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

Archive for July, 2018

The lost weekend

My two days off from work this week were a complete bust for the most part. It all began on Thursday, just before sunrise. I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, hoping to find a few uncommon birds that were migrating, that didn’t happen. The weather is what you could say was variable, broken clouds with small rain showers in the mix. It was the type of morning that if the sun had broken through the clouds at the right time and place, there could have been really special light to capture. I wanted to be ready for it if it happened, so I had the wide-angle lens on the 5D. But, there wasn’t much light to work with if I saw any wildlife worth photographing in the same time frame, so I knew that I was running the risk of having to shoot wildlife in low-light with the 7D if I saw any. Of course I saw wildlife…

Coyote pup, almost fully grown

…and there was never even a moment of magic light.

Almost magic

As I was shooting the coyote pup that you saw above, a second one came out of the vegetation even closer to me, but I couldn’t get the 7D to focus on it in the very low light at the time. I spooked three whitetail bucks, with their growing antlers covered in velvet, but I couldn’t get a photo of them before they disappeared into the brush. I spooked a few birds that I would have liked to have gotten photos of because I was watching the sky in hopes of getting a great landscape image and I wasn’t paying enough attention to possible wildlife photos.

So, my day started off badly. I should have had one of the 7D bodies set-up for landscapes even if that would have entailed bracketing exposures and using software to get the dynamic range needed. It’s not as if I hadn’t thought the situation over, I had stopped twice when I got close to where my starting point for the day would be to consider which camera and lens combinations I should have all set-up and ready to go as I sized up the situation. I chose wrong. You can see a hint of color in the clouds in the landscape photo above, if the sun and clouds had moved just a little differently, there could have been a spectacular sunrise. If I had used the 5D to shoot the coyote, there wouldn’t be the noise in the photo that there is, and the image would have been much better all the way around. That also applies to this photo, which I’m including to show the difference in size between a great blue heron and sandhill cranes.

Great blue heron and sandhill cranes

Almost every one is familiar with great blue herons, but many people have never seen a sandhill crane and may not realize how large they are. That makes it easy to get shots of them in flight.

Sandhill cranes in flight

I did shoot a few good photos on Thursday…

Bull thistle

I thought about shooting a series of images of the bull thistle to try out the focus stacking software that I’m thinking about purchasing, but the wind was too strong and even the thistle was swaying in the wind. I did manage this image though.

Bull thistle up close

I should always have an extension tube with me when I’m photographing flowers in case an insect shows up. The trouble is that the extension tube changes how close the lens will focus so much that I wouldn’t have been able to get the entire flower in either of the images above. But, the extension tube would have been just what I needed for this next shot.

Unidentified bee on a Bull thistle

However, insects don’t typically stick around long enough to add the extension tube when it’s needed. About the same thing happened on Friday, I paused to photograph a few evening primrose that I saw…

Evening primrose

…trying to get the best shot that I could…

Evening primrose

…when I noticed this crown vetch nearby…

Crown vetch

…and as I was photographing the flower, this robber fly landed on the flower, at least I think that it’s a robber fly.

Robber fly

If it matters, the thistle was shot with the 100 mm macro lens on the 7D, the evening primrose, crown vetch, and robber fly with the same lens on the 5D.

Speaking of the 100 mm lens, it isn’t just for macros. The weather on Friday was similar to Thursday, with widely scattered showers.

A passing shower

No, that wasn’t shot with the macro lens, that photo is to set the stage for what’s to come. I wasn’t seeing any wildlife to shoot, so I was fighting a stiff breeze to photograph flowers…

Tansy flowers

…when I saw this…


…so, I shot that with the 100 mm lens.

At another point while I was photographing flowers, I looked up to see the clouds almost touching the ground in the distance…


…that one was with the 16-35 mm lens to give a wider view of this, which was shot with the 100 mm lens, so these two photos are out of order as the light changed…


…and, this next one was simply a test shot which I probably shouldn’t bother to put in here.


I thought about shooting several series of photos to test the focus stacking software out, but the vegetation in the foreground was swaying in the wind so much that the results of any tests that I would have tried would have been useless. That’s the reason the flowers in the image that I captioned as ” A passing shower” aren’t as sharp as they should be, the flowers moved during the exposure due to the long shutter speed needed for that photo.

Anyway, I did see a few birds.

Northern flicker


Bobolink during its molt


This swan gave me the time to go to full manual with the 5D and dial in the exact exposure that I wanted…

Mute swan drying its wings

Even if I was too far away from the swan for a good photo.

Mute swan drying its wings

Here’s another image I probably shouldn’t include…

Great blue heron riding a thermal

…but, the heron was circling in a thermal updraft as a raptor would to gain altitude, and I don’t recall seeing a heron do that before, as they seldom fly at that altitude. Maybe the heron thought that it could get high enough that it could glide all the way to its destination after riding the thermal up.

I said the swan allowed me enough time to go to full manual to dial in the camera settings, I wish that wildlife always telegraphed what they were about to do. Just as I was able to get the swallows in flight that I had in my last post by learning the flight patterns of the swallows in different weather conditions and what insects they were feeding on at the time, I’ve learned when swans and other waterfowl are going to do what they do by watching them often enough. But then, things like this happen.

Bald eagle in flight, carrying a fish

I had seen the eagle circling, but it was too far away, and it had the sun almost directly behind it, so I hadn’t shot any photos. However, when a gull began harassing the eagle, trying to get the eagle to drop the fish that it had caught, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to record the action.

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

These aren’t great, as the birds were coming at me out of the sun…

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

…and I was shooting almost straight up at the time…

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

…but these show what bullies the gulls are…

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

…and that the eagle held on to its lunch…

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

…and these also show the relative sizes of the herring gull and eagle..

Herring gull trying to force a bald eagle to drop its catch

I guess what really bugs me about the photos so far is how close I was to great images, but have only fair to poor photos to show for it. Being in a weather pattern that could have produced a very memorable moment if things had been slightly different several times over the course of both days for one thing. Having chosen the wrong camera body to put the long lens on for wildlife was another. At least I was able to record the gull harassing the eagle, even if the photos aren’t that good, and to shoot some good images of insects.

Unidentified dragonfly


Unidentified dragonfly


Red-spotted purple butterfly


Unidentified skipper butterfly

All of these were shot with the 5D, 100-400 mm lens, and 1.4 X tele-converter, and I liked the way that the set-up was able to catch the metallic look of the fibers on the skipper so much that I’m including a second photo of it.

Unidentified skipper butterfly

On Friday, I spent a good deal of time in Muskegon State Park playing with the new Canon 5D Mk IV and both the 16-35 mm and 70-200 mm lenses, both to learn the new camera, and how various subjects appear at varying focal lengths when photographed with a full frame sensor camera. I shot a good many photos, but I won’t bore you with them, other than these two. You may not want to hear this, but fall is approaching sooner than we may think, since it isn’t even August yet.

First signs of fall

On the other hand, we have a good deal of summer left…

A summer day on the Muskegon State Park beach

…I hope.

A few words about the last photo. For one thing, I couldn’t believe the exposure setting required for that one, 1/50 second, f/16, and ISO 100, how did I, or any one else, ever shoot with Kodachrome 25? A bright summer day in full sun and the shutter was still as slow as it was.

I’m not sure why it is, but I take full advantage of the zoom range of the 16-35 mm lens more so than with any of my other wide zoom lenses. That was shot at 27 mm focal length. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming a better landscape photographer, but I know that I zoom in and out with that lens more as I’m setting up to shoot a photo than I’ve ever done with the other zoom lenses I have. It’s become automatic for me to grab the zoom ring of that lens as soon as I start looking through the viewfinder. I hope that I continue that trend when I acquire the 24-70 mm lens that I need to complete my kit.

I should have gotten even lower and closer to the driftwood in the foreground to have gotten exactly the image that I was going for. It seemed as if I was right on top of the driftwood, I think that I could have reached out and touched it, as I sat down in the wet sand to shoot that photo. I should have gotten down on my belly and inched closer and closer until I got what I was after. Even though I try to scan the entire viewfinder when I’m shooting a photo like that one, I still make the same mistake of not getting close enough to my foreground, just like the flowers in the “A passing storm” photo in the beginning of this post. I do better if I use the live view function to compose the scene when I shoot landscapes.

I am seeing that if I get the composition correct, that focus stacking software will be required to get everything in the frame sharp, even with wide-angle lenses. If I had been closer to the driftwood, then I wouldn’t have gotten it and the clouds in the background as sharp as they are in this photo. It took me several shots to get the correct focus point in the scene to get the entire scene as sharp as it is as it was.

I’m falling back into the habit of not using my tripod all the time when shooting landscapes. Since I don’t have to bracket images with the 5D, and I’ve been doing more playing and learning rather than shooting seriously, I’ve been shooting handheld too often since I started using the 5D. That hasn’t been all bad, I’ve taken a lot of photos that you’ll never see, and I’ve been learning from them as I go. If I was using the tripod as I should, I wouldn’t have shot many of the rejects, and I would have missed the chance to learn what I have by shooting them. I do hope to put what I’ve been learning to better use soon though.

Finally, I have to stop beating myself up and whining about having shot a few bad photos from time to time. Overall, the quality of the images that I’m shooting now is so much better than my best images from just a few years ago. I have to keep plugging away and learn from my mistakes, it’s as simple as that.

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


How swallows catch insects to eat

Before I get to the swallows…

Tree swallow in flight

… I have a pair of photos that I meant to put in my last post. Seeing some iris growing in the water along the shore of Muskegon Lake…

Yellow iris in bloom

…I couldn’t remember if the yellow ones were a rare thing in Michigan, or cultivated iris that had escaped into the wild. Either way, I wanted a better photo than the one above, and this is what I came up with by looking over all the flowers in bloom, then imagining what the finished image would look like if I shot it.

Yellow iris

It turns out that they are a species of iris that have escaped into the wild, but I like the image anyway. And, while I’m on flowers, I should include this one of multiple bladderwort flowers in bloom at the same time.

Bladderwort flowers

That’s because it shows the shape of the flowers much better than any other image of them that I’ve shot to date.

Okay then, we’ve entered the summer doldrums when it comes to birding, since the fall migration south is just beginning. There have been some shorebirds on their way south already, as they weren’t able to breed and raise young this year due to the snow and cold along the shores of Greenland and other places above the Arctic Circle. The poor birds flew thousands of mile only to find their traditional nesting sites covered in snow, and ice covering the water where they typically find food for themselves and their young. That may explain why they have lingered in the Muskegon area on their way south for the winter. Since they weren’t able to find food farther north, they have to replenish themselves before they continue their journey south. The fall migration isn’t as good for birding anyway, as the birds are no longer in their breeding plumage.

So, I’ve been a bit bored the past two or three weeks while I’ve been looking for birds, and you know what happens when I get bored. I try to do things that I don’t have the time for otherwise. This past week, my boredom led me to attempt photographing swallows in flight again.

Bank swallow in flight

Not bad, but it was too far away. And, as I watched the swallows, I saw that they were picking newly emerged insects off from the surface of the water, so I did my best to capture that.

Bank swallow in flight

But, I couldn’t tell if that swallow was successful or not. It’s the same with this photo.

Bank swallow in flight

So, I kept trying.

Bank swallow in flight

And, if you look at the reflection of the swallow in the water, you can see that it did catch an insect this time.

Bank swallow in flight

It even showed its catch off in the next frame.

Bank swallow in flight

Bank swallows are fun to watch, but I think that tree swallows with their vibrant blue backs and white chests are much prettier birds, so I found another location where they were feeding.

Tree swallow in flight

And, it didn’t take me long to record a successful catch.

Tree swallow in flight

This swallow didn’t show off its catch…

Tree swallow in flight

…but it told the world about it soon after.

Tree swallow in flight

So, this next series is simply tree swallows in flight to show how they control their flight.

Tree swallow in flight


Tree swallow in flight


Tree swallow in flight

The next day, I could only find bank swallows over the water, but I was able to shoot this series of one on the prowl.

Bank swallow in flight

I had better light, and the swallows were a bit closer to me.

Bank swallow in flight

If it matters, I was using the 7D body for its faster frame rate to catch the swallows, and the 400 mm prime lens because it is light weight and easier to track the swallows with.

Bank swallow in flight

If you look closely, you can see the insect that the swallow was about to catch.

Bank swallow in flight

Unfortunately the camera locked focus on the water when the swallow got that low, so in the next frame, the swallow was out of focus. Oh well, that gives me an excuse to try again sometime.

On the first day that I shot the swallows, there was no wind, so the swallows stayed very low over the water. As you can see in the photos, on the second day there were wind and waves, so the swallows were flying a little higher to avoid getting their wings wet. That made it easier to keep the swallows in focus while they were searching, but as they dove down to the water to catch insects, I had trouble with the auto-focus locking on the water rather than the swallows. I think that if there is another calm day in the future, I’ll try getting lower and closer to the water when the swallows are flying low to get even better images of the swallows feeding.

Although, on the windy day, it was easier to get better images of the swallows. They flew at a slower rate of speed into the wind, letting the wind blow the insects in the air to them, rather than having to chase the airborne insects down.

I have two other photos that I shot at about the same time, completely unrelated to the swallows.

Thirteen lined ground squirrel

I see these ground squirrels often, but I’m seldom able to get a photo of them.

Thirteen lined ground squirrel

Now then, a few photos that show the interaction between green herons. I don’t know if the birds involved were the parents and two offspring, or if these birds were all siblings from the same nest. I saw two of the green herons circling one of the man-made lakes at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, and caught one of the pair in flight landing as it joined a third heron that a was already perched in a tree.

Green herons

They’re not the most skilled birds when landing in trees.

Green herons

It takes them a few seconds to get themselves balanced.

Green herons

Soon, the other one that I had seen in the first place joined the other two.

Green herons

I’m not sure what the very first heron was saying here.

Green herons

It could have been “Hey you, get out of my tree”, or, “I’m hungry, feed me”.

Green herons

Later, a fourth heron joined them, but that was as I was trying to get closer, and switching cameras when it landed. Getting a clear view of all four of them was impossible, even though I tried.

Green herons

Even when one left, there was still one that wouldn’t pose nicely, it was too busy preening.

Green herons

And just like that, I’m up to my self-imposed quota of photos for a post.

The weather forecast for my next two days off from work is looking iffy at the current time, but that’s always subject to change. I’ll find something to photograph one way or another.

Also, as an update to the part of my last post about focus stacking. The company whose software that I’m thinking of purchasing if I do begin to do focus stacking offers a 30 day trial of their software. In a rare move for me, I thought ahead this time and didn’t rush into downloading the free trial software immediately. I’ll wait, and while I’m waiting, I’ll shoot a few series of images, both macros and landscapes, so that I’ll have images to try out the software in-depth before I decide to make the purchase or not.

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

Rethinking many things

As always, I’ve been giving a lot of thought about ways that I can improve my photos, without going to extremes using software such as Photoshop.

It’s funny, I used to be a purist, believing that I could get the images that I wanted straight out of the camera without using any software at all, until I failed every time when using a digital camera. Gradually, and grudgingly, I gave in and began using Lightroom to make up for the lack of dynamic range of the cameras I was using at the time, and I’ve even gone so far as to purchase and use Photomatix software for the same purpose, to increase the dynamic range of the images that I shoot when part of the scene is very bright, and other parts very dark. And, I’ve begun to experiment with stitching multiple photos together to create panoramas that show more of a scene than what I would be able to capture in a single frame with even my widest lens, or for other reasons.

No matter how much I have come to rely on software, my goal has always been the same, to capture as closely as possible what I see with my own two eyes as I view a scene. I say that even though I recently posted a trick photograph of my own…

Double exposure of the full moon and the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan

…where I used a double exposure to bring the full moon lower in the sky than it otherwise is. I could have shot the scene as it really was, but if I did, you’d hardly be able to see the moon in the photo.

That’s because when one uses a wide-angle lens in photography, reality becomes distorted. Things in the foreground of the image appear larger than they really are, and things in the distance, such as the moon in this case, appear farther away, and therefore smaller than they really are. I didn’t give in to the temptation of shooting the image of the moon that I used in the double exposure to use my longest tele-photo lens set-up to make the moon appear even larger than it really is in the double exposure, so I was going for as close to reality as I could.

So, I recently posted this landscape photo…

Another Michigan farm

…even though I’m not that happy with it. For one thing, there’s nothing interesting in the foreground, but another thing about this photo that I dislike is that the rolling hills in the background appear smaller than they really are, and are difficult to see because I used a wide-angle lens to shoot it. Even the barn and farmhouse look too small in this image. I wanted the width of the middle of the image, but with the hills in the background more prominent. I shot that with the 16-35 mm lens at about 20 mm if I remember correctly. Even as I viewed the scene before I shot it, I wasn’t happy, but I did the best that I thought that I could do.

That brings me to another photo that I recently posted…

Thunder cloud at dawn

…which is made of 6 images stitched together to get the entire cloud in the frame at one time. If I had an intermediate length lens to fit the new 5D Mk IV, I wouldn’t have had to stitch the 6 images shot with my medium telephoto 70-200 mm lens together to get that shot. But, that image was very easy for me to produce, and it has me thinking, as all of my photos do.

Since nature doesn’t always provide us with scenes that match our lenses and sensor sizes perfectly, I’m trying to come up with ways to work around that. I could do it with software, I’ve seen videos of people literally moving and reshaping mountains using the warp tool in Photoshop or blending images shot at varying focal lengths together to achieve the results that they wanted. However, I don’t want to spend countless hours in front of the computer editing images.

I think that panoramas are one way that I can get the results that I want without spending too much time at the computer. If I had shot several images of the landscape above at a longer focal length and stitched them together, I could have gotten the width of view I wanted, and the hills in the background would have appeared more prominent in the final image because I wouldn’t have gotten the perspective distortion from having used a wide lens. Now, I want to go back and shoot that same scene to see if it will work as I hope that it would. But, I think that I can find a place closer to home where I can test my theory on this.

It’s all about learning how to capture what I see with my eyes in a camera given the constraints that even the best modern cameras and lenses impose upon a photographer. It’s learning different techniques, and how to get the best from the equipment that I have. To that end, I have to remember all of the various techniques that I learn, and when to put each one, or a combination of them, together to produce the image that I envision when I first survey a scene. The last part is the hardest, remembering the different ways that there are to shoot the same scene to produce different results, and which one would work the best.

I must say this however, I’m loving the new 5D Mk IV with its expanded dynamic range and other improvements over the crop sensor cameras that I have been using. For example, I’ve shot a few bracketed series of images to blend into a HDR image in Photomatix with the new 5D, and I’m able to get better results with a single, well exposed image, from the 5D than what I can produce in Photomatix. But, if I were to use one of the crop sensor bodies for a landscape image, I’d still have to use bracketed images and Photomatix to produce the same results.

The fact that the 5D has so much more dynamic range that I don’t have to bracket images and use software to get the correct exposure is a good thing in more than one way. For example, I haven’t shot many time lapses of scenes because I didn’t want to take the time to go through the process of creating a HDR image of each frame within the time-lapse. Also, when creating panoramas, the exposure for all the frames that end up being stitched together has to be correct and match the other images used in the panorama, or I’d end up with part of the final image too dark or too light when compared to the image as a whole. Getting the exposure correct is much easier if I’ll be dealing with single images rather than bracketed images run through software to get the correct dynamic range. And, there’s always the problem of motion within the scene when I’m working with multiple images, for either HDR images, or when stitching images together for panoramas.

Well, I’ve been out with the camera since I began this post, and I’ve started to put some of the things that I’ve discussed to use.

After the storm

If I’d been really lucky, I would have found a good scene sooner when the storm in the distance was still producing bolts of lightning, but at least I was close to being in the right place at the right time for a change as the sun began to emerge from behind the storm cloud.

This storm missed

It may surprise you to learn that I shot both of them with the 16-35 mm lens on the 7D body. I did so to get the correct focal length to best capture the scene, since I haven’t purchased the 24-70 mm lens yet that would give me the full range of focal length lenses I need for the 5D. On the 7D, the 16-35 mm lens becomes a 56 mm lens at the long end due to the crop factor of the 7D body. I suppose that a I could have gone wider on the 5D and cropped to get to the same place, but I don’t like cropping landscape images. Also, I would have run into the problem of the background disappearing due to the use of a wide-angle lens. My other choice would have been to use the 70-200 mm lens on the 5D, but that didn’t go as wide as I wanted for that scene.

The 16-35 mm lens on the full frame 5D is crazy wide at 16 mm…

The blockhouse at Muskegon State Park

…I was standing less than 50 feet from that structure to shoot that photo.

At this point, I may as well throw this one in here at this time…

The interior of the blockhouse

…as well as this one.

Historical marker at Muskegon State Park

The stairway shot was a test of the 5D with the 16-35 mm lens in some of the worst light I’m likely to face, and I’m happy to say that I’m pleased with the results.

I have one old image to post again, shot with the 16-35 mm lens on the 7D…

Muskegon State Park sand dunes

…to compare to a six image panorama of the same scene that I shot today. The six images used were shot with the 70-200 mm lens at 70 mm on the 5D body.

Dunes at Muskegon State Park panorama

That shows that there isn’t much difference in the way that the scene appears, but it’s not a true apples to apples comparison.  The first one was the 16-35 mm lens on the crop sensor 7D, so doesn’t show how much smaller the top of the dune would appear if I used the same lens on the 5D. Also, the dune is relatively close to where I shot that from, as the distance increases, the wide-angle perspective change will be greater.

This is more of a true test of what I’m thinking of doing will work, here’s Snug Harbor in Muskegon State Park shot as a single frame with the 16-35 mm lens at 16 mm on the 5D…

Snug Harbor in Muskegon State Park

…and here’s the panorama with three images shot at 28 mm with a good deal of overlap between the images.

Snug Harbor in Muskegon State Park panorama

I probably should have gone all the way to 35 mm for that test, but as windy as it was, I did want to leave as much overlap between the images to assist in getting them lined up correctly. As it was, I was trying to time the waves on the lake so that the image wouldn’t come out looking weird.

I have a couple more images that I shot this afternoon at Muskegon State Park, they may as well go in here now.

A creek emptying into Muskegon Lake

Nothing special, just more of me learning to see through the wide-angle lens on the 5D.

A creek flowing towards Muskegon Lake

Even if the images that I shoot aren’t going to be award winners in any way, I’m still having a great time exploring the world around me through the camera.

Also, I’m thinking of trying something that I’ve never tried before, focus stacking software. While focus stacking software is often used for macro photography to get a greater depth of field and the entire subject in focus…

Unidentified dragonfly


Unidentified dragonfly

…I doubt that I’d be able to use it on insects…

Unidentified dragonfly

…because you really need to use a tripod and have the subject sit still for the length of time that it requires to shoot a series of images while changing the focus slightly between shots to stack together in software that blends the sharpest parts of each image in the stack together to produce a single image with the entire subject sharp and in focus.

I’d really like to give focus stacking a try when photographing flowers…

Bee balm

…so that I could get the entire flower in focus in one image.

Bee balm

I haven’t had too many times when I needed focus stacking software for landscapes, but I’m sure that as I shoot more of them, the need will arise, especially if I use a longer lens to shoot a scene.

Colors and textures

That’s one of the few times so far that the 5D camera has not produced exactly what I had hoped that it would as far as capturing the colors and textures of the vegetation in the scene. Still, that’s much better than what I’ve ever been able to do in the past, so maybe as I learn the 5D better, I’ll eventually get the shot that I want.

Back to focus stacking software, or I should say an image where it wasn’t needed, just for the heck of it.

Red milkweed beetle

There is one thing that I need to remember to do more often. If I see something that I end up shooting, even as a test shot such as the stairway in the blockhouse that I put in this post earlier, I need to “work the scene” and keep every possibility in mind as I’m shooting the scene.

The stairway in the blockhouse

While I like the warm colors of the wood in the previous image, the same scene also would lend itself to a good B&W image if I had put more thought into what I could come up with, rather than thinking only of testing the high ISO setting and dynamic range capabilities of the new 5D. By the way, the stairwell was shot at ISO 25600, and while there is noise in it, the noise is something that I could easily remove in Lightroom if I had put more thought into the image in the first place. There’s still too many times when I look at an image at home on the computer and think to myself about the ways I could have improved it if I had put more thought into what I’d end up with by changing my position or camera settings. Too many of the images I shoot end up as throw aways because that’s what I’m thinking when I shoot them, when they could have been good images if I had applied myself when I shot them.

Sometimes, I luck out, as I was testing the 100-400 mm lens without an extender behind it when I shot this mourning dove…

Mourning dove

…and I looked up again after putting the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the lens again to see that the light had changed…

Mourning dove

…so even though I had planned on moving on and not shooting any more photos of the dove, I had to shoot more when I had better light. It’s almost hard to believe the difference when it was the same dove perched on the same rock and shot from the same spot, all that changed was the sun came out from behind a cloud, and even the water in the background changed color due to the light.

Speaking of water…

Great blue heron

it makes a great background most of the time…

Great blue heron

…whether the subject is a perched bird…

Great blue heron in flight

…or in flight, or flowers…

Queen Anne’s lace

…in groups…

Queen Anne’s lace

…or a single flower head.

I know that this has been another boring post where I’ve written too much about photography, but as I’ve said before, as I take the time to type these posts out, what I’ve thought about and taken the time to type sticks with me in my memory. A few years ago, most of my babbling about photography dealt with my trials and tribulations of learning how to get good photos of birds in flight.

Now, I have the basic camera settings that I need saved in the cameras, and I can shoot images like this most of the time.

Bank swallow in flight

So, in my next post, I’ll show you how I used what I taught myself through babbling away in my blog to good use, showing the swallows plucking insects off from the surface of the water as they fly.

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

Short stories

I have plenty of photos left over from the last two weeks, I’ll have to decide if I’m going to use them now (probably) or wait until I see what I come up with next week. Hmm, looking at my calendar, I see that I have an appointment with the dermatologist this Thursday, so may not get out to shoot any photos at all on that day. My appointment is for mid-morning, which doesn’t leave me enough time before the appointment to shoot any photos. And, the weather isn’t helping either, it remains very hot and very humid here, which limits where I choose to go, and how long I stay out in the heat. So, I won’t be going out after the appointment either.

Maybe I’ll see if I can go out and shoot the Milky Way Wednesday night, then get some sleep before the appointment. I’m really itching to shoot both the Milky Way and a few star trail photos as test shots for future reference, just as the fireworks photos from my last posts were tests for in the future. I need to learn the correct exposure and other settings for my camera and lenses before I spend the time and money to go to a great location for such images.

So, I guess that I will use up the leftover photos that I have. Oh, and by the way, in preparation for, and in conjunction with the physical that I had a couple of weeks ago with my regular doctor, I had more blood work done this week. That’s both to make sure that the medicine that I’m taking to control my psoriasis isn’t causing any major side effects, and to check my overall health. I’m happy to report that I won’t see any of these guys coming for me soon…

Turkey vulture in flight

…although this one seemed to be checking me out.

Turkey vulture in flight

I saw a Cooper’s hawk in the distance being chased by some eastern kingbirds, when I looked through the long lens on my camera, I could see that the hawk had made a kill.

Cooper’s hawk with its kill being chased by an eastern kingbird

I don’t think that it was a young kingbird that the hawk had, the kingbirds weren’t making very much of a fuss, they seemed to simply want the hawk out of their territory, and soon gave up the chase.

Cooper’s hawk with its kill being chased by an eastern kingbird

I spotted a northern flicker on a dead tree…

Northern flicker and downy woodpecker

…if you look closely, you can see a much smaller downy woodpecker above the flicker. The downy was chattering away at the flicker, so I thought that the downy had a nest close by. I’ve never heard of flickers, or any other species of woodpeckers, going after the eggs or young birds of other species, so I kept an eye on the flicker.

Northern flicker

The flicker was just looking for food, and the downy woodpecker’s nest was nearby, but on the other side of the tree.

Downy woodpecker

She looked around to be sure the coast was clear, then entered the nesting cavity…

Downy woodpecker

…to feed her young…

Downy woodpecker

…I used the time that she was in there to switch to the 7D camera for more reach as she looked around again before leaving the nest.

Downy woodpecker

She was very careful about looking for predators that could have been watching her as she went in and out of the nest, but my presence there didn’t seem to bother her.

That wasn’t the case with the osprey. While I was there at their nest the first time, I could see that the female didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that I was standing in the area near the nest, but the male did seem to be bothered by my being there. I’ve never watched osprey near their nest before, so I wasn’t sure. I went back to the nest last week, and this time…

Male osprey returning to its nest with food for his young

…I was sure that the male didn’t want there…

Male osprey returning to its nest with food for his young

…so I shot this series of images to test out the new 5D Mk IV…

Male osprey returning to its nest with food for his young

…for both its auto-focusing and dynamic range…

Male osprey returning to its nest with food for his young

…and then left. The male wouldn’t land at the nest as long as I was there the second time. However, unlike the first time that I visited the nest, I couldn’t get farther away from the nest because the power utility that had built the nesting platform for the osprey had taken delivery of a load of new equipment to be used at the dam, and they had a portion of the parking lot there closed off to use for storing the new equipment. So, I doubt if I’ll return to the nest this year, if ever. Well, maybe to check in to see if the nesting platform is still being used in the future, and just to see these magnificent birds up close from time to time. I’ve gotten the photos of them that I wanted, so there’s no reason for me to stress them in hopes of a better image.

Since the nest is on top of a pole and a good distance off from the ground, I can’t see into the nest, although I did get a few poor images of the female osprey feeding one of the youngsters when I was there before.

I suppose that I could have set-up the portable hide that I still haven’t gotten around to testing, but it seemed rather foolish to use a hide in the middle of a parking lot, and I’m sure that the osprey would have still known that I was there even if I were in the hide. And, since it was another very hot, humid day, the thought of sitting in the hide and sweating to death wasn’t that appealing to me.

If I had more time to devote to shooting a single subject in a single location, things would be different. Just as with the juvenile barn swallows from my last post, I don’t want to stress the birds that I photograph any more than necessary for one or two good photos. So, I suppose that for the time being, I’m limited to telling just short stories.

I do look forward to the days when I can set-up the hide and spend time watching a bird’s nest or something else that would bring wildlife within range of my camera, there’s only a few more years for me to work before I can retire and have the time to do that.

In the meantime, I have to shoot what I can while I can. While at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, I noticed this rose-breasted grosbeak acting strange.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

That was after he stood up and turned towards me. When I first saw him, he was wiggling himself down into the leaves on the ground, at first I thought that it was to stay cool.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

As it was, I had to manually focus on him due to all the vegetation between us as you can see in that image. But, you can also see that he has his feathers fluffed out a bit as he pressed himself into the leaves. I’m not sure what he was doing, if it was to stay cool, or if he was anting. For those of you not familiar with the term “anting”, here’s an explanation from Wikipedia…

“Anting is a self-anointing behavior during which birds rub insects, usually ants, on their feathers and skin. The bird may pick up the insects in their bill and rub them on the body (active anting), or the bird may lie in an area of high density of the insects and perform dust bathing-like movements (passive anting). The insects secrete liquids containing chemicals such as formic acid, which can act as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, or bactericide. Alternatively, anting could make the insects edible by removing the distasteful acid, or, possibly supplement the bird’s own preen oil.”

Scientists still haven’t figured out why birds do what they do when it comes to anting, so whenever I get a chance to photograph a bird that my be doing that, I shoot photos, even if the photos are as poor as those are.

And, I’m still trying to get a good image of a male rose-breasted grosbeak this year. This isn’t it…

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

…I’m afraid that my chances are getting slim, as they will soon be molting out of their breeding plumage. It’s funny, I have several good images of the females of that species this year, with them posing for me in good light. Typically, the females are harder to photograph, because they tend to stay in the shadows or out of sight completely. This year, it’s been the males skulking in the shadows, and the females out in the open.

Here’s another short series of images that show a red-bellied woodpecker finding and eating something that I can’t identify…

Male red-bellied woodpecker

…even though what it found to eat was quite large…

Male red-bellied woodpecker

…and whatever it was must have tasted good judging by the woodpecker’s reaction.

Male red-bellied woodpecker

By the way, my plans to attempt to photograph the Milky Way and/or star trails was thwarted by clouds moving into the area, so I’ll have to wait for another chance to try that genre of photography.

Okay, it’s now Saturday morning, with three more days of very hot, humid days left before more seasonable and comfortable weather arrives here in West Michigan.

After the appointment with the dermatologist on Thursday, I returned home for a while to catch up on chores indoors and out of the heat. Later that day, when I checked the weather forecast and radar to see what Friday was going to be like, I saw dying thunder-storms to the north of where I live, along the route that I drive each night for work. There are several good places along that route for either sunset, storm, or more traditional landscape images, so I thought that I would risk driving that far for photography. It was a chance that I took that didn’t turn out very well. I missed the back of the cloud line as the storms collapsed at around sunset by being about 30 miles too far to the west judging from some of the sunset photos that I saw others had shot that evening. I never did see a bolt of lightning, or hear thunder, but at least there was a little rain. All that I ended up with were three poor landscapes that I’ll put in at the end of this post.

Anyway, taking that trip on Thursday evening more or less ruined my Friday as well. I slept in too late to get anywhere by dawn, and it was another very hot day. Birds don’t like heat any more than we do, and they tend to stay in shady areas and not do very much other than try to stay cool. By the time that I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, it was already hot, and the birds were few and far between. So, I decided to make it a test day of sorts, trying all of my long lenses and tele-converters in various combinations to see how well that they work on the new Canon 5D Mk IV camera that I recently purchased.

One combination that I wanted to test was the 300 mm f/4 Series lens with the 2 X teleconverter. That’s because it’s an f/4 lens, one stop faster than either my 400 mm prime lens, or the 100-400 mm zoom lens.  With the 2 X extender behind the 300 mm lens, I thought that I’d be able to get 600 mm of focal length and use all 61 of the focus points of the 5D. Nope, I can use all the focus points at f/8 with either of the other two lenses and a 1.4 extender with an effective aperture of f/8, but with the 300 mm lens and the 2 X extender for the same effective aperture of f/8, I’m limited to just one row of focus points across the center of the frame. Another Canon quirk.

Before I purchased the 5D Mk IV, I downloaded the manual for it that includes a lens compatibility chart which lists Canon’s various lenses and how many focus points can be used with either the 1.4 X or 2 X tele-converters. Of course I checked the chart for the 400 mm prime and 100-400 mm zoom lenses, because they are the lenses that I use most often, and I was never that happy with the performance of the 300 mm prime lens when I used it with the 60D or 7D Mk II cameras. I saw that both of the longer lenses worked fine at f/8 effective aperture, so after thinking about trying the 300 mm lens on the 5D, I assumed that it would as well.

You would think that f/8 was f/8 no matter which lens was on the camera as far as the focus system inside of the camera body, but it doesn’t work that way I found out, the hard way.

I know, I’m getting far too technical for most people, but these things matter to me as I’m going after the photos that I shoot, and I hope that the information that I pass on will help others who shoot with Canon equipment. Because, I discovered yet another Canon quirk. As I said, I was never very happy with the performance of the 300 mm prime lens on either of my crop sensor camera bodies when the subject that I was shooting was more than about 20 feet from me. The 300 mm lens wasn’t as sharp as I wanted, with or without an extender behind it. It has done an excellent job on subjects very close to me though.

So, here’s the surprise…

Male dickcissel preening

…the 300 mm lens and 2 X tele-converter work very well on the new 5D Mk IV at all ranges from what I could tell from my testing on Friday.

Grasshopper sparrow on a sunflower

I wrote in an earlier post that some Canon lenses perform much better on either full frame or crop sensor bodies than they do on the other type of bodies, and that seems to be the case with the 300 mm lens. I don’t think that it’s quite as sharp as either of my other two long Canon lenses, but it produced acceptable results for me in my limited testing so far. Much better than it did on either of my crop sensor bodies.

It just hit me, now I’m going to have to try the Sigma 150-500 mm lens out on the 5D to see how well it performs on the new camera, sigh.

I shouldn’t do what I’m about to do, but I will anyway, for it shows the results that I got using the various lens/extender combinations while shooting gulls. I know that gulls are boring to most people to begin with, but they do pose nicely for me, a great subject for testing lens and camera performance.

Ring-billed gull

And, having a lot of white feathers, they help me to evaluate the exposure system of my gear.

Herring gull

Also, because they are very sleek in their appearance, most of the time, I can judge the resolution of the various lens/extender combinations better.

Ring-billed gull

To tell you the truth, I don’t see much difference in these images no matter which lens and extender was used to shoot them. I do remember that this next one was shot with the 400 mm prime lens and 2 X extender because I had to manually focus with that combination and I was still able to get a good, sharp image of the gull.

Ring-billed gull

And, I remember that this next one was shot with just the 400 mm lens, because I wasn’t able to get close enough to any of the gulls to get a head shot with just that lens and no extender.

Ring-billed gull

Once again, I’m sorry for posting so many photos of the gulls, but the things that I learn while shooting these tests will help me in the future. Earlier this summer, I was doing dedicated outings where I was focusing mostly on one genre of photography, such as macros, landscapes, or just wide-angle photography. I plan to do more of those in the future, especially after I retire in a few years. Knowing how my various lenses and extenders function on each camera body will become more important when I do make the transition to more dedicated outings.

Besides, since it was another very hot day on Friday, other photos that I shot look like this one…

Sandhill crane

…with the crane panting in the heat, and you can also see the heat waves coming off the ground behind the crane.

So, that brings me to the three landscape photos that I shot Thursday evening. None of them are great, but they do give you a better idea of what Michigan looks like.

A “pothole” wetland, of which there are many in Michigan

At one time, after the great forests that covered most of Michigan were cut down for timber, much of the state was farmed. However, the land here isn’t that fertile, so many farms have been abandoned or have become dairy or cattle farms rather than crop farms.

More of Michigan

This next one is one of the views that I see every evening while driving for work, and prompted me to make this trip. I like this scene because you can see the gently rolling hills and forests of the state I live in. By the way, it was nice of the white cow that you can barely make out in this photo to stand still for the 3 second exposure required for this image.

Another Michigan farm

Bad weather, or times when the weather is changing, often produces the most dramatic images. However, as I said earlier, I missed the change from heavy overcast skies to broken clouds colored by the setting sun by a few miles, darn. But in my defense, I had to guess where the clearing line would be when I arrived in the area that I wanted to shoot over an hour before my arrival there. Or, if I had been able to capture lightning bolts in any of the photos above from the dying storm, these would have been much better.

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

Just the beginning, part two

I’m beginning this post on Wednesday, July 4th, just before I head out to see if I can shoot some photos of fireworks this evening, and then maybe some photos of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s been a very hot day, too hot for me to venture out after working last night.

What I didn’t know when I did my last post was that I wouldn’t have to do the typical four-hour long shift for work on Wednesday, since it’s a holiday. So, I’m not expecting much in the way of great photos of the fireworks tonight, since I didn’t have time to make plans, and because of the weather. It will be a learning experience for me as I get used to using the new 5D camera. I’m also afraid that I won’t have the correct focal length lens for the fireworks.

On my way home from work just before sunrise on the 4th, I could see a dying thunder-storm in the distance, and it was lit up beautifully by the predawn light. I managed to get home in time to run into my apartment and grab my camera for this photo.

Thunder cloud at dawn

That was with the 16-35 mm lens, and even after I cropped it to what you see above, there’s still too much foreground that adds nothing to the photo. So, I ran back inside and switched to the 70-200 mm lens, and even at 70 mm, I couldn’t get the entire storm cloud in the frame. Having had good luck stitching together photos in Lightroom the few times that I tried it in the past, I shot 6 images of the storm cloud in the portrait orientation and stitched them together to produce this image.

Thunder cloud at dawn

In the first place, I can’t believe the difference between 35 mm and 70 mm, from far too wide to needing 6 images stitched together. I know that 70 is twice 35, but I didn’t realize what that meant as far as field of view on a full frame camera, but that’s what I mean about learning to see through my shorter lenses.

In the second place, Lightroom joined the 6 images together much easier than I thought that the process would be.

Well, the fireworks photo shot turned out better than I had the right to hope for.

4th of July fireworks

I could have had a better foreground, but as this was my first time at this location, at least I could see the fireworks going off…

4th of July fireworks

…after moving a few feet to my left.

4th of July fireworks

I chose where to set-up by using only Google maps and a lot of guessing. One of the reasons I chose this spot was because there was a small pond there, and I was hoping to get reflections of the fireworks from the water of the pond. Once I flipped the camera to the portrait orientation on the tripod, I was able to get some reflections…

4th of July fireworks

…but not like I wanted to have in the photos.

4th of July fireworks

But, these are far and away my best photos of fireworks to date. I won’t go into the challenges of photographing fireworks, I’ll leave it at this. I did well enough for me to plan more in the future. I experimented a good deal with various exposure settings, and I could have used every image I shot after some tweaking in Lightroom. For example, I went up with the ISO and captured individual shell bursts with shorter shutter speeds, but they aren’t that interesting. I also went with very long exposures, capturing even more shell bursts, but then their combined brightness tended to fade the colors out of the images. My best results came at 15 seconds, ISO 200, and the aperture at f/8 if any one is interested.

I thought about going into downtown Grand Rapids after the fireworks, but it was still sweltering outside, even at 11 PM.

Okay, it’s now mid-morning on Thursday, and I have decided that I won’t be going to Muskegon this morning, obviously. It’s still sweltering outside, and I didn’t want to bother driving to Muskegon for just a couple of hours of photography before I was driven away by the heat and humidity. In the first place, I slept past sunrise, I guess this heat wave has taken a toll on me and I needed the extra sleep. It doesn’t help that they are building another new addition to the apartment complex that I live in, and that they access the construction site right outside of my bedroom.

While they weren’t working yesterday due to it being a holiday, the noise of the bulldozers and trucks coming and going are something that I’ve been dealing with all spring as I try to sleep. So, between the heat and being sleep deprived already, I decided to spend a quiet day at home. I may do some indoor testing of the new Canon 5D Mk IV later today, or I may run out if I see any thunder storms approaching my area later in the day when I check the weather radar over the course of the day.

It’s forecast to be much cooler tomorrow, cool enough so that I’ll be able to spend the better part of the day outdoors without melting in the heat. In the meantime, here’s a couple of photos shot with the new camera last weekend.

Unidentified green insect


Unidentified white flowers

Okay, it’s now Saturday morning, and I did go out to shoot photos yesterday. It was a relatively slow day overall as far as the number of birds that I saw, but there were plenty of flowers blooming, so I spent most of my time photographing them.

I’m going to attempt to refrain from going on and on about the new camera, however I’m sure that I’ll fail in that attempt. For one thing, because it was a slow day, I shot a good many photos just to see how the new 5D camera stacks up against the old 7D. Another reason that I’ll fail is because I was wowed when I saw how most of the images from the new 5D looked when I viewed them on the computer for the first time. So, I may as well get some of that out of my system to begin with.

Early on in my day, I came across 4 juvenile barn swallows that must have just recently left the nest. There were two of them together side by side and they were the closest of the four to me. So, I shot this photo with the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X tele-converter on the 7D.

Juvenile barn swallows

That’s the way that it came out of the 7D, I did zero editing to it.

I then switched to the 5D with the same lens and tele-converter at the same ISO setting of 4000 for this one.

Juvenile barn swallows

You can see how much reach I lose with the full frame sensor, what you can’t see in the way that the images appear here is how little noise that there is in the image shot with the 5D compared to the one shot with the 7D. The noise shows up more when I view both images full screen on my computer, and the noise would definitely be a problem if I were to print them out, I’d have to do some noise reduction in Lightroom before I could print them, especially the one shot with the 7D.

Anyway, it was a cool morning, a break from the heat wave we’ve been having, and the two swallows were huddled together for warmth I’m assuming. I moved a little closer to them and shot a few photos every now and then when I thought that their poses were good or if I thought that they were going to fly. I caught this “swallow kiss” between siblings by doing that.

Juvenile barn swallows

From what I understand, touching beaks together is one way that birds show affection towards each other.

Juvenile barn swallows

I thought that the one on the left was going to fly away at one point…

Juvenile barn swallows

…but it was only stretching its wings. I could have spent more time watching these two…

Juvenile barn swallows

…but they were getting fed up with me being so close. And, when one of their parents flew towards them to feed them, then turned away when it saw me…

Juvenile barn swallows

…I knew that it was time for me to leave.

By the way, I was so happy with the way that those images looked when they came out of the camera that I did nothing to them at first, I went back to them a second time to crop them a little and to tweak the exposure slightly, although I should have moved one way or the other to have gotten a better background or spent more time editing them in Lightroom.

Since I’m raving about the new 5D, I may as well throw this one in now.

Morning mute swans

I wanted both swans with their entire reflections in the frame, but I couldn’t get the exact shot I wanted, so that had to do. I then zoomed in all the way on the swan on the left as it began preening.

Mute swan preening

And, while I’m showing white birds, here’s a herring gull that I shot later in the day.

Herring gull

I know, too many images of common birds that I post too many photos of, but white birds are difficult to photograph well, and these were shot with the 5D, so I wanted to compare its performance to images I’ve shot in the past with the 7D.

Herring gull

I wish that I had been able to get even closer to the gull so that I could make a direct comparison to my best image of a gull shot with the 7D from a few months ago…

Herring gull

…but I think that you can see more detail in the white feathers of the gull shot with the 5D even at the greater distance.

Birds that are colored black are also difficult to photograph well in many situations, this wasn’t one of those.

Common raven

There were four ravens in the field, but I shot photos of only one of them, just to record my sighting of them.

I did shoot this image later in the day for the purpose of testing how well the 5D handles a black bird against a blue sky…

Red-winged blackbird

…and while the sky looks lighter in that image than it did in person, I didn’t have to reduce the highlights 100% in Lightroom which also kills the sheen from the bird’s feathers as I usually have to do. Here’s how the sky should have looked in the image above.

Male northern cardinal singing

Those two added stops of dynamic range that the 5D has means that I have much less editing to do to my photos when I get home. I could work on the image of the red-winged blackbird more to get the sky the correct color, but it isn’t worth it to do so. You couldn’t ask for a worse day as far as hash shadows, you can’t see a cloud in the sky in any of the images that I shot yesterday…

Green heron in flight

…yet the 5D’s dynamic range helped me produce images that look very close to what I saw without having to raise the shadows under the bird’s wings to the point where doing so introduced noise in the images.

Green heron in flight

I have some very good images of other subjects that I shot…

Buttonbush flower

…that was with the 100 mm macro lens on the 7D, these sunflowers were with the long lens and the 5D…

Unidentified sunflower

…and I put the macro lens on the 5D for this one.

Spotted horsemint or bee balm

I had a great time with whatever camera and lens I was using at the time. Good gear may not guarantee great images, but it sure makes the act of shooting even the bad images that I shot more fun. And, it was a day for playing…

Sparkly water

…even when I purposely under-exposed that image to highlight how sparkly the water looked under the cloudless sky.

Since it was a day for playing around, I shot a series of images to stitch together into a panorama in Lightroom to show how many mute swans I could see from the observation deck at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, but that was a failed effort. It didn’t fail due to Lightroom, but it was because the swans moved, along with the waves and some of the other things in the scenes as I shot them. I didn’t know that it would be a failure, but I suspected it would be, so I shot this scene wide, then cropped off the top and bottom of this image.

Mute swans flocking together

I didn’t know that mute swans would form flocks, because they are usually very territorial.  It’s kind of fun to watch them, as for no reason that I can see, battles often break out between members of the flock. You can hear them going at it even when you can’t see them, but they never approach the preserve so that I’d be close enough for photos, at least not good photos.

I hope that I have all of that out of my system now, but I’m not sure. One thing that I am sure of though is that this new camera will work extremely well in combination with the camera that I have been using. I do still have a lot to learn about the new camera as I get to use it more, and how best to use it in conjunction with the old camera. That will come with time. I also have to do more testing, for example, the 300 mm lens that I seldom use any longer may work well on the new camera with the 2 X tele-converter behind it, I’ll have to give that combination a try soon. I have no doubt that it will work well when I’m very close to my subject, I wish that I had brought that lens along while I was shooting the juvenile swallows.

There I go again, always thinking of ways to get the best images that I can with the gear that I have now, so I’d better end this post or I’ll be doing too much thinking here.

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

Just the beginning

I’m starting this post as I drink my morning coffee before heading out for my second day of shooting with my new 5D Mk IV camera. I’ve had more time to look more closely at the photos that I shot yesterday, and all I can say is that I’m very happy with what I see. The final output from Lightroom may not be a huge leap in quality over what I was able to get from the 7D Mk II, but the RAW images from the camera are much better, and I’m just getting started with the 5D. As time goes on, and I get to know the camera better, and learn to process the images better in Lightroom, I think that I’ll see even more improvement in the overall quality of my images.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop using the 7D, with its crop factor, it gets me closer to my subjects. However, I will limit when I use it to those times when I have enough light to keep the ISO settings down to a reasonable level for that camera. It’s all about getting the best possible images on a given day.

I’m back home now after my second day of trying out the new camera.

I would have liked to have tried a few different places to go with the new camera, but we’re in the middle of a heat wave here with temperatures climbing over 90 degrees (32 C). Unfortunately, that’s forecast to continue for the next week to 10 days, so it looks like I’ll be stuck going to Muskegon until it cools off.

That’s because Muskegon is on the shore of Lake Michigan, and although it’s now officially summer, the water of the big lake is still cool enough so that when the wind blows the hot air over the lake, the air is cooled by as much as 15 to 20 degrees, so the wind coming off the lake is nature’s air conditioning. It helps that we had an east wind most of the preceding week, which blew what little warm water that there was in Lake Michigan to the other side of the lake, letting 50 degree  (10 C) water come to the surface on the Muskegon side of the lake. That cool breeze coming off from the lake sure felt good! I would have liked to have spent some time on the beach shooting landscapes, but as you may imagine, the beaches are a popular place for people looking to escape the heat, and therefore very crowded when it’s this hot.

I began my day by returning to the scene of the crime from the day before, when I had a menu item in the new camera set incorrectly which caused most of my images of the wildflowers to be unusable. While I had great light once again, it was also windy already just after sunrise, but I did mange to get better images than on the previous day.

Purple prairie clover

I should know by now that I should install one of the extension tubes behind the macro lens whenever I’m photographing flowers so that I can get closer to any insects that appear on the flowers.

Unidentified bee on purple prairie clover

But, as much as the wind was blowing the flower with the bee around, I suppose that I’m lucky to have gotten that one.

A few more flowers…

Butterfly weed


Butterfly weed


Milkweed flower

…and the insects that I saw while shooting the flowers…

Red milkweed beetles mating

…this next one is straight out of the camera, as it was a test shot for me and I love it so much I have to include it here…

Rabbit’s foot clover

…when this is what I was shooting the test shot to end up with…

Rabbit’s foot clover

…and I was about to try for a better shot of the insect on this flower…

Unidentified flowering object with guest

…when another insect landed on the same flower, and I couldn’t decide which bug to go for…

Unidentified flowering object with guests

…the long skinny bug made up my mind for me by flying away, leaving me with the green bee to shoot…

Unidentified flowering object with guest

…until it too took off, so I was able to get this clean shot of a flower that looks like a rose, but I don’t think that it is.

Unidentified flowering object

Well, it’s time for me to write something that I’m sure that you’ll tire of reading in my next few posts, the Canon 5D Mk IV is a huge step forward over the 7D camera that I have been using. All of the images you’ve seen so far were shot with the 100 mm macro lens that I’ve been using for a few years now. However, the clarity, resolution, and details is much better, almost if I had a new lens. Also, and it’s hard to explain this, but the images look brighter, even though the I try to keep the exposure of the final image the same as I have been. I think that it’s because the color reproduction is much better, especially with the warmer colors such as yellows, reds, and oranges.

What ever the reason, I love what I’ve seen so far, and it was only my second time out with it. I’m already learning that there are a few differences between the two cameras, the 7D tends to under-expose most scenes, while the exposure system of the 5D is more accurate. Both cameras use the same system, first introduced in the 7D, but Canon’s engineers must have fine tuned the system since the 7D was introduced. It’s the same with the auto-focusing system, again, both cameras use the same system, but they have refined it a great deal in the 5D.

As much as I love the overall image quality of the 5D, it’s hard to beat the 7D especially for getting close to the subject that I’m shooting.

Grasshopper sparrow

And, it isn’t as if the image quality is horrible…

Grasshopper sparrow singing

…so I’ll have to give some thought to which camera to use…

Male dickcissel singing

…small songbird singing from the treetops…

Male dickcissel singing

…or perched on a wire…

Northern mockingbird

…then I should use the 7D for its reach.

Northern mockingbird

By the way, after searching for the mockingbird for a month, it has made itself visible to me on my last three trips.

Northern mockingbird

However, if I’m close to a small bird that’s under the leaf canopy on a bright, sunny day…

Female yellow warbler

…then I should use the 5D for its low noise at higher ISO settings and wider dynamic range.

Common yellowthroat

The 5D works just fine if I do see a bird in good light!

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

This next photo reminds me, I didn’t install the free battery grip that I received with the 5D until I got home from my second day of using the new camera.

Male downy woodpecker

On the evening that I picked up the camera, I didn’t have time to fool around installing the grip. After using the camera without it the first day, I loved how light the 5D was to carry compared to my 7D which I do have the grip installed on.

The battery grips for both bodies weigh far more than it looks like they would, given how small they are. It isn’t the weight of the batteries, I’ve removed one of the batteries from the 7D in the past in an attempt to lighten the camera up a little, and even the removal of the battery didn’t seem to help. However, I do like using the battery grip a lot, both when shooting in either landscape or portrait orientation, and for just carrying the camera around. I’ll live with the extra weight of the grips to make use of how much better I can hold the cameras with them installed.

Female downy woodpecker

In either orientation, I’m able to get a better grip on the camera, which I believe leads to sharper images because I can hold the camera steadier with the grip on it. They are called grips for a reason, and the ones that Canon designed for both bodies do give me a much better feel and hold on the camera while I’m using it.

That brings me to one other thing that I should mention, both bodies can use the same batteries and memory cards.  That meant that I could use my spare batteries and cards in the new body when it arrived to save myself a little money for the time being. I will add a battery or two, and a couple of more memory cards to my kit, but I can get by with what I have for the time being. And, I don’t have to worry about making sure that I have the right spare stuff for each camera with me, what fits one fits the other.

Anyway, back to choosing which came I should use. For insects shot with the longer lenses, it doesn’t seem to matter which body I use…

Monarch butterfly

…both bodies perform well in good light…


…although, I can tell which body I used for each of these images…


…I doubt that the average reader of my blog can, or if they even care which body I used.

For landscapes, it’s the 5D hands down!

Dunes at Muskegon State Park

That one was shot at 20 mm, the next one at 35 mm, as I play with the newer 16-35 mm lens and learn to use it. I did shoot one at 16 mm, but that was too wide of a focal length for a good portrayal of the scene. But, that helped me to realize how wide that lens will go on the full frame body.

Dunes at Muskegon State Park

Just for comparison, here’s about the same scene shot with the same lens but on the 7D from earlier this spring, and at 16 mm.

Muskegon State Park sand dunes

Sorry, I’m sure that most of you don’t care which camera, lens, and focal length that I shot the photo with, but that’s very useful to me for future reference.

Since I tend to be a nerd when it comes to figuring things out, I can think of a number of ways to compare the 7D to the 5D in images, but it doesn’t really matter. The 7D is a 20 MP crop sensor body and the 5D is a 30 MP full frame sensor body, so theoretically, the 7D should have slightly higher resolution due to the smaller pixels packed into the smaller sensor. I do see that to some degree in the few images that I’ve shot with the 5D, however, the overall quality of the images shot with the 5D is much better. It’s almost as if some one raised the clarity slider in Lightroom a good deal in the images shot with the 5D. That, along with more accurate color reproduction and increased dynamic range are the reasons for the differences in image quality that I see, I believe. Again, it doesn’t really matter, they are the two camera bodies that I have to work with, although the more I learn, the better my images will be, no matter which camera I use at the time. And, since I don’t want to end this post with that image shot before the trees leafed out, here’s one more from the new 5D.

Pickerel weed flowers

Like I said, it doesn’t matter why the image quality is better, as long as it is, and I’m happy with what I see, which I am. Much more than I thought that I would, as I thought that the only real difference would be less noise at higher ISO settings.

If it doesn’t cool off around here, and the weather forecast isn’t looking good for that to happen, I may have to try out the new camera doing some night photography to help escape the heat.

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