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

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!

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28 responses

  1. Lots of great photos. The insects you saw were probably tiger beetles(long horned beetles).

    August 17, 2016 at 9:04 am

    • Thank you very much Victor! I’ll get better photos of the beetles next time, now that I know what I’m looking for.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:29 pm

  2. Lesser yellowlegs in flight – maybe ???? just maybe, is my favourite picture of today? I cannot choose, since all those pictures are so beautiful and each of them speak a story. Thank you for sharing all this with us – I most certainly enjoy looking at them and reading your posts.

    August 17, 2016 at 9:40 am

    • Thank you very much! I’ve had a very good summer as far as photography, and I learn a little more with each outing. That’s my goal, to tell a story with each photo.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:33 pm

  3. An amazing array of superb photos to enjoy. Those Lesser yellowlegs are amazing fighters and strike quite ballet like poses! Love the birds singing in the trees with all their bright colours, the stunning sunsets and the dew on the spider’s web but the hairy vetch is my favourite today.

    August 17, 2016 at 10:33 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! Being able to show the world the things that I see, like the ballet moves of the yellowlegs, or the simple beauty of the vetch unfurling has been my goal all along, it’s nice to reach that goal and have nice people like yourself be able share the world that I see.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm

  4. The water looks delightful. The camera-talk goes over my head sometimes, but it is very informative. It helps to remember how much time, energy, skill, and money goes into taking a good photograph. Writers search for photos to match their words and it is good to remember to appreciate the photographer. Thank you for enabling me to write around some of yours.

    August 17, 2016 at 10:36 am

    • Thank you very much Maria! I know that I get too technical in my photo talk at times, but there are several photographers that read my blog, and I like to pass along what I’ve learned.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:37 pm

  5. We are very lucky here to have you doing the best you can with photography and capturing these delightful images for us to enjoy viewing. Likewise, your employer should appreciate you! When you retire, it will be their loss, our gain. 🙂

    By the way, are you considering the 5D Mark IV?

    August 17, 2016 at 10:50 am

    • Thank you very much! I’m lucky to have such kind readers!

      Yes, I’m saving for the 5D Mk IV when Canon gets around to releasing it. The 7 D Mk II has spoiled me rotten. I haven’t shot many of them, but I love being able to do time lapse and long exposures without any addition gear.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:41 pm

  6. What a cornucopia of wonderful photographs, your pictures of birds in motion are a delight. When you retire you should become a professional wildlife photographer. You are certainly good enough.

    August 17, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I don’t know if I’ll go pro, but I love being able to share the world that I see with others.

      August 17, 2016 at 11:42 pm

  7. Well Jerry, the evidence is beginning to mount up. I think that you may be a photographer. What a great post.

    August 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! One of these days I may just turn out to be a photographer, I sure am working on it. 😉

      August 17, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      • 🙂

        August 18, 2016 at 6:47 pm

  8. Henry David Thoreau would have agreed with you, Jerry. He said “You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” I think he was right. Those are great action shots.
    It’s hard to know why animals fight. Some, like dogs, seem to fight over nothing at all.
    I like the dewy webs, which aren’t that easy to find. I’ve been trying for about 5 years and I haven’t seen one yet!
    I like the moon and the sunsets but I think my favorite is the vetch. I like the simplicity.
    Like you I can’t think of a better life than being in the woods all day with a camera, so I’m also waiting impatiently for retirement. We’ll get there one day!

    August 17, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’ve always wished that I could write like Thoreau, but I can’t, which is why I took up photography. 😉

      It was the same two yellow legs fighting most of the time. One was working the north end of the “beach”, the other one worked the south end. Once in a while, they’d meet in the middle, and the fight would ensue. Each had a favorite rock on their end of the beach that it would fly to when the fight was over.

      You wouldn’t believe the number of spider webs that I had to choose from. I tried a few wider shots showing hundreds of them sparkling in the sun all at once, but those photos didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, maybe next time.

      I really liked the vetch also, it’s one of the few times that I’ve been able to keep an image simple. All the rest are always too busy, even after telling myself that less is more.

      I have just 11 days to go before I’m eligible for early retirement, but I doubt that I’ll take it. Too much camera gear yet to but. 😉

      August 18, 2016 at 12:12 am

  9. I have had a bad year too, in which I haven’t been out as much as I’d have liked. It is sad to see the year slipping away and know that I’ve missed so much. I love that wide-angle photo of the vetch and the bird action shots are all fabulous.

    August 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I hope that the summer months don’t fly past me every year as they have this one. I hope that things slow down for you as well.

      August 19, 2016 at 11:45 pm

      • Thank-you Jerry.

        August 20, 2016 at 5:38 pm

  10. Quite a beautiful variety of action photos and stills, jerry. Love those sparrows singing!

    Don’t be so sure you will never have a photo published in National Geographic! 🙂

    August 20, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I do pretty well these days, but I’ll never have a photo published in the National Geographic. I can’t even get an honorable mention from any of the reader submitted photos that they post on Facebook. There a lot of extremely talented nature photographers out there.

      August 20, 2016 at 6:28 pm

  11. Hi Jerry. Perhaps you should have entitled this post A Day at the Fights. Love those yellowlegs sequences – the posturing does not seem all that unlike what you see in the human world.

    I’m glad we are getting into dewy morning spiderweb season – those photos really appeal to my artistic sense (what bit I have, anyway).

    Sorry I didn’t comment on your past couple of posts. We were camping at Nordhouse Dunes, and had very little internet access. Sometimes I could read the text, but never see the photos. What fun is that??

    Seems like it’s dark so late into the morning these days. You’ve got a shot at getting out in your early morning light without killing yourself.

    Hope you survived the big storm yesterday. Our power got knocked out, and we aren’t expected to get it back u til midnight today (Sunday). With a big pile of nasty, damp camping stuff to wash, it’s not too pleasant around here. 😉

    August 21, 2016 at 8:28 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! The more that I watch critters, the more I notice that their behaviors are very much like humans, or the other way around.

      Yes, I finally made it out in time to catch the dew spider webs, but that may not happen again for a while. Sunrise may seem late to you, but I don’t get home from work until 9 PM at the earliest. I was up at 4:30 today, but it still wasn’t early enough.

      Nordhouse Dunes is somewhere that I haven’t been since the Feds took over, but I love that area. How old does one have to be to qualify for a geezer pass from them?

      The storm missed where I lived by a couple of miles. I’d be doing laundry right now if I hadn’t lost the roll of quarters that I got to put in the washing machine.

      August 21, 2016 at 7:16 pm

  12. Such interesting photos, Jerry. Congrats.

    August 22, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    • Thank you very much Cynthia!

      August 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm

  13. Awesome flight shots, Jerry! Most enjoyed!!

    August 28, 2016 at 11:06 am

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      August 29, 2016 at 9:17 am