Until I see the light
Well, even though there’s not much snow on the ground yet, it’s winter here in West Michigan. I’m sure that you’ll be tired of hearing about the almost constant cloud cover that we have here during the winter months, but that’s what we get here. Since the weather pattern changed, we’ve had two six-day stretches with 0% of possible sunshine already, and there’ll be far too many more similar stretches over the course of the winter.
It’s very difficult to shoot good photos when there’s hardly any light at all, but the good news is that it’s only a few weeks until the days start getting longer again. Having lived in West Michigan my entire life, I know that come the end of January, we’ll have a rare sunny day, and that it’s then that I’ll hear the male cardinals…
…begin to sing in hopes of attracting a female…
…to be its mate.
We’ll still have to deal with February, which is often our coldest month of the year, but at least the days will be getting longer, and there’ll be more light for photography.
Despite the could cover Sunday, I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility in hopes of finding something to photograph. I did find the peregrine falcon…
…and it’s been moving around more than it did for the first month after it first showed up there. It used to always be found hanging out by the cells where the gulls congregated, but I’m finding it in different parts of the 11,000 acres that make up the wastewater facility recently.
The only reason that I’m posting that photo is because when I shot it, I couldn’t tell that it was the falcon because the light was so bad. That photo won’t win any awards, but I think that being able to shoot in such low light and come up with any photo is a good thing.
One thing that I’m constantly working on is being quicker with the camera. A few weeks ago, as I was driving home, four deer ran across the road ahead of me. I had to brake to miss them, I was able to get pulled off the road, grab my camera, and get this photo of the last of the deer crossing the road.
I didn’t have time to change any of the camera settings, so it isn’t as good as it could have been. The same thing happened yesterday, I saw a small buck crossing the road ahead of me, and managed to get stopped to shoot this one.
In fact, I’m not sure that I had come to a complete stop when I shot that. I was trying to zoom in on the buck, make sure that an oncoming car wasn’t going to hit me, and fire off a burst, all at the same time. Once I got everything as good as I could in the limited time that I had, I got this one.
I wish that the first one, with the buck completely airborne, would have come out as well.
I do try to anticipate when I’m going to need to change the camera settings, but it doesn’t always work out the way that I expect. I shot this photo to remind me of that.
I had seen the mallards ahead of time, and I was able to get the camera settings change to the bird in flight settings that I have saved in advance of when the mallards took off. However, as I moved forward towards the mallards, I spotted a kingfisher, which of course spotted me at the same instant. As I was beginning to point the camera at the kingfisher, a great blue heron saw me and took flight also. So, there I was, with birds taking off all around me at the same time. The kingfisher dove below the vegetation, so I wasn’t able to photograph it. The heron flew directly away from me, so all I saw in the viewfinder was its tail, and I was left to shoot a bad photo of the mallards as a reminder to pay more attention in the future.
It’s been quite slow at the wastewater facility the past few weeks, there may be thousands of geese and ducks, along with a few raptors, but it’s getting harder to get close to them. Some of that is due to the fact that the waterfowl have been hunted and shot at since it’s hunting season here. And, some of the reason that the birds won’t allow me to approach them is because with the onset of colder weather, they are busy feeding for their flight south.
On my way home on Sunday, I stopped at a park within the City of Grand Rapids, just to shoot a few mallards up close.
I also shot this series of one of them coming in for a landing.
They displace a lot of water as they slow down…
…and for once, I was able to catch that…
…as I panned with the mallard.
I shot those with the Image Stabilization in the lens turned off. As you know, I’ve been doing some testing lately, and I’ve found that turning the IS off for birds in flight results in sharper images. The problem is that I sometimes forget to turn it back on…
…and my portrait shots aren’t as sharp as they could have been. That’s because I shoot at slower shutter speeds to keep the ISO lower, but without IS, camera shake becomes a problem at those shutter speeds.
That, and seeing what the 70-200 mm lens without IS can achieve as far as sharpness in good light…
…whether the gulls are stationary, or in flight…
…when I can get close enough to a subject to use that short of lens, has me thinking again. However, I’ll save those thoughts for a later time.
In the meantime, here’s a few photos that I shot last week Saturday, while I was walking around home.
We’re under a winter storm advisory here for the next few days, there will probably be another advisory or warning for the upcoming weekend as well. This doesn’t bode well for photography in the foreseeable future. I’m not looking forward to this winter at all. I have a few photos left over from this past summer, and I should get busy and do a few of the My Photo Life List posts, but I’m in a bit of a funk after seeing the forecast for the next ten days, and even beyond.
I’d rather not have my blog be nothing but mallards…
….fox squirrels, no matter how cute and pudgy they are right now…
…with a few geese thrown in for good measure…
…along with the gulls that I practice on.
I remember that those are about the only species of birds that I was photographing towards the end of last winter, even though it was a mild one. I should keep an open mind, maybe this winter will bring more of the other species of waterfowl into Muskegon, especially the channel to Lake Michigan, and I’ll find more subjects this winter than last.
Even though I already feel like hibernating, I shouldn’t. The more that I avoid the cold and snow, the more that I want to avoid it. If I were to force myself to spend more time outside, I know that I’d end up enjoying it.
I stopped off at the channel to Lake Michigan twice this pat weekend, and all that I have to show for my visits is this photo of a double-crested cormorant.
That was from Monday, when we actually had some sunshine for a change. I thought that I’d get quite a few photos since the light was good, but I found very few things to shoot. One was this rough-legged hawk…
…which I shot facing the sun with the 100-400 mm lens and 2 X tele-converter. I tried circling the hawk, but it didn’t like me coming up behind it…
…so it took off before I could get close to it. Fortunately, I had removed the extender so that the auto-focus would function just in case.
With good light, I made another stop at the same city park as I had the day before, but not even the mallards would cooperate for photos. I did shoot this photo of a gull perched on a statue within the park at 100 mm…
…and then again at 400 mm to show how much of a difference it makes.
If I’d have been thinking, I would have taken two more photos, one with the 1.4 X tele-converter, and another with the 2 X. Maybe the next time that I find a bird perched when I don’t really care if I get the shot or not, I’ll do just that, shoot a series of photos at the various focal lengths and not crop the photos at all so that you’ll have a better idea of how I get the photos that I do.
My other photo from my stop at the park is another mallard of course.
I shot that one because of how the water looked as the light changed. It was a day when the light changed often.
The snowstorm that was predicted for this weekend arrived right on schedule, it’s snowing at a moderate rate as I type this. If I do make it outside for a walk, I probably won’t even carry my camera gear with me. I know that I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, I spent a lot of money on a camera and lens that are weather sealed, yet because their quality is so good, I prefer not to subject them to the same conditions that I used to carry my less expensive gear in.
So, I may as well use up a couple of more photos from a few weeks ago to end this post.
I’m afraid that it’s going to be a long, cold, snowy winter, and that I’ll be shooting very few photos for the next few months.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!