A great weekend results in too many photos
Well, the weekend is still a few days away, and I’m watching the weather forecasts like a hawk, trying to decide where I’m going to go. I’d like to get out somewhere that I can shoot a few landscapes that include the fabulous show that the trees are putting on right now, but at the same time, it’s still the fall migration season for birds, with a few unexpected visitors showing up in the various birding reports that I monitor. I haven’t crossed many species off from the list of birds that I need to get photos of for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on this year, but on the other hand, trying too hard to seek out species of birds that I haven’t seen before means that I’ve been giving less time to photographing our more common species.
Then, there’s the question of which images that I may be able to sell if I were to put more effort into marketing my photos. I printed out a number of my images in 11 X 14 inch size, and I sold one of those prints to a guy that I work with. It was one of my snowy owl in flight images, and he purchased it as a Christmas gift for his daughter, who loves owls.
While one never knows what print will sell, there are some subjects much more likely to see than others. Raptors are one, along with owls, and anything cute. There’s very little chance of my selling a photo of one of the more obscure species of birds, no matter how good the image is. I should also be looking for trophy game birds and animals, such as whitetail deer bucks with large antlers, certain ducks, and large Tom turkeys with long beards as well, because hunters may purchase an image of a trophy game animal.
To make my decision even tougher to make, I learned of a bird sanctuary that’s located about the same distance from where I live as Muskegon is, but in the opposite direction, more or less. It was set-up to be a sanctuary for migrating waterfowl, and according to the birding reports, there’s about the same number of species of waterfowl, but in slightly lower numbers, than there are at the wastewater facility where I usually go. The thing that attracts me to the idea of checking out this other sanctuary is the fact that there may be more chances to get closer to waterfowl, and with more photogenic backgrounds than at the wastewater facility. There are two downsides to the sanctuary however, one, it’s five dollars a pop to visit it, and it doesn’t open to the public until 9 AM. That means no sunrise photos when the light is at its best, darn.
I’ll have to check the sanctuary out, to see if I can get closer to the waterfowl, and shoot images with better backgrounds, and shoot at better angles. If this place works out well, I could purchase a yearly membership, which would save money versus paying the 5 dollars each time that I visit. I suppose that there are advantages to having become an old geezer, I can save ten dollars a year on membership to the sanctuary as well as qualifying for the geezer pass at National Parks here in the US.
Well, from the latest weather reports, I think that my best plan for this weekend will be to go to Duck Lake in hopes of getting a good image or two of the sunrise over the lake with the fall foliage at close to its peak in the background. Once the sun is up, I’ll head to the waste water facility in hopes of catching some trumpeter swans and snow buntings, both of which have been seen there the past few days. On Monday, I’ll check out that other bird sanctuary, if that goes well, I’ll have a full report to do on it. Wish me luck!
Well, the first half of my plan worked out very well indeed! On Sunday, I began the day before sunrise at Duck Lake, and I did get a few good images of the sunrise as it took place.
I’ll get back to the sunrise shortly, but first, I was also able to get my best ever images of a peregrine falcon.
I hung around with the falcon for what seemed like most of the day, shooting well over 200 photos of it alone. I also caught it interacting with a couple of the gulls at times, but I missed what could have been sensational shots, which I will also explain later.
I shot a few eagles…
…a few of the smaller species of birds…
…and even crossed another species of bird of from my list that I’m working on.
Cackling geese and Canada geese look almost the same, you have to take a close look to see the differences. The cackling geese are smaller, not much larger than a mallard, to begin with. However, you can easily be fooled by a late brood of Canada goose goslings. The cackling geese have a much smaller bill, it looks short and stubby as you can see especially well on the leader of the cackling goose flock in that photo. Looking at the same bird, you can also see the other major difference, the cackling geese have a much steeper slope to their faces, it’s nearly vertical, while a Canada goose’s face slopes down to the bill at less of an angle, and with more of a curve to it. I would have attempted to get better photos of the cackling geese, but I wasn’t sure that’s what they really were as I shot that photo. I’ve been fooled before. However, a couple of expert birders that I talked to a few minutes later and that checked the geese out through their spotting scopes agreed with my identification.
Anyway, my day began at first light at Duck Lake State Park well before sunrise. There wasn’t a cloud in sight to produce a great sunrise image, however there was mist rising from the warm waters of both Duck Lake and Lake Michigan as it began to get light enough to shoot photos.
I could have easily used three or more cameras mounted on tripods to shoot everything that I would have liked to have shot, as this was the view in the opposite direction over Lake Michigan.
As it was, I had the 60D mounted on the tripod with the 15-85 mm lens on it to shoot the wider shots of the actual sunrise over Duck Lake.
While there wasn’t as much color in the leaves on the trees on the far side of the lake as I had hoped, it was still a beautiful sunrise.
As the sunrise was unfolding, I was running around with the 7D and 100-400 mm lens, shooting other things, like this gull.
Not great, but now I know that in a pinch, I can shoot at that high of an ISO setting and come up with a usable photo.
I used the same set-up to shoot tighter shots of the sunrise as well.
So, the morning started off on a good foot. Once the sun was fully up, I packed up, and zipped over to the Muskegon County wastewater facility, where the first bird that I photographed was one of the eagles there.
You may have noticed that with good light, and a blue sky for a background, that I chose the sky instead of the tree for the background for a change. Of course, the eagle flew off as I was swapping tele-converters.
A short time and distance later, I spotted a juvenile eagle in another tree.
With the light as it was, I wasn’t sure if it was a juvenile bald eagle or a golden eagle at first, so I hung around for a short time, watching the eagle. When it did this…
…I could tell that it was a juvenile bald eagle, and that there had to be another large raptor near by, especially when the juvenile stared in the same direction as intently as it did.
I looked around, and sure enough, an adult had landed in the same tree, but was partially hidden from my view.
The juvenile was in no mood to put up with an adult in its tree, so it took off, but in the wrong direction, darn.
I got a slightly better view of the adult.
I looked for the trumpeter swans that had been seen there a few days before, but they had left already. I did manage to find a flock of snow buntings amongst all the pipits there, and got one good image of one of them.
I also found either an adult red-winged blackbird molting, or a juvenile growing his adult feathers, I’m not sure which.
Not long after that, I saw a junco getting ready to take a bath.
While they are plain-looking birds, I still think that they are cute, so I shot too many photos of it taking its bath.
As you can see, I had good light for this series, and I was able to switch the camera settings around to get good images of the junco for a change.
It was that type of day for the most part, warm and sunny, and many of the birds allowed me to get quite close to them at times, like these two black-bellied plovers.
Both of these were shot with the 2 X tele-converter behind the 100-400 mm lens, and manually focused.
I’m getting better at the manual focus thing with that set-up as you can see. Later, I tried it out on a macro photo, with somewhat limited success.
There’s very little depth of field when shooting that close at 800 mm, and shooting handheld, the slightest breeze causes me to have trouble keeping the subject in focus. I do much better on larger flowers.
The new 100-400 mm lens will auto-focus using the center focus point only when I use the 1.4 X tele-converter, which gives me a focal length of 560 mm when I zoom the lens all the way in, as I did for these two.
It’s the same for this one as well.
Wouldn’t you know, give me a day with good light, and I shoot so many photos that I’ve almost filled this post already, and I haven’t gotten to the falcon and its interactions with the gulls yet. To make matters worse, I went to the bird sanctuary that I wrote about earlier in this post on Monday, and came home with over 600 images to sort through, which I’m still working on.
Shooting good photos at the bird sanctuary was almost like shooting fish in a barrel, too easy in a way, which is why I came home with so many photos to sort through. But then, I do okay when shooting completely wild birds as well at times.
So, I think that I’ll end this post here, and save my thoughts, and the rest of the images, for my next post. I think that they will go well with the photos that I shot at the bird sanctuary, and my thoughts on wildlife photography in general.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!