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

I hope that you don’t mind?

Preface: Many of the images in this post will be of a different style from what I usually post, I hope that you don’t mind.

My decision to post less often was a good one, based on the photos that I shot the following weekend. I didn’t get a single very good image, only a handful of so-so images that may or may not appear here. I spent a good deal of time looking for a Hudsonian Godwit which had been seen at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, but it had apparently moved on. That’s a species of shorebird that I need photos of for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. It’s also one of the larger shorebirds, so I didn’t check out all of the smaller shorebirds there, which was a mistake. That’s because a red knot, another species that I need photos of, was seen there on the day when I was looking for the godwit. So I missed one species while looking for another.

Having made the decision to upgrade my wide-angle lenses rather than purchase a full frame camera, I have ordered a Canon 16-35 mm f/4 L series lens. I may have well received it and put it to a few tests before I get around to publishing this post. My reasons for ordering that lens first were because the instant rebates offered by Canon were about to expire, and I hope to put that lens to good use this fall as I’m shooting more landscapes of the fall colors.

I know that I’ve written more about wanting the 24-105 mm lens, but that was if I purchased a full frame camera. That lens isn’t as wide as I need for many landscape images if shot on my crop sensor 7D. On the 7D, the 16-35 mm lens becomes a 25.6-56mm lens on a crop sensor body, which is better suited for many of the landscape photos that I hope to shoot this fall. Besides, the 24-105 mm lens is still too new for Canon to offer rebates on it, and I know that they will eventually. I refuse to pay full price, since I know that it’s only a matter of time before Canon does offer rebates.

One of the major factors in choosing that particular lens over others, even if some of the others are a tad sharper and/or cheaper, was the fact that this lens takes 77 mm filters. That’s the same size as my longer lenses, and I already have polarizing and neutral density filters that size. That saves me the money because I won’t have to purchase more filters, and it means less hassle of lugging more filters with me. I have learned that there’s more to consider than the price and quality of any particular lens alone when deciding which one to purchase, as any filters that I’d like to use aren’t cheap if I match the quality of the filters to the quality of the lens. One thing that I’ve done to improve the quality of the images that I shoot was to quit using UV filters on my lenses, even though I had purchased fairly good ones for my lenses. For the polarizing and neutral density filters I purchased, I went with much higher quality filters, with a much larger price tag.

Before placing the order, I reviewed many of the landscape photos that I’ve shot the past few years, and I can see that I need more than a better lens to improve my skills at landscape photography. Having a new lens to play with gives me a great excuse to go out looking for landscapes to practice on.

As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and in so many of the landscape photos that I reviewed, I kept asking myself why I hadn’t moved this way or that, or gotten higher or lower. By the way, I chose to review landscapes that I’m very familiar with in order to make the review process more worthwhile. That’s how I could tell that I had missed the best shot possible as I settled for less than I could have achieved. If I had reviewed landscape photos of places that I had only been to once or twice, I wouldn’t have been able to see how many mistakes that I made, since I wouldn’t be able to remember how the overall scene looked as I shot it.

I know that here in my blog that I tend to speak negatively about the photos that I shoot, as I’m always looking for ways to get better images of all kinds. By pointing out my own shortcomings, I hope that those things stick in my head the next time that I have a similar opportunity to shoot the same subject, and I won’t make the same mistakes again. It’s also because I don’t want any one to think that I’m bragging, as I’m not really as good as I think that I am, or that my way is the only way. However, even in the landscape images that I reviewed, I can see how much I have improved over time.

I think that I have a good grasp on the fundamentals, but it’s my execution that isn’t up to snuff, at least in most of my attempts. Once in a while I get it right, and a great image is the result. I’ve also gotten much better at taking advantage of magic light when it happens, finding a way to capture the moment no matter where I am at the time.

Magic light

I should put myself in more photogenic places than the Muskegon County wastewater facility, but that’s the thing about magic light, you never know when or where it will happen.

I hope to have all three days of the upcoming Labor Day weekend off from work, although they are trying their best to screw that up for me even as I type this. If I do have all three days off, then I may devote at least part of one day to landscapes, even though I won’t have received the new lens by then. I’d better quit working on this post for a while, or I’ll go into a long rant about the place that I work and how they find ways to cheat me out of pay that I have coming, how they go back on every promise that they make, and other things as well. Let’s just say that I’m in the process of finding other employment.

It’s now Sunday morning, the middle of my three days off from work, and I’m about to leave to try to get some better photos than I was able to capture on Saturday. I wasn’t able to get close to a single bird, and most of the time, I found myself in the wrong place at the right time to shoot the photos that I would have liked to have shot. It didn’t help that my employer called me mid-morning, expecting me to drop what I was doing and rush in to cover a load because they hadn’t calculated the manpower that they required for the loads that they had for the day.

Anyway, this is what I mean about being in the wrong spot at the right time.

Great blue heron in flight

I hadn’t planned on shooting any photos of the heron, as the light was so wrong, but I was practicing tracking it. When I saw the reflection on the shimmering water, I shot a burst even though I knew that the heron would be little more than a silhouette.

That’s the way most of my day went, so I tried shooting in styles that are different from my usual bird portraits, like these mute swans napping.

Tranquility

I also shot this photo, even though it isn’t very good, but it does show one reason why the Muskegon County wastewater facility attracts so many birds.

Wall of insects

What looks like mist or haze is made up of swarms of insects that form above the vegetation between the lagoons and the drainage ditch that is off to the right in this photo. The insects spend part of their life-cycle as aquatic nymphs, which provide food for the shorebirds and ducks that come to the wastewater facility. Once the insects become adults that can fly, they provide food for the swallows and other birds that feast on insects.

By the way, that photo also illustrates why I’m loathe to switch lenses while I’m near swarms of insects like that. I can usually keep most of the insects out of my vehicle, but not always, and the last thing I need is an insect getting into my camera body while I’m swapping lenses.

Now then, back to being at the wrong place at the right time.

Sandhill cranes in flight

I was shooting almost directly into the sun for that one, so I let the cranes become silhouettes again, rather than get the cranes exposed correctly. Here’s another similar photo. With small flocks of cranes coming to one of the farmed fields there at the wastewater facility, I couldn’t resist shooting this as the cranes prepared to land.

Sandhill cranes in flight

I have several images that show even more cranes, but then they are overlapping one another. I prefer this one with the cranes spread out more. Several small flocks like this one came to land in a farm field where they had just shut off the irrigation system on that field. Had I known what was going to happen, I’d have gotten set up to shoot a video or two to capture the sounds of the cranes calling as they came to the field. Many species of birds flock to the farm fields there at the wastewater facility when the irrigation sprinklers are shut off, including the cranes, geese, gulls, crows, and some of the puddle ducks like mallards. The fields are muddy and often have large puddles of standing water then, and I’m sure that the birds find it easier to find insects then, along with tender shoots of plants that are just sprouting.

Speaking of farm fields, here’s my one attempt at a landscape photo from Sunday.

Cornfield

I needed an extra foot of height from my tripod with the gimbal head on it for me to have gotten the exact composition that I wanted, so I had to make do with that. Also, if I’m going to use the 7D for landscapes, as I did with that image, I need a lot more practice. I’m so used to using the 60D that I had trouble making the 7D do what I wanted it to do for a landscape image.

You’d think that two Canon cameras with crop sensors would work exactly the same way, but they don’t. I couldn’t make the 7D shoot three bracketed images automatically when using live view as the 60D does. I’ve gotten used to using the live view when shooting landscapes because I can step back from the camera and check the composition on the screen before I press the shutter release. I can still do that with the 7D, but I have to turn off live view first, at least until I figure out how to make it work the way that I want it to.

I suppose that I could continue to use the 60D for most of my landscape images, as it does well enough. But, the 7D has even more features that make it the better camera to use once I learn how to take advantage of those features. I still use the 60D for most of the macro photos that I shoot.

Aster

But, seeing the details that I was able to get in the insect images from my last post, I should use the 7D more often rather than settling for this quality of image.

Beetles on an aster flower

On Monday, I returned to the wastewater facility yet again, and soon after I had arrived, another older gentleman motioned me to stop as I was approaching where he was parked. I say another older gentleman, because I have to remember that the term applies to me these days.

Anyway, he had been photographing shorebirds and wanted some help identifying the birds that he had shot so far. So, I had a look at the birds there in that area, and told him what I thought that they were. We also went back through the images that he had shot earlier in other locations, and I did the best that I could as far as identifying the birds by viewing the images on the small screen on his camera. We also talked about field guides for birds and photography as well. At some point in our talking, I noticed the sun breaking through the cloud cover that day, and I shot this flock shot of some of the birds we were watching at the time.

Assorted shorebirds and a gull

I wouldn’t have tried a portrait shot from that angle unless I had no other choice, but I like that one of the flock with the sunlight playing off the water and how contrasty the backlighting made the birds.

After the other older gentleman left, I got serious about shooting a portrait of one of the sanderlings that made up part of the flock.

Sanderling

I’ve photographed that species before, but never as well as these two images turned out.

Sanderling

Remember, when you see one of my images that are as good as that one is, this is what I’m dealing with as I try to shoot still images.

Every species of shorebird feeds a little differently, the sanderlings are non-stop motion as the run in and out with the waves, picking up tidbits of food that the waves bring in. I should have used my tripod when shooting the video, even the stills for that matter, but I was sitting behind a clump of weeds on the slope down to the lagoon to get the stills and video. Setting up the tripod on the slope would have been a problem, and I didn’t want to spook the birds since they were close, and I had good light for photos.

Going even further, I could have tried the portable hide for the first time ever, but I didn’t really need it to get a good image of a sanderling. By the way, the other shorebirds that you see in the video and the first still image are lesser yellowlegs and semi-palmated sandpipers, and I already have good close-ups of both of those species. I suppose that I could have sat there for hours trying for even better images of all three species, but I didn’t like the background there, and the light was just okay, not great.

As it was, every once in a while, the entire flock would take off and fly to another spot close by, but then return a short time later. With my luck, if I had set-up the portable hide, the birds wouldn’t have returned.

Assorted shorebirds in flight

 

Assorted shorebirds in flight

 

Assorted shorebirds in flight

I should set-up the hide in a spot where I know that a belted kingfisher likes to perch as it watches for fish to eat.

Female belted kingfisher

Then, maybe I’d get a better photo than that, or than these.

Male belted kingfisher

Why is it that they will only hold still for a photo when the light isn’t the greatest?

Male belted kingfisher

At least this guy gave me a few good poses before it took off.

Male belted kingfisher

I’ll never be a real birder, as I refuse to try to identify and count all of the birds in this photo.

Birds of a feather?

Most of the ducks are northern shovelers, but there’s a few mallards and other species mixed in, along with the gulls.

Speaking of gulls, I spotted another lesser black-backed gull on Monday, although it was too far away for a good photo.

Lesser black-backed gull and herring gulls

But, that’s a “for the record” type of photo and to show that I do see a variety of species each time that I’m out. I have plenty of photos left from Saturday and Sunday of this long holiday weekend, and also some left from last weekend. However, I’m going to finish this post off with a few more images from Monday.

I suppose that it’s because they are in the news so much as being threatened that I can’t resist shooting a monarch butterfly if it will pose for me.

Monarch butterfly

I cropped the next one to show it drinking nectar from the goldenrod, and I was also trying to show its eye better.

Monarch butterfly

At the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve on Monday, I found a number of flowers. Of course I found them on Monday when it was cloudy and windy, not on Saturday or Sunday when I was there with better light and no wind to deal with.

Unidentified white aquatic flowers

I think that I should know what these white flowers are, but I haven’t had time to go back to the past few years of my photos to check if I’ve seen them before, and what they are.

Unidentified white aquatic flowers

They’ve been removing some of the thick underbrush at the preserve and I found these blue flowers growing in an area where they had opened the understory of vegetation up to allow more small plants to grow. I’m not sure if these are wildflowers, or if some one planted them in the opening they’ve created.

Unidentified small blue flowers

Each flower was about half an inch across and the plant itself was close to a foot tall.

It’s the same for these pink flowers, they were about the same size as the blue ones. However, the plants that produced the flowers grew to over a foot tall. I had to shoot quite a few photos to get these poor ones, due to the wind gusts of over 25 MPH coming off from Muskegon Lake at the time.

Unidentified small pink flowers

I thought about going back to my car and getting my macro lens to photograph these flowers, but it had become solidly overcast by then, and it began to rain shortly after I shot those photos. With the wind and no light, it didn’t seem worth it to try for any better images than I had already.

I spent the rest of Monday shooting really bad landscape photos in the rain with the 7D Mk II in preparation of the arrival of the new lens. It’s going to take some getting used to as I use the 7D for more of my landscape images, and that body has many more features geared towards landscapes than the 60D has, so it will be worth it in the long run. I used the 70-200 mm lens, since it is about the same quality of lens as the one that I have ordered. I’m not going to post any of the landscapes that I shot, but I could see in them that with a better lens, I get more detail in the images. I should be able to pick up the new lens tomorrow, and give it a try around home before next weekend. I’ll be watching the weather forecasts closely this week, as I’ll probably plan to go out and shoot plenty of landscapes as I test out the new lens if the weather is good for that.

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

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31 responses

  1. heartjournalingwithjesus

    I love what you are doing! Keep up the great work!!! Thanks so much for sharing with us. You inspire me to keep trying no matter how high the obstacles in my life seem. Could you comment on how photography and blogging about it has helped you?

    September 5, 2017 at 9:52 am

    • Thank you very much Peggy! Becoming a good photographer is mostly a matter of practicing, and my blog gives me a reason to get out to practice. But, on top of that, I often talk out what I’m doing and why, and compare that to what various experts on nature photography offer for advice. By taking the time to put my thoughts into words, I remember what I did and why, and I can also think of ways to make the images even better in the future. I hope that this helps.

      September 5, 2017 at 9:52 pm

  2. Great shots, Jerry! I’d like to see more like this!

    September 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Tracy!

      September 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm

  3. I like these different shots very much! I am also amazed at the amount of insects you see at the wastewater facility; they must get everywhere! My favourite shots are those of the sanderling – so beautiful! I was also interested in the still of the assorted shorebirds and the gull. It really shows the difference in size of all the birds. I love the muted colours in the shots of the shorebirds in flight.

    September 5, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I could do several posts on the insects there at the wastewater facility, as there are plenty of spiders and other insect predators that feed on the smaller insects.It was hard to get a good shot of a sanderling, they never stop moving. These were in near breeding plumage, I’d like to catch one in full breeding plumage one of these days.

      The first way to ID the shorebirds is by size, then color. I had good light for the entire time that I was shooting the shorebirds, which helped a lot.

      September 5, 2017 at 9:36 pm

  4. These are beautiful. I admire your perseverance. I love the sandhill cranes in flight… they look like they are jumping very high! And tranquility resembles an impressionistic painting by Monet! Keep going.

    September 5, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    • Thank you very much! I have no plans of quitting, I love photography, and plan on doing even more of it when I have the time.

      September 5, 2017 at 10:39 pm

  5. Stunning photos …all of them. I’ve loved the mix of images from the magic light, through Tranquility, passing flying cranes like a Japanese painting, Van Gogh cornfield next, sparkling sunlit water and birds, a punk Kingfisher, beautiful flowers and butterfly and to top it all a video of crazy birds! Thank you for such entertainment and enjoyment today.

    September 6, 2017 at 5:00 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! Most of the time I’m so fixated on shooting good portraits of birds and other wildlife that I neglect to explore the more artistic side of photography, unless I’m forced to as I was this past weekend. I need to work on both, or I should say, remembering to shoot both types depending on the situation at the time.

      September 6, 2017 at 7:41 am

  6. That wall of insects is pretty amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in one place.
    And what an incredible amount of birds there are there! Being able to see all those ducks together in one place must be rare.
    I like the sanderlings but I’d hate to have to get photos of them! Nice to see the kingfisher too. I know where one lives but it’s a smart bird that won’t let me near it.
    The white flowers are arrowheads and the blue ones look like some type of forget me not. The pink ones I don’t think I’ve ever seen. There is an annual pink forget me not and that might be it.
    Nice shot of the cranes hanging in air!

    September 6, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! There are times when I just sit at the wastewater facility and wonder just how much all the lifeforms there would weigh if we could weigh them. Between the insects, spiders, butterflies, bees, and birds, the numbers are amazing at times.

      Ducks are very social birds, I hear that there are several places where the flocks of ducks are much larger than we get in Michigan, like some places on Chesapeake Bay.

      Most birds present some type of a problem of one sort or another, either they are very skittish, or they never stop moving.

      Thanks for the help identifying the flowers, I wish there was a filed guide for flowers similar to Sibley’s for birds!

      September 6, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      • The best field non regional guide for flowers I know of is Newcombs Wildflower Guide. It’s considered the bible of plant identification and doesn’t cost much at all.

        September 7, 2017 at 5:09 am

      • Thanks again Allen, I’ll have to look one up sometime, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the time to study it the way that I should.

        September 7, 2017 at 7:09 am

  7. I look forward to perfect landscapes soon. Meanwhile I really enjoyed the assorted shorebirds in flight. The wall of insects is amazing.

    September 6, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! It will be a while before I begin to get good landscapes like yours. I do better with the shorebirds.

      September 6, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      • I start with the advantage of having some very picturesque hills around.

        September 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm

  8. I like you Magic Light photo! It is different than most pictures you have been posting lately, although all of them show a high degree of professionalism and originality.

    You read my mind about choosing a lens that uses the same filters as your other lenses. I try to do that, and that was one of the reasons I went for the 16-35/f4 L. It is an excellent choice, and I think that you will put that lens to good use to bring out the best in landscape photography.

    September 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I have received the 16-35 mm lens today, and it does show a lot of promise. It’s sharper than my old lens, but it’s the color that wowed me, much better than any lens other than the 100 mm macro lens.

      September 6, 2017 at 9:38 pm

  9. Really fell in love with your ‘Magic Light’ and ‘Birds of a Feather’ photos. The greatest difficulty is in not only obtaining a technically perfect shot but also one whose composition tells a compelling story (or the story one wants to tell), so I appreciate all the notes and critiques you offer of your own works.

    September 6, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    • Thank you very much! What you say is very true, up to a point. Photos that tell a very compelling story, or are very artistic don’t need to be as good technically, although it’s great if you can pull them both off in one shot.

      September 7, 2017 at 7:12 am

  10. Put my name in the column of readers who “don’t mind” this different approach. This post started with a bang. Don’t think I have ever been in such golden light myself – it’s surreal. Are you sure you didn’t nudge the color just a bit? 😁?

    The wall of insects is terrifying. Surely they can’t all be the beneficial type. When we were in Evansville a couple of weeks ago, the cicada noise was deafening. While we actually never saw any (except the unfortunate one that got caught in the grill of the truck), I wondered how many there were, and what it would look like if I could actually see them. Now I’ve got an idea….

    Love the sandhills in flight #2, with the dangling legs.

    Enjoy your new lens – look forward to seeing you put it to work, although I’m not anxious for fall color shots yet.

    September 7, 2017 at 8:39 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! For the first photo, I did tweak the white balance slightly along with the color saturation. But, compared to what most people do in Lightroom, my adjustments were minimal, and only enough to bring the image to what I saw in person. I have the camera set to record in the standard mode to begin with, which most people don’t use because the resulting images are dull and lifeless to them. There’s a reason that magic light is called magic 😉

      The insects in the “wall” are mostly crane flies, completely harmless other than they annoy through the sheer numbers of them.

      I wish that all the cranes had their legs dangling, maybe someday.

      The new lens shows a lot of promise, the color reproduction is better than the wide angle lenses I have been using, and it’s sharper too. I’m in no hurry to shoot fall colors yet either, but it looks like fall is coming early this year from what I’m seeing.

      September 7, 2017 at 9:08 am

  11. Beautiful captures, Jerry, love the assorted shorebirds in flight and the Sandhill Cranes daggling their legs!

    September 7, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      September 7, 2017 at 10:07 pm

  12. What an informative post. Thanks for sharing. Glad I found your site.

    September 10, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      September 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

  13. Particularly liked the shot titled “Tranquility” and your shot of the Sanderling.

    September 11, 2017 at 6:06 am

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      September 11, 2017 at 7:05 am

  14. SunFreeStar

    I haven’t been able to read lately and was missing your beautiful pictures and interesting story. I did not know swans were napping that way! Beautiful shot.

    September 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    • Thank you very much! Swans usually nap with their heads resting on their back, and one foot out of the water. What prompted me to shoot that photo was the reflections of the swans.

      September 13, 2017 at 9:14 pm