Boring gear talk
I’m sorry, but most of you will find this post rather boring, except for the photos, I hope. I’ve been taking stock of the photo gear that I currently have, and what I’d like to have in the future. However, just as in the last post, I’m going to start with a good photo so that it appears in the header here.
Although, I may as well start my discussion of photo gear with that photo. I haven’t mentioned it before, but I now have two tripods, the Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod that I purchased in 2014, and I added a Manfrotto compact tripod back in early July of this year. If you remember, my Tokina macro lens quit functioning just before the 4th of July holiday weekend, and I had planned on going to the Loda Lake Nature Preserve to shoot photos of the wildflowers there on one day of my three days off from work. It didn’t make any sense to go to shoot flowers without a macro lens, and as an added incentive, Canon was offering a rebate on their 100 mm L series macro lens, up until the 4th. Even though I had vowed never to purchase anything at the local camera store, I wasn’t going to bite off my nose to spite my face, so I purchased the Canon lens locally so that I’d be able to get the rebate before it expired, and so that I’d have a macro lens when I went to Loda Lake.
Well, when I walked in the store, they had two models of Manfrotto compact tripods on sale for over 1/2 off the normal price, but I rejected them as they seemed to be quite flimsy when I tested them out.
I love the carbon fiber tripod that I already owned, it’s light and solid as a rock, but it doesn’t fit well on the camera gear backpacks that I have. I can get that tripod strapped to the backpacks, but because of how long it is, it either hangs so low as to hit my legs on occasion as I hike, or when I kneel down to shoot a photo. If I strap it up higher on the backpacks, it catches low hanging limbs, then springs back to smack me in the back of the head. Not that I don’t need a whack on the head on occasion, but it happened too often. Not only that, but when I had it strapped up high, I couldn’t lean back to shoot birds flying directly overhead.
So, I went back to the store the next week to give the two models on sale a second look. The better model, still less than $50 US, had the same quick release plate that the head that I have on my good carbon fiber tripod uses, so I bit the bullet and purchased one. It does fit on my backpack much better, and it does work for landscape photos when I need it to, so I guess that it was an okay purchase. This is a photo that I shot using the compact tripod, you may remember it.
Still, when I’m getting serious about landscapes, I lug the carbon fiber tripod along with me, leaving the other one behind.
Since I’m on landscape photos, be they day……
…I love the good tripod, it goes higher than eye level for me, and I’m 6 ft 6 in (2 m) tall. I took advantage of that back when I was shooting sunrises over my favorite marsh, getting the camera set-up at eye level, then raising the tripod even more to get above the vegetation, and using the tilt screen of the 60D body in live view to confirm my composition before shooting photos like this.
Conversely, I used that tripod’s ability to set-up very low to get the composition that I wanted for this photo, with the camera just inches above the sand.
I’ve learned that a good tripod is indispensable for good landscape photos, and the Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod that I have fits the bill perfectly, other than the problems involved in carrying it. The compact Manfrotto tripod does work well enough when I’m hiking to shoot the occasional landscape, but I wouldn’t recommend it to any one to use as their main tripod.
I may as well move on to the next item on my list that’s related to landscape photography, a Canon 5DS R camera body. That’s a long way off right now, it’s a very expensive camera, designed and intended for serious landscape photographers. It has a 50.6 MP Full-Frame sensor, and is meant to compete with the Nikon D810, since it has the Low-Pass Filter turned off.
For those of you who don’t know, to prevent moiré, most digital cameras have a low-pass also known as an anti-aliasing filter that unsharpens the image being formed by the camera’s lens before the image reaches the camera’s sensor. What is moiré? A moiré pattern occurs when a scene or an object that is being photographed contains repetitive details (such as lines, dots, etc) that exceed the sensor resolution. As a result, the camera produces a strange-looking wavy pattern that appears in the image. You may have seen examples of this once in a while on TV when some one is wearing clothing with a herringbone pattern.
With the low-pass, anti-aliasing filters turned off, there’s more chance of moiré appearing in an image, but the images are much sharper, and have much greater resolution than if that filter is turned on. My brother has a Pentax camera with that filter turned off, and the sharpness and resolution of his images stand head and shoulders above the best that I can produce with even my Canon 7D Mk II.
I’ve heard that we should sharpen every image that we shoot to make up for how the low-pass filter in our cameras unsharpens our images as they are created in the camera. Maybe I should try that in Lightroom, but that seems to produce a slightly unnatural look to my images when I have tried it. The point is though, as sharp as the photos are when they are shot with a good camera and lens, imagine how much better they would be if shot with a camera that doesn’t reduce the sharpness in the first place.
A side note, it’s funny, but some committed Nikon users who shoot wildlife are switching to Canon to use the 7D Mk II because of its auto-focusing system and high frame rate. On the other hand, committed Canon users have been switching to Nikon if they shoot primarily landscapes, because the Nikon D810 is a so much better camera for landscapes. It looks as if we’re entering the age of purpose-built cameras.
Anyway, as I said, the Canon 5DS R is a long way away right now, my skill level at the current time doesn’t justify that kind of money, and I have the Canon 60D bodies for right now. Once I have worn out at least one of the 60D bodies, then I’ll get serious about the 5DS R.
Another factor in this part of my thinking is that both of my wide-angle lenses are EFS lenses, that only function on a crop sensor body, meaning I’ll have to purchase a very good wide-angle lens to use on the 5DS R when it becomes time to make the move. All my lenses from the 70-200 mm and longer would work with the 5DS R, which means that I’d only need a good wide-angle lens to use with it. So, I’ll start saving now for in the future.
A few more things on this subject before I move on. While the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R are intended for landscape photography, from what I see in my brother’s photos, a very high-resolution camera like these are just the ticket for macro photography also. I know that my brother gets the fine details of very small subjects much better than I can with my current cameras. Also, when birds or other wildlife cooperate, that extra resolution is a good thing. The 5DS R with a full-frame sensor will also produce less noise than my crop sensor 7D Mk II does. There are more reasons for me to add the 5DS R to my kit, but I won’t bore you with them other than to say that the 7D has spoiled me, and I’d like to have the same level of features for all the subjects that I shoot, wildlife, macros, and landscapes.
Now then, this is related to that in a way, I’ve mentioned several times how good the metering system of the 7D Mk II is, and I’ve learned why. It has a 150,000 pixel RGB+IR AF sensor that functions with both the auto-focusing and metering systems. You’re probably wondering what all that gibberish means, it’s as if the 7D has a second sensor that not only measures the intensity of the light, but also the color. That’s why I don’t have to make exposure adjustments when I go from shooting bright yellow flowers…
…to bright yellow leaves…
…to vivid red leaves…
…to a combination of both colors.
While other features of the 7D Mk II get the most press, to me, the most impressive feature is the metering system. All those were shot without my touching the exposure compensation at all. That’s a good thing, as my thumb is busy operating the auto-focusing system. I use back button auto-focusing exclusively on the 7D, the auto-focus doesn’t start with the shutter release button any more the way that I have the camera set-up now. There are reasons for this that I won’t bore you with though.
But, it does lead me to the next purchase that I made, a Canon 1.4X tele-converter. I had the Tamron extender of the same power, but as I mentioned when I first got the 7D, the fabulous metering system of that camera went a bit nuts when I used the Tamron extender. When I used it, I had to adjust the exposure compensation for almost every shot, and I was spoiled by not having to do that when I didn’t use the Tamron extender. Also, when I purchased the Canon 2X extender, I found that I didn’t need to adjust the exposure compensation when using it. But, when I was switching from Tamron 1.4X extender to the Canon 2X extender, and back again, I did have to make exposure adjustments, and there were times when I forgot to make those adjustments before shooting a few photos, which resulted in bad photos.
I don’t know why I have to adjust the exposure when using the Tamron extender, the metering system is inside of the camera and should read the light correctly once the light reaches the sensor, no matter what. I still suspect that it’s the way that Canon programmed the 7D, to not work as well with other manufacturer’s lenses or accessories, but I could be wrong.
The Tamron extender won’t be put out to pasture though, I’ve often wished that I had two 1.4 extenders, one behind the 300 mm lens for birds, and one behind my macro lens to increase the magnification and/or working distance to the subject. Now I have two, the Tamron works great with the Canon 100 mm macro lens on the 60D body.
I’ve crossed the 400 mm L series lens off from my want list forever. There were always two things that had lowered my desire for that lens as a super sharp lens for birding, it doesn’t have image stabilization, which I’ve learned to love, and that lens won’t focus any closer than 11 feet (3.3 meters). First, image stabilization, it allows me to shoot photos like this…
…the metadata for that photo says 1/400 second at f/8 while using the 300 mm lens and 1.4 extender for 420 mm of focal length, and it’s sharp. I’m pretty steady, but I doubt that I could do as well without IS as I can with IS.
Then there’s the fact that I’d have to be at least 11 feet from a subject, when I often get closer to that when photographing birds.
The 300 mm lens is f/4, with either of the 1.4 X extenders, it becomes a 420 mm f/5.6 lens, the 400 mm lens is a f/5.6, for all practical purposes, the same lens. However, here’s what the 300 mm lens can do that the 400 mm lens can’t, I used the 2X extender behind the 300 mm lens for this.
If I was carrying the 400 mm lens, then I wouldn’t be able to shoot the near macro images that I can with the 300 mm lens, something that I’ve come to rely on when I don’t have time to break out the second camera body with the macro lens on it. It doesn’t make much sense to me to carry a less capable lens, even if it is a tad sharper. You have to get a photo before you can worry about how sharp it is, and I’m sure that I’d miss shots with the 400 mm lens.
Another advantage to the 7D’s ability to get the exposure correct without my having to adjust it very often is that I have more time to get the IS of the lens set correctly for birds in flight.
As you can see, no more ghosting in those photos when I get the lens set correctly. It does help to have an almost cloudless blue sky as a background. 😉 Since I’m finally learning how to get good sharp photos of birds in flight when using the 300 mm lens, there’s even less reason for me to purchase the 400 mm lens. In fact, there’s no reason at all, so that lens is off my want list.
In fact, there’s very little on my want list these days, other than the camera and lens that I mentioned earlier. Other than a few filters and other accessories, I’m pretty much set. As I’ve said before, it’s time for me to put them all to use to produce some better images, and I think that I am, although I still make some major mistakes.
I use a polarizing filter almost all the time when I’m shooting landscapes, but I have to learn to pay more attention to the entire sky in the frame when I do use that filter so that I don’t end up with an uneven colored sky in my photos, as in this one from an earlier post.
You can see that the sky goes from light to dark and back to light again, the sign of an amateur behind the camera. This is better as far as the sky…
…but not only did I get the shadow of my camera in the corner of the frame, but the composition is poor as well. In my defense ( my excuses for a poor photo), with most of the brightly colored leaves from the previous week gone, the scene didn’t really inspire me to work very hard. That second photo was an exercise in learning how to include foreground elements in an image, and learning to see through a very wide-angle lens, something I’m still working on. That photo may not be good, but I incorporated what I learned from it into the sunset images that have appeared earlier in this post. Also, the shadow of the camera in the frame is due to the 60D viewfinder not showing 100% of what the camera is going to record, when I look through the viewfinder, I only see 95% of what the camera is going to record. I could easily crop it out, if the photo was worth it.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, I’m not used to looking at the world through a very wide-angle lens. What I learned from that photo was to get even closer, and even lower. When I set-up to take the sunset photos in this post, it seemed that I was ridiculously low and equally ridiculously close to the edge of the water, but I got the view that I hoped for. In fact, some one who stopped by to chat asked me why I had the camera so low, so I showed him one of the photos that I had already shot, then he understood.
I got sidetracked again didn’t I? I was talking about the polarizing filter. I’ve been using it for many of my most recent bird photos, I’ll get to the times when it worked well, but first, a not so good photo.
I’m learning that some species of birds do not photograph well when using the polarizing filter, and here’s what I’ve learned. Never use that filter for birds that are mostly black or species that seem to change colors as the angle that sunlight hits them changes, which includes mourning doves, and while I haven’t tried it yet, turkeys.
With other species, of course the polarizing filter works when there’s sky for a background.
By cutting the glare from scenes with water as a background, the polarizing filter also works well for waterfowl.
In fact, it works so well for mallards that you may see a lot more of them around here again!
It has surprised me how much that the polarizing filter helps when photographing songbirds that aren’t shot against the sky or water, like this junco, the first of the fall season for me.
The filter seems to make my images look sharper and cleaner than without, as well as better contrast and color.
Now then, you may not think that the next three are great, maybe it’s just because of how hard I worked to get them that I like them so much. I have photos of sora out in the open, but on this day, I was photographing two of them that were sticking closer to their normal habitat, deep in the reeds and cattails. I had to shoot nearly straight down for this one.
Sora, like most of the other members of the rail family, are elusive birds that, while they may be common, are seldom seen, and you can see why here.
It was very hard to get either of them in focus as I was shooting through dense vegetation, but I like the way that these photos show the sora as they actually live.
Darn, since I reduce the image quality of my photos before I post them, you can’t really see how I was able to capture the texture of the sora’s feathers. 😦
Believe me though, these last three are really sharp, as I was very close to the birds and using the 300 mm lens, Canon 1.4 X extender, and the polarizing filter. If you want to improve your photos, I suggest trying a polarizing filter, it doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try. Unlike the UV haze filters that don’t do anything other than reduce the quality of the images from your camera, a polarizing filter does cut through haze and can improve your images.
I’m still working on collecting a set of neutral density filters to use while photographing landscapes, I just took delivery of the first one this week. I started with one that reduces the light by 6 stops and fits the 15-85 mm lens, since it’s the one that I use most often for landscapes. Six stops sound like a lot, but the polarizing filter reduces the light entering the camera by two stops, and there are times when that amount hasn’t been enough. After my next paycheck, I’ll purchase a pair of the neutral density filters that reduce the light by only 2 stops, one to fit the 15-85 mm lens, and one to fit the 70-200 mm lens. I haven’t noted which of the landscape photos that I’ve posted recently that were shot with the 70-200 mm lens, but there have been a few. Eventually, I’ll add one that fits that lens and reduces the light by 6 stops as well.
A ridiculous thought just occurred to me thinking about this section, and the photos that I shot last weekend at Duck Lake State Park as the sunset. You see, I had my landscape set-up pointed to the west to capture the sunset, but when I looked behind me, I could see the full moon rising over Duck Lake. I attempted a few shots of it while using the 7D with the 300 mm lens on it, but I couldn’t get much in the frame other than the moon itself at that long focal length. It was a beautiful sight, but so was the sunset, I couldn’t decide which direction that I wanted to shoot the most. I did think of running back to my car to grab the second tripod, but I wasn’t about to leave anything on the beach, since there were a few people around.
A sidenote, there are almost always people on any public beach along Lake Michigan, anytime of the year, so while I didn’t want to include people or cars in that scene, I had no choice for that one, the light was too good at that moment.
Another sidenote here, the 7D Mk II supposedly has the ability to do in camera HDR images, but the output is a poor quality JPEG image. I mention it now, because I tried it again that evening with the same results as before, junk. I thought that it would be just the ticket for birds in a difficult position to shoot due to the lighting at times, but the quality isn’t there. While I’m bashing the 7D, here’s another feature that doesn’t work, the electronic level that you can have displayed in the viewfinder that supposed to help you keep the camera level, it is way off. I use the electronic level that you can display on the LCD screen of both the 60D and 7D, they seem accurate, but the display in the viewfinder of the 7D is off by a good 5 degrees, if not more. I should shoot and post a photo or two to show how far it’s off.
Anyway, there I was, a good sunset in front of me, a glorious moonrise behind me, and gulls flying past me to let me get more of this type of photo.
What’s a photographer to shoot? I got the sunset.
And I got a good, but not best, shot of the moonrise, after the sun had set and the color over Duck Lake had left the clouds.
If I had known what was going to transpire that evening, I have enough gear, three camera bodies, enough lenses, and two tripods, I could have gotten a much better photo of the moonrise if I had brought everything with me. That is, if my back could have handled all the weight. 😉 But, that has got me thinking again, and that’s seldom a good thing.
I’ve already figured out that I should have used the exposure data from the photos of the moon that I shot with the birding set-up as the starting point for the series of images that I shot to create the HDR image of the moonrise that you’ve seen. If I had, then the moon would have appeared as the moon, and not just a bright, over-exposed blob of light in the photo. The light of the moon didn’t register in the histogram for the photo that I shot as my starting point, since it was such a small part of the scene.
I know, this post is rapidly becoming even more disjointed than my usual ones, but there are reasons. I should never type as I think things through, but sometimes I can’t help it.
This past weekend isn’t the first time that I’ve had great scenes in two different directions, that’s one of the reasons that I wanted two cameras with me at all times. If the weather is such that there may be a good sunset along lake Michigan, then you have to get there early and stake out your spot before some one else does. You know, I’d better stop typing until I think through what’s going through my mind right now, so I’ll throw in a bunch of other photos for now.
Reading my own words as this post started to come unraveled, I can see why birds look at me as if I’m crazy at times.
Sorry for the length of this one, and the way that it ended, but I have to rethink a few things right now. 🙂
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Before I get to the photo that prompted this post, I have to post a good one to appear in the header of my blog, even though few people see the header.
That photo is related to the next one, it shows a bird with food in its beak, as does this one.
Watching the young waxwing eat the wasp that it has in its beak brought all kinds of questions to my mind. But first, I have to show this photo of the waxwing to show that at least for as long as I watched it, the waxwing suffered no ill effects of eating a wasp.
I had watched the waxwing alternately bash the wasp against the branch, then hold it for a while, as birds often do with insects that they catch. I think that they engage in that behavior to kill the insect before they swallow it. However, you have to wonder if birds, at least waxwings, are immune to the stings of wasps, as far as I know, the stinger of a wasp is still able to inject the toxins it carries even after the insect is dead, at least once. The waxwing did swallow the wasp head first, but I’d think that there would still be the chance of the waxwing being stung internally once the wasp made it to the bird’s crop. Maybe it wasn’t a species of wasp that can sting, or it may have been a look-alike species of insect, and not a wasp at all, but that raises a bunch of other questions.
It would seem to me that a wasp stinging a bird internally, in the throat or the crop, would be at least extremely painful, if not fatal.
We think of the sting of a wasp as a defensive weapon, as we get stung when we get too close to a wasp’s nest, but the wasp’s stinger main use is to paralyze prey for the wasp’s young to feed on in their larval stage.
The throat and airway of a bird isn’t very big, and if they suffered the same swelling at the point of a wasp’s sting as we humans do, I would think that it would cut off the bird’s ability to breath. Even if there was no swelling, having toxins that paralyze at least a portion of a bird’s throat and/or airway can’t be healthy.
So, all of this got me to thinking, how do birds learn what’s safe to eat, and what isn’t. A young bird’s parent(s) can’t possibly show the young bird all the possible food sources that there are once the young birds leave the nest, if for no other reason than the parents are typically with the young birds in spring and early summer, but food sources change over the seasons. A case in point, berries. There may be some berries that are ripe before the young birds leave the nest, but so many more species of berries ripen long after many species of young birds are on their own.
I watched the warbler eat a few of the poison ivy berries, but my photos weren’t very good, so I deleted them before the idea to do this post came to me. However, I have posted photos of birds eating poison ivy berries in the past. If a human consumed those berries, they’d end up hospitalized and possibly dead, but birds and some other critters don’t seem to be affected by the poison ivy at all.
So, my question is, how do birds, and all critters for that matter, know what’s safe to eat, and what isn’t. It’s said that birds don’t eat monarch butterflies…
…because the monarchs taste bad to the birds. Does that mean that every young bird of every species that feeds on butterflies has to try a monarch at least once to learn that the monarchs leave a foul taste in the bird’s mouth?
What if the possible food item is poisonous, it doesn’t seem like we’d have any birds left at all if every bird that hatched tried every possible source of food at least once, until they ate one that killed it.
So, my question is, how do birds learn this stuff?
It can’t be by only learning from adults, for as I said earlier, many species of young birds are on their own before the seasons, and the food sources change.
That doesn’t apply to all species of birds, many of them stick together in small family flocks through at least the first winter, the waxwings do, so do most species in the corvid family, such as blue jays..
…and it isn’t just corvids, the chickadees also stick together in family flocks.
On the other side of the coin are species of birds that other than during mating season, are totally loners that will not tolerate any other birds of the same species being near them, great blue herons are the first to come to mind.
With a face like this…
…what other bird would want to look at that? 😉
What I’m getting at in my own round about way is how much of a bird’s behavior is learned from its parents, and how much of it is “hard-wired” in the bird’s brain when it hatches, what we call instinct?
That question doesn’t apply to just food, but also migration. You have some species that migrate south in huge flocks, but then there are the loners that make their way south completely on their own. Again, great blue herons come to mind first.
However, even in species that normally migrate in flocks, there are usually a few individuals migrating on their own, as some juvenile red-winged blackbirds do.
The same question applies to nest-building, how do first time breeding birds know where and how to construct their nests?
You know, I should do a post of nothing but different critters that I’ve photographed with their food. Oh wait, I just did a post like that. 😉
The thing is though, when I catch a bird eating…
…often times, the photos aren’t very good, even though I learn a great deal from them. I feel compelled to get good photos of the same species, whether they’re eating or not.
So to make up for the earlier photo of a yellow-rumped warbler that wasn’t very good, here’s three better ones.
And to show you how they got their name, there’s this one.
I’ve got some better photos of juvenile cedar waxwings to make up for the first ones in this post to make up for the poor quality of them, but I can’t find them right now. I’m so far behind in posting, can you believe that I haven’t posted these yet?
I still have photos of flowers from late spring.
That’s okay, I’ll get to them one of these days. But, that’s hard to do when I’m shooting photos such as this one on Sunday evening.
Maybe if I keep getting photos like this one…
…the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hire me as their official photographer, hint, hint. 😉 I’d have to learn how to Photoshop the wires out of the image first though.
I’m getting off topic again, as I so often do. Which reminds me, after a week where my Internet connection would work well for half an hour a day, if I was lucky, I think that I finally have the problem sorted out, and it didn’t even cost me any money. I do have one problem that remains, I can’t create these posts using Safari, the browser that comes with an iMac, I’ve had to go to Google Chrome to create this post.
Now then, back to the birds, wait, I’d better throw in a couple warm and fuzzy subjects first.
Now I’ve lost my train of thought, what a bird-brain! Ah ha, that was my train of thought. Okay, so I’ve been going on at length about how birds learn, and another question is, if the young birds learn from their parents, how do the parents communicate with the young birds. Some of the more social birds, such as blue jays, mallards and Canadian geese…
…and other species of birds have a wide range of vocalizations, but most species only make one or two different types of calls.
It isn’t as if you see older birds perched on a branch with its young around it as the adult lectures the kids about all they have to know to survive. Going back to the waxwing eating what looked like a wasp to me, even if the parents could describe which species of insects were safe, so many of the species insects look so much alike, that descriptions alone wouldn’t be enough, and then there’s the question of how good a bird’s eyesight is, can they easily tell the difference between harmless insects that can be eaten, and dangerous ones to avoid. I’d have to answer yes to that last question, all birds seem to have much better eyesight than we humans have, it isn’t just eagles.
Other than the question of eyesight, I can’t answer any of the questions that I’ve asked in this post. In fact, one more question comes to mind. If most of what birds need to know is hard-wired into their brains at birth, then why isn’t the same true of humans? We have more brain capacity than birds do, there a lot more space available in our brains for basic survival skills to be hard-wired into our brains at birth, but humans are born totally helpless and with little or no knowledge passed on to us from past generations.
Oh well, so many questions that will probably never be answered, so I’ll throw in a few more photos to finish this post off.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Stalking the elusive good landscape photo
A while back, I left a comment to Kerry’s Lightscapes Nature Photography blog to the effect that he must stalk the exact position to shoot his magnificent landscape photos from, just as a hunter stalks his prey. I’ll have to start this by saying that I’m nowhere near as good as what he is, but I’m learning, you do have to stalk a great landscape, or at least that’s the way I have to approach that genre of photography. That’s how I got some of the photos from the last short post, including this one.
The story on that image is that I had finished birding for the day, and was driving towards Duck Lake to shoot the sunset if a good one materialized. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the red leaves of the maple trees through a small gap in the trees, and knew that I had to investigate the scene to see if I could get a good photo. I turned around, found a place nearby to park, then grabbed the camera with the 15-85 mm lens on it, along with my tripod. The lens already had the polarizing filter on it, I’m finding that it does wonders for the fall colors as it cuts down on the glare and reflections coming off from the leaves.
Anyway, as I walked along, I began setting up my tripod in at least half a dozen spots, until I chose this one.
Not bad, but I knew that I could do better. I zoomed in a little, lowered the tripod, and shot this one.
Better, but then you can’t see much of the beautiful blue-green water of Lake Michigan, which I thought was a big part of the scene, at least to me.
So, I moved down to the beach, looking for something to put in the foreground of the photo to give the photo some depth, and found a piece of driftwood in the sand. That led to the photo that I began this post with, but I still could have done better. I should have moved a little closer to the piece of driftwood, and lowered my tripod a lot more, to make the driftwood more prominent in the frame. Darn, why didn’t I think of that then?
Even the photo that pleased me the most is a chamber of commerce, picture postcard style of photo, sorry about that. 😉 However, we’re supposed to photograph what we love, and there are few things that I love more than warm sunny fall day as you see in the photos so far, so I don’t care what the experts say. I only missed the golden hour of sunset by a little bit, as you can tell from the long shadow cast by the driftwood in the first image. Oh, that reminds me, I did consider moving closer and lower to make the piece of driftwood more prominent at the time, but I was worried that the shadow would also become much more prominent as well as the driftwood. I suppose that I should have hung around a little longer for perfect light. But, I was off to shoot the sunset at Duck Lake.
Two posts ago, I said that I could get a much better photo of the Duck Lake channel leading to Lake Michigan, yes and no. My composition was much better this time….
…but I missed the exposure or something. The color saturation is way too high as the image came out of Photomatix, but when I tried to reduce it, the photo looked bad, really bad, so you get to see the over-saturated version, sorry. Not only can I get the color better, but I believe that there’s still a better position to shoot from. However, I was running late for the sunset, as I got distracted by the antics of a pileated woodpecker on my way to the beach.
And when the woodpecker started snacking on grapes, well, you know me, I just had to shoot away.
I think that I should have cropped those for my blog, I’m getting so used to seeing the large display on my computer that I forget how small the images and subjects in the images appear here.
As it was, I made it to the beach just as the sun was going down.
Wouldn’t you know, there was a gap in the clouds right in the direction that really wanted to shoot towards, so I had to make do with those.
An interesting side note, you may have noticed that the channel had been blocked by sand, it had been very windy that day and the day before. The wind was actually blowing the water draining from Duck Lake back into the lake itself, and the drifting sand took advantage of that to create a temporary dam, blocking the channel completely. That causes the water level in Duck Lake to rise, but eventually, it will break through the sand dam and drain into Lake Michigan again, until the next very windy period comes along. This happens over and over again to the smaller streams that empty into Lake Michigan. Each time the stream gets blocked, it cuts a new path to the big lake, so the scene is often very different from the last time you saw it.
Anyway, I stuck around until it was almost dark to shoot the image that you saw in the last post…
…as well as this one.
Because of the very long shutter openings needed to get enough light to the camera sensor, the clouds moved during the times that the shutter was open while shooting the three images I used to create those HDR images. I kind of like that effect, and I don’t think that I overdid it the way some people do. I wish that the wind had wiped out the footprints in the sand that people had left behind though, in this photo as well as the earlier one from the beach, but you can’t have everything. At least not in Michigan, where you’ll find people walking the beach no matter what the weather is, any time of the year.
Gee, I started at the end of the first day of this past weekend, a bad place to start, so I may as well throw in the photos that I shot with the 300 mm lens while at Duck Lake now.
In that last shot, I forgot to extend the lens hood after having adjusted the polarizing filter, so I got some lens flare in that one. Oh well, there’ll be other chances in the future.
In my quest for good landscape photos featuring the fall colors around here, this is the typical view of the fall colors that we have in southern lower Michigan.
While the colors may be great, the photo is the pits. The farm field in the foreground is boring, even a bit ugly, and there’s nothing there to add interest or depth to that image. The area is flat, and if there isn’t water or the hand of man to break up the woods, then this is what you see.
There are no steep hills, rock outcroppings, or anything else to prevent vegetation from growing, so that’s what you see in the woods. These next two will show that as well, they were shot on the trail to Lost Lake.
I really wanted to set-up my tripod and do that one right, but I got run over by a mountain biker on that trail earlier this year. The trail is very narrow, with the planks laid down to prevent you from sinking into the mud, as the ground is very wet there. But, I think that you can see how the vegetation grows so thick around here that it’s hard to find an opening to shoot photographs through. The rest of the trail is even more enclosed by the vegetation…
…it isn’t until you get to Lost Lake itself that you can see through the trees.
By picking one of the few larger openings, you can get a photo like this one.
It’s not that I’m complaining about how well things grow around here, but you can see that across the lake, the vegetation grows dense around here, and even in the parking lot for the trail, I had to shoot tight shots of the trees.
So, I’ve been looking for bodies of water to break up the woods, but most of the time, that’s only substituting an uninteresting body of water for a farm field in the foreground.
If there had been less wind, and I could have gotten reflections of those colors off from the water, then that would have been much better, but the story here this fall has been the wind. You can see that by the flag in this next photo.
By the way, you’re looking across Muskegon Lake at the city of Muskegon itself in that last photo, and what do you see, trees and one or two large buildings. That’s Michigan, where not only can’t you see the forests for the trees, but you can’t see the cities either. 😉
So, when you see a scene like this…
…you know that there are more trees nearby.
It’s true, great weather makes for boring skies, but I’ll take a day like that every once in a while. 😉 I should also note that I wanted to isolate the brightly colored tree in the first photo, and easily could have if I had moved to my right so that the colored tree would have blocked your view of the green one as I did in the second photo. However, you may have noticed that the brightly colored tree looks brighter in the first photo than it does in the second. I’m finding that moving a few feet one way or the other can make a big difference in how the colors of fall look in my photos. If it’s sunny and I can, I prefer to shoot from a spot where I get a combination of side lighting and back lighting where the sun really lights up the leaves of the trees as in this photo.
However, that’s a difficult direction to shoot, so it requires making a HDR image to kill the shadows that I get on sunny days, and we’ve had a lot of them the past two weeks as you can see.
You can also see that those last 4 are rather plain snapshots, even though I was able to get some great color. Color alone doesn’t make a great photo, you need to seek out a good scene, then stalk it to get the light just right. Remember to clean the front of the filter before you start shooting though. 😉
Luckily, I shot a few more photos of that scene from different angles after cleaning the filter, along with a couple from Creekside Park.
I do believe that I’m starting to get the hang of getting a sense of depth to my photos, when the scene allows it. When I get it right, it looks as though you could walk right into them, when I really get it right, they look as though you’d want to walk into the scene.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I’ve been having Internet connection problems this weekend, I think that my wireless modem is giving up the ghost. I don’t know how long it will last, or how I’ll resolve the issue. My service is through AT&T, known for no customer service. I’ve already had trouble viewing other people’s posts and leaving comments. So, I’m going to throw a couple of photos in here from this past weekend just to see if I can make it work.
To make Tom happy, a few gulls in flight.
For the squirrel and chipmunk lovers, here’s one of each.
A close-up of a chickadee.
A flying great blue heron.
And, to finish this very short post off, a pair of bald eagles.
I may not be able to respond to comments right away, we’ll see how my internet connection works tomorrow. Right now, I’m borrowing a neighbor’s bandwidth to put this post together, but of course he doesn’t want to share and have his service run slow forever.
I have a feeling that AT&T is going to tell me tough luck, take your problems to the modem’s manufacturer, and if that’s the case, I’ll be switching my service to some one else. Luckily, we’re coming up on the end of the month, so if I do have to go without the internet as I make the switch, it won’t be for long.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Ten miles further north
In my last post I said that I hoped to go up north for this past weekend, to shoot landscapes with the fall colors in the Jordan River Valley. I didn’t make it, work and the weather conspired against me. I worked very late on what is my Friday, not getting home until after 3 AM Saturday, which meant that I didn’t get to bed until around 5 AM. When I woke up, I decided that after the three and a half hour drive to get there, then setting up my campsite, that Saturday was shot, and that would leave me only part of Sunday. The weather forecast was too good in some ways, not a cloud in the sky on Sunday, possibly the worst conditions for landscape photos. Beside that, the wind was very strong, with gusts over 30 MPH, meaning I’d be fighting foliage moving in the wind, which meant that the photos wouldn’t be as sharp as I wanted, if I shot with the ISO as low as I wanted to shoot at.
So, I changed my plans, spending a very productive two days birding at the Muskegon Wastewater facility, the weather was close to perfect for flying bird photos.
With very few clouds in the sky to turn it into a milky white background, and a strong wind meaning that the larger birds, especially the ones that soar, would be heading into the wind most of the time. They do that because the wind blowing across their wings provides lift, just as an airplane wings do as they move through the air. As I was saying, since they were generally moving into the wind, it made it much easier to know where to be, and what setting to use, along with a predictable flight path making it a piece of cake to keep them in focus.
I also used my polarizing filter all day, although I didn’t always have the time to get it dialed in, as the harrier photo shows. In addition, I was using some new settings for the 7D Mk II that I learned from some of the online videos from the Canon learning center that I found.
I’ll have at least another post on the birds, along with the fall color shots that I took on both Saturday and Sunday.
The rest of this post will deal with the short period of time around sunset on Saturday. I thought that there could be a great sunset that evening, given the weather forecast, and there was. However, I missed the best of it by giving up too soon due to the cold wind chilling me to the bone. More on that later as well.
My original plan was to photograph the sunset over the Muskegon Lake channel leading to Lake Michigan. As I was driving towards my intended destination I realized that where I planned to shoot from would have yielded some bland, uninteresting photos as the sun would have been too far to the north of the channel. I would have ended up with all my sunset photos looking like this.
Since the shoreline this far south is almost perfectly straight, that’s what you normally see unless you’re someplace where there’s something to add some interest to the foreground.
So, I decided to chance going to Duck Lake State Park, where there’s a channel from Duck Lake feeding into Lake Michigan. It’s about ten miles north of Muskegon State Park, where I had planned to shoot from. I used to go there a lot when I was younger, and before it became a state park. Once the state did make it a state park, it’s typically jammed with people elbow to elbow. But, since it’s fall now, I decided to risk it.
Here’s a wide shot looking east, up the channel towards Duck Lake.
And for practice, I shot this tighter shot.
Those are far from the best that I could do if I had taken more time shooting in that direction, but the sun was already beginning to set, and I had many other things to photograph.
I was afraid that the sunset was going to be a bust.
The last five images were shot with a 60D body and the EF-S 15-85 mm lens on it. I could see some possibly very good images if I shot at a much longer focal length, so I used the 7D Mk II and the 300 mm lens to shoot many of these types of photos.
I went crazy, running back and forth between the wide-angle set-up, and back closer to the beach to shoot these.
I tried different exposures…
…and different angles.
I stopped to chat with this older gent for a few minutes.
Then, I went back to shooting just the water and waves…
I love the texture of the water that I got by using the polarizing filter and a high shutter speed, along with the warm glow from the setting sun. It got better though.
Seeing the gulls, I just had to shoot a few of these.
Then, I went back to shooting just the lake and sunset with the long set-up again.
By then, I was chilled to the bone by the cold, stiff wind coming across the cold waters of Lake Michigan. I shot one more wide shot…
…actually, I shot many wider shots, but just as when I had tried some sunrise photos when there were waves on Lake Michigan, all the other images are junk due to the movement of the waves. If I’d have boosted the ISO settings, I could have frozen the waves, but then I would have had to deal with noise. I’m going to have to get some neutral density filers so I can slow the shutter speed down even more, and smooth out the waves completely, or wait until the one or two days per year when Lake Michigan is smooth as glass. 😉
As it was, I packed it in for the day, way too early as it turns out. It looked as if the colors of the sunset were fading as I left, but I should know better than that. The best sunset photos are usually shot about 30 minutes after the actual sunset. As I was driving home, I could see a brilliant sunset taking shape in my rearview mirror, but there wasn’t a suitable place to shoot from where I was at the time. If I had tried to shoot out over the lake, I think that the wave action would have ruined the images, I would have liked to have tried though. I should know enough by now to always pack a heavy coat for sunset photos, especially near any of the Great Lakes, even though it had been a pleasantly warm day.
I did find a good place to shoot both sunsets and sunrises from though, and I’ll certainly keep Duck Lake State Park in mind for those times when I’m near Muskegon, and looking for a place to photograph. It is ten miles further north from Muskegon, so I did make it “up north” this weekend after all.
As it was, I didn’t get THE shot that I wanted, in either the tight or the wide-angle photos, but I did learn a great deal shooting these, which I hope to put to use soon.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I’ll settle for one a day
It was a little over a month ago that I was in a funk because it seemed as if I wasn’t getting many really good photos. The “drought” only lasted for about two weeks, then things returned to normal for me. But, at the time, I decided that if I got one well above average photo per day, that I’d be happy no matter how bad the rest of my photos were. I usually get the one good photo per day, with a few bonuses as well.
For instance, yesterday I was on my way back home and spotted a praying mantis in the bike path ahead of me. I chased it around using the 300 mm lens with 1.4 x extender, as it was obvious that the mantis was worried about me being a predator. Finally, it stopped for a few minutes, so I laid down on the ground and got as close as I could with the set-up I had been using. Then, I replaced the 1.4 X extender with the 2 X extender for this photo.
I have to brag a little, I’m getting pretty good at burning and dodging in Lightroom, just the way we used to do things in the darkroom. The mantis’ back was way over exposed, but I used the healing brush in Lightroom to dodge the back of the mantis so that the photo looks fairly good.
Anyway, since I had mesmerized the mantis into holding still, I switched to the 60 D body with the Canon 100 mm macro lens on it for this next photo.
That was about as close as I could get that set-up to focus at, so this next one is the slightly cropped version.
Seen full screen on my 27 inch iMac, the mantis’ head is 6 inches wide, and reasonably sharp, not bad for something that’s only around 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide in real life.
Changing gears, I’m going to try to make it up north to the Jordan River Valley this weekend in hopes of getting some good fall color landscape photos. In preparation for that, I’ve been practicing the last few days around here. On the first day, it was cloudy with a little mist at times, which I have learned leads to great color saturation if you use a tripod and keep the ISO settings low.
Sorry for the two nearly identical photos, I couldn’t decide which one I liked better.
This next one isn’t special, other than I used more than three images to make the HDR image for the first time successfully.
I was blown away by how well that one turned out as far as looking exactly as I had viewed the scene as I shot it.
Anyway, the next day was sunny, but by using the polarizing filter, shooting HDR images, and some tweaking in Lightroom, I came up with these.
Today, it was sunny, but the wind was much stronger, which up until now, has thwarted my attempts to shoot HDR images, as I haven’t been able to deal with the ghosting that you get as the wind moves the foliage around between the shots used to create the HDR image. I made it as tough on myself as I could, using seven images and a healthy dose of de-ghosting to get this image.
If you look closely, you can see some of the sumac leaves in the lower center of the image are being blown upside down in the wind, and yet are reasonably sharp, not bad if I do say so myself.
Some more bragging coming up next, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been using Photomatix to create HDR images for just over a year, and Lightroom for around six months. I should have worked at Photomatix more in the beginning, but I didn’t know that the RAW image converter written into it isn’t very good. I didn’t begin getting good results in HDR images until I began using Lightroom to convert RAW files to TIFF files for use in Photomatix.
Another little side note, it’s obvious that my two EF-S wide-angle lenses, the 15-85 mm and 10-18 mm are both very good lenses. On the same theme, the 60D body is a pretty good one as well, with the added benefit of the vary-angle display, which I used with the 10-18 mm lens to shoot this stump in Muskegon again.
By using live view and tilting the viewing screen, I was able to place the camera on the ground pointed up towards the stump, and I didn’t have to dig a hole to lay in to do so. 😉 I don’t use the vary-angle display often, but it sure comes in handy at times, and, it keeps the screen from being damaged since I can fold the screen face-in towards the body while I’m not viewing it. I purchased a nifty glass screen protector to fit the 7D Mk II body to prevent the screen from being scratched or damaged. It’s much better than the self adhesive sheet type of protectors, but I digress.
Speaking of the 7D, here’s a few more photos from it during my last trip to Muskegon.
Here’s one of those photos that I couldn’t resist, even though it’s nothing special in any way.
Even though this post is supposed to be about one good photo per day, I’ve gotten sidetracked again, as this series shows.
A Copper’s hawk went blasting past me as I was just beginning my walk on Monday, it was going for a flock of English house sparrows near the entrance to the apartment complex where I live. I found the hawk perched on one of the signposts that mark the entrance to the complex.
I tried to get to a better position, but that would have entailed walking out unto a busy road if I kept my distance from the hawk. I did the best I could, but was too close to the hawk, so it took off…
…landing on the roof of the storage facility being built next-door to the apartment complex. In case you’re not familiar with small hawks like the Cooper’s hawks, they are quick flyers much more like falcons than the larger hawks. This one stopped on a dime, unfortunately, I didn’t stop panning the camera on a dime though.
That one was cropped from the edge of the frame of the original image, as I overshot the hawk as I tried to pan with it. So, I shot a sharp image of the hawk was it had regained its balance to make up for the blurry one. Still, I wish that I had gotten the hawk as it struggled to stop as quickly as it did, that would have been a photo of the month if I had gotten that one right.
A few seconds later, it flew to the top of one of tall pines along the road, and I stood there hoping to catch it in flight for a good photo. I had the camera and lens all set-up for it, but the hawk wouldn’t budge. I eventually got bored waiting, set the camera and lens back to normal, and then the hawk decided to buzz me when I wasn’t ready.
Do you know how hard it is to keep up with a small hawk flying nearly directly over your head? At least I got the exposure almost right. 😉
I have a few more images from my last trip to Muskegon to share before I forget.
I like that one, the background looks like a painting.
I tried to show how much chipmunks can expand their cheeks to hold food, but I couldn’t get the right angle.
I couldn’t tell from sight that it was a trumpeter swan, but there’s no mistaking their calls for any other species of swan.
I think that those flowers may have different common names in different parts of the country, but not being an expert, I’m not sure.
Anyway, here’s a few more photos from around home this past week.
It will be a sad day when the last flower of the year fades away. But, I do like fall, the temperatures are cooler, and as the leaves turn color and fall from the trees, I get some good bird photos.
Allen had a bit about not seeing many dandelions in his latest post, so I went looking for some today. I found a few, here’s one.
Why is it that I manage to get most of my photos of songbirds in flight as they are gliding with their wings folded back?
I’m sorry that I’m rushing through this post, but I have much to do to get ready for this weekend, if my work schedule permits me to go up north. So, in hopes that I do make it, I’ll end this one with this unidentified caterpillar.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Why I’ll never change, what will be eaten?
Beauty may not be art, but don’t try to tell that to nature, at least not the way that my eyes see things.
But, along with the appreciation I have for nature as an artist, I also have a deep curiosity about wildlife, the way that it behaves, and what different critters eat. So. I’m going to devote the rest of this post to photos of wildlife that I’ve captured as they are go about their daily routines of finding suitable food to eat.
With squirrels, that’s usually rather easy.
Butterflies are easy too, they drink the nectar from flowers.
However, with some other forms of wildlife, things can be a bit tougher to photograph, as most birds and other critters try to stay hidden as much as they can. Case in point, I had this ruby-crowned kinglet in my sights, but it ducked behind a leaf as I was pressing the shutter release.
Sometimes, Mother Nature fools critters into thinking they are going to get a meal, and they may, but they are also helping another organism reproduce, as this stinkhorn fungi does. The fruiting body of the stinkhorn fungi, at some stage in development, is covered with a foul-smelling slime. The foul-smelling slime is calculated to attract flies and other insects, who land on the slime and gobble it up. Little do the insects know that they have been duped into covering their little insect feet with stinkhorn spores, and have ingested spores into their digestive tracts! Later, these spores are dispersed by the unwitting insects, and the stinkhorn life-cycle continues elsewhere.
I caught this whitetail doe munching on what I think is a fern, or a fern-like plant that is quite common here.
But, she heard the shutter of my camera going, and stopped eating to check to see if I presented any danger to her.
Other times, I get lucky and the critter that I’m photographing is more intent on a meal than it is in worrying about me, as this pileated woodpecker was as it lapped up ants that it had dislodged from within a tree.
I’m not sure if this downy woodpecker was eating aphids from under leaves, or if the aphids were just hitching a ride.
I do know that this catbird was chowing down on grapes.
Despite the fact that sparrows are primarily seed eaters, this juvenile white-crowned sparrow apparently felt the need for a salad on this day.
Unfortunately, I never got a photo showing what this red-bellied woodpecker was finding to eat, but the photos show the way that woodpeckers use their long tongues to probe for insects deep in wood.
I just posted a photo of a catbird eating grapes, but that species is omnivorous, eating both plant life as shown earlier, as well as insects, as these two photos show.
Thistle seeds are a favorite food of the American goldfinch.
I don’t know what species of wasp this is, or if it’s even a wasp, but it was enjoying eating the pears that had fallen from a tree.
Sometimes, it looks as though a bird has found something to eat, and it has, but the bird doesn’t eat what it has found, it is chewing the food for one of its young, as this cardinal was doing.
Unfortunately, I missed the food exchange this time. If you look very closely at that last photo, you can see a young cardinal hiding in the leaves in the upper left of the frame, waiting for dad to come with the food. But, I did catch this exchange and posted a series of photos earlier.
Oh, I forgot, butterflies aren’t the only insects that drink the nectar from flowers, so do bees.
Some critters have learned that people are slobs, and when the humans leave, they go looking for food that the humans left behind.
Did I mention that squirrels love nuts?
There you have it, why I’ll never stop shooting and posting what I find interesting in nature, along with what I find beautiful in nature.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!