So much for that idea
In my last post, I was contemplating taking an early retirement, but continuing to work most of the year after that, until I reached the full retirement age for me, 66 years and two months. While the calculator on the Social Security website had me believing that it could work, reality has set in. If you take an early retirement, you are locked into the lesser benefit amount for the rest of your life. By working while you’re drawing those benefits, you can increase the benefit after you do fully retire, but only for a few years, then the benefit drops back down. That’s where I went wrong, the online calculator didn’t go out for very many years, so I assumed that the higher benefits continued out for life. They don’t, they would eventually drop back down to a level that I know wouldn’t be enough for me to live on. Darn!
So, it looks as if I’m stuck working full-time until I do reach full retirement age. However, that wouldn’t stop me from saving enough money to take a leave of absence from work, to use as a longer vacation. The company that I’m working for now prides itself on giving people time off when they want it, or so they say, I guess I’ll see if that’s true, or just another one of their lies to get people to come to work for them. I’ll also say that if I die before I’m 70, I’ll regret having not taken an early retirement.
Okay, enough of that. This post will be about two trips that I took to the Muskegon area the past two weekends. I shot very few bird photos during either trip, and saved very, very few from the first trip. Yesterday’s trip was more productive, as I went to Duck Lake State Park to shoot the sunrise, and then hiked one of the trails there. I had the 60D with my 15-85 mm lens on it set-up on my good tripod to shoot the actual sunrise over Duck Lake, but I wished that I had brought everything with me from the parking lot to where I set-up, for I could have used a second tripod, camera, and lens to shoot in the opposite direction to have gotten a better photo than this one.
I shot that one with the 7D and 300 mm L series lens handheld at too low of a shutter speed, and too wide of an aperture for the shot that I really wanted. Because of those limitations, I didn’t get the beautiful pink color of the sky as well as I would have liked. But, as I said, the camera mounted on the tripod was busy capturing this image at about the same time. I spent the time right around sunrise running back and forth between Duck Lake itself, and the Lake Michigan beach there just a 100 yards away to the west.
You can tell by the ripples on the lake that it was a very windy morning, the ripples show even though that image is a HDR image, three long exposures blended together. Once I had shot that one, and decided it was the best that I would get, I raced under the bridge to try to get a better version of the first photo, but by then, it was too late, most of the color in the sky had faded and I settled for this one to remind me of what could have been.
In fact, all during the duration of the sunrise, I was shooting sunrise photos with the tripod mounted camera from time to time, and shooting other photos with the 7D and 300 mm lens handheld. I like keeping the bird/wildlife set-up with me all the time, because I never know what I’ll see. When I first got to where I set-up to shoot the sunrise, I could see raccoon tracks in the sand, and I could also see spots in the sand from water dripping off from the raccoon and they were still wet…
…which meant that the raccoon had passed by just before I had arrived. I may have even frightened it away as I approached in the near darkness at the time, which is why I prefer to always be prepared. However, these next photos could have been better if I had shot them correctly.
Yes, all four of those would have been better if I had shot them correctly, but that’s a quandary that I run into all the time. My backpack which holds all my gear is very heavy, but it was a cold, windy morning, so I didn’t want to have to bother with everything. Besides, I don’t feel comfortable leaving that much camera gear sitting in one spot while I wander around shooting other things with the second camera, like those photos above, or the gulls flying overhead in the early morning light.
I shot dozens of photos of the gulls flying past me, but these are the only two that I’ll post from sunrise.
In fact, I have too many photos of flying gulls as it is, but the only way to stay good at bird in flight photos is to practice all the time, and gulls are easy practice subjects. I watched another online tutorial about bird in flight photography that reminded me of that fact. While I have the 7D dialed in so that it works extremely well for birds in flight, if my technique isn’t correct, then I’ll miss shots like this one.
That was taken later that same morning at the Bear Lake channel, but for right now, it’s back to Duck Lake just after sunrise. I waited around for a short time hoping to catch some magical light hitting the dunes there, this is the best that I came up with.
I went back to my vehicle after that to warm up and decide what to do next. Since I had seen many birds there while hiking the trails, I decided that a hike was called for again. Maybe it was because of the wind, but I saw very few birds, and didn’t shoot any photos of them until I was almost back to the parking lot. However, the ones that I did get…
…sort of made up for the lack of quantity…
…for these where cropped just a little for the purpose of composition more than anything…
…and it isn’t easy to get that close to a kinglet. I tend to forget just how much practice it takes to keep up with the very small birds in the brush, especially birds that move as quickly and as often as the kinglets do. I have half a dozen photos of them that are blurry because they were moving when the shutter went off. I finally remembered to limit myself to trying to keeping one in the frame, and let the 7D do all the work of focusing while shooting away in burst mode. If I had tried to time that last shot, I would have missed it, for the kinglet only fluffed itself like that for a split second before it turned around and flitted away.
Actually, I should have come up with a title for this post that had something to do with practice, for it seems like a long time since I’ve been out taking photos. I needed to practice to get the kinglet. I also shot some practice landscapes there at Duck Lake other than the sunrise shots.
And, I also practiced shooting some of the smaller things that I saw.
All of those are HDR images shot with the 60D body and 15-85 mm lens as I try tried to bring out the colors, along with getting depth to my photos. I think that the playing around in my apartment during the winter paid off. When I see these photos, they look almost exactly as I saw the scenes when I shot them.
Seeing a chipmunk…
…I practiced stalking it so that I could get closer and to have better light.
And I practiced keeping my eyes open to the other things in nature which I have not been paying enough attention to lately. I was seeing many partridge-berry plants, and I found a few that still had berries.
I have no idea what this next plant was, but there were a few of them growing in a ring which leads me to think that they are a parasitic plant that grew on an old tree stump underground, but I didn’t check that theory.
The next one is simple, it’s the edges of two chunks of ice that were floating on the lake.
I have no idea what this is, it could be just trash for all I can tell. However, it looked like it was emerging from the ground the way that there’s dirt on the top of it.
That wraps up my time at Duck Lake. My next stop was the Bear Lake channel, where I stopped to eat my lunch, and to watch the mallards and Pekin ducks there. Just a few quick shots of the ducks there…
…told me that the light was “dead” and that there was no reason to attempt the perfect shot of a mallard. Still, while I was there eating my lunch, whenever I had a chance to catch a mallard in flight, I did. I was attempting to fill the frame without cropping…
…but keeping a fast flying mallard coming in for a landing…
…in the frame without clipping its wings off was tough.
It’s obvious that I need more practice. It may have worked better if I didn’t have the camera beside me as I ate, grabbing it when a mallard took flight, as this one did, coming straight at me.
After playing with the ducks for a while, I headed over to the wastewater treatment facility to see what I could find there. The only thing of note was that a few of the northern shovelers had returned as they’re migrating back to the north.
That really didn’t surprise me, the prior week while I was there, I found very few things to photograph, and because of the light, what photos I did shoot…
…weren’t very good. That was shot just a few minutes after sunrise though…
…and as you can see, it was going to be a cloudy day. I did get a bad photo of a golden eagle though…
…and any day that you see a golden eagle is a good one, no matter how poor the photos of it turn out. I suppose that the same could be said of this one as well…
…but I still kicked myself for not getting a good shot of the fox. I caught it napping in the early morning light, what there was of it, but by the time I got into position to shoot a photo, it had noticed me and taken off for a safer place to sleep the day away.
I still have a few other photos from both of the trips, but I’ll save them for later, except for this one, my best image from the first trip.
I may not make it out for a walk again this week, because of the weather. Last week, we got nearly a foot of snow during the middle part of the week, but by Sunday, we set a record high for the date. It would have been a perfect early spring day, except for the winds pushing the warm air into the region. By Sunday night, it was snowing again, and we’re in for another snow storm for overnight tonight. Then, it’s supposed to warm up for next weekend, I sure hope so. This pattern that we’ve been in, with snow and cold part of the week, and warm temps for the other part is getting old. It’s better than the last two winters with just snow and cold, but I’m ready for spring. I’d like to be able to spend some quality time outside, just sitting and observing the wildlife, rather than freezing, or worrying if sand is going to be blown into my camera gear as I switch lenses.
March is coming in like a lion, this storm starting tonight is forecast to bring us another 6 to 8 inches of snow. I sure hope that this month lives up to the old saying and goes out like a lamb.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!