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

As I make the transition

Luck plays a huge role in getting good nature photographs, I finished my last post with an image of a great blue heron in flight. Because of the angle at which the heron flew past me, it wasn’t the greatest photo in the world. But, I kept on shooting, and while I had a better angle on the heron for the next image, I snapped the shutter just as it flew past a boat in the Muskegon Lake channel.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

You can also see the USS Silversides, a WW II era submarine…

The USS Silversides

The USS Silversides

…in the background as well.

I didn’t even notice that I had the boat in the background in that first photo, I was concentrating on keeping the heron in the frame and in focus as I continued to shoot.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Of course by then, it was moving away from me, so these shots aren’t what I would have liked.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

One of the many things that I love about Michigan is that there’s wildlife nearly everywhere because there’s enough undeveloped land and water all around the state to keep the wildlife happy. I can go to a suburban park just on the outskirts of Michigan’s second largest city, Grand Rapids, and shoot nature photos…

Turkey

Turkey

…that few people would suspect…

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

…hadn’t been taken in some place more remote.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I can go to the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility and capture a range of subjects that many people never see in the wild.

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

 

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

 

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

 

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

 

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

The same holds true of the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, it’s a great place for birding…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

 

Juvenile red-winged blackbird

Juvenile red-winged blackbird

…and other subjects as well.

Iris

Iris

 

Damselfly with lunch

Damselfly with lunch

However, one of the other things that those places, along with the other places that I go regularly,  share is people.

People are alright, after all, I’m a people too. However, they’re not so good to have around if I’m trying to get a good close-up of a bird…

Common yellowthroat

Male Common yellowthroat

…because some one else passing by usually results in a shot like this.

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

To go along with that, I don’t appreciate being struck by a jerk on a mountain bike who thinks that the signs saying “No Bikes” don’t apply to him. And, while I think that it’s a good idea to introduce children to nature at an early age, having a family decide that where I’ve set-up to shoot for the day is also a great place for a picnic is not going to result in a photo like these.

American coot

American coot

 

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

 

Virginia rail

Virginia rail

None of the last three were cropped at all, that’s how close I was to the birds when I shot the photos, neither was this one.

Muskrat

Muskrat

I know that the plans that I have come up with both for future purchases of camera gear, and also for how I’m going to go about getting better images in the future are going to work well. However, as I make the transition from how I have been doing it, shooting what I see while hiking, to setting up a hide and waiting for the chance for an excellent image, I see that I also have to find some more out of the way places to set-up the hide, or it will all be for nothing.

If I’m going to sit in a hide for hours hoping to get a shot like this…

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

…then I’d rather not have the chance ruined by a jogger, some one walking their dog, or a herd of other birders passing by at the wrong time. Actually, I hope that if I sit in a hide for hours that I’ll get a better photo than that one, but the oriole snuck up behind me, so the light was wrong for that one. But, it does illustrate how close that birds will approach me if I’m at least partially hidden, and remain still.

Yes, luck is part of a good nature photo, but as in every other endeavor, you can make your own luck.

Finding new places to go is especially important if I want to shoot more videos in the future, and I do. There’s too much human background noise in most of the places that are my regular stops now.

One of the things that I have on my wish list that I’ll be ordering soon is a unidirectional microphone, that will help to eliminate unwanted background noise. However, I doubt if it can totally eliminate the traffic noise that echoes off from the hills and trees around home, or at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, or the whirring of pumps and other equipment at the wastewater facility.

There’s another reason to shoot more videos, to aid in identifying species of birds. The only difference between a willow flycatcher, and an alder flycatcher is their call. It’s the same eastern and western meadowlarks, they look the same, their song is the best way to differentiate between the two species. Seen from the front, a dickcissel also looks very similar…

Male dickcissel singing

Male dickcissel singing

to a meadowlark as well.

Male eastern meadowlark singing

Male eastern meadowlark singing

However, from the back…

Male dickcissel

Male dickcissel

…it’s quite easy to tell a dickcissel from a meadowlark.

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Some of the new places that I find to set-up a hide may require overnight stays, then, the laptop computer that I’m going to purchase will come in handy.

By the way, I’ll probably be placing my order for the next batch of stuff this Thursday. The model of Macbook Pro that I had on my wish list has sold out, so I’m going with a similar, but cheaper model. It has less RAM, which is okay, I can add more later much cheaper than it costs from Apple, just as I did with my iMac. It also has a 500 GB hard drive versus a 1 TB drive, but I think that 500 GB is large enough for temporary storage of photos, and I could always replace that drive with a larger one, at less money.  It’s an older model, but that’s its appeal to me, it can still be user upgraded if I want, where the newer MacBooks are factory sealed, and you can’t upgrade anything yourself. In fact, I could install a large SSD drive for less than Apple wants for the larger 5400 RPM drive. The model that I’m going to purchase now is $400 less than the model I was going to buy, but I can fill the cheaper one with RAM and install a larger, faster hard drive for around $100. That’s a $300 savings, nothing to sneeze at. With those savings, I am going to update the old version of Lightroom that I’ve been using to Lightroom 6.

If I am going to go on more weekend long trips, then the battery grip with two batteries will come in handy so that I don’t run out of juice while I’m shooting. The battery grip also makes it easier to go from this…

Water lily

Water lily

…to this.

Water lily and reflection

Water lily and reflection

While still on what I plan to purchase soon, the last item worth mentioning is the last of the 6 stop neutral density filters that I need to have one of those filters for all my lenses. I haven’t had too many opportunities to use them, but when I have…

Train trestle and dam in Hamilton, Michigan

Train trestle and dam in Hamilton, Michigan

…I’ve been very pleased with the results.

I had planned to begin scouting new locations within the Muskegon State Game Area last weekend, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was extremely hot on Saturday, too hot for me to go tramping around in the woods all day, and it rained on Sunday morning.

What I’m going to be looking for starts with water, for not only do you need water to attract ducks…

Male Blue-winged teal

Male Blue-winged teal

 

Blue-winged teal pair

Blue-winged teal pair

…but also for shorebirds…

White-Romped sandpipers

White-Romped sandpipers

…and of course, wading birds. If I find a good spot, I may get one of these wading…

Green heron

Green heron

…instead of being perched in a tree facing the wrong direction.

In fact, I think that water features are very important for all species of birds. Of course the birds need water to drink, but there’s more to it than that. Part of it is the vegetation that grows up around bodies of water.

Eastern wood peewee

Eastern wood pewee

 

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

 

Marsh wren

Marsh wren

There are only a few species of birds that live in the tops of mature trees, and I don’t have any photos of them at the moment. Most birds prefer a mix of vegetation, especially around water, because many of them feed on insects, and near water is where there are the most species of insects…

Red-winged blackbird taking a dragonfly to its young

Red-winged blackbird taking a dragonfly to its young

 

Female Baltimore oriole taking home a bug

Female Baltimore oriole taking home a spider to its young

Also, many species of birds use mud to construct or line their nests, as with the cliff swallow from the last post…

Cliff swallow gathering mud for its nest

Cliff swallow gathering mud for its nest

…barn swallows…

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

…and robins.

American robin

American robin

Ideally, the place that I’m looking for would have a number of small ponds connected by a stream flowing through them, that empties into a lake. It would have a mix of vegetation, from cattails and reeds, to willows and alders, and the higher ground would have a mix of both pines and hardwoods.

I may never find one place that fills all the requirements that I’m looking for, but since several of the places that I go to regularly now come very close, I hope to find something similar, but with less human traffic to scare the critters away while I’m trying to photograph them.

Breaking news! With this weekend being the long 4th of July weekend, and with me possibly getting Monday off from work, I placed the order for the new stuff this evening. Hopefully, I will have some new toys to play with  new tools to learn to use this weekend!

I will continue with what I’m looking for as far as new places to go and other things in my next post.

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

Advertisements

22 responses

  1. You take stunning pictures these days, the post was a great pleasure to scroll through. I loved the iris and the water lilies the best I think.

    June 29, 2016 at 3:06 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! It was a great pleasure for me to spend the time outside watching the the things that I photographed.

      June 29, 2016 at 7:05 am

  2. Excellent post and wonderful photos!

    June 29, 2016 at 7:33 am

    • Thank you very much Belinda!

      June 29, 2016 at 7:38 am

  3. It’s been awhile since you’ve posted many shorebirds shots, and seeing them reminds me that they are my very favorite of all your photos.

    Love the Hamilton waterfall shot. Usually, I’m not a big fan of slow shutter release water photos, but the golden light and the whole pastoral setting make it perfect in this photo. You should find a Pure Michigan contest and enter it (I’m sure they have them occasionally), or be a guest blogger http://www.michigan.org/blog/be-a-guest-blogger/ I think folks wandering through the Pure Michigan site would be delighted to stumble across your incredible photos.

    Have fun getting new stuff to use – you always seem to have a really short learning curve for new gear – something I admire. I’ve become old and slow enough that I dread new technology (except my new phone, which is a dream compared to the old one).

    June 29, 2016 at 8:50 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I haven’t been posting many shorebird photos because they all look the same to most people. I have a few more that I’ll be posting shortly, it was a very good year for them as far as numbers.

      I’ll have to check out that link, but I’m not sure how many people would be interested in the subjects that I typically shoot. I did enter the Nature.org photo contest recently, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for the results.

      It’s funny that you would say that I have a short learning curve, I used to, but I’m not so sure any more. That’s one of the things that I love about photography, it’s forcing me to think more. I think that for a while, my life was on autopilot, and I let my brain get all muddied. I have noticed a difference lately, the old me is making a comeback. I hope that the trend continues with the new stuff.

      The slow shutter water photos are like any others, they have to be done right for the right subjects. Too many people see a technique and use it all the time, like the slow shutter. Not all falling or moving water photographs well that way. The dam does, because there’s not that much water coming over it, and as you say, the scene in its entirety makes it work.

      June 29, 2016 at 9:04 am

  4. Lovely lovely pics!

    June 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Nataly!

      June 29, 2016 at 10:36 pm

  5. Another excellent post! Your shots are getting better and better and the variety of subjects you photograph, and photograph well, astounds me. I hope you find somewhere to set up your hide and I look forward to the shots you take there.

    June 29, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Every time that I get to the point where I think that I’m doing the best that I can with the gear that I have, my images begin to improve again, going up a level each time. I hope that by getting closer to wildlife that I can continue that trend.

      June 29, 2016 at 11:17 pm

  6. I hope that you get endless fun with your new toys and that you find a perfect spot to sit and use them uninterrupted by the rude world. By the way, you did pretty well in this post with the old gear and all the annoyances of life.

    June 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

  7. That sounds like a good enough plan Jerry, and I hope it works out for you. I also hope you get Monday off!
    I didn’t count them but there’s an amazing number of different bird species in this post. I think I like the yellowlegs best this time.
    Those are also great shots of the muskrat and turkey. I was seeing a lot of turkeys for a while but not now.
    I like the shot of the train trestle and dam too. The lighting almost makes it look like an old sepia print.
    Sitting in a bird blind sounds like an easy thing to do but I doubt that I’d have the patience for it. I hope you do!

    June 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I think that I will have Monday off, but I forgot to ask, but they probably don’t know yet anyway.

      It’s funny that you commented on the variety of birds, I feel like I’ve been in a rut shoot the same few species most of the time. But, I think that it’s because I try to get better images each time out.

      I have some real close-ups of the muskrat coming, but I’m not getting as close to turkeys as I would like.

      For the shot of the train trestle I used a neutral density filter which isn’t as neutral as they claimed. It’s what added the warm color cast to that image. However, I love the look of it, so I won’t complain that it isn’t perfectly neutral. 😉

      I haven’t used a blind yet, but I’ve been practicing by sitting in partially hidden spots. As long as there are things to watch and occasionally photograph I can sit there. But, it doesn’t take long if I’m not seeing anything before I get bored and move to the next spot.

      June 29, 2016 at 11:25 pm

  8. Another wonderful post full of brilliant photos and interest. Great shot of a submarine- it’s huge! The juvenile red winged blackbird looked to be having a bad hair day! I love the water lily photo- exquisite detail.

    June 30, 2016 at 5:21 am

    • Thank you very much! I shoot a photo of the sub or one of the other ships now and then so that people have an idea about how large the Great Lakes are. They are really freshwater seas, and we’re surrounded by them here in Michigan.

      June 30, 2016 at 7:00 am

  9. Best to keep doing whatever it is you enjoy. It doesn’t hurt to keep the mind active, too. Sounds and looks like you’re on the right track judging by the excellent pics we see here.

    July 1, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! Yes, it’s keeping my mind active, but sitting in a hide won’t do much for the rest of me. 😉

      July 2, 2016 at 12:09 am

  10. A wonderful collection of photos, Jerry! The Ruddy Ducks with their blue bills are really something, as are the Coots with their white bills and red eyes. Yes, keep doing what you enjoy doing. The posts and photos are always a treat.

    July 2, 2016 at 11:08 am

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ll keep doing what I have been, only better I hope.

      July 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm

  11. Jerry, you prove time and again how Michigan is such a wonderful bird heaven! These photos are absolutely wonderful. I chuckled at the surprise look on your juvenile Red-winged Blackbird, great shot! 🙂 Hope your new equipment arrived and you’re having a great time right now! Enjoy the weekend with the toys….er tools!

    July 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    • Thanks again Donna! We may not have as many ocean birds as other places, but we make up for it with more birds of the north. My new equipment has arrived, and it’s working well enough for the first time out.

      July 2, 2016 at 5:41 pm

  12. Thanks for the always awesome bird shots! They’re so sharp and detailed. As I’ve already just written a few comments on your posts just now I am running out of superlatives to describe your shots. Keep doing what you love and gives you satisfaction. I hope you’re able to have more time to indulge in your passion soon instead of having to work long hours. Best wishes.

    July 6, 2016 at 2:00 am