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

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!

Advertisements

23 responses

  1. You have got the eye!!!

    August 11, 2016 at 9:03 am

    • Thank you very much! However, there are plenty of other people who have a better natural eye for photography, I have to work very hard at it to get the photos that I do.

      August 11, 2016 at 9:58 pm

  2. The swallows on the beach are amazing! So many…
    Love your dragonfly photos.

    August 11, 2016 at 9:10 am

    • Thank you very much Maria! people have tried counting the swallows there, and they number in the thousands this time of year. It’s been a good year for dragonflies so far, I hope that it continues that way.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:00 pm

  3. It’s always a pleasure to scroll through such a varied collection of excellent photographs.

    August 11, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      August 11, 2016 at 10:01 pm

  4. You are right about water attracting a variety of creatures as that is where I find most of the insects I photograph; there are more plants there as well though the downside is that the insects include all the ones that sting and bite! I loved the shot of the female mallard following the male green-winged teal – the colours on their wings are really special. I find this post very informative and think I must work harder at learning how to use my camera instead of relying on the autofocus all the time.

    August 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I forgot to put in the post that the photo of the mallard and teal together shows the difference in size between the two species very well. Of course I loved the colors too. I didn’t want to bring up the stinging and biting insects, but you’re right, there are more insects and plants near water, which attracts the larger wildlife.

      Learning to make full use of a camera and getting the best out of it is a daunting task. For a while, it seemed as if I were going backward, but it suddenly all came together for me earlier this year.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:06 pm

  5. Great photos of such a wide range of subjects- all those swallows, insects, flowers and even a turtle! Love the upside crow but my favourite is the photo of the Lesser Yellowlegs with the lovely reflection and the perfectly placed feather! Marianne

    August 11, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I am fortunate to live close to an area that allows me to shoot such a variety of subjects. And, even though I’m getting on in years, I’m still quick enough now and then to capture the shots like the upside down crow.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:07 pm

  6. I can only like you once but if I could, I would like you at least hundred times!

    August 11, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Nataly! I guess that you haven’t learned the trick of liking, then unliking, then liking a post over and over so that the author of the post receives numerous emails telling them that the same person liked the post numerous times. 😉

      August 11, 2016 at 10:20 pm

  7. Always a pleasure to see what is going on in your area through your lens. I really love that snapping turtle photo. Looks like he is smiling!

    August 11, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! The turtle may look as if it’s smiling, but I’d never trust a snapping turtle, they’re mean and can remove a person’s finger with one quick bite.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:21 pm

  8. I’ve read that squirrels can go for a very long time without coming out of the trees to drink because they get enough moisture from tree buds and other things they eat. This one obviously didn’t read the same book! That’s a nice shot of it though.
    Nice shot of the turtle too. I see a lot of snappers in the pond near where I work and some are huge. This one looks fairly big.
    That does look like self heal or heal all but I can’t be 100% sure. I know what you mean about flowers moving. Most do, and they rarely stop. That’s one of the reasons I miss that Lumix so much-it had incredible image stabilization. It also had great depth of field in almost all situations.
    I love the shots of the smiling dragonflies!

    August 11, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I guess that you shouldn’t believe everything that you read in books. Squirrels may get a lot of moisture from the vegetation that they eat, but I see them licking dew and/or rain off from tree bark and leaves whenever it’s available to the squirrels. Or, drinking from creeks or lakes.

      It was a big snapper, a female looking for a place to bury her eggs.

      You may miss the Lumix, but you’re doing at least as well or better with the Olympus! It will take some more getting used to, but I’ll bet you end up liking it as much as the Lumix.

      It’s been a good year for dragonflies, and damselflies as well. I still have a few more photos saved, mostly of them eating another insect, so they’re not smiling in those images.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:31 pm

  9. Great swallow shot but I liked the Eastern swallowtail butterfly best of all because of the composition of the whole picture.

    August 11, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I wanted to get closer to the butterfly, but as much as it was moving around, I thought the best course of action was to shoot from where I was. I’m glad that I did, as I love that photo as well.

      August 11, 2016 at 10:33 pm

  10. Awesome .

    August 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    • Thank you!

      August 12, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      • You welcome.

        August 12, 2016 at 10:56 pm

  11. Great closeups of the dragon flies and lady bug!

    August 15, 2016 at 1:28 am

    • Thank you very much Michael!

      August 15, 2016 at 6:53 am