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

Selling out?

I’ll admit it, the past few weeks I have been ignoring the smaller birds most of the time and spending what time that I have had outside in search of larger species of birds or other subjects that I think that I may be able to sell a print of. I suppose that’s the downside of having sold a few more prints recently, the upside is that the prints I’m selling help to defray the cost of the ink and paper that I’m using to make the prints.

As always, there more to the story than just sales, I’m learning to become a better photographer by printing out more of the images that I shoot.There’s something about seeing the printed version of an image versus what can be seen on a computer screen that brings out both the best and the worst of an image.

In the past, I would wait until a store would run a sale on large prints, then I would have enough of my images printed to allow me to use the discount that the store was offering. Most of the time, I chose images based on testing out pieces of equipment or certain photographic techniques, rather than choosing images based solely on what I think would possibly sell. With my own printer at home, I’m printing both the test images, and prints that I think may sell. The good thing is that I have fewer prints to test all of the time, so I can focus on printing images that may sell.

As I said before, there can be small flaws in an image that don’t detract that much from an image when viewed on a computer screen, but they can stick out like a sore thumb when viewing the same image as a print. So, by printing more of the images that I shoot, I’m better able to judge when to shoot and when not to, or what settings to use when I do shoot an image.

Also as I’ve said before recently, I’m beginning to visualize what both the onscreen and printed image will look like before I press the shutter release. That was everything when I shot this image from my last post.

Misty morning

At the time that I shot that, it was hard for me not to track the heron in flight, but to remember what I was going for in the overall scene. That’s where visualizing what I wanted the final print to look like, rather than tracking the heron as my first inclination was to do, paid dividends. I suppose that you could also say that I’ve learned not only the correct camera settings, but to trust that I’ve got them correct and to shoot based on that.

It’s not as if nature allows you the chance to for do-overs of you get it wrong the first time. The heron only flew through the scene once of course, and it wasn’t long after that when the ducks decided that I was too close to them, and they took off also. So, I had just a few seconds to get the camera set-up as well as I could, and be ready when the heron just happened to fly the path that it did.

I would have liked to have been able to go a little wider, to catch more of the spider webs catching the early morning light at the top of the image, but then, it may have become too busy, as many of my images are. As it was. I shot several images during the time that the heron was in the frame, then chose that one based on how the heron added to the composition of the image, and the wing position of the heron. I don’t want to brag too much, but that image is good when seen on a computer, but it’s stunning when viewed as a large 13 X 19 inch print. Then, you can see the way that the heron and the ducks caught the early morning light, along with being able to see that the spider webs are indeed spider webs catching that same light.

It does help that I’ve been shooting as many scenes with similar light to learn how to do it, and that goes back to something that I learned from one of the Michael Melford videos that I’ve watched, which is, when you see magic light, shoot what’s in the magic light.

Of course I would have shot that scene whether or not I had any intentions of selling my photographs, but for the past month or so, I’ve been ignoring many of the shorebirds and most other small, rather nondescript birds that I used to photograph if I had the chance. Instead, I’ve been spending more time in search of raptors, watching the swans, and looking for other subjects that may produce a print that I could possibly sell.

There are other reasons as well, it’s the time of the year when most birds look rather plain in their fall plumage, not even the mallards have regrown their mating feathers yet, and they pair off in the fall. I shot a few images of various species of ducks in flight last weekend, and while they are good and sharp, the ducks themselves aren’t that interesting. If it wasn’t for the differences in their bills, it would be easy to mistake many species of warblers for sparrows during the fall migration. Not only does it make identifying the species harder, but it seems senseless to fill a post with nothing but small plain brown birds, even though I used to do that.

Also, I’ve gotten past the point where I feel the need to post as many species of birds as I can find in a day or a weekend, any one who reads my blog regularly knows that I do quite well in tracking down many species of birds on any given day. I could do a species count and include it in my blog posts, but I don’t see any point in doing that either. But, that may be because these days, I’m going for the best possible images, not numbers. I’m not into competitive birding, and reporting more species of birds than any one else, there’s enough other people out there doing just that, and many of them are far more skilled than I. They also include species that they are able to identify by song in their counts. I love to hear birds sing, but it would be difficult to record the songs that I hear in a way that would fit into my blog.

Okay, so another weekend has passed, and although I had only Sunday to get out and shoot any photos. Monday was a busy day getting the final pieces of the new job puzzle in place so I can get started there. More on that in my next post, most likely. I spent most of the day on Sunday at the Muskegon wastewater facility again, shooting what seems to be the same old same old species again. I did stop at a local park on my way home in search of some cackling geese that have been seen there, but I didn’t see any. I did shoot this red-bellied woodpecker…

Red-bellied woodpecker

…and a few of the Canada geese at that park.

Canada goose


Canada goose


Canada goose in flight

If there’s a downside to having improved my photos as much as I have over the past few years, it’s that it becomes harder all the time for me to settle for the types of photos that I used to shoot. I think that the image of the woodpecker is good, but the ones of the geese are just run of the mill photos, hardly worth posting, or even shooting in the first place. Although, geese are difficult to photograph well because they have the white chinstrap on their otherwise black heads and necks, they do force one to get the exposure just right in the camera.

Earlier at the wastewater facility, I shot too many images of great blue herons…

Great blue heron


Great blue heron in flight


Great blue heron


Great blue heron

…because there were so many of them there.

I also sat and watched thee mute swans for a while, hoping to get a great shot of one of them with their wings stretched out as the swan dried them.

Mute swan

Not the greatest lighting, but I was bored, so I shot quite a few images there.

Mute swan


Mute swan


Mute swan

Since I was sitting there waiting, you’d think that I would have been ready for this.

Mute swan

But, I clipped the swan’s wingtip off. Still, that photo shows the very large chest muscles that the swans have to power their wings. I should go back and dig up an image or two of an egret or great blue heron in flight to show the amount of difference between how those species are built as far as muscle mass when compared to the swans. Swans are much faster in flight than herons or egrets, hence the larger muscles to power those huge wings.

Herons are slow in flight, and do a lot of gliding as they move from one place to another, this may not show how large their muscles are, but it does show that their wings are nearly as large as those of the swans. In relationship to their bodies, the heron’s wings are actually larger than the swan’s wings.

Great blue heron in flight at sunrise

I may have missed the chance to get one of the swans with its wings fully stretched, but I did manage a few other interesting poses.

Mute swan


Mute swan


Mute swan

Then, there’s the mallards, one of my favorite species of birds.

Mallards at take off

Some other species of waterfowl may need to run across the water to build up enough speed to take flight, but not mallards. They literally explode out of the water as that photo almost shows. I clipped the male’s wing tip, and the female’s head, but that photo does show how the female used her wings against the water to propel her into the air. It also shows the “hole” that she created in the water as she pushed off with her legs. The male cheated, he was standing on the pipe that you can see, so he had only to jump into the air. But, you can see by the spray in this next photo how much water the female was moving as she took off.

Male mallard at take off

I’m going to brag a little here, I love that I was able to get an image that sharp as quickly as the events in this series happened. That’s one of my best images ever of a male mallard as far as showing the details in the mallard’s feathers. Also, the exposure metering system in the 7D Mk II continues to amaze me, as the mallards were in and out of the shade as I shot this series of photos, and the camera adjusted itself quite well as the amount of light changed from frame to frame at close to 10 frames per second.

Mallards in flight

It took some tweaking in Lightroom, but you can see that the female is in full sun, and the male is in the shade, and I was still able to get a good photo.

Another little side note, the male mallard must have synchronized its wing beats to the camera’s shutter, as every single photo in the series that I shot show the male with his wings up. You’d think that at 10 frames per second that I would have gotten at least one photo of the male with his wings on the downstroke, but I didn’t. The reason I mentioned that is because it gives some idea about how quickly the mallards flap their wings on take off. If my camera was shooting 10 frames per second and the male mallard’s wings were in almost the same exact position in every shot, then he must have been flapping his wings at a rate of 10 beats per second. By the way, the shutter speed was 1/2000 second, and there’s still a bit of motion blur visible towards the tips of both mallards’ wings, which also offers a clue as to how fast they flap their wings. The motion blur shows how much their wings have moved in 1/2000 second.

Another thing that you can see in these images is how the mallards reach forward with their wings to “grab” more air, then how they push down and back to both gain altitude, and propel themselves forward as they fly.

What I find truly amazing is how effortless it seems to be for the mallards as they take flight. Think of trying to splash that much water into the air, or move your arms up and down 10 times per second, then you’ll have some idea of the power that even a mallard has in its flight muscles. It’s no wonder that in straight, level flight, they are one of nature’s fastest flyers. Some raptors, such as peregrine falcons, are faster in a dive, but I’ve seen mallards pull away from a peregrine falcon with ease when the falcon wasn’t in a dive.

All of the things that I’ve written here about how the mallards fly are some of the reasons that I’ve been working so hard to improve my bird in flight images. Mankind has always been fascinated by how birds fly, I hope to explain and show through my photos the wonder of their flight.

This maybe the right time to use up a series of photos of a great blue heron landing that I shot earlier this fall.

Great blue heron landing

Landing gear coming down, ready for final approach.

Great blue heron landing

Landing gear fully extended, putting on the brakes.

Great blue heron landing


It may not be a sign of intelligence per say, but it must take a lot of brain power to control those huge wings and even the individual feathers its wings and tail as the heron fanned its feathers out to slow down, keeping its balance by changing its center of gravity by moving its head, all the while judging speed and distance, along with compensating for any wind at the time. There’s a lot more to a bird’s flight than just flapping its wings up and down, especially during take-offs and landings.

But, the bad thing is that now I’ve really overloaded this post with great blue heron images when there were too many before this last series. So, I may as well throw this one in as well, which shows very well how long a great blue heron’s wings are in relationship to their body, even though I did shoot yet another butt shot.

Great blue heron in flight

It’s been quite a while since I last posted anything, so I’m going to wrap this one up now, and then continue my thoughts on birds in flight in the next post that I do.

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

22 responses

  1. You used to “fill a post with nothing but small plain brown birds” and I was enjoying it. Now you want something else, and it is fine, it is good. I like your photos and I am glad you are trying harder and harder to evolve day after day.

    Sometimes I do print some of my photos. And yes, it is a different feeling than seeing them on a screen.


    October 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornell. I keep trying to find the right balance between the variety of bird photos that I post versus the larger, easier to photograph birds. Once the smaller birds are back in their breeding plumage again, I’ll do a better job of reaching the balance that I look for.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 21, 2017 at 1:16 pm

  2. “Misty Morning” is very artistic, reminding me of some Vietnamese lacquer paintings I saw many years ago. I also like those swan and mallard shots, which are very well crafted.

    Recently I had one of my photos printed on canvas. It did not turn out too well with the colors dull, unlike what I see on my monitor. The company representative told me I should use ICC Adobe 1998. Are you familiar with that and have you used it when printing?


    October 20, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I’m not sure what to tell you as far as the problems with the canvas print that you had made. I don’t know if you sent them a jpeg or the RAW file to begin with. Secondly, all I know about ICC profiles is that they have to match the printer and paper that’s being used, which is set by the company that did the printing. I use an ICC profile for a Canon printer and the type of paper I’m using. It sounds to me as if they goofed, and are looking for excuses.


      October 20, 2017 at 11:26 pm

      • When I had a working printer, I did the same things you do: ICC profile for printer and type of paper. The prints came out all right, after a test print or two.

        Googling “Adobe 1998”, they say that’s what should be used for printing, but printers differ, right?


        October 21, 2017 at 7:01 am

      • With all the software/printer/paper combinations that there are out there, I’m sure that the one you were told to use works somewhere. However, you shouldn’t have to embed an ICC profile of any type in your photo, that’s the responsibility of the person making the print.JPEG, TIFF and even camera RAW are all standard file formats for images, they should have been able to handle any of them.


        October 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

  3. I can’t stop scrolling up and down looking at all your amazing photos. The first photo is really special it has many elements to love and enjoy: the composition, the colours, the subjects…it’s all great. All the birds in your photos seem to have very characterful faces and show off their beautiful wings in such a variety of ways- those swans could be talking to you and the take off by the mallard is perfect poise and poetry in motion. Fantastic ..all of them!


    October 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I shoot probably twenty photos of the same bird to get the expressions on their faces that you mentioned. It’s very much like shooting portraits of people.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 20, 2017 at 11:18 pm

  4. That first shot is gorgeous, Jerry! And of course, all the rest are amazing.


    October 20, 2017 at 8:35 am

    • Thank you very much Sue! I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time for a change when it comes to that first photo.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 20, 2017 at 9:13 am

  5. You take wonderful pictures!


    October 19, 2017 at 9:30 pm

  6. I love that first shot and if it doesn’t sell well I’ll be very surprised.
    The strength of birds really is amazing. Just overcoming the surface tension of water must take a huge amount of effort. And then they have to fly.
    I like the shots of the mallard exploding from the water, and the pair flying.
    The heron landing looks like it’s dancing instead.
    Good luck with the new job. I hope it turns out to be a good one. Just 4 more years and I won’t have to care about such things anymore.


    October 19, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! As a matter of fact, some one saw the photo that you liked on Facebook, and ordered a print from me. Thanks for the sale. 😉

      Yes, it’s hard for us to imagine how much strength that birds have, they make it look effortless most of the time.

      The problem with catching mallards or other ducks exploding out of the water the way that they do is that it happens so fast. Trying to keep them entirely in the frame and be quick enough on the shutter is something that I need more practice on.

      I love watching the herons, egrets and cranes in action, you’re right, it is like a dance, an elegant ballet.

      I also have 4 years to go, and it’s getting tougher to hang in there every single day.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 20, 2017 at 1:15 am

  7. What a fine series of swan shots you have given us. The jury is out on whether there can be too many heron shots in a post.


    October 19, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I hope that yo’ll let me know when the jury comes in with its verdict, as well as their decision of course.


      October 20, 2017 at 1:08 am

  8. 7 and 8 are my absolute favourites. Well done, Jerry!


    October 19, 2017 at 2:04 pm

  9. All your photos are magical but the first one on this post is really special, you are so clever.


    October 19, 2017 at 1:58 pm

  10. Fascinating! I love the way you use your photographs to give us a clearer impression of the birds you see; the way they cope with their environment and so on. I am fairly observant but your analyses of the why and how the birds behave make things so clear to me. I find myself saying – ‘Why didn’t I see that for myself?’ Thanks Jerry!


    October 19, 2017 at 11:44 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! You seem to be one of the few who understand why I photograph the birds the way that I do. Watching them through the lens of a camera helps bring them closer to me, which helps, but freezing the action really shows more than the eye can see while the action is taking place.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 20, 2017 at 1:06 am