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

Day five of my vacation

The morning of day five of my vacation started out with completely clear skies, and the warmest temperature so far that week. As good as the weather had been on the previous day, on this day, it turned out to be even better. I say that because just before sunset, a few clouds rolled in to create this wonderful sunset, first, looking to the east…

Sunset over Lake Huron

Sunset over Lake Huron

…then to the west…

Sunset over Thunder Bay 1

Sunset over Thunder Bay 1

…as the colors became more intense.

Sunset over Thunder Bay 2

Sunset over Thunder Bay 2

You may find it hard to understand why, but I’ve been having trouble writing this post, and choosing which photos to include.

In one of the earlier posts that I did on my week of vacation, I said that the 300 mm lens with the tele-converter behind it was too slow to auto-focus to catch most of the smaller birds as they flitted about. The Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) does much better, but the image quality it produces isn’t as good as what I can get from the 300 mm lens, especially in low light.

I also said that I visited each spot up there more than one time, and that I carried different camera gear with me on each visit. One time I would take the 300 mm lens and extender, along with a 60D body and a wide lens for landscapes, and the next time, I’d take the Beast, and the 60D body with the 100 mm macro lens on it.

To make a long story as short as I can, this trip really exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the camera gear that I currently use home to me.

But, it isn’t just the camera gear itself, it’s the way that I try to photograph a little of everything, from small birds perched in low light…

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

…to larger birds in flight…

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

…small birds in flight if I get the chance…

Tree swallow in flight

Tree swallow in flight

…flowers using my macro lens…

Siberian squill

Siberian squill

…landscapes…

Isaacson Bay's edge

Isaacson Bay’s edge

…to anything else that I find interesting at the time.

Tug pushing a barge loaded with cement from the LaFarge plant near Alpena, Michigan

Tug pushing a barge loaded with cement from the LaFarge plant near Alpena, Michigan

I know, I’ve said all that before, too many times.

However, that’s what I was thinking about the entire length of my vacation. On my way to the next location, I’d be thinking about which gear to bring, and what to leave in the car. It’s what I thought about as I was walking along the trails up there, and it’s what I’ve been obsessing over since I’ve been back home.

Making things worse is how spoiled the 7D Mk II has made me. I can’t put into words how well that it works for me, and until I looked at some of my older photos recently, I hadn’t really noticed that so much.

Not to brag, but the heron and swallow in flight photos are pretty darned good. But, there aren’t perfect, so I was a bit disappointed when I first viewed them. That’s funny when I think about it, I would have been thrilled with either of those images not that long ago, and now, they’re just a few more good, not great, photos of birds in flight. As the quality of the images that I’m getting increases, my standards are increasing at the same rate, or faster.

To make matters worse, even before I went on this vacation, I had begun to try different settings and combinations of settings, to learn more of what my camera gear is capable of, and how to get the best out of it. I’d also begun to shoot very common subjects in different ways and in different lighting than I have in the past, to also increase my skill level.

Maybe I’ve been on a temporary hot streak, but I’ve been getting the best images of my life during and since this vacation.

That’s why it’s hard for me to write about this day of my vacation, I spent the morning at the Besser-Bell Natural Area in the single-minded pursuit of a good photo of a black-throated blue warbler. I had seen them there earlier in the week, and had gotten one or two fair shots of one. Most of the photos that I saved from this day there are of the black-throated blue warblers hopping, jumping, or flying from one branch to another. I saved a few of them, intending to show every one how difficult it is to get good photos of small, quick birds. But, I’ve done enough of those types of photos in the past, so I’m going to delete all of the ones that I had intended to post here.

However, as an example of what I’ve deleted, here’s a black and white warbler moving just as I pressed the shutter release, resulting in a blurred image of it.

Black and white warbler on the move

Black and white warbler on the move

And, I saved that photo because it’s the only one of that species I was able to get, and I seldom see them around home.

Did I get the black-throated blue warbler photos that I wanted? Sort of.

Male Black-throated blue warbler

Male Black-throated blue warbler

 

Male Black-throated blue warbler

Male Black-throated blue warbler

Those are much better than I have shot in the past, but he was still way up in the treetops, and I hadn’t caught him singing.

It was about then that I spotted the ovenbird from earlier in this post, and not only did I get the previous shot, but it turned around and posed nicely for me.

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

 

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

At the time, I thought that while I hadn’t gotten the black-throated blue warbler the way that I wanted, at least I had gotten my best ever photos of an ovenbird.

I’m not sure if what happened next was a coincidence, or what, but I hadn’t moved more than a few feet when I heard another black-throated blue warbler singing, and I was able to spot him way up in the top of a tree. Even before I could begin to raise the camera up to try for a photo, he came flying down to my level, and posed, as if he had seen the ovenbird posing for me, and knew what I was after.

Male black-throated blue warbler singing

Male black-throated blue warbler singing

Okay, my patience, persistence, and perseverance paid off, I got better images of two species of birds that I seldom see around home, so why have I been driving myself crazy agonizing over what gear I should purchase in the future, and how I approach photography.

As I said, this vacation really exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the gear that I’m using now, but on the other hand, I’m shooting my best photos ever.

I was able to save the entire week’s worth of photos on two 64 GB memory cards in the 7D, and a 32 GB card in the 60D, but it was a royal pain in the posterior to download, sort, separate, and edit all of the approximately 3,000 images that I shot that week once I returned home. It would have been so much easier if I had a laptop computer along so that I could have downloaded the images from the cameras each day, and sorted out the ones that I found were junk right then, rather than going through 3,000 images all at once.

While I had plenty of storage for images, battery power was a bit of a problem. Luckily, I have a power inverter that I can plug into my vehicle, and I used that to recharge the batteries for the 7D, or I would have run out of batteries for that body. The 60D body chugged along all week on just one battery, as I knew that it would, so that wasn’t a problem.

My dilemma stems from not being able to afford everything that I would like to have now, and how to get what I’d like on my limited budget. For example, Canon is offering rebates on some of the lenses that I’d like to have, but you have to purchase two lenses or a lens and a camera body to qualify for the rebates. I’d really like a quality long zoom lens to replace the Beast, and I have a wide-angle lens picked out for when I purchase a full frame body, but I don’t know if I want to spend the money on both lenses right now, even though I could afford it. The wide-angle lens would work on the 60D body for landscapes, and it’s a L series lens, so it’s probably a better lens than my current one, but the one that I have now does well enough for the time being.

B&H Photo has some older Macbook Pro laptop computers in stock, at about half the cost of the newer models. That would work just fine for what I intend to use it for in the future, but it wouldn’t get much use at all at the current time, it would be sitting around most of the time. Should I grab one now before they run out of stock, or risk having to spend a lot more in the future, when it won’t be used very often now?

I definitely need more battery power for the 7D, and I’d like a battery grip for that body that holds two batteries, so I’d be sure not to face a dead battery during a day of shooting. There have been several times that I’ve had to switch batteries in the 7D because I can drain a battery in one day, and that’s especially true of the off-brand battery that I got as a freebie with the 7D. That battery didn’t last an entire day when I used it during my vacation.

I didn’t really want to go into all of this in this post about my vacation, but it was during my vacation that many of these issues came up. Working on this post is even more difficult because I’d like to jump ahead to photos that I’ve shot since then to illustrate my points.

Basically, it comes down to this, do I spend my money now on lenses that will have a direct impact on the quality of the images that I shoot, or should I save money now by buying the laptop computer, along with accessories for my cameras that may not impact the quality of my images, but are things that would make my life easier, now, and especially in the future?

Making the decisions that I face tougher is the fact that I’m continuing to learn how to get the best out of what I have now. This is a shot from my morning at Besser-Bell, using the 60D and 100 mm macro lens.

Wood bluets

Wood forget-me-nots

And, this is what the Beast is capable of with a little help from me as far as focusing.

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

One of the many things that I have been trying lately is manually focusing in tough situations when the camera and lens hunts for a focus for too long a time. Sometimes, as with the dragonfly, I only have to get close with the focus, so that the camera and lens know what I want to focus on, then I can hit the button to let camera take it from there. Other times, I have to completely focus manually, as with this crow snoozing in the tree tops.

American crow

American crow

Well, it had been snoozing until it heard me playing around under him or her, then it took off…

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

That’s not a very good photo, I have much better ones that I’ve shot since I’ve been home, but it would be cheating to use one of the newer ones in that one’s place.

The same applies to this photo of a cedar waxwing…

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

…I have much better images from around home here, but that was the best that I could get while on vacation.

I suppose the good news is that working with the Beast a bit more for birds in flight, I was able to get these, as well as the earlier ones in this post.

Common tern in flight

Common tern in flight

 

Common tern in flight

Common tern in flight

 

Common tern in flight

Common tern in flight

These common mergansers synchronized their wing beats nicely…

Common mergansers in flight

Common mergansers in flight

…,but I was out of position to take full advantage of that.

Common mergansers in flight

Common mergansers in flight

I was working on bird in flight photos because I wanted to get better photos of the black terns that I’ve seen every time that I’ve been to the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary, but once again, they stayed just out of range for a good photo.

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

 

Black tern in flight

Black tern in flight

Not great, but better than my previous efforts.

I knew that my vacation was winding down, and the weather was as close to perfect as it could be, so I spent a lot of time just sitting on top of the hill in the Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary just enjoying my time there. I didn’t put much effort into photography, unless something came to me.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

 

Juvenile male American redstart

Juvenile male American redstart

 

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

 

Mute swan family

Mute swan family

After dinner, I stopped off at Partridge Point one last time on my way back to the campground, where I shot these.

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

 

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

 

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

 

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

 

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

I knew that the next morning, I’d be winding up to fly also.

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

From there, it was back to the campground, where I shot the sunset photos that I began this post with.

I’m not really happy with this post, I didn’t want to dwell on the photography aspect as much as I did, although I could have gone on much longer about that. But, this vacation was nearly a month ago, and a lot has happened since then. Also, in many ways, this vacation was a test of sorts for what I hope will be more, and longer vacations in the future. So, not only was this vacation wonderful as far as getting away from home for a while and enjoying myself immensely, it also told me that I was on the right track as far as what photo gear and accessories  that I have on my wish list.

In addition, what has transpired since I’ve been back home has added fuel to the fire, so to speak, of where I’d like to go with my photography, how much that there still is for me to learn, and how I go about getting photos in the future. One of those things that has happened is that I got another lifer for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, not big news by itself, but how I got the photos is. And, I’ve shot many of the best images of my life in the weeks since this vacation, so that has been on my mind as well. Now, I need time to get caught up in my blogging.

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

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24 responses

  1. Jerry, Love the Ovenbird shots and the dragonfly in flight.

    Reflecting on what photography means to me at age 66; I’m currently using a Canon 60D I purchased used and a purchased new Sigma 150-500 for my more serious shots and a Panasonic FZ200 for those long walks in the woods. I sometimes think about going all in and upgrading to the latest DSLR technology but given the equipment I have, or feel like writing the check for, I’ve chosen to content myself to the fact that there are some pictures I will never take. The good part is there still a lot out there that I can do a reasonable job of photographing. For me it’s been liberating to accept limits.

    June 12, 2016 at 7:21 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! I still use my 60D bodies a lot, almost all of the landscapes and macro photos were shot with one of them. It’s a much better camera than the experts gave it credit for when it was released. I’ve always dabbled in photography, except for a few years while the rest of the world transitioned from film to digital. It was a somewhat cheaper hobby back in the film days as far as gear, one body, no matter how old, pretty much did the trick. But, film and developing offset that to a large degree. For me now, I’ve decided that I’m going to devote the rest of my life to the two things that have always given me the most pleasure, being outdoors, and photography, so I don’t mind the expense as much as other people who have other interests as well.

      June 12, 2016 at 4:14 pm

  2. Love the little ovenbird – what a charmer. The lighting on these shots is perfect – even the little ridges on her feet are highlighted.

    Can’t imagine having 3000 photos to sort through from just one week’s vacation. That kind of volume is a whole job in itself – if I had that to deal with, you’d only see one blog post from me a year, while I sorted things out. It really struck me how much time you put into this whole endeavor.

    Isn’t it easy to be dazzled by the lure of new gear? My eyes will forever be waaaay larger than my wallet/credit card/checkbook. But I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Hope the glow of vacation is helping to get you through the blah of going back to work.

    June 12, 2016 at 8:33 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I almost walked past the ovenbird as it was perched there, I was intent on getting one of the black-throated blue warblers overhead. They are a great example of a somewhat plain bird as far as color, but are very cute when you see them close up.

      3,000 photos is a lot to sort through, but I can delete about half of a day’s shooting in no time. Head turned the wrong way, delete, out of focus, delete, wind blew a leaf in front of the subject, delete.Then the hard part comes, choosing the best of the good ones, rating and adding keywords to them, as well as editing.

      I’ve shortened my want list quite a bit as I’ve learned what’s really needed and what things that would be nice, but not required are. I still would like a full frame camera with the capabilities of the 7D though, for better low light images, since I shoot so many at sunrise and sunset.

      Unfortunately, this vacation was so good, that it’s made it harder to go back to work each day, I’d so much rather be up north somewhere.

      June 12, 2016 at 4:25 pm

  3. Oh my goodness, what a feast of delightful photographs. I pick out the sunsets, the blue heron, the chipmunk and the small birds as special for me.

    June 12, 2016 at 8:37 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I think that you picked about all of them. 😉

      June 12, 2016 at 4:25 pm

  4. Software goes out of date so quickly these days if it were my choice I wouldn’t buy a laptop until I needed one.
    I love the sunsets and the shot of Isaacson Bay’s edge is excellent. It looks like a true wilderness.
    I don’t know of a plant called wood bluets. I thought someone identified that one the last time you showed it. I wonder if they’re alpine forget me nots (Eritrichium nanum) which have hairy leaves / stems.
    The shot of the flying dragonfly is fantastic! It’s all I can do to get a shot of one sitting still.
    I like the shots of the sandpiper too. It looks like cedar seedlings growing right out of the water in those shots, which is something you don’t usually see outside of a cedar swamp.
    Beautiful shots. I don’t envy your having to choose them out of 3000!

    June 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen!

      Macs are a little different than a Windows machine, and I don’t mind using outdates software anyway. I still used Lotus Smartsuite up until the time I switched to a Mac. Besides, since thinking about it a bit more, I may find more uses for a laptop now, like tethered shooting, especially video, so I can use the bigger screen of the laptop rather than the three inch screen of the camera.

      I goofed when I was dealing with the plant identifications and adding the keywords to Lightroom. Just as I goofed up last year on bladderwort and bladder campions, I mixed the names of two different species together. The flowers here are wood forget-me-nots.

      I was lucky with the flying dragonfly, it hovered in the same spot repeatedly, letting me know where it would be, so I could be ready for it.

      The cedars behind the sandpiper probably started on dry land, but the water level of Lake Huron is up several feet in the past three years, so now the water has reached them.

      3,000 images aren’t that bad to sort when almost half of them are obviously junk and can be deleted right away. 😉

      June 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm

  5. These are so wonderful! I love the oven bird shots especially but the dragonfly, the wood bluets, the squill, the singing black-throated blue warbler, the swallow and the sunset shots are all memorable. I am glad you had a relaxing and enjoyable vacation and I am really looking forward to seeing the shots you have taken since your return.

    June 12, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I had an excellent holiday as you call it, both as far as the photographs that I shot, but more importantly, it was one of the best weeks of my life.

      June 12, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      • Excellent!

        June 12, 2016 at 5:56 pm

  6. If you shot better photos once you got home then they must be pretty darned good because there were some corkers here. The temptation to buy new kit generally passes me by because I know that I wouldn’t have the patience to learn how to get the best out of it or the energy to use it so I admire your dedication to thinking things through and then taking the time to get to know what you have purchased.

    June 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Being single, with no kids, it’s a lot easier for me to devote myself to photography rather than sitting around watching TV all the time. I get some exercise, both physical and mental, and I enjoy my time outdoors immensely, with or without a camera, so it may as well be with.

      June 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      • It certainly keeps you busy….and to very good effect for your readers.

        June 13, 2016 at 5:53 pm

  7. You took some photos that are really beyond my current reach: dragonfly flying (usually I must wait for them to land and hold still for a few seconds); that tree swallow so colorful and sharp. The sunset ones are also stunning. Excellent post as usual! You must have had a good time on your vacation. Thank you for sharing your experience through these wonderful photos.

    June 12, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    • Thank you very much! Sometimes camera gear has little to do with the shot, as in the case of the dragonfly in flight. I got that by watching the pattern it flew in, and getting to where it stopped regularly, then all I had to do is wait. With the swallow, I over-exposed it a little, then brought it back in Lightroom, it’s a great way to get the colors right on darker subjects.

      June 12, 2016 at 11:41 pm

  8. My favorites are also the ovenbird and dragonfly in flight, but it is hard to choose favorites among such beautiful photos! I have an old Sony Cybershot point and shoot. I can document life around me but that is about all.

    June 12, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! Yep, I had a fine vacation, that’s for sure, which shows in the photos I was able to shoot.

      June 12, 2016 at 11:37 pm

  9. Fantastic photos! That singing black throated blue is a real special treat~~

    June 13, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Jet! I’m glad that you liked that one, I worked my butt off for it. 😉

      June 14, 2016 at 12:01 am

  10. Amazing set of photos to scroll through again and again and enjoy. I love them all but I do have favourites- it’s funny why some photos jump out at you when they are all so brilliant- anyway- the blue warbler, the ‘singing’ flying tern, redstart, ovenbird, the iridescent tree swallow and the top favourite – the dragonfly! Pleased that your holiday was successful in so many ways and it gave you time to think things through and relax.

    June 13, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    • Thank you very much! It was such a pleasant week that I really hated for it to end. As good as the photos are, the time I spent up there was even better, I hated to return home.

      June 14, 2016 at 12:04 am

  11. More WOWs, Jerry! I do believe this vacation gave you time to unwind and really enjoy your equipment and photographic skills and nature around you. I really loved seeing the black-throated blue warbler which I’ve never seen before and that dragonfly in flight, WOW! (again!)

    June 14, 2016 at 12:07 am

    • Thanks again Donna! I certain did unwind, and I was very relaxed. I didn’t try to cover the entire quarter of Michigan where I was staying like I usually do. I stayed close to where I camped, and slowed down a lot.

      June 14, 2016 at 12:18 am