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…
…then to the west…
…as the colors became more intense.
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…
…to larger birds in flight…
…small birds in flight if I get the chance…
…flowers using my macro lens…
…to anything else that I find interesting at the time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And, this is what the Beast is capable of with a little help from me as far as focusing.
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.
Well, it had been snoozing until it heard me playing around under him or her, then it took off…
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…
…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.
These common mergansers synchronized their wing beats nicely…
…,but I was out of position to take full advantage of that.
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.
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.
After dinner, I stopped off at Partridge Point one last time on my way back to the campground, where I shot these.
I knew that the next morning, I’d be winding up to fly also.
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!