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

A follow up

This post will at least begin as a continuation of my last post, in words more than in photos.

I enjoyed my day trip to northern Michigan a great deal, despite the crowds in places and the traffic. Most of the crowds were either getting snockered while on a vineyard tour, or spending their money in the gift shops in the area. I did have some almost alone times that made me remember the things that I love about northern Michigan. The fresh air coming from Lake Michigan, often mixed with the scent of pines, or campfire smoke. How it cooled off as soon as the sun went down, even on a very warm day. The wide open spaces, or I should say, seeing hills and valleys when so many of the places that I go on a weekly basis are quite flat.

There are plenty of other parts of northern Michigan that I could have gone to if I had wanted to escape the crowds, although I fear that they are becoming harder to find than they were a decade or two ago.

I am very pleased with both the landscapes and the star images that I shot, and what I learned while shooting them. I thought about trying for better images of the Perseid Meteor shower on Friday night, but two things stopped me, clouds rolling in, and a lack of a good spot near home that would allow me to have an interesting foreground in the frame while capturing the meteors overhead.

When it comes to landscape photography, one thing is becoming emphatically clearer all the time, the importance of scouting locations in advance if possible.

Scenes that are appealing to us as we see them in three dimensions with our eyes often do not produce very good two-dimensional images as seen through a camera. The opposite is also true, what produces a good two-dimensional image may not be the most beautiful scene as we see it in three dimensions. That’s what I mean when I say that I’m learning to see the world through my camera with a wide-angle lens on it.

I meant the last trip as both one to learn new photography techniques, and as a scouting trip of sorts. In some ways, the trip was a complete bust when it comes to the latter. It will probably be a few years before the sour taste of the crowds near Traverse City leave my mouth, and I can bring myself to return to that area. By then, I’ll have to start from scratch again. However, while I only shot a handful of photos during the middle part of the trip, I feel that I saw several areas that warrant future scouting trips to those places.

The good news is that this last trip didn’t hit my wallet as hard as I feared that it would, so I think that I can safely begin planning trips for this fall. That’s even though I have just ordered the last lens that I need to complete my kit when if comes to my move to shooting with a full frame sensor camera, the Canon 24-70 mm f/4 lens. I’ve posted the details about this lens in previous posts as I drooled over it up until this point, so there’s no need for me to repeat myself yet again.

After all, there’s no reason to spend money on trips to northern Michigan if I don’t have the correct lens to photograph the things that I see. And, I’m sure that as much as I’ve loved exploring close-up photography with a wide-angle lens, having the 24-70 mm lens will only add to that with its near macro capability. I should take delivery of the lens before my next day off from work, but I’ll probably just go to the Muskegon area to begin testing it out.

Anyway, the difficult thing for me while scouting is visualizing how a scene will look in different lighting, but I’m getting better at that all the time. So, the more I do, the more I should be able to improve my skills in that department.

One thing that will assist me while scouting is that both the 7D and 5D cameras have GPS capabilities built-in. When I download the images that I shoot with the GPS turned on into Lightroom, Lightroom plots the location where the images were shot in Google Maps. So while scouting, I can shoot photos that I know that I won’t use but they will help me remember the scene, and I’ll have a GPS record of where that photo was shot for future reference so that I can return to the same spot later when the light is better.

Newsflash!

Even though I’ve had the 5D Mk IV for over a month now, I just got around to printing any images that I’ve shot with it, one of the sunset…

Sunset at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse beach

…and Milky Way…

Manistee River Valley at night

…images from my last post. All I can say is WOW! I have a 27 inch iMac, and the details in the prints go beyond what the iMac can render on the screen! So, not only can’t readers of my blog see how good the 5D is when it comes to resolution and details in an image, I can’t either, when looking at the images displayed on the computer. I may actually have to consider softening some images in the future, especially if I were to photograph a person, or when extreme sharpness in an image runs counter to the mood that I want to convey in the image.

That also means that I’ll have to be more careful in getting the focus exact for a scene, and pay more attention to all the details in a scene when I’m photographing it. Not only does the increased resolution make the good parts of a scene look even better, that same thing works to show the flaws in the images as well.

So, back to scouting trips. They will be modest in distance and duration this fall, but by next summer or early fall, once I have the bill for my hospital stay last spring paid off, I should be free to travel further and for longer periods of time. I’m thinking of taking the week of vacation that I’ll have coming next year and going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to photograph the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and other of the more scenic areas available there.

I’m fired up already! However, I still have a lot of work to do until that time comes. So I suppose that it’s a good thing that the trip will be over a year away as it stands now, if I’m able to swing it then.

I’m not going to list everything that I have to work on, other than learning my newest equipment. Beyond that, it’s continuing to do what I have been doing, learning all aspects of photography and improving on them.

I do have one more thing to say, and this has been building for some time now. The addition of the 5D Mk IV has really fueled a growing feeling within me to expand not just the subjects that I photograph, but also to attempt to become more creative in the way that I approach photography. That may have been apparent before, when I shot photos of downtown Grand Rapids, both during the day, and at night. In fact, it’s become an obsession, where ever I go, what ever I’m doing, I now look at the world around me thinking of ways to photograph what I see. It may not require a top of the line camera to take a great image, but it sure makes it easier. That may be the thing that I love most about the 5D, using it is even easier than using the 7D is, and that allows me to put more thought into the images that I shoot, increasing my chances of shooting a great image now and then.

Maybe becoming more creative isn’t the right way to say what I’m trying to say, as I’m not a very creative person to begin with. What I’m working towards is to share the beauty of nature as well as I possibly can, and at times, that will mean going beyond what I’ve been doing so far. I really like the Milky Way image above, where I combined a bit of landscape photography by including the view of the Manistee River Valley with the Milky Way above it.

You may have seen similar images, that include the Milky Way or just the night sky over some famous landscape features before, so I’m not breaking new ground there. But that’s something that I’ll keep in mind as I’m scouting locations to photograph.

Anyway, time for some new photos. I went out Friday evening last week, and tried once again to get the image of the cup plant flowers that I have in mind, once again, I failed.

Cup plant flowers

But, that one is closer to what I want than my previous attempt was. If they are still in bloom this week, and the weather is good, I’ll try again with the new lens so that I can get closer, yet also move up a little as well, while getting them all in the frame at once. With the 70-200 mm lens, I had to move back away from the flowers more than I wanted to, and that forced me to shoot at a steeper angle upwards than I wanted.

But, as I was trying to get the shot of the flowers that I wanted, I saw several bees on the flowers, so I zoomed in to 200 mm for this shot.

Bee on a cup plant flower

That may be a good example of getting more creative, I really like the out of focus foreground, even though it’s a bit cluttered with too many buds and blooms. Here’s an example of what I typically would have shot.

Bee on a cup plant flower

I was too far away from the bee in both photos, I knew that when I shot them, but it doesn’t matter as much in the first photo the way that I framed it with the out of focus flowers versus the ho-hum look of the second photo.

Here’s a juvenile bald eagle watching a huge flock of swallows as the swallows fed.

Juvenile bald eagle and swallows

And, here’s the zoomed in version.

Juvenile bald eagle and swallows 2

These next three are to remind me to never give up on a sunset. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky during my drive to the Muskegon area, which is why I went to the wastewater facility in hopes of shooting birds. But, just as the sun went down…

Surprise sunset

…a few clouds appeared on the horizon and inland farther…

Surprise sunset 2

…and the color in the sky only intensified after the actual sunset…

Surprise sunset 3

…and it had to have been one of the longest lasting sunsets that I have ever witnessed. I had hoped to shoot the sunset over Lake Michigan, but with no clouds in the sky, I had changed my plans, I shouldn’t have.

Those are the only photos from Friday, so I’ll put this post on pause for the time being.

“M” is for macro

Well, I made it out with the 5D and the new 24-70 mm lens, but I spent most of the day with the 100 mm macro lens on the camera, learning how to get better macro photos. First though, I returned to the cup plant flowers for this shot.

Cup plant flowers

I got everything that I wanted, other than a clear, dark blue sky in the background. I shot that one at about 40 mm, and it’s good and sharp all the way to the corners. Seeing a large number of goldenrod soldier beetles on the flowers, I flipped the 24-70 mm lens to the near macro mode for this one.

Goldenrod soldier beetles

There’s far more depth of field than with my 100 mm macro lens, but the macro function of the 24-70 mm lens isn’t very versatile. That lens will only focus on a narrow band in the macro mode, which really won’t be much of a problem the way I intend to use it. It does seem sharp enough though…

chicory

I tested it straight at 70 mm as close as it will focus…

Milkweed flowers at 70 mm

…then flipped it into the macro mode for this one.

Milkweed flowers in the macro mode

It does get me a bit closer in the macro mode, and with more depth of field than the 100 mm lens. So, it will make a nice addition to my kit, especially on longer walks when I want to travel light.

I also shot a few landscape photos over the course of the day, but between the weather and lack of any compelling scenes to shoot, I’m not going to post any of those. I will say that the 24-70 mm lens is equally as sharp as the 16-35 mm lens that I love, so when the time comes for landscapes, I have all the lenses that I need.

I did look for birds and/or other wildlife, but there wasn’t much to photograph, so the day turned into a test day for me. I used the 100 mm macro lens, the flash unit that I have, and used a cord to hold the flash unit off the camera. That made it tricky to hold the camera still, but I managed.

Goldenrod soldier beetle

Since the fastest shutter speed the 5D will synchronize the shutter and a flash unit is 1/200 second, I switched to the manual mode and dialed the shutter to that setting, the aperture to f/16 for depth of field, and the ISO was set to auto to compensate for the correct exposure.

Goldenrod soldier beetle

There are several advantages to using the flash unit, better lighting for one. I found that whether the sun was behind a cloud, or shining directly on the subject that I was shooting, the ISO came out to 400 unless I dialed in compensation for unusually light or dark subjects, and I did that through flash compensation.

Goldenrod soldier beetle mating

The strobe effect of the flash unit worked as if I had the shutter speed set much faster, yet my aperture stayed stopped down, and the ISO stayed relatively low.

Goldenrod soldier beetle mating

Once I had the details worked out, it was simply a matter of finding other flowers to shoot.

Spotted knapweed

 

Buttonbush flowers turning red

 

Arrowhead flower

 

Spotted jewelweed

 

Bull thistle

 

Pokeweed flowers

I really wanted to find a few more insects to photograph, and I thought that I had found a green sweat bee that I’d be able to shoot. I don’t know what tipped the bee off every time I pressed the shutter release, but it flew to a different spot on this leaf as the flash fired every single time.

Green sweat bee avoiding being photographed

The bee would land, I’d get it in focus, press the shutter release, and the bee would be someplace else on the leaf when the mirror in the camera flipped back so that I could look through the viewfinder again. I’ve shot them before, and while they seldom sit still for long, I’ve never had one react to the sound of the shutter like that before. I thought that the duration of the flash was so short that nothing would be able to react to it, but that bee seemed to, I’ll have to do some more testing to make sure though.

I have one more macro shot…

I’ve forgotten what these berries are (again)

…and a B&W image that’s nothing special, other than it was shot with the new lens.

The boardwalk at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Anyway, I find myself using the manual mode more often all the time, to force the camera into settings that I want, rather than the settings it calculates would be the best for a scene. Part of the reason is because I’ve been photographing subjects that aren’t conducive to letting the camera control the exposure, such as the night photography I’ve been doing. In my limited testing on this day shooting macros while using the flash unit, I can see how much of an improvement that made over my usual macro photos.

Both the 7D and 5D exposure systems work quite well when photographing easy subjects, so I’ll probably continue to use aperture priority most of the time for perched birds and the like, and shutter priority when photographing moving subjects, such as birds in flight. However, both cameras come up with some bizarre settings if I use a flash for any subject. By going to manual, I can control the shutter speed and aperture to get what I want, which is especially helpful when it comes to macros. And, I really like the results that I came up with while using the flash, so that will become my default starting point for macro photography from now on.

It was nice not having to worry about sun angles or shadows when choosing which flowers to photograph, I could concentrate on the flower and the background, and let the flash create the light that I wanted. The only problem that I ran into was in trying to hold the camera steady with one hand while holding the flash where I wanted it with the other hand. But, because of the strobe effect of freezing motion, that wasn’t as much of a problem as I feared it would be while I was looking through the viewfinder. I got a much higher percentage of sharp images than I anticipated I would while I was shooting them. Still, I can see how a bracket to hold the flash off camera would be something very useful and will allow me to hold the camera even steadier to get the exact focus point in the scene where I want it.

Most of the rejects from the day weren’t rejects because of motion blur, but because I moved slightly while pressing the shutter release, and the focus point moved within the scene, causing rejects because what I wanted in focus wasn’t.

It’s now mid-morning on Friday, one of my days off from work. I should have left my apartment hours ago to shoot more photos, but the weather is sapping my motivation. It’s been hot and muggy all summer long, since May in fact, and I slept much longer than usual last night to begin with. Now, a very slow band of light rain has moved into the area, which we need badly. Although it’s been muggy all summer, we’ve had about half the rainfall of a typical summer, so it’s very dry across most of Michigan. So, even though I have a new lens and a relatively new camera, I think that I’ll run some errands today that I would normally take care of before work, then go out this evening if it cools off a little after the rain.

Well, I may not make it out today at all. The band of rain has wobbled around over the mid-Michigan area all day, and it looks like it is going to continue to do so until after sunset. That’s a good thing, we needed a all-day rain such as we’ve had today. But, to finish off this post, I’m going to go back to last summer about this same time for some photos that I’ve never gotten around to using until now for one reason or another.

Peregrine falcon harassing a juvenile gull

I thought it interesting at the time that the other gulls and ducks resting in the same pool of water that you can see in that photo…

Gulls and ducks resting as the peregrine falcon flies overhead

…paid little to no attention at all to the falcon flying over them.

Since I doubt that I’ll shoot many shorebirds this fall, here are some from last year.

Stilt sandpiper

 

Stilt sandpiper

 

Lesser yellowlegs to the right, pectoral sandpiper to the left

 

Pectoral sandpiper

 

American golden plover

And finally, this is the rig that I used to shoot the solar eclipse…

Near total eclipse of the sun, August 21, 2017

…last year.

My tripod and gimbal head

I may have to use that tripod and head for star photography if I can’t figure out a way to get my other tripod head to tilt up as much as I need it to in order to get the portions of the sky that I want in the frame, even though the tripod not shown is better in other ways for star photography.

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

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14 responses

  1. No wonder you take such first class photographs, you put such a lot of work into each and every one of them, I am constantly amazed at what you post. I don’t know what I admire the most, birds, flowers or views!

    August 17, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I do work hard at my photography, but it’s a labor of love.

      August 17, 2018 at 5:27 pm

  2. You certainly got some great shots of the flowers, and everything else too!
    I love those sunset shots but that last one is really saturated with color.
    Nice macros too! It’s looking like your cameras will shoot just about anything you could want any way you want it now.
    The berries look like silky dogwood. I haven’t seen any ripe ones here yet. I’m waiting for them and the cedar waxwings that will be eating them.
    Nice shot of the eclipse. I didn’t even try that one.

    August 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! With few birds around, and a day with light winds, it seemed like a good day to work on my macro skills when using the flash.

      That sunset still haunts me, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky an hour before the sun began to set, when I saw what was happening, I thought it too late to make it to the beach to catch it. Instead, that not only lingered, but grew more intense as time went by, for over an hour.

      Thanks for reminding me what the berries were, I added that keyword in Lightroom now, and that’s often enough to cause the ID to stick with me, but I find that I can go back to the same time in previous years to see if I’ve added an ID before.

      We were on the edge of the eclipse here in Michigan, I should have gone another 100 miles south for a better view.

      August 17, 2018 at 5:50 pm

  3. Those macros are superb! They kept getting better as you got closer, and that pokeweed flower really stands out. Like you wrote, all these shots are a labor of love.

    August 18, 2018 at 8:26 am

    • Thank you very much Hien! I’m trying to learn from your stunning images of flowers how to do better myself, although I still have a long way to go.

      August 18, 2018 at 8:33 am

  4. Your dedication to photography is amazing. All these photographs are wonderful to look at and enjoy. No favourites today as I love them all!

    August 19, 2018 at 5:48 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! My real dedication is to nature, photography is a means for me to share nature with others.

      August 19, 2018 at 7:28 am

  5. Looks like that new lens is going to be a keeper, Jerry. Looking forward to lots of macro shots in future posts.

    How long was your exposure in your milky way photo? Was this a single image? I keep going back to it – it’s gorgeous.

    August 19, 2018 at 8:27 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, the new lens is a keeper, it’s going to produce some stunning images soon.

      And yes, the Milky Way is a single image, shot at a 20 second exposure. The new camera made that shot as good as it is because it handles long exposures much better than my other camera. There may be more Milky Way images in my future, now that I have the equipment and knowledge required. 😉

      August 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm

  6. Outstanding detailed captures as always, Jerry, and I love the sunset! Your photography is wonderful, evidenced by your hard work!!! 😊

    August 23, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! It’s a labor of love when it comes to the work I do to make my photos better.

      August 24, 2018 at 9:58 am

  7. The sunset is a beauty, Jerry! I liked the shot of the Lesser Yellowlegs and the Pectoral Sandpiper because it showed up the difference in the pattern on the feathers really clearly. I would never have been able to see which was which easily otherwise. The flowers and the soldier beetle shots are all fabulous!

    August 26, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Shorebirds are extremely difficult to ID, I started off trying to get only one bird in the frame at any one time, but you’re correct, seeing two different species side by side shows the differences between the species better.

      August 27, 2018 at 4:29 pm