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

Looking forward to 2018

In my last post I wrote that I was beginning to plan and to set goals for myself in the coming year. But, before I move on to those topics, I thought that a look back at the year 2017 was in order.

Going back through my Lightroom catalog month by month, I selected one image for each month. The image that I chose isn’t necessarily the best image that I shot that particular month, but I tried to include some variety in the subjects, as well as overall interest rather than the image that was technically the best of the month. When making the selections, it was difficult to choose just one image for the month. There were usually five or six images in the running to represent each month, and making the choices that I did often came down to my personal favorites, rather than if the image was tack sharp, or how well it represented the month for which it was chosen.

But first, here’s yet another photo of a snowy owl from my last excursion out. The remarkable thing about this day is that there was actually some sunshine.

Snowy owl

In fact, blue skies are such a rarity this time of year, that I shot this very poor landscape image just to help me remember what blue sky looks like.

Blue skies for a change

Okay then, let’s go back to last January, to begin the year in review. Since this was the year that I finally became somewhat proficient shooting birds in flight well, I’m going to start the year with this merlin in flight.

Merlin in flight

In February, I shot this common merganser taking off.

Common merganser

You may begin to see a pattern here, as March is also represented by a bird in flight, a male northern harrier.

Male northern harrier in flight

So, for April, I made sure that the subject of the image wasn’t moving for a change.

Green heron showing its crown

Once spring arrived, my choices became even harder, because there weren’t only bird photos to choose from, but also insects and flowers. So, I decided to combine the two for May.

Green bee on a milkweed flower

For June, I went back to birds, because it’s rare for me to get as close to a hooded merganser as I did this pair.

Hooded mergansers

But for July, I returned to a flower.

Purple coneflower

I had to choose a bird for August, since in many ways, this is the best image of a bald eagle that I’ve ever shot.

Bald eagle

For September, I chose one of the first asters of fall.


For October, I selected this one, not quite a landscape photo, not quite a bird photo.

Misty morning

That brings us to the final image of the year in review, this bald eagle in flight.

Bald eagle in flight

I know, too many birds, and not enough other subjects. That’s one thing that I hope to remedy in 2018.

Thinking back to when I began my blog, I think that I was a better story-teller back then. However, I was a poor photographer, so the photos that I shot to help tell the stories didn’t show the story that I was trying to tell very well. So, I set out to make myself a better photographer, and I believe that I have succeeded, at the cost of not telling many stories as I used to.

One thing that I hope to do in the coming year is to go back to story telling, even if the photos that I shoot to go with the story aren’t that good.

Here’s an example of what I mean. There are few birds in flight that are as graceful as a snowy owl, and I can’t think of another species of bird that makes flight look as effortless as snowy owls do. With just a few beats of their wings, they are airborne and moving at a pretty good clip, spending most of the their time in flight gliding just above the snow…

Snowy owl in flight

…with just an occasional flap of their wings to maintain their momentum.

Snowy owl in flight

Even then, they stay low to the ground most of the time.

However, all their gracefulness comes to an end when it’s time for them to land. I’ve been lucky to see a number of them land, either while they were hunting, or they were escaping from people trying to get too close to the owls. I would say that a snowy owl landing is more of a controlled crash than a landing. I continued to track the owl in the photos above, but I didn’t shoot any more photos until I saw it set its wings for a landing…

Snowy owl landing

…the owl was really too far away, but I couldn’t take my finger off from the shutter button…

Snowy owl landing

…it was looking good at that point, until the owl’s feet touched the snow…

Snowy owl landing

…the owl was sliding across the snow, you’d think that a bird that spent most of its time in the Arctic would know that snow and ice are slippery…

Snowy owl sliding across the snow

…but it ended up in a heap as it slid across the snow…

Snowy owl landing

…until its talons were able to grab on to something in the snow, at which time the owl popped up as if to say “I meant to do that”.

Snowy owl landing

Of course I wish that I had been much closer to the owl as it crashed, but I don’t always get what I want.

That holds true for the weather so far this winter, it’s been brutal here in Michigan, and I know that it’s been even worse in other parts of the U.S. I haven’t been outside with a camera since before Christmas, and that’s not likely to change in the future, at least as far as I can tell by the weather forecasts.

The cold temperatures and the nearly non-stop snow falling has made working as a truck driver that much more difficult. The company that I work for now has been leaving the trucks running 24 hours a day in some instances, because they can’t get the trucks started agin if they sit for very long as cold as it’s been. I’ve also hooked to a couple of trailers that the brakes were frozen on, which means sliding under the trailer to hammer or pry the brakes loose so that the trailer will move. It’s been no fun at all the past three weeks a I write this, with at least another week to go before there’s any sort of warm-up. Even then, we’ll be lucky if it gets above the freezing mark, but I’m sure it will feel like a heat wave as cold as it’s been.

So, I’ve had some time on my hands, but not much to do. I was really looking forward to 2018, but making plans has been harder than I thought, since it’s so miserable outside so far this year.

I also remember that I had made big plans for 2017, none of which came to fruition. Ending up in the hospital for nearly a week last April derailed most of my plans for the spring and beyond. I’m still paying off the bill from that episode, but I’m making good progress on it. However, it puts a crimp on making plans that require spending very much money for the near future.

With some time on my hands due to the cold, I’ve been doing what I did the past few winters, watching how-to videos online and researching possible new camera gear. As far as camera gear, it will be a year or more, but all that I really need is a full-frame camera body and the Canon 24-105 mm lens. With a Canon 5D IV body, the lens that I want, and what I already have, I can get by carrying just two cameras as I do now, and two lenses, rather than the five lenses that I try to carry now. The reasons for the full-frame body are reduced noise at higher ISO settings, and wider field of view when shooting landscapes, as I’ve said before.

Many of the how-to videos that I’ve been watching were on how to edit photos, more so than videos on how to shoot better photos in the first place. Not to brag, but as far as sharpness and exposure, I do all right when it comes to shooting the photos that I do.

I will say this about editing images, there are a lot of people who put hours of work into editing the photos that they shoot. I’ll never get to that point, I don’t have the patience to sit in front of my computer for hours working on getting the perfectly edited version of an image that I’ve shot. I’m not one to lighten the eye of a bird by using the brush tool in Lightroom, or do all of the other painstaking editing that some people do for what I would say are minor improvements in the final image. But, I would like to get better at using Lightroom, so I suffer through the videos anyway.

Between watching those videos, and time to go through my Lightroom catalog, I have done some weeding out of photos that will never make the grade for one reason or another. I have thousands of images on my computer that no one will ever see, but I can’t bring myself to delete them despite that. They are memories for me to look back on during cold winters like this one.

So, with all of that in mind, my goals for this year are quite humble when compared to the plans that I’ve made in the past.

One is to use my tripod and the gimbal head that I purchased last year more often. I still shoot handheld most of the time, when I know that using the tripod would result in even better images. I do use the tripod for 95% of the landscape images that I shoot, so there’s no reason other than laziness not to use the tripod more often for other subjects. If I were to use the tripod more often for birds, I could go lower with the ISO settings to gain resolution in my images, since I could lower the shutter speed and not worry about camera movement. It only takes me a minute or two to set the tripod up, so there’s no excuse not to use it.

That goes with my second goal for the new year, shooting more video and getting better at it. That’s going to require that I use the tripod more often so that my videos are steadier and not so shaky as they have been. I really want to capture the courtship displays of some species of ducks, especially buffleheads and mergansers, as those displays would bring a smile to any one that watched them. I wanted to do that last year, but it was around the time in the spring when I ended up in the hospital, so I missed the courtship displays of the waterfowl completely.

I’m also planning on going back to many of the places that I haven’t been visiting as often, or not at all, that I used to go. I’ve gotten stuck in the rut of going to just a couple of places in the Muskegon area, hoping to add species of birds to the My Photo Life List project that I began several years ago. Also, some of that was due to health issues last year, as it took me most of the summer to fully recover my health to the point where I could cover longer distances as I used to walk. In fact, I’m still not 100%, but that’s mostly because I took it too easy last summer, when I should have pushed myself harder.

I’m not going to worry about posting to any schedule in the coming year, I’ll do a post when I get enough photos to do a good post, rather than trying to post once or twice a week, every week as I have been doing up until this winter. It helps that this winter has been so cold and snowy as to keep me inside most of the time, so I don’t have any new photos to share.

Well, almost another full week has gone by since the last time I worked on this post, and even though I have the day off from work, I won’t be venturing out to shoot any photos today. Even though we may set a record high temperature for the day, rather than a record low as we have been lately. That’s because there’s a dense fog advisory issued by the weather service, and it’s raining, not snowing for a change.

I also have too many other things that I have to do today, some banking to take care of, and I must have blood tests done ahead of a doctor’s appointment next week, and far enough in advance so that the results are available for the doctor to review them.

And, since I’ve been working nights, I’m normally going to bed shortly after sunrise on most days. That’s the pits for right now, but once spring and summer get here, that schedule could work out well for me. As it is now, it’s not light enough for photography until nearly 9 AM on most days in the winter here. But, I prefer to be on the location where I’m planning on going by 4 AM in the spring and summer months, because sunrise is so much earlier then. If I keep the same schedule then, it will work out very well for me. I’ll be able to sleep in on my days of from work, and still arrive at my destination as the sun rises.

Until then, I’m not sure how many of these regular posts I’ll be doing, but that will give me time to get caught up with the posts that I have to do towards the My Photo Life List project that I’ve been working on. I just finished another draft of a post towards the project, and the photos that I had of the species of bird for that post were just over three years old. They were shot when I was still using the Canon 60D camera and Sigma 150-500 mm lens, and before I had begun shooting in RAW or using Lightroom to edit my photos.

As I’ve done in the past, if I shoot better photos of the same species, I can go back and edit the post later to include the better quality photos.

Oh, and speaking of Lightroom, I’ve just read that Adobe has ended support of the standalone version of Lightroom that I’ve been using. I think that I can get by using the version that I have now for another year or two, but if I want to upgrade, I’ll have to sign up for the monthly fee version of Lightroom, that also includes Photoshop as well. I’m not happy about that, but what can one do, I’m sure that I’m not the only one that’s sorry to see the standalone version of Lightroom go away.

It’s now the middle of January, and I still haven’t been out with a camera since Christmas. We did have a short warm-up, but that brought rain and fog to the area, and my work schedule prevented me from getting out even in the low light. So, I’m going to finish this post with one more snowy owl photo…

Snowy owl

…this red-shouldered hawk seen on my way to Muskegon the last time I visited…

Red-shouldered hawk

…along with another leftover from last summer.

Great crested flycatcher

The weather people are forecasting another week in the deep freeze for us here, but after that, it should begin to warm up to close to average temperatures here for at least a week or two. That means high temperatures around freezing, but it will seem like a heat wave around here.

I put some of the free time that I had this morning to use by figuring out how to get the weight of my cameras with a battery grip and the long lenses that I have to balance better on the gimbal head of the tripod. The set-up I used before worked, but it left all the weight on just the quick release plate, with the foot of the tripod mount of the lens forward of the support base of the gimbal head. By reversing the tripod collars on the lenses, I was able to get the weight of the set-up above the support base of the gimbal head, therefore I don’t have to worry about one of the quick release plates breaking, sending my camera and lens crashing to the ground. I also learned a few other little tricks that may or may not come in handy, I’ll be able to tell for sure when I’m able to get out into the real world to test them.

At this time, I don’t know what else to say. I’m ready for spring to arrive, but that’s still well over a month away. I do plan on getting out before that, how often will depend on the weather, my work schedule, and a few other things. I’m not going to post something just to do a post on a set schedule, I’ll wait until I have photos or videos worth posting. As I said earlier, I’ll use the time to get caught up on the My Photo Life List project, even though I know those posts bore many readers.

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


23 responses

  1. Well, that’s a lot of thinking you’ve been doing, well done for making some plans. Loved the first snowy owl and the very atmospheric photograph you chose for October, a great picture.

    January 15, 2018 at 2:57 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I hope that this coming year is as good as the last one was.

      January 15, 2018 at 4:09 pm

  2. I just love your first picture! I feel you are a great storyteller, after reading your thoughts on that owl’s landing and your personal aspirations via-a-vis shooting videos and getting better at photography. I also don’t edit my shots (intentionally)…i feel i would take away that natural charm from my clicks.

    I live near Toronto, but was in New York on 31st Dec…so can imagine how harsh it is in Michigan. I shall get better soon, now that cyclone has passed.

    Sorry to hear about your health issue from last year…hope you get rid of the bills soon (you seem close).

    January 15, 2018 at 10:57 am

    • Thank you very much! I always try to improve at whatever I do, including getting better at story telling.

      January 15, 2018 at 4:15 pm

  3. Hi Jerry. Your landing sequence of the snowy owl made me laugh – it sure looked more like a face plant, rather than any kind of purposeful landing. Hard to believe they all look like that.

    I’m usually not a big fan of romanticized photos, with lots of dramatic scenes and colors as they are so often contrived. But I know your October image was the real deal, and it gets my Photo of the Year Award, with second place going to the snowy owl. You had a great year, despite the setbacks related to health (and poor weather sometimes, as well). Your camera eye didn’t suffer.

    Agree with your idea of posting when you’ve got something to share, instead of on a calendar basis. Because, who needs the pressure of a looming deadline when you are writing the blog for your own satisfaction? Life is too short.

    It’s always a good start to a day when a post from Quietsolopursuits shows up in my inbox. I’ll look forward to the next one.

    January 15, 2018 at 11:09 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I’ve seen several snowy owls land, and it always looks like a controlled crash when they are so graceful in flight.

      You’re right, that October photo is just as I saw it, no Photoshop used at all.

      I hope that you always feel that way about seeing a new post from me, which is why I may not be posting as often this year, more quality over quantity.

      January 15, 2018 at 4:19 pm

  4. I remember seeing a few of the shots you have included here – the gorgeous October sunrise, the great northern harrier, the green heron and the green bee. I laughed so much at the landing snowy owl sequence! I am so glad you included that in this post. I hope you will be able to get out soon and that your health still continues to improve.

    January 15, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! It’s hard to believe that a bird as graceful in flight as an owl can be so bad at landing, but they are. I hope that the memories that these photos brought back were good ones.

      January 15, 2018 at 4:12 pm

  5. I love the shots of the green heron and the green bee, and of course the flowers, but my favorite has to be October!

    That’s interesting about the snowy owl. As you said, you would think it would be an expert at landing in the snow. Maybe they try to land without slowing down enough first.

    I hope you stay away from the hospitals this spring and will finally see some decent weather. Ours has been less than ideal too and they say more snow for Wednesday.

    I’m looking forward to the story telling!

    January 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! The photo from October has become my biggest seller as far as prints that I’ve sold, I’m shipping another to Texas today, so it’s my favorite for more than one reason. That should tell me something, I actually put some thought into how to go about getting the scene to look how I wanted it to look and changed the camera settings quickly enough to capture it.

      I don’t think that any bird that I’ve ever seen looks as elegant in flight as a snowy owl, they fly as if they were weightless. But, I’ve also never seen one make a perfect landing either, they always land off balance whether on level ground or on a rock or something.

      I do hope to avoid hospitals for the rest of my life, the medicine that I’m taking for my psoriasis seems to be holding it in check very well. This is the worst time of year for some one with psoriasis and so far, so good.

      January 16, 2018 at 7:52 am

  6. I like it when you do some thinking as we always get some wonderful pictures as a result. I hope the thaw comes soon. Hammering ice off brakes is no fun.

    January 15, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! You’re right, sliding under a semi trailer to hammer the brakes loose is no fun at all, especially when there’s snow blowing everywhere as you do. The good thing was that it was so cold for so long, that the brakes on the trailers quit freezing up after a few days.

      I feel that I should do less thinking from now on, and more photography if I’m going to get better photos.

      January 16, 2018 at 7:38 am

  7. What a great idea to include wonderful photos from each month last year. It must have been very difficult to make a choice from your collection of superb photos. My favourites are the October photo…( I printed that one off for my wall…I only have 4″x 6″ photo paper…so it’s very small but beautiful!) the bald eagle and the snowy owl. The snowy owl landing adventure was brilliant. Hope your weather warms and dries up soon and the coming Spring brings you continued good health.

    January 15, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! It was difficult to chose just one photo per month, I probably should have done a post with the best action shot and the best portrait shot from each month.

      The weather forecast is much improved, at least it’s going to get above freezing again for a while during the day, but spring is still a long ways off for where I live.

      My health continues to improve, but slowly, but that’s probably because I’m almost completely recovered now.

      January 16, 2018 at 7:43 am

  8. Loved every one of your picture choices. Thank you for sharing.

    January 16, 2018 at 8:29 am

    • Thank you very much! I wish that the snowy owl crash landing had been closer to me, but otherwise, they are some of my best photos from last year.

      January 16, 2018 at 8:42 am

  9. In my opinion, even if you haven’t ask for it, you don’t have too many photos of birds and not enough other subjects.
    You must feel free to take and post what photos you like the most no matter of subject or quality.
    Well, if you are looking for a certain audience for your blog, then all I have said above changes.

    January 16, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornell! I know what you are saying, but the subjects that I shoot, mainly birds, are because of the limited opportunities that I have to shoot the other subjects that I’d like to photograph. For example, I’d photograph far more landscapes if the area that I live in wasn’t as flat and featureless as it is.

      January 17, 2018 at 8:52 am

  10. Fantastic images Do you pack a baked potato to keep your fingers warm? It’s hard to hold cold metal in the hands too long. But the images were worth it!!!

    January 18, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    • Thank you very much! No, I’ve never tried the baked potato trick, I have some very good gloves made for flyfishing that keep my fingers reasonably warm despite the cold, although I do keep my hands in my pockets when I can.

      January 19, 2018 at 12:18 am

  11. Those are all beautiful photos, Jerry. My favorite is “misty morning”. I can only imagine what you go through as a truck driver in weather like this season’s cold. We have not had any snow this year, so far, and we had a run of days in the mid 60s, and one at 70 degrees here in western Oregon. Back in the mid 40s today.

    January 19, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! You’re so lucky to live in an area where it doesn’t get cold enough to snow very often, but it’s close by at higher elevations if you want to go play in it.

      January 20, 2018 at 4:21 am

      • The ocean is about 2 1/2 hrs away from where I live, high desert about 1.5 hrs. Columbia River gorge about 2 1/2 hrs north, Rogue River about the same headed south. I can look up on the drive into town and see snow on the hills, but it is green down below.

        January 26, 2018 at 10:06 pm