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

Like a hole in the head

Now that I have the package of 13 X 19 inch Canon semi-gloss SG-201 photo paper and have made a few prints that size, I’ve come to a decision. I don’t need another camera, any more than I need a hole in my head. I’ll tell you why in a second, but first there’ll be a disclaimer section and a bit more about the Pixma Pro 100 printer.

I’m not sure why, but the prints that I’ve made so far are sharper than those that I’ve had made by a photo lab. It could be because I was using the cheaper photo labs, but my thought is that it’s because I’m printing directly from my RAW files through Lightroom. So, I can’t guarantee that very one using this same printer would see the same results that I see, unless they are also printing from Lightroom. That applies to the paper as well, that’s the only grade of paper that I’ve tested so far, so the results on other papers may not be the same.

However, the results that I see in the few prints that I’ve made are so good, that they’ve caused me to rethink many things, including going to a full frame camera.

At the suggestion of Marianne, one of the commenters to my last post, I printed out the image of the great blue heron from that post.

Great blue heron

As the print came out of the printer, the first thing that I noticed was that I could tell that the heron’s eye was moist from how well the printer reproduced the image. Then, I looked at the incredible details in the feathers of the heron. I had to go back to the image on my computer and zoom in to see if the level of detail that I saw in the print was there in the image as seen on the computer. Of course it was, but I hadn’t zoomed in far enough before to notice it. I knew that the image was sharp, but I hadn’t realized just how sharp it was.

That was shot with the Canon 400 mm f/5.6 L series lens on the 7D Mk II, and all I can say is that I don’t see how any other camera/lens combination could produce more detail in a print than what I see in the print that I made. Possibly the same lens on the Canon 5DS R, Canon’s 50 MP full frame camera, could be better, but it can’t be by very much if it is. And, only if some one looked at the print much more closely than any average person would view such a print.

That was shot in good light, which helps to bring out the level of detail that I see, but it was shot at ISO 640 because of the higher shutter speed that I used for that image. So, I went back and printed out the mute swan from the last post at 13 X 19, which was shot at ISO 100 with the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X tele-converter, and I can see almost the same level of detail in that print.

Mute swan portrait

I don’t need a full frame camera to improve the details in my landscape images, I need better wide-angle lenses on the 7D. I shoot 95% of the landscapes that I shoot at ISO 100 anyway, because I use a tripod. So noise is never a problem when I shoot landscapes, and getting away from noise was another major factor in my desire for a full frame camera, other than resolution.

I know that there will be times when I’ve shot photos in low light at higher ISO settings, and I’ll be wishing that there wasn’t as much noise as I get that way, but after some thought, I can live with what I get with the 7D. I can remove all or most of the noise in Lightroom if I want to make a print of an image shot at a higher ISO. And to be honest with myself, few of the images that I shoot at higher ISO settings are worth printing anyway, because of other factors.

I have just a bit of technical talk left, and it concerns the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X tele-converter. You may remember that I said in my last post that I had gotten brave, and adjusted the focusing of that lens and extender combination by using controls built into the 7D Mk II. I’d say that I nailed the adjustment.

Unidentified dragonfly

Where ever I put the focus point, that’s what’s now in focus.

Monarch butterfly

And, I no longer think that the 300 mm lens that I have is any sharper than the 100-400 mm lens.

Monarch butterfly

In fact, I can see that the 100-400 mm lens is even sharper than the 300 mm lens! And, I can see that I don’t need to upgrade my camera to get better details and resolution in my images. I’m going beyond what we can see with the naked eye, and getting details that we can only see with a magnifying glass in real life.

Monarch butterfly

Sorry, that brings up another point about upgrading my camera, I’ve gotten so spoiled by the 7D Mk II and all of its bells and whistles that it would be hard for me to do with less. That’s even though I didn’t think that I’d be using all those bells and whistles when I purchased that camera. I never thought that I would need to fine tune the auto-focusing of a lens, but it’s made a huge difference in shots like these.

Unidentified dragonfly

I purchased the 7D Mk II for its fast auto-focusing system, and because it’s built like a tank, with full weather sealing. Little did I know at the time that some of the features that I thought that I’d never use would become as important to me as they have become.

Unidentified dragonfly

I won’t run through the list of features that I have ended up using, I’ll just say once again that the 7D has spoiled me, and going to a camera with fewer features, like the 6D Mk II, doesn’t appeal to me at all.

Unidentified dragonfly

 

Unidentified grasshopper

Those were shot at the Muskegon County wastewater facility on Saturday, August 19. It was a slow day for birding because I had arrived so late in the day, but I did shoot a couple of throw away type photos of a couple of eastern kingbirds that I saw, just to make sure that adjusting the focusing of the 100-400 mm lens hadn’t changed how well it does at longer ranges.

Eastern kingbird

 

Eastern kingbird

It’s too soon to tell about that though.

I could continue to babble away about the technical aspects of the decisions that I’ve made, but as I learn more about photography overall, the technical side is only part of the equation. I’ve seen a lot of technically good photos that when I look at them, but I wonder why some one shot that image in the first place. Those images don’t move me at all. On the other hand, I’ve loved some of the technically poor images that I’ve seen, because of the subject, the action that was captured, or the image connected with me because of the emotional factors that the image evoked in me.

While not rare in Michigan, it isn’t everyday that I see an osprey, and what this one was doing at the wastewater facility is beyond me. Maybe it was a young bird looking for a place to call its home territory, but the wastewater facility isn’t it, as there are few fish there other than the small fish in the drainage ditches there. I would have been less surprised if I had seen the osprey at the man-made lakes, but I don’t think that the fish in those lakes would support an osprey for very long either.

Osprey

That was shot from almost 75 yards away using the 100-400 mm lens, 2 X tele-converter, and live view focusing along with the image being cropped considerably. It was nice of the osprey to stick around as long as it did for me to get that shot. While the image quality may not be that great, it’s nice to have 800 mm of reach at times when I can’t get as close to a subject as I would prefer.

I’m beginning to see signs that fall is approaching more often all the time, whether it’s in the form of leaves on trees changing color already…

First signs of fall

…or in the way that birds are starting to form larger flocks for the upcoming migration.

Sandhill cranes

I eventually got a couple of close-ups of one of the cranes.

Sandhill crane

But by that time, it was the middle of the day, and heat waves once again ruined what would have been very good images if I had been able to shoot them earlier in the day.

Sandhill crane

I also shot a series of photos of a short-billed dowitcher…

Short-billed dowitcher

…as it dried its wings after a bath.

Short-billed dowitcher drying its wings

 

Short-billed dowitcher drying its wings

 

Short-billed dowitcher drying its wings

It even went airborne, hovering in place as it flapped.

Short-billed dowitcher drying its wings

While these photos are far from what I would have liked to have shot, they do show the patterns of the dowitcher’s feathers under its wings.

It’s funny, a few years ago I didn’t know any of the shorebirds other than killdeer and spotted sandpipers. As I’ve been working on the My Photo Life List project, I have learned to identify many of the shorebirds, and even gotten good images of most of the species. Now, I want great images of all of the species that I’ve already shot photos of, and posted to the My Photo Life List project. And, that includes action photos, showing the behaviors of the different species. I suppose that over time I will get the images that I want, it’s unrealistic of me to think that I’m going to get a perfect shot of a species of bird the first time that I see it.

I settled for a lot of poor images when I first began that project because I didn’t know that many of the species that I was seeing are actually quite common. That came from being new to birding. But, my skills as a photographer were also lacking, three years ago, I’d have never been able to get the images of the dowitcher drying its wings because I was shooting towards the sun as I shot them. So, I suppose that you could say that because I shot so many poor images in the past that I’ve finally learned how to get usable photos under poor conditions.

I have one more series of photos along those lines, a least sandpiper taking a bath.

Least sandpiper bathing

 

Least sandpiper bathing

 

Least sandpiper bathing

 

Least sandpiper bathing

 

Least sandpiper drying its wings

Hopefully, one of these days I’ll be closer, with the light coming from the right direction, to shoot better photos of the action.

When it comes to saving images to put into the blog posts I do, I always wonder if I should use the current images that I’ve shot, or wait until I shoot better ones. That’s becoming harder, not easier, because the overall quality of my images has improved so much over the life of my blog. On the other hand, I’m also seeing that what I shoot today will be surpassed by what I shoot next month, or next year. In just the past month, I’ve gotten my best ever images of several species of birds, including the bald eagle from the last post.

Bald eagle

But, I’m also sure that it’s only a matter of time before I’ve gotten an even better image of a bald eagle.

So, I’m thinking of posting less often than I have in the past, another advantage of that is that it will give me more free time to get outside to shoot more. As I’ve said in the past, time is the real factor limiting my photography. That’s especially true this weekend, I took Monday off from work to have the service done on my Subaru, and to photograph the near total eclipse of the sun as seen here in Michigan.

Near total eclipse of the sun, August 21, 2017

As far as photos, the eclipse was a bit of a bust, since I didn’t travel a few hundred miles south and fight the crowds to see what’s called the totality and the diamond ring effect that I’m sure that every one has seen by now. But watching it live as it happened was awesome, well worth a day away from work. But, that means that I’m working this Saturday to make up for it, which limits my time even more than usual.

Also, posting less often removes some of the pressure that I feel to shoot only what I can photograph well, meaning mostly birds. If I’m going to spend the money to upgrade my wide-angle lenses, then I should learn how to use them effectively, or it will be money down the drain. That means going out and shooting landscapes mostly, even if I shoot them at the wrong time of day, or I shoot other subjects that may not be worthy of posting here in my blog right now. This is all part of my plans for the future, once I retire in just a few short years. I’d rather not wait until I get to one of America’s fabulous National Parks to learn how to shoot good landscape images. So, I had better get started now around home to learn how to shoot other than birds.

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

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24 responses

  1. What can be better than the animal world…)
    Wonderful photos:)

    August 28, 2017 at 10:27 am

    • Thank you very much!

      August 28, 2017 at 8:58 pm

  2. I don’t know what to say, your photographs are breathtakingly good though maybe it would be a good idea to post less often so that you could be really pleased with the results, I think you are a wonderful photographer.

    August 28, 2017 at 11:38 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I’d like to talk less about photography and more about the subjects that I shoot. But, I haven’t been finding many opportunities to shoot series of photos that tell an interesting story lately. Maybe if I don’t post as often, the stories will come.

      August 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm

  3. I’m sure a new camera is on the wish list, but you take great shots wit the current one. Thanks.

    August 28, 2017 at 11:55 am

    • Thank you very much!

      August 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm

  4. Just looking through your amazing post today I can see other wonderful photos that I hope you print…but I’ll be turning into a nag if I say which ones!! The photos of the butterfly, grasshopper and dragon fly are so detailed and it’s fascinating to observe their tiny features. Love the colours of the sandhill crane. It must be quite a sight when all those cranes take flight. Post when you can- photography is an art and creativity takes time.

    August 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I hope to post more series of photos that tell stories, along with a few truly great images like in the last two posts. That, and I need to shoot more videos, so that you can see and hear things like the cranes taking off.

      August 28, 2017 at 9:05 pm

      • That’s splendid news! Really look forward to seeing the videos and more wonderful photos.

        August 29, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      • Thank you again Marianne!

        August 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm

  5. As always, your ruminations are interesting and instructive. I am definitely looking forward to your retirement!

    August 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I’d like to have the time to devote to photography that you do, so I can shoot the variety of subjects that you do.

      August 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      • I would like to have your skills.

        August 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      • But you have a life!

        August 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm

  6. Maybe the money you save by not buying a camera could be put towards professionally framing some of your shots like the monarchs and cranes, for instance. Landscapes are a great idea too. Back when I used to sell photos landscapes always sold the best. And that’s from someone who has no eye for landscapes. I don’t know if you’re still selling them or not but I think you should be.
    I saw the eclipse through glasses someone loaned me, but I have to say it wasn’t that impressive. I wish I could have seen it through a camera.
    I’m also anxious to reach retirement. It’ll be odd having such a huge chunk of free time and like Mr. T. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it!

    August 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’m afraid that for right now, the money that I save on a camera will go to ink and paper. But you’re right, I should have some of my prints framed. I do sell a few prints, I’d say half birds, half landscapes, but that’s mostly because I have far more images of birds than landscapes.

      In a few of the eclipse photos that I shot you can see sunspots and other anomalies in the sun’s surface, but I should have traveled further south for the complete eclipse.

      Every time that I have an extra day off from work it’s harder to go back to work again after. I’m so looking forward to my last day of work and being able to spend all my time outside shooting photos, on my schedule, not the work schedule.

      August 28, 2017 at 9:29 pm

  7. Hi Jerry. I really like when you foray into insect territory with your lens – the body construction of dragonflies and grasshoppers is something that is fascinating to me. A close-up shot is always a good reminder of how well-equipped these creatures are for their life. It would seem that a dragonfly missing a chunk of one wing would be a death-sentence, but apparently that’s not the case.

    Think I’m looking forward to your retirement photography almost as much as you are. No, that can’t be right….😊

    August 29, 2017 at 9:46 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! There are times when I think that I’d rather shoot macros of insects and flowers than birds, but birds are usually easier. I also like seeing the different structures of insect bodies and wings. Most dragonflies have battered wings, it’s hard to find one that doesn’t, so it can’t bother them too much. Since today was my birthday, I have exactly 4 years and 2 months before I can retire on SS, and I may count down the months because of how much I’m looking forward to it.

      August 29, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      • Let the countdown begin!

        September 2, 2017 at 9:18 am

  8. The shots of the insects you saw are so beautiful, Jerry! I also love the sequence of shots of the dowitcher drying its wings and the sandpiper bathing. In looking at the details of your photographs I noticed that sandhill cranes have glorious red eyes! I will always look forward to your posts no matter how infrequently you post. I think we all know how long your hours are! The less pressure you put on yourself the better your shots will be and your health will be better too. I see from your reply to Judy that it was your birthday on Tuesday. Many belated good wishes to you!

    September 1, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Yes, the sandhill cranes have red eyes, very striking when seen in person. Many species of birds have beautiful eyes, another reason that I try for the best photos possible. Several species of ducks and grebes come to mind as having brightly colored eyes.

      I’m doing okay as far as my health, but I do need more exercise to help me shed the excess weight that I have from sitting in a truck all day. Other than that, things are going well for me.

      September 1, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      • I’m really glad to know that! It is so difficult to shed weight when you are sitting down all day at work; you have to half starve yourself!

        September 2, 2017 at 11:04 am

  9. Where to begin? I am familiar with the quality of your bird photos, but on this post I am blown away with those photos of dragonflies, butterflies, and a grasshopper. They seem so incredibly close, revealing so many details of their wings and bodies. Hats off to you Jerry! You have accomplished what I can only dream about.

    September 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! If I have any real skill, it is in getting close to the subjects that I shoot. I guess that’s the secret of great wildlife photography, get as close as you possibly can.

      September 3, 2017 at 10:08 pm