I may as well start at the beginning for a change, since it’s rare that one of my first photos of a day is also one of best, unless it’s a sunrise photo.
With the eagle perched there and willing to pose for me, I switched camera bodies and long lens/tele-converter set-ups to shoot this one.
As I sat there watching the eagle, it assumed an aggressive posture to warn away other raptors, letting me know that another raptor was in the area.
It turned out that a red-tailed hawk that was being mobbed by crows had landed in the same tree as the eagle. I didn’t get a good shot of the hawk though, here’s the best that I could do.
If the hawk thought that landing near an eagle would discourage the crows, it was mistaken, for the crows paid no attention to the eagle, and the eagle paid no attention to the crows.
The eagle was focused on the hawk, and giving the hawk “the look”, which meant that the eagle thought that the hawk should move on.
It wasn’t long before the hawk took off, taking its entourage of crows with it, leaving the eagle by itself again.
Some of those were shot with the new 7D body, some with the older one. Some were shot with the 100-400 mm lens and 2 X tele-converter, some with the 400 mm lens and the same tele-converter. In good light, both set-ups are about equal as far as image quality.
I had very high hopes for the day, there was great light, very light winds, but very few birds. I saw very few mallards or Canada geese on Saturday, I have no idea where they had all moved to. I did find gulls to practice on though.
I was using the newer body with the 100-400 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter for these next two. That set-up works great when I get very close to birds, I can zoom out to get the entire bird…
…or zoom in for a head shot.
I used the same set-up to get the best images of a snow bunting that I’ve ever shot.
They may not have the wow factor of some other species of birds, but I love their markings…
…and it was nice of this one to do its yoga exercises while I was shooting photos.
They’ve created a short nature trail at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, and so I walked it on Saturday for the first time. I missed the other birds because I was trying for only very good images, but I did get a chickadee…
…if I had been quicker, I may have gotten a shot of it as it tried to perch on my hat, but I had to settle for this one.
Stepping out of the woods and into one of the fields, I was greeted by two red-tailed hawks hunting together, probably a mated pair.
I had very high hopes for this weekend, as you can see in my photos so far, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky most of the time. However, two things limited the number of images that I shot. One was a lack of birds at the wastewater facility, and the other is that I’ve come down with a nasty cold or the flu. It’s hard to get close to birds when your nose is running all the time, and you’re coughing and sneezing most of the time as well. Yesterday, Sunday, I started at the Muskegon Lake Nature preserve hoping to sneak up on a few of the smaller birds there, but between how much noise I was making due to the cold, and just how cruddy I felt, I had to give it up and return to the wastewater facility where I could do most of my birding from my Subaru. I saw some promising signs that the waterfowl are returning, however, they stayed well out of camera range.
I must apologize to the people whose blogs I follow and comment on also, I’ve had a headache for the past three days which only gets worse when I try to comprehend what they have written. I’ll try to get caught up once I’m feeling better.
It’s now Tuesday morning, and this cold is still kicking my butt. That hasn’t been helped by returning to work yesterday. The hardest thing to deal with is trying to get enough sleep with the long hours that I have to work. At least I got a nap yesterday while waiting for the truck to be unloaded then reloaded on the other side of the state. I’ll probably do the same thing today.
Anyway, I’m going to throw in a few more photos that don’t require any comments from me, then call it good for this post.
It may take me a while before I’m able to catch up on every one else’s posts, and the same will apply to comments that people may leave to this post also. Last night, I came home, ate supper, did the dishes, and went straight to bed, I’ll probably do the same tonight the way that I feel right now.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
It was another mostly dreary weekend, that is for all of Saturday and most of Sunday. I went to a local park that I hadn’t been to in a while on Saturday, then went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility on Sunday. It was Sunday afternoon when gale force winds finally blew the clouds away to give me the best light that I’ve had for photography since the end of November.
I’ve shot more interesting photos of a Canada goose before, but I think that the photo above is the best technically as far as sharpness and exposure. The goose appears to pop out of the background, almost to the point of looking as if I combined two photos into one. That was shot with the 400 mm prime lens.
Unfortunately, because of the extremely strong winds, all the birds were hunkered down to stay out of the wind. They were having such a difficult time flying that I didn’t have the heart to try to get close to them which would make them take flight. But, in the few photos that I did shoot, I realized that I’ve just been killing time while waiting for good light all of this past winter.
The two days this past weekend couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, it was cool and a bit foggy, with just a hint of a breeze now and then. Rather than walking in the park closest to me as I usually do, I went a few miles away to Palmer Park, which I used to walk on a regular basis. However, the trail that I most wanted to take was the boardwalk that ran through a swamp and connected trails maintained by Kent County with trails maintained by the City of Wyoming, Michigan. The last few times I walked there, the boardwalk was closed due to damage caused by flooding, mostly to the footings that held the boardwalk up over the swamp. But, rather than repair the boardwalk, I found that it had been ripped out completely.
I also found that most of the birds were feeding high in the tops of trees. We had a couple of very windy days towards the end of last week, and I believe that the birds were taking advantage of there being no wind to look for food in the tops of trees. I even walked the trail that runs right on the edge of the park, where there are houses right next to the trail, with many of the homes having bird feeders in the backyard. I didn’t see a single bird on any of the many feeders that I saw. Most of our winter resident birds use bird feeders, but they don’t live on seeds alone, they eat mostly insects in the wild, and I think that’s what they were doing on Saturday.
That’s the only photo that I shot of a bird other than a few mallards which I’ll get to later. Because of the weather conditions and the light, it wasn’t worth shooting any other photos of birds in the treetops. It was very nice to hear them and watch them at times, but any photos would have been as bad as the one above.
I chose to walk Palmer Park because I knew that there would be other things to photograph besides birds, and that I’d also be able to try out the 100-400 mm lens on subjects that would require that I used its ability to focus up close. The strength of the 300 mm lens is that it functions almost like a macro lens because it focuses at such a short distance. According to the specifications, the 100-400 mm lens should focus as well as close as the 300 mm lens. I’m not convinced that it does though, it doesn’t seem to be as sharp as the 300 mm lens up close.
Before I get to the photos, I’ve been reading Allen’s blog, New Hampshire Garden Solutions, for years now, and I still can’t identify any of the mosses, fungi, or lichens that I see. Still, I find them both beautiful and interesting, and good subjects for photography.
It must be that this winter suits this moss quite well, as I’ve never seen so many of the spore bearing parts of moss as I saw here.
I’m probably wrong, but I think these are turkey tails.
I tried and failed to get them all in focus at the same time, but I still like this photo.
I’m afraid that this tree isn’t long for this world, as I say, I don’t know much about fungi, but this looks deadly to the tree to me.
The tree is almost 18 inches in diameter, and the entire side was covered with the fungus, here’s a closer look at it.
It’s hard to believe that I almost missed this very brightly covered one, but it was hiding in a difficult to get to spot.
Maybe my photos would have been better if it hadn’t been this kind of day.
You never know what critters you’ll find in the woods if you look hard enough.
Speaking of spring, I have no idea what this plant is, but it looks as if it’s getting ready to bloom.
I spent some time admiring the artwork produced by insects in a fallen log…
…and looking for a good background to shoot these alder catkins.
I found a few mallards in one of the small ponds, and was all set to catch them at take off. However, they refused to take flight while I was ready, they walked back into the reeds that surround the pond. I gave up waiting, but as I began to walk away, then they burst into flight. I was lucky, one pair circled me before moving on to the next pond.
I suppose that those aren’t too bad considering the conditions, dreary and a bit foggy, but compare them to this one from Sunday when I finally had some good light for a change.
Have I said that I love the 7D Mk II and the way that it can track flying birds?
It took me a little over a year to fully understand how to get the auto-focusing system set-up for what and how I shoot, but it was worth it! This was shot with the new 400 mm prime lens, as were the mallards in good light just above.
I learned something again on this day, I had thought that the 400 mm prime lens wasn’t as good as the 100-400 mm lens is in tracking birds in flight, but it all depends on the light. With good light, the 400 mm lens does just fine, since I got a good focus lock on the kingfisher while it was in the open, the 400 mm lens continued to track it as it flew through some cattails.
It stayed locked onto the kingfisher as it prepared to land on one of the cattails…
…but even at ten frames per second, I didn’t catch the actual landing…
…and I had to settle for these.
That’s when I knew that I’ve been just killing time, waiting for better light for photography!
This series also makes me realize that all of the money that I’ve spent on better photo gear and the time that I’ve put into learning how to get the best out of it has all been worth it as well. There are two reasons that I’ve been working so hard to improve my photos, one is to capture action series like the one above, the other is to get better images to help me identify birds.
In my last post, I showed the differences between a crow and a raven, in this post, I’ll show the differences between a juvenile bald eagle…
…and a juvenile golden eagle.
The first clue was actually behavior, the golden eagle was hunting over a field the same way that a hawk would, gliding over the field and pausing to hover over one spot from time to time as it looked for lunch. Bald eagles seldom hunt that way, they prefer to perch and keep an eye out for prey.
The second clue is the golden brown feathers on the neck of the golden eagle, barely visible in this shot, but they are what gave the golden eagle its name.
The next clue is that the white on the underside of the golden eagle’s wings are in more of a distinctive pattern, rather than the mottled white of the juvenile bald eagle.
Then, there are their beaks, the bald eagle has a massive beak that joins its face above its eye, while the golden eagle has a smaller beak that meets its face below its eye.
Finally, there’s the white band on the golden eagle’s tail, young bald eagles may show some white on their tails, but never in a distinct band like the golden eagle has.
I’ve had a couple of very long days at work this week, but this weekend is supposed to be a fantastic early spring weekend with warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight. I sure hope so, as I’ve been getting ready mentally all week-long since I saw the forecast. The very long work days have meant that I haven’t had much time to work on this post, and the warm sunny weekend that they forecast is here. So, here’s the rest of the photos that I shot this past weekend.
And with those, I’m out of here. I’m going to finish the last of my coffee, and get out there in the sun to shoot a few good photos for a change.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
In my last post, I had a terrible photo of a male horned lark, the only reason that I included it was because he was singing his spring song. The very next day, Sunday, I heard this little guy singing his spring song also!
It was nice of him to take a split second off from trying to find something to eat to pose so nicely for me. Maybe it was because the sun came out as I was photographing him, and that prompted him to stop and sing a few bars in the warmth of the sun.
I am so spoiled by my camera gear these days, and I’ve learned what sounded like overkill when I heard that the 7D Mk II had 65 focus points does indeed make it easier to get a better image.
So does getting closer…
…and even closer.
That’s where having so many focus points comes in handy, I was able to put one of them on the squirrel’s eye so that its eyes were perfectly in focus. Those were shot at 400 mm and were not cropped at all. So, if I had left the one focus point that I used in the center, the composition wouldn’t have been as good and I would have had more empty space in the image. It may look like I used the single focus point in the center, but I moved it up one row, and shifted it two to the right for that image.
I shot this one at 170 mm and didn’t crop it…
…but I don’t like that image as well because you can see the reflection of snow in the squirrel’s eye as well as my own reflection if I were to zoom in on the image. I like this one better, even though the light wasn’t as good.
I suppose that the reason that I’m so impressed by how useful all of the 65 focusing points available in the 7D is that there is so much hype in the marketing of cameras and lenses that when I find out that something that I thought was just hype turns out not to be, it sticks in my mind.
I had made a mistake the previous day. In my testing the 100-400 mm and 400 mm lenses indoors, the 400 mm lens outperformed the 100-400 mm lens by a wide margin as far as sharpness. So, I tried the 400 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it for all of my bird portrait shots that day. However, in my indoor tests, I was manually focusing on a subject that didn’t move, and had nothing around it to distract the auto-focusing system as there often is when shooting in the real world.
Since my indoor tests, I’ve noticed that the 400 mm prime lens doesn’t auto-focus as quickly or as accurately as the 100-400 mm zoom lens does, and on top of that, even once the 400 mm prime lens does focus on a subject, it is still prone to hunting for a focus even after that, unlike the 100-400 mm lens which locks on a subject and stays locked in.
That’s the reason that the photo of the horned lark singing came out as fuzzy as it is.
On the other hand, when there’s nothing around a subject to distract the auto-focusing system, the 400 mm prime lens with the tele-converter does extremely well.
Also, with the proper settings for both the camera and the lens, the 10-400 zoom lens does extremely well for birds in flight.
What that all means is that I’m not going to be able to dedicate one of the two lenses to birds in flight, and the other to portrait shots as I had planned. I’m going to have to size up the situation and choose which of the two lenses will perform the best under the conditions at the time. That’s not all bad though, it’s great to have two lenses that perform as well as these two do.
To some degree, that means that I have to take that into account as far as the way that I set-up each of the two 7D bodies as well. Fortunately, because of how versatile and programmable the 7D is, that won’t be a huge problem either.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos that I shot on Saturday at the wastewater facility near Muskegon.
And, here are the rest of the photos from Sunday around home.
I have my next order for camera gear ready to submit as soon as my income tax refund clears my bank account. This order will be accessories for the second 7D, memory cards, a screen protector, extra batteries, and a battery grip. I thought about doing without the battery grip, but in using one body with a grip and the second without, I almost have to add a grip to the second body. I really miss the extra support that I can give the camera with the battery grip on it, no matter which way I have the camera orientated. That’s another of those things that seem like overkill until you’ve tried it.
You may wonder what my hurry is, I’m going on vacation in the middle of May and I want to be as fully prepared for the week as I can possibly be. Last year, I was using the 300 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter most of the time, and that set-up was the pits for the small birds like warblers that stay in the brush most of the time. I had to switch over to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to get a set-up that could catch those smaller birds. But then, my photos of the larger birds in flight didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped because the Beast simply does not do well when the subject is in motion.
Based on what I’ve seen from my two new longer lenses so far, the 100-400 mm lens will be the one that I choose when chasing warblers and other small birds. The 400 mm lens will be the one that I choose when I’m shooting larger birds such as eagles, whether stationary or in flight. The beauty of the newer lenses is that either of them will work in a pinch for the subjects that they may not be best suited for.
I got by last year with the limited memory cards and batteries, but again, I want to be fully prepared for this year’s vacation. I may do something else different this year as well. I’m thinking of getting a motel room one for night during the middle of the week so that I have electricity available to recharge the camera batteries, and where I can safely set-up my Macbook pro and download the photos that I’ve shot so far that week to make it easier to keep the photos organized.
Just thinking of my vacation, even though it’s still several months away, has put me into the planning mode. Trying to decide what to bring with me, and what to leave home this year. I do know that the way that I slowed down a little and made sure that I took care of myself last year worked out very well. I may have missed a few opportunities for photographs while I was taking the time to eat real meals, but I’m sure that I made up for that “lost time” later in the week when rather than being run down, I was alert and on the go to the very end of my week up north. I just hope that the weather is half as good as it has been the past few years.
That reminds me, I have a pair of hiking boots that I’ve only worn a few times since I purchased them, and the boots that I’ve been wearing are about worn out. I should switch over now and get used to the new pair before my vacation since I’ll be on my feet most of the time that week.
In the meantime, here’s a few leftovers from last fall.
The next two show the difference between a raven…
…and a crow, mostly the size and shape of their beaks.
I have a number of images of a great egret leftover from when I was fine tuning my settings for birds in flight, this is as good of time as any to use them up.
I have a few from last fall from around home to use up also.
It will be really nice when the sun makes its way higher above the horizon during the day to produce quality light for photography again!
There’s one odd thing that I should mention. When I ordered the second 7D body from B&H Photo, the way that I could get the cheapest price was to purchase the body with some accessories in a bundle, with them choosing the accessories. They were a 4T external hard drive, a 64 MB SD card, and a Lowepro camera backpack. I have set-up the external hard drive as a redundant back-up to the other 4T external drive that I already had. The SD card will come in handy, one can never have too many memory cards, especially when traveling. I haven’t had time to fully check out the backpack, since I already have two, however, this newest one looks as if it could be the one that I end up using most of all. I think that I can get the second body, my macro lens, and my 15-85 mm lens in this newest backpack, and it has room for lunch and a few other items in it as well. I think that it will work well on longer hikes when I take the minimum of gear with me and spend most of a day out in the woods.
But, the odd thing about the accessory package is that there were several hundred dollars worth of stuff in it, but by choosing that option, I got $300 off from the list price of the 7D. It makes no sense to me. I’m sure that B&H chose the items based on their excess stock, at least the items I received will be useful, unlike most of the packages I’ve seen bundled with a camera or lens.
I didn’t order the extra batteries from B&H though, because they have to go in a separate package and the shipping charges were more than I wanted to pay. I can pick up the batteries here locally.
Anyway, I’m about set for my vacation as far as photo gear. As far as my wish list goes, it has gotten much shorter the past few months, and I’m really in no hurry to purchase the items that remain on the list. I can get by quite well with the wide-angle lenses that I currently have for the time being. So, with that out of the way, time for a few more photos from last summer.
That wraps this post up, except for one last thing to say. In a way, it’s pretty sad that I make it out for both days of a weekend, and yet still have to fill the post with mostly leftover images from earlier in the year. Hopefully, that will change as soon as the weather around here improves.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
It’s official, West Michigan was the cloudiest place on Earth last week with not a single minute of sunshine for the entire week. This week is shaping up to be very much the same, but with snow showers rather than the mist, drizzle and rain that we had last week because the temperature has dropped below freezing. I could post the statistics to let you know just how gloomy that it’s been around here, but that would only make me more depressed than I am already about the weather.
I shouldn’t be depressed at all, I just ordered the second Canon 7D Mk II and it should arrive later this week. But, with the weather forecast calling for the same old cloudy skies for the next week, it takes most of the thrill out of looking forward to the camera’s arrival. Still, it will give me time to get the new one fully set-up the way that I want it. The one that I already have will be the bird in flight body, and the new one will be used for bird portraits, landscapes, and macros.
I may sell one of the 60D bodies that I have, but I know that I’ll be keeping one of them as a back-up just in case one of the 7D bodies stops functioning. I thought of selling the beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) but it is a good back-up lens in case something happens to one of my newer lenses. I’d hate to be on a trip somewhere and have an equipment malfunction that would curtail the types of photos that I could shoot, and one never knows when that may happen.
I did some shopping this past Saturday, I picked up a copy of Sibley’s guide to birds so I finally have a good field guide to reference while I’m birding. The store where I got that used to carry binoculars and spotting scopes, but they have stopped carrying those items. So, I also stopped at the camera store, they do sell those items, but they only stock them in their Kalamazoo, Michigan branch, so I couldn’t try any of them out, darn.
I did something stupid while I was there as well, I played with the new Canon 5D Mk IV. I shouldn’t have done that. The low light, high ISO performance of that camera is leaps and bounds above what the cropped sensor 7D can do.
In a recent post, I bemoaned the fact that there’s no good way to be sure of the performance of any item of camera gear, but there is one way. As I’ve also said more than a few times recently, I’m following the North American Nature Photographer’s Facebook page. Not every one that posts there spells out the equipment that they used to get the images that they post, but enough do so that you can learn what stuff works well, and what produces just so-so results. I have to say, that the 5D Mk IV camera produces some stunning images, much better than one would assume it is capable of considering the way that critics panned it when it was released. Maybe someday, right now, I’m about set for camera gear.
Anyway, on to the photos, and I’ll start with sunrise a couple of weeks ago, one of the few days that there was any sunshine at all.
I purposely included more of the rocks in the foreground, for the patterns on them made by the frost. It was a very chilly start to the day. A few minutes later, the colors in the sky grew more intense.
The first image that included the rocks in the foreground was shot with the 60D mounted on my tripod, and is a HDR image of three bracketed images merged together. The second two images were shot with the 7D and 100-400 mm lens because I could tell that the light wasn’t going to stay like that long enough to get set-up for a proper shot. Also, you can see a hint of the haze that formed that day due to how cold it had gotten overnight, and warmer air and sunshine trying to warm things up.
It will be interesting to see how the HDR landscape images produced by the 7D turn out compared to what I get from the 60D. I could be wrong, but I think that the difference will be very small if it’s even noticeable. What I’m really looking forward to is using the 7D for macro photos, I think that there will be more of a difference in image quality then. That’s because of the 7D’s better auto-focusing and high ISO performance over the 60D. I can’t wait until spring when I get to try that combination out.
By the way, I’ve had a new schedule at work for almost a month now, I’m back to working days rather than nights. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it’s a better schedule for now. I have to work more hours, but as bad as the weather has been, that’s not all bad this time of year. In fact, I’m working so many more hours that I don’t have time to do anything other than eat and sleep when I get home. I haven’t had much time to work on my blog, or to leave proper comments on other people’s blog the past few weeks.
Anyway, the second Canon 7D Mk II has arrived, and I was able to take it out for a test yesterday, and should make it out later today. I don’t think that I have all the settings of the new body quite the same as the older body yet, but that will come. It worked out well having one body and long lens set for portraits…
…and the second body and lens set-up for birds in flight at all times, whether it was for a single bird…
…or a flock of birds.
I went almost the entire day without switching lenses or tele-converters, although I did put the 100 mm macro lens on the new 7D body for these.
I know very little about lichens, so I don’t know how many different species of them there are in these photos. For example, I don’t know if the black ones are a different species than the orange ones, I believe that they are from their shape and size, but I’m not sure.
I had some problems shooting those, the wind was very strong yesterday, and the small trees that the lichens grew on were swaying in the wind. I also missed the set-up for the camera slightly for those as well. However, the important thing is that once I’m used to shooting macros with the 7D rather than the 60D, it will be easier, and with better results.
That applies to about everything concerning the new 7D body, I have to remember to set-up Lightroom to make the adjustments to the images automatically from the new body the way that I have it set-up for the other 7D and the 60D bodies also.
I could go on and on about camera and lens settings, but as I’ve said before, every piece of camera equipment has quirks, and one must learn to work around them. That applies to the 7D, and the new 400 mm lens. I will also say that not everything that was true during my indoor tests of that lens holds true when using it in the field.
Anyway, since I don’t have much time, here’s a few more photos from the last three weeks.
I should apologize for the quality of a few of these, but I don’t have the time to explain what I did wrong for each of the poorer photos. Most of the time it was because the light was wrong, for the rest, it was because I was working on those quirks that I have spoken about before.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!