Finally? Have we turned the corner?
Could it be? I have the day off from work and the weather forecast is for a nice sunny day for a change. Not only will it be sunny, but it will only be about ten degrees below our average high temperature for this time of year, not the more typical twenty degrees below average that’s been the norm around here this year. Best of all, no snow today at least, when we’ve received at least some snow on 9 of the last 11 days. If only I hadn’t overslept, but that’s the way it goes. At least by over sleeping this morning, I’ll avoid having to scrape the frost off from the windows of my Subaru.
I’m off, be back later.
I was wrong, even though I got a late start, I still had to scrape the frost off from the windshield of my car, but at least it warmed up later in the day. And, the day turned out to be pretty good as far as the quality of photos that I shot, along with the variety of birds. I’m going to begin this post with an image which is just okay, but I worked very hard to get it.
I had forgotten just how quick those little buggers are as I tried to find it, or keep it, in the viewfinder long enough to get any photo of it.
I shot more than a few photos of empty branches where the kinglet had been as I began to press the shutter release, they’re that quick. I had to get back in the thick brush with them in order to get close to them, which also made it tougher to shoot photos of them, because not only was I trying to find small openings in the vegetation to shoot through, but the vegetation limited my movements by snagging on my clothing as I tried to move.
By the way, those were shot at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve later in the day after it had warmed up a little. My day began on my way to the Muskegon County wastewater facility, when I pulled over to the shoulder of the road to shoot this photo.
The light was all wrong, but I had seen the same snowy owl on the roof of the same house on my way home the last time I was there, and that’s a for the record type photo to record my sighting(s) of the owl. You can see frost on the roof of the house in the shadow of the owl, it had been perched there for quite a while. And as I said, it had been perched on the same house last week when I drove past the house, so there must be something that the owl likes about that house.
Just a short distance away, I found this bald eagle looking for a snack.
I hadn’t even arrived at the wastewater facility yet, and already the day was looking good.
It was nice to have good light for a change…
…even if I shot just a starling in the sun.
I went looking for waterfowl first, and found the same two species of grebes that I had photos of in my last post.
While not yet in full breeding plumage, this one shows the “horns” that are the reason they are named horned grebes.
The eared grebe…
…was still hungry, and wouldn’t pose for a photo.
You can see how smoothly they enter the water as they dive in that photo.
A short time later, I found a male horned grebe looking great in his full breeding plumage.
Of course I wish that I had been closer to it so that you could see the details in its feathers, but at least you can see its colors.
Closer is usually better, as this image of a female bufflehead shows.
She was tired of the males chasing her, and so she waddled up on a rock…
…as her mate fended off the advances of the other males in the area.
Here’s the female watching her mate in action.
These bufflehead were too close to me to shoot a video, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. A little later, I saw another flock of them coming my way, so I shot a number of videos of them in action.
I did most things wrong while shooting that, I should make a cheat sheet to remind me of the correct camera settings to produce better videos.
I didn’t speed up the video, that’s how quickly the bufflehead move, which is what makes shooting still photos of them in action difficult. I think that you can see the posturing that the males do, a lot of head bobbing, short but fast chases, and short flights as the males try to attract the female’s attention. You can also see how hard the male works to keep the other males away from his mate, he must burn a lot of energy swimming in circles, always on the look-out for other males getting close to her.
It would help if I found a place where I could shoot videos without the sounds of heavy construction equipment, or the wind for that matter, from distracting the viewers of my videos from the action that I’m trying to capture.
I sat in one place for a while, as a small flock of northern shovelers fed in front of me.
I was hoping that the shovelers being so close to me would make a flock of lesser scaup coming in my direction feel that it was safe to keep coming…
…but, that was as close as the scaup would come, so I shot a few more of the shovelers.
I love photographing waterfowl, especially in the spring when the males display their breeding plumage and you can see how colorful they are. But, capturing all their glory in one image is close to impossible from what my efforts so far tell me. Take wood ducks…
…that first image is a good one as far as the male looking towards the camera, but when he turned his head away from me, it shows more of the colors of his feathers on his head and neck.
Even then, the second photo only shows the colors on the top of his head, not the colors in his cheeks when the light hits him right.
Those were shot later in the day at the headquarters area of the Muskegon State Game Area.
Still later in the day, I found another pair of wood ducks at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and shot this image that shows the purple feathers under the tail of the male wood duck.
However, in that image, the wood duck’s face looks black because the light was wrong for its face.
I was thinking of doing a post about the difficulties of photographing ducks well, since I saved more photos from this day than what I have room for in a single post. But what the heck, here’s another example of how the feathers on a duck’s head seem to change colors as the way that light reflects from the feathers changes.
Neither of these photos show the bufflehead in a good pose though, as he’s looking away from the camera.
Yes, I shot quite a few photos of the bufflehead that morning…
…as they’re even more fun to watch than mallards are.
It looks like we haven’t fully turned the corner towards spring yet, there’s another winter storm bearing down on Michigan as I type this on Friday morning. This one is forecast to be the worst of the string of winter storms that have hit us since spring officially arrived. While the weather may not have turned the corner yet, my photos have.
I may not have gotten a perfect image of any of the species of ducks that I shot on this day, it has struck me that even in the actions shots of the bufflehead, I have been able to show at least some of the colors of their heads in most of the images. That applies to the wood ducks also, I’m now getting images that seemed impossible to me just a few years ago. Some of that is due to my improved skills in Lightroom, but most of it is because I’m still improving as a photographer. Still, I can’t explain all of it though, such as why the sharpness of the images that I shoot continues to improve.
I wasn’t going to post any more images of gulls for a while, but I have a couple of images that are just too good not to share.
I was going to avoid the gulls during this outing, but some one told me that there was a laughing gull in with the ring-billed and herring gulls, so I had to check it out so that I could add that species to my photo life list. It turned out that the person who told me they had seen a laughing gull was mistaken, it was a Bonaparte’s gull, not a laughing gull. However, I couldn’t resist shooting this herring gull as I was looking for the other gull.
The images of the herring gull that I shot are beyond tack sharp, they’re razor-sharp, and I can’t explain why the sharpness of my images continues to improve.
Even in the low-light conditions that I had on the last few outings, my images are getting better all the time, which is my goal. I continue to wonder just how more improvement there can be, other than through purchasing better equipment. Then, I have to ask myself, is there better equipment than what I have already? Other than upgrading to a full frame sensor body with better dynamic range and lower noise at higher ISO settings, I don’t think that there is equipment that I can purchase that would improve my images enough to be worth the cost. Those two images of the gull are as good as any image that I’ve seen, not that I’m bragging of anything. 😉
By the way, the gull was shot with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the 100-400 mm lens, so don’t believe it when some one says that using a tele-converter results in images that are not sharp. And, that gives me an idea to try on my next outing when I have light that’s equally as good as it was on this day.
As I typed this and proof read it, it occurred to me that it could be that my images continue to improve because I’m always trying new things out as far as getting the best from the equipment that I have, and trying new techniques as well. It’s also because I’m always looking at the flaws in my images and finding ways to eliminate them, or work around them. It would be easy to look at some of the photos in this post so far and be content with them as being the best that I can do, but I don’t do that. No, I still see flaws in even my best images, and unless some one is willing to do that, they will never improve. That doesn’t apply to only photography, but every aspect of a person’s life.
Part of what drives me to improve my photos is to show others the wonders of nature. The behavior of the bufflehead is one example, another is the way that the feathers of birds differ depending on the species of bird. Look at how sleek the gull looks in the images above, and how fine the individual fibers of its feather are. Then, look at this chickadee…
…and you can see that the fibers of its feathers are coarser than those of the gull. It’s the same for this tufted titmouse.
Its feathers are also made from fibers that are coarser than those of the gull. By the way, I know that the titmouse is a male…
…because he was singing to attract a mate.
After a quick look around to see if he was having any success…
…off he went.
That also shows you how much I had cropped the previous images of him.
You know, I could be wrong about the size of the fibers that make up the feathers of various species of birds, it could be that the fibers of the smaller species of birds only look larger because of the relative size of the birds, but I don’t think so. But to prove that, I’ll have to get even closer to one of the sleek-looking species of birds, such as the gulls or a cedar waxwing to be 100% sure of it.
I had a theory that the smaller birds had coarser fibers in their feathers as a way to trap more insulating air in their feathers to help them stay warm during the winter, but that’s just a theory of mine.
So much for signs of spring coming soon, it’s a miserable weekend around here with copious amounts of rain, sleet, freezing rain, and of course, more snow on the way for later in the weekend. To make things even worse, if that’s possible, all the precipitation is being accompanied by a very cold, very strong, northeast wind. I’m afraid that I have a couple of very long nights ahead of me at work, as it will be very slow going as slick as the roads are forecast to be. I may not have recovered enough to go out with the camera next week, even if the weather does improve slightly. That’s okay, I have a few photos left from the day that I shot the ones in this post.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!