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

Always checking, always learning

It’s Sunday morning as I sit here drinking my coffee and admiring the new Canon Pixma Pro 100 printer that I’ve purchased. It’s huge, and it weighs a ton, but getting it set-up was glitch free, and it produces better 8 X 10 inch prints than what I get from either of the local retail chains that do photo printing. I didn’t time it, but I’ll bet that it took me close to two hours to get the printer unboxed, remove all the packing inside of it, install the print head and ink cartridges, and make the test prints. The only real glitch that I ran into was finding the correct dialog box in the Canon software to make the most important adjustments such as paper size and print quality, but I did find it eventually. I have installed the Lightroom plug-in so that I can print directly from within Lightroom which was part of the reason I wasn’t able to find the dialog box for the printer driver as quickly as I think that I should have been able to.

The free package of 50 sheets of 13 X 19 inch photo paper that was part of the deal that I got on the printer was delayed, so I purchased a 50 sheet pack of the 8 X 10 paper in the same grade of paper locally yesterday. One thing that’s important for getting the best quality prints is to set the correct paper profile in whatever software you use to make the prints. I purchased the same grade of paper as the large sheets will be when they arrive simply to make things easier for me as I learn the printer better. That way, I won’t be changing the printer profiles other than setting the correct size, and I’m very happy with the Canon SG-201 semi-gloss paper so far. Once I’ve master the printer, then I may experiment with other papers.

Oh, one other thing, the USB cable that comes with the printer is ridiculously short, which I read complaints about in the reviews for the printer. So when I ordered the printer, I also ordered an inexpensive USB extension cord with the printer so that I could have the printer more than a foot from my computer. While the printer can print wirelessly, it has to be set-up while a USB cable is attached between the computer and printer. Since I have open USB ports, I’ll leave the cable connected for quicker printing. If any one is thinking of purchasing the same printer, I would recommend also getting a USB 3 extension cable with a male type A plug on one end, and a female type A plug on the other. It’s working out very well so far. As I said, print quality is excellent, better than I thought it would be.

I think that one of the reasons for the print quality that I see is that since I can print directly from Lightroom, I can print directly from my RAW files, and since I use a Mac computer, I am sending the print job to the printer in the full 16 bit color space of Lightroom. (Actually, the 14 bit color space of my camera, which is still better than a JPEG) When I have prints made by a photo lab, I have to reduce the RAW files to JPEG, and they use just 8 bit color space, along with the compression that converting from RAW to JPEG entails. There isn’t a huge difference, but the prints that I’ve made at home are sharper with more vibrant colors than those made by a photo lab.

It’s also very handy to see the results almost instantly, and make corrections if needed. So far, every print I’ve made has been good, although I did accidentally crop off part of a butterfly’s wing in one of the first prints that I tried making. That was just part of the learning curve as far as I’m concerned. I’ve made the same mistake when I’ve sent photos to a lab for printing, but then the only remedy was to pay to have another print made. If I had been paying attention to the details as I was setting up to make the print, I wouldn’t have made that mistake. But, I find that the photo labs make that mistake because the entire process is automated these days, and the software doesn’t always make the correct decisions when fitting an image to the size paper that I’ve chosen. That applies to brightness and contrast as well, the cheaper photo labs that I’ve been using have an automated process that often “corrects” what it sees as it reads the images, and just as the light meter in a camera can be fooled by a bright white or very dark subject, the automated process of the photo labs can be also fooled.

I don’t plan on producing that many prints, but I think that I’ll do one or two of the images that I shoot each week to check my progress as a photographer, and to keep the ink in the printer from drying up. The smaller sheets of photo paper will work for that, and I’ll keep the large sheets for the few exceptional images that I shoot. Or, when some one requests a print for purchase, which happens from time to time, and is happening more often these days.

Unless you’re planning on producing a good number of prints, I wouldn’t recommend to any one that they purchase a photo printer. The ink cartridges and paper are quite expensive, I won’t be saving much, if any, over having the prints made at a photo lab. And, you do have to use the printer often enough to keep the ink from drying up in the print head and nozzles, or have the expense of replacing the print head. But, having full creative control of the printing process and getting higher quality prints than produced by the cheaper photo labs are worth it to me. Also, one of the photo labs that I used in the past is dropping gloss paper as an option for printing. I tried a few prints on their matte paper, but if you’re going for sharp prints of birds and wildlife, then you do not want to print on matte paper!

Matte paper may be a better choice for dreamy landscapes and other subjects where sharpness isn’t a concern, but the wildlife prints I had done on matte paper were the pits. That’s because ink soaks into matte paper more than glossy paper, so the ink bleeds across the color graduations in the print, leaving less definition between colors, which leaves the print looking soft. So, because the one lab is dropping gloss paper, I had to find another source for printing, which is another reason that I took the plunge and purchased the photo printer. The semi-gloss paper I’ve been using so far works very well. I may get adventurous some day and try out other papers, but that will be when I’ve mastered the printer better.

Anyway, I’d better get to a photo or two here.

Fungi mini-scape


Early morning fountain

Those were shot on Saturday morning, before I picked up the printer and ran the other errands that needed to be taken care of before I set the printer up. Here’s a few more of the images from my walk.

Juvenile male downy woodpecker


American goldfinch


Pigeons in flight


Pigeon in flight

I’m not sure how this came to be.

What the?

My first thought was that some one had put the rope in the tree, but the hole that the rope is in is 20 feet off the ground. Also, the tree is surrounded by a thick tangle of brush that would be hard to walk through to get to the tree, and there were no signs of that happening. While I still think that some one did this, there’s the chance that a red squirrel found the rope and dragged it into the hollow tree. Once the squirrel had the rope in the hollow tree, it could have chewed up the rope to make a comfy nest for itself, rather than carrying dead leaves into the hollow tree. I’ll have to keep an eye on it, as you can see in the photo, something had been chewing on the hole in the tree to enlarge the opening, recently enough so that the exposed wood hadn’t had a chance to take on the weather appearance of the smaller holes that you can see. I doubt if a person would have chewed on the wood to create the same effect.

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak


Unidentified flowering object

On Sunday, I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility yet again. Once again, I looked for a good place to set-up the portable hide that I’ve never used yet, but I didn’t find the right circumstances to give it a try. Even though I didn’t test the portable hide, I did learn more about what will be the right circumstances to use it.

I did a quick drive through in the area of the wastewater plant itself, and didn’t see much to photograph. So, I went to the man-made lakes which while on the wastewater facility’s property, are almost a full mile from the plant itself. I parked there by the lake and as I was looking around, I spotted a belted kingfisher in a tree very close to me, but partially hidden by the branches of the tree. I waited and waited, but the kingfisher never moved, that is, until I opened the door of my car, then it was off in an instant. I had the camera that I use for bird portraits in my hand, but with the kingfisher taking off, I tried to switch cameras to get a shot of it in flight. Fail!

As it was, I had to settle for this poor image taken later on.

Female belted kingfisher

I did get this image of a solitary sandpiper in flight later on though.

Solitary sandpiper in flight

There were plenty of birds in the area, but they stayed out of camera range most of the time. Whenever one came close enough to me, I’d shoot it.

Female mallard in flight

You can just make out something in this swallow’s bill, I caught it just as it caught an insect.

Juvenile barn swallow catching a meal

But trust me, even with the camera and lens that I’m using now, getting a good image of a swallow in flight is tough.

Juvenile barn swallow in flight

It was a slow day as far as photographing birds in some ways, in other ways, there were plenty of birds to photograph, but mostly the most common species that I see. So, I spent the rest of the day doing some more testing of the two lenses that I use most often. I’ll try not to go into detail, as you won’t be able to see the differences between the two lenses in the way that I present the images here in my blog.

These first three were all shot with the 100-400 mm zoom lens and 1.4 X tele-converter because of the distance between myself and the birds.

Mute swan portrait


Sandhill cranes

Turkey vultures are social birds, sometimes too social. When I first saw these three, all of them were trying to spread their wings to warm themselves up, but by the time I worked my way into position to photograph them, this is what I got.

Turkey vultures

The two on the crossbar were nudging each other to make room to spread their wings, you’d have thought that they would have spread out farther apart than that.

Anyway, here’s a couple of images shot with the 400 mm prime lens.

Great blue heron

I wasn’t going to post any more butt shots of birds flying away from me, but that last one is too sharp not to post, You can see the heron’s eye, and also the color pattern on its neck very well.

Great blue heron in flight

The 400 mm prime lens is definitely a bit sharper than the 100-400 mm zoom, as it should be, as I’ve explained before. In a way, that’s hard to believe though, the 400 mm prime lens has been in production over 20 years, while the 100-400 mm zoom is one of Canon’s newest lenses.

And, using the tele-converter behind the zoom lens doesn’t make the images a fair test of the two lenses, that happened later, at the headquarters of the wastewater facility.

I went to the headquarters building to catch the hummingbirds that come to the feeders that they have set out for the hummers there.

Ruby-throated hummingbird approaching a feeder

Because I was hoping to catch a hummer in flight, I was using the 400 mm prime lens. However, I had many more opportunities to shoot other species of birds.

Juvenile American goldfinch


Chipping sparrow

Getting close to the birds wasn’t the problem, getting far enough away from them for the 400 mm prime lens to focus on them was. At one point, a pair of least flycatchers landed in the tree that I was standing next to, with one of them landing less than 6 feet away from me, in clear view. As I began to back away slowly and raise the camera at the same time, the flycatcher closest to me took off, and the other one, which was far enough away, flew off with the first.

I don’t think that it mattered which lens that I had with me, I wouldn’t have gotten the shot, which would have been close to perfect if I had gotten it. The flycatcher was too close for me to be able to get the camera to my eye without spooking the bird.

I had plenty of frustrations photographing this guy as well.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird

He would perch where he could flaunt his bright red throat at me, until I tried to move into position to photograph him, then he would move into the shadows where my images don’t do his beauty justice.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird

Because I was missing so many shots of birds because they were too close for the 400 mm prime lens, I switched to the 100-400 mm zoom lens, which focuses to around three feet.

Unidentified fly

I’ve used the 100-400 mm zoom lens for close-ups like that enough to know that I should adjust the focusing point at close distance. It focuses slightly behind where the focus point says that it’s focused on. However, I’m afraid of ruining how well that it focuses at distances that are more typical of the bird portraits that I use the lens for most of the time. I make do by focusing on something a bit closer than the point that I want to be in focus. It works well enough, but I should get brave and adjust the focus of that lens. Who knows, maybe the adjustment will show improvements at longer distances also.

Okay, I’ve gotten brave, I read the manual on how to adjust the focus of the zoom lens through the 7D Mk II. Being a zoom lens, I can adjust the focus for both the wide end of the zoom range, and the telephoto end of the zoom range. Since the issue seems to be at the telephoto end, I bumped the adjustment two “notches” closer for the time being. I made some test shots inside at the extreme close focusing range of the lens, and they look much better as far as the focus point focusing where I intend it to focus. I’ll have to test it on subjects farther away yet, but so far, so good.

That’s one of the many features of the 7D Mk II has that I’m learning to love more every day. I can adjust the focusing for up to 40 different lenses and/or 40 combinations of lenses with or without a tele-converter, and the camera remembers those changes and adjusts itself when it sees that particular lens or tele-converter and lens are mounted on the camera. It goes by the serial number of the lens, which the camera reads electronically. I know, I’m getting way too technical here, but this is a way for me to keep track of the adjustments that I make. If the adjustment doesn’t work, it’s simple enough for me to change it back.

I’ve since gone outside and shot a few test shots at varying distances, from extremely close to as far away as the moon. I think that the adjustment that I made worked well, but I’ll have to test it out more when I have more time. All the images were in focus, at the point where the focus point was when I shot the image. I didn’t have to fudge slightly for the images I shot for the test the way that I did when I shot the fly above.

Anyway, I continued standing next to the trees, shooting the various birds as they came into view.

Tufted titmouse


Tufted titmouse

I also caught up with the male hummer again, although he kept his back to me this time.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird

I also tested the prime lens on this day lily.

Day lily

Now I’m a bit sorry that I didn’t take more time to think about that image before I shot it, since it was a test of sorts. It could have been much better than that, but it tells me what I needed to know as far as using that lens for subjects other than birds.

I thought about trying out the portable hide there where I shot these last photos, but I could never decide the exact spot that would give me a clear view of the birds as they came and went. I may not have moved very far while I was there at the headquarters building, but I moved around enough to get a clear view of the birds for most of the photos. So, I’m not sure how well the portable hide would work for small birds as they move around. If I had been using it, I may have gotten the least flycatcher that landed so close to me, but I would have never gotten the images of the hummingbird from that spot. It may be a matter of luck when setting up the portable hide to get photos of small birds, and I hate relying on luck. I guess that I’d rather have the frustrations of stalking birds in the brush only to have them fly away when I get a clear view of them, rather than sit and hope that a bird lands in the right spot. But, that may be changing.

The species of birds that I photographed there at the headquarters building were some of the smallest species of birds commonly seen in Michigan, with the hummingbirds being the smallest species here. They are also species that prefer thicker vegetation to stay hidden most of the time. The portable hide may be more useful when I shoot medium size songbirds, and I know that it will work when photographing the large birds.

I have one last photo, shot with a 60D and the 100 mm macro lens.

Bull thistle

At least I think that it’s a bull thistle, I could be wrong.

Important news about the printer

I have an update on the new Pixma Pro 100 printer, for those who asked about it. I’ve been printing everything through Lightroom and I’ve been getting excellent results. I was soft proofing every print in the development module, and I was finding that I had to brighten every image between 1/3 and 2/3 stop of exposure. No big deal, I’d let Lightroom make a proof copy of the image, make the necessary adjustments, and print that copy of the image to get the excellent results I was seeing. One good thing about making the copy is that if you want to print the same image again, the adjustments made for printing have been saved in the copy. But then, I got lazy.

There’s a check box at the bottom of the left panel in the print module called “Print Adjustment” which is supposed to allow you to adjust the exposure and contrast of every print that you make. The purpose is supposed to be an easy way to compensate for the fact that your computer monitor doesn’t match the printer output exactly. Even though the experts in the videos that I watched about printing from Lightroom said never to check that box or use that adjustment, I gave it a try.  The result was a disaster of a print, so wet with ink that it was practically dripping off from the paper, even though I made a very slight adjustment to the exposure slider that goes with the check box. So, even though I’m no expert, I will also tell you to never check that box or use the adjustments that checking it turns on. I’ll go back to soft proofing every image, and adjusting the exposure that way, when such an adjustment is required. Besides, then I have the copy to print from if I need to print the same image again.

I would have liked to have printed a 13 X 19 inch print by the time I published this, but that size paper won’t arrive in time. I see no reason to think that the results will be other than the same as I’ve seen with 8 X 10 prints, excellent. I find it hard to believe that a desktop photo printer can do better than commercial grade printers that the labs use, but that’s what I’m seeing in the prints that I’ve made so far. But as I’ve said, that could be due to how the prints are outputted to the printer in RAW through Lightroom, rather than from a JPEG as I have to do if I send an image to be printed by the lab.

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


20 responses

  1. All the best for your work with the new printer, I loved the colour of that thistle at the end of your post.

    August 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I’ll be looking for more thistles this weekend, I wasn’t happy with the background in that image, but it was all I had to work with.

      August 15, 2017 at 11:06 pm

  2. I am very glad for you.

    It is very important for us to see our work not only on screens but also on paper.

    August 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

  3. Interesting thoughts. And useful too. I should make proof prints and then make adjustments instead of just printing out a final copy and being disappointed.

    August 15, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! We put so much effort into shooting the images that we shoot that they deserve to be shown at their best when we print them. It only takes a few minutes to tweak the images so that they do print well. I’m just getting started, but I print a small version first, when I’m happy with that, then I do the large print to save paper and ink.

      August 15, 2017 at 11:14 pm

  4. I wonder if you’ll ever find out how that rope got into that tree-hole? There are so many wonderful shots of birds here! I was amused by the vultures and the shot of the swallow catching the insect is fantastic! Best of luck with your new printer!

    August 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! No, I’ll never know for sure how the rope got into the tree, but it caught my attention and got me to thinking about it. I hope to get a good photo of a swallow in flight someday, but I’ll settle for that one for right now. The new printer is working great, I’m very happy with it.

      August 15, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      • 🙂

        August 16, 2017 at 8:23 pm

  5. Your new printer sounds really good…..wonder what you’ll do with all the wonderful prints…enter exhibitions/competitions? Your camera also sounds amazing with all the adjustable focusing etc….cameras are getting too clever! Hope you’ve printed off the two beautiful portraits of the swan and the heron and that lovely goldfinch with the crab apples…they’re special!

    August 16, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! Yes, the new printer is working out well for me. As to what I’ll do with the prints, I hope to sell some of them. I’ve already sold some, and I have people asking me for specific subjects that they would like prints of. In addition, a guy at work would like me to photograph his dogs.

      Yes, the camera that I have will do about anything that Canon’s top of the line 1 DX will do, except that it’s a crop sensor body. Other than that, it’s a professional’s camera.

      I did print the swan and the goldfinch, you’re right, I should print the heron also.

      August 16, 2017 at 11:54 pm

  6. I’ve had printers but never a really good one because of cost. Maybe someday when I’m retired the price will have come down enough to afford one. And then I can take out a second mortgage for some ink and paper.
    I don’t recognize the unknown flower at all. I can’t think of anything that’s even in the ballpark.
    I was thinking that a raccoon or possum dragged the rope up the tree but the hole doesn’t look big enough for either one. It looks like it would have taken some strength though.
    That’s a great shot of the swallow catching the insect and of the heron too. I finally saw one here the other day.
    Nice shot of the mushrooms too! I wish I knew what they were, they’re a pretty one.

    August 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! You’re right about having to take out a second mortgage for ink and paper, though paper isn’t too bad. I’ve figured it out, I’ll have to sell 14 large prints at the price that I ask for them in order to pay for the next set of ink cartridges.

      I still think that a person put the rope there, although I don’t know how. There’s the chance that a squirrel did it, they’re tough little buggers with more strength than it appears they would have.

      The swallow with an insect in its beak was pure luck, as most shots of a swallow in flight are. 😉

      I have a closer view of the mushrooms, but I liked the wider shot better because of the overall scene.It is a pretty mushroom, but these didn’t last long, only a few hours and they were drying up already.

      August 17, 2017 at 12:02 am

  7. Sorry for being late in reading this, but Yahoo decided to send all emails from WordPress to spam. For several weeks I kept wondering why I got no notification of any new posting or comment. Today It dawned on me to check the spam folder and sure enough they were there.

    Anyway, first the photos displayed in this post are again outstanding, as usual, or perhaps more than usual. Hats off to you, Jerry.

    Several years ago I bought a Canon Pixma printer, the one before this latest generation. I ran out of ink in a relatively short time. Then a friend told me to buy bulk ink from Germany, and it worked but it was pain to fill up the cartridges with a syringe. Then one time I did not print for about a month, and had to clean out the printheads with hot water, brush, and what not. So now I have a printer sitting by itself, unused. I actually dread making it work again and printing anything with it. I hope you will have a better experience and that Canon has finally produced an inkjet printer that does not dry out for at least several months and act as a black hole for ink.

    August 18, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I understand about WordPress doing odd things with emails and other notifications, it happens to me occasionally also.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with a photo printer. The one I have does use a lot of ink, I haven’t made many prints, but I can see the need to keep spare cartridges on hand. I hope to print out a few images each week, I hope that’s enough sos that the ink doesn’t dry out. The tough thing will be remembering to do that a few months from now once the novelty of making my own prints wears off.

      August 19, 2017 at 12:55 am

  8. These photos are amazing!!

    August 19, 2017 at 3:01 am

    • Thank you very much Tiffany!

      August 19, 2017 at 8:32 am

  9. Wow, Jerry. That first fungi photo stopped my scroll finger dead! Loved everything about that, especially the tiny, perfect little beads of water on the grass. What a gorgeous shot.

    You’re a brave guy to purchase a photo printer. For me, print anything is always an exercise in frustration. But, especially now that I haven’t worked for nearly five years, I find that. My computer skills have totally abandoned me. Windows 10 is a frustration – it’s so much easier to use my Google tablet, and navigate app by app. So, the thought of tackling the complexity of the learning curve for producing gorgeous color photos is mind boggling. You are a patient, resourceful guy. It pays off.

    Are you getting eclipse day off? Will you be somewhere near open sky, at least?

    August 20, 2017 at 9:02 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! That fungi shot was just one of those things, I looked down, and it was there. I tired to do better, but couldn’t.

      I did purchase the printer with some trepidation knowing how finicky printers can be. But, I watched a nearly two hour tutorial on printing from Lightroom, and another nearly two hour long tutorial of setting up the printer. It was a piece of cake really. It was a wise purchase in a way I never suspected, seeing the prints that I’ve made have convinced me that I don’t need another camera.

      Yes, I have eclipse day off, but the weather forecast is looking iffy. I’ll see what I see, and hope to get one or two good photos.

      August 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm

  10. These are all beautiful images, Jerry, and I am glad the new printer is working well. I am curious about the inks they use, and how well the prints hold their color over time.

    Eclipse day tomorrow. We are in the path of totality, and the area is swamped with people visiting from other places.

    August 20, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    • Thanks yet again Lavinia! The printer is even better than I had hoped. Canon claims that the ink will last 100 years on good paper.

      I’ve read that every town that will have totality is jammed solid, and there are traffic jams on many major highways. I’ll stay close to hoe and settle for the 85% totality we’ll have here.

      August 20, 2017 at 9:43 pm