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

I suppose that it doesn’t matter

Since I recently purchased the Canon 5D Mk IV, I’ve had a chance to see the possibilities of what my photos will look like from now on when I use that camera when compared to the 7D Mk II camera I have been using. I find myself with my bank account drained again, while I would rather have the money to travel to places besides Muskegon. So, I’ve been asking myself, “Was it worth it?”.

I’m not really sure yet, although the details that I see in the images that I’ve shot with the 5D have truly amazed me.

Silver spotted skipper butterfly

The thing is though, readers of my blog or people who see my photos on Facebook can’t see the same level of detail in the images that I can, because I reduce the quality of the images before I post them anywhere on the web. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the fine details in the fibers covering the skipper is well beyond what I would have gotten using the 7D camera.

And, that image was shot at ISO 10000, and while there is some noise in the image, it’s not so much that I felt the need to use Lightroom to reduce the noise, which would also reduce the fine details at least slightly.

There’s another reason to love the better higher ISO performance of the 5D, I can manually raise the ISO somewhat to boost my shutter speeds which results in sharper images as well. Seeing a pair of green herons at dawn yesterday is a perfect example.

Green heron

You can tell that the light was still low from how wide the heron’s pupils are.

Green heron

I was shooting this heron with the settings that the camera came up with, but I won’t bore you with the exact exposure settings, this is boring enough to most of you. I saw that my shutter speed was slower than I would have liked, but that I could raise the ISO two full stops without getting noise with the 5D, so I did, and that meant that my shutter speed was two full stops faster as well.

Green heron watching another land in the same tree

So, here’s the second heron as it bobbed in the wind above the first heron.

Green heron

There’s no way of knowing, since I didn’t change settings back and forth, but I doubt if that last photo would have been as sharp if it had been shot at a slower shutter speed because of the heron’s movements.

Color accuracy is another reason to love the 5D…

Ironweed

…as this color was one that I’ve had trouble with all of my crop sensor cameras in the past. And once again, I love the fine details when I moved closer.

Ironweed

A sidenote, ever since I began thinking of testing focus stacking software to extend the depth of field that I can get in my images, it’s been windy every chance that I’ve had to be out with the camera. To use the focus stacking software, I would think that you the images would need to be shot from the same place, with the subject in the same place, and the wind has made that impossible. I wasn’t even able to get a good image of this English plantain due to the wind…

English plantain

…even though it was sheltered from the wind by a rock. I could see the flower parts vibrating in the breeze even as I held the stem of the plant with my free hand.

I suppose that none of this matters, since I’ve made the purchase and there’s no going back. It’s up to me to make the best of the situation that I’ve put myself in. There are still plenty of opportunities for me to get very good images from the places that I’m limited to now by my budget, I just have to look a little harder, and work a little harder, especially at putting myself in the right place at the right time.

I sort of did that the day after I began this post and wrote what I have so far, along with the photos that I put in this post to this point. On my second day off from work, I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility well before sunrise. It was a foggy beginning to the day, so as I waited to see what the sunrise would bring, I saw this scene…

Misty morning

…and thought that it would be a good chance to try the new 5D out on long exposures. (By the way, there’s a flock of sandhill cranes in the reflections of the trees on the opposite shore to the right side of that image.)

On the plus side, somehow or another I guessed correctly how long to leave the shutter open, 1 minute and 10 seconds. I haven’t done very much photography in that low of light, so how I got it right first shot is beyond me.

On the negative side, I had the great idea of shooting a video to record all the birds singing at that time of day. However, it was so dark that I plugged the external microphone into the wrong jack of the camera, so I got video with no sound. I’ve said plenty of times that sunrise is the best time of day for birding, and if I had been able to record the sounds of the birds, I would have been able to offer audible evidence of that. Just a few minutes later, the birds had quit singing, and had begun looking for breakfast. That is also a good thing, as the birds are actively searching for food, and by mid-morning, they are ready for a nap, and therefore harder to find.

The video that I shot did turn out well, other than no sound, so that was another plus.

I had high hopes that as the sun rose and began to burn through the fog that I’d have the magic light that I’m always searching for, but it didn’t happen, again. A couple of years ago, it seemed like I was finding it often, that must run in cycles.

Anyway, as I sat there waiting to see what the sunrise would bring, waiting to see what the cranes would do around the same time, I saw the bucks that I had spooked without getting a photo the previous week on their way home to bed for the day.

Two whitetail bucks

The third buck was already out in the farm field there.

Whitetail buck

These photos are extremely noisy, but I put no effort into removing the noise, because I wasn’t close enough to get a good image anyway. The ISO setting required was well beyond what I could have used with the 7D though, and I was able to get photos of the deer with the 5D that would have been impossible with the 7D, especially when the bucks were trotting.

Whitetail buck

In fact, I got two at once.

Whitetail bucks

They could tell that I was there…

Whitetail bucks

…and I even got a shot of all three together.

Whitetail bucks

If I had been using my tripod, as I should have, then I could have gone lower with the ISO and to a slower shutter speed when the bucks paused to look at me, especially if I had been using the portable hide. However, behind me as I shot the deer, the sandhill cranes were beginning to dance and stretch their wings as the light slowly increased…

Sandhill cranes and a great blue heron

…and once again, there was a great blue heron in with the cranes that was also joining in the action.

A few of the cranes flew off from time to time, and some of those returned a short time later.

Sandhill cranes in flight

Every time that I think about setting up the portable hide to get closer to my subjects, I face the same question, where exactly do I set it up.

I’m getting a handle on the path that the deer take as they cross the farm field to get to a swale where they spend the daylight hours, so I could arrive before dawn, and be set-up to wait for them. However, with my luck, the deer would take a different route home if I did that, and I wouldn’t be able to see the cranes from there.

The cranes have decided to use the man-made lake as their place to spend the nights this year, so I may be able to sneak up on them before dawn and set the hide up and get closer to them. But, that would mean that I’d miss the deer.

And, you never know what’s going to appear when in nature, for an eagle made a low pass over the lake…

Bald eagle in flight

…and out of nowhere, two coyotes ran along the shore behind the sandhill cranes…

Coyotes on the run

…but by the time I saw what was happening, the coyotes had already passed the flock of cranes.

Coyotes on the run

I have a lot more poor photos of the wildlife that I saw while I waited to see what the sunrise would be like, flocks of Canada geese and mallards flying past, a wood duck landing in the lake, and a northern cardinal flying across the lake, but I think that you get the idea, there was something that I could have photographed almost everywhere I looked that morning at that time of day. Around sunrise, the entire animal kingdom seems to be active, which is why it’s my favorite time of the day.

But, one more example shot as I was testing the 5D to see how well it could track a bird in flight in very low light…

Sandhill cranes and a green heron in flight

…if you look in the bottom right of the frame, you’ll see a green heron in flight, it’s hard not to see plenty of wildlife at sunrise.

Okay, I should know by now that many people will find the photos above that I shot in very poor light interesting for their content. And I should know by now, that when the sun shines…

Grey catbird

…and I stand quietly, partially hidden in the brush…

Grey catbird

…that I’ll get very good images, even if they are of a common species of bird.

Grey catbird

And, I never know what I’ll find to photograph while standing in the brush…

Wasp killing a katydid

…I might find insects rather than the bird I’m waiting to see…

Wasp killing a katydid

…as I did in this instance.

Wasp killing a katydid

I said earlier that catching magic light must run in cycles, the same must be true when it comes to which species of birds that I see, and which ones I can get close enough to for good images. I’ve been trying to find and photograph green herons well for the past few years, and most of the time when I’ve found them, they were out of range. Not so this summer, they’re everywhere.

Green heron

That was shot with the 5D, 100-400 mm lens, and 1.4 X tele-converter. Since the heron seemed comfortable with my being so close, I swapped the tele-converter to the 2 X for these next three.

Green heron

I have to focus manually when using that set-up, and my shutter speed gets slower due to the loss of light with the extender…

Green heron

…but I like the bit of motion blur in that last one as the heron fluffed its feathers…

Green heron

…and I can follow that image with one that’s very sharp. I’m not sure why it is, but the 5D works even better with the 2 X extender than the 7D does, and I had no qualms using that extender with the 7D. I see almost no loss of image quality at all when I view these full size on my computer. Maybe it’s because the 5D has more resolution than the 7D does to begin with?

Okay, I know that my current dissatisfaction with going to the same places shooting about the same subjects all the time is being driven by the need that I feel to explore my more creative side when it comes to photography.

Purple loosestrife

Also, to shoot more photos in other genres than just birds and wildlife, such as landscapes or night photography. I may get my chance next weekend, as that’s when the Perseid meteor shower occurs. And as luck would have it this year, it’s also during the new moon, so the light from the moon won’t interfere with shooting the meteors. It would also be a good time to attempt to shoot the Milky Way, so if the weather forecast looks good, I think that I’ll give it a try.

I really need an attitude adjustment, for I feel like I’m in a slump when I’m not. Purchasing the 5D has made another jump in the quality of images that I’m shooting, but at the same time, I’m also experimenting more often, and the results aren’t always what I hoped that they would be. Sometimes, I know that when I press the shutter release, as with this photo.

Sunflowers on a cloudy day

When I was preparing to shoot that photo, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy with it, I really wanted bright blue sky behind the sunflowers rather than unattractive grey clouds. A bright blue background would have created more of a color contrast between the yellow flowers and the sky, making the image much better. Also, I couldn’t get the composition exactly as I wanted it because of the lens that I had to use. The lens was the 70-200 mm, which is a fine lens, but it wasn’t wide enough at 70 mm for the way that I wanted the image to look. I could have gone to the 16-35 mm lens, in fact, I did look the scene over with that lens, but it was too wide. So, I more or less gave up on that and just shot that photo as another failed experiment for future reference. I probably could have done better if I hadn’t taken the attitude towards the scene that I did.

With a slightly wider lens, I would have gotten closer to the flowers, and lower, so that the trees and open field in the background wouldn’t have been distractions from the flowers. Oh well, I learn from even these failed experiments, and one of these days, everything will fall into place for me.

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

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24 responses

  1. Why not sell the two older (6D?) cameras? I’m sure there are a lot of people who can’t afford new who would love to have them and it would be a good way to get some of your money back. I’d bet they’re still in excellent condition.
    That’s a nice shot of the skipper. And the iron weed. That’s one I’ve never seen. What color!
    Too bad about the low light but I’d be happy with three bucks in one shot. And coyotes too. I’d love to see some of them.
    Great shots of the green heron on the rock. As you said about not seeing them and suddenly there are everywhere, I’m finding the same thing is happening with orchids. Nature is funny that way!
    I think the sunflowers are actually cup plants, especially if they were very tall (7+ feet) and the stems were square. Where the leaf pairs come together at the stem they form a cup which will hold water.

    August 5, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I have plans for the 60D bodies, using them in fixed positions for different subjects. And, one of the bodies has some damage, the LCD display doesn’t work any longer, I think it was damaged in the backpack.

      Low light is still low light, even with the new camera, but it is something to see three bucks at once, one with a good size rack.

      I thought that I learned about ironweed from your blog, most have been some one else’s blog. But, their color is special.

      I’ll have to check the cup plants the next time I’m there, as they were very tall.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:01 am

  2. Love the coyotes, Jerry. They look like they were really moving! So, they weren’t chasing anything you saw?

    Your low-light photos have an ethereal look to them. They may not meet your technical sta dards, but they’re interesting from a viewer standpoint.

    But, my favorites are the final green heron shots. Like your bored grandpa. 😊

    August 5, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! No, the coyotes weren’t chasing anything, I think that they were on their way back to the rest of the pack.
      One of these days, I’m going to have good light for better images, or even more ethereal light for more artistic images.

      Yes, the green heron photos were something special, I do get lucky at times.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:06 am

  3. A fascinating post to read, Jerry. I went through some of the thinking and experimentation that you related to us. Since I got the 5D, the 7D has been left unused most of the time, except when I need that 1.6 factor to extend the reach of a lens. Your photos of the wasp and the green heron are truly excellent!

    ISO 10000 for that beautiful photo of the butterfly. That is awesome! I have not yet gone past 6000 and even there my results were disappointing.

    August 5, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! It may not sound like it, but I’m really enjoying learning the 5D. I have the High ISO noise reduction setting in the menu set to medium, as that’s the setting that worked best with the 7D. I may try to go higher with the noise reduction, or possibly changing the setting depending on the situation in the future. I feel the same way about the 7D and 5D, but I still like the 7D with the 400 mm f/5.6 lens for birds in flight for the reach and faster frame rate.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:32 am

  4. Great captures and post on reasoning, Jerry! I especially love the Grey Catbird!

    August 5, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I love catbirds, both for their songs and for the challenge of getting close to them.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:07 am

      • I forgot to mention, I never noticed the red/rust feathers at the rump of the catbird in my photos. I thought that was really interested!

        August 6, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      • I think that male catbirds show more of the rusty color under their tails, and you have to have good light to see it. And, I hate to brag, but the new 5D I’m using has a much higher dynamic range than a crop sensor camera, and that helps to lessen the shadow that normally hides the rusty patch.

        August 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

  5. I particularly enjoyed that early morning shot all blue, misty and mysterious.

    August 6, 2018 at 3:35 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I shot other versions of the misty blue morning, but the one you saw was my favorite, and closest to what I saw in person.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:08 am

  6. You are spot on when you say that there is interest in the content of your photos…coyotes, whitetail bucks, cranes, eagles…all there in that wonderful, delicate light of sunrise that you’ve captured in your photos. The green heron photo is amazing for its clarity and beauty. Look forward to seeing your photos of the Milky Way…you’re a star photographer already!

    August 6, 2018 at 5:00 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! There may not be any Milky Way shots this month, the weather forecast is for rain on my two days off. The Milky Way has to be shot during the new moon, or light from the moon ruins the photos. I did have a pretty good day as far as the variety of critters I was able to photograph, I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos.

      August 6, 2018 at 7:16 am

  7. Even though you won’t be able to travel for a little while due to your purchase, I think you know that you’ll still have some amazing photography opportunities right where you are. As you said, “you never know what’s going to appear when in nature.” I’d really be interested to see what practice and patience will get you (along with a tripod) when you return to try and capture the dancing cranes or perhaps wait to get those coyote shots again. As with any creative pursuit, it can get deeply frustrating when we don’t get the results we see in our minds. I hope you keep going out there and trying different challenges, because I love seeing the results you achieve with the 5D.

    August 6, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    • Thank you very much! I do wish that nature was more predictable, and that includes the weather. I have such limited time to be out with my camera that I’ve adopted a run and gun approach to photography, when I know that wisely choosing one spot and species of wildlife,then waiting while set-up properly would allow me to shoot better photos. But, I never know if that one species will appear, or what the light will be like if it does appear. Heck, that isn’t limited to wildlife, I was hoping to photograph the Milky Way and Perseid meteor shower this week, but the weather forecast for my days off from work looks as if that won’t happen due to clouds, darn.

      August 6, 2018 at 4:43 pm

      • I don’t think nature would be as fascinating do photograph if it was predictable. But, I do understand being frustrated by the weather and lack of time, both of which are essential to capturing the outdoors. Hoping your luck will turn and you’ll have plenty of upcoming good weather coming your way.

        August 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      • you’re right about the predictability factor in nature photography, but it’s still frustrating during the times when I seem to miss getting the light or timing right.

        August 7, 2018 at 3:27 pm

  8. You are quite right about your readers finding your early morning shots interesting. I am very envious of your capacity to up the ISO to such stratospheric heights.

    The grey catbird with the berry was my favourite today among the sharper shots though I liked the cup plant(?) shot more than you did.

    August 6, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I shouldn’t complain about the quality of any photo shot of a moving animal before dawn since those would have been impossible for me until the addition of the new camera to my kit. Shooting at ISO 25600 is all new to me.

      I enjoy playing cat and mouse with the catbirds, they are determined to hide, so I have to be quick to catch them in the open like that. I had the right idea when it comes to the cup plant, I just wish that the weather had been right at the time.

      August 6, 2018 at 5:21 pm

  9. Since I can’t seem to comment about your Pigeon River Stench/ Golden Lotus essay at that site, please forgive me for using this comment page. I hope you move it there if you like or delete this after reading.

    Your essay was remarkable. I wish I paddled down stream vs up stream when visiting the GL ranch. Everything you said rings true except that not all people their were flakey. As for myself, I was a world traveller, on a very small budget when I visited Golden Lotus. I also studied World Religions and that was part of my attraction to a meditation retreat. Also my brother and his wife were volunteers the first 1 or 2 years, that got me in.

    It was 1971 when I first camped on a hill above the river. I paid $1.50 a night to sleep In the meditation tent and 3 or 4 dollars for 3 meals. Back then turkey was always served on Sundays and dairy product were available, otherwise they were vegetarian.

    I did meet many remarkable people there. It was a perfect place to rest after months of back packing in India and Nepal and also Europe.

    One of my observasations regarding any religious or spiritual groups is, “Guru Worship.” I knew Oliver good enough to clearly see that he loved the attention, to be worshiped, so to speak. I believe heused his own money to buy and developed the retreat. I was never asked to donate and there was no financial proffit from my stays.

    Oliver was no saint, but his position set the stage for guru worshippers, so your discription of flakey visitors and probably some resident volunteers are no doubt accurate. That said, I think if you knew the people l met in the early 70s, with your perspect, I believe you would have got along, and they would have appreciated you.

    Oliver had a big ego, but within his world, I think he had only good intentions, although he enjoyed being praised.

    Here’s a little example of his ego:
    It was his birthday. The plans were a special turkey dinner and group meditation and so on.
    A long hall semi/fully loaded flat bed lumber truck came in the wrong road, the one that went over the dam. The driver stopped before the dam and was told to back out the narrow road. The truck got stuck. I was there with a few others. I organized the unloading by hand. Others got pick up trucks and transported the material to the domes. We all worked very hard. Me being the first and one of the hardest workers, when it got near the end others told me to go clean up. I had all sorts of insect bites, I was sweaty and dirty. I took a shower cleaned up and that felt great. When I steped out of the bathroom, Oliver who was already complaning to Clause saw me and yelled at me saying, “Why aren’t you outside helping” I think Clause cleared that up, but Oliver never did apologize.

    One more incident that ocurred: It was at breakfast shortly after I arrived back from India. There were about 6 of us at the table. Oliver says, “I astro travelled to Sri Yukteswar’s ashram in Puri, India last night. A few of the people at the table knew that I had been at that ashram months earlier I lived there two months for free, food included. His fantasy story was far from reality. No body mentioned it at the breakfast but I know he found out shortly afterwards. He did not ask me anything about my time in India.

    Oliver was just a man that meant well. He was guru worshipped, that’s the problem, it supports a self centered personality and leads some people to think they are perfect and that they are led by God.

    What they needed was some one like you that understood and loved the land and ecosysem to control the dam. Biggest problem with religious naccissists is that they think they are divine.

    This comment is meant for you. You can repost on the right page or better yet, delete it.

    Since I was a visiting member for a few years, I would like to state my regret regarding the damage done. I can’t speak for others, but I can say most, if not all the people I met 71 through 74 at GL were good people that would have prevened the damage had they known.

    August 11, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    • Thank you for your first hand account of what life was like at the Golden Lotus compound. Of course I’ll leave your comment intact, as I do want to present both sides. However, when I bumped into several people from Golden Lotus, none of them would discuss how it operated or what Oliver was like. I’ll try to move this to the correct post, intact, as I said.

      August 12, 2018 at 7:34 am

      • Thanks.
        That Cannon Mk IV produces beautiful clear photos. Have You set on a tripod focused on night sky? The Perseid Meteor shower is at it peak 8/12/18, today. Would be great to catch a fireball.

        August 12, 2018 at 11:30 am

      • Thanks again Gary! I guess that you haven’t seen my last blog entry, I did exactly what you suggest. I actually aimed at the Milky Way but I captured a few meteors in the process. I didn’t get one of the huge fireballs, but enough to satisfy my urge for star photography for the moment.

        August 12, 2018 at 3:12 pm