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

Archive for August, 2016

And the rains came, and went, I got a lifer

It’s a Saturday morning, and I should be out shooting photos, but there’s a constant moderate rain falling at the present time. There’s even a few flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder from time to time. Since I worked until just after midnight last night, I missed what little morning light that there was any way. It looks as if the rain will be an all day event, or close to it, so I may as well resign myself to that fact, and do a little housecleaning of sorts. Maybe I’ll be able to use up more of the photos that I have saved from earlier this summer without going into one of my long-winded discussions of photo gear. 😉

That may be too hard for me to do though, since I’m going to start the photos with this one.

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

One of the things that I’m trying to do is shoot more artistic photos when the conditions are right for that. The sandpiper was between myself and the sun just coming up over the horizon, so I had good backlighting for that photo. It’s a tough shot to pull off, but when a bird perches long enough to get the exposure dialed in, it can yield a good photo. Now, if I could control the wind blowing vegetation around in the frame, I may come up with a great image. Still, I like that one.

They don’t call the hour after sunrise the golden hour for nothing.

Least sandpiper in front of a semi-palmated sandpiper

Least sandpiper in front of a semi-palmated sandpiper

The hour before actual sunrise is great for some landscapes, but not so good when photographing nocturnal animals headed home to sleep.

Raccoon at sunrise

Raccoon at sunrise

I lucked out, the raccoon paused for a while when it heard the shutter of my camera going.

Raccoon at sunrise

Raccoon at sunrise

I got the raccoon and the vegetation exposed fairly well, but then the color of the sunrise was blown out. If only critters would hold perfectly still so that I could shoot HDR images…

The storm passes

The storm passes

…but the critters are almost always on the move.

Raccoon at sunrise

Raccoon at sunrise

While I’m wishing, I could wish that the critters were always in good light as well, or that they would turn around to face me.

Gadwall duck

Gadwall duck

But, that’s like wishing that they’d all strike the same pose at the same time.

White-rumped sandpipers

White-rumped sandpipers

There’s always one that has to be different.

White-rumped sandpipers

White-rumped sandpipers

Even when there’s another bird in the frame.

Blue-winged teal in front of White-rumped sandpipers

Blue-winged teal behind White-rumped sandpipers

I know that I said that I didn’t want to get into a discussion about photo gear, but the reason that I saved these next two photos is that they represent some of my first attempts using the 2 X Tele-converter in very low light.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

The image quality isn’t great, but I was surprised at how well these did turn out to be.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

It never hurts to push your gear to the very limits to see what it can do. I now know that in a pinch, and with me helping out the auto-focus, I can get usable photos in very low light when using the 2 X extender.

Here’s a couple of images from my uncooperative subject files. This pewee was singing constantly when it was perched in partial shade.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

But when it moved out into full sunshine, it wouldn’t so much as let out a chirp.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

At least he struck a nice pose for me.

Changing gears, I have plenty of flower photos left over.

English plantain

English plantain

 

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

 

Fleabane

Fleabane

I could probably fill an entire post with flowers.

I give up

I give up

 

Too many flowers look the same to me

Too many flowers look the same to me

 

Black-eyed Susan and sweet pea

Black-eyed Susan and sweet pea

Back to the birds. One day this spring, I found this great crested flycatcher…

Great crested flycatcher (I don't name them, only photograph them)

Great crested flycatcher (I don’t name them, only photograph them)

…and this house finch…

Male house finch

Male house finch

…standing in the parking lot of the headquarters for the Muskegon State Game Area.  I was changing settings to try to get them both in focus at the same time when the flycatcher decided to take off, so I had to shoot quickly.

Great crested flycatcher and Male house finch

Great crested flycatcher and Male house finch

Too quickly.

What the heck, I may as well empty out the folder that those photos came from.

Savanah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

 

Cliff swallow

Cliff swallow

 

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

 

Assorted shorebirds

Assorted shorebirds

 

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

 

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

 

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

 

Damselfly with a snack

Damselfly with a snack

 

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Let’s see here, what else do I have saved?

I usually try to shoot a landscape or two every time that I’m out, but few of them make it into posts that I do, because they’re not that good. But, it helps to stay in practice in case the opportunity to shoot a good one comes along.

Just another bad landscape for practice

Just another bad landscape for practice

Sometimes, those photos include birds.

Turkeys and wildflowers

Turkeys and wildflowers

But, I’m not very good at those shots either.

I do pretty good with turtles though.

Eastern box turtle

Eastern box turtle

Before I forget, I promised to post this photo soon, so now’s as good of time as any.

Unidentified plant, for Allen

Unidentified plant, for Allen

Well, the rain moved through the area sooner than what I expected from the forecast, and from the radar images that I had checked. I did make it outside for a walk on Saturday, and while I saw plenty of birds, I wasn’t able to bring home a single image of any of them. I did shoot a few photos of various fungi that I saw, but they will appear in a later post, since I’m almost out of room in this post for too many more photos.

Instead, I’ll finish this post with these three images.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

I stood there watching the butterfly through the viewfinder, mesmerized by the way that the light played off its hairy wings.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

I never did get exactly the shot that I wanted, which is why I’m including three of the many photos that I shot as I watched the butterfly sipping nectar from the goldenrod flowers.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

Breaking news!

I got my birthday present a day early this year. No, it has nothing to do with photo gear, other than I used a camera and lens to check another species of bird off from my list of birds for the My Photo Life List that I’m working on. This time, I did it in style, there’s no questioning if this is really a buff-breasted sandpiper or not.

Buff-breasted sandpiper

Buff-breasted sandpiper

That’s number 227, only 124 more to go.

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


It’s been a good summer

Good, but not great. It’s been one of our warmer summers, but after two cool summers, that was to be expected. For the first half of the summer, I was getting great weather for photography, the past few weekends haven’t been as good. I’ve been dodging rain, and even a few tornadoes last weekend. In fact, one of the tornadoes crossed a road that I took on my way home not long after I had made it home. While they were a big news item here, we seldom get the strong tornadoes that they do out on the plains of the United States, we get weak, short-lived ones that blow down a few trees and branches and then dissipate.

At least for the time being, it has cooled off to around average temperatures for around here this time of year, and the drought(s) are a thing of the past. We had two stretches where we received little or no rain, but they ended before the lack of rain had much effect on the vegetation or wildlife here.

I haven’t had much time to get outside, but I’m making a lot more money than I did at my old job, so I can afford better photo gear than I could ever have imagined just two years ago. The thing is, that I’m in no hurry to purchase many of those items at the current time. I’m having too much fun learning the 7D Mk II and the lenses that I currently have. Although, for the past month, the 60D body with the EF S 15-85 mm lens that I use for landscapes hasn’t been auto-focusing as well as it used to. It struggles to find the correct focus, at first it was just in low light, but lately it’s been goofing up even in good light. I’ve been able to get by, and I don’t know if the problem is with the lens or the camera body. It almost has to be the lens, as the same body works fine with the 100 mm macro lens on it. Maybe the 15-85 mm lens got wet one too many times. 😦

I thought about that this past weekend, I used to love walking in the rain, and I still do for that matter. However, I’m being very careful with my camera gear, so I haven’t been going out in the rain as I used to. I doubt if that will change, even though the 7D Mk II is supposed to be moisture proof, as are the 300 mm L Series lens and the 1.4 X tele-converter, I’m being careful to keep them as dry as possible. That’s funny, one of the reasons that I was willing to spend the big bucks on the 7D was the fact that it is weather sealed, but because I did spend the big bucks on it, I try to keep it out of the weather. 😉

Anyway, it has been a good summer, I have tons of photos that I shot earlier in the year that may or may not end up here in my blog.

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan

The problem that I have every year is that as the year progresses, I end up with more and better photos than the ones that I shot in the spring.

Pokeweed

Pokeweed

I’ll probably end up deleting many of the photos that I thought that I’d use here, but there are a few that are of species of birds that I don’t see that often.

Male orchard oriole

Male orchard oriole

Or, I see often, but seldom photograph because they are so common here.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Here’s another example of that, three young robins.

Three juvenile American robins

Three juvenile American robins

Two went off in search of food on their own, and seemed to be having a discussion as to whether something that they had found was safe to eat.

Juvenile American robins in conference

Juvenile American robins in conference

While the other decided that sticking close to mom was the best way to get food.

Juvenile American robin waiting for its mother to feed it

Juvenile American robin waiting for its mother to feed it

I haven’t been neglecting photographing the more common species of birds around here.

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

 

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

 

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

 

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

 

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

 

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

 

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

 

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

But, I find it harder to post those photos when I have fair photos of a northern harrier.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

 

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Or, a common raven posing for me in the sun.

Common raven

Common raven

Breaking news!

Canon has just introduced the 5D Mk IV which I have been waiting to learn about before purchasing a full frame camera body. After reading what little there is in the way for details about this new model, I’m not so sure that it’s the right camera for me. It does have the much improved metering system like the 7D Mk II, which I have come to love. It has improved auto-focusing over the older model, but it isn’t as good as what the 7D Mk II is in some respects, in others, it is better. What it does have is a 30 mega-pixel sensor, wi-fi, GPS, a touch screen, and much improved video capabilities. Oh, and a much larger price tag than the 5D Mk III had, in the neighborhood of 50% larger, and I’m not sure that I want to visit that neighborhood. 😉

I don’t want to bore every one with my talk of the technical details of the things that will drive my decision, I’ve done enough of that already. However, I’m leaning towards purchasing the 5D Mk III and a device that will allow me to shoot time-lapse and long exposures when the occasion arrises. I’d love the higher resolution of the new model, it’s close to the Nikon D810, but Canon still has a way to go to catch up with Nikon in that area.

I have to keep in mind why I’m purchasing a full frame camera and what I intend to use it for. In general, it’s for better performance in low-light situations, and for better results when printing very large prints. I suppose that being able to “go wider” is part of the mix. What I mean by that is that a crop sensor camera like the ones that I have now increase the focal length of the lens used on it. For example, the 24-105 mm lens that I’d like to have becomes a 36-168 mm lens on a crop sensor body like my 7D. That means carrying another lens to be able to get as wide of a view as 24 mm is on a full frame camera. That’s very important for landscapes, which I’d like to shoot more of. Otherwise, with what I see about the new 5D Mk IV, I’d be just as well off buying a second 7D Mk II, and my bank account would be much healthier if I did.

Before I forget, Canon also announced a new version of that 24-105 mm lens, with improved optics, and only a slightly higher price tag than the old version of that lens. When the time comes to go full frame, that’s the lens that I’ll purchase to go with it.

All of this is important to me as I decide my future, there’s no other way of putting it. It may be a sad comment on my life, such as it is, but I’ve been planning the rest of my life around photography. Not just the photography that you’ve been seeing here in my blog, because I also plan to travel once I have the time to do so. That means more landscape images, which means that the full frame camera becomes more important. As I get older, I turn 62 on Monday, the weight of the gear that I carry will also become more important.

With a 24-105 mm lens on a full frame camera body, and the 100-400 mm lens on my 7D, I’d be ready for 90% of the photos that I’d be taking. Throw in the 100 mm macro lens, and I’d be ready for 95% of the images I’d like to make. Add in a lens wider than the 24-105 mm lens, such as the 16-35 mm, and I’d have almost all the bases covered. That’s a lot less than what I carry now, which would be a big deal as I get older, especially if I do make it out west to photograph in mountainous areas, which I would dearly love to do!

My head is beginning to hurt from all the thoughts racing through my mind right now, trying to weigh the costs versus what I’d like to have, keeping in mind that the more that I spend on camera gear, the less money that I’ll have to travel. It would be easier if I could sit back and wait to decide, but retailers are already beginning to discount the price of the 5D Mk III to clear their stock of those camera bodies before the Mk IV begins to ship in September. Trying to see into the future is hard!

Okay, so I spent the day at work thinking through all of this, and some more time this morning. I keep flipping back and forth between waiting until I can afford the new model, or acting quickly and purchasing the older model at a discounted price.

If I act now, it throws a monkey wrench into all my plans for this fall, which includes purchasing the 100-400 mm zoom lens, which will become my workhorse lens when I do make the purchase. I don’t have any wide-angle lenses that would fit the full frame body, the shortest lens I have that would fit it is the 70-200 mm lens. Even at the discounted price, I couldn’t afford the camera and at least one lens for it. So, the full frame body would be useless to me when I go to shoot the fall colors over the next few months.

Also, I have to remember what I intend to use the full frame body for, landscapes…

After the sunrise

After the sunrise

…where higher resolution is important.

Macros…

Seal all?

Seal all?

…where higher resolution is important.

Bird portraits…

Eastern Phoebe bringing home the bacon

Eastern Phoebe bringing home the bacon

 

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

 

Merlin

Merlin

…where higher resolution is important.

And, I can’t forget other critters…

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

 

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

 

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

…where higher resolution is important.

I have the 7D for action photos…

Red-winged blackbird chasing a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird chasing a red-tailed hawk

 

Eastern meadowlark in flight

Eastern meadowlark in flight

 

Killdeer landing

Killdeer landing

 

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

…so, if my main reason for going full frame is higher resolution in lower light, then the new model of the 5D is my best choice at the current time, as it will have a 30MP sensor. My 7D has a 20MP sensor, the same as the older model of the 5D, but in a crop sensor, which means that the resolution of the 7D is actually higher than the older model 5D. If higher resolution is my goal, then it makes little sense to take a step backwards.

I realize that there’s more to resolution than just the number of mega pixels in the sensor of a camera, but it is a good indication of what one can expect from a camera.

However, I’m not going to make that purchase any time soon, I’d wait until the bugs have been worked out of the new model, and until it has been on the market long enough that Canon begins to offer rebates on it, as they always do after the initial hype over a new model has passed. That’s what I did when Canon introduced the 7D Mk II, and it worked out well for me. And, having a camera that will do everything that I want it to do without add-ons to learn how to use and carry around is another big plus for the new 5D.

Besides, who knows what will happen while I’m saving money for the new camera, things may change dramatically in the next year or two.

I may not like the price tag, but then, I should have picked a less expensive passion. 😉

Okay then, with that settled, at least for the time being, it’s time to get back to the present rather than sweating over the future. Or should I say, get back to the past, because I’m going to use up a few more of the older images that I have saved.

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

 

A murder of crows

A murder of crows

I thought about converting that last one to black and white, but I kind of like the blue of a nozzles hanging from the irrigation pipe. I should have removed the tele-converter from behind the lens and gone wider with that photo.

These next two, I’m including just because.

Green heron in flight

Green heron in flight

 

Green heron in flight

Green heron in flight

Let’s see, what else do I have saved?

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

 

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

 

Male house finch

Male house finch

 

Day lily

Day lily

 

Clouded sulphur butterfly

Clouded sulphur butterfly

Once again I find that I should apologize for all of this post that I devoted to my angst over camera gear, but typing out my thoughts helps me to make decisions. Those decisions lead to the quality of the photos that I post here, so I suppose that you have to take the bad with the good. 😉

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


Where do I go now?

Well, I just checked the count that I’m keeping of species of birds for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on, and it stands at 226 species of birds that I have photos of. Of those, I have done posts on 196 species, and I have one saved as a draft which puts the number at 197. That’s not counting the possibility that the photos that I think are a sharp-tailed sandpiper actually are of that species. It’s no wonder that I’m not adding any more species to the list lately, I’m almost 2/3 of the way through the list from the Audubon Society that I’m working from.

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher

 

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher

I’ve known from the beginning that I would have to spend time in two parts of Michigan that I seldom visit, the southeast side of the state, near Detroit, and the Upper Peninsula, or UP as it’s called here.

The area around Detroit has a few wading and shorebirds, along with warblers and other species, that have the very northern extent of their range in the extreme southern part of Michigan. Another reason is one of simple geography, or topography, or maybe another of the ographies, I’m not sure which one applies here. But, the area around Detroit is somewhat unique, it’s where the water from the three upper Great Lakes funnels into Lake Erie. Maybe a map will be helpful.

Michigan

Michigan

The lower peninsula of Michigan is mitten shaped, as you can see on the map, and the thumb of the mitten juts out into Lake Huron. All the water from the three upper Great Lakes flows through the St. Clair River, which empties into Lake St. Clair, the small, almost heart-shaped lake near Detroit. The City of Detroit is on the southwest shore of Lake St. Clair. Where the St. Clair River empties into Lake St. Clair, a river delta has formed, creating several large, marshy islands, one of which, Harsen’s Island, has a portion of it designated as a wildlife preserve. The water then flows down the Detroit River to Lake Erie. Near where the Detroit River empties into Lake Erie, is the famous Point Mouillee State Game Area, a birder’s paradise, or so I’ve heard. The entire area from the southern tip of Lake Huron, to Lake Erie is mostly marshy, which is why it attracts wading and shorebirds, along with ducks and geese.

Other factors in why the east side of Michigan attracts more species of birds is because the birds don’t have to cross the open waters of any of the Great Lakes on their way north. They can fly into southern Michigan, then cross just a river to get to Canada, and continue their journey north. Also, the winters are a bit milder near Detroit, and spring comes earlier there, because Detroit doesn’t receive the lake effect snow that we get here on the west side of the state.

Then there’s the UP, home to some of the other species that I’ll need if I’m ever going to complete the list. The one thing that prevents me from going there is simply distance. It’s about a five-hour drive just to reach the Mackinac Bridge to cross over to the UP, if traveling conditions are good. Of course, it takes just as long to get back home again, which means that driving alone takes one full day of a two-day weekend.

One thing about the UP which would also hinder me from finding birds for my list is the scenery there. A few of you may remember my vacation to the UP a few years ago, with my photos from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore…

Miner's Castle

Miner’s Castle

 

Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks

and the Porcupine Mountains.

Presque Isle River Falls

Presque Isle River Falls

 

The view from Summit Peak

The view from Summit Peak

With so much beautiful scenery competing for lens time, I may have a hard time pulling myself away long enough to look for birds. 😉

Since it’s only a three-hour drive to the parts of Michigan near Detroit that I will have to visit to get a few more species of birds to cross off from my list, I should be planning to spend some weekends there, especially this fall. However, fall isn’t my favorite time of the year for birding, as I have to deal with all of the juvenile birds that haven’t grown their adult feathers yet, and even many of the adults look completely different in the fall than they do in the spring.

Male scarlet tanager beginning to molt

Male scarlet tanager beginning to molt

That guy was well on his way of changing from the brilliant red from which he got his name to the dull yellow feathers that he’ll have until next spring.

If I’m going to travel across the sate for an entire weekend, then I also need a place to stay. Since the southeast corner of Michigan is the home of the automobile industry in the United States, the entire area, from the state line to well north of Detroit is built up, so there are few places to camp. I could stay in a motel, and that’s probably what I’ll do when I do visit that part of the state, but for right now, I’m saving my money for other things. There are plenty of places to camp in the UP, if I ever find the time to go that far. I may find that staying in a motel would give me more time in the woods though.

There are still a few species that I could add to my list that are seen around Muskegon, or even closer to home, but that number is dwindling. According to the records from eBird, there have been 298 species of birds seen at the Muskegon County wastewater facility for example. That number includes the once in a lifetime sightings, such as the sharp-tailed sandpiper. The most species seen and recorded there by any one person is 271 species. So, I still have a few more that I can pick up there.

One thing that I have to keep in mind is that simply seeing them isn’t enough under the rules for the project that I’ve set out for myself, I have to get a photo good enough that proves that I’ve actually seen that species. Take the sharp-tailed sandpiper as a good example of that. From the online records and photos shot by others, I’m now 90% certain that my photos of that species are the sharp-tailed sandpiper, but 90% isn’t good enough for me.

Another thing to consider is that some “sightings” of birds are actually times when people heard the distinct song or call of a species of bird, but never actually laid eyes on the bird.

It’s funny, I’m not really a numbers guy, or at least I wasn’t until I began the My Photo Life List project. After seeing the circus that arrives with the sighting of a rare species of bird, I often question my commitment to completing that project. I was some one who enjoyed being outdoors, and seeing the variety of wildlife, of all types, that there is to be seen. However, as I saw and photographed more and more birds that I couldn’t identify from memory, I would look those species up to make an identification. I had no idea at the time that there were 350 species of birds seen in Michigan on a regular basis, and several dozen more “strays” that had been seen only once or a few times over the last 100 years. I thought that I was doing good at around 100 species. That’s far more than the average person, and some people would comment to my blog about the variety of birds that I saw.

I also found that it was much easier to identify the species of bird that I saw if I had a good photo of it. That way, I could take my time and compare my photo of a bird to those in field guides, either online or in book form.

One thing led to another, and now I find myself chasing rare species of birds, although I refuse to join the circus, at least not for very long. I don’t have the patience to set-up a spotting scope and check out hundreds of very similar birds, hoping to find one rare species in amongst the more common species that make up the flock. Gulls are a great example of that, so are shorebirds for that matter.

I saw an online video for what is called digiscoping photography, where you mount your camera to a spotting scope to photograph the things that you can see with the spotting scope. I thought that it would be a good way to extend the range of my camera and lenses that I currently own, but purchasing everything required would cost almost as much as a longer lens for my camera. While I would be able to get photos of birds and other animals that I see at greater distances than I can shoot good photos of now…

Whitetail bucks on the run

Whitetail bucks on the run

 

Whitetail bucks on the run

Whitetail bucks on the run

…the results wouldn’t be much better than what I did for those photos, cropping way to much to get a good photo. Despite their price, spotting scopes don’t have the same quality of glass as do camera lenses, and spotting scopes don’t have a diaphragm for the aperture setting, nor auto-focus, for that matter. If I’m going to plunk down thousands of dollars for optics, then it will be for a true camera lens, not a spotting scope and accessories for photography.

Anyway, getting back to the numbers. I have no compunction to count the number of birds that I see in a flock, such as the swallows from a recent post, or these starlings attempting to verify the weight capacity of this crane.

Starlings

Starlings

Despite their collaboration, they couldn’t figure out how to operate the controls of the crane to complete their test of the it.

More starlings

More starlings

As I’ve said before, the Muskegon area in general, and particularly the wastewater facility has spoiled me. Where else could I go and see all three of the falcon species somewhat common in Michigan?

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

 

Merlin

Merlin

 

American kestrel

Male American kestrel

Although it irks me that I have never gotten photos of all three species in one day. In this case, I shot the peregrine and the Merlin on the same day, but I had to go back to an earlier trip to get the photo of the kestrel.

Of the three species of falcons, the kestrels are definitely the hardest to get a good photo of. Not only are they the smallest of the three, but they are also the most camera-shy of the falcons. On one of my visits to Muskegon a few weeks ago, I saw five or six kestrels all in one small area. Despite my best efforts, all I got was one poor photo of a female kestrel in flight.

Female American kestrel

Female American kestrel

That may actually be a juvenile, but it still shows the difference between the sexes. The males have blue-grey patches on their sides, the females are all brown.

That’s where photography is so very helpful, being able to catch a bird as small and fast as the kestrels are, and being able to study the photo to make a positive ID. Still, I have to be careful, because photos can lie in some ways. Take the shorebirds, there’s not many differences between a least sandpiper…

Least sandpipers

Least sandpipers

…and a pectoral sandpiper…

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

…at least, not at first glance. The biggest difference is in their size, a least sandpiper is about the size of a sparrow, a pectoral sandpiper is about the size of an American robin. When I crop the photos down, the size difference doesn’t show, you have nothing to judge the relative size of the two species. Then, the small details become important, like the fact that the pectoral sandpipers’ feathers are edged in white, whereas the least sandpipers’ feathers aren’t, or at least not to the same degree.

One thing that I have learned to try to do when photographing shorebirds is to shoot a photo of something other than a shorebird to use as a placeholder of sorts when I switch between species of shorebirds. A great blue heron flying past me works very well for that. 😉

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

The idea is that I don’t have dozens and dozens of uninterrupted photos of various species of shorebirds to sort through as I try to remember which species was which as I was shooting them. I’ll concentrate on one species until I think that I have a good photo of it…

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

…then, I’ll shoot a photo of something else…

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

…then begin shooting the next species of shorebird.

Baird's sandpiper

Juvenile Baird’s sandpiper

That has worked very well for me, as opposed to my earlier efforts when I ended up trying to sort photos and identify the birds in the photos at the same time. Now, I can concentrate on a single species, getting the best possible photos of it.

Lesser yellowlegs at take-off

Lesser yellowlegs at take-off

 

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

 

Lesser yellowlegs preparing to land

Lesser yellowlegs preparing to land

I’ve gotten most of the duck species completed, but I have more goose species to find and photograph yet, and other than the southeast corner of Michigan, Muskegon remains my best bet for finding them. You haven’t been seeing many photos of ducks here in my blog recently, that’s because the males are molting at this time of the year.

Male ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck

 

Male ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck

Still, when one poses for me, I find it impossible not to photograph it.

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

Even if its feathers are all out-of-place and falling out.

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

When a duck will walk out of the water, shake itself…

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

…then dry its wings, I guess that I just have to shoot it.

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

If they would only pose so nicely when they were in full breeding plumage, I’d be a very happy camper! 🙂

The same applies to this species of bird as well, as far as the posing nicely.

Belted kingfisher

Belted kingfisher

They look a little like the creature from the black lagoon when seen head on.

Belted kingfisher

Belted kingfisher

This one is showing lots of color, but of course, it wouldn’t allow me to get close enough for a really good photo.

Belted kingfisher

Belted kingfisher

Another thing about the wastewater facility that I have learned over time is that it’s also a good place to shoot flowers if the birds don’t cooperate.

Bee balm

Bee balm

 

Blue vervain

Blue vervain

 

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

 

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

 

Spotted bee balm or horsemint

Spotted bee balm or horsemint

I just wish that there were more opportunities to shoot landscapes there.

The Muskegon-Newaygo drain

The Muskegon-Newaygo drain

 

The clay pit

The clay pit

 

Just a cloudscape

Just a cloudscape

The past few weekends, I’ve had some dramatic lighting due to the weather, but no scenic places to take advantage of the lighting. I probably should have gone someplace else, but then, I would have missed this.

Great blue heron flipping a minnow that it had caught

Great blue heron flipping a minnow that it had caught

To my surprise the heron didn’t take off as soon as it saw me, I guess that there were too many minnows in that small pond and the heron was hungry. They always seem to be hungry, but this one was catching minnows one right after another…

Great blue heron hunting

Great blue heron hunting

… it was never long before the heron grabbed another snack…

Great blue heron catching another minnow

Great blue heron catching another minnow

…so I sat there shooting away until I got a better photo of the heron flipping a minnow in its beak so that the minnow was facing the right way for the heron to swallow it.

Great blue heron flipping a minnow so that it was facing the right way to be swallowed

Great blue heron flipping a minnow so that it was facing the right way to be swallowed

Another of those “if only” times. If only the light had been better. If only the pond wasn’t down in a steep valley so that I could have gotten down to the heron’s level. If only it hadn’t been a juvenile heron. If only I had been able to get closer. Still, I’m happy with those shots. I took what I had learned the week before as far as camera settings to get those photos, and despite the lack of light and all the other “if only”s, they turned well enough so that you can see the minnow in midair.

So, I suppose that until next spring at the earliest, I’ll continue to go to the same old places when I do get a chance to get outside. I’ll have to see what this fall and winter hold for me, both the weather, and if I’m able to purchase the long zoom lens that I’d like, and still have money left over to pay for motel rooms if I travel to the other side of the state.

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


Now more than ever!

As I ended the last post, I was sitting on a large rock near the bottom of the dyke that was built to create the storage lagoons at the Muskegon County wastewater facility. I wasn’t wearing camo, I wasn’t really trying to hide, as there’s nothing there to hide behind. All I was doing was sitting quietly, moving as little as possible, at about the same distance from the water as I have been from some birds that I knew were likely to show up close to where I was sitting. I figured that if they will allow me to approach to within 25 feet or so to them on other occasions, then the birds shouldn’t mind my being that close to them as I sat there. It worked!

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Sort of.

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

It was funny, this juvenile gull came in for a landing…

Juvenile gull

Juvenile gull

…heard the camera shutter clicking away, and looked back to see what was making the noise…

Juvenile gull

Juvenile gull

…and got a sheepish look on its face as it saw me there.

Juvenile gull

Juvenile gull

The gull didn’t stick around long, I guess that my presence wasn’t to its liking.

Not only did I learn that just sitting quietly was enough to keep some species of birds returning to one of their favorite places to forage for food…

Killdeer in flight

Killdeer in flight

…I had plenty of time to dial in all the settings to catch birds in flight…

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

…and, I could catch birds flying towards me…

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

…they were jostling to see which one could lead the way…

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

…but as they got closer, I picked one…

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

…until they veered off as they hit the water.

JVIS1702

I was hoping that they’d swim closer to me, but they weren’t ready for that yet, they kept their distance from that point on, I assume that they saw me as they were landing, which is why they veered to one side.

I’ll admit that it got to be a bit boring at times, just sitting there, so much so that I shot this photo of a bug that I saw, however, not wanting to scare the birds that I had waited to return after I sat down, I didn’t get close enough to the bug.

Unidentified bug

Unidentified bug

For the most part though, the lesser yellowlegs kept me entertained with their frequent battles over the small area of shoreline that I was watching. I’m not sure why they would fight over that spot, when there are miles of similar shoreline around the two man-made lagoons, but they did. The fights usually began with a face-off.

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Then, there would be some posturing by both birds…

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

 

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

…the posturing often included jumping up into the air…

JVIS1874

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

…the one dropping a feather or something to distract its opponent was a nice touch…

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

…and once in a while, one would charge the other that was leaping…

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

…then, the real fighting would start…

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

 

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

 

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

 

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

The fights didn’t last long, but they happened frequently, which is how I was able to get those images. The fights would end when one of the combatants would simply fly away.

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

While I’m pleased as punch with those images, I know that I can do better still, although most of you have seen enough of the yellowlegs to last a lifetime in this and my previous post. 😉

On the plus side, I was able to keep most of both of the birds in the frame which was difficult as quick as the action was, and how violent the fights were.

The downside is that I should have been using a zoom lens that would have allowed me to zoom out at times to keep all of both birds in the frame all of the time.

On the plus side, I got the shutter speed almost perfect, the images are sharp, yet there’s still a little motion blur that helps to convey the action taking place. There is no downside to that. 🙂

By manually setting the ISO to 640, I was able to shoot at the shutter speeds required, and still retain enough depth of field to keep both of the birds in focus, even though I was close enough to the birds that  those images are cropped just a little, or not at all, depending on the positions of the birds. With the 7D Mk II, ISO 640 still provided great resolution, there’s good detail in all of those images.

I tried several different arrays of focus point(s), I couldn’t keep a single focus point on either of the birds once the fighting began, so I ended up getting my best shots using all of the focus points in the zone mode. It helped that I was close to being on the same level as the birds, If I had been up on the bank, the auto-focus would have focused on the water, not the birds.

I had close to perfect conditions, even though the sun was high, there are very few shadows, the light bouncing off from the water provided a source of fill light to help kill any shadows. The coloration of the birds, dark on top, white on the bottom, helped with that also.

What it all adds up to is that I know that I’m on the right track, and that the plans that I’m making for the future are good ones. Now, more than ever, I wish that I had the time to devote to photography.

I may not have reached my goal, of being able to photograph the behavior of bird(s) very well, but I’m getting close enough to be able to taste it.

Killdeer in flight

Killdeer in flight

That was shot as I was dialing in the settings that I used later.

I am so looking forward to the time when I can spend a day, or a large part of a day, just sitting in a hide, or as I did on this day, just sitting quietly, shooting what transpires around me.

While I was too close to the yellowlegs at times, I could have used a longer set-up to shoot portraits of some of the other birds that didn’t come as close to me.

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

So, I can see myself sitting there with two set-ups, one for better portraits of birds, the other one, to catch the action shots.

Female mallard in flight

Female mallard in flight

However, I don’t want to sit all day, every day, so I’d like the time to go for longer hikes as well. I would have missed the eagles from the last post…

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

…if I had sat by the lagoon all day.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’d like to purchase a full-frame camera in the future, and now I’m seeing how those plans fit into my over goals. I can also see what I need to do in the future as well. I could have used a tripod with a gimbal head as I was sitting near the lagoon, I found myself resting my elbows on my knees for many of the bird in flight photos.

Juvenile gull in flight

Juvenile gull in flight

That wasn’t a good idea, although I was able to hold the camera and long lens steady, bracing myself that way limited my range of motion when I was sitting. Also, the camera and lens gets heavy after a while, so I’d set it down on the rocks next to me, and I missed a few photo ops because of that. If the camera was at the ready on a tripod, I may not have missed them. The videos of the yellowlegs that I put in the last post would have been much better if I had used a tripod as well.

I have an excellent tripod, for landscapes and other subjects that are motionless, but with the three-way head that I have, it’s terrible for following any type of motion. It certainly wouldn’t have worked for the action shots or the video that I shot while sitting by the lagoon. I did think about using it for the portraits that I shot, but sitting there, I was able to steady the camera quite well for those images.

I can also tell that my plan of waiting for Canon to introduce a full-frame body that has the same features as the 7D Mk II does, but a less expensive one than the 1DX, is also a wise choice.

With a full-frame body, I’ll lose a little in focal length over what I have with a crop sensor body, so I can see that deciding which body to use for portraits, and which one to use for action shots will depend on the subject and the conditions at the time. I’ll have to balance low-light performance vs. focal length while choosing which set-up to use on various subjects.

I know that all this talk of camera gear and set-ups is boring to most people who read my blog, but it is taking over my life.

For my longer hikes, I’d like to be able to cut down on how much gear that I have to carry with me. That also fits with what I’m planning to purchase in the future as well.

I could have used the 100-400 mm Series zoom lens on the 7D while I was shooting the yellowlegs in action, and it will make an ideal set-up for carrying while I’m on longer hikes, versus what I carry now. I’ll have a full-frame body with the Canon 24-105 mm lens for landscapes and other subjects that require a wider lens. I could probably get by with just those two cameras and lenses, but compared to what I carry now, I could easily throw in either the 100 mm macro lens, or an even wider lens than the 24-105 mm lens. Being able to cover from 24 mm to 400 mm with just two lenses would be a huge weight savings for me over what I try to carry now. Absolute image quality may suffer a little, but my new motto is that if it’s good enough to shoot photos for Nat Geo, then it’s good enough for me. 😉

It’s not that I’ll ever have a photo published in Nat Geo, it’s about taking pride in what I’m doing, and loving what I’m doing. I always try to do the best that I can, I may hate driving truck for a living, but I still try to do it the best that I can, and I take pride in my abilities. The difference between nature photography and anything else that I’ve ever done, either for employment or as a hobby, is that nature photography brings together everything that I love with very few downsides.

I can’t put into words how much I would enjoy having all day, every day to photograph the beauty of nature, from dew covered spider webs in the morning…

Spider web covered with dew

Spider web covered with dew

 

Spider web covered with dew 2

Spider web covered with dew 2

…to beautiful sunsets that defy description…

Almost full moon at sunset

Almost full moon at sunset

 

Sunset at home

Sunset at home

…although, I would have preferred a more scenic setting than the parking lot of my apartment complex for the foreground in the sunset photos.

Sunset at home

Sunset at home

But, that’s what I get when I have a schedule to conform to as far as being ready to go to work the next morning. 😦

It’s a funny thing, there are days like this last Saturday when I struggle to come up with even a single good photo worthy of posting here, then the very next day, great photos are everywhere, or so it seems. Of course, some of that is due to the weather, some is due to where I go, but I think that a lot of it has to do with how I feel.

Since I began the current work schedule that I have right now, I’ve been feeling that Saturdays are almost a waste. Because I get home so late on Friday evenings, I’m late getting out of bed on Saturdays, and I miss the best light. On most Saturdays, I’ve been walking around home so that I can get outside as soon as I can, then going to Muskegon on Sundays. For most of this summer, Saturdays have been the days when I experiment, lately it has been using my wide-angle lenses more. It seems to be helping, even though I don’t have a photo to show for it yet, but that’s because I need so much more practice shooting wide yet.

Earlier this summer, there were plenty of birds to photograph, and since I’ve been saving these images for months now, It’s time to use them up.

Male Baltimore oriole singing

Male Baltimore oriole singing

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen an oriole, I think that they are on their way south for winter already. These guys are still around, although I don’t hear them singing very often any longer.

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

It’s easy to tell a male cardinal from a female, but with catbirds…

Male grey catbird

Male grey catbird

…I can’t tell the sexes apart until a male starts singing his songs.

Male grey catbird singing

Male grey catbird singing

The same applies to chipping sparrows also.

Male chipping sparrow

Male chipping sparrow

The only way that I could tell that it was a male was because he turned around to belt out a few verses of his song.

Male chipping sparrow singing

Male chipping sparrow singing

Oh, I guess that I do have one of my experiments shooting with a wide-angle lens to post.

Hairy vetch about to bloom

Hairy vetch about to bloom

Maybe posting those photos now was a bad idea, for they remind me of how quickly this summer has raced past me, and of all the things that I’ve missed since I don’t get outside very often any longer. I’d expound on that further, but it depresses me a little, plus, it’s time to go to work again.

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


Does it matter?

On Saturday, due to the weather forecast, I switched my usual routine from walking around home, to going to Muskegon to look for a rare bird that had been spotted there. The rare bird was a sharp-tailed sandpiper, a native of Asia, but which according to what little I could learn about it, sometimes shows up in odd places. I may or may not have gotten a photo of it, but it’s almost a certainty that I saw it. I’ll get to the details in just a few.

First, we had been in near drought conditions earlier this summer, but near the end of July, that ended with a good dose of rain. The rain then ended, and we hadn’t received any more until last Friday, but when it finally started coming down again, it made up for lost time so to speak. Rainfall totals from around West Michigan ranged from around an inch to well over 5 inches, with some localized flooding south of where I live. One constant has been the heat and humidity this summer, which has been tough to take after two cool summers in a row.

Owing to the hours that I had worked the night before, I got a late start on Saturday, and was made even later by a major traffic jam caused by road “construction” on the main freeway that I take to Muskegon. I put construction in quotes, because every year for the past few years, they have closed two of the three lanes of the expressway down to supposedly repair it, always on weekends, and it always creates very long traffic back-ups with all the traffic headed north. Once they “finish” the “repairs”, the road is bumpier than it was before they began. That seems to be the new normal around Michigan, working on the same sections of road year after year, with the roadway in worse shape afterwards than it was to begin with. That, and ripping up sections of roadway that is in fair shape to replace the pavement, while leaving miles of absolutely horrible pavement to crumble away even more. But, enough of that little rant.

Anyway, arriving at the wastewater facility, I spotted a belted kingfisher, which flew off before I could even get the camera pointed out the window of my car. This heron didn’t stick around long either…

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

…but at least I got that shot before it flew off.

Even though I knew that it wasn’t where the sharp-tailed sandpiper had been seen on the previous days, I stopped at one of the grassy cells to see what other shorebirds that I could find. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but I did shoot this semi-palmated sandpiper shaking the mud off from something it had found to eat.

Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated sandpiper

On my way to where the rare sandpiper had been seen, I spotted a peregrine falcon hot on the tail feathers of a pigeon.

Peregrine falcon chasing a pigeon

Peregrine falcon chasing a pigeon

From what I could see, the pigeon escaped.

You may have been able to tell that the weather was variable, sunny one minute, and heavy dark clouds the next. That made photograph more challenging, and wouldn’t you know, it was during a period of the heavy dark clouds that I saw the falcon chasing the pigeon. it’s the way my luck always seems to go.

I knew that I was going to have trouble identifying the sharp-tailed sandpiper when it turned out that I was the shorebird expert among the group of people looking for it. I had to point out this black-bellied plover…

Black-bellied plover

Black-bellied plover

…almost in full breeding plumage…

Black-bellied plover

Black-bellied plover

…as well as this Wilson’s phalarope between two lesser yellowlegs…

Wilson's phalarope between two lesser yellowlegs

Wilson’s phalarope between two lesser yellowlegs

…to the others looking for the rare sandpiper.

It’s pretty bad when I’m the shorebird expert in a group, when the others all had spotting scopes and their field guides out as they searched for the sandpiper. To make matters worse, the fly by that the falcon had done had driven many of the shorebirds into hiding. It took some time before they began to emerge from the vegetation and begin feeding again.

Of course to make things even more difficult, there were dozens of shorebirds running around once they felt safe to venture out into the open again. If I got a photo of the rare sharp-tailed sandpiper, then this is it.

Sharp-tailed sandpiper?

Sharp-tailed sandpiper?

 

Sharp-tailed sandpiper?

Sharp-tailed sandpiper?

But, the question is, does it matter if I got a photo of it or not?

That species isn’t on the list of birds that are regularly seen in Michigan that I’m working from as I try to photograph all of those species, since it is such a rare bird in this hemisphere. On one hand, it would be pretty cool to say that I got to see such a rare visitor, but on the other hand, outside of the birding world, what difference does it make.

By the way, some one who knew a great deal more about shorebirds than I showed up as I was looking for the sandpiper, and he confirmed what the bird in the photo was, both looking through his scope and looking at my photos. Still, it is a guess as to whether or not that is a sharp-tailed sandpiper or not. I wish that I had been there when the true bird experts had been there earlier in the week.

That brings up another question, what kind of jobs do those people have that allow them to rush off in search of a rare bird the second that one is spotted somewhere? From what I read, there was a group of around 80 people looking for the sandpiper on Friday when it was confirmed that it was indeed a sharp-tailed sandpiper.

If I am ever able to complete the list of birds seen regularly in Michigan, I’ll be a happy camper. I’m more of an all round nature buff and wannabe photographer than competitive birder.

I did go looking for the Forster’s terns that had been seen on the breakwater at Grand Haven, Michigan, after I had finished at the wastewater facility on Saturday. I didn’t find the Forster’s terns, but I did find this.

Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated sandpiper

You can see that it has slightly webbed feet, that’s where it got its name from.

Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated sandpiper

When it began to rain, the sandpiper and I took shelter together behind the tower for the beacon on the end of the breakwater.

Semi-palmated sandpiper

Semi-palmated sandpiper

The rain let up a little, so I decided to head back to my car, but I stopped on the way to shoot this juvenile common tern.

Juvenile common tern

Juvenile common tern

You can see how small that the common tern is in relation to the herring gull behind it. When the tern took flight, I shot a few more photos of it.

Juvenile common tern

Juvenile common tern

So, Saturday turned out to be a bit of a bust, I’m 75% sure that the photos of the sharp-tailed sandpiper are indeed the sandpiper, it was more of a let down to miss the Forster’s terns, as they are on my list and I’d like to check them off. Also, I didn’t get a single image that I’m really pleased with, other than the semi-palmated sandpiper. I made up for that on Sunday.

Killdeer in flight

Killdeer in flight

That was just the warm up!

With every one else looking for the sharp-tailed sandpiper…

The rare bird circus

The rare bird circus

…with people having driven from surrounding states in hopes of getting a look at the rare bird. I saw license plates from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota on the cars there, and that’s just a small part of the crowd.

I went to the opposite corner of the wastewater facility to the southeast corner of the east storage lagoon to get away from the crowd, and to test something for the future. Instead of just sitting in my car and waiting to see what would come along, I knew that where I was at always seems to hold birds, they must like something about that spot. So, I scrambled down the bank which is covered with broken rocks, and found myself a nice large rock to sit on and hope that a few birds would return. It didn’t take long for the killdeer above to return, and shortly after it arrived, so did a lesser yellowlegs.

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

My hope had been to catch birds in flight returning, so that they’d be flying at me…

Killdeer in flight

Killdeer in flight

…rather than away from me.

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

But, I found that most birds came in at an angle.

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

I was a bit surprised by the birds that flew past me as I sat there.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

 

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

 

Tree swallow in flight

Tree swallow in flight

 

Female mallard in flight

Female mallard in flight

 

Eastern meadowlark in flight

Eastern meadowlark in flight

The images are fair, nothing to write home about though, so I decided to get really serious about getting the camera set-up for the very best images that I can possibly get. It turns out that those settings worked for action other than birds in flight. One of the lesser yellowlegs began squawking, so I shot a few photos of that…

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

…and while he was at it, I shot this video of him.

He was moving so quickly that I had a tough time keeping it in the frame and in focus, just like shooting stills, almost. 😉

I assume it was a he, for it wasn’t long before it began chasing the other yellowlegs away.

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

It started to rain shortly after that, so I took a drive around other parts of the wastewater facility, but once the rain ended, I returned to the same spot to shoot this one…

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

…and plenty of others as you will see later. When I saw the images, I was surprised how violent the yellowlegs were, because watching it with the naked eye, they move too quickly to make out what’s really happening.

Okay, I said that while it was raining that I took a drive around other parts of the facility. Seeing two juvenile bald eagles engaged in air to air combat, I threw the camera up to my eye to shoot this horrible photo.

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

I calmed down, got a good focus lock on one of the eagles, then shoot these next two.

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

But trying to anticipate their flight paths as they fought was more than I could do.

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

Two juvenile bald eagles fighting

So, I had to settle for a few images of each eagle in flight by itself.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

 

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

I had shot a few other photos while waiting for the sun to come back out, but I’ll save those for a later post. For now, a couple of more of the yellowlegs fighting. The fights would begin with a face off.

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Two lesser yellowlegs about to fight

Once the fights began, wings, feet, and beaks were all used during the combat…

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

…along with displays that I’m sure are meant to intimidate the opponent.

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Finally! I’m getting the action shots that I’ve always wanted, and worked so hard to become good at getting regularly!

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

Two lesser yellowlegs fighting

I’ll tell you though, those birds can move extremely fast when they are dodging another bird’s blows from its wings, or thrusts with its beak! If anything, I was a bit too close, since I had trouble keeping them in the frame, but I learned so much this afternoon about how to shoot those photos, that I’ll take these the way that they are.

As good as these are, I have some that are better yet, but you’ll have to wait until the next post to see them, unless you’re bored by so many images of the yellowlegs fighting.

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


Slow down, get closer, shoot lots of junk

I’m going to attempt to use up a few of the many photos that I have saved for blogging, I’ll see how that goes given how little time that I have for blogging these days. Before I get too far along though, I have to say that I like the larger paychecks that I’ve been getting since I started this new dedicated run that I have now. With the extra money coming in, I’ve been adding more goodies to the wish list that I have of photo gear that I’d like to purchase some day.

I’m in no hurry to make those purchases though, except for the long telephoto zoom lens. That lens would come in handy, because there have been times recently that I’ve found myself too close to the subject to get all of it in the frame, but not close enough for just a head and shoulders shot unless I cropped the image considerably. The rabbit from my last post was one example of that, I actually backed away from the rabbit to get the photo that I posted, to get all of the rabbit in the frame.

Since I brought up the rabbit, I have to say a few words about the battery grip that I purchased last month, I love it! Not only does it make using the camera in the portrait orientation much easier…

Pickerel weed flowers

Pickerel weed flowers

…but it assists me in holding the camera steadier no matter which way I have the camera oriented.

Juvenile bank swallow

Juvenile bank swallow

In addition, I have learned that even though it holds two batteries to extend the life of the batteries, it can be used with just one battery, and that if I do use two, they do not need to have the same level of charge in them. That means as the batteries run down, I can swap out one of them to a fully charged battery, then alternate the two batteries so that I don’t have to charge two at the same time. I’m getting used to the second set of control buttons on the battery grip as well. When I first began using it and would turn the camera to the portrait position, I’d fumble around reaching for the buttons where they used to be. Not any more, it’s becoming natural for me to use the second set of buttons on the grip now, even when I’m changing focus points or changing other camera settings.

I find myself shooting more images of the same subject to get the best possible photo. Take the swallow above, when it held its head differently, so that the light hit it at a different angle, the swallow had a mean  or angry appearance.

Juvenile bank swallow

Juvenile bank swallow

And, swallows aren’t generally mean or angry, unless they are defending their nest, then they become fearless and will attack much larger predators. I probably have a photo of that saved somewhere that I’ll find eventually, but for right now, here’s another photo of how swallows look to me most of the time.

Juvenile tree swallow

Juvenile tree swallow

I love swallows, especially when there’s a flock of them flying around me engaging in their cheerful chattering as they fly around picking off the bugs in the way that they do.

Shooting more photos of the same subject is especially important when the subjects seems to be constantly moving. This applies mostly to birds, but also insects.

Milkweed bug

Milkweed bug

Photography is all about the light, and getting enough of it to the camera’s sensor to produce a good image. If you open up the aperture of the lens to let more light in, then you lose depth of field, and the entire subject may not be sharp if you do, especially with macro photos like the one above, or this one.

Unidentified fly

Unidentified fly

Even at f/16, the far wing of the fly is getting blurry because I didn’t have enough depth of field for how large the fly was as close to it as I was.

If you leave the shutter open longer to let more light into the camera, then you can get motion blur if the subject(s) move at all, and some subjects always seem to be moving.

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

And, the more subjects that you have in the frame…

Juvenile starlings and killdeer

Juvenile starlings and killdeer

…the tougher that it becomes to keep them all sharp. In that photo, the second killdeer in the left corner was running into the frame as I shot it. My intent was to shoot the starlings, but competition for food brought the killdeer over to see what the starlings were finding to eat.

I’ll get to the third part of the exposure triad, ISO, in a minute, but I’m going to get sidetracked for a short time first.

The one type of photo that I still struggle mightily on is trying to convey just how many birds I see during my excursions to the Muskegon area. Here’s one example, 23 assorted shorebirds and one lone mallard, not to mention one or two swallows zooming through the frame.

Mallard and shorebirds

Mallard and shorebirds

Here’s another example, sandhill cranes and Canada geese.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese

You can see two groups of birds in that one, I wonder if the cranes follow the geese around to pick off the insects that the geese disturb as the geese feed on the vegetation? That is a tough question, for geese will eat insects, but they are mostly vegetarians. Sandhill cranes do eat some vegetation, but their main food source is insects. I’m getting even more sidetracked, so I better get back to the number of birds that I see.

A few assorted swallows

A few assorted swallows

Those are mostly tree swallows, but I recall seeing a few barn swallows and perhaps bank swallows as well. It’s really hard to tell when there are so many of them. I tried to get closer so that I could go to a shorter lens for more depth of field, but every time I did get closer, the flock would take flight. Of course I tried to get photos of that as well, but none of them turned out well. I found it easier to shoot the other swallows perched on the power lines.

A few more swallows

A few more swallows

The amount of wildlife that I see around Muskegon, especially at the wastewater facility is astounding! Remember, the wastewater facility is 11,000 acres in size, and only a small portion of that is used for treating waste water.

I was parked near the old gravel pit there, shooting photos of something or another in the lake that was formed when they dug the gravel out. I don’t remember what I was shooting photos of at the time, but I do remember that I was switching tele-converters when a herd of whitetail bucks crossed the road ahead of where I had parked. I managed to finish making the switch, and shot this extremely poor photo through the windshield of my car.

Whitetail buck

Whitetail buck

Of course it had the smallest rack of any of the other bucks that had already disappeared into the brush. 😉 Still, it’s something to see several bucks all at one time, when in many parts of Michigan, seeing just one is something special. I could do an entire post on how the Michigan DNR manages the deer herd, but I won’t, I have to get back on topic here, which is ISO.

You get the sharpest images with the greatest amount of detail at the lowest ISO settings, just as in the days of film.

Heal all?

Heal all?

 

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

As you boost the ISO, you lose the fine details, and you also introduce noise into the images, which looks much like grain from the days of film.

I can go up to ISO 6400 with the 7D and come up with a fair image.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

But even then, it requires removing the noise in the image using Lightroom, and I’ve lost the fine details in the cardinal’s feathers. With the 60D body, I limit the ISO to 3200 or I lose too much detail. Yes, I could go higher if I absolutely had to, but the results would be poor. So, in very low light situations, it becomes even more important to shoot more photos of the same subject to come up with one where I don’t have motion blur at slow shutter speeds, and to get enough depth of field to get the entire bird in focus.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I just missed on that one, she was moving around and I thought that I had that streak of sunlight on her eye, but by the time the shutter went off, she had turned a bit more.

Just as with the swallow from earlier, it is really amazing to me how slight changes in the light, and a subject’s posture changes the appearance of the subject in the finished photo. I find that trying to time the exact moment to press the shutter is virtually impossible unless the subject is completely motionless. That very seldom happens.

When I get as close to birds and small mammals as I did to the cardinal or this guy…

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

…most of the time, I can see them breathing. Even if they are otherwise still, just the slight movement as they breathe can change their appearance in an image. That may sound hard to believe, but it’s true, even that small amount of motion changes how the light plays on their feathers or fur.

In the title of this post, I said shoot lots of junk. Well, most of them aren’t really junk for me any longer, but there is usually an image or two that stand out from all the rest of the same subject as being better than the rest, even if the subject didn’t appear to have moved.

It can be a bit boring to look through 20 or so very similar images of a subject, but I’m finding that it is worth it. Besides, you never know what you’ll come up with if you can keep the camera on a bird and keep shooting.

American goldfinch landing

American goldfinch landing

He dropped from a higher branch and never spread his wings until he slowed down to land. The shots that I took as he dropped weren’t very good, for that matter, neither is that one. Still, one of these days I may end up with a good one.

I have plenty of goldfinch photos saved, so I suppose that I’ll throw in another one here.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Okay, I’ve been writing about how critters move, but flowers do as well, if there’s even a hint of a breeze.

Rosebuds

Rosebuds

For a while, I religiously used my tripod when shooting flowers, but that didn’t work well for me. It did eliminate camera shake, but that doesn’t stop the subject from moving, and if you’re shooting flowers outside, then there’s a good chance that they are moving. It isn’t so bad with low growing flowers.

Bindweed

Bindweed

But on flowers growing on long spindly stems, it can be a huge problem to deal with.

Chicory

Chicory

For me, I’ve found that it works better to shoot handheld, and attempt to sway with the flowers as the wind moves them, with the camera in the servo mode of auto-focusing, so that the camera tries to keep the moving flower in focus. That may not be the correct way, and it is one of those times when many of the photos are junk, but I can usually get one or two good images that way. Sometimes, I just give up and move on, hoping that conditions are better at another time.

Insects present even more difficulties, as they are on vegetation that may be moving in the wind to begin with…

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

…and, they may be flapping their wings as well.

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

Then, the only way that I’ve found to get that shot is to keep the shutter speed high, and shoot plenty of shots hoping for a good one.

I’ve gotten to the point where I dislike having to hope for a good photo, as most of the time I’ve learned how to get the shot that I want. That is, unless the subjects refuse to cooperate.

I’ve posted a few photos of various small birds attacking larger predator birds, a few have actually been good. However, one thing that I’d like to be able to photograph well is the fact that as smaller birds attack them, crows fight back. It’s hard to tell in this poor photo, but the crow had turned upside down in flight to ward off the attack of a kingbird.

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

I haven’t gotten a shot of it yet this year, but there are times when the smaller birds will land on a raptor in flight and ride along with it as they continue to attack it. Well, maybe the red-winged blackbird attacking the turkey from earlier this summer almost counts.

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a turkey

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a turkey

Except that the turkey wasn’t flying.

Crows don’t allow that to happen, maybe because they are more agile in flight.

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

However, every time that I’ve witnessed that, it’s been with the sun at the wrong angle and too far away.

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

Eastern kingbird attacking an American crow

One of these days, I should hang out near a kingbird or red-winged blackbird’s nest and wait for a crow to come along. 😉 It would have to be a sunny day with clear skies, not a day with a milky overcast as that day was.

That’s when slowing down becomes important, at least for me. I used to walk more for exercise, so what I photographed as I walked was purely luck. I’ve been slowing down more all the time, and I don’t think that it’s just a coincidence that my photos have been improving. I’ve said before that I’d like to be able to sit in a hide to get even closer to the subjects that I shoot, I’m looking forward to the day when I can do that. Until then, what I’m doing is learning the best places to just sit and wait for subjects to come closer to me. That’s how I got the photo of the belted kingfisher in the last post. As a matter of fact, I was sitting in the same spot then as when I shot the poor photo of the whitetail buck earlier in this post.

They say that variety is the spice of life, and I suppose that I agree with that. But when it comes to places that work best as places to sit, I’m finding that small areas where a variety of different types of habitat come together usually produce the widest variety of photo opportunities for me. That makes sense, you won’t find a red-tailed hawk…

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

…in the middle of a large, unbroken tract of forest, as the red-tailed hawks prefer to hunt open fields.

( I was shooting almost directly into the sun when I shot that hawk, I moved around to the other side thinking the light would be better, but I’m not as pleased with the photos that I shot then.)

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Anyway, one key component to the places to sit seems to be water. Not only to attract shorebirds…

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

…ducks…

Female mallard following a male green winged teal in flight

Female mallard following a male green winged teal in flight

…and amphibians…

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle

…all wildlife depends on water for life in one way or another.

Fox squirrel drinking from a creek

Fox squirrel drinking from a creek

It isn’t that I’ve run out of photos, not by a long shot, but I’m going to end this post here, because I’ve run out of time, again.

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


Not to brag too much

I was hoping to have finished another post by now to use up a few of the many photos that I still have saved and would like to put into posts here. That may not happen though, because of the hours that I worked the last week. It doesn’t help when I’m also shooting some of the best photos that I’ve ever shot.

Dragonfly, the cropped version

Dragonfly, the cropped version

For the record, here’s the uncropped version.

Dragonfly, the uncropped version

Dragonfly, the uncropped version

Since I had a willing model, I also tried a few different angles, here’s one of them.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I had a pretty good time today, although I saw mostly the same species of birds that I have been seeing lately, the one exception was this Baird’s sandpiper.

Baird's sandpiper

Baird’s sandpiper

I’ve had the Canon 7D Mk II for just over a year now, and I probably made some mistakes when I first started using it. I used settings similar to what I had been using with the 60D bodies, and I came up with those settings while using the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the Canon L series lenses which never seemed to auto-focus very well on the 60D. I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting around home on Saturdays, when it’s doubtful that I’ll see anything special to shoot.

I may not have posted many photos of them lately, but I’ve posted tons of photos of cardinals over the years, so when one perched out in the open to feed on sumac, it was time for some testing.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I liked that look, but I really wanted her to show me her crest, which she did eventually, even though it wasn’t much of a crest.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

She was also a sloppy eater.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I learned that when using the 300 mm L series lens, even with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it, I can open the aperture up all the way and still get sharp photos with the 7D.

Anyway, I don’t want to ramble on about the technical side of these photos, but like I’ve been saying, I’m shooting some of the best photos ever lately.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

I was trying to see what the sandpiper was eating, but I wasn’t able to catch whatever it found to eat.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

I’m doing quite well on flowers also, if I do say so myself.

St. John's wort

St. John’s wort

 

Iron weed

Iron weed

 

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

 

Buttonbush

Buttonbush

And, when I hang around the flowers, I’ve been catching a few bees quite well too.

Honeybee on purple loosestrife

Honeybee on purple loosestrife

 

Honeybee on buttonbush

Honeybee on buttonbush

 

Bumblebee on horse nettle

Bumblebee on horse nettle

 

Bumblebee in flight

Bumblebee in flight

I only wish that all my images were that good, however, I still shoot some photos for the record so to speak, like these two juvenile bald eagles sharing a fence.

Juvenile bald eagle number 1

Juvenile bald eagle number 1

It isn’t every day that one sees two eagles that close together. I thought of going to a shorter lens to get them both in the frame, but then the eagles wouldn’t have been recognizable.

Juvenile bald eagle number 2

Juvenile bald eagle number 2

Then, there are those species of birds that refuse to play nice, and do their best to avoid the camera.

Female belted kingfisher

Female belted kingfisher

As it was, I considered myself lucky that she stuck around long enough for me to switch from the 1.4 X extender to the 2 X for that image. I knew that she wouldn’t hang around much longer, so I was switching back hoping to catch her in flight when I heard the splash that she made as she dove for a fish. She missed the fish from what I could tell, but she also moved to a different part of the lake to watch for her next chance to catch her lunch.

Give me a critter that will sit still for a few seconds, and I can usually get a pretty good image of it these days.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Even my “for the record” photos of animals doing things most people never see are getting better, as this series of a chipmunk up in a tree eating berries show.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I had a good deal of fun with this gal…

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

….following her through the leaves…

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

…as she tried to stay hidden…

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

…yet, wolf down a few berries when she found them…

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

…and, you can tell that chipmunks are closely related to squirrels from this series.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I can’t wait until these guys…

Juvenile wood duck

Juvenile wood duck

…grow up and get their adult feathers…

Juvenile wood duck

Juvenile wood duck

…although I know that I’ll never catch them out in the open like that once they do reach maturity.

The same things apply to this species as well.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

It must have been a good year for great blue herons this year, because after a couple of years of seeing very few of them…

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

 

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

 

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

…this year, they’re everywhere.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

 

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

 

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Hmmm, I’ve just gotten started on this post and I’ve almost hit my limit for photos already, so here’s a couple of more from today.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

 

Damselfly

Damselfly

 

Damselfly

Damselfly

You know, it just dawned on me. The 60D bodies did not work well with the two L series lenses that I use for birding, yet the Canon 100 mm macro L series lens works like a champ on the 60D body.

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

Eastern swallowtail butterfly

I’m not going to try to figure out why that is, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the results, I hope that you do too.

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


Torn

On one hand, this summer seems to be racing past me at an alarming speed, on the other hand, I’m beginning to look forward to fall, cooler weather, and the beautiful display of colors that the trees put on each year. The only problem with fall is that it’s followed by our long dreary west Michigan winters. I don’t want to think about that yet, but it won’t be long now at the rate that summer is flying by.

I feel as though I’ve missed a great deal this summer, especially flowers. Since I only get outside two days a week now due to my job, I’ll see the buds of flowers one week, and the spent flowers the next.

To drive that point home, this weekend I went to the Muskegon County Wastewater facility, and I found more signs of autumn’s approach.

It seems very early for eagles to begin moving from their breeding territories to the Muskegon area for the winter, but that’s what I found on Sunday.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

The eagle was perched when I first spotted it.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

It looked me over…

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

…but it didn’t seem very concerned about my being there, eagles seldom are. So, since I had both the sun and wind at my back, a good set-up if the eagle took flight, I hung around for a while, and it wasn’t too long before the eagle decided that it was time to harass the gulls and ducks again.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

I’ll get back to the other signs of autumn in just a bit, but first, I’ve had a request from a reader who asked why I wasn’t posting any photos of dew covered spider webs.

Dew covered spider web at dawn

Dew covered spider web at dawn

There are several reasons why that’s the only one so far this summer. The weather hasn’t cooperated, when it’s hot and muggy, dew doesn’t form overnight. I’m also getting out a little late, because of my work schedule this year. Those images are best shot at dawn, when the sun is low on the horizon, and I haven’t arrived early enough on most weekends. I really meant to shoot more of the spider webs on the day that I shot that one, but it was the day when I found the sandhill cranes, so I spent the early part of the day shooting the cranes.

Since I’ve gone back to find the spider web photo, I may as well throw this one from the same day in as well.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

When I walked around home on Saturday, I found that most of the red-winged blackbirds have left this area, to join with others to form large flocks that will migrate south together. Since I can hardly show you a photo of what wasn’t there, I’ll have to show you a photo of what was there that also shows that fall is coming.

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

Jumping around again, the drought that we were almost having has been broken, and in a big way in some places. A slow-moving system dropped up to 4 inches (10 cm) of rain in places over the past few days. On Saturday around home, I had to dodge the rain showers to get my walk in, on Sunday, I got sprinkled on by passing clouds a couple of times, but the clouds weren’t a solid overcast as they had been on Saturday.

I think that it’s because of the very low light that every photo that I shot on Saturday appears to me as if I had shot them inside…

American goldfinch eating thistle seeds

American goldfinch eating thistle seeds

…even though they weren’t.

St. John's wort

St. John’s wort

Anyway, back to the wastewater facility on Sunday. When I arrived, I found that large flocks of shorebirds had beaten me there, and were waiting to have their photo taken. While there are killdeer here all summer long…

Killdeer

Killdeer

…the number of them that I saw on Sunday was amazing. That applies to the lesser yellowlegs as well.

JVIS9707

Lesser yellowlegs

There have been a few of them around all summer, but their numbers had increased dramatically on Sunday, they were everywhere. Joining them were a few solitary sandpipers.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

 

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Along with a few semi-palmated plovers…

Semi-palmated plover

Semi-palmated plover

 

Semi-palmated plover

Semi-palmated plover

…and flocks of least sandpipers.

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

That one was on the run, to get to something to eat that it saw ahead of it.

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

I’ve written about how hard it can be to identify shorebirds in the past, but as with other types of birds, it gets easier with practice. It gets even easier when there are several different species around the same place, for example, here’s a solitary sandpiper…

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

…and here’s a lesser yellowlegs striking the same pose at about the same distance.

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

Telling the two apart gets very easy when you see them together, even if you can’t see the color of their legs or the white eye-ring of the solitary sandpiper.

Lesser yellowlegs in front of a solitary sandpiper

Lesser yellowlegs in front of a solitary sandpiper

Then, if you see one bird that’s a bit lighter than all the others of the same species, it becomes easier to make the correct ID, such as with this solitary sandpiper which is a lighter brown than the others that I have put in this post.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

If you’re really lucky, the bird that you’re trying to identify will raise its wings for you.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Then, you can see all of the patterns in their plumage, such as the barred pattern in the outer tail feathers of the sandpiper. (Sorry, I missed the composition in that one, I was shooting the least sandpiper that you can just make out in the upper right of the frame when the solitary sandpiper lifted its wings also. I shot quickly to catch it, too quickly for a great shot, but at least I caught it)

It also helps to get good photos to assist in making the identification, and I lucked out on Sunday. With so many shorebirds competing for food, getting good photos was relatively easy. With a limited amount of space to find food, the shorebirds allowed me to approach closer than they usually do when there’s only a few around. The exception to that were the greater yellowlegs…

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

…which preferred to wade in the shallow water rather than forage for food along the edges.

Speaking of getting closer, I wish that I had been able to get closer to this green heron.

Green heron

Green heron

I was checking out one of the artificial creeks that drain the wastewater facility, I saw a few ducks that I wanted to get a better look at. About then, a great blue heron that I hadn’t seen took off, and since I wasn’t ready, I missed the chance for a photo of it. When I looked for the ducks again, they had disappeared, but I knew that they hadn’t flown away. So, I sat there a few minutes trying to figure out where the ducks had gone, when the green heron came out of the vegetation along the drain to perch on the machinery that controls the flow of the drain.

About then, the great blue heron returned…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…but didn’t stick around long. I don’t remember why I wasn’t able to get any photos the second time that it flew away, I just remember being mad at myself for missing it. I sat there a while longer, shooting a few more images of the green heron.

Green heron

Green heron

I hoped that it would either return to feeding in the drain, but that didn’t happen.

Green heron

Green heron

Unlike the shorebird images that were cropped only slightly or not at all, the photos of the green heron had to be cropped to the limit, and so the quality isn’t very good.

Before I forget, the ducks did reappear, they were just mallards that had moved under the grass hanging over the drain to hide from me.

Switching gears yet again, that brings up another point. I said that the shorebird images either weren’t cropped at all, or had just been cropped a little, mainly to get the composition better.

One thing about Sunday bugs me, I got very close to a great blue heron.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I started with the 2 X tele-converter behind the 300 mm lens, but that wasn’t long enough for a head shot, and it was too long to get the entire heron in the frame.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

The longer that I sat there, the closer the heron came to me, and it spent more time out in the open as well, even though it stopped from time to time to see what I was up to.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Since the heron had moved closer, and I was thinking that it was going to fly off pretty soon, I switched to the 1.4 X tele-converter to get a few images with the entire heron almost filling the frame, and to be ready if it did take off.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

 

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I thought that I was shooting some eye-popping images of the heron, boy was I surprised when I saw those on the computer. I know that the 2 X extender isn’t as sharp as a tack, but I’ve shot much better images of other subjects with it. The eagle and the shorebirds were all shot with that same set-up, and those images are much better than these of the heron. So is this one shot with the same set-up, and I cropped this one a little.

Starling

Starling

The images shot with the 1.4 X extender really left me disappointed, because behind the 300 mm lens, it has produced my very best images. The photos of the heron aren’t bad, but they’re not as good as I expected them to be given that I was close to the heron, had plenty of time, and shot dozens of images of it. I know that it was close to noon when I shot the heron, but I shot the starling just a few minutes prior to spotting the heron. I know that the heron was a juvenile, could it be the subject just wasn’t very photogenic?

I know that it’s the time of the year when the wood ducks aren’t very photogenic.

Wood ducks in eclipse plumage

Wood ducks in eclipse plumage

They would have never let me get that close to them if they had been in breeding plumage. What I didn’t know though was that they still make a fine display in flight.

Wood ducks in flight

Wood ducks in flight

If I had known that, I would have tried harder when I shot that one. It was a half-hearted attempt on my part, because I assumed that I’d be deleting it later. I can do much better than that on birds in flight.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Even on dark birds in poor light.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

 

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Anyway, I’m seeing hints of fall now, and I know that I should spend an entire day or two with my wide-angle lenses getting used to seeing through them so that I’ll be ready to shoot landscapes when the leaves change color. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of photos saved from this summer that I could use up if I “wasted” those days shooting photos that I’ll never post here, yet I can’t bring myself to leave the wildlife set-up behind, because I never know when the chance for a shot like this is going to come along.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I have shot a few good landscape photos over the summer, but in most of them, I’ve relied too heavily on the clouds or the sunrise to add interest to the images. I need to spend more time with the wide-angle lenses learning how to use them properly, something that I’ve been saying since I purchased them.

For that matter, I should also use the 70-200 mm lens that I have a bit more as well. I used it to shoot some of the wave and lighthouse photos from a few weeks ago, and it will come in handy this fall also.

Oh well, one nice thing about driving truck for a living, I’ll have plenty of time to think about it as I’m crisscrossing the state every day.

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