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

I don’t get it

Okay, I’ve had my very first full physical examination by a doctor, and he said that I was in good shape for some one my age. The results of the lab tests came back, and they said the same thing. For example, while my “good” cholesterol was a little low, and my “bad” cholesterol is towards the high-end of what’s considered healthy, my overall cholesterol was 40 points below the upper limit. None of this is helping me understand what caused the severe psoriasis flare-up I experienced this spring, or the less severe one that I had last spring. All the other lab results from the blood work say the same thing, overall, I’m in good shape.

While I’m very thankful for my overall good health, in a way, it would be nice if something were slightly out of whack that could be a reason for these flare-ups. Other than being a bit overweight, and not getting enough exercise over the winter months, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the flare-ups. I suppose that it will remain a mystery.

There’s another thing about my having psoriasis that affects where and when I go out into the woods, insect repellent has a negative effect on my psoriasis. So, I have several choices, go out and be sucked dry of blood by the skeeters, apply insect repellent and deal with it making my psoriasis worse, or find places to go where I don’t need to apply the insect repellent. I have also purchased a mosquito net to go over my head, which will help, but it won’t keep the little bloodsuckers off from the rest of me.

Luckily, the park near home where I used to walk each day is relatively free of mosquitoes. I’ve seen a few there, but most days I can walk the entire three miles and never have to swat any skeeters. The same is true of the Muskegon County wastewater facility for the most part. The skeeters there are limited to the early morning hour around sunrise, and then only near the artificial marshes nearest to the wooded areas of the facility. The skeeters can be quite bad around the woodlot areas, but I can shoot the same species of birds that I would find there at home or in other places. For the most part though, the wastewater facility is mosquito free.

That could be because of the huge numbers of insect-eating birds that make the wastewater facility their home.

Eastern kingbird in flight

In the past, I’ve shown photos here of the huge flocks of swallows that form at the wastewater facility in the fall, but swallows are present in great numbers from early spring until they migrate south in the fall. One of the swallows would have been a better example of one of the insect-eating species of birds to use here, but I wasn’t able to get a good photo of any of them this past weekend. I did catch the eastern kingbird in the photo above looking for its next meal though.

Eastern kingbird in flight


Eastern kingbird in flight

I don’t think that it found what it was after, as I didn’t see anything in its beak as it flew off.

Eastern kingbird in flight

However, later in the day, I did catch one right after it had found something to eat.

Eastern kingbird with lunch

I have a number of images of a pair of kingbirds landing after they had made short flights in search of meals. Each time, they  return to the same general area of the fence that you can see in the image above. I spent some time watching and photographing the pair of them, more cooperative subjects than they were are hard to find. However, I’ll save those images for later, maybe.

There are other things around the wastewater facility that eat insects as well…

Jumping spider


Jumping spider

If it matters to any one, those were shot with the 100 mm macro lens on one of the 60D bodies that I have. I was going to test that lens on the 7D Mk II, but by the time I swapped lenses, the spider was gone, so it was a good thing that I “settled” for the 60D at first.

I say that I “settled” for using the 60D because it may be a fine camera, it can’t do what I can do with the 7D Mk II when it comes to birds in flight. This next series is a great example of what the 7D Mk II, the correct camera settings, and right lens can do.

Ring-billed gull diving for food

It may be only a gull, and not a tern or kingfisher…

Ring-billed gull diving for food

But being able to capture this series…

Ring-billed gull diving for food

…made me a happy camper at the time.

Ring-billed gull diving for food


Ring-billed gull diving for food

I’ll admit that it took me a few attempts to capture that entire sequence of one gull from when it was hovering over the pond to splashdown. I had to learn to judge from the gull’s body language when it was going to begin its dive, and learn how fast they were while in the dive so I could keep them centered in the frame as they plunged into the water.

I’m still a very happy camper for being able to get the middle shot of the gull just before its beak hit the water. However, even at 10 frames per second, the gull is nearly totally submerged in the next shot, that’s how fast they dove after whatever they were feeding on. Like a dummy, I never did hold the shutter release down to continue shooting as the gulls emerged from the water so that I may have been able to see what they were eating. I was too worried about keeping the buffer in the camera ready for the next dive.

Anyway, I can see that I’m going to have even more trouble in the future keeping my posts shorter as far as images. Being able to capture a series of photos as events such as the gull diving or the kingbird searching the weeds for food means more photos worth considering for inclusion here. Then there are the older reasons my posts tend to be long still in play. For example, I was trying for a good shot of this song sparrow so that I could make a positive ID as to what species it was.

Song sparrow

It isn’t a very good photo, but I’m including it because it’s part of the story. As I was trying for the sparrow, I saw something else lurking in the weeds just off to the left of the sparrow, I thought that it was a rabbit. It wasn’t, it was a fox, and very close to me. However, I didn’t know that until the fox lost its nerve and took off running.

Red fox bounding away

Because I was using the camera set-up for a portrait of the sparrow, the shutter speed was too low for a good photo of the fox. I did manage one more poor image of the fox as it ran away from me. I should have paid more attention when I saw what turned out to be the fox hiding in the weeds in the first place, but I was focused on the sparrow at the time.

Red fox bounding away

Having one camera set-up for action shots, and the other set-up for portrait shots works very well most of the time. I’m getting better at grabbing the correct set-up when an opportunity presents itself as you may be able to tell from most of my recent photos.

Sometimes though, I grab the wrong set-up on purpose, here’s an example of that.

Green heron

That was shot with the bird in flight set-up, even though the heron was perched. The reason for that is because I was shooting towards the sun with the background being white clouds. I have the set-up for birds in flight ready for that when it happens, with +2 stops of exposure compensation included so that whatever I’m shooting isn’t just a silhouette against the clouds.

Since the heron stuck around longer than I expected, I was able to switch over to the other set-up, which includes the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the 100-400 mm lens, and adjust the exposure compensation, so I was able to get a little closer to the heron.

Green heron

However, the heron wouldn’t raise its crown again, so I prefer the first image. Having the right set-up dialed into the camera ahead of time makes life so much easier. I’m to the point where I have the newer 7D body set-up almost exactly how I want it, but it’s such a sophisticated camera that it may be a while before I’m completely finished. Some of the things that you can set on the 7D aren’t in the manual, I learned those setting by watching the many online videos there are about getting it set-up. However, I don’t remember which videos held which tips, and I don’t have time to search for and watch all of those videos again. The one setting that bugs me the most is the one having to do with being able to move or select groups of focus points without pushing any extra buttons. On the first 7D body I purchased, I was able to set-up the focus point selection so all I have to do is move the joystick to move the focus point(s) or to select how many I use. I still have to push a separate button first on the second body to do the same thing. It wouldn’t be that big of deal, but I have to remember that quickly as I’m trying to get a shot where changing the focus point(s) is a consideration.

Still, having two camera bodies each with a long lens on it comes in extremely handy, to me it was worth the cost. During the same time frame as I shot the green heron, a pair of sandhill cranes came flying past me.

Sandhill cranes in flight

I continued shooting as they came closer, here’s the best of the images that I shot at their closest approach to me.

Sandhill crane in flight

I use the 400 mm f/5.6 lens as my bird in flight lens, because it doesn’t have image stabilization, and with the high shutter speeds needed for birds in flight…

Red-winged blackbird in flight


Northern shoveler in flight


Semi-palmated sandpiper in flight

…image stabilization isn’t needed.

When I’m shooting bird portraits, I use the 100-400 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it to get to 560 mm and closer to the birds.

Great blue heron


Eastern towhee


Eastern towhee


Semi-palmated sandpiper


Male northern cardinal

That set-up works well enough, although like any one else that does wildlife photography, I’d love to have an even longer lens for times like this.

Juvenile bald eagle

The eagle was out in a field with a kill that it had made, and I had to crop that image too much for it to be a good one. I think that the eagle had gotten a rabbit…

Juvenile bald eagle with a kill

…but I couldn’t tell for sure as far away from me as the eagle was. There was also a turkey vulture nearby, waiting for the eagle to finish eating before it started cleaning up the leftovers that the eagle didn’t finish, but it was too far from the eagle for a photo that showed them together.

I was in the process of setting up my tripod with the gimbal head on it so that I could switch to the 2 X tele-converter to get closer to the eagle, but that was more than the eagle could stand. It took its lunch somewhere else to finish. However, while I was getting set-up, a pair of male bobolinks got into a territorial tussle, and I was able to shoot this photo of one of them.

Male bobolink

Well, this post is getting too long already, but I have to share these two photos.

Male eastern box turtle

I know that the turtle is a male because of its red eyes.

Male eastern box turtle

And, one last photo to remind myself to better anticipate what’s going to happen next.

Whitetail doe

I saw her standing, and shot a few photos of her then. However, then I sat there watching her with the camera settings the same, even though I should have known what was going to happen. She hoisted her tail and pranced off in the dainty way that deer have when they’re not frightened too badly, so my shutter speed was too low to freeze her motion as well I as should have gotten. I did catch her with all four feet off from the ground, but that photo would have been much better if I had done what I should have.

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


28 responses

  1. SunFreeStar

    Thank you for sharing the information about the whole process of your photography. There is a lot of work behind each picture and that is why they are so special to me. With my little compact camera I rarely manage to get a picture of a flying bird if any!Really beautiful pictures and wishing you the best for your health. Have you tried testing for any vitamins deficency like vitamin D or else?🌸🌸

    June 2, 2017 at 10:09 am

    • Thank you very much! I know from experience how hard it is to shoot a flying bird with a compact camera, that’s why my bank account is so low, from purchasing better gear all the time.

      The doctor didn’t test specifically for any vitamin deficiencies, but did have several other blood tests done that should have showed if further testing was needed. I have to be careful with vitamin D, as it would interact with the medicine I’m taking, plus the fact that I’m sensitive to sunlight. Vitamin D could make that worse.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:29 pm

  2. It is great to have you posting again sharing your wonderful pictures. I particularly enjoyed the birds in flight especially that gull diving for food, you are so clever. Good that your general health is OK.

    June 2, 2017 at 10:19 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I almost wish that the doctor had found something wrong with me which would explain the psoriasis flare-up, but it’s nice to know that I’ll probably live to a ripe old age.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:37 pm

  3. I always love your photos, Jerry, and thank you for posting a photo of a cardinal and a box turtle. I miss both, being out here in the west.

    Good luck with the medical issues. They can be difficult to figure out.

    June 2, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! With so many wondrous species of wildlife out west, I’m surprised that you miss the eastern species, but I suppose that it has to do with childhood memories.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:42 pm

      • Both bring back pleasant memories.

        June 4, 2017 at 1:38 pm

  4. I’ve tried to think back to what my good friend said about his psoriasis flare ups and I can’t really remember him saying much, other than complaining when they happened. And I don’t blame him.
    At least it’s getting better and you’re able to get outside again.
    Like I said in your last post, you haven’t lost your good eye. The shots of the diving gull are excellent but I think my favorite shot this time is that turtle. I can’t believe I’ve never seen one of those.

    June 2, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! As much time as you spend in the woods looking at plants, it also surprises me that you’ve never seen a box turtle. I see a few every year, despite the fact that their numbers are declining. It is good to get outside again, even the times when I don’t take a camera with me, which is most of the time now.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:56 pm

  5. I’m sorry about the Hobson’s choice you face when you go our and take your photos, but I’m always pleased to see them! and I do understand about wanting to know the cause of an illness — it is frustrating to not know.

    June 2, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Cynthia! Yes, it is frustrating to not know the reason for the flare-ups, but as I’ve told others, it’s nice to get an otherwise clean bill of health.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:49 pm

  6. It would be good to pin point a cause for your troubles as it must be very frustrating to be ill and not know why. Still, as the others have said, your skill with the camera and patience when taking shots has not been affected. I loved the diving gull but all the in flight shots were fun.

    June 2, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Psoriasis is one of those conditions or diseases which confounding to the experts as well, so I guess I’ll never know what caused my condition to get so bad. But, it is nice to get an otherwise clean bill of health from a doctor.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:47 pm

      • It must be reassuring.

        June 3, 2017 at 5:27 pm

  7. The skill you show in getting these shots is amazing, Jerry! I love the diving gull series, the first heron shot and those of the jumping spider. I am sorry you are unable to use insect repellent. My daughter suffers the same way when she gets her eczema attacks.

    June 2, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Eczema is similar to psoriasis in some ways, so I know what your daughter has to suffer when she has an attack. I know that eczema is also stress related, which probably makes her condition worse at times.

      June 2, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      • Fortunately, she doesn’t get them too often now. Mainly in the summertime!

        June 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      • Interesting, I thought that eczema was worse during the winter months just like psoriasis. However, my niece has it and her’s is worse in the summer also.

        June 5, 2017 at 7:55 am

  8. Beautiful collection of photographs once again. Glad to hear you’ve been out and about. Auto-immune issues are tricky. I know certain diets can be beneficial. I’ve managed to control my eczema with diet as I’ve seemed to develop some food sensitivities with age. Frustrating, I know!

    June 2, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Ingrid! I’ve talked to my doctor and also a dietician about my diet and any effect it may have on my psoriasis, but they both said that there’s no link between diet and the severity of psoriasis found in research. But, both eczema and psoriasis have a large mental component, if the patient believes something will help, it probably will.

      June 3, 2017 at 7:25 am

      • Interesting – I started following a Paleo diet for weight loss, but was pleasantly surprised with other benefits.

        June 5, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      • Thank you very much Ingrid! My brother and his wife are on the Paleo diet, he suggested that I try it as well. I may have to look into that.

        June 6, 2017 at 7:57 am

  9. Hi Jerry. So happy to see that you’re wandering around with two cameras, doing what you do best.

    I really liked the images of the green heron. It was interesting not to be able to see that spiky crest at all in the second photo. But, what really grabbed my attention were his/her spindly feet. They were so gnarled, and insubstantial-looking.

    Loved the note about male turtles having red eyes. There’s always some new tidbit to pick up.

    Hope that you continue to feel good, and that your psoriasis stays in check.

    June 3, 2017 at 6:55 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I love shooting green herons, they are not bigger than a chicken, but they have the same personality traits as their larger cousins, great blue herons. That makes them hard to get good photos of. They only raise their crests when preening or when they are moving, so catching that was a treat for me.

      Yes, the male box turtles have red eyes, the females have brown eyes.

      My psoriasis continues to improve, but more slowly now, but that’s understandable. One thing humorous about this episode, seeing the doctors’ reactions to how quickly the flare-up occurred, and now, how quickly it is fading. My new primary care physician said that if he hadn’t seen it, he would never have believed it.

      June 3, 2017 at 7:32 am

  10. Great to see your post with all the amazing photos. Keep an eye on your health and monitor all the things that make you feel well and keep doing them! I’m taking a break from blogging for a month so keep taking your wonderful photos and look after yourself.

    June 4, 2017 at 11:27 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I’ll be looking forward to when your blogging break ends.

      June 4, 2017 at 3:51 pm

  11. Great shots….all of them but I particularly liked the ring-bill.

    June 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    • Thank you very much Joanie!

      June 6, 2017 at 7:56 am