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

Good things come

To those who wait! Or, another old cliché that fits here is that patience is a virtue.

I’ve been hankering a full frame sensor camera body for some time now, and I had Canon’s 5D Mk IV on my wish-list for that reason. However, Canon has just announced a major upgrade to their 6D model of full frame cameras. I’ll have to wait for the reviews, but I think that it will be the full frame camera that I end up purchasing. It will do everything that I want a full frame camera to do, albeit at a much lower cost than the 5D Mk IV, since it doesn’t have all the sophisticated features as the 5D, or even the 7D Mk II that I’m using now have.

For example, the new 6D has 45 focus points, up from just 11 in the original. My 7D has 65 focus points, the 5D has 61. I know from using the 60D that I’ve had for years now, that 11 isn’t enough at times to get the composition in the camera the way that I’d like. But, I think that I can live with 45 focus points. The new 6D has a less sophisticated metering system, a 7,500 pixel metering sensor versus a 150,000 pixel system in the 7D or 5D, but I have to remember what type of images that I’ll be using the full frame body for.

The full frame camera will be used for landscapes, macros, and low-light critter portraits, along with video at times. For those things, I generally have time to shoot test shots and adjust the exposure anyway. The more sophisticated system in the 7D is great for those times when I’m shooting quickly, and don’t have time to review the resulting images before my subject disappears from me. The 7D has spoiled me, but I still use the older 60D often enough so that I remember how to shoot test shots and adjust the exposure. Most of the macro images from the last post were shot with the older 60D.

The new 6D will do in camera time-lapse photography, as well as having a built-in long exposure timer for shooting things like star trails or the Milky Way, which I just mentioned in a recent post, are things that I’d like to shoot in the future. It also has better weather sealing than the original as well, although I don’t think that the construction of the 6D matches either the 7D that I’m using now, or the 5D. It’s probably plastic and aluminum rather than magnesium as the 7D and 5D are.

One of the other features that I really like is the vari-angle LCD display on the rear of the camera. I know that some people don’t like the vari-angle display, but I have it on my 60D and I love it. When I’m not using the display, it folds into the camera body where it’s protected from damage, an important feature in its own right. But, when I set the camera on the ground for a shot of something such as an insect, I don’t have to lay down to see into the viewfinder, I can use the live view display instead. There have also been times while I’ve been shooting landscapes that I’ve had the camera low to some very wet ground that I’d rather not lay in to get the photo that I wanted. It was much better to use the vari-angle display and live view during those times. The vari-angle display would have also come in handy when I was shooting the swans as seen in my last post. With the sun falling directly on the screen, I had a hard time seeing the swans in the display. With the vari-angle display, I could have rotated the display so that it was shaded and I could have seen my intended subjects on the screen much better.

The original 6D had less noise at the same ISO as my 7D does, and from what I’ve read so far, the low-light performance of the new 6D is even better. That’s true of most of the full frame sensor cameras on the market today, that’s why I’d like to step up to one. The new 6D should also have better dynamic range as well.

Best of all, I can purchase the new 6D with a battery grip, extra batteries, and the 24-105 mm lens that I’d like for the full frame body for about the same price as the 5D Mk IV body alone. I have to remember that I intend to use the 6D as a replacement for the 60D camera that I have and still use, not a full frame replacement for my 7D Mk II. Actually, Canon doesn’t make a full frame replacement for the 7D Mk II, not even their top of the line 1DX has everything that the 7D has as far as I’m concerned, and the 1DX is well out of my price range anyway.

By the way, it’s time for a few other photography related thoughts. To begin with, not every one needs the same gear that I do, it always depends on what a person is shooting, and how they are shooting it.

Another thing, for each and every expert that says that their way is the right way, there’s an equally qualified expert that does things differently than the first expert, but still says that their way is the only way.

Take back-button focusing for example, many experts swear that it’s the only way to get good sharp images, but there are other experts that swear that back-button focusing is the wrong way to do it, because it ties up your thumb on the focusing button, and you can’t make exposure adjustments at the same time as you’re focusing.

But, I’ll have more to say about how the professionals do things in a later post, right now, it’s time for a photo or two.

Upland sandpiper

It isn’t the prettiest bird that there is, but I love that image, it’s another mark of how much my photos have improved over the years. The sandpiper looks three-dimensional, not flat as the subjects used to look in my images. That images goes with the ones from my last post of the milkweed flowers and the insect macros that I shot. It’s so much fun for me to be outside with all my gear, and having it work so well for me now that I’ve learned how to use it.

Maybe my gear just works well on ugly birds. 😉

Turkey vulture

Actually, I don’t think that vultures are ugly, just different from other birds. They are social birds, that often pause to talk things over.

Turkey vultures

And, having a great long zoom lens lets me show that. I think that these are two adults and their young one for the year.

Turkey vultures

While I was shooting the macro photos seen in my last post, I also spotted a spicebush swallowtail butterfly, but it was on the other side of the fence, and I couldn’t get close to it to use the 100 mm macro lens, so I used the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X extender for these.

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly

Not bad, but you can see that there was far too much dynamic range in the scene for my 7D to capture well, even with the aid of Lightroom. The milkweed flowers are blown out when the black of the butterfly is correct. But, that’s what I get for shooting in direct sunlight in the middle of the day. A diffuser and some one to hold it would have come in handy, or I could wait until I see the same butterfly on a day when the light is more diffuse naturally, from clouds.

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly

That’s another example of when having two cameras, actually three in this case, came in handy. I had the long set-up sitting on a large rock near me as I was shooting macros with the other camera, so all I had to do was set the macro set-up down on the rock and grab the long set-up in a lot less time than it would have taken me to switch one camera over. Chances are, the butterfly would have flown away if I had to take the time to change lenses and camera settings. Even if the images aren’t the best in the world, I did manage to capture the butterfly, then go back to shooting macros having hardly missed a beat.

Good gear doesn’t guarantee great images, but it does make getting great images easier on a consistent basis. That goes for the gimbal head that I showed in my last post as well, I have the feeling that I’ll be looking for chances to put it to use, rather than avoiding the hassle of getting it set up. While nature photography can be frustrating at times, very frustrating in fact, having good reliable gear, that works as it’s suppose to, eases the frustration, and makes the process fun, even when I do miss shots.

Good weather helps too, and it was very nice last weekend, other than the strong winds on Sunday.

It turns out that I should have waited to begin this post, for I have already put an image of an upland sandpiper in it that will run in the slide show at the top of the page. I thought that it was a good one, and it is, but these two shot this weekend are even better.

Upland sandpiper


Upland sandpiper

For that matter, I should have waited to begin the My Photo Life List project that I’m working until I had good photos of every species. As my equipment, photography skills, and my skills at getting closer to birds have all improved, I’m getting better images of the species that I have already done all the time. In the beginning, I didn’t expect to get images good enough to be used in a field guide for birds, but given how much time I spend shooting birds, I think that I’ll end up with images good enough for a field guide for most species.

I actually zoomed in too far on the upland sandpiper for those to be useful in a field guide, but I have good images of them already. So, I can play around getting head and shoulder photos of them. Not so with this species.

Male bobolink in full breeding plumage

I’ve been trying to get close to bobolinks for years, and they never let me approach them. I snuck up slowly on this guy, shooting lots of photos whenever there wasn’t a lot of vegetation between us. When I finally had a clear view of him, he knew that I was there, but hung around anyway, and he even began singing, and what a pretty song it was.

Male bobolink in full breeding plumage

Luckily, I can go back and add these to the post on this species that I’ve already done. It’s the same with pie-billed grebes…

Pie-billed grebe


Pie-billed grebe

…and least sandpipers also.

Least sandpiper


Least sandpiper


Least sandpiper

While these are far from my best of a bald eagle, I had better put them in this post for the 4th of July, since that’s about when this post will go public.

Bald eagle in flight


Bald eagle in flight

The eagle landed on the wall of one of the cells where the gulls and ducks like to congregate, and the gulls weren’t happy about that.

Ring-billed gull attacking a bald eagle

But, I was on the wrong side of the cell, almost 300 yards (275 meters) away from the action, so the images aren’t very good. At least the image doesn’t show a white blob over a brown blob the way my images used to look. I sat there for quite a while watching, but the eagle seemed content to stay, as the gulls gave up trying to chase it away. I drove around to the other side of the cells there, but by then, the eagle was gone.

I had another disappointment earlier in the day, I was close to a green heron with good light for a change…

Green heron

…but that branch was in the way, and I couldn’t find a line of sight where I had a clear view of the heron. I ended up cheating, and removing the branch in Lightroom.

Green heron

That looks okay here in my blog, but if you were to see it as I see it blown up on my computer, or if I were to print it, then you’d see how poor I am at editing things out in Lightroom. Still, I’m quite proud of those because of the way they show the true colors and patterns of the heron, it helps that I had great diffuse light at the time. enough light for a low ISO setting, but no harsh shadows to deal with either.

You know, it’s funny, I went back in my archives to find the photo of the female dickcissel that the American Bird Conservancy asked to use, and seeing the photos that I shot back then, it was almost hard to look at those photos, as poor as they were. I chalked most of the improvement up to a better camera body and better lenses, but that doesn’t explain why the macros that I shoot now using the 60D body and 100 mm macro lens are so much better now.

Unidentified sunflower


Moth mullein

I could see gear being the reason for the improvement if I wasn’t using the exact same gear for macros most of the time now as I did back then. I shot over a dozen photos of the moth mullein hoping that one would be good, they were all good. In the old days, I’d be lucky if I did get the one good one.

I did use the new 100-400 mm lens for this one though.

Black-eyed Susan

It may sound as if I’m bragging, and maybe I am to some degree, but for the most part, I’m basking in the joy of doing something that I love to do and doing it well. The only thing that I love more than being out in nature and seeing the beauty there, is photographing what I see, well to share with others, and for my own memories as time marches on. It may have been painful to see the poor quality of some of my older photos when I looked through my archives for the image that I mentioned earlier, but the images still brought back the memories of where and when those images were shot.

In some ways, nature photography is like the game of golf. It can be so frustrating at times that one wonders why they took on such a challenge, but when things go well, there’s an incredible feeling of satisfaction that one gets. It’s also like golf in that no matter how skilled one becomes, there’s always room for improvement.

I’m still often frustrated, on Sunday I came upon a great blue heron very close to me. I assumed that it would fly off as soon as it saw me, so I grabbed the bird in flight set-up. I got a focus lock on the heron, but it hesitated, watching me as much as I was watching it. I saw how the eye of the heron looked through the viewfinder, and knew that I had excellent light for a head shot if I switched to the bird portrait set-up. In the split-second it took me to set the one camera down and grab the other, the heron did take off. Lesson learned, if I ever get light like that again, I’ll shoot a few frames even if it’s with the wrong set-up for what I’m hoping for as the final image.

But most often, it’s the behavior of my intended subject that leads to the frustration, like this juvenile raccoon.

Juvenile raccoon staying hidden

In the few seconds that I had to shoot it before it disappeared, it never let me see both of its eyes at one time. I suppose that I could say that the image shows how wary even young raccoons are, but I’d have much rather shown you a good image with nothing in front of its face, even if its body was still mostly hidden.

As good as my gear is, there are still times when it is the source of my frustrations. There are times when the 7D will focus lock on the wrong part of what’s in the frame, and as good as it is in tracking something that it locks onto, it’s difficult to get it to “let go” of what it wants to track, and switch to what I really wanted it to track. And, there are still times when it simply refuses to lock onto anything in the frame, but those times are few and far between, and usually in very difficult circumstances. But, as you can see in the photo of the raccoon, I can get it to look past the vegetation in the foreground and focus on my intended subject most of the time. That’s a good thing, because when I’m shooting smaller birds, there’s almost always some vegetation in the foreground.

Male yellow warbler


Male yellow warbler


Male rose-breasted grosbeak

The warbler and the grosbeak are great examples of when waiting, or my new-found patience, paid off in a better than average image. In both instances, the birds perched to preen and take a break from looking for food, and I kept the camera on them, snapping what I used to think was way too many pictures of them. But, I was able to sort through all the pictures that I shot, choose the best ones out of the lot, and delete the ones that weren’t up to snuff. The ones I deleted were ones where the bird had its head turned slightly the wrong way, or was blurry because the bird moved while the shutter was open. I could shoot at a higher shutter speed to freeze the bird’s movements, but that would require a higher ISO setting and a resulting lack of resolution because of it. I find it better to shoot more images at the best possible settings for a portrait, and delete the poor images later.

One last thing before I end this one, I’m noticing that I’m getting much better color rendition in my images lately, mostly due to the better lenses that I’ve purchased. You can’t go wrong with quality glass, no matter what camera is behind it.

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


27 responses

  1. Such wonderful pictures, no matter what the subject! You are certainly one of the best photographers here on WordPress. I am currious, Jerry, if money was not a problem, which camera would you buy?

    July 4, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I doubt if I’m the best photographer on WordPress, I’m not even the best bird photographer here. You do very well in your own right, I think that you have a better eye for composition and lighting.

      If money were no object, I’d have two full frame bodies. The super high resolution 5DS R for landscapes and any time I could have the camera on a tripod, and the 5D Mk IV for better low-light performance. If I had to choose one, it would be the 5D MK IV for all around use. I’m not impressed with the 1 DX, but maybe that’s because I know that I can never afford it. Truthfully, other than low-light situations, I still think that the 7D Mk II is the best camera that Canon makes for wildlife photography. 20 MP in a crop sensor comes close to the same resolution as the 5DS R, at least as close as the 30 MP 5D Mk IV is. This will sound like a strange analogy, but the 7D Mk II is like driving a tank that handles like a sports car.

      July 4, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      • A tank that handles like a sports car! That’s an excellent plug for the 7D II.

        July 6, 2017 at 7:41 pm

  2. Really love all your photos they just jump out of the screen! The Black- eyed Susan photo is lovely with the rain drops and even the hairs on the stem visible and all the bird photos especially the Upland sandpiper and the Green heron show beautiful colours and markings…not sure about the Turkey vultures they look a bit unfinished…not your photos ..the birds!

    July 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I knew that people would like most of the photos other than the vultures, their bald heads turn most people off, they do look unfinished.

      July 4, 2017 at 10:44 pm

  3. The sandpiper shots are glorious. The camera thoughts are interesting as always.

    July 4, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I do tend to babble on at length as I sort things out in my mind as to what’s the best gear for me.

      July 4, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      • I wouldn’t call it babbling. I would call it thinking and it is very useful when someone does thinking for me.

        July 5, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      • I doubt if you need any one to think for you.

        July 5, 2017 at 7:52 pm

  4. Don’t understand the technicalities but love the results!

    July 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      July 4, 2017 at 9:58 pm

  5. I like the shots of the upland sandpiper. I don’t think it’s ugly, just a little gawky maybe.
    I forgot to say congratulations on getting your photo chosen by the American Bird Conservancy! I’d consider that quite an honor.
    I didn’t know you could paint things out in Lightroom. I’ve got to get to know the program better someday. In any event I like the shot of the green hereon even with the branch, but I know how you feel. I just discovered that I blew it on a shot that I had to walk for over an hour to get, so now I have to go back. As a friend of mine asks: “It’s hard being a perfectionist, isn’t it?”
    That little yellow warbler has to be my favorite this time. It’s a very photogenic bird!

    July 4, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! Most people prefer brightly colored birds, I kind of like the brown ones if they have interesting patterns to their feathers, and most brown birds do.

      I am honored that an organization like the American Bird Conservancy wants to use one of my images, I’d be even more honored if some one offered me money to use one of them. 😉 Actually, I don’t mind donating an image to a non-profit now and then, it’s my humble way of supporting their work.

      Yes, you can use the spot removal tool to remove things other than spots in an image. Removing a branch like that isn’t easy though. I also removed some bird poop from one of the least sandpiper photos, much easier. Most people wouldn’t have noticed it, other than it was the brightest thing in the scene, which draws your eyes to it.

      It is hard to be a perfectionist, and I don’t envy you having to walk that far to reshoot a photo. But, consider this, with some species of birds and my schedule, I have one or two weekends a year to catch them in breeding plumage as they migrate north. On their return south, they’ve lost their breeding plumage, which means waiting until the next spring. I know that the flowering time of some flowers are short, but they stay in one place where you can go back and find them.

      July 4, 2017 at 11:00 pm

  6. The green heron shots are wonderful as are the macros of the flowers. I really like the way so many of your shots are 3-D.

    July 4, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I am do better at getting more life-like photos, but I’ve recently watched another video that will help me even more. The subject of the video was using shadows to create even more of a 3D effect in images, I’ll see if it works.

      July 4, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      • Sounds interesting! I look forward to seeing what you make of it.

        July 5, 2017 at 6:20 pm

  7. I went with the Sony Alpha 7 a couple of years back – it is a fullframe camera! I love every bit of what it clicks!

    Your photos are indeed lovely, as others have said too 🙂

    July 5, 2017 at 9:11 am

    • Thank you very much! I’ve already got Canon lenses that would be very expensive to replace if I were to make the switch to another brand of camera, or I’d consider one of the Sony cameras.

      July 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

      • Yes, your call, but Sony is great!

        July 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

  8. Such beautiful photos, as always, Jerry!

    Turkey vultures are like Muscovy ducks to me. A bit red and wrinkly about the face, but still endearing. We have a lot of turkey vultures in our area here.

    July 6, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ve only seen photos of Muscovy ducks, and they do resemble vultures in some ways. Probably not the most photogenic species of duck.

      July 6, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      • When I was growing up, a friend across the street had Muscovy ducks. The male would perch on the chimney and look for hapless humans walking down the street. He would swoop down and attack. The female was fairly placid. I don’t know if that was typical male Muscovy behavior, but it sure made an impression.

        July 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

      • That sounds more like the behavior of a swan or a goose than a duck. I don’t know about all wild ducks since not all species breed here in lower Michigan, but of the ones that do, the females raise the young on their own. The males flock together to lounge around when they’re not feeding.

        July 10, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      • That same male duck fell down the neighbor’s chimney once. There was a commotion just above the damper, which was closed, being summer. When we all opened it, the duck fell down into the fireplace. I don’t think he made that mistake again.

        July 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      • That’s a funny story, probably not to the duck though. 😉

        July 11, 2017 at 10:16 pm

  9. Love the Bobolink. I’ve also been “guilty of post processing a twig that I wasn’t able to remove when I shot the pic.

    July 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob! I worked hard for years to get that good of an image of the bobolink. As much of a pain as it was to remove the branch, I can assure you that it won’t be something that I do very often.

      July 10, 2017 at 9:03 pm