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

How far do I go?

First of all, I must apologize for the way that I ended the last post. Since I’m now working between 11 and 12 hours a day, I don’t have as much time for blogging as I would like. I had been piddling around with that post for close to a week, and even though I only have the weekends for photography now, I’m still getting behind on getting the photos into posts again.

In some ways, that’s not all bad. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that the professional photographers whose work I admire are often on assignment for a month or more to shoot the images that they show in their how-to videos that I watch. They don’t show the thousands of images that they shot that they culled the keepers from. I’ve been deleting a few photos from earlier this spring every time that I go through the images that I have saved, because I’ve shot better photos since then. Maybe that’s the secret to great photography, working from behind so that you can improve on images that you’ve already shot. 😉

Despite what most of the people who commented on my last post said, I’m not a great photographer, at least not yet. I’m very good at getting close to wildlife as these uncropped images show…

Whitetail deer fawn

Whitetail deer fawn

…explaining to them that I only want to take a photo of them…

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

…then shooting away as they pose for me.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

But, there are problems with each of those photos which I should have avoided when I shot them.

I shoot completely wild animals as I find them, when I know that most of the really stunning wildlife images that I see were shot in at least somewhat controlled conditions, most of the time. Although, the Audubon Society just announced the winners of their yearly photo contest, and there are some stunning images that were shot in the wild, in fact, most were shot in the wild. By the way, the winning photo of an eagle and herons was shot with a 7D Mk II, so I can’t blame my equipment for my poor photos. 😉

Anyway, if I set-up hides to shoot photos of wildlife from, should I also put out a bird feeder or two to attract the birds to the area in the first place? I don’t have a problem when people who feed birds also shoot photos of the birds, as long as they are honest about it. Heck, I’ve even shot a photo…

Brown thrasher sunning

Brown thrasher sunning

…or two, of a bird on a feeder.

Brown thrasher sunning

Brown thrasher sunning

Although in this case, the bird wasn’t there to eat, as no one had filled the feeders for months. No, the thrasher was there to do the weird thing that I see birds do when it’s hot, spreading their feathers out as far as they can, and they seem to go into a trance as they are doing it.

It can’t be to cool off, since they always do it in a sunny spot. I thought when I saw robins doing it on the ground that it had to do with anting, where birds rub ants on their feathers because ants secrete formic acid, which may remove parasites like feather mites. But this thrasher, and a few other birds that I’ve seen doing this, have been off the ground where there aren’t many ants, if any.

Oh well, I’m sure that some day I’ll read the explanation why birds some times behave that way.

Other than the thrasher, I’ve only shot a handful of photos of birds on one of the feeders at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I’ve only posted one or two here. When I did shoot birds on the feeders, it was to test out new equipment or a new technique that I wanted to try, and see how good the results could be.

Would putting up a feeder or two be any different from hanging around a tree or bush full of berries that I know the birds love, and shooting photos of the birds when they arrive?

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

What a pig, two at a time!

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

It’s no wonder its crop is bulging out so much.

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Apparently, the waxwing was hungry.

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

But then, it slowed down to one berry at a time.

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

Cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries

I also hang out around thistle plants, not only to shoot the flowers…

JVIS6833

Unidentified thistle

…but also because I know that goldfinches love thistle seeds.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Switching gears, I started this post with idea of prattling on longer about what I would like to do in the future, but I’ve decided that I’ve gone on long enough about that. I still haven’t decided whether I’ll ever begin shooting photos of birds around a feeder or not, but there’s other things that I’d like to shoot other than birds, or wildlife, flowers, insects, and while they may be something from nature, of a more artistic bent. I’ve been working on that.

Patterns

Patterns

I purposely shot that out of focus, it’s the reflection of the sun coming off from the creek here at home. That one came from this attempt at being more artistic.

Reflections

Reflections

And, the second one was a result of this attempt.

Sparkles

Sparkles

None of those are that good, but I enjoyed playing around while exploring a more artistic side of photography, I wish that I had more time to work along those lines. But, I am beginning to see and even realize some of the shots that I’ve been trying to get for some time now.

Sumac patterns

Sumac patterns

I love the patterns in the leaves of the sumac bushes, and I’ve been trying for years to get a photo of them that conveys the things that I love about them. That one is very close.

I had sat down on the ground to shoot this pink.

Pink

Pink

As I was sitting there deciding whether or not I had gotten the best photo of the flower that I could ( I didn’t), this fly came along, and I decided to shoot it.

Green bottle fly?

Green bottle fly?

It was then that I saw the sumac leaves, with the sun on one side of the leaves, and backlighting the other half of them. The problem was that I’ve failed so many times at catching the shot that I wanted that I didn’t take the time to shoot the sumac leaves exactly the way that would have given me the shot that I ultimately would like to get.

About this time, you’re probably thinking that I’ve gone off my rocker, maybe I have. But, there’s a lot to like about that image beyond the nature photography aspect of it. The pattern of the growth of the leaves from the stem of the plant, their texture, the lighting, the composition, the depth of field, and so on. It’s not so much a nature photo as it is an exploration of the art of photography as the art form it can be. I know that not every one will like it, that’s okay, I understand that most people come to my blog to see the pretty birds…

Male scarlet tanager beginning to molt

Male scarlet tanager beginning to molt

…the action shots that I get…

Barn swallow attacking a Cooper's hawk

Barn swallow attacking a Cooper’s hawk

( a side note, there were several species of birds attacking the hawk at the same time, here’s a kingbird making its pass at the hawk)

Eastern kingbird attacking a Cooper's hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a Cooper’s hawk

…or maybe people come here for the flowers…

Roses

Roses

…or macro photos.

Robber fly?

Robber fly?

So then, why am I so bent on also trying to become more artistic?

Ox-eye daisy

Ox-eye daisy

I’m not sure that I can answer that question, other than to say that it’s something inside of me trying to get out. It’s what stops me in my tracks when I see one flower that stands out from the thousands of other that surround it.

Unidentified clover

Crown vetch

 

JVIS5986

Unidentified clover

It’s what drives me to shoot an occasional landscape photo just to stay in practice, even though I know that the resulting image won’t be that good.

Dying thunderstorms approaching

Dying thunderstorms approaching

I was hoping to get a lightning bolt, didn’t happen.

Green and blue at Lost Lake

Green and blue at Lost Lake

No, I didn’t boost the color saturation, that’s how green it was under a cloudless blue sky.

After the storm at Duck Lake

After the storm at Duck Lake

I don’t know why, but my camera cuts through the fog, or more accurately, it creates blotches of fog in my images when the fog was more spread out when I shot the photo.

Anyway, I’m getting off track again, which always happens, even when I’m out shooting photos.

When it comes to setting up hides in places, I worry that I’ll end up with lots of shots of a very few species of birds, the ones that inhabit the type of habitat that I’ve chosen for the hide. The species that I post here runs in cycles already, as new species arrive in the spring each year, and the same happens in reverse during the fall migration. For example, I’ve been seeing and shooting many dickcissels the last few weeks, since they are late arrivals here.

Male dickcissel

Male dickcissel

 

Male dickcissel

Male dickcissel

Earlier this spring, I spent an inordinate amount of time (for me) getting the photos of the marsh wrens and Virginia rails that I’ve posted recently. That time was well spent, since I’m proud of the photos that I got of both of those species.

However, I’m easily bored, so I also shot a lot of bad photos of them…

Male marsh wren singing

Male marsh wren singing

…before getting the ones that have appeared in earlier posts.

I’m also debating whether I should spend more time near a bird’s nest.

Female eastern kingbird on her nest

Female eastern kingbird on her nest

That one was impossible to miss, the kingbird had built her nest less than 10 feet (3 meters) from the road in a completely dead tree with no foliage to hide her or her nest. Once I had gotten the photo that I wanted and moved on.

However, at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, I discovered that a pair of Baltimore orioles had built their nest…

Male Baltimore oriole feeding his young

Male Baltimore oriole feeding his young

…hanging over the picnic pavilion where I’ve been sitting to shoot photos of the birds that I see there. I shot far too many bad photos of the orioles coming and going as they fed their young. This oriole had built her nest in a well concealed spot where it was almost impossible to get a clear view of the adults as they came and went.

Male Baltimore oriole feeding his young

Male Baltimore oriole feeding his young

But, I kept returning to the pavilion for a few weeks, as I figured that if the oriole had chosen that spot for her nest, my sitting there quietly snapping a few photos now and then wouldn’t bother them. Generally, if I spot a bird on a nest, I do as I did with the kingbird, get a good photo, then move on, avoiding getting close to the nest again.

Changing the subject, it’s been a killer week at work so far this week. Fifteen hours on Tuesday, almost 12 hours yesterday, and they wanted me to work longer. Yesterday was another 14 hour plus day, which leaves me no time to do anything other than eat and sleep.

I haven’t had much time to work on this post at all, so of course, I’m not happy with it. I’m also feeling guilty about not having the time to properly reply to people who’ve made such wonderful comments to my last few posts, nor have I had the time to properly comment on their recent posts.

I’m not sure want the answer is, I could probably get by posting a few images without babbling on as I do, but by putting my thoughts into words, as haphazard as they have been lately, helps me to work out the things that I’ve been pondering.  I could just add a few words about each photo, saying where and how I got it I suppose, but that may get to be boring after a while. I thought about taking my new Macbook with me so that I can work on these posts as I’m sitting somewhere, like the three hours I spent waiting for a load outside of Chicago on Tuesday. I’m not sure that I want to subject it to the bouncing around that it would take if I did take it in the truck with me though.

Anyway, one last image for this one…

White campion?

White campion?

…and then I’ll post this one.

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

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21 responses

  1. You are indeed brilliant at getting up close to your subjects, that Ringbilled gull was excellent.

    July 8, 2016 at 8:41 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! A willing model helps out a lot. 😉

      July 8, 2016 at 8:58 am

  2. Excellent photos. I prefer wild over controlled.

    July 8, 2016 at 9:40 am

    • Thank you very much Victor!

      July 9, 2016 at 6:23 am

  3. Each of us has a certain way of going about taking pictures and posting them for other people to view, and read. I am a regular visitor to a number of sites, all different in their own way. Some are truly outstanding, like yours, others are very different from what I usually think of as landscape or bird photography, or any kind of photography. Some sites are educational, others not so much. In the end, I think that if the one who blogs is happy with their posts, that’s all that counts. If he or she gets lots of rave comments, more power to them. If not, I hope they will keep on blogging regardless of what the rest of us may think.

    July 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

    • Thank you very much! I know what you mean about other people’s blogs, I follow quite a few of them myself, although far fewer than I used to. After six years of blogging, it’s hard to stay fresh, but I’ll try.

      July 9, 2016 at 6:26 am

  4. I think that you might have to make a choice between getting really good pictures of fewer subjects (and doing everything that you can to get the set up right) and taking your chances and shooting everything interesting that you see. Personally, I very much enjoy the variety of your posts.

    July 8, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I like the variety that I get now too, and the images are still getting better, I’ll have to work on the right mix of sitting vs walking, and great shots of one species vs variety.

      July 9, 2016 at 6:28 am

  5. I like everything about nature so your posts will never bore me. A bird on a nest is every bit as interesting as a beautiful orchid, but I never have much to say about birds because I don’t know much about them.
    I love the landscapes in this one, especially the dying thunderstorms.
    I think the thistle is a Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), which is much hated by ranchers because of its extensive root system.
    I think the clover is just white clover and the pink is a Deptford pink. One of those will be in my post tomorrow.
    Insects I don’t know well and the campion I’m not sure of, but I like the veins.
    Don’t let them work you too hard. You’ve got to have something left for retirement.

    July 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I thought that I knew quite a bit about birds, but it turns out that they are like every thing else, the more you learn, the more that you realize how ignorant you were when you began. 😉

      I’ve been falling down when it comes to landscapes, I haven’t gone anywhere that I could shoot a good one lately. Not enough time for that.

      I thought that the thistle was a Canada thistle, but there’s so many of them that I doubted myself, same with the pink.

      Don’t get me started on the way the trucking industry works, and works their drivers. I’ll say that the hours that I’ve been working are partially my fault because I’m a greedy SOB. I’m loving the paychecks for right now while the weather is too hot to enjoy the outdoors anyway.

      July 9, 2016 at 6:41 am

  6. I find myself spending the most time looking at the photos you post of insects. It’s probably because I never see them close-up myself, flinging them away in horror when they land on me, and calling for the Swat Team when they’re in the house somewhere. All the little hairs and metallic colors are fascinating.

    The same thing goes with bird photos. I love the ones which show little patterns or aberrations. The kingbird in her nest has three tiny little feathers or hairs where her beak joins her face – those tiny little details catch my eye.

    Some of the others photos I breeze through. You know which ones are the really good ones, and they shine.

    You will always be the King of Wading Birds and Waterfowl. Keep it up.

    July 9, 2016 at 8:32 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! In your own way, and probably not knowing it, you’ve hit on why I work so hard to make my photos better. In the past, I wasn’t able to get the metallic colors or hairs of the insects, nor the three tiny little feathers or hairs where her beak joins her face, even though I could see those things in the viewfinder when I shot the photos.

      I’ll do the best I can, but there won’t be many waterfowl for a while. They’re molting, so they all look like female mallards for one thing. The other is that the females are tending their broods, and I don’t want to disturb them.

      July 9, 2016 at 2:07 pm

  7. I love the range of photos that you show from the creepy crawlies to the artistic water droplets and everything in between! Your photos communicate what you are interested in and we, who view them, share your enjoyment of the subjects in different ways- so we are all happy!

    July 9, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    • Thank you very much! Just about everything in nature interests me, and in two ways, which is why I have trouble some times. I’m interested in a scientific way, but I also think that nature provides us with a great deal of beauty as well. I’m getting the scientific side of photography down, I need to work on the artistic see yet.

      July 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm

  8. Those are long work days, Jerry. I hope you get some sort of reprieve from that, and soon. I worked in IT long ago, and am all too familiar with long days and no time for much except eat and sleep.

    Your posts are never disappointing. The images are beautiful and invoke a sense of pleasure viewing them, and I enjoy your sharing with readers how you go about your work. Greatness is all relative. To someone with my rudimentary photographic skills, you are a great photographer. As a musician, I can leave you with one story along those lines. One night after playing in a coffee house, an enthusiastic young man in his early 20s came up to me saying how much he enjoyed the show and told me he could hear Robert Plant in my playing. I was dumbfounded, looked at him and said, “Thank you. I do not hear Robert Plant when I play, but if you do, that is wonderful! I wish I could hear Robert Plant when I play, but I don’t.” When people tell you they enjoy something you do, just take it as that. I love your photography, Jerry, whether or not you think you are great.

    July 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I could cut down a little on how much I’m working, but I also like the money, so for now while it’s very hot outside, I guess that I’ll keep working the longer hours.

      I suppose that art, like anything else, is in the eye of the beholder. To use another worn out old phrase, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear either. I may never find the creative side within myself that I’m trying to find, but I’m having fun looking for it.

      July 10, 2016 at 5:28 am

  9. Well, I won’t comment on your opinion that you’re not a great photographer, Jerry. I think I’ve said enough about my admiration for your patience, skills etc. You know how I feel… 😉 I love the hilarious shots of the cedar waxwings eating honeysuckle berries. They make me think of chipmunks with their mouths bulging. How wonderful that you can share these kind of nature shots with us. Amazing that you can get the sharp shots of the bird feathers through all that foliage. I am really struggling to do that. I try to use the tracker but end up tracking the leaves instead as I can’t hold the camera still enough. I am also glad you are branching out into abstracts. I’ve liked the ones you’ve shared in the past and these are no exception. Yes, that is a robber fly. I love the way the veins show out in the last shot. The light is lovely. I’m so sorry that you’ve had such long work hours and little time for much else. That must be so frustrating. I wish I could help. Take good care of yourself and thank you for sharing your passion with us. You give us so much pleasure. 🙂

    July 16, 2016 at 6:39 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! The way that I get the birds in focus but not the leaves is to use a single focusing point, usually the center one. I’m not sure if your camera has that option, but you may want to check to see if it does. I do get a great photo now and then, but I’m still working to improve the quality of my photos overall. It is great to sit and watch the birds and their behavior, but working on my skills as a photographer makes it even more interesting, and challenging. If I wasn’t trying to record what I saw, I may grow tired of it. If I weren’t attempting to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan, then there’d be no reason for me to do as much bird watching as I do.

      July 16, 2016 at 8:44 am

  10. I too wish you didn’t have to work such long hours – it can’t be good to have no leisure time. You must take care of yourself. I can understand your need to improve your photography skills because to a perfectionist like you there is always room for improvement. I am full of admiration not only of the shots you take but of your dedication to perfecting your craft. I love the variety of shots you post and I think the fact you don’t stage your shots and what you do photograph is done because of your skill as a tracker is much more important than anything else. This post is full of the shots I love to look at.

    July 16, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I wish that I didn’t as many hours also, but the upside is that I could afford a camera like the one that I have now, which almost makes up for how little time that I have to use the camera.

      It isn’t so much that I track things down to photograph, it’s more of an understanding of where to look for the subjects that I shoot. That, and paying attention to all the sights and sounds that I see and hear while outdoors. It’s something that I’ve worked on my entire life, and it pays dividends when it comes to photography.

      July 16, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      • Well that makes all the difference to me between a good photograph and an excellent, exciting shot (which yours are!)

        July 16, 2016 at 5:42 pm