photography videos with presenters who actually make their living photographing wildlife in the wild, and not in animal parks or baited animals, present another side to great photos. They say that you don’t always have to fill the frame with your subject, that there are times when you should include some of the animal’s surroundings to let people who see your photos know what types of habitat that particular animal prefers. They say that it’s even better if you catch the animal engaging in activities, so I suppose that these would count towards that.

Adult male northern cardinal feeding it's young

Adult male northern cardinal feeding its young

 

Adult male northern cardinal feeding it's young

Adult male northern cardinal feeding its young

 

Adult male northern cardinal feeding it's young

Adult male northern cardinal feeding its young

 

Adult male northern cardinal feeding it's young

Adult male northern cardinal feeding its young

 

Adult male northern cardinal feeding it's young

Adult male northern cardinal feeding its young

Maybe these photos, of a warbling vireo singing, aren’t so bad after all.

Warbling vireo singing

Warbling vireo singing

 

Warbling vireo singing

Warbling vireo singing

 

Warbling vireo singing

Warbling vireo singing

So what if I didn’t get the aperture perfect to completely blur the background. I’m showing that this species likes to stay under the leaf canopy, and sing their little hearts out, even in the middle of September.

By the way, those were also shot with the 7D Mk II, 300 mm lens with 2X tele-converter at ISO 6400, and not cropped at all.

Other than a lower ISO, so was this one,  which according to all types of experts, should be the perfect photo. I got the bird so that it more than fills the frame, and it’s engaged in an activity, eating, plus, the background is completely out of focus.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Wait, that can’t be a perfect photo, I didn’t have time to change the focus points, so the subject is centered in the frame, and besides, it was shot in the middle of the day in full sun, and one is never supposed to photograph anything in during the middle of the day in full sun, even if there are no harsh shadows in the photo. You have to shoot in diffused light.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Maybe the light is too diffused in that photo, but it’s still better than the dappled sun in these photos.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

But, at least the background is out of focus in all three of those. 😉

It looks as if I’m going to have to do a better job of training the birds that I photograph so that they pick better places to perch as I shoot them.

Magnolia warbler

Magnolia warbler

Now I’m being silly, but there are times that I have to be silly to make a point to myself, and the point is, who am I trying to please with my photos? Is it the photo critics who use one set of criteria to judge photos, or is it lovers of nature that prefer images that display what nature means to them as they see it?

I really see no reason that I can’t shoot both types of photos, as I’ve been able to put in this post. I’ll continue to shoot the same style of photos that I have been, and when the opportunities arise, shoot images with the birds isolated completely from a blurred background.

Whether the background is blurred or not, I really like getting a chickadee to fill the frame, so that when I switch Lightroom to display the image full screen on my 27 inch iMac, the image of the chickadee is the size of a crow, and you can count every fiber of every feather.

I did have a chickadee get even closer to me, so close that if I had pressed the shutter release, you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell what the object inside the lens hood was. That’s right, I had a chickadee land inside the hood of the 300 mm lens, as I was holding it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the time came when I was able to shoot at least a few birds close-up while using the 100 mm macro lens. That’s the real secret to great photos, getting close, no matter what length of lens you have, the closer the better.

To get that close, all that I did was to sit in one spot for a while under the shelter at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve so that I was in the shade, and move as little as possible. It wasn’t long before the birds featured here, and several other species, were coming and going as if I wasn’t there. The 2X tele-converter does allow me to shoot great portraits, when the birds pause long enough for the camera and lens to focus. I missed quite a few opportunities because of the slow auto-focus, but by sitting still and partially hidden, I had more than ample opportunities that day. But, as I am so prone to do, I’m going off on a tangent here, time to get back to the point that I was making about the standards used to judge photographs these days.

Photography is supposed to be an art form where the photography is free to express themselves through their photos, but the way that I see it, if you’re going to gain any critical acclaim, you have to shoot photos that fit the current fad of the time, and right now, that means an isolated subject with a creamy smooth bokeh in the background. The critics will reject any other style of photo, the only room for artistic expression at the current time is what a photographer does to the images in post-processing. For the most part, that means how far the photographer is willing to push the bounds of believability as they post-process their images.

I’ll have more thoughts on getting closer to wildlife, and post-processing in future posts, for right now, I’m going to go on with the train of thought that I had about shooting both styles of photos, my own style, and occasionally shooting photos in the style that may please some of the critics, if they were to ever see any of my photos.

I hadn’t reached this point in my thinking when I made a decision to begin shooting more landscape photos, even if there were buildings and other man-made objects in the scene. I made that decision because I need the practice shooting landscapes. If I wait for the perfect scene, then I wouldn’t have the skill required to capture it when I had the chance, so I’ve begun shooting scenes like this.

Dawn at the Muskegon County wastewater facility

Dawn at the Muskegon County wastewater facility

Or this one, and this one has the added feature of letting the readers of my blog become more familiar with the one of the places I go to photograph birds.

Misty morning at the grassy cells

Misty morning at the grassy cells

I don’t want to get into every detail of how wastewater is treated there at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, but the grassy cells are flooded in a rotating manner, at which point they become small man-made marshes which filter contaminants out of the water. When the grassy cells aren’t flooded, they are like a wild grassland, complete with wildflowers.

Tansy flowers

Tansy flowers

And, the flowers attract insects.

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

I threw that last photo in here as it was going to lead to a discussion on lenses, but I’ll also save that for other posts. For right now, I’m going to just post a few more photos.

Dawn spilling into a starry night

Dawn spilling into a starry night

That’s an image that I wish that I could display in a larger format. I just love the color blue that the sky takes on at dawn when there are few clouds to catch the color of the rising sun, throw in a few twinkling stars in the sky, and the sun’s first rays starting to bring out the green of the vegetation, and that’s one of my favorite sunrise photos so far, even though there’s not much red, orange, or pink in the sky or clouds.

Also, by shooting with my wide-angle lenses more often, I’m learning that just a few millimeters of focal length changes the scene dramatically.

Cloudscape at 10 mm

Cloudscape at 10 mm

 

Cloudscape at 20 mm

Cloudscape at 20 mm

 

Cloudscape at 15 mm

Cloudscape at 15 mm

I’ve also been playing with silhouettes of flying birds against the colors of the sunrise.

Duck at dawn

Duck at dawn

 

Duck at dawn 2

Duck at dawn 2

Heck, I’ve been trying all different types of photos at dawn.

Dawn at the lagoon 1

Dawn at the lagoon 1

 

Dawn at the lagoon 2

Dawn at the lagoon 2

 

Dawn at the lagoon 3

Dawn at the lagoon 3

I wasn’t sure whether I should shoot this next series as silhouettes, or go for the best exposure of the duck(s) as I could get.

Dawn duck 1

Dawn duck 1

 

Dawn duck 2

Dawn duck 2

 

Dawn duck

Dawn duck

 

Dawn duck 3

Dawn duck 3

 

Dawn duck 4

Dawn duck 4

 

Dawn duck 5

Dawn duck 5

It wasn’t until the duck got airborne that it finally quacked for me.

Dawn duck 6

Dawn duck 6

I waffled a bit on these, as I was shooting them, I thought that I was shooting the best photos of my life in some respects.

Dawn duck 7

Dawn duck 7

But after looking at them for a while, I began to think that they were over the top, too much of a good thing.

Dawn duck 8

Dawn duck 8

Now, I’m back to thinking that these are great again.

Dawn duck 9

Dawn duck 9

Although, I still think that this next one is too much of a good thing.

Dawn duck 10

Dawn duck 10

No matter which direction you shoot at dawn, there’s great light to be found, so I tried this wildlife and landscape combination.

Assorted birds at dawn

Assorted birds at dawn

One thing is for sure, these are the most artistic collection of photos that I’ve ever put in one post before, maybe I should have spread them out more? I hope to continue working on more artistic photos, without giving up on the way that I have been photographing things, until I figure out how to strike the right balance.

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


Sputtering

I started on this post well over a week ago, going in one direction at first, then another direction later, now in yet a third direction now. I promised a few warm and fuzzy critters for some of my readers, so I’ll throw in a few of them to get this started.

Red squirrel head shot

Red squirrel head shot

That was shot yesterday, when I spent some time sitting in the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, as was this one.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

This one as well.

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel profile

Here’s a little larger warm and fuzzy critter, from a few weeks ago.

Young whitetail buck

Young whitetail buck

While I’m at it, I may as well toss in these two as well.

Four whitetail bucks

Four whitetail bucks

Four whitetail bucks

Four whitetail bucks

I was in the process of stalking the four bucks in hopes of getting a good photo of them, but a construction crew working on one of the irrigation rigs at the Muskegon County wastewater facility spooked them before I could get close.

These represent the first way that I began this post, but then, I started comparing my photos to those that I see while I’m watching the online tutorials on either photography, or using Lightroom, and of course I was disappointed. We don’t have critters with the Wow! factor that lions, cheetahs, zebra, penguins, or any of the other critters that I see in those videos that I watch have. We have some wolves, up in the upper peninsula, along with moose, bobcats, and maybe a lynx if one is extremely lucky.

But, I don’t live in the U.P., I live in southern Michigan, where deer and squirrels are the most common mammals, along with rabbits.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

One isn’t going to Wow! people with a photo of a bunny or even a cardinal…

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

…no matter how good the photo is.

Despite the improvements that I see in my macro photography…

Phlox

Phlox

 

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

…and my landscapes…

Muskegon morning

Muskegon morning

 

 

Muskegon morning 2

Muskegon morning 2

 

…I was getting down on myself again, as I had decided that my sunrise “landscapes”…

Sunrise over my favorite marsh

Sunrise over my favorite marsh

…were really more of a cloudscape than a landscape.

The marsh is just there as a somewhat interesting foreground to give the photo some depth, but the sky and the clouds are the only things about that photo that make it interesting.

The photos that I shot of the dunes at North Ottawa Dunes showed that I am getting better at composing my photos to convey just how large and steep that the dunes here in Michigan are, but other than that, the images weren’t really very good in other respects. Some of that was due to the weather that day, with misty rain and fog, along with the dreary sky, I suppose that they weren’t that bad. They’d have been better if I had gotten there at sunrise…

Sunrise over the grassy cells

Sunrise over the grassy cells

…or if there had been interesting clouds over the scenery.

Cloudscape reflections

Cloudscape reflections

If I told you what is in that last photo, other than the clouds, you’d probably think that I was crazy. The water is one of the storage lagoons at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, and the “hills” in the background are the county landfill, hardly nature at its finest. 😉

It’s beginning to dawn on me, that if I can get images like that, and the others in this post, taken at a wastewater treatment facility and landfill, there just may be hope for me yet. That notion got a boost when I checked out the eagle tree at the wastewater facility, and got a few good images of a critter that does have some of the Wow! factor, bald eagles.

Adult bald eagle

Adult bald eagle

Not my best photo of an eagle, but not bad either.

Adult bald eagle in flight

Adult bald eagle in flight

I finally did just about everything right, with the cooperation of the eagle, it stayed perched long enough for me to get a few good photos of it, then, as I waited and watched, I got my camera and lens all set-up for when the eagle took flight. And, the eagle rewarded my patience by circling me several times.

Adult bald eagle in flight

Adult bald eagle in flight

That was the eagle that had been perched in the top of the eagle tree, the second eagle…

Adult bald eagle 2

Adult bald eagle 2

…stayed perched for another 15 to 20 minutes, before I gave up and moved on.

So, that brings me to the question, how do mated bald eagles find each other when they cover so much territory while they are hunting?

Other birds that mate for life, such as swans, cranes, and geese, are inseparable all year round, but other than when the female is on the nest, or both parents are bringing food to the young, the eagles will travel great distances individually as they hunt, yet they seem to be able to find each other again. Is that why they perch in the same trees so often, the trees act as their meeting place? Find an eagle perched in a tree once, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll find it there very often.

Okay, so I do fairly well when I shoot raptors…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

…of course they’d be better if the light had been right, and without the irrigation rig in the background, but sooner or later, I’ll be in the right place at the right time.

The thing that they don’t tell you in the online photography tutorials is how many photos that they had to shoot to get the winners that they show during their presentations. I suppose that’s the big thing, I may find a sharp-shinned hawk being harassed by blue jays…

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

…catch the hawk as it dives…

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

…and almost catch the hawk as it chases one of the jays, hoping to turn the jay into lunch…

Sharp-shinned hawk chasing a blue jay

Sharp-shinned hawk chasing a blue jay

…but I can’t control the paths that they birds take as they go about the life and death struggles of eating or being eaten. I may have to witness that many times before I get exactly the shot that I want.

There was quite a show going on there for a while, I could see medium size birds flying from the woods to a couple of dead trees, as soon as they would land, another bird would come from the woods and chase them off.  That’s how I spotted the sharp-shinned hawk, it was the bird chasing the other birds off from the dead trees, or so I thought. The other two birds were flickers…

Flicker 1

Flicker 1

 

 

Flicker 2

Flicker 2

…and I couldn’t tell if they were tormenting the sharpie, or just wanted to look for bugs in the dead tree limbs, and the sharpie was hoping to turn one of the flickers into lunch. But, every time that the flickers landed in the trees, the sharpie would come out of the woods towards them…

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

…sometimes perching in the dead trees for a while after the flickers had left…

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

…but it would always return to the woods, where the blue jays would resume harassing it, until the hawk would make another try for one of the jays. About then, the flickers would return to the dead trees, until the sharpie came out of the woods towards them. They kept me entertained, and busy with my camera, for quite a while.

I shouldn’t dwell on the shots that I miss, or get down in the dumps if I have an off day now and then, but I do. I should be happy to get one really good shot per day.

Bee and chicory

Bee and chicory

Whether it’s a macro like that, or a bird…

Grey catbird swallowing a grape

Grey catbird swallowing a grape

…or a cute squirrel eating crab apples.

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

 

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

 

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

 

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

Fox squirrel eating crab apples

I also wish that the theme that I use for my blog would allow me to display my photos in a larger size, as I’m trying to include more of a bird’s or animal’s surroundings with them at times in my photos.

Whitetail buck at sunrise

Whitetail buck at sunrise

 

That way, you also get to see more of the habitat that the critters I photograph live in, which can be a good thing. I work on my photos on my 27 inch iMac, and when I see them as presented here in my blog, I’m usually disappointed.

Not only would the animals and birds show up better in a larger image, but my attempts at landscapes would look better displayed in a larger size.

Another cloudscape

Another cloudscape posing as a landscape

A larger size image would also be better for displaying my more artistic attempts.

Lone duck at dawn

Lone duck at dawn

I actually shot several different versions of that last one, which was one of the things that contributed to my taking a step back, and trying to decide if my photos were getting better, or if I was deluding myself again, something that I’m quite good at.

I thought of signing up for a nature photography class, just so that I could get some feedback from an expert as to where I stand, but the classes were on week nights and in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and I didn’t feel like driving that far for the classes. It’s just as well, I just checked out the webpage of the photographer that teaches the class, and not to brag, but with the exception of the sharp-shinned hawk series of photos, the photos of mine in this post are better than most of the expert’s photos.

I hope that none of the regular readers and commenters to my blog will take offense at my wanting an outside opinion as to the quality of my photos, after all, you’ve followed my blog probably because you liked my photos to begin with. I’m not fishing for compliments, I could use some critical input, although I know the first thing that I’d be told. I’m getting too many distractions in the background, and the bokeh isn’t smooth as cream.

I’ll have to work on that, along with the other things that I need to do to improve my images.

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


Finally, Flowers

I’m going to finally get around to doing the post that I promised last week, nearly all flowers. But, I have to start with one bird photo, just to keep the streak alive. 😉

Male American goldfinch eating thistle seeds

Male American goldfinch eating thistle seeds

Besides, there are flowers in that photo, even if they’re out of focus. 😉

Okay, for the real flowers, these were shot over the course of the summer, with either the Canon 100 mm macro lens on a 60D body, or the Canon 300 mm L series lens, 1.4X tele-converter, and on the 7D Mk II body. They’re both great set-ups for flowers, the 100 mm lens makes it easier to get the exact angle that I want, if I can get close to the flower. The 300 mm lens and tele-converter gets the larger flowers without cropping, or I may have had to crop some of these because fences, water, or other obstacles prevented me from getting as close as I would have liked. There’s not much else to say, so here goes.

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

 

Pokeweed

Pokeweed

 

Pink

Pink

 

Sumac

Sumac

 

Asiatic dayflower

Asiatic day flower

 

Asiatic dayflower

Asiatic day flower

 

Boneset

Boneset

 

Unknown purple

Unknown purple

 

Nature's flower garden

Nature’s flower garden

 

Mother's wort

Mother’s wort

 

Ox-eye daisy

Ox-eye daisy

 

Sulpher cinquefoil

Sulphur cinquefoil

 

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

 

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

 

Creeping bellflower

Creeping bellflower

 

Creeping bellflower

Creeping bellflower

 

Creeping bellflower

Creeping bellflower

JVIS8479

Horsemint?

 

Horsemint?

Horsemint?

 

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

 

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

 

Ironweed

Ironweed

 

Ragweed

Ragweed

 

 

Unknown grass

Unknown grass

 

 

Soapwort

Soapwort

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

 

Jewellweed

Jewelweed

 

Jewellweed

Jewelweed

 

Day lily

Day lily

 

Enchanter's nightshade

Enchanter’s nightshade

 

Sweet pea

Sweet pea

 

Great lobelia

Great lobelia

 

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

 

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

 

Ground ivy?

Ground ivy?

 

Dame's rocket

Dame’s rocket

 

Yellow hawkweed?

Yellow hawkweed?

 

Bindweed

Bindweed

Some of the photos are only fair, but a few are pretty good as well. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself, not because of the images, but only a few of these are unidentified. Lightroom has a database for keywords, and when I’m able to identify a flower, I add the species name to the keywords. I also put the color and size in the keywords, along with unidentified if I can’t ID it. I use four sizes, tiny, for flowers less than 1/2 inch across. Small for flowers from 1 to 2 inches across. Medium, for flowers 2 to 3 inches across, and large for flowers larger than 3 inches.

If I see a flower on some one else’s blog that matches one of my unidentified flowers, I can easily look it up in Lightroom by color and size, then replace the word “Unidentified” with the species name in the keywords, and it’s saved forever, all I have to do is look them up again if I forget their name. It works well for me so far.

Here’s a photo tip, or really, a photo editing tip. If your camera has trouble exposing certain color(s) of flowers, often it is yellow or red, or both, instead of lowering the exposure, try lowering the luminance for that color in Lightroom if you have that to edit photos. That’s how I got the evening primrose to look as good as it did in that photo. Lowering the luminance for just the color that looks overexposed leaves anything else in the frame, such as leaves, exposed correctly.

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