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

Needs refinement

Before I get to this week’s photos, I have a few leftover from last week to use up.

Caspian tern yawning

I’m not going to add my commentary to these…

Pickerel weed flowers

…other than to say…

Arrowhead flowers

…that I dissect every photo that I shoot…

Ceiling of the blockhouse at Muskegon State Park

…and think of ways that I could improve it…

Bumblebee on purple loosestrife

…if I were given the chance…

Caspian terns

…to shoot the same subject…

Caspian terns

…under the same conditions…

Caspian tern

…which seldom happens.

Anyway, this week, I returned to Lost Lake when the light was better, and I had concocted a rather ugly and cheesy way to hold my flash unit when using my macro lens.

It works well for insects…

Wasp-like insect on goldenrod flowers

…and reasonably well on flowers…

Purple gerardia

 

Purple gerardia

…but not so well with some fungi…

Unidentified purple fungi

…because I can’t always position the flash at the correct angle for the subject.

Here’s a photo of the rig that I cobbled together.

Macro lighting rig

You can see that the flash fires down and towards the subject slightly when I use it, not shown is the piece of tissue paper I use to diffuse the light from the flash unit.

One downside to using that rig is that it is heavy, I definitely have to use both hands to hold the camera with the flash attached. That means that I don’t have a hand free to hold the subject in the perfect position when it’s needed.

Unidentified orchids

And, after 10 inches of rain in three days, everything was still very wet, and I didn’t enjoy crawling around on the ground getting wetter with every move that I made. So, some of my images aren’t quite what I had in mind when I thought about them in advance.

Unidentified orchids

Parts of the trail to Lost Lake were under water left from the storms earlier this week, and I had to do some bushwhacking to get back to the lake, but it was worth it.

Another unidentified flower

I need to work on the macro lighting rig and refine it. The cheap plate that attached the rig to the camera is too flexible, and I can’t tighten it enough so that everything stays in place all the time. The black flexible stand works well enough, although it doesn’t offer as much range of motion as I had hoped, and it’s very heavy. It does hold the flash unit in place though, and that’s what counts.

It takes even more light that I anticipated to shoot very good macro photos, in the deep shade where I found a few examples of fungi growing after the recent rain…

Oyster mushrooms

…I had to boost the ISO all the way to 6400 even when I used the flash unit. And even then, the way that the flash is pointed on my homemade rig…

Yet another unidentified fungi

…the stems of some subjects were in the deep shade caused by the angle of the flash unit.

I had planned on bringing the LED light that I have with me, but it wouldn’t fit in the backpack that I used to carry my gear in back to Lost Lake. The LED light would have helped to kill the shadows caused by the flash enough to make these better images, but since I wasn’t able to test it, I’m not sure.

If I had used a tripod, things would have been better, although the tripod that I have wouldn’t have worked as close to the subject that I have to be for macro photos, or as close to the ground as fungi are. And, I’d rather not purchase (and carry) yet another specialty tripod, one best suited for macro photography.

The lone fungi mini-scape

That was shot with the 24-70 mm lens as a test of sorts, I like the lone brightly colored fungi against the bright green moss, if I could have gotten lower, it would have been even better. But to do that, I’d have to have dug a hole to lower the camera down into. 😉

I don’t want this to be all talk of camera gear, but it’s hard not to, because this trip was another test of sorts.

This excursion was all about macro photography, although I did carry the 100-400 mm lens in case I saw birds, which I did.

Olive sided flycatcher

And, that set-up works well for close-ups as well…

Unidentified coral fungi

…on this day, it worked better than my macro lens on the 5D.

Unidentified coral fungi

I also carried the 100 mm macro lens, of course, and the new 24-70 mm lens, flash unit, and a few other accessories, like the set of extension tubes to go behind the macro lens.. I packed them all but the birding set-up in the free backpack that I received a few months ago, the bad part was that the free backpack didn’t hold all that I wanted to bring, and it’s very inconvenient to use. The 5D with the 100 mm macro lens filled the top compartment, everything else went into the lower compartment. That meant overtime that I wanted to shoot a macro, I’d have to take the backpack off, remove the camera from the top compartment, then move the backpack around to access the lower compartment for the required accessories. I had to reverse all of that to move to the next location. By the way, the lower compartment has not only a separate zippered cover, but extra material and straps that have to be packed into the compartment to close it again, a royal pain.

The good news was that with just about everything that I needed but the LED light, the backpack was light enough that I could have easily gone much farther than the mile that it is to Lost Lake, plus the mile for the return trip, even with having to detour around the flooded sections of the trail. In fact, I could have easily carried the 16-35 mm lens with me as well, and possibly the 70-200 mm lens also. In comparison to the backpack that I have filled with my crop sensor camera gear, the full frame sensor lenses seem to be much lighter.

I mentioned that I had brought the extension tubes with me, I should have used them for these tiny white fungi that I saw.

Tiny white fungi or slime mold

The green line across the photo is a pine needle, that’s how small the fungi were, and why I should have used an extension tube to get closer to them. But, I was having trouble getting enough light as it was, I couldn’t afford to lose another stop or more of light by adding the extension tube behind the lens. Again, the LED light would have helped to put more light into the scene. Here’s something else that I wished I had used an extension tube on.

Possibly mold on a fungi? Or slime mold?

It doesn’t look like much in that photo, but the network of intertwined filaments (for the lack of knowledge of what they really are) was quite beautiful when I looked through he viewfinder. I think that if I’d been able to get closer, I could have gotten more depth in that image, along with showing how it was structured much better than I did.

Overall, the day was a good one, even though after I’ve reviewed the images that I shot, I should have tried different angles and/or techniques for many of the things that I saw.

Heal all?

My biggest disappointment of the day was this image.

Puddle abstract

The leaf in the upper right of the frame was floating on top of the water in a puddle. The brown maple leaf left of center as on the bottom of the puddle, and the green blobs were the reflections of leaves from trees overhead. I could get the camera to focus on the reflections of the leaves, but then the puddle itself was out of focus. Just as in the water-lily image from my last post where I got the refracted light from the sky as bright blue rings…

Water lily and bee

…I like the bright green and blue lines around the bottom edge of the puddle, caused by the refraction of the light from the green of the leaves and blue sky overhead, along with the overall color combinations in the puddle scene.

It’s a funny thing about photographing reflections, the camera doesn’t “see” the reflections on the surface of the water on the same plane as the surface of the water, to get the reflections in focus, the camera goes by the distance from where the items being reflected are in reality, in this case twenty to thirty feet above the surface of the water. So, while the puddle was about five feet from me as I shot the image, I would have had to focus much farther away then that to get the reflections in focus.

I should have spent much more time at the puddle, trying different things. I could have zoomed in on just the bright green and blue lines along the edge of the puddle for a striking image. Or, I could have possibly gone to the wide-angle lens while moving closer to the puddle to retain the same composition, but gain depth of field to get both the puddle and its contents in focus along with the reflections of the leaves at the same time, the way my eyes saw the scene. I blew it again by being in too much of a hurry when presented with the opportunity to shoot something special.

Thinking more about the puddle image, maybe focus stacking software would have been a way to get the final image I was after with both the reflected leaves and the puddle all in focus at once. However, I was too dumb to shoot a shot of the leaf reflections in focus to try later.

It’s much easier to photograph the beauty in nature when it comes in the form of things such as a large flower, an iconic landscape, or a particularly beautiful species of wildlife. It’s harder to find ways to shoot images that require special equipment or techniques to be able to share the beauty that’s in nature all around us, but that most people miss because it’s so small or subtle.

Anyway, I have to do better as far as working a scene and getting the best that I can as far as images, I tell myself that all the time, but I usually fail.

My other big failure for the day was this one.

Smartweed?

I thought that I had enough depth of field and the correct focus point to get both the flowers and leaves with the water drops in focus, so sure that I didn’t bother to check when I should have. I loved the light that I had for that image, and I forgot everything else.

On the other hand, I was quite pleased with this photo.

Leaf cascade

On my way back to Lost Lake, there were more birds along the trail than I’ve seen in a long time. Most of them were woodpeckers of various species, including a pileated woodpecker. I worked my way along the trail very slowly, not wanting to scare the pileated away, while at the same time, I shot these.

Northern flicker

The flicker was looking for breakfast…

Northern flicker

…chipping away at the dead wood…

Northern flicker

…and spitting larger pieces of wood out as the flicker removed them.

Northern flicker

Hairy woodpeckers look exactly the same as their smaller cousins, downy woodpeckers, other than their size, and longer beak. But they are becoming rare around here, and no one knows why, when other species of woodpeckers are doing well.

Hairy woodpecker

I never did get a shot of the pileated woodpecker, as it stayed hidden behind some leaves, and just as I was about to get to an opening through the leaves, a Cooper’s hawk flew overhead, fighting all the birds away. I stood there for a while, and a short time later a flicker flew overhead with the Cooper’s hawk behind it. They did a semi-circle around me, but I wasn’t able to get the hawk in focus long enough for a photo, darn. I was looking almost straight up with the backpack on, which made it hard to follow the action as fast as it was.

I have quite a few macro photos from the day left over, but you’ll have to wait to see them. Also, I shot one of my very best images of a dragonfly, one of my best images of anything to tell the truth, yesterday while I was walking around in a local park. But, since I’m already over my self-imposed quota of photos for this post, the dragonfly will be in the next post also.

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

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15 responses

  1. I am intrigued by your macro lighting setup. It produces good results so far, and maybe if you keep making improvement it will be perfect for you. Have you ever used a macro ring light?

    The water lily photo looks very nice, nothing wrong with that refracted light. I have a similar shot without that effect, perhaps because it was taken near noon time when the sun was already high.

    September 1, 2018 at 11:13 am

    • Thank you very much Hien! I think that when I make the changes that I want to make to the macro lighting set-up that I’ve cobbled together that it will work better than a ring light.My brother has a ring light for his Pentax, and hates it, he told me not to bother. I’ve heard the something from others as well. Then there’s the cost, the Canon version is close to $600 if I remember correctly, and the off brands are inconsistent and not always reliable. Getting my LED light mounted right and using it will help a lot.

      I like the refracted colors, another reason to get out there early in the morning to catch the best light of the day, usually that is. 😉

      September 1, 2018 at 11:50 am

  2. Wonderful captures, I love the unidentified purple flowers with the water droplets, the purple mushroom, and the red mushroom mini-scape!

    September 1, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I ended up getting soaked to the bone shooting those because everything was covered with water drops that morning, but it was worth it.

      September 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm

  3. I loved your pictures of the Caspian Terns,striking photographs.

    September 1, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! It helps that the terns are striking birds to begin with. 😉

      September 2, 2018 at 5:21 am

  4. Another excellent set of pictures accompanied by an illuminating commentary. What you need is an assistant(s) to hold the lighting gear at the right angle while you do the shooting. I have seen documentaries about cameramen who sit in their car looking at a computer screen while lowly assistants do the actual camera wrangling!

    September 1, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I’ve seen the same sort of documentary, it would be nice to have an assistant to help carry gear and hold lights and even subjects in place though. I’ll never be able to afford one. The alternative is something else I’ve seen, bring the subject back home and set up a mini studio on the kitchen table with perfect lighting and background and shoot photos that way. I even saw where a couple had purchased an exotic frog and then built a small pond for it in their home so they could get an award winning photo of the rare frog. To each, his own I suppose.

      September 2, 2018 at 5:27 am

  5. I didn’t know that birds yawned. I don’t why, but that makes me happy.
    I repled to a previous comment you left today on my blog about what the gerardia may be.
    I don’t know what that unidentified flower is, or even if it is a flower, but the fungi in the next shot are oyster mushrooms.
    I think the two unidentified tiny fungi are actually slime molds. That second net like one is amazing!
    I couldn’t do what I do with fungi and slime molds without LED light. Luckily the camera I use for macros has it built in. You might want to get a small pocket one. It doesn’t have to be big; the one on my camera is about as big as the head of a wooden match.

    September 1, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen, and thanks again for your help in trying to ID some of the things I see. I checked several sources and I’m not sure, but I think that the flowers that I found were purple gerardia.

      Yes, birds yawn, quite often in fact, as do most warm blooded animals, and even some reptiles.

      I thought that I had seen similar tiny fungi in one of your posts, but I didn’t have time to scroll through your posts to check. The one that looks like a net was amazing, it sparkled slightly in the light, but I couldn’t get close enough to show that. No matter what it was, it was beautiful, and I’m very glad that I noticed it for a change.

      I do have a LED light, actually two, a large one and a small one. But, trying to hold anything along with a heavy DSLR is more than I can do. I have a way in mind to use both the flash and LED at the same time, it also takes a lot of light to get the fine details in the small things when using a DSLR. I almost think that it would be easier to go with a compact digital camera like the one you use rather than what I’m trying to do.

      September 2, 2018 at 6:24 am

  6. A very nice collection of shots. Due to the incredibly low light in the deep woods we’ve been playing around with the on-camera flash on the FZ200 but the light is a bit harsh. If possible I try stepping away and zooming which does seem to help but definitely need to upgrade lighting on one of my DSLR rigs to get more “natural” results.

    September 3, 2018 at 6:48 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! I sometimes do about the same thing that you do, switch to the 100-400 mm lens to get further away from the subject, but then, getting the composition that I want is often compromised. Macro lighting is difficult, every one seems to use different ways of getting enough light, good luck in your quest to do so.

      September 3, 2018 at 3:21 pm

  7. I love the colours in the puddle abstract shot; really beautiful! The slime moulds are fascinating too, especially the net-like one. The caspian terns are fabulous with their orange-red beaks and their black legs. Do they stay in Michigan all year round or do they migrate?
    I really liked the leaf cascade; our leaves are changing colour early this year. Thanks for so many shots to admire, Jerry!

    September 6, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’m glad that you liked so many of the photos in this post, because I enjoy photography such a wide variety of subjects, from the tiny slime molds to larger birds and other critters. Like most terns, the Caspian terns are migratory, although they go by the availability of open water rather than the calendar from what I’ve seen.

      The leaves are on their way to their fall colors already here, in a way, it’s a bit sad to see that already. It means summer is about over, hopefully, this winter won’t be as bad as the past few have been.

      September 6, 2018 at 10:25 pm

      • I hope so too! Our leaves were late appearing on the trees this year and now they are going so soon!

        September 7, 2018 at 6:22 pm