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!
It was funny, this juvenile gull came in for a landing…
…heard the camera shutter clicking away, and looked back to see what was making the noise…
…and got a sheepish look on its face as it saw me there.
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…
…I had plenty of time to dial in all the settings to catch birds in flight…
…and, I could catch birds flying towards me…
…they were jostling to see which one could lead the way…
…but as they got closer, I picked one…
…until they veered off as they hit the water.
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.
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.
Then, there would be some posturing by both birds…
…the posturing often included jumping up into the air…
…the one dropping a feather or something to distract its opponent was a nice touch…
…and once in a while, one would charge the other that was leaping…
…then, the real fighting would start…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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…
…to beautiful sunsets that defy description…
…although, I would have preferred a more scenic setting than the parking lot of my apartment complex for the foreground in the sunset photos.
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.
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.
It’s easy to tell a male cardinal from a female, but with catbirds…
…I can’t tell the sexes apart until a male starts singing his songs.
The same applies to chipping sparrows also.
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.
Oh, I guess that I do have one of my experiments shooting with a wide-angle lens to post.
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!