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!