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

The first signs of spring

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!

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

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.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

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.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

So does getting closer…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…and even closer.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

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…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…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.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

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.

Horned lark singing!

Horned lark singing!

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.

Morning dove

Morning dove

Also, with the proper settings for both the camera and the lens, the 10-400 zoom lens does extremely well for birds in flight.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

 

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

 

Bald eagle in flight over the landfill

Bald eagle in flight over the landfill

 

American crow in flight

American crow 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.

Male common goldeneye

Male common goldeneye

 

Male common goldeneye and female ring-necked duck

Male common goldeneye and female ring-necked duck

 

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

And, here are the rest of the photos from Sunday around home.

Blue jay in the wind

Blue jay in the wind

 

Depth of field test

Depth of field test

 

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

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 color purple

The color purple

The next two show the difference between a raven…

Common raven in flight

Common raven in flight

…and a crow, mostly the size and shape of their beaks.

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

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.

Great egret sticking the landing

Great egret sticking the landing

 

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

 

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

 

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

I have a few from last fall from around home to use up also.

Fall color 1

Fall color 1

 

Fall color 2

Fall color 2

 

The color red

The color red

 

Crown vetch

Crown vetch

 

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

 

Downy woodpecker in flight

Downy woodpecker in flight

 

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

 

Blue jay

Blue jay

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!

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

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.

The color green

The color green

 

Jewelweed

Jewelweed

 

Male Indigo bunting

Male Indigo bunting

 

Turkey

Turkey

 

Asiatic dayflower

Asiatic dayflower

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!

Advertisements

26 responses

  1. Wonderful photographs of that fox squirrel, you manage it all so well.

    February 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I put an extra photo or two of the fox squirrel just for you.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:06 pm

  2. The Black-capped Chickadee and Fox Squirrel shots at the top of your post are wonderful! It is also good to see all the beautiful shots from the end of last year – I forget quite how colourful the world is away from wintertime!

    February 12, 2017 at 9:39 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’m glad that I had a few photos left over from last year, seeing how beautiful it can be during the summer months makes winters more bearable.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      • It really does!

        February 12, 2017 at 8:09 pm

  3. You have mastered the capture of those bird eyes, especially that Chickadee, a bird I have always found difficult to photograph with eyes not lost in its black cap. I enjoyed viewing these photos a lot, even if they told me that I have to try much harder to get similar ones myself.

    February 12, 2017 at 10:11 am

    • Thank you very much Hien! You have to have the light just right for chickadees or their eyes do disappear. It also helps to overexpose the images by 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop when you shoot them, then bring down the highlights and bring up the shadows a little in Lightroom afterward.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:12 pm

  4. Thanks for the pictures comparing the Raven and Crow. Particularly interesting since I recently posted a blog about them – http://ngnaturally.blogspot.com/2017/01/dont-overlook-black-birds.html

    February 12, 2017 at 10:15 am

    • Thank you very much! That was a good blog post that you did on the crows and ravens.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:15 pm

  5. Great Egret Sticking the Landing – fabulous caption, and a very cool photo.

    I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but you’d better be careful about singing your Spring Song just yet. I’m just sayin’…😊

    Glad to see you are putting your new camera thru its paces with such great results. Getting new camera gear for you must make you feel the same as I do when I get a new bike. I share your joy.

    In the past week, I’ve seen and id’d a few new (to me) birds. The yellow-eyed junco, Arizona woodpecker (only woodpecker with brown back feathers), and hermit thrush all hang around here. Plus we have a seriously pesky coatimundi that is helping himself to our sunflower feeder. Each time I see something like this, I wish you were here with your camera.

    Hope nice weather sticks around. Cheers!

    February 12, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! I hate to say this, but I’m a bit tired of egrets, and a few other species of birds that used to be my favorite subjects for photography. There are huge numbers of egret, heron, and eagle photos on the North American Nature Photographer’s Facebook page every day, as they are all every other photographer’s favorite subjects.

      I know that spring is still a long way off yet, still, I’ll track every sign of its coming until it gets here, it’s my favorite time of the year.

      I’d love to see and photograph those birds, they would all be new to me. And I’d love to see a coatimundi also. Sounds like you’re enjoying staying in one spot for a while.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      • I did get a few decent shots of the coati, which you’ll see when I get around to the next blog post, but photographing the birds is beyond me. That, you will have to do yourself.

        February 13, 2017 at 8:59 am

      • Birds aren’t so tough, I shoot quite a few of them every week. 😉 I’ll be looking forward to your next post, as I’ve never seen a coatimundi.

        February 13, 2017 at 11:13 pm

  6. A wonderful chickadee photo to start with showing such detail that one could almost reach out and touch it! I love the blue jay having a bad hair day and the great egrets in flight. It’s lovely to see the bright colours of the next seasons especially the green and purple photos. I’ve discovered it’s never too soon to wear in new boots!

    February 12, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I was very lucky with the chickadee, the sun came out as I was shooting a series of photos of it, the first ones are not very good without the sunlight.

      I like your outlook on my older photos, “It’s lovely to see the bright colours of the next season”, the will be what I photograph in the coming seasons.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:28 pm

  7. Like you I can’t wait for the weather to change. I’m sitting here in the middle of what is supposed to be a foot or more of falling snow, wishing I could get into the woods. That’s why your summer and fall shots aren’t wasted on me.
    I like the shots of the chickadee. I just heard a male singing his mating call the other day and nothing says spring like that.
    Nice shots of the squirrel and egret too. It looks like the cardinal had eaten just about every grape on those vines.
    For leftovers this was a real feast for the eyes!

    February 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! The snowstorm that’s hitting you missed us, but until this afternoon, it was as cloudy and dreary as it gets. When the clouds did part, it was because gale force winds blew them your way. I’m as sick of winter as any one is.

      I love to hear the cheerful chickadees in the spring, along with the other birds’ song that we’ll be hearing soon.

      I’ll have to remember to save a few photos over the summer and fall for next winter, it seems like every one likes seeing them.

      February 12, 2017 at 8:33 pm

  8. I am always partial to cardinals, but I do love the fox squirrel too. Such a variety! Hard to find a favorite among your photos, Jerry.

    You still have plenty of snow there. We could get more between now and April, but I am hoping we are done with winter soon. Daffodils are blooming and the Japanese Snow Irises are up, too.

    February 12, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ve heard about flooding and heavy snows out west, I hope that the weather takes a turn for the better out there where you are.

      February 13, 2017 at 8:26 am

      • In the mid 40s and raining currently. I am really interested in what March and April will send us. Last year we had some 90 degree days in April which sent everything in a race to grow and blossom too early, and then it went back to cool and rainy. We got good fruit in spite of the weather, but every year presents its own challenges.

        February 19, 2017 at 12:33 pm

  9. Beautiful post, Jerry, I loved seeing the Black-capped chickadee as the first photo, gorgeous! New equipment accessories ready to order, yay!!

    February 13, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! The accessories arrived today, I hope to find the time to install them before the weekend.

      February 13, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      • 🙂

        February 15, 2017 at 8:06 pm

  10. Pssst – Jerry, you’re the Jerry mentioned in my post here: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/beautiful-great-blue-heron-love-for-valentines-day/ Best, Babsje

    February 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm

  11. Love the squirrels. They come up to my deck for peanuts. Beautiful work as usual! Sheila

    February 21, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    • Thank you very much again Sheila!

      February 22, 2017 at 7:35 am