Happy belated Thanksgiving!
I had already begun working on this post before hand, but since it’s now Thanksgiving Day here, I’d like to begin by wishing every one a Happy Thanksgiving! I should also start out with a couple of photos to fit the holiday.
Continuing on from my last post, when it comes to winter, it isn’t the snow and cold that I mind as much as the fact that there are fewer things to photograph, so I can’t shoot photos like these.
However, I will attempt to refrain from whining about winter anymore, at least until the true winter weather arrives here. 😉
We had a warm, wet Thanksgiving day here, and I had the day off from work, so I tried to take advantage of it. However, I was the last driver to return to the terminal in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, so after getting some sleep and then eating breakfast at around noon, I was late getting started on my walk for the day. There was an off and on rain falling, more on than off, so the day was quite gloomy to begin with. By 3 PM, it was too dark to shot any photos at all, but I did thoroughly enjoy spending most of the day outdoors. I spotted a splash of color in these lichen earlier though.
I also played a few games with this hawk, it may be Bruiser, but I haven’t seen much of him or his mate, Bertha, this past year, so I’m no longer able to identify the individual hawks around home. However, this hawk…
…acted a lot like Bruiser, looking in one direction, then taking off…
…in the other direction.
I was a bit slow with the camera there. 😦 I may have gotten too close to the hawk as well, since it more than filled the frame as it took flight, as you can see. That’s always a problem with larger birds, I hadn’t quite gotten close enough for a good portrait shot of the hawk, but when it took off, I was too close to it to get good photos of the action.
Speaking of action, it was so gloomy yesterday that when I found an American tree sparrow taking a bath…
…the shutter speed was down to 1/100 second…
…so even at ISO 6400…
… I wasn’t able to freeze the motion of the sparrow as it splashed around playing in the water.
By the way, before I forget, as I was photographing the hawk, I also spotted this fox squirrel hiding motionless nearby, keeping its eye on the hawk.
Since that’s not a very good photo of the squirrel, here’s a slightly better one from earlier this fall.
That brings us to the portion of this post where I talk about how I’m working to get better images, and some of the things that I’m doing.
One thing is that I no longer shoot photos of every critter that’s even close to camera range, I wait until I’m close enough to something so that I have a reasonable expectation of getting a food image. Then, instead of snapping a photo or two of it, I shoot more photos of same critter. The squirrel above is an example of why. There’s a shadow on the squirrel, just below its eye, but of the 6 or 7 photos that I shot of that squirrel, the shadow is the least objectionable in the one that I posted, because the wind was blowing the branch that cast the shadow around so that it landed on the squirrel in different places at different times. It works much the same way with birds, as they are always moving.
What I used to do was try to time when the best moment to press the shutter release was as the birds twitched and turned as they looked around.
What I do now is shoot in low-speed continuous mode for a short burst of photos, then pick out the best photo of the lot. So, instead of the photo of above, which is okay, I get one like this…
…which is a bit better because the finch turned its head towards me a little more. I shoot more photos of fewer subjects, but I get better images as a result. I should also thank the finch for having moved to a more photogenic spot, as this is one of the first photos of him that I shot.
Another tip that I’d like to pass along came from one of the videos that I watched, even though I haven’t figured out why it helps as much as it does yet. The tip is to get your eye really close to the glass of the viewfinder, or as the presenter in the video said, you have to stick your eyeball right into the viewfinder. It works, maybe by pressing the camera tighter to your face to get your eye closer to the viewfinder helps you steady the camera better? Like I said, I don’t know why it works, but it does, doing that has helped me get sharper images.
Of course, that tip won’t help you if you’re using a camera that doesn’t have a viewfinder. 😉
Since the folder that the finch photos were in is now almost empty, here’s the rest of images from that folder.
I went for a walk around home on the day after Thanksgiving, it was another wet, gloomy day, and I ended up saving just three photos, so here they are.
The only thing noteworthy about the last two is that I moved some dead leaves and other things out of the frame so that the view of the colored leaves wasn’t obstructed as much. Usually when I move things around, the results aren’t that good, I end up making the scene worse instead of better. Maybe that’s all in my head.
Anyway, I have plenty of leftovers from this summer left to be posted, so it’s time to get on with those photos. These were all shot at various locations in the Muskegon area. I’ll start with one as I was starting to use the polarizing filter for waterfowl photos.
As I’ve written in the past few posts, the filter really makes an improvement in my images most of the time by cutting the glare from the water, even for shorebirds.
I wasn’t sure if that was a white-rumped sandpiper at the time I shot it, but I was sure that these were whitetail deer, it’s easy to see how they got their name.
I always try to keep my ducks in a row, I had to speed up the last female some to get her in line. 😉
Despite their name, ravens aren’t common this far south in Michigan, so seeing one is always special. You can tell them apart from crows by the raven’s oversized bill.
It isn’t often that you see a vulture swooping this low to the ground either.
Laughing mallards are always fun to listen to.
I’ve posted better photos of greater yellowlegs in the past, but this one was one of the few that I saw this fall, so I think that I should include it.
This was one of the first lesser scaup to show up this fall, now there are hundreds of them, and I usually don’t bother to shoot any of them.
This next one is an “if only” shot. I had great light, and the phoebe landed close to me, if only there hadn’t been the branches in the way.
I tried to get a good photo of two dragonflies at one time…
…but it didn’t work, so I shot this one to make up for it.
This next one is of the reflections of the leaves and sky in one of the ponds at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve.
I haven’t posted many photos of mute swans lately, so here’s three, starting with the male…
…who was joined by his mate…
…but their youngster wouldn’t join in for a family portrait.
I was able to get a little closer to another pie-billed grebe at a later date, but it didn’t give me enough time to get the polarizing filter dialed in.
Finally, a juvenile white-crowned sparrow, even though I’ve posted a few of them lately. They’re only around for a few weeks in the spring and fall as they migrate through the area, so it will be several months before I see any of them again.
Well, it’s now Saturday, almost Sunday in fact, as I put the finishing touches on this post. I spent the day in the Muskegon area again today, and I shot nearly 400 photos. Of those, I’ll probably end up posting only 20 to 30 of them at the most. Most of the birds seemed to be extra wary today, so I wasn’t able to get close to most of them, including eagles, several species of hawks, and of course, thousands of ducks. But, I learned a lot today, both about bird behavior, and what my photo gear is capable of. But, I’ll save that for when I get around to posting the photos.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Serving up still more leftovers
According to the widget that I installed on my blog, it’s only three months until spring arrives. These may be the longest three months of my life, I’m getting to the point where I hate winters. I think that I have photography to blame for that, as I didn’t used to mind winter as much.
Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t mind bundling up and trudging several miles through the snow during the period of endlessly cloudy days as lake effect snow continued to fall. But then, I was carrying just a small point and shoot camera which fit very nicely in a coat pocket, I wasn’t trying to lug 20 pounds of photo gear with me. I’d also settle for so-so photos of the few species of birds that don’t migrate south, along with the few other subjects that I may have found.
It isn’t that there aren’t times in Michigan when winter creates beautiful scenes to photograph, not that this is one of them…
…but, it was the best that I could find yesterday, and there are far fewer subjects to photograph, such as these…
…which won’t be seen around here until next April.
I really shouldn’t be complaining, as this fall has been one of the best on record, and has been a huge improvement over last fall. I stole this graphic from a local TV station to remind myself how good we’ve had it so far this November.
It doesn’t help matters any that I’m becoming spoiled, and maybe just a little bit bored by shooting the same species of birds so often, when so many of the photos look exactly the same as earlier ones that I’ve shot.
Okay, so I caught the colors of the bufflehead’s head a little better in this photo than I have in the past, I was still too far away for a really good photo. It’s the same with this rough-legged hawk in flight…
…and this northern shoveler.
It looks as though I have some decisions to make about where I go, what I photograph, and how I approach both my blog and my manner of shooting photos in the future.
Actually, I’ve been giving these subjects some thought for the past few months. If I really want to improve the quality of the images that I shoot, I’ll have to get closer to my subjects. That means that I’ll have to give up my “run and gun” approach to shooting photos of birds, and find good spot to sit and wait for them to come to me. Doing that will also mean that I’ll have to find places to go where there are fewer humans around to scare away the birds.
There’s more to all of this than photography or my blog as well, do I really need to add the wear and tear to my vehicle driving to Muskegon every weekend just to shoot photos of birds…
…that I could photograph around home, even if one of the American tree sparrows begins to sing softly?
By the way, the tree sparrows have pretty little songs, and I feel lucky for having heard it in person, as this species nests much farther to the north and it’s rare for them to sing around here especially at this time of the year.
Maybe I’m a bit bummed out because I went to Muskegon yesterday and found very few birds or other subjects that I haven’t already posted dozens of photos of already, like this American pipit.
I’ve posted a few images of them lately, but that one reminded me of spring, with just a bit of snow on the ground, with what could be mistaken for the first signs of plants emerging from the snow. Unfortunately, the greenery is some of the last that will be seen around here for several months and not the signs of spring arriving here.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I want to shoot photos of only species of birds that I’ve never seen before, but I would prefer that my posts over the winter months not be of just the same few species of birds over and over again, unless the photos that I shoot are special in one way or another. None of the photos that I’ve posted so far fit that criteria, they look the same as many others that I’ve recently posted. The truth is, I really don’t mind shooting what appears to be the exact same photo as what I shot the day before as I learn something from each and every photo that I shoot. Not only do I learn more about photography, but I also learn more about the birds and the way that they behave, and how best to get closer to them. However, there’s no reason to bore every one with the same old same old posted here all the time.
Luckily for now, I have plenty of photos of subjects that I won’t be seeing for a few months saved on my computer to be posted.
So, by using them up over the winter, my posts won’t be quite as boring as they would otherwise be. I’ll also be able to get back to posting to the My Photo Life List project that I’ve put on hold over the past few months.
In a way, that has worked out well, for I’ve been able to shoot better images of many of the species of birds than I was able to the first time that I saw them. And, with winter here again, I hope to shoot better photos of some of our winter resident birds than I have gotten in the past, at least a little better than the ones that I have now.
I also have to take into consideration the fact that most of the people who comment on my blog tell me not to change the way that I blog, since I do post a wide variety, not only of species of birds, but other subjects as well.
That was shot early this spring, right after I had purchased the 7D Mk II and was testing the auto-focus as the car approached me. I had to wait until other traffic cleared before I shot that photo, and by then it was too close to me for a really good photo.
I’ve been attempting to shoot more photos like this next one, nothing special, just a collection of pretty colored stones.
And, some of the old standby subjects as well.
It’s always nice when a bird spots me…
…and then strikes a pose.
I’m always trying to become more artistic in my photography, I think that this one was a failure.
I’ve been meaning to post one of the dozen or more similar that I shot of the leaves that I saw like these.
There was a section of the trail that was in deep shade most of the day, and almost all the plants grew the green and white leaves. But since it was a deeply shaded area, I had trouble getting a good photo other than this one. I assume that the leaves didn’t get enough sunlight to trigger photosynthesis in the entire leaf?
As many times as I’m able to capture this moment when a bird realizes that I’ve snuck up closer to it than it is comfortable with, I still love shooting these photos to show the surprised expressions on the bird’s faces.
Another of my attempts to shoot a good still life.
And, two more birds from this summer.
By the way, the weather outside today is more typical of November in Michigan than what we’ve had so far this month. There’s a solid dark gray overcast with light snow flurries falling, and of course the temperature is below freezing with a cold wind blowing. I know that other parts of the country and other parts of the world have cold, snowy days, but then they have a few days of sunshine again afterwards. Here in Michigan, we can go a month at a time with little or no sunshine.
I should be out walking, but I haven’t come to terms with the fact that there’s no color outside on days like today, everything is a shade of grey as I look out the window. Besides, I’m waiting for UPS to delivery a goody package from B&H Photo. Nothing special in the package coming today, just a USB hub so that I can plug more things into my iMac than what the four USB ports it came with allows. I have a 1 Tb external hard drive that I use as a back-up drive. I also have a 4 Tb external hard drive where I store my images. I’m planning on adding another 4 Tb drive to use to back-up just my images, but I have no place to plug it in as it stands now. I’ve also broken down and ordered a lens cleaning kit that includes a blower and brush to remove the dust from my lenses.
The last item that I ordered brings up another point.
I’ve made very few mistakes as far as purchasing things that either don’t work at all, or don’t work for me. Other than the UV filters which I have removed from my lenses, the only other mistake that I’ve made was purchasing a monopod. I know, some people get by using a monopod, but I was never able to get the hang of using one. I fought harder to keep the monopod steady than what I did while holding the camera in my hands alone. I even purchased an inexpensive ball head to use on the monopod, which made it slightly more useful, but after I purchased the very inexpensive compact tripod that I have now to go with the very good carbon fiber tripod that I already had, I have no need of the monopod at all. That left me with the ball head and nothing to use it on. Well, that’s going to change, I’ve ordered a clamp to go on the window of my Subaru for use at the Muskegon wastewater facility, where I do much of my birding in my vehicle.
At the wastewater facility, the birds are quite used to cars driving around, and will hold relatively close to the roads even when the cars stop. But, step outside of your vehicle, and the birds vamoose as soon as they spot you.
Also, I’ve learned from my landscape photos just how important a tripod is, even in good light. So, I’ll put the ball head to use on the window clamp, clamped to the window of my Subaru, so that I’ll be able to get even better photos of the birds found there. Being able to have the camera mounted solidly will also make it easier to shoot more videos, which I hope to do in the future as well. At least that’s my plan, it remains to be seen how well it will work.
Anyway, back to the cold grey colorless days, it just isn’t fair! Just two or three weeks ago…
…we had colors like that outside, for me to photograph, along with this one.
Just last weekend, the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve still looked like this.
What a crybaby, we just got our first snowstorm of the year last week, and I’m already complaining about winter’s arrival. It isn’t the cold that bothers me as it is the lack of color.
Geese may not be very bright, but at least they have enough sense to fly south…
…when they’ve had enough of winter around here.
Well, that about wraps this one up. I have a feeling that it will be typical of the posts that I do for a while, a few of the photos that I’ve shot lately with a good many from this past summer and fall until I use up all of the saved photos that I have stored for my blog.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Serving up more leftovers
This post will be mostly leftovers, and before Thanksgiving. 😉
However, before I get to the older photos, I have to start with a few of my newer ones, just because I can, and because they give me a reason for some more boring talk on photo gear.
As you know, I have a Canon 2X tele-converter, and I have a few more words to say about it. I was told not to purchase that item by several well-intentioned people, but I’ve also noticed that in many of the online photography tutorials and presentations that I’ve been watching, the 2X extender is something many of the professionals use quite often. So, I went ahead and purchased one despite what I was told about how they reduce image quality.
Well, that image was shot using the 300 mm L series lens with the 2X extender on the 7D Mk II and cropped slightly. I will say that it wasn’t easy to get that set-up to focus on the water strider, especially as it was moving…
…as you can see by the patterns in the water as the strider used its middle set of legs to propel it across the surface of the creek. But, with a little help from me manually getting the focus close, I was able to get some reasonably good photos of the strider.
So, back to the 2X extender. In my limited experience using it, I have the following to say about it to any one considering using one. You have to use it behind a high quality lens, as the extender magnifies any flaws in the images sent to it by the lens ahead of it. Also, I don’t know if emphasize is exactly the correct word to use, but, the extender seems to emphasize the performance characteristics of the lens it is used in conjunction with.
I’ve prattled on about how the 300 mm lens is excellent up close, then it gets a bit soft in the mid-range, then becomes sharp again at longer distances. The 2X extender makes that even more apparent, as the photos of the water strider show. Up close, that combination is excellent as far as sharpness, I see very little drop off in image quality. Here’s another example of what that combination is capable of from a recent post.
With the 2X extender, the 300 mm lens becomes a 600 mm near macro lens, with excellent image quality. It does become softer at mid-ranges, even more so than the 300 mm lens alone, but it sharpens back up again at longer ranges. I have a few leftovers all shot at close range to demonstrate that.
Those may not be my best photos, but they’re not bad, and they were shot as I was learning to get the best out of the 2X extender which I now consider to be an indispensable part of my arsenal of photo gear. Being able to get near macro shots of subjects 5 to 6 feet (1.5 M) comes in very handy for insects, and it gets me a little closer to other critters as well. That is, if I remember to remove the polarizing filter from the 300 mm lens when I use the 2X extender. That combination doesn’t work well due to losing 2 stops of light from the extender, and another 2 stops from the filter.
That brings me to the next item to babble on about, using a polarizing filter, I’m loving the way that the filter conditions the light for photos like this one…
…or this one!
I know, too many mallards recently, but they make such great practice subjects. Shooting the same species, such as mallards and gulls let’s me judge the progress that I’m making in improving my photos by comparing my newer photos to the hundreds of similar photos that I’ve shot in the past.
Those are two more images that I wish that I could display full size and in full resolution here, you can see every fiber in the mallard’s feathers and even “see” the texture of them as well. However, as good as they are, I can do better.
For one thing, the polarizing filter that I have to fit the 300 mm lens is just an off-brand filter that I didn’t pay a lot for, since I didn’t think that it would see much use. It’s funny, I didn’t pay much more for that polarizing filter than I did for the UV filters which I no longer use, but the polarizing filter doesn’t have a negative impact on image quality the way that the UV filters did. But, the main point is that if you’re going to buy any filter, purchase a really good one. I plan on doing just that for the 300 mm lens. Between the high quality neutral density filters I’ve been just getting started with, and the better quality polarizing filters that I bought for the lenses that I use for landscapes, now that I’ve learned how much a polarizing filter can help by conditioning the light entering the lens for subjects other than landscapes, I plan on ordering a higher quality one in the next month or so.
The last word (for now) about filters, when it comes to the quality of a filter, it isn’t just the glass that’s important, it’s also the mounting ring. Lower price filters have aluminum rings which tend to bind in the filter threads of your lenses, making them difficult to remove. Better quality filters have brass rings which don’t bind in the threads, so removing them is much easier.
Now then, a few words about what the mallard was doing and why his bill is dirty. Just before I shot the first photo of him, he was using his bill to plow up the moss along the edge of the pond, I assume to find insects in the roots of the moss. Because of the shape of the bill, he was very efficient at plowing the moss. I really wanted to get a photo of it, but the mallard dropped too far down the bank for me to capture it. Still, it was something to see, the mallard thrust his bill under the moss, then walked along ripping it out of the ground and turning it over just as a man-made plow would do. I’ve seen mallards digging through leaf litter to find worms in the leaves before, but I’ve never seen one plowing up moss before.
Time to do a little more snacking on the leftovers.
Here’s a few of a goldfinch, the first one as he realized that I had snuck up on him.
Then, he eyeballed me to see if I posed a threat…
…mulled the issue over…
…then returned to eating.
I see and post many photos of catbirds, but here’s a bit of a rarity, a young one. They typically stay well hidden.
I must have gotten too close to this wren’s nest, for it spent some time scolding me.
Flickers typically stay out of camera range for a good photo, but every once in a while, one will surprise me by posing for me.
Other than monarchs, I didn’t see many of the larger species of butterflies this past summer, here’s one.
Let’s see here, what other treats do I have left, how about another eagle?
Or, perhaps some pokeweed in its various stages, going backwards in order?
The plant itself may not be very photogenic, but its flowers and berries certainly are, I love the colors.
I’m making progress in cleaning out my archives, here’s a few more that I thought were too good to delete.
We had a good crop of Canada geese this year.
But unlike other crops, this one can fly, and it only takes one…
…to make up the mind of the entire flock.
That cleaned out another “shelf” in the archives, I have room for two more photos in this post, so here they are.
The weather forecast is calling for 6 inches (15 cm) of snow on Saturday, with more lake effect snow to follow on Sunday and Monday, so this may be the last aster that I saw this fall.
Well, I’ve made a good sized dent in the photos that I have left from this summer, but there’s still many more hidden away for me to use up.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
A Fabulous Fall
Ahhh, what a difference a year makes! Last November, we were setting records for the coldest temperatures ever on a number of days, and we set the record for the most snow ever in the month of November, over 30 inches (76 cm).
This year, we’ve seen a few snowflakes, and had a couple of cool days, but overall, temperatures are running well above average. Best of all has been how many sunny days we’ve had! In a normal year, cool air coming across the relatively warm waters of Lake Michigan picks up moisture from the lake, and once the air makes it over Michigan, that moisture is turned to clouds, and often some of the moisture is dropped as rain or snow. That’s called lake effect here, and most years it clouds up early in November, and peaks at the sun are rare until the next spring. Not this year. Hardly a cloud in the sky looking west…
…and even fewer clouds to the east.
Those two were shot November 1st, before a storm packing winds over 50 MPH hit this area earlier this week, and blew most of the leaves off from the trees.
It was almost as nice yesterday for a trip to the Muskegon area to look for rare birds that may have been blown here during the storm earlier this week. I was greeted by several thousand very common Canada geese.
That was just a small portion of the flock, but some how, I had moved the switch that locks out any adjustments to the settings on my camera. So instead of getting a better shot of the geese, I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t make any adjustments, since I never use that switch. I figured it out before I came to a large flock of gulls. I was looking over the flock to see if there were any rarities but there were all herring gulls in that flock from what I could see. So, I decided that since I wasn’t seeing any special birds, I would attempt to take special photos of the common birds.
In a way, that turned out to be the theme for the day. I heard from a fellow birder that there was a red phalarope hanging out in the east lagoon, but when I arrived there, all I saw were mallards.
Here’s a cropped version of that same photo to show what tricks our eyes can play on us when watching ducks battling waves. You can see a female mallard in the left side of the image with a funny look on her face because she has the head of a male mallard growing out of her back. Towards the center, there’s a female mallard playing submarine, with just her head out of the water.
I did find an American black duck, which look almost like mallards, other than their bright yellow bill.
No visit to the wastewater facility would be complete without checking the “eagle trees” to see if an eagle or two are around, there were.
As I was swapping the 2 X extender for the 1.4 X one, the eagle on top flew off, leaving the one on the lower branch, so I shot a photo or two of it.
I know that these look identical to a few that I recently posted, but on this day, I had a cloudless sky for a background. These also show again that eagles are creatures of habit, find them perched in a tree once, and it’s a likely bet that you’ll find them in the same tree at a later date.
It was opening day of firearms deer season, which was one of the reasons I went to the places that I did on this day, to avoid any hunters. I guess that this buck had the same idea.
But, I was slow getting the camera on the buck, so that very poor photo will have to do.
I saw a male northern harrier several times as I searched for the phalarope, but usually off in the distance. I did shoot a few photos for the record, as it seems as though I see many more females than males.
The males are grey as you can see in the photos, while the females…
I did eventually find the red phalarope, which puts me at 216 species of birds photographed in Michigan. That means that I’m closing in on the two-thirds mark as I check species off the list from the Audubon Society.
I walked around my favorite woodlot on the wastewater property and saw very few birds at all, but it was mid-afternoon, so I wasn’t completely surprised by that. I sure miss my old work schedule that allowed me to be up before sunrise so that I could start my days of birding at sunrise. I saw many more birds when I got an earlier start.
I decided that it was time to head for the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve to see what I could find there. Unfortunately not very much. I did shoot a few of the brightly colored leaves that had survived the storm that I mentioned earlier.
This next series reminds me to mention something that I’ve learned from all the tutorial videos that I’ve been watching online, but first, a couple of photos.
I shot those with the camera pointed almost directly at the late afternoon sun, I was fortunate that the shade that the tree provided produced relatively even lighting. However, when I first viewed this images as they came out of the camera, they were too blue, due to the shade. That brings me to a point.
In watching the online tutorials, different experts have different ways of setting up their cameras to get the shots that they do, in this case, it has to do with white balance and color temperature. So, to illustrate this, I went back into Lightroom and made a virtual copy of one of the nuthatch images, and set the white balance back to where it was when I shot the photo.
And here’s the same image with the corrected white balance/color temperature.
That reminds me, I love using Lightroom, the ability to make virtual copies to use in experimentation is just one small reason. That feature is also great if you want to have both a color and black and white version of the same image(s). But, I digress.
We think of sunlight as white, when it really isn’t, it’s made up of different wavelengths of light which produce different colors, as seen in a rainbow when water drops act as a prism to separate the different wavelengths of light. I don’t want to get too technical, but differing weather conditions and the way that sunlight travels through the atmosphere at different times of the day shift the color of sunlight slightly. We don’t notice it so much, our brains do the corrections automatically, our cameras can’t, which is why there is the ability to change the white balance setting in cameras, or in this case, post-processing.
Some experts say that you should leave the white balance set to auto, let the camera determine and adjust for the color of the light, and then fix your images as needed during post-processing. That’s what I used to do, but that didn’t work out very well for me.
Other experts say that you should always adjust your light balance as the light changes. That may work if you are photographing landscapes or other subjects that don’t move, or for when photo ops don’t pop up quickly as the nuthatch did for me. Just a minute or two before, I had been photographing one of the leaves in full sun. I didn’t have time to fiddle with any more adjustments before the nuthatch flew off.
Still other experts say that you should always use the daylight setting for white balance, and fix your images as necessary during post processing. This is what I generally do with the birding/wildlife set-up, it’s one of the ways that I’ve improved my images.
Actually, I should say that I use a combination of the second and third recommendations. The birding set-up is normally set to daylight white balance, unless it’s a very cloudy day, with a solid deck of clouds. Then, I’ll switch to the cloudy setting. Since it was a sunny day when I shot the nuthatch, I had the 7D set to daylight, which is why the nuthatch photos were too blue out of the camera. It was easy to change the images in Lightroom by simply clicking the cloudy white balance setting, so the images look correct as I saw them as I shot them. The overall blue cast to everything is gone, and the colors in the image look like what we see under those conditions.
For landscape photos, I always manually set the white balance for the lighting at the moment that I’m shooting. As the light changes, I’ll change the white balance.
I’ve been learning a lot from the videos that I’ve been watching, sometimes it’s what not to do. One of the experts said that he often set the white balance manually to around 8,000K when shooting at sunrise or sunsets, to juice up the colors. So, I opened one of my sunrise images in Lightroom, and began dragging the color temperature slider to increase the temperature, planning on going to the 8,000K the expert recommended. I didn’t even get to 7,000K before I said “Whoa, too much, that looks so fake no one would believe that the image is a true representation of what I saw!”.
I ended up at around 6,500K, only a few hundred degrees K more than the image was originally shot at.
So, I thought that maybe 8,000K in Lightroom was different from shooting with the camera set at 8,000K, nope, it was still way too much when I set the 7D to 8,000K and tested the results. With the camera set to 8,000K, the images looked surreal, with the colors over-saturated and shifted way too far towards orange. Heck, I get photos that I think are over the top as it is with the camera set to daylight and shooting toward the setting sun, there’s no reason to juice up the colors even more by going that high with the color temperature.
But, that brings me to my main point. When listening to the experts, you will find that they differ on their settings, and it’s up to you to find out what works best for your equipment, and the subjects that you shoot. It also depends on what you find pleasing. I apparently prefer slightly cooler images than most people do, but that may be due to the way that my eyes perceive nature in the first place.
Anyway, while I was at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, I spent some time on one of the observation platforms watching the passing gulls in hopes of spotting a rare species. Besides, it was such a nice day, it felt good to stand there in the late afternoon sun. Still, just standing there was a bit boring, so I had to shoot a few photos of any gulls that came close to me.
Here’s a gull impersonating an eagle.
Using the polarizing filter on the 300 mm lens with the 1.4X extender slows the auto-focusing of the 7D down a little, but when that set-up works, it really works!
My next stop was the channel where Bear Lake enters Muskegon Lake. All that I found there were more gulls, mallards and some escaped Pekin ducks. Still, with good light, I thought that I’d shoot a few photos.
And, who knew that either the inside of their beak or their tongue was orange?
With mallards around, I had to shoot a couple of them.
I also shot a few photos of the Pekin ducks.
I knew that they had orange feet…
…but I didn’t know what pretty blue-grey eyes they have.
I tried for a similar shot of a male mallard, but the darn drake duck ducked…
…just as I pressed the shutter release.
I considered going to Duck Lake for the sunset, but things didn’t look very promising for a good sunset, not a cloud in the sky. I had noticed some nice opportunities for photos on the road that leads to Duck Lake on previous trips, so I thought that I’d shoot them this evening. However, the storm this week had blown all the leaves off from the trees, so that photos that I should have shot earlier this month would have been junk this day. I turned around at what’s known as the blockhouse, sorry, no photo of it this time. I did shoot a few Juncos there.
And, a bird of a different kind.
I hadn’t been able to tell where a strange buzzing sound was coming from until I looked up and spotted the drone over my head. They will be something to watch for in the future as they become more popular.
I also shot a spotted knapweed flower in the late afternoon sun.
With no clouds in the sky, I didn’t think that the sunset would be worth shooting, but I still didn’t want to leave until I was sure, so my last stop of the day was the Muskegon Lake channel where it empties into Lake Michigan. No sunset, but I did shoot these.
I think that I worked as hard for this next photo as for any that I have ever shot as far as camera settings.
The light was so poor that I couldn’t get a photo without the flash. But, since the fastest shutter speed the camera will synchronize with the flash is 1/250 second, and Canon cameras default to ISO 400 when using the flash, that entails setting the shutter, ISO, and aperture all manually to get a good photo when shooting at 420 mm of focal length. That, and a steady hand as I leaned over a fence to get the composition the best that I could.
My last photo of the day, just dune grass in the sun.
I just love the way that the dune grasses light up in the late afternoon sun, even though it makes for a very busy photo.
So, overall it was a day for practicing my photography skills more so than finding rare birds, although I did get the red phalarope. I should apologize for so many photos of the gulls and ducks, but I won’t. They are some of the best photos of those species that I have ever shot, which is my goal, continuing to improve the images that I shoot. They may be common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get great photos of them, and the practice of photographing them is always good, as they say, practice makes perfect. I still have a long way to go to even approach perfect, but I do like the progress that I’m making.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Using them up
I still have photos that I shot back in May of this year saved on my computer that I’ve been meaning to post here. Many of them are of poorer quality, but they are of subjects that are either interesting, or that I seldom see, for the most part. So, I think that it’s time that I used a few of them up, to make room for more, and hopefully, better photos in the future. I’ll start with this one.
Next up, a chipmunk from back in May…
…and here’s one from August.
This photo was also shot back in August, on a rainy morning, so the quality isn’t the greatest.
On the other end of the spectrum, this was shot in June, early in the morning.
That same morning, I also shot this one.
This one is rather recent, it was shot in October.
These next two date back to July of this year.
Aha! I have found the folder were I had saved these two to.
This one is of the largest single fungus that I have ever seen, it was 18 inches (45 cm) long and a foot (30 cm) wide!
I had to retreat to get the entire thing in the frame.
Here’s a lesser scaup taking flight on a rainy day back in June.
Also from June, two photos of a coastal duck that breeds in the subarctic, a Black Scoter. They have not been well-studied in North America, only a few nests have ever been found.
And also from June, a first summer male orchard oriole.
July 26th must have been my first time out with the Canon 2 X teleconverter, as I have a few photos left over from that date as I was testing it out.
I shoot way too many photos of fox squirrels, but I can’t help myself. They have so much personality. They are like mallards in a way, always fun to watch as they gather acorns…
…carefully bury their prizes…
…go off to look for more…
…then warn photographers to stay away from their nuts.
Oh, by the way, I didn’t mean to imply that mallards gather and bury acorns, just that fox squirrels and mallards both exude personality. Speaking of mallards…
…and here’s a couple of other mother ducks and their broods.
Hmm, I didn’t post very many photos of young birds this summer, I’ll have to make up for it with these shots of a young tufted titmouse letting its parents know that it’s hungry.
I have way too many photos saved, I’ve just getting started in this post, and I’ve already hitting my self-imposed limit for the number of photos. Even at that limit, it’s more than some people would prefer. I suppose that I could have left out the series of the fox squirrel, but I liked those photos, and I run this blog. 😉
I should note that over the course of the summer as these were shot is the period of time when I transitioned from optimizing my images to post here, to optimizing them to appear their best as seen full screen on my computer. On my old computer with the small display, I would crop many photos a lot more, since they looked fine that way on that computer or here on my blog. But, on the iMac with the large display, cropping images as much as I used leaves them looking quite bad as far as sharpness. While the images look great on my computer, the subject is often very small in the versions of my photos that I post now. So, I should apologize to every one who follows my blog and takes the time to comment.
I’m working on that, trying to get even closer to my subjects than I have in the past, but it isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many photo opportunities I’ve missed by trying to get better photos, either a bit closer, or changing the angle at which I’m shooting to avoid getting distractions in the frame. But, that also means that I don’t force you to see as many of the same old, same old photos, like a robin eating sumac drupes.
If I left those out, I’d have more room here for birds that aren’t seen as often, such as this snow bunting.
That’s always a dilemma for me, which photos to post, and which ones do I leave out. So, at least for the time being, I’ll keep on plugging away as I have been.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
KISS, each one is a work of art
No, not that kind of kiss, although I suppose one could argue the point as to whether or not each kiss is a work of art. 😉 What I’m talking about is principle known as Keep It Simple Stupid, something that I have trouble doing when it comes to my Landscape and still life photos.
It’s funny, back in the days when I repaired, designed, and built machines and fixtures, keeping it simple was the motto that I went by. However, when it comes to art, that seems to be a different story.
For example, the types of music that I listen to the most. I thought about putting in links to video clips of some of my all time favorites, such as Genesis “The Musical Box”, Frank Zappa’s “Cruising for Burgers” or something by the Mahavishnu Orchestra like “The Inner Mounting Flame”, but every one of those songs is close to ten minutes long. Maybe if I relate something an ex-girlfriend asked me will help me to explain this. I was overjoyed to have found that one of my favorite albums had been finally released on CD, and was listening to it when the ex asked me “Don’t you ever listen to simple music? Everything that you listen to is always changing so much that it’s hard for me to follow along with it.” The stuff that I listen to often has strange time signatures, or in the case of Frank Zappa, different parts of his band playing in different time signatures at the same time, and he made it work. I suppose that’s why I’m also a fan of classical music as well. BTW, never listen to Cruising for Burgers while trying to type, even worse is hearing the Mike Brecker sax solo from “The Purple Lagoon” in the background while trying to think of what to type here. 😉
Anyway, back to photography. I’m learning to do fairly well when I’m shooting larger scenes, as yet another sunset from Duck Lake shows, although it was an uninspiring sunset that evening.
I did learn something that evening though. I had used the neutral density filter the prior week and was pleased with the results. Then, the clouds and water were moving directly at me when I shot the photos that time. This time, I swung the camera around and came up with this, not so pleasing.
I can see that any motion blurred by longer shutter openings has to be in certain directions in relationship to the camera, or the effect isn’t good. I wouldn’t have used the neutral density filter if my shutter times had remained short enough to freeze motion, but when shooting at 5 seconds or longer, you can’t freeze either the water or clouds. Oh well, lesson learned.
You don’t have to worry, I’m not going to be running around with the neutral density filters on my lenses all the time, blurring everything, there are times and places when doing that make sense, but as in so many things, there are people who go overboard with fads.
Since I’ve been trying to shoot more landscapes, most of them are too busy to be pleasing to the eye, even though I’ve been trying to keep it simple. However, this past Sunday, I shot this one as an extreme example of what I do wrong.
I liked the scene in real life, with the reflections off from the water, but I knew that the photo would have too much going on in it, with no place for your eyes to land, and very little to lead your eyes through the image. I did a little better with this one…
…it looks even better in black and white to make it less busy.
As you can see, I still have trouble translating what I see in the three-dimensional world into a good two-dimensional photograph. I’m still prone to shooting photos like this.
When it comes to my photos, I fall victim to the notion that if some is good, then more has to be better.
As you know, I’ve been watching videos of presentations by famous photographers on how to improve one’s skills at photography. One thing that has always struck me is how, for a lack of a better term, simple their photos are. That’s a bit misleading, for great photography isn’t simple, it’s that there are very few objects in the frame. Maybe three seashells, each one beautiful in its own right, but also arranged in a pleasing manner. Seeing how much you can cram into a photo as I often do doesn’t make a good photo, just the opposite is true.
So, that’s one thing that I have been trying to work on. Another is to get more depth in my photos, so that they don’t look so two-dimensional, sometimes striking the right balance can be hard for me.
I like the depth that I was able to achieve in that image, by “layering” the different colors and textures of the foliage. However, I think that it’s still a little too busy. So, I have been trying to shoot more photos like these.
…love the color…
…but, I think that I’m getting in a rut with these. I don’t think that any of them are too busy, but they all have the same look to them, the subject entering the frame at a diagonal, there must be a more creative way of composing them and still get the desired results. I’ll work on that as I go along.
In the meantime, I went walking at the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve last Sunday, and over the course of the day, an idea popped into my head, which I’ll get to in a minute. But first, there’s this.
I have no idea what that is. I spotted it on a log and thought that it was a new puff-ball since there were some older ones just a short distance away on the same log. I pulled out the macro set-up before I had even given this a close examination, because I knew that I wanted a photo of it, no matter what it turned out to be. I looked through the camera and was ready to shoot a photo, but there were a few dead leaves against it. I reached out to remove the leaves, and the thing rolled off from the log. I never looked to see if there was the remains of a stem or anything else to provide a clue as to what it was, I was so intent on a good photo that it consumed my entire thought process. I picked it up and set it back on the mossy log, and was lining up for a photo, but the shadow it cast would have ruined the photo of it. So, I got out my LED panel light and the Gorillapod to kill the shadow. I got a reasonably good photo of something that I have no clue as to what it is. There were other things on the same log that I ended up shooting, but it never occurred to me to take a closer look at this object to determine what it might be.
Between that, and this single leaf that I found trapped in the thin layer of ice on the surface of Pickerel lake…
…I love the color and the texture of that leaf from the ice, but there’s still too many distracting elements to the photo, maybe I should try cropping it?
Anyway, the idea that I finally worked out in my mind that day has been developing for a while this fall. I’ve been walking along and a single leaf will command my attention, and it has dawned on me that each leaf is a work of art. Just as with man’s art, some are better than others, but still…
…some of them seem to say “I deserve a closer look”. In fact, with some dramatic backlighting, some leaves practically scream “Look at me!”.
But, even though I thought that I had found the answer, shoot with fewer leaves in the frame, things haven’t always worked out. These three leaves of a rush almost glowed in the sun, but the camera didn’t capture it well.
And then there were the times when I didn’t pay enough attention to the background as I lined up a shot.
So, I tried again.
Nope, going with the brighter background didn’t help, maybe a darker one would be better?
Better, but I never did get exactly the shot that I wanted, which seems to be the story of my photography. 😉 It’s never as easy as the professionals make it look.
It doesn’t help when nature doesn’t always cooperate. I found leaves that I loved the colors of, but couldn’t get close enough to isolate a single leaf, so I had to shoot flock shots.
But, I did find a few single leaves with few harsh shadows on them to shoot.
With the storm that’s raging outside today, with rain driven by wind gusts over 50 MPH, the only leaves that I find the next time I’m out will be like these.
And not like these.
I’m approaching my self-imposed quota for photos, so I’d better throw in a bird…
…something warm and fuzzy…
…and to wrap it up, the last sunflower of the year?
Well, that’s about all for now, I’ll keep plugging away at improving my photos, hopefully I’ll start getting more of them correct soon.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I’ve upped my game,
With the purchase of the Canon 7D Mk II, I really upped my game as far as being able to shoot photos of birds in flight, or any situation really. However, it seems as if the birds have retaliated and upped their game in response, as far as how hard that they try to stay hidden to avoid having their picture taken. You may think that this will be another long boring post about camera gear, but it really isn’t, I’m using camera gear as a device to move onto what will be another post on bird behavior, so please bear with me.
As I have mentioned way too often, the 7D Mk II has one of the best auto-focusing systems of any camera on the market today. Once I started getting it dialed in to be able to get photos like this…
…it seemed as if the that hawk put the word out and let other birds know that I could get photos of them in flight, and they’ve been keeping their distance from me. As I’ve gotten even better with the 7D, I’ve been able to catch a few swallows in flight, no easy task.
Apparently, that swallow put the word out about my new-found ability to catch them in flight, for the large flock of the swallows that formed during the fall of the last two years around here didn’t show up this year.
It isn’t just birds in flight, the same applies to perching birds as well. This juvenile indigo bunting did its best to avoid the camera…
…as it continued to hop from branch to branch…
…until it finally gave up and posed for a few photos, since it knew that it was licked, it couldn’t escape from the 7D once it had locked in on the bunting.
But, that bunting put the word out to the other birds in the area, letting them know that if they let me get a focus lock on them once, that the 7D could track them though widely spaced branches, so the other birds moved into thicker brush, or took off before I could get a good lock on them.
It got so bad that day that I gave up using the 300 mm lens and 1.4 X extender, and resorted to using the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) as I chased a family of wrens around in the brush. The Beast may not be my best lens overall, but it’s still my best lens for seeing through thick brush and finding the birds as they try to hide. It was a tough fight, but eventually, I managed to outlast a couple of the wrens for these photos.
But, not even the Beast was able to get a clear shot of one of the species of birds that’s the best at hiding, a brown thrasher.
That reminds me, several people have asked how I get so close to the birds, one way is that I get right in the thick brush with them, then, I stand motionless other than following the birds with the camera as they look high…
…and low for food.
Sometimes as I’m following the birds…
….they become surly, and let me know what they think of me.
Other birds seem to have a sense of humor, they’ll perch where they know that I can’t get a clear photo of them, then laugh at me as I try.
But, every once in a while even an intelligent species like one of the jays will slip up, and I’ll get a reasonably clear photo of one.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this light-hearted look at the birds so far, because this all leads up to what I read in a recent study into how intelligent birds how, how well they communicate, their ability to recognize individual humans, and how long that they remember individual humans. I could type most of the important parts of the story out, but here’s a link a New York Times story about the study if you’re interested in more than the highlights that I will touch on here.
Anyway, what that study proved was that birds can recognize and remember the faces of individual humans, and do so for years. I’ve often thought that, I had a much easier time getting good, clear photos of birds at the old apartment complex where I lived than anywhere else I go. I think that’s because I was one of only two or three people who walked around the complex daily, it became easy for the birds to recognize me, and to learn that I didn’t pose a threat. Now, when I walk daily in a public park, there are hundreds of people who the birds see over the course of a week, and it’s harder for them to know which human is which. When I go to places farther from home, the birds never get a chance to learn to recognize me, hence, I have more trouble getting a clear look at them.
That’s especially true with migrating birds in the spring and fall, not only do they not get a chance to learn the faces of individual humans, they don’t know the lay of the land very well, and therefore, they tend to be even more wary, as they don’t know the best places to hide as do the birds that live in an area year round.
On the other hand, migrating birds often travel in flocks, and once you find a flock, you can pick a spot and wait out the birds until one or more of them let’s you get a good look (and hopefully photo) at it.
Changing gears, in my last post, I said that I was mulling over changes to my blog. I was thinking of doing more theme based post, such as saving photos of birds in flight and lumping them into posts with just those photos, whether individual birds…
…or flocks of birds in flight.
I also considered doing posts on birds and what they eat, such as in these photos.
I also considered holding photos that weren’t cropped at all and putting them all into one post, but that would require more self-control than I’m capable of. When I get a photo of a bird when I’m so close to the bird that it more than fills the frame, then that’s most often the first photo to go into a post. I do have these leftovers though.
I do have a number of flower photos left over from this summer, I’m going to put at least one in my posts over the winter so as to remember that winters don’t last forever, it only seems that way.
Having given it a lot more thought, I think that I’ll just continue to post the same as I always have, with one exception.
If you remember, a few months ago, I was having a debate with myself as to what constitutes a great photo, and whether a photo can be great even if it isn’t in the style that the experts say makes a great photo. That is, shot using a wide aperture so only the bird, particularly the eyes, are in focus, and everything else in the frame is out of focus completely with the creamy smooth bokeh that’s more important than the subject itself. Well, I have decided to shoot more photos that for lack of a better term, are of birds as scenery, or I should say, part of the scenery.
This sort of goes along with how I began this post, it isn’t always easy to get great photos of birds perched in good light and when you have a clear view of the bird. I hoped that I would never post a photo like this one again, but it represents how hard it can be to get a clear shot of a bird. I tried to get a clear view of this Savannah sparrow for a good ten to fifteen minutes. Every time I moved slightly to avoid the intervening branches, the sparrow moved so as to put a branch between us again, before I could fire off a shot.
But, there are times when seeing a bird, even though it’s too far away for a great photo, it is worth shooting because of the background in this case.
It would have been even better if there had been more light for this one.
A lot better! 😉
That’s the small-scale version of what I’m talking about, here’s the larger scale version.
That one is a little too “tight”, but by the time that I removed the extender from behind the 300 mm lens to go wider, the flock of gulls was down to only one gull.
That one would have been much better if the entire flock had hung around, but maybe you’re getting the idea?
I’ll get back to this in a second, but here’s why I’m considering these types of photos. I’ve been going to Muskegon at least once per weekend, and I’m tired of shooting the same birds at the same distance all the time. No one’s said anything, but how many times to you need to see what’s about the same photo of a juvenile ruddy duck…
…or even a male that has retained some of its breeding plumage?
I’ve decided to hold off from shooting any more of the ducks in their non-breeding plumage, I’ll at least wait until spring when they’re much more colorful, and so that I’m not shooting more of the same old same old all the time. Besides, sometimes having a bird in the frame can add a bit of interest to an otherwise uninteresting scene.
I’ve been including more of those photos lately, since I’m trying to expand my creative horizons. These next two may give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. Yesterday, at Pickerel Lake, I saw a few geese taking life easy on the shallow end of the lake. I’ve got head shots of geese, I hardly needed to shoot a photo of the geese off in the distance. On the other hand, I thought that there may be a photo in the scene itself, so I went ahead and shot this image.
How boring can you get? But, by moving the focus point to move the geese to where I wanted them to be in the overall scene, stopping down the aperture, and converting the image to black and white, I came up with this.
Yes, I did consider the black and white conversion when I shot that, but I should have moved the geese a little more to the left. Still, it’s much better than the first photo as far as the overall scene, which is what I was going for.
No, that doesn’t mean that all my photos from now on are going to be B&W, nor of birds in the distance, but I’ll probably shoot more of those over the winter until spring arrives with more things to photograph again. Expanding one’s horizons is seldom a bad idea. It’s just like the neutral density filters I’ve recently purchased, I’m not going to go crazy looking for moving water to blur, but those filters will come in handy under the right conditions. If I can’t freeze moving water to get a sharp image, then I’m better off blurring the water until it’s smooth. There’s a time and place for every technique, the secret is learning when to use them, and when not to.
So, I’ll continue posting as I have, with the exception that until I get tired of doing separate posts of birds as part of the scenery, I’ll be doing one of them from time to time.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
When it rains all day, it’s time to play
Inside that is. Normally, I don’t mind walking in the rain, but this past week, we had three days when it rained steadily all day, and quite hard as well. In some ways, I feel like it was a wasted week, I stayed home on the two good days waiting to take delivery of the neutral density filter that I mentioned in the last post. By reducing the light coming into the lens, you can hold the shutter open longer, or open the aperture if that’s what you want to do. I put that filter to use on Sunday evening to shoot another sunset at Duck Lake State Park.
Neutral density filters are supposed to be color neutral, hence the name. However, the B+W brand multi-coated filter that I purchased adds a slightly warm color cast to the images that I’ve shot so far. That isn’t unpleasant, nor is it more than I can easily fix in Lightroom by decreasing the color temperature slightly, as I did in that photo. In fact, many people would be pleased with slightly warmer tones in their sunset photos to increase the colors, but I’m still going for reality, almost. 😉 The neutral density filter did what I intended it to do, smoothing out the water to some degree, making the overall image more pleasing with the blur created by the long shutter openings adding a sense of motion to the image.
I don’t think that the image above is all that bad for my first attempt at using a neutral density filter. I set the focus before attaching the filter, then turned the auto-focus off, as with 6 stops of light lost with the filter, I doubt if the 60D would have gotten the focus correct with the filter on. But then, that’s how I do landscapes anyway, setting the focus to what I judge to be 1/3 of the way into the scene, then shutting the auto-focus off. I hope that I get other chances to play with that filter again soon.
Speaking of playing, Saturday had been one of the three cold, wet, and windy days last week, so I put the day to use spending some quality time with the manual for the Canon 7D Mk II and learning to take advantage of more of the features it has. One of those is in camera multiple exposures, while I doubt that this feature will see much use in my nature photography, you never know, and I can see the creative potential for other types of photography.
I had the camera set-up on my good Manfrotto tripod, and as you can see, I shot the two images at different focal lengths, and the camera stacked them on one another.
An evil thought popped into my mind today as I was walking though, the 7D holds two memory cards. I could fill the back-up card with great sky photos on days when there are interesting cloud formations, then call one of those photos up and shoot a landscape over it on days when we have boring blue skies. No, I wouldn’t do that, but some people have libraries of skies and other things saved to insert into photos using Photoshop when the scene that they see isn’t exactly what they would like it to be.
Anyway, in my last post, I raved about how good the good carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod is, here’s an example of how steady it is.
To shoot that, I set the camera up for a long exposure, then slowly turned the zoom ring on the lens while the shutter was open. You can see that the camera moved a little while I was zooming, but not much.
Good gear may not make great photos, but it sure makes it easier to get the great photo when the opportunity arrises, not that the two preceding photos are great, they were just playing around, learning new techniques. However, I’m getting so spoiled by the 7D, that’s the reason that I want to eventually add the EOS 5DS R camera to my arsenal, as I also noted in my last post. However, I neglected to point out the biggest reasons.
I was going to have one of my landscape photos printed out in a large canvas print to see how good it would come out. But, when I uploaded it to the web site of the service that I was going to have print the print, I got a warning that resolution of my image was too low to print that large of a print. My 60D may be a very good camera, but the images it produces are limited by the small sensor. If your going to print large size prints, then a full frame sensor is the way to go, and if you do have to crop an image, the results will be better.
Another reason to want the EOS 5DS R, it will do in camera time-lapse photography, but so will the 7D. Here I go shifting topics again, I didn’t use the 7D to create this time-lapse slide show, I did this in Lightroom, something else that I learned to do while it poured outdoors.
That was produced from the series of images that I shot the past weekend. The entire time that I was shooting the sunset this weekend, I was thinking that I should have used the time-lapse feature built into the 7D, but the one I made in Lightroom isn’t bad, and learning how to produce them will come in useful in the future. I did shoot a series of time-lapse photos with the 7D to learn how to do it, but they were also of my alarm clock, and I think that you’ve seen enough of it already. 😉
The video isn’t a true time-lapse either, I didn’t time myself between shots, I pressed the shutter release when I noticed that the light had changed, or at specific positions of the sun in relation to the water of Lake Michigan. You can purchase a device to make any camera shoot at a specific interval of time for a specific number of photos, but then there’s something else to purchase, and something else to remember to lug around with you. It’s so much easier having it built right into the camera.
That goes for the bulb timer feature of both the 7D and the 5DS R. Most cameras will only hold the shutter open for 30 seconds on their own. For photos requiring a longer exposure, you have to hold the shutter release down for the entire exposure, not fun when shooting a 15 minute exposure as I did this summer when shooting the star trail photos. But, since I used the 7D for the star trails, I just set the bulb timer to the length that I wanted. Or, you can purchase (there’s that word again) a device to time the shutter opening for you. Of course, it does you no good if it’s at home, so it’s something else to carry.
Sidenote, the manual for the 7D says that you can combine time-lapse with exposure bracketing, but doesn’t explain how, at least not in the section of the manual dealing with time-lapse photography. It took me a couple of tries, but I learned how to make it work, which means that I can shoot a series of three photos to create HDR images at specific time intervals and blend the HDR images into a time-lapse slide show, just the ticket for sunrises and sunsets!
Another side note, I use what I learn from the 7D to make the photos that I shoot with the 60D better, but conversely, I use what I know from using the 60D to figure out how to make the 7D do what I would like it to. While it was easier when I was using two identical bodies, I’m learning so much more using two different bodies.
Yet another reason to want to upgrade from my 60D is more focus points. I can get by for now by focusing and re-composing my landscape photos, I do it all the time with the 60D now. However, having focus points exactly where I’d like them to be, as with the 7D, makes photos like this possible.
The depth of field at 420 mm is so short that being able to put the focus point right on the squirrel’s eye is the reason that it’s as sharp as it is. My first two shots of the squirrel weren’t bad, but I had the focus point in the center of the frame, and on the squirrel’s eye. That meant lots of wasted space to the right, and none of the tree or parts of the squirrel from the left of the frame above were in the first two shots. But since the squirrel was in no hurry to leave, I took the second or so that it takes me now to move the focus point, resulting in a better photo. I should have shifted one more increment to the right, but still, this is way better than the first two were as far as composition.
While I can get by with just a bit of playing around when shooting landscape photos, I’d like to shoot macros using the higher resolution 5DS R body as well, that’s when having all those focus points will come in handy. The same applies when shooting bird portraits…
…when the times are right, I could use the 5DS R for photos like that one, and have the 7D all set for bird in flight photos for images like these.
And the one final reason that I’d like a 5DS R eventually is that it has the same metering system as my 7D, which lets me shoot photos like this without very much fuss or bother.
Any camera whose metering system allows you to shoot an all white bird that’s in the sun, but right on the edge of the shadow line across the water with just a 1/3 stop of the exposure compensation is a winner to me!
I didn’t figure it out this past weekend, but it was about a month ago that I learned how to shoot videos with the 7D. It doesn’t have a dedicated video mode, all you have to do is flip it into live view, then press the start button, no matter which mode that I have the camera set to. Too easy. I was sitting, watching an eagle in case it flew off letting me get a few photos of it in flight, which I did eventually.
However, I had been shooting stills at 600 mm (300 mm lens and 2 X extender) when I had the great idea of trying to shoot a video. I have to warn you, you may become seasick from the motion in this video, but here’s the first video that I shot with the 7D.
At 600 mm, I should have used the tripod, but I was just playing at the time, seeing how to do it. Later on the same day, I found that same eagle in the eagle tree, where I can get closer to any eagles there for better photos.
I call that one large pine the eagle tree since I see so many different eagles using it to scout from, but there’s actually several eagle trees in the Muskegon area. There’s a second eagle tree to the south of the large pine, and it can hold two eagles at one time.
I let myself get sidetracked with the eagles, but that’s okay, it gave me a chance to use up a few of the eagle photos that I have saved to post.
Some time ago, I said that I thought that most of any future improvements in my images was going to be due to doing the small things right, and learning to use accessories such as filters. I think that I was right. Adding a neutral density filter produced that first sunset photo, along with this one.
Using the polarizing filter produced this photo, which was my best ever of a male mallard, up until today.
Today, with some brightly colored maple leaves on the water, I knelt down to get an even better angle on the mallards for photos like this.
I now feel as if the biggest constraint that I have as far as getting better photos is time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a landscape or a mallard, it takes putting a lot of thought into the scene, which takes time. I knew that last photo was pretty good, and I was going to settle for that one. I even started to walk away from the ducks, as I have limited time to get my walk in before work. But, something made me go back , re-adjust the filter, change a couple of settings, and shoot these.
You can always click on any photo for a larger view of any photo here, and if you are ever tempted to do so, then the last few photos, along with this one…
…would be good ones to see in a larger size. It may sound as if I’m bragging, but those last two are the best images of anything that I’ve ever shot technically, and they are pretty darned good artistically. Still, if there had been more time, I could have done even better.
So, what’s the point of all this so far? I hate to admit it, but I turned 60 this year, and I’m beginning to feel my age. I’m slowing down whether I like it or not, so I’m starting to plan for the future. I’ll be able to retire in a few years, and once I do, I plan to travel extensively, to see the parts of the United States that I never got around to seeing before, such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite to name two of many. There are places that I want to revisit, like Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies. Heck, as much as I’ve traveled in Michigan, there are still plenty of places to be explored here.
I would like to have all the camera gear that I’ll need well in advance of when I retire, so I’m familiar with it before I go someplace really special and have to fumble around with stuff that I’m not used to using.
There are other changes taking place that will affect what I post here to my blog. You may have noticed that I’m no longer posting photos of every species of bird that I saw on any one day, I’m going for quality over quantity. I think that on the Birding Big Day in the spring, I will make that an annual event where I go out with a mind to get photos of as many species of birds as I can, but I no longer feel compelled to do that in every post here. I’m not giving up on the My Life List project, the one where I’m trying to get photos of every species of bird seen regularly in Michigan. Far from it, I just recently got photos that confirmed that the shorebirds that I thought were white-rumped sandpipers were indeed that.
Of course I wish that the photo that shows the small patch of white above the tail would have been better, I wish that all my photos were better. As I said, I’m finding that it takes time to get better photos. Time to sneak up closer to birds for one thing, then wait until they are in a position to show themselves in a position so that you can tell which species they are. Waiting for better light may help, but I never know how long the birds are going to stick around.
I’m getting better, but I still have to learn how to better balance the time that I spend on each subject. Maybe I could have gotten better shots of the mallards if I hadn’t taken time to shoot this tree from various angles and the like.
Maybe if I had spent more time working on my photos of the tree, I would have gotten even a better photo. But then, I would have missed this one.
That one was a huge disappointment, again. That’s the third time that I’ve tried to capture the pastel colors of the goldenrod leaves this fall, and every time, the background spoils the photo. I spent ten to fifteen minutes looking for plants that were far enough away from any other vegetation that I thought that this time I would succeed. Oh well, there’s always next year, and I hope to develop my skills by that time. That photo represents a common thing that I do wrong, many of my photos are too busy, as is this one.
When one leaf stands out in a sea of thousands of similar leaves, it deserves better. I should have done some simple housecleaning, removing the other leaves and the blade of grass that obscures part of the leaf that I wanted before shooting that one, but I was afraid of moving it. I should have used a tripod and dialed the ISO down, but I only had the compact tripod with me, and it won’t support the 300 mm lens. Maybe I should have tried one of the shorter lenses with the camera on the tripod, but I was in too much of a hurry, and I doubted myself. I wasn’t sure how well I could capture the patterns of the veins under the leaf, or that unique color. So I moved on. In a way, it’s just as well, for when I did get to Duck Lake later that afternoon, I didn’t have time to work this scene either.
I know that there were better photos there, but I was in a hurry to get set-up for the sunset that was already starting as you can see by the color of the reflections in the water at the top of the frame.
That brings up something else, maybe I would have been better of shooting some of the elements in that scene when the light got really good, rather than the sunset itself. Maybe I need six cameras mounted on six tripods. 😉
I did get a somewhat better photo in the other direction as I was setting up for the sunset.
But, I blew that one to some degree as well. I had the camera less than a foot above the wet sand, although it doesn’t look like it. My knees and elbows got soaked as I kneeled behind the camera, and it was getting chilly, so I wanted to stay as dry as I could. If I had moved the camera a foot or so to the left, that photo would have been much better, but to do that, I’d have been laying in the water to compose the shot. With a wide-angle lens, it’s surprising how much difference even a few inches make in the final image. Oh well, there’s always next time, and then, I’ll bring a wetsuit. 😉
Maybe six cameras still wouldn’t be enough, for while I was shooting the sunset at wide-angles, I was also shooting gulls with the sunset as a background, again. This time, they were stationary gulls though.
I’m never sure about those, I think that the vivid color may be too much, so I tried a different angle as well.
Since this post is getting long on words, I’m going to throw in three landscapes from earlier in the day last Sunday.
And, a few from around home last week.
Then, I’m going to call this one done. I’ll explain some of the ideas that I’m mulling for my blog in the next post, but I haven’t decided anything yet.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!