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

I can only be some what serious

I had a little spare time one day this week, so I spent that time with the manual for my 7D Mk II camera. In several of the videos from Canon about how to set the camera, it was mentioned that you can have two completely different auto-focus set-ups available by how you program the customizable buttons on the rear of the camera. So, it was that section of the manual that I went looking for. In my search, I stumbled across a few of the other amazing things that this camera is capable of, such as being able to set the exposure bracketing to take 2, 3, 5 or 7 shots, with the added ability of being able to set the spacing of the exposure adjustments. Wow! That would be perfect for creating HDR images, if I could ever bring myself to use the 7D for landscapes, when it is so good for wildlife.

Anyway, after shooting the gulls in flight at the Bear Lake channel last Sunday…

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

…and seeing how well that the 7D can do when set properly for flying birds, I really wanted to get the camera set-up so that one of the buttons was for portrait shots…

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

 

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

…and the other for birds in flight. I was successful at doing what I set out to accomplish. One button will now activate the auto-focus in the single auto-focus point mode with the tracking set for the twitchy little birds that I have trouble getting in focus otherwise, and the second button activates the auto-focus in the area mode with the tracking set to stick with birds as they fly.

I should also apologize again for posting so many photos of the gulls and mallards lately…

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

…especially when I shot the last photo in dense fog. However, as I’ve said so many times, they make great practice subjects because they are so common. I can concentrate on camera settings and my technique as I shoot more photos of the gulls and mallards in a few minutes than I could in a month of shooting other subjects and therefore, learn a great deal more about what works and what doesn’t in a shorter period of time.

Besides, I’m a complete idiot anyway. Who goes out birding in a dense fog and expects to get good bird in flight photos, even if the birds are just mallards?

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

 

Male mallards in flight

Male mallards in flight

In my defense, I didn’t know that it was going to be that foggy. There was some sunshine early in the day, but as soon as the temperature climbed above the freezing point, the water from the evaporating frost turned into fog…

A frosty start to the day

A frosty start to the day

…and less than half an hour later, the fog was so thick that you could cut it with a knife…

The cliched lone tree on a foggy day

The clichéd lone tree on a foggy day

…but not with a camera lens.

Male bufflehead

Male bufflehead

 

Male bufflehead diving

Male bufflehead diving

I’ve never been that close to an adult male bufflehead before, and the fog was too thick for a good photo of it. I did a little better with a female or juvenile bufflehead that I got even closer to.

Juvenile bufflehead

Female or juvenile bufflehead

But, that’s the way it goes at times, I can’t control the weather or the wildlife, so I have to learn how to shoot in any conditions, just in case. The weather can change on a dime here, it’s hard to believe that I shot this photo…

Mallards

Mallards

…less than an hour before the fog began forming. The fog became so thick that I didn’t want to drive in it, so I was more or less stuck at the wastewater facility until it began to lift at least a little.

However, back to the fog. As I was shooting the photos above, I could hear gulls and geese flying overhead, and I wondered how they could navigate in the thick fog. How birds are able to navigate during migration is a question that the answer to still eludes scientists, but I think that Allen who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog had the answer to how the birds navigated in the fog, they flew above it. While I was stuck in the thick fog hugging the ground, and with my limited point of view, I could see only a few hundred feet, but I’m sure that birds could easily fly above the fog and still find enough landmarks for them to know where they were.

I spent a little time checking out the lichens that grow on the rocks used to stabilize the banks of the man-made ponds there at the wastewater facility while waiting for the fog to lift.

Unidentified lichen

Unidentified lichen

 

Unidentified lichen

Unidentified lichen

One of the things I’ve been doing this week is looking back at many of the photos that I’ve shot this past year. As you may know, Lightroom allows you to rate each image with a star rating of one to five stars. As I said in my last post, the average quality of my images has improved a great deal over this past year. Many of the photos that I gave a high rating to right after I shot them earlier this year are now just average, or even below average. That, and I often assigned a high rating to an image just because I had mastered a new technique or set-up, when the image itself wasn’t all that good.

One of the things that makes it easy to review just the images that I think are my best is the ability to create “Smart collections” in Lightroom. I have created a few, like Raptors, Waterfowl, Landscapes, etc. The images that appear in the smart collections the way that I set them up are added automatically, based on keywords, the star rating that I give the images, and the cropped image size. So, let’s say that I shoot a photo of an eagle, I didn’t crop it, and I gave it a four star rating, it automatically goes into the raptor smart collection. Lightroom doesn’t move the image or copy it, it stores the information in the database so that the image appears in both the folder where I originally put it and the smart collection, which conserves disk space. You can always go back and change the rating that you give to an image, as well as edit the criteria used to create the smart collections, making it easy to find the photos that you’re looking for.

So, back to the photos from last weekend. After the fog lifted, I headed up to Duck Lake State Park to hike the trail system there, and I found a few things other than critters to photograph.

One of the trails at Duck Lake State Park

One of the trails at Duck Lake State Park

It was a nice day, although clouds rolled in less than an hour after the fog lifted, so I stopped to play a little, first shooting these mushrooms with a short lens…

Fungi at 85 mm

Fungi at 85 mm

…then with the birding set-up, to see which I prefer, as I was traveling light and hadn’t brought the macro lens with me.

Fungi at 420 mm

Fungi at 420 mm

After all, it’s December, and I didn’t expect to be shooting fungi this time of the year.

Sidenote, it’s early Sunday morning as I type this, and there’s a thunderstorm passing over here, in the middle of December. It’s warm but with the rain and fog, outside, I think that I’ll be staying inside for a while yet today.

Anyway, I also spotted these, and couldn’t tell if some one had trimmed branches or possibly burls off from the tree, or if there had been fungi growing on the tree.

Harvested fungi?

Harvested fungi?

I moved much closer to shoot this.

Harvested fungi?

Harvested fungi?

I’m certainly not an expert on fungi, but it looks to me as if some one cut what were very large growths of fungi from the side of the tree. I’m more of the fungi as art sort of person, as this next photo shows.

Fungi as art

Fungi as art

The land that makes up Duck Lake State Park used to be a Boy Scout camp before the state purchased it, I guess that the troop that sold the land to the state was a bit despondent to lose their camp, but I still think that a gravestone to mark the passing of the camp is a bit strange.

Just a bit weird

Just a bit weird

I’m a bit strange myself, I’m fascinated by the patterns left in wood as it decays, as well as the decaying process itself.

How wood rots

How wood rots from the inside

I am easily amused as well, I thought that the colors on this old stump were worth a photo as well.

Just a pretty stump

Just a pretty stump

And, I like the way that light plays on the needles of a pine tree.

The light in the pines

The light in the pines

One of the many questions to which I have no answer is what this type of moss is, and why wildlife would tear tufts of it out of the ground.

Pincushion moss?

Pincushion moss?

All along the trail, I could see where something had been digging in clumps of the moss as shown above, but whatever it was that dug the moss up, left the moss it dug up, there must be something in the roots that the critter(s) like to get to.

Pincushion moss?

Pincushion moss?

As I said, I didn’t take the macro lens with me, as I didn’t think that I’d be shooting flowers in December, but I was wrong, so I had to make do as best I could when I spotted some witch hazel in bloom. At least I think that it’s witch hazel?

Witch hazel flowers

Witch hazel flowers

The same holds true in a way for this next photo as well, it never occurred to me that I’d be shooting macro photos this time of year.

Indian pipe seed pods?

Indian pipe seed pods?

My intentions where to shoot photos of birds, which I did find in abundance there at Duck Lake, very large numbers of all of our winter resident upland bird species, I just wish that I could have gotten better photos than these.

JVIS0308

White-Breasted nuthatch

 

White-Breasted nuthatch

White-Breasted nuthatch

 

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

However, all the birds were actively foraging for food, and didn’t sit still long enough for me to shoot any good photos of them.

In a way, it’s strange how the species of birds that I shoot the most photos of runs in streaks. I may try for photos of a particular species all year round, and fail most of the time. Then, for a few weeks, it seems that the only species that I can get good photos of is one of them that normally eludes me. Case in point, the only species of bird that I was able to photograph well during my time at Duck Lake was a tufted titmouse, as seen in my last post. Well, this past week around home, it was another tufted titmouse that posed for me.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

That’s the last of a series of it that I shot, here are a couple of the other earlier photos.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

 

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

 

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

 

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

I tried to catch it in flight as it flitted from branch to branch…

Tufted titmouse in flight

Tufted titmouse in flight

…but I need to take some lessons from Mr. Tootlepedal on how to get good photos of small birds in flight.

As I said, I’ve been reviewing the photos that I’ve shot over the past year, and I’m happy to see that the overall average quality of my photos is improving. The shots of the birds in this post shot in the thick fog won’t win any awards, that’s for sure, but by the same token, they are far better than I would have come up with last year. And, since I never know what I’ll see or when I’ll see it, those photos are a good indication of what I can come up with in some of the worst possible weather for photography. Some of the most dramatic wildlife photos that I’ve seen were shot during periods of inclement weather. As one of my goals is to be able to photograph anything in any type of weather, the fact that you can tell that the mallards are mallards and the bufflehead are bufflehead is important to me.

Given some great light, as when I shot the gulls in this post, I hate to brag, but I’ve seen very few images that are much better than mine. Up until the past few months, I never would have said that, for I always found my images lacking in one way or another. I still shoot plenty of crappy “for the record” photos though, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. It goes with the territory, as you don’t get great light all day every day.

My landscape photos have shown the most improvement, as I’m learning how to compose the images to get the depth in them that a good landscape photos require.

Duck Lake Dune

Duck Lake Dune

However, I need to stop relying on the sky as a major element in my landscapes, that will come with more practice, I hope.

I also need to work on my macro photography as well.

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

Shooting good macro photos is the most time-consuming of all the different types of photos that I shoot. Getting the tripod set takes some time, as well as setting up the additional lighting many macro photos require. You’d think that since I spend almost the entire day outside shooting photos when I have a day off from work that time wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it always seems to be. The sunflower photo isn’t even a true macro, but it still benefitted from an extra light source, even though the sun was shining almost straight at the flower.

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

The number of gadgets, gizmos, and widgets that they sell for use in macro photography is beyond my wallet’s ability to pay for them, and my back’s ability to carry any more than it does already, so I suppose that I’m not as serious as I claim to be about trying to improve my photos. 😉

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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29 responses

  1. I just love that shot of the lone tree. You may have guessed from some of my shots that I truly enjoy foggy scenes. They certainly add a sense of mystery. Your sky in the Duck Lake Dune is pretty spectacular, too. I’ve said all along that you improve by leaps and bounds. It’s lovely to see you tackling landscape.

    December 13, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Junta! While I’m making improvements, I need to work on shooting in the fog more, I usually wait until the fog is so thick that you can’t see anything in my photos other than fog. There was enough light coming through the fog to make the tree appear to glow, and I wanted to see if I could capture that. I also debated doing a second shot with the tree much darker, but decided against it. I still find landscapes difficult, I have to be somewhere at a certain time in order to get the best light, and even then, it’s often a waiting game. I had the camera set up on the tripod for half an hour before I shot the Duck Lake photo, waiting for the light and the sky to be as it was in the photo.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

  2. A beautiful series of photos from your area. The golden lichen on the light background is quite striking. Fog lends its own mood and beauty to photos.

    The gravestone for the camp is a bit eerie.

    December 13, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ll probably revisit the lichen as it’s at a place that I pass frequently, and I think that I can get a better photo of it. I also need to work on my foggy day photos as well.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:07 am

  3. The flight shots are particularly hard to do and you did them so well!

    December 13, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    • Thank you very much Cindy!

      December 14, 2015 at 10:07 am

  4. You did that new camera proud, love the footprints on the beach.

    December 14, 2015 at 2:46 am

    • Thank you very much Charlie! However, random footprints in a photo are a no-no, but on a Michigan beach, it’s near impossible to find an area with no footprints, or a lone set of them trailing off into the distance.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:09 am

  5. What a complicated camera, you are clever to be able to use it so effectively. I loved the birds in flight particularly.

    December 14, 2015 at 3:23 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I’m thinking that it will take me at least a year to learn the new camera completely. Think that I’m very close to the right settings for birds in flight now, so as soon as I find some, you’ll see more of those photos.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:12 am

  6. Sometimes shooting in the fog can provide an image that forms the basis for a more artistic rendering of the subject than one could ever hope for we’re the fog not there. A number of years ago while living along the coast of Maine i had a lot of fun shooting landscapes for that reason.

    December 14, 2015 at 7:11 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! I should have changed locations sooner, before the fog got so thick that visibility was less than 300 yards, as the wastewater facility has few landscape possibilities. The beach would have been much better. Live and learn I guess.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:20 am

  7. Love that you can preprogram your camera for action or still shots, and have that setting ready to go. Seems like that would be a feature on every photographer’s dream list.

    Love that crazy lichen with thebroundnfruiting bodies in the center, and the creeping tentacles on the edges. Hope you do a follow-up visit – it would be curious to see how quickly (or not) it grows.

    The foggy photos are intriguing – I spent more time with them, making sure I had seen everything there was to see in each shot!

    December 14, 2015 at 9:17 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Some reviewers have likened the 7D Mk II to a cropped sensor version of Canon’s top of the line 1DX camera, and I don’t think that they are far off in that comparison, not that I’ve ever used a 1DX. 🙂 However, nearly every button, dial, or switch on the 7D can be reprogrammed to do what I want it to. In addition, I can save three completely different set ups that can be called up by the mode wheel above and beyond what I do with the buttons. Throw in built in time lapse photography, multiple exposures, in camera HDR images, and everything else that the 7D can do without add ons, and it’s really a serious tool for serious photographers. It’s what has me lusting over the new 5DS R for my second camera for landscapes, as it’s the only other camera in Canon’s current line up with the same features as the 7D other than the 1DX.

      I will revisit the lichen, I don’t know if I can find the same one, but I should, it grew in a distinctive pattern, and I know that I can get a better photo of it.

      Two years ago, the birds in the foggy shots would have been black blobs in a sea of white, and the landscapes wouldn’t have turned out as well as they did either. All the bad shots that I shoot do teach me how to work around poor weather, and as you know, it’s been foggy here for a week.

      December 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

  8. I’m glad you’re enjoying using your new camera; the results are really good. I love the frosty start to the day shot and the tree in the fog. I also like the lichen and all the Tufted Titmouse shots.

    December 14, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I need to work on my foggy landscape photography more often, but in the past I shied away from shooting in the fog because the results were terrible. The titmouse is too cute for words, and they’re hard to get good photos of.

      December 15, 2015 at 2:44 pm

  9. Thanks for the mention Jerry.
    That’s a beautiful lichen! I’ve never seen one like it and have no idea what it is, but I’d love to find some.
    It does look like someone harvested mushrooms from that tree but I can’t imagine what they were. Chaga mushrooms grow on birches and hen of the woods grows on oaks, but usually near the base of the tree and these were quite high up.
    I think that moss might be white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum.) Something digs it up here too but I’ve never seen what it was doing the digging. I always assumed it was squirrels.
    The witch hazel flowers are really the bracts that the flower petals come out of. They look like tiny cups and 4 ribbon shaped yellow petals will unfurl from each one.
    I like the shots of the frosty field and the lone tree, and of course that beautiful duck lake dune. I think the sky adds a lot to that shot.

    December 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen!

      I see that lichen mostly along the Lake Michigan shore, where it grows on rock that has been cut and is used to make up the breakwaters or other structures to stabilize the shore. The one in the photo was shot at the wastewater facility, ten miles inland, but on cut rocks used to stabilize the banks of the man-made lagoon. However, I don’t know where the rocks were originally quarried or what kind of rock it is. The lichen must like growing close to water where it may be splashed from time to time, but dry most of the time.

      I assume that it’s squirrels that dig up the moss too, but the question is why, since whatever it is that does, doesn’t eat the moss itself from what I can tell.

      I may not have remembered the details from your blog, but at least I recognized it as witch hazel when I was nearly poked in the eye by one as I was chasing birds. 😉 That’s more than I could have done before I started following your blog.

      December 15, 2015 at 2:38 pm

  10. The small birds in flight flap their wings so fast that they are a problem unless you have a feeder right outside your kitchen window and the birds slow down as they are coming into land. I have a friend who nails peanuts down and uses a flash so that he can get the shutter speed up. My solution is to use a very high ISO and not to worry too much about printable quality (because I can’t get it).

    December 14, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Even if the print quality isn’t there, you’re photos of the small birds in flight are remarkable, and interesting for they help me understand how birds control their flight.

      December 15, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      • I am very happy to have posted something of interest to you.

        December 16, 2015 at 5:55 pm

  11. The three gull shots at the beginning are superb, Jerry. I also love the frosty morning shots and the yellow lichen and fungi. It’s always very difficult to pick favourites as they change as I scroll down! You don’t make it easy for me. 😉 It’s lovely to read of your excitement as you discover more features of your camera and test things out. I always look forward to seeing what new thing you’ve tried out. I’m sure you’d make better use of my new camera than me. Sorry my comment is late. I’m still unwell and finding it hard to catch up.

    December 16, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Jane! Sorry that you’re still under the weather, I hope that my posts brighten your days at least a little. Your health is more important than a blog comment, so don’t worry if you’re late in leaving a comment here.

      December 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

  12. LindaSCgal

    So beautiful!! You are very talented!!!

    December 17, 2015 at 9:52 am

    • Thank you very much Linda!

      December 17, 2015 at 12:08 pm

  13. So many great shots, Jerry! We had a lot of fog in the last couple weeks and I didn’t take enough initiative to go out and play with it, even though I wanted to. I’m sorry I didn’t now, your fog captures are great! I’ll be waiting for our next fog now…. 🙂

    December 18, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    • Thank you Donna! We had a week of fog here, and it was either begin shooting in the fog, or not shoot any photos at all, so I gave in and tried it. I’m glad that I did, I’m looking forward to the next foggy day now.

      December 19, 2015 at 4:59 am

  14. Not cliche–beautiful! Love that tree in the mist! Kinda liking the lichen, too. 🙂 PS, did break down and get that new Canon. Will spend some time practicing before I let it out to play, I think. 😉

    December 19, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    • Thank you very much Lori! The tree in the fog seemed cliched to me, other than that I didn’t shoot it in high contrast black and white. Good luck with the new Canon, whichever model you chose! 🙂

      December 19, 2015 at 3:19 pm