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

Sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset

First of all, I need to thank every one who commented to my last post about the crash for their concerns and wishes for my speedy recovery. I’m healing up nicely, what little there was to heal, and feel just fine. It takes more than a Mitsubishi Outlander to put me out of commission for any length of time. 😉

I’ve said it before many times, but sunrise has always been my favorite time to be outside in nature, even when I was a kid. There’s something special about a new day just beginning, and it’s also the best time of the day to see wildlife. Not only are the last of the nocturnal critters still active, and the critters of the daylight waking up, but there are far fewer people around to disturb the wildlife, and me. It’s typically the quietest part of the day, with little wind on most mornings, and most humans still sleeping soundly. I’ve always preferred the quality of light at sunrise for photography as well.

In addition to all of that, there are times during the year when full moon rising coincides with the time of sunset, and the full moon setting happens at about the same time as sunrise. This coming Saturday and Sunday is one of those times, and I hope to take advantage of it, as the weather forecast is looking good for photographing this occasion. In fact, it’s looking good for just being out and about, so I hope to get some good snow scene type landscapes, and hopefully, a few good bird photos as well. With a full moon above snow-covered scenery, I may stop to try my hand at something that I’ve always wanted to try, full moon landscapes at night.

I don’t remember which of the videos that I have watched contained this next tip, but I feel that I have to share it. It’s a way to determine shutter speeds when shooting in very low light. Most cameras will only determine the exposure correctly if the shutter speed is less than 30 seconds, so here’s how to use your camera’s meter to determine longer exposures. There are 6 stops difference between ISO 100 and 6400. So, set your ISO to 6400 and take a reading, hopefully, it will come out to be 30 seconds or less. For example, let’s say that the camera comes up with 15 seconds at f/16 and ISO 6400. Set the ISO back down to 100, then simply keep the shutter open for the same number of minutes as the number of seconds that the camera came up with, in this case, 15 minutes. It may not be perfect in every situation, but it’s a great starting point that saves a lot of guesswork. Of course you’ll need a tripod and remote shutter release to shoot very long exposure photos, but I’ve gotten to the point where I almost always use my tripod for landscapes at any time of the day.

Well, It’s now Monday morning, and I’m sure that you’ve all heard what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men. The weather on Saturday was as forecast, gorgeous, with bright blue skies and the temperature approached the freezing mark by late afternoon, although the day began quite cold. Due to my work schedule, I wasn’t able to hit the road until almost noon, that will be changing soon, as I noted in a previous post. I retraced the same route that I took during the storm two weeks ago, to show the changes in appearance of the subjects that I shot in that post. My first stop was Holland State Park, in Holland, Michigan of course, where I shot this photo as a warm up for the photos to come.

A rare sunny day in West Michigan

A rare sunny day in West Michigan

Then, it was on to Big Red, the lighthouse on the channel to Lake Michigan.

Big Red, the Holland, MI lighthouse

Big Red, the Holland, MI lighthouse

From there, I went to Port Sheldon, trying to shoot exactly the same scenes as in the earlier post.

Pigeon Lake at Port Sheldon, Michigan

Pigeon Lake at Port Sheldon, Michigan

You can see that nearly the entire lake is now frozen over, when it was completely open two weeks ago. I drove around the lake to a spot where I hadn’t shot any photos on my previous trip, due to the extremely windy conditions that day. To get to the spot where these next photos were shot, I had to climb one of the dunes that you can see in the background of the photo above, to where I could look out over Lake Michigan. The view was excellent, with the waters of the big lake in different shades of blue depending on the amount of ice cover, and how the sunshine hit it. I tried to shoot a good landscape that showed the different shades of blue, but I failed.

Lake Michigan shot from Port Sheldon

Lake Michigan shot from Port Sheldon

To really show you the beautiful blues of the lake, I had to turn the camera almost directly at the lake which made for a boring photo, but I did get the different blues.

Shades of blue

Shades of blue

It’s also hard to believe that so much ice has piled up on the shore in just two weeks as these photos show.

From there, I headed north to Grand Haven, where I shot the lighthouse there, first, from the south…

The Grand Haven, Michigan Lighthouse

The Grand Haven, Michigan Lighthouse

…then, from the north.

The Grand Haven, Michigan Lighthouse

The Grand Haven, Michigan Lighthouse

The amount of ice that has built up on everything exposed to the spray coming off from Lake Michigan in just two weeks was interesting to see.

Ice covered railing

Ice covered railing

And, here’s yet another photo of the north breakwater at Grand Haven to show that.

The north breakwater at Grand Haven

The north breakwater at Grand Haven

Retracing my trip from two weeks ago, my next stop was Hoffmaster State Park, where I shot this scene again.

P. J. Hoffmaster State Park

P. J. Hoffmaster State Park

My plan to re-shoot every scene from the previous post hit a snag at Lake Harbor Park. There were so many people out enjoying the exceptionally nice weather that there was no place to park. Since I had also planned to hike down the channel there to Lake Michigan, I was a little disappointed by that, but there were still plenty of other places to go. However, I should add that one of the amenities at Muskegon State Park is a winter sport facility with cross-country ski trails, one of which is lighted for use at night, and a luge run. The parking lot there was also filled to beyond capacity, and two DNR employees were directing traffic on the main road, and to and from the main parking lot and overflow parking in the campground. It was a day when I had to fight crowds and time my shots so that I didn’t have people walking right in front of the camera when I shot these photos. Since it was the first nice, sunny day in two weeks, it’s no wonder that every one was out enjoying the day!

Anyway, my next stop was Muskegon, where I shot these from Pere Marquette Park on the south side of the channel to Lake Michigan.

The south harbor light at Muskegon

The south harbor light at Muskegon

I think that the people in that photo add a little to it to give you a sense of how tall the light is, and how high up on the light that the spray from the waves had been hitting the light and freezing. The light on the north breakwater was completely covered in ice.

The north harbor light at Muskegon

The north harbor light at Muskegon

I checked the channel to see if there were any waterfowl present, just these gulls hanging out on the ice.

Gulls on ice

Gulls on ice

The gulls were quite cooperative, that’s a HDR image of them, as are most of the photos so far in this post, and the gulls “froze’ for the three images that I used to create the HDR image. Technically, I didn’t need to shoot most of these in HDR, I could have tweaked them in Lightroom, but I find that it’s just as easy to use the auto-bracket function of my cameras and create the HDR images when the scenes contain as much snow and ice as these do. However, this next one isn’t a HDR image, it’s straight out of the camera.

Herring gull on ice

Herring gull on ice

While I was getting a good photo of the gull above, a pair of mute swans came flying up the channel, close enough for me to get these.

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

The sounds that come from their wings as they fly is something to hear, which you can do some distance away since it’s so loud.

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

I went back to a short lens for this photo of the USS Silversides at dock. It’s hard to believe that this was all open water two weeks ago.

USS Silversides at dock

USS Silversides at dock

From there, I drove around Muskegon Lake to where Bear creek drains Bear Lake into Muskegon Lake to make a few more attempts at getting a perfect shot of a mallard. This may not be perfect, but it’s a darned good photo of a female mallard.

Female mallard

Female mallard

That was shot with the 70-200 mm lens and 1.4X tele-converter, as was this photo of a male.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Not bad, but he wouldn’t show me the blue patches on his wings, and I don’t like the reflections off the water on his side. I tried the zoom lens, thinking that I could zoom out for close-ups, or zoom in when a mallard came flying past me…

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

…but that didn’t work as well as I had hoped that it would.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

As I was playing with the tame mallards that were willing to stay very close to me, I discovered where all the other species of ducks that are normally found in the Muskegon area where hiding, farther up Bear Creek, right on the edge of the ice shelf on Bear Lake. Every once in a while, one or two individuals of the other species would drift down closer to me, but never close enough for a really good photo of them. There were ring-billed, redhead, common goldeneye, and common mergansers there, but all that I got photos of were this…

Juvenile common goldeneye duck

Juvenile common goldeneye duck

…and a male redhead.

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

To show the size difference between those two species, here they are together.

Juvenile common goldeneye in front of two male redhead ducks

Juvenile common goldeneye in front of two male redhead ducks

As the two male redhead ducks headed back to the safety of the ice pack, the one in the rear blinked its nictitating membrane so I included this photo to show you what it looks like.

Male redhead ducks

Male redhead ducks

You can’t see the membrane, but you can see how it makes the duck’s eye look funny in my photo when compared to the one above this one.

I went back to trying to get the perfect mallard photo, but failed again.

Male mallard bathing

Male mallard bathing

I also shot a few photos of the Pekin ducks there.

Pekin duck

Pekin duck

They must have thought that it was spring…

Pekin duck porn

Pekin duck porn

…from their behavior. 😉

Pekin ducks after mating

Pekin ducks after mating

If it hadn’t been quite so cold, I probably would have hung around there photographing the ducks until sunset, but I needed to warm up, so I drove to Muskegon State Park to shoot this one.

Muskegon State Park dune

Muskegon State Park dune

I really wanted a tighter shot, but I didn’t dare wait, as the light was changing as the clouds moved in and out from in front of the sun. It was a good thing that I didn’t wait, after I shot that one, I was in the process of switching to the 70-200 mm lens when the light changed for the worse. I waited a few minutes, then I headed for the last stop of the day, Duck Lake State Park. I arrived a little early, which gave me time to eat a snack before going out in the cold again, and as I was eating, it dawned on me to shoot this one from my car window.

Pre-sunset at Duck Lake

Pre-sunset at Duck Lake

After my snack, I tried to get this scene composed better than in a previous attempt.

My favorite tree at Duck Lake State Park

My favorite tree at Duck Lake State Park

The deep snow covering the dune that I was walking on top of didn’t help my efforts. So, I returned to the base of the dune to shoot this.

Pastel twilight

Pastel twilight

From there, I crossed the bridge to set-up for the sunset, which while lacking vivid colors, I found to be very beautiful, and also, very peaceful.

Duck Lake serenity

Duck Lake serenity

The better view was to my right.

Duck Lake dune at sunset

Duck Lake dune at sunset

You can see how many people had visited that day from all the tracks, darn!

Then, I turned back to the left to catch the last of the colorful sky that evening.

The last color of the day

The last color of the day

My plan had been to photograph the moon rising over Duck Lake, but that plan was foiled by a cloud bank that obscured the horizon, so I packed it in, and came home.

All this week, the weather forecast had said that Sunday was going to be almost like Saturday, but with a few more clouds, wrong. I was up before sunrise, only to be disappointed to find that it was completely overcast. That left out any sunrise, moon set photos. So, hoping that the sun would make an appearance later in the day, I headed for the Muskegon Wastewater facility to look for birds.That was a mistake, as not only was it cloudy and gloomy, shortly after I arrived, it began to mist with a few snowflakes now and then. I did find this belted kingfisher still hanging around.

Male belted kingfisher

Male belted kingfisher

But, I never found a snowy owl or other interesting species of bird, other than bald eagles. There were at least half a dozen eagles there, here are my two best photos of a juvenile in flight.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Believe me, I hung out around the eagles for quite a while trying to get better images, but they all refused to cooperate by coming any closer, except for one that snuck up on me. By the time that I got him in the viewfinder and in focus, all that I got of him was one wing, his feet and tail, so I won’t even post that one. I do have a few photos of the juveniles that were chasing each other around to establish their pecking order within the flock, but I’ll save those for my next post, since they were shot at too long a distance to be good.

I was able to observe the eagles, albeit at a distance, there were several juveniles and at least two adults, all hanging out at the Muskegon County landfill, which is adjacent to the wastewater facility. It was insightful to watch the interactions between the eagles, and also the crows that were there in great numbers, as you may imagine. Occasionally, the crows would find their courage and mob one of the eagles, but for the most part, the eagles ignored the crows when they did so. It was also difficult to put a firm number on the eagles there, as one would fly off, and a few minutes later, that one or another would return. I was too far away to be able to see their markings well enough to recognize all the individuals there. I did see one that was much lighter than all the others which I could tell from the others, and the two adults because of their coloration. I just wish that I could have gotten a little closer, and/or that the light had been better.

I could tell that the weather wasn’t going to improve, so I came home and went for a walk here despite the gloomy conditions. I shot one photo of ice in the creek, but I probably won’t post it since it isn’t very good either.

Because of the change in my work schedule, I had Monday off as well as the weekend. Right up until Sunday night the weather forecast had been for a cloudy day, wrong. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so I spent quite a bit of time outside around home here. But, I’ve gone on long enough, and posted too many photos already, so that’s where my next post will begin.

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

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29 responses

  1. Oh man, Jerry. What a treasure trove of photos! Call me crazy, but I do miss the beauty of Michigan winters, and your shots of the pier really drove that home. They are spectacular. Love the symmetry of the icy fence. Wish I had a whole wall of these photos to admire every day. You have outdone yourself.

    Although it was an inconvenience and annoyance for you, I’m happy to hear that you had to fight crowds at the Lakeshore. When it gets cold, its so easy just to stay inside. Makes me happy to know that folks will get out and move in the sunshine.

    Great post. I am smiling. Thanks.

    January 26, 2016 at 2:02 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! If we had more sunny days like that one, I wouldn’t mind winters here at all, because it is beautiful. It’s the endless cloudy days that get me down. If you’d really like some of these on the wall, let me know, and I’ll email you the images, and you can have them printed. They’ll go to an 8X10 print easily, and could be printed to 11X14 if you wanted.

      I think that half the state of Michigan was out taking in that sunny day, the parking lots were jammed almost everywhere that I went.

      January 26, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      • Jerry, I would be so flattered to have an image or two of yours at home. I will follow up with you when we are back in town. Can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

        A bit of sunshine makes all the difference between a great day, and a cold, crappy one doesn’t it? Hope more of the sunny ones are in your future.

        Thanks, Jerry. On Jan 26, 2016 12:35 PM, “Quiet Solo Pursuits” wrote:

        > quietsolopursuits commented: “Thank you very much Judy! If we had more > sunny days like that one, I wouldn’t mind winters here at all, because it > is beautiful. It’s the endless cloudy days that get me down. If you’d > really like some of these on the wall, let me know, and I’ll email you” >

        January 26, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      • No problem Judy, maybe by the time you’re back in town, I will have shot a good photo worth hanging on your wall. 🙂

        January 27, 2016 at 12:16 am

  2. Loved the ice and snow pictures, the frozen spray is something else. First class photographs of the birds too.

    January 26, 2016 at 3:08 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! Ice and snow always looks better someplace else. 😉

      January 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

  3. Wonderful post. Great photographs.

    January 26, 2016 at 6:10 am

    • Thank you very much Victor!

      January 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm

  4. Fabulous photos series, I really love your sunset shots.

    January 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Charlie!

      January 26, 2016 at 11:57 pm

  5. Can’t explain why, but I love the swirls of water and more subtle color of the mallard’s green head in ‘Male mallard bathing’. Your landscapes are improving by leaps and bounds. I absolutely love ‘My favorite tree at Duck Lake State Park’. If I could pass on a hint I was given at a workshop? The tree goes off the right edge of the shot. It’s not always possible and the shot is amazing as is, but would have been perfect if the branch tips at the edge of the picture hadn’t led the eye off the edge and away from the scene. I am envious of your kingfisher shot. The few I’ve managed to catch around here are all perched on the power lines and tend to silhouette against the bright sky. But I’ll keep trying…

    January 26, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! I understand the concept of not cutting off the tree branches, however, that tree is right on the edge of the road. There’s a large yellow sign telling people that the road curves there, as several people have hit the tree when they missed the turn. So, I had to decide whether to cut off the tree or include the sign. I’m surprised that the kingfisher let me get that close, they are normally gone before then.

      January 27, 2016 at 12:00 am

      • Yep! I know the frustration of the things that aren’t always possible. That doesn’t take away from what a great shot that is nevertheless.

        January 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm

  6. I think that my favourite shot among a feast of good things was the Muskegon State Park dune though the female mallard ran it close. As always, I enjoyed the variety of subjects that you photographed.

    January 26, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom!Give me some good light, and I do pretty well with my photos.

      January 27, 2016 at 12:01 am

  7. It really amazes me that the lighthouses can bear that much ice. It must weigh tons, and I’m surprised that it doesn’t seriously damage them. Sturdy buildings I’d say!
    I like the shots of the ducks but the landscapes are my favorites this time, especially the Duck Lake dune shot. I don’t really think the footprints spoil it.
    I don’t know what it is about those dune photos but the Muskegon State Park one is nice too. I’d frame both of them!

    January 26, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I forgot to add that to my post, how much the ice weighs and how well the lighthouses have to be built to stand up to the ice and waves.

      The thing that makes those two images that you mentioned special is the light, neither of them was planned. In one of the videos by Michael Melford that I watched, he said when you get magical light, find something to photograph, and that’s what I did. I wish that I would have had the time to switch lenses for the one in Muskegon State Park, but at least I caught the light before it faded.

      January 27, 2016 at 12:08 am

  8. Beautiful landscape shots and those gentle sunset photos are really lovely. I love the sound that Mute Swans make when they are flying – the noise is tremendous when a large flock fly past.

    January 26, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I do love the sounds of the mute swans, but our native trumpeter swans are even better, as they trumpet away while they are flying along with the sounds from their wings. They were hunted almost to extinction, so there’s not many around, but they’re making a come back. I hope to shoot a video of them one day to let others hear as well as see them.

      January 27, 2016 at 12:11 am

      • I look forward to that very much.

        January 27, 2016 at 3:46 am

  9. I can certainly understand why you look forward to spring/summer when your winter skies are usually gloomy, but when you have blue skies, my word, the snowy landscapes and the lakes are magical! I love the blue shades of the lake and the pretty pastel colours of the snow at sunrise and sunset. The mallard and other bird shots with the water swirls and reflections are gorgeous too. As a reader I enjoy the variation in all your seasons. It’s always a lovely escape to see your winter shots when I struggle with a Queensland summer. I’m glad to hear you are recovering well from the injuries too. 🙂

    January 26, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    • Thank you very much Jane! Michigan is a beautiful place in the winter, on the rare occasions that we get some sun. The other thing is the cold, it takes very cold temperatures to build up so much ice so quickly, although during an Australian summer, that may sound like a good thing. 😉

      January 27, 2016 at 12:13 am

  10. So many ducks!!! Where to begin–wait, what crash?!!! I’ve been on the road, the storm aftermath, etc.–I will have to scroll down & find out but meantime, yes, please, best wishes for speedy recovery! I know how much your photography & outdoor means to you so I am sure you want to be on the mend as quickly as possible. Go slow & take care!!!

    January 27, 2016 at 7:40 am

    • Thank you very much Lori! I was knocked down by a car in a parking lot as I was walking into a store. I’m fine now, it wasn’t that bad to begin with.

      January 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      • Glad to hear! Could have been really bad!

        January 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm

  11. Your captures of the frozen sprays on the lighthouses are spectacular, it’s hard to imagine they spray so high up! And the weight of the ice has to be tremendous. Great shots of the snowy landscapes and birds too, I always love your variety. BTW, I thought it odd to see mallards here doing it recently, too, I guess the ducks like to have fun year-round. 😉

    January 29, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! Since the Great Lakes are freshwater, the spray from them is more likely to turn to ice in the winter, so the lighthouses here have to be built extra strong to deal with the weight of the ice.

      Mallards pair up over the winter months, and I new that mating was one of the ways that they paired up, but I didn’t know other species did the same thing.

      January 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm

  12. A beautiful array of winter scenes, Jerry. The ice covering on the lighthouse was quite impressive. Is this a working lighthouse? How do they handle an ice covering like that?

    January 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! You asked if it was a working lighthouse, it is by today’s standards. Ships rely on electronic navigational aids these days, so the large lights that we think of when we think of a lighthouse have been removed because they are no longer needed. The lighthouses were constructed to handle the weight of the ice and snow in winter, but the lighthouse keeper probably would have chopped some of it off in the winter just as a way to fight boredom and to get some exercise. None of the lighthouses are manned any longer either, it’s all electronic and operated by remote control by the Coast Guard.

      January 31, 2016 at 2:37 am