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

The best is yet to come

I’ve had a very good summer as far as the quality of the images that I’ve been getting. I’ve been saying all summer long that they’re the best that I’ve ever shot, and they’re continuing to improve as time goes on. As I refine my camera and lens settings, my technique, and how I position myself in the right spot at the right time, I think that my photos will improve even more. I’m even looking forward to winter, in hopes that a few snowy owls will show up around Muskegon.

I probably shouldn’t have put as many images of the great blue heron in flight in my last post as I did, but I wanted to show that such images are no longer a matter of luck, but that I can repeat the quality of those images over an entire series of photos. It will make choosing which images to include in my posts more difficult, but I think that I can live with that. 😉

I haven’t had a chance to try the new 100 -400 mm lens out on birds in flight yet, I hope to be able to this coming weekend. However, I did put the 2 X tele-converter behind the new lens for a few test shots inside yesterday, and I was stunned by how good the images were that I got. Because of the maximum aperture of the new lens, I have to manually focus with the 2 X extender behind it, so it won’t work well for action photos, but it turns the 100- 400 mm lens into a 200-800 mm lens.

That does present a dilemma of sorts to me, I didn’t think that the new lens would perform well with the 2 X extender, since the new lens is a zoom lens. My plan had been to use the new lens for action shots, and the 300 mm lens with the 2 X extender for portrait photos. However, if the new zoom lens outperforms the 300 mm lens, then my plans will have to change. That remains to be seen though, the few images that I shot in the kitchen may not tell the entire story.

Stop the presses!

I worked a short day, so I had time to go for a walk after work. It was a grey, blustery day for most of the time that I was out, although I did get some slightly better light later. I have a lot more babbling to do later, but first, this is what you can expect to see more of in the future.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

I am happy to report that the new lens is even better than I had hoped it would be. Even with no light and difficult conditions, it performed almost flawlessly, even on small birds in the brush.

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Being able to zoom out and follow along with the birds as they flitted about, then zoom in for shots like those made taking the photos almost easy. Here’s an angle that I don’t often post a photo of, but if you look closely, you can see the warblers eyelashes…

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

…how’s that for detail?

I’m also happy to report that the lens works well close-up…

Soapwort?

Soapwort?

…it handles like a dream to get shots of birds in flight…

Northern flicker in flight

Northern flicker in flight

…and it also captures other action well.

Male mallard bathing

Male mallard bathing

 

Male mallard drying his wings

Male mallard drying his wings

 

Male mallard drying his wings

Male mallard drying his wings

 

Canada goose splashdown

Canada goose splashdown

It does well on portraits also.

Mallard X Black duck hybrid

Mallard X Black duck hybrid

 

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

 

Mallard X Black duck hybrid

Mallard X Black duck hybrid

I even tried a few landscape photos, but I’m only posting this one.

The restrooms at Creekside Park

The restrooms at Creekside Park

Unlike some of the lenses that I own, I couldn’t find a weakness in the new lens, and I knew that I had finally picked a winner when I shot this one.

Juvenile American goldfinch

Juvenile American goldfinch

The goldfinch was well out of range of the 300 mm lens even with the tele-converter behind it, not because of focal length, but because the 300 mm lens goes soft much beyond 20 feet or so. Not the 100-400 mm lens, I shot the goldfinch at just over 30 feet, then cropped the image much more than I usually do, and the goldfinch is still sharp. You know, that may not be a goldfinch, even though it was in a flock of goldfinches. Oh well, that doesn’t matter as much to me right now as do the images that the new lens seems to be capable of.

By the way, if you’re relatively new to my blog, you may be asking why I didn’t start with a Canon 7D Mk II and the 100-400 mm lens. That’s an easy one to answer, neither the camera or the lens were on the market when I purchased what I’ve been using.

Anyway, I gave the camera and lens the supreme torture test today, a chickadee in deep shade against a brightening sky that was still cloudy.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

The new lens is like the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) in that it seems to zero in on the birds when it focuses, even in very low light.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Unlike the Beast, the new lens is easy to carry. It balances very well, most of the weight is in the center of the lens, even when it’s zoomed out all the way. The Beast is very front heavy, which makes using it difficult, especially for birds in flight. The new lens also has an adjustment that allows you to control how much effort is required to turn the zoom ring. I have it set so that the lens doesn’t extend itself while I’m walking, but it still zooms as smooth as silk when I turn the ring. That’s how I got the flicker in flight, I’d never be able to swing the Beast around as quickly and operate the zoom mechanism as I did the new lens for the flicker shot.

Unlike the 300 mm lens and tele-converter, the auto-focusing of the new lens is fast, very fast. I don’t know if it’s faster than the Beast, but it is at least as fast as the Beast is. And, since the new lens handles so much better than the Beast, that doesn’t matter as much anyway. I know that I can get the new lens on the birds quicker, which gains a few precious portions of a second to allow the lens to focus. It’s going to be just the ticket for warblers and other small birds next spring.

As I said in the last post, the color, sharpness, clarity and level of detail that I’m seeing in these images…

Aster

Aster

 

Asters

Asters

 

Black duck X Mallard hybrid

Black duck X Mallard hybrid

 

Canada goose

Canada goose

 

Canada goose

Canada goose

…has me doing my happy dance! Because of the level of detail and the definition in the bird’s feathers, some of the images have a 3 dimensional quality to them, something that has been hard for me up to achieve up until now.

So, none of those will ever win a photo contest, however, for a day when conditions were poor, and I shot everything that I could get in focus just to see how the new lens performed, I think that it passed the test. It’s sharp through the entire zoom range, and also through the entire range of aperture settings. That’s where using it on a 7D Mk II camera comes into play. I could move a single focus point around to keep it on a bird’s eye so that the eye is always sharp, and then with the lens wide open, you can see that in some of the photos, I started to lose focus on the parts of the birds farther away from its eye. I no longer have to keep the aperture stopped down a little for more depth of field to be sure that I have the bird’s eye in focus. The auto-focus seems to be dead on!

That will allow me to get a little more creative, and it will also be helpful when shooting in low light, but I hadn’t learned that when I was shooting the small birds. I can hardly wait to give the new lens a proper test on birds in flight, hopefully, that will come this weekend. I’d also like to do more testing with the 2 X tele-converter behind the lens for portraits as well. The camera will have to be on a tripod for that, as it’s almost impossible to hold the lens steady at 800 mm and run the focus ring at the same time.

I’m really geeked about what the future holds in store once I get even more familiar with the new lens.

So geeked that I almost forgot to mention that I ran into Brian Johnson as he was banding birds again, and that we had another long conversation. He said that his bird counts were still way down this year, with young birds being the ones that are missing. I asked if the nice weather that we’ve been having has delayed many bird’s migration, and his reply was that just the opposite was going on. Since the adult birds hadn’t raised many young, there was no reason for them to stay around here, and that they had started south earlier than in most years from his counts.

He explained that birds were always in a hurry, and that getting to their winter ranges earlier meant that they could pick out the choicest territories for the winter as far as the food supply. I asked if that was why birds migrated north early in the spring, to choose the best territories, and he told me that birds actually select their spring territories in the fall, before they migrated south.

One thing led to another, and Brian told me that he much sooner trust the observations of an amateur than the stated opinions of the professional environmentalists. His complaint was that everything these days seems to be geared towards raising money for various environmental causes, even if that means putting out false information if it fits a narrative that the environmentalists are pushing in their latest fundraising efforts. I’d better stop there, or I’ll be in trouble again. 😉

We also had a long talk about the mimicry that some birds do of other bird’s songs, and how young birds learn to sing the correct song for their species. He’s often heard young birds singing the wrong song, but that they eventually learn to sing the correct song. We also talked of the injuries that birds have suffered but still managed to survive despite those injuries. If you remember, a few years ago, I saw a male northern cardinal that had lost an eye, which would make life very difficult as far as judging distances when flying, and finding food. But, I know that the cardinal survived for at least three years because I saw him repeatedly in the same small area over those three years.

More breaking news!

Not only have I sold a few photos lately, but now one of my photos from a few years back is going to run in the local newspaper. It’s of the fall foliage as seen from the landslide overlook looking out over the Jordan River Valley in northern lower Michigan.

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

The Jordan River Valley from the Landslide scenic overlook

It makes me want to run up there and shoot it again using the skills that I have learned since then!

I should get more serious about selling some of my images, starting with the simple task of having some business cards printed. There have been several times when I’ve been talking to people and they’ve asked if I had a business card, what a silly goose I’ve been.

Of course I’m proud that one of my photos will make the press, but we won’t tell any one that it’s just because the press is too cheap to pay for a stock photo. 😉 If it helps in any way to develop some name recognition, then it’s worth it to me to let them run the photo for free.

Anyway, I’m feeling really good right now, I’m loving the images that the new lens is turning out so far, and getting my name in the press associated with my photography just adds to the good feeling that I have.

I almost hate to use up a few more of the leftover photos that I have, but I suppose that I should. Either that, or delete them and start saving more that are even better.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I guess that I’ll use up some of the older photos. It’s been a good year for aphids.

Aphids

Aphids

I just learned that there is a crack in the wall which is where the water is coming into my apartment. It will take a while for the contractors to come, dig up around the wall, waterproof it, then the carpet will have to be cleaned and dried again. I talked to the manager, and he must have lit a fire under maintenance. Especially since it’s time for me to renew my lease, the manager must not have wanted to lose a tenant. It still seems silly to me that they had the carpet cleaned and dried once, then tacked back down, and now that will have to be done again, no wonder my rent is going up. 😦

Greta blue heron

Greta blue heron

Some of these photos aren’t very good, but they are of birds that I don’t see very often, mostly during migration.

American golden plovers

American golden plovers

I like the angle that I can shoot at when insects land on my windshield, I should keep the windshield cleaner for these though.

Unidentified fly

Unidentified fly

I should save some flower photos for winter, when there won’t be any to shoot, but here’s one for now.

Yarrow

Yarrow

I suppose that the same could be said of turtles, I won’t see any of them over the winter either.

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle

 

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle

For that matter, it applies to many species of birds.

House wren

House wren

 

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

 

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

It looks as if it’s going to rain Saturday, that’s okay, I have to work Saturdays now on my new work schedule. The bad news, it may rain on Sunday also, but the weather should finally clear here on Monday, which I now have off from work. I hope to give the new lens a real workout, and see what it can do with some good light, but so far, I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen from it.

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

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30 responses

  1. So many wonderful photos…asters, warblers, foliage, and wonderful shot of aphids!

    September 30, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Maria! I’ve never seen as many aphids as I have this year, I had to record it.

      September 30, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      • I personally think aphids and the ants that garden them are fascinating, so I really appreciated that photo 😊.

        September 30, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      • Thanks again, I’ll keep a look out for the aphids and ants, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll see them.

        October 1, 2016 at 12:05 am

  2. The new lens combo looks like a real winner!

    September 30, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    • thank you very much Bob! I’ll know more after I get a chance to shoot more photos with it.

      September 30, 2016 at 3:10 pm

  3. Congratulations on getting your photo published and for the brilliant photos on this post. Your new lens certainly gives your photos an edge …as you say..some look 3D..amazing and the clarity of colours is superb. Can’t wait to see more.

    September 30, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I’m surprised that the new lens is that much better than my other lenses, they are supposed to be good ones as well. I hope to come home with a memory card full of photos from the new one this weekend.

      October 1, 2016 at 12:04 am

  4. It’s not just that you take great pictures but also you have a good eye for what makes a great photograph.

    September 30, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      October 1, 2016 at 12:04 am

  5. I’d say the new lens is a winner from what I’ve seen! The photos are very crisp and sharp.
    I love the shot of the aster with a dusting of pollen, and that is a soapwort for sure.
    The aphids are every gardener’s nightmare but that’s a great shot of them. I should be seeing wooly aphids any time now.
    I don’t blame the newspaper for wanting that landscape. I think it’s one of your best, and I’d definitely do back there for a few more.
    You almost had a shot of the hanging basket oriole’s nest in that shot of the oriole. I haven’t seen one in many years so I keep hoping you’ll het a shot of one! I used to see them everywhere when I was a youngster.

    September 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! Yes, the new lens is a keeper for sure! It does well on everything that I’ve tried it on, so you’ll see more flowers shot with it when there are some to shoot.

      From a distance, I thought that the aphids were some type of scale or mold, the underside of every branch of the entire bush was covered with them, it was only when I looked through the camera that I saw that they were aphids.

      I should make it a weekend trip to go up north this fall, I’ll see if I can fit one in. My schedule at work makes that difficult though.

      I never thought that any one would want to see the entire nest of the orioles, that would have been an easy shot, I was trying to narrow in on the adults feeding their young in the nest, silly me.

      October 1, 2016 at 12:12 am

      • I think an oriole’s nest would be an interesting shot; I doubt many people would know what it was. It must be unique among bird building.

        October 1, 2016 at 4:10 am

      • Well, I’ll look one up next summer,most of this year’s have already fallen apart. I know that there are several African species of birds that weave nests similar to orioles, and I believe that there are a few species in North America that do also.

        October 1, 2016 at 10:21 am

  6. Good purchase. A great set of duck shots in the post. Congratulations on getting the photo into the newspaper. Many more will follow I am sure.

    September 30, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I’m sure that the press would use more of my photos, as long as they don’t have to pay for them. 😉

      October 1, 2016 at 12:06 am

      • That is a common complaint.

        October 1, 2016 at 4:14 pm

  7. You are so right about your new lens, and your impressive photos have now convinced me to put that on my list as my next acquisition. Of course, I still have to develop the patience and skills that you so clearly possess. 🙂

    October 1, 2016 at 11:43 am

    • Thank you very much! If you’re thinking about that lens, you learn a lot more about in my blog soon. Unless I find some major flaw that hasn’t revealed itself yet, I say that it is the long zoom lens that every one should have.

      October 1, 2016 at 12:39 pm

  8. You really did get some amazing shots; the clarity, and the detail is absolutely stunning.

    October 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    • Thank you very much Charlie!

      October 2, 2016 at 3:27 am

  9. So many beautiful photos, Jerry! Congratulations on your recent sales and newspaper coverage!

    I like the eyelashes on that warbler. Clear shot of his backside, too! 🙂 The male mallard posing and the snapping turtle are also favorites.

    October 1, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    • Thanks again Lavinia! I think that I could sell a few images now and then if I worked harder at it. Time will tell. The backside of a bird may not make a great photo, but they are helpful to make a positive identification of a bird. 😉

      October 2, 2016 at 4:04 am

  10. I am so pleased you are happy with your new lens. The shots you have produced here are fantastic – they show such detail and, as you say, are wonderfully 3D. Congratulaions on selling some shots and getting your photo in the paper.

    October 2, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’m loving that new lens, even though I had a tough day today, that will all change tomorrow with some sun for a change.

      October 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      • Good!

        October 2, 2016 at 7:31 pm

  11. Awesome variety and detail, well done, Jerry!

    October 2, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      October 3, 2016 at 4:19 am

  12. Hi Jerry. Glad to see that you are so pleased with your new lens. The colors in your photos aee are brilliant, and you are right about the clarity and definition, especially in the goose.

    Congratulations on getting your photo in the Press. Isn’t it too bad that photo journalism isnt what it used to be? I used to dream of being a photographer for National Geographic (but what kid with a camera didn’t?)

    Hope that you’ll come to enjoy working Saturday, and having another day off instead. During my last fourteen years of work, I worked every Sat/Sun. My days off were Tues/Wed. Came to love having a mid-week weekend – it sure makes getting personal chores and errands done much easier. Hope it works out for you, as well.

    We’re seeing a bit of color here in northern MN – mostly yellows. The brilliant scarlet maple is a rare sight around here. But, we’ve had perfect blue-sky wearher, so we’re happy campers (for the moment, anyway). Take care

    October 3, 2016 at 9:25 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Despite the week long rain here, I managed to shoot a few good photos with the new lens, I’m sure that you’ll be reading more about it. 😉

      Yeah, I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer also, until I finally gave up that dream in my early 30’s.

      I like having days off while most people are working, fewer people in the woods to spook the critters.

      I knew that you wouldn’t have to go very far west to escape the rain, I hope that some of that blue sky heads this way. The trees just started turning here, but they’re going fast, I couldn’t believe the change in some of them overnight.

      October 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm