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

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.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

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.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

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.

Fall colors in the Muskegon State Game area

Fall colors in the Muskegon State Game area

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.

Sunset over Lake Michigan

Sunset over Lake Michigan

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.

Duck Lake channel

Duck Lake channel

And for practice, I shot this tighter shot.

Duck Lake channel 2

Duck Lake channel 2

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.

Dune overlooking the Duck Lake channel

Dune overlooking the Duck Lake channel

I was afraid that the sunset was going to be a bust.

Sunset over Duck Lake channel

Sunset over Duck Lake channel

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.

Waves breaking near sunset

Waves breaking near sunset

I went crazy, running back and forth between the wide-angle set-up, and back closer to the beach to shoot these.

Gulls on the beach

Gulls on the beach

I tried different exposures…

Gulls on the beach

Gulls on the beach

…and different angles.

Gulls on the beach 3

Gulls on the beach 3

I stopped to chat with this older gent for a few minutes.

Fellow photog

Fellow photog

Then, I went back to shooting just the water and waves…

Waves at sunset 1

Waves at sunset 1

 

Waves at sunset 2

Waves at sunset 2

 

Waves at sunset 3

Waves at sunset 3

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.

Sunset at the Duck Lake channel

Sunset at the Duck Lake channel

 

Sunset at the Duck Lake channel with gulls in flight

Sunset at the Duck Lake channel with gulls in flight

Seeing the gulls, I just had to shoot a few of these.

Birds of fire 1

Birds of fire 1

 

Birds of fire 2

Birds of fire 2

 

Birds of fire 3

Birds of fire 3

Then, I went back to shooting just the lake and sunset with the long set-up again.

Sunset again

Sunset again

 

Sunset again 2

Sunset again 2

 

Sunset again 3

Sunset again 3

 

Sunset again 4

Sunset again 4

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…

Sunset over Duck Lake channel again

Sunset over Duck Lake channel again

…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!

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23 responses

  1. I like very ‘Duck Lake channel 2’.
    ‘Waves breaking near sunset’ is very beautiful.

    It must be so interesting and beautiful to take photos of water, sand, gulls…

    October 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornel! I had a very enjoyable evening shooting the water, sand and gulls, there than the cold wind. I should go there more often.

      October 13, 2015 at 3:16 am

  2. The colors on those trees were beautiful and so were those of the sunset! As I’ve said before, I wish I could find a good spot for sunsets here. I like the shots of the breaking waves but I think that last shot is my favorite.

    October 12, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! In a way, it’s hard to believe that I’d forgotten about Duck Lake, it’s made to order for either sunrises or sunsets. However, in the summer it is packed with people with no place to set-up and shoot without getting people in the frame. I hope that you do find a spot near you, I’d love to see the sunrises and sunsets with mountains in the frame.

      October 13, 2015 at 3:20 am

  3. I liked your birds of fire.

    October 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Could it be that you like them because they’re gulls?

      October 13, 2015 at 3:30 am

      • Perhaps.

        October 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

  4. Uh oh… looks like you’re taking over my sunset on the waves shots! 😉 (great shooting BTW)

    October 12, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! Some one had to fill in for you while you were in the desert. 😉

      October 13, 2015 at 3:31 am

      • Nice to have backup!

        October 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm

  5. Wonderful views and flying birds and thanks for the chipmunks and the squirrel.

    October 13, 2015 at 4:47 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      October 13, 2015 at 10:22 am

  6. Really impressed by the wave shots, Jerry! Great silhouettes of the birds in the sunset too. Looking at your first bird pics I am reminded of my morning spent at the lakes of a decommissioned coal power station (the lakes were originally to help cool it) on the weekend. I was staring at the wonderful raptors overhead and distant water birds and thinking, “Jerry should be here with his camera gear!” You would have come back with great shots, unlike me. I have a blurry pelican and a distant shot of a bunch of ibis. Heheh. Anyway, another bunch of terrific photos. The colourful foliage shots are beautiful. What a lovely picture they make. It’s a shame it heralds some nasty weather to come. I hope you get a chance to head further soon.

    October 13, 2015 at 6:31 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! The place where I shoot many of my bird photos is much like the decommissioned power station, entirely man-made, but the birds love it. One reason is that they are safe from being hunted there, at least the ducks that is. The raptors are protected everywhere. But, with the ducks and other birds there, it attracts the raptors looking for an easy meal.

      I’m not looking forward to another winter of slogging my way through snow, but we have to take the bad with the good.

      October 13, 2015 at 10:27 am

  7. Looks like you are getting some nice autumn colors in the trees there now. We don’t get those vibrant colors here in our part of Oregon unless it is a non-native species. The sunsets on water are really beautiful. I am partial to those golden hues for sure!

    October 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ve seen photos of your area in the fall, and the aspens do turn a very vibrant yellow, but they are about the only color in the fall.

      October 13, 2015 at 3:29 pm

  8. Your end of day photos are absolutely stunning, the series is just breathtaking.

    October 14, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Charlie!

      October 15, 2015 at 3:02 am

  9. Absolutely beautiful photos Jerry! At this time of year I always make sure I have a coat with me. The days may be warm but the clear skies mean cold nights and with a wind off the lake it must have been very chilly indeed.

    October 14, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I had taken a coat with me the two prior weeks, but never needed it. The day in question was even warmer and it takes me two trips to my vehicle to carry all my other stuff in and out. So, I skipped the coat and regretted it, next time, I’ll be prepared.

      October 15, 2015 at 3:13 am

      • This always happens, doesn’t it?!

        October 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

  10. Your Duck Lake photos are superb. Love that mellow yellowy color, which is accentuated by the darker birds in the foreground. Wish it would have been still enough for you to shoot a panorama, but, after thinking about this for a moment, I realized that of course if wouldn’t work with wave action.

    I probably have missed a few of your posts. We have internet access for the first time in ten days. Or course, it doesn’t seem as though I have enough bandwidth to upload my own photos to WordPress. It’s amazing how frustrating it can be to be so out of touch.

    We waited so long for fall color here. Had two great days, then suddenly we moved to an area where it was way past prime. Pretty poor planning…..

    October 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! I’ve been giving some thought to shooting panoramas when the scene calls for it, but I don’t have the software to create them, yet. 😉

      I’ll have to catch up with your posts here in a few minutes to see where you’ve been, but the colors here haven’t been the impressive in their overall scope. There are patches of good color, but too many trees went straight to brown or dropped their leaves already.

      October 16, 2015 at 11:28 am