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

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!

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21 responses

  1. What a lovely post, landscapes, birds, flowers and my favourites the furry creatures at the top of the blog, thank you so much.

    September 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I have a few more warm and furry critter photos left to go, and I’m sure that I’ll be shooting more.

      September 14, 2015 at 3:43 pm

  2. Like your cloudscapes!

    September 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      September 14, 2015 at 3:39 pm

  3. You know I like very much photos of birds, so here is nothing to be said.
    But I was nicely surprised to see some beautiful landscapes. I personally like very much Muskegon morning and Muskegon morning 2. That’s the light I enjoy the mos. Cloudscape reflections are beautiful, too.

    September 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornel! While I love photographing birds, I’d also like to branch out and do more landscapes. You have great taste in light, when the two that you mentioned were shot, it was during the early morning just after sunrise, which is also my favorite time of the day.

      September 14, 2015 at 3:42 pm

  4. I’ve been reading this blog for almost 5 years now and I can say for sure that your photos are getting better, but like most things it has happened a little at a time and not over night. Often you can see improvement in someone’s photos or artwork but not be able to put your finger on how or why the changes have happened-you just know that they have,
    Personally, I think you’re too hard on yourself. I’d be very happy to have taken any of these landscapes, and the one of the lone duck would be framed and hanging on a wall. I love the colors in it!
    As for wow factor-who cares? People from all over the world can read this blog and many of them will be just as wowed by a chipmunk as they would a grizzly, because they’ve never seen one before. I’m wowed by the cranes for instance, because I’ve never seen one.
    If I was to go by what I’ve seen happen here over the past few years I’d say just keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working well.

    September 14, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    • Thanks for all the encouragement! Yes, I do see and photograph many species of birds and other critters that most people never see, but that’s exactly why I’m working so hard to improve my photos. I do know that my images have improved, in the early days of my blogging, if I didn’t identify some of the birds seen in my photos, people wouldn’t be able to tell for sure what they were. What I’m trying to do is to bring the nature that I love to life for every one, and the only way I know how to do that is through photography.

      September 14, 2015 at 11:35 pm

  5. I don’t think you’re fishing for compliments when you say you need some professional input. Everyone who tries to improve a skill needs an expert to let them know all is going well. Other experts know what you are trying to do and may offer really useful tips or may set you off on a new and exciting or challenging track. I hope you find someone to give you that encouragement.
    I love the way you see beauty in your surroundings no matter where you are. This is surely a sign of true artistry and shows how much you love photography, the critters you see and Michigan. I think it is relatively easy to take photos of beautiful buildings and exotic animals and birds. The public are amazed by the subject and the skill of the photographer becomes less important.
    I love your landscapes and cloudscapes. I live in a fairly flat area and naturally, the sky takes up a large part of the view. I love flatlands and feel liberated when I can see land stretching away in front of me and a big sky above. You can’t have one (the land) without the other (the sky).

    September 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I know that it could be a two edged sword to get an unbiased opinion from an expert in the field of nature photography, but I think that’s what I need right now if I’m going to continue to improve. I’ve already changed my attitude to some degree, I wouldn’t have shot most of the landscape and cloudscapes from this post before, given where they were taken. However, the best advise that I’ve gotten from the videos I’ve watched is to photograph what moves you when you see it. So now, if a scene strikes me, I shoot it, even if it’s the county landfill. 🙂

      September 14, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      • Good!

        September 15, 2015 at 4:18 pm

  6. My view is that you should stop mumping and go on taking the wonderful pictures with which you delight us. Unless you are being paid to sit for three days in a hide up to your neck in muddy water for the sake of one great picture, keep on doing what you are doing.

    September 14, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    • Thank you Tom! Truth be told, I’d rather sit for three days in a hide up to my neck in muddy water for one great photo rather than do what I do for a living now. 😉

      September 14, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      • Every one to their own thing.

        September 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

  7. I thought the male cardinal had quite a good Wow factor, as did the cloud reflection. It made me ooooooooh. The white tailed buck at sunrise was pretty awesome, too. Oh, and the catbird swallowing the grape– for real???! I thought that was amazing!

    I think all of us, no matter what level we are at, always want to learn and improve. If we think we’ve “arrived” we are probably in trouble! Keep up the great work, I always enjoy your work!

    September 14, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    • Thank you very much Amy! I do see things that most people miss, like the catbird swallowing a grape, but as I told Allen, that’s way I’m working so hard to improve my photos, to be able to bring nature to life for people.

      September 14, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      • Well, you do a most excellent job!!

        September 15, 2015 at 7:41 pm

  8. Jerry, you are so very harsh on yourself with your photography and yet you delight us with so many beautiful images. The cloudscape reflections pic is awesome! So, so beautiful. I’d love that ion my wall. My other favourites are the whitetail buck at sunrise and the last shot lone duck shot. You get so many wonderful nature shots because of your patience, skill and experience. I think your furry critters are gorgeous. I actually never get tired of watching our kangaroos and possums here and I’m sure I’d delight in spending hours watching your native critters. The squirrels, chipminks and rabbits are adorable. I remember the first time I saw deer in a fenced deer sanctuary here. Such magnificent creatures and the fawns were delightful. You don’t need tigers etc for the wow factor, Jerry. I am very envious of your raptor shots. You should be proud of your shots. Please be kind to yourself. I do understand though as I am a perfectionist about some things. 🙂

    September 15, 2015 at 5:16 am

  9. Amazing album, wonderful photos; what a grand walk through the world.

    September 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

  10. so very impressive – thank you for sharing.
    Greetings,
    Ulli

    September 23, 2015 at 10:04 am

    • Thank you very much Ulli!

      September 23, 2015 at 10:18 am