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

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.

Another sunset at Duck Lake

Another sunset at Duck Lake

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.

Canon 7D in camera double exposure

Canon 7D in camera double exposure

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.

Time in space

Time in space

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.

Grey squirrel, up close and not cropped

Grey squirrel, up close and not cropped

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…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…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.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

 

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

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.

Backlit mute swan in the sun's spotlight

Backlit mute swan in the sun’s spotlight

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.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

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.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

 

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

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.

Two adult bald eagles

Two adult bald eagles

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.

Duck Lake sunset

Duck Lake sunset

Using the polarizing filter produced this photo, which was my best ever of a male mallard, up until today.

Male mallard

Male mallard

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.

Mallard pair in the fall

Mallard pair in the fall

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.

Fall floating with the mallards

Fall floating with the mallards

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…

A golden day

A golden day

…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.

White-rumped and pectoral sandpipers

White-rumped and pectoral sandpipers

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.

Glowing maple

Glowing maple

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.

Fall goldenrod

Fall goldenrod

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.

Maple leaf

Maple leaf

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.

Patterns in the sand at sundown

Patterns in the sand at sundown

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.

Ripples

Ripples

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.

Too much?

Too much?

 

Too much? 2

Too much? 2

I’m never sure about those, I think that the vivid color may be too much, so I tried a different angle as well.

Flaming gull

Flaming gull

Since this post is getting long on words, I’m going to throw in three landscapes from earlier in the day last Sunday.

A drainage ditch near Muskegon

A drainage ditch near Muskegon

 

The marsh at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve 1

The marsh at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve 1

 

The marsh at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve 2

The marsh at Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve 2

And, a few from around home last week.

The duck pond

The duck pond

 

Creekside Park

Creekside Park

 

A typical west Michigan subdivision

A typical west Michigan subdivision

 

Golden glow

Golden glow

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!

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19 responses

  1. I loved the clever time-lapsed slide show but my vote on this post goes to the glowing maple, what a photograph!

    November 4, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! That tree dominates the landscape right now, it’s hard for me to take my eyes off it because of how beautiful it looks with the sun shining through it.

      November 5, 2015 at 2:37 am

  2. Neutral density filters are also good for blurring water in full sun light. That’s what I bought one for but then I decided that blurring water was a waste of time so I never use it now.

    I like the sunset shots and I agree with Susan that the flaming maple is quite a shot!

    I also like the first shot of the marsh at the nature preserve. It’s close to perfect, in my opinion. Of course, I like places like that so I’m kind of biased.

    I also love the water colors in that last shot of the mallards. It’s beautiful!

    I turn 60 in December so I’m right behind you. I’m determined to enjoy life to the fullest from now on and having fun doing what I like is a big part of that. I can’t think of any better way to learn a thing than by doing it, which is just what you’re doing, so have some fun while you do it!

    November 4, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’ve seen photos where people have blurred the water in the middle of the day, I never cared for those. But, at sunrise or sunset, I kind of like it. What it did for me was to allow me to shoot at f/11 rather than stopping the lens all the way down, and dealing with diffraction.

      That maple has been lighting up the entire area this week, I couldn’t miss shooting it.

      I had trouble with the marsh, getting what I wanted in the frame, and leaving things that I didn’t want to appear in the photo out. I spent considerable time on that one, but I think that I may have been able to do better.

      I’m having the best time of my life right now, because I am doing something that I love. I’m beginning to look forward to slowing down, and not trying to make it around every next bend to see what’s there, but to see what’s around me before I get to the bend.

      November 5, 2015 at 2:54 am

  3. Another impressive portfolio. The first flying mallards shot was my favourite though some of the landscapes and the fallen leaf ran it very close.

    November 4, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I try to throw in a little of everything, for everybody.

      November 5, 2015 at 2:57 am

      • And succeed.

        November 5, 2015 at 6:17 pm

  4. As always, so many photos to admire! I love the chickadee and the swan, the maple and the Michigan sub-division. That last shot is gorgeous!

    November 4, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I really liked the last one as well, it was one of those times when everything glowed with the yellow light coming through the trees

      November 5, 2015 at 3:04 am

  5. Have to admit (for perhaps the first time), that your early technical explanations let me in the weeds! But, I did love the mute swan photo, and also the mallard photos with the leaves, (but not the golden-colored ones). You vivid color photos also missed the mark with me – have no idea what my criteria for judgement is, though.

    You always see amazing stuff, Jerry. It reminds me to move with my eyes more wide open. Please don’t ever change what you do with this blog!!

    November 4, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! Sorry for all the geek talk, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m not a fan of the vivid color photos, even though I shot them. But, some people seem to like those. Then it hit me, some people like those photos with all the colors jacked up until it looks nothing like nature, not me.

      I’m glad that you and others mentioned the swan, I like that photo for its subtle charm, rather than being in your face like the gull photos.

      November 5, 2015 at 3:03 am

  6. I am blown away by so many superb shots. What can I say, Jerry, but tell you how wonderful it is to see you learning so much with your new equipment and producing so many beautiful images. You make it far too difficult for me to pick some favourites to mention but perhaps the glowing maple, the juvenile eagle in the pine trees, the sunsets and the mallards caught my attention most?
    Sixty? You’re a spring chicken still, Jerry. 🙂
    I nearly got caught in a wild storm with large hail at a rainforest in the mountains this afternoon. We are having a lot of wild weather here. Storms every day.
    Rainy days can be great if you’ve got stuff you can play with. I’m really excited about my new camera. I love the zoom! At last I can get some close-ups of birds from a distance like I’ve always wanted. New gear is lovely. Enjoy your toys! 😀

    November 5, 2015 at 5:00 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I’ve been lucky, the weather has been very nice for this time of year here, and I managed to find some good color here and there in the fall foliage.

      Spring chicken? I wish that my legs felt that way. 😉

      I hope that you stay safe during the wild weather that you’re having, and that the new camera works well for you. You may find that there are times when you’re better off not zooming all the way in on something in the distance, but cropping the image later to get as close as you’d like. The Powershots are good cameras, but they will zoom a bit farther than what they really should.

      November 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      • Yes, I’ve discovered that about the Canon zoom. Once home and checking out pics on the computer I found the ones less zoomed out were better. It’s hard to tell when using the camera as my eyes aren’t the best so it will be a case of trial and error. Lots of fun practice! Thanks. 🙂

        November 5, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      • You’ll get the hang of it, you’ll only have to practice a little before you have it down pat.

        November 6, 2015 at 3:42 am

  7. Particularly like the single Mallard in flight!

    November 5, 2015 at 6:40 am

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      November 5, 2015 at 10:09 am

  8. Time is such a huge factor. You have some magnificent shots here, but wading through all of them takes a pretty good chunk of time. I know I don’t begin to do them justice since the emails tend to pile up announcing more new posts to check out. 😉

    November 5, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! I’ll have to work on that quality over quantity thing a little more. 😉

      November 6, 2015 at 3:42 am