Waiting on the weather
We’re having a warm summer here in West Michigan this year, and as I mentioned in the last post, it has also been drier than average as well. As luck would have it, it’s early on a Sunday morning as I start this post, and it’s raining outside. I know that we needed the rain, but why did it have to come on the one day of the week when I have the full day for photography?
I braved the heat yesterday to go for a medium length walk around home, and I did manage to shoot a few good photos. There was almost no breeze at all, which made the heat seem worse than it would have otherwise, but that made it a good day to shoot flowers.
They say that diffuse light is best for flowers, and I agree that it can be very good, but if one chooses the correct flower at just the right angle, you can also capture how sparkly many flowers appear in full sun.
Even a flower like the lowly horse nettle.
I have a huge backlog of photos saved to be put into posts, which is a good thing in some ways. It means that as I shoot better photos of a particular subject, I can use it, rather than one of the earlier images which may not be as good.
As luck would have it, while I was out on Sunday, I shot a pair of images to compare the same flowers shot in diffused light…
…and in full sunlight.
But, it wasn’t a great test, as the ISO setting of the image in full sun was much lower than the one shot in diffused light. I should have had my tripod with me and set the ISO manually for a better comparison. I probably should have used the macro lens as well, those were shot with the 300 mm lens.
But, since the weather was so changeable yesterday, I had the 15-85 mm lens on the 60D to shoot landscapes if I saw a scene that I thought warranted a photo or two.
That was shot in the parking lot of the Little Black Lake Park, a new to me park that I’ve never been to before. It’s on the other side of Little Black Lake from the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon. It had just stopped raining there when I shot that, but there were still thunderstorms all around me, so I paced the parking lot for a while. A little later, after I decided it was safe to for me to do so, I walked the park, and shot this image as well.
It does make putting together a coherent blog post a little more difficult though, as I’m pulling photos from different trips over the course of the past few months. I did weed out quite a few of my earlier photos on Saturday, since it was too hot to be outside for any length of time unless I was sitting in the shade.
I was doing just that while it was so hot on Saturday, siting in the shade, hoping that a few goldfinches would come to feed on the seeds of various flowers that I was close to.
I spotted an animal moving towards me in the vegetation that I was watching, at first I thought that it was probably a cat. As it continued getting closer, I saw that it was a fox. I sat very still, and even though I could have gotten a fair shot or two through the brush, I held off, not wanting to alert the fox to my presence with the sound of the shutter going off.
Like most members of the canine family, foxes depend on scent and sounds when they are hunting, and to alert them to danger. I could see that the fox was tracking something, possibly this bunny that I had seen in the area earlier.
By then, the fox was less than 20 feet from me, and less than 4 feet from the edge of the vegetation, if it had been tracking that bunny, it would have had to come out into the open to follow the scent trail. I sat very still with the camera half-way to my eye, and guess what happened. A cyclist came by, and despite my signs asking him to stop, he went blasting right on by me, which of course spooked the fox, who took off running across the field.
I’d better change the subject quickly, or I’ll go off on a rant about cyclists, and I’d better not, as a few of the regular readers and commenters to my blog are passionate cyclists.
Anyway, I thought that I had a good photo of a male cardinal preening, but when I saw the photos, I almost deleted them because it looks as if some one decapitated the poor cardinal and stuck the severed head back on the body in the wrong position.
It’s funny how different a two-dimensional photo looks when compared to what I saw in three dimensions as the cardinal preened. Here’s a later photo showing that the cardinal was fine, and that it was just a trick of the camera that made it look as if he had lost his head.
Maybe I’m bragging a little here, but all of the poor photos that I’ve shot in bad weather and posted here have been good practice towards being able to get a good photo in such conditions.
On my way to the Little Black Lake Park, before the rain had let up completely, I shot these two photos of a red-shouldered hawk.
I was well braced, but these were still shot handheld at 1/80 second with the 300 mm lens and the 1.4 X extender.
In fact, for most of the day on Sunday, I was shooting in low light, as you can tell from the landscape images earlier in this post.
Little Black Lake Park is supposed to be a good spot for birding, but I saw very few there on Sunday. The only one that I was able to photograph is this song sparrow bringing food to its young.
Before I began getting serious about birding, it was rare for me to see a song sparrow, now they seem to be ubiquitous, I see them everywhere there’s water nearby.
I did see a bird of a different kind as I was waiting for the rain to end completely. This is probably a DC-3 given the color scheme…
…but it could have been a converted version of the C-47, they are essentially the same plane other than slight modifications to the military version. After WW II, many of the C-47’s were sold for civilian use, which makes it tough to tell which variant any one plane is.
The lack of birds was probably due to the weather, I’ll have to return when there aren’t storms in the area.
I did see a few deer, I shot this fawn from a distance, which I normally don’t do.
I think that in this image, you can see how small the fawn still is compared to the vegetation.
I almost went back to my car to get my tripod and the macro lens to shoot water drops on the flowers…
…but the mosquitoes were ferocious!
The insect repellant that I have seems to have lost its effectiveness, I don’t know if it’s because it’s a year old, or if it is because I keep it in my Forester, and it has gotten very hot a number of times. After the rain ended, there was no wind at all, which would have made macro photos easier, but also made the mosquitoes worse.
After I purchased a good tripod, I went through a phase when I tried to use it for every macro photo of a flower that I shot. Using the tripod did eliminate camera shake, but it didn’t stop the flowers from moving in the wind, so I became very frustrated and don’t use the tripod as much as I should when conditions are right. As thick as the skeeters were, I’d have gotten frustrated again if I had taken the time to set-up the tripod to shoot those photos.
My next stop on Sunday was Lake Harbor Park, where I shot a few photos of crows. I’m not sure, but I think that the adults were teaching their young how to safely scavenge around humans.
Some one posted a link to a video in the comments to my last post about how well crows can solve problems. (Sorry, I don’t know the person’s name, just that their blog is https://lletty.wordpress.com/ )
I had seen that video before, but it led me to a full length episode of the program Nature from the BBC on crows.
I’ve always known that crows were social and very intelligent birds, but the more scientists study them, the more that they learn just how intelligent they are. If you have a spare hour to watch the video, here’s a link to it.
Here are a few of the other things that I found to photograph at Lake Harbor Park.
The mallards there are used to being fed, here’s one coming at me to see if I had food for her.
On the other hand, this mother mallard seem very intent on finding wild food for her young, they could barely keep up with her as fast as she was swimming.
I wish that I could have gotten closer to these trumpet vine flowers, but they were ringed by rose bushes full of thorns, in the low light, it probably didn’t make much difference how close I was able to get.
With all the close-ups of gulls that I’ve shot and posted, I hardly need to post this one, but I really like it for some reason that I can’t put my finger on.
One male mallard was just beginning to sprout a few new green feathers on its head, it will be a month or two yet before they are back to the colorful ducks most people think of when they hear mallard.
I remember how hard I used to work trying to get a good photo of a grey squirrel that was black. These days, it’s a piece of cake, even in low light. Either my equipment is much better, or I’ve finally learned how, maybe it’s both. By the way, grey squirrels around here come in two colors, grey, which is how they came to get their name, or black, like this one. Of course it helped that some one left a pile of sunflower seeds for the squirrel to eat, and no, it wasn’t me, I just took advantage of it.
On my way to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, there were a few young turkeys along the road, so I stopped to shoot a few photos.
Here’s their mother.
And, since the mother turkeys usually keep their young well hidden from sight, here’s another photo of the poults, since it’s rare to see them.
The mother must have wanted to cross the road very badly, for like I said, it’s rare to see the poults when they are that young, even though turkeys have become very common here.
It was a tough day for birding, even at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve I was only able to catch a few birds. I’ve posted a lot of photos of the marsh wrens this summer, and because they were one of the few species of birds that I found on this day, I’m forced to post a few more. 😉
I thought that the photo above would be a good one, but there’s a stick in front of the wren’s face. I was quick enough to get this shot a little later…
…before the wren hid again.
The only reason I used that last photo is because there was some one standing next to me using a 7D Mk II with a Canon L series 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with a 2 X tele-converter behind it, and his set-up couldn’t keep up with the wren as well as mine. I considered that same set-up for birding, I’m glad that I chose what I did instead. Also, it is yet another example of how difficult it is to photograph smaller birds well. It doesn’t take them long to hide once they know that they’re being photographed.
One of the other birds that I was able to get a photo of was this young robin that has already learned that mayflies aren’t just for trout. (Trout feed heavily on mayflies when they are available.)
If you’re wondering what mayflies look like, here’s a close-up of one that I shot on an earlier trip.
They often hold their front legs up like that right after they have transformed from their larval stage to an adult. They’re odd-looking things, even for the world of insects, but the trout, and now I find birds, love to eat them.
Along with being able to get good photos of the black morph grey squirrels, I’m also very pleased that I can get photos of birds with food in their beaks where you can identify what type of insect it is. Like this eastern Phoebe with a dragonfly to take back to her young.
I’ve been able to photograph several birds with dragonflies in their beaks, I had no idea that so many dragonflies were taken by the birds, since dragonflies are wary and very quick. Anyway, that’s another reason that I love photographing nature, I can learn so much from the photos when they are good ones.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!