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

Eaten alive, drained of blood

Well, I was going to whine about the swarms of sand flies and mosquitos that drove me off the beach in Muskegon State Park this last Thursday, but I won’t spend too much time doing so. One of the many great things about the beaches along the Great Lakes in Michigan is that there are seldom any insect pests to bother a person spending time on the beach. There have been a few times in the spring when I’ve run into the swarms of sand flies in the past, but never before in the fall, and not with the swarms being as bad as what I ran into this week. It’s also rare to find mosquitos on a Lake Michigan beach, as the wide sand dunes that form the beaches don’t offer skeeters any place to reproduce or hide from predators. I go into more detail, but I won’t.

That’s because I’m going to rave about my new Canon 5D Mk IV and the two wide-angle lenses that I’ve purchased to go with it, the 16-35 mm f/4 and 24-70 mm f/4 “L” series lenses.

Gale warnings on the big lake

Seeing that image here, I’m a bit disappointed, it’s darker here than when I view the image directly on my computer, I’ll have to try another one.

Gale warnings on the big lake number 2

That one’s a bit dark too, if that continues, I’ll have to make a second copy of this type of image and lighten the copy for posting in my blog, something that I’d rather not do.

Editor’s note:

Since I have typed the bit about the images appearing too dark in this post, I’ve viewed them several more times. How good they look all depends on the lighting in my apartment as I view these images. Some of the differences seem to be caused by the new Canon 5D Mk IV, as the images from it seem to be more affected by the ambient light in my apartment than the images from my other camera bodies. I haven’t figured that one out yet though. I think that I’ll put a poll at the end of this post to ask readers how they think that the images look when they view them.

Anyway, I was a bad boy when I shot these, as I didn’t use my tripod. I would have if I had found enough space to set it up, but I was standing right on the edge of the bank. At one point, the sand gave way under one of my feet, and I had to throw myself up the bank to prevent myself from falling down the bank and into the water. Luckily, I was able to prevent any damage to my camera or lens, and even better, keep them out of the sand as I hit the ground.

It’s hard for me to do this, but I’m going to go back to Thursday and show the mundane photos that led up to the point where I shot the images above.

New England asters and a monarch butterfly

It’s too bad that the monarch was in the shade, so here’s the asters without the butterfly.

New England asters

I don’t know what plant this is, but I loved the deep maroon color it had.

Maroon colored plant

While I was shooting this great blue heron…

Great blue heron

…I noticed these three garden spiders in the grass I was looking over the top of to see the heron…

Three garden spiders at once

…it’s been a good year for spiders from what I’m seeing this fall.

I guess that this was the image from this weekend that set me on the path to the landscape images that I started this post with.

Another failed attempt on my part

I was shooting into the sun, and getting lens flare in the frame as I tried to shoot this scene. So for that one, I held one hand so as to shade the front of the lens to prevent the flare. Trying to hold up the 100-400 mm lens on the 5D with the heavy battery grip on it with just one hand was more than I could do, so I missed the composition that I wanted, despite many attempts. I should have faced the swarms of mosquitos and set-up the tripod to get the exact composition that I wanted, but I wasn’t sure that it would be worth it. I think that it would have been…

Sparkles in the late afternoon sun

…as I don’t know what these plants are either, but I loved the way that they sparkled in the sun.

I thought that there was the possibility of there being a good sunset to photograph, so that’s when I headed to the Muskegon State Park beach, and was chased away by the sand flies and mosquitos there.

Sunset over a dune at Muskegon State Park

The sunset was just okay, nothing special, but I could have done better than this…

A ho-hum sunset

…if I would have had an interesting foreground and put more thought into the image, rather than being pre-occupied by fending off hoards of biting insects attacking me.

So, that brings me to Friday. I began at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, hoping to find a few birds, but other than huge flocks of starlings, and the ever-present mute swans…

Mute swans in flight

…there weren’t many birds to be found. I’d say that the wind that day may be to blame for that, but I learned later, it wasn’t.

I amused myself by shooting these photos to pass the time while looking for birds.

Damselfly

 

Viceroy butterfly

 

Ex-buttonbush flower

 

Goldenrod

 

Dragonflies mating

Part of my plan for the day was to check out two other parks near the Muskegon Lake Nature preserve, which I did. One holds some promise, but the only photo that I shot there was this one.

Heavy equipment on top of the stack at the Cobb power plant

The Cobb power plant is shut down, and they are beginning to dismantle it. Here’s a photo of the entire plant that I shot earlier this summer to show how tall the smokestack is.

The Cobb power plant near Muskegon, Michigan

I have no idea how they got the heavy equipment on top of that smokestack, it’s beyond me.

After checking out the two parks, I stopped at the Snug Harbor day use area of the Muskegon State Park. I began by shooting a few fungi…

Unidentified fungi

I think that this next one…

Unidentified fungus

…opens up to look like this one, but I could be wrong.

Unidentified fungus

I also shot these flowers as I was wandering around…

Aster?

…along with this guy.

Black morph, eastern gray squirrel

I spotted a mixed flock of birds that included both bluebirds and flickers, but as I was trying to get close enough to the birds to shoot any photos, I saw a buttonbush growing in the water of Muskegon Lake. However, all that I had with me was the 100-400 mm lens on the 5D. I returned to my car and grabbed my tripod and the 24-70 mm lens, and returned to where the buttonbush was. However, but that time, the light had changed, and the scene wasn’t what I wanted any longer. So, I sat down on the shore, and waited, eventually getting this image when the light got better again.

The Snug Harbor marsh in Muskegon State Park

I would have liked to have gotten a little lower, but that wasn’t possible, still, I’m happy with what I got by waiting for good light to return, rather than shooting the scene with dull light.

As luck would have it, I had put the 100-400 mm lens back on the camera, stood up, when a bluebird flew past me and landed nearby.

Eastern bluebird

And, it even turned around to give me a cleaner background behind its head.

Eastern bluebird

I also shot these two photos of a flicker, this one to show the shape of the red patch on the back of its head…

Northern flicker

…and this one to show how they close their eyes to protect them as they dig for ants, their preferred food.

Northern flicker

I could have stayed there at Snug Harbor and gotten more photos of birds, but there were swarms of mosquitos following me around the entire time despite the wind. It’s called Snug Harbor for a reason, towering sand dunes between Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan block the winds from the west, the direction that the wind was from on this day. I knew that the mosquitos wouldn’t be able to fight the wind on the beach that day, and I didn’t think that the sand flies would either, so that’s where I went next.

I was right, no flying insect could withstand the wind gusts on the beach, as the gusts were well in excess of 30 MPH (50 KPH) at the time. The waves on Lake Michigan were large, but because it was a gusty wind, not as large as they would have been if the sustained wind would have been higher.

I put the 16-35 mm lens on the 5D, and began wandering around on the beach, shooting this one just to make sure that I had the settings correct.

On the point

Seeing that on the back of the camera told me that I was on the right track, but that I needed to wait until the sun broke through the clouds…

Almost magic light

…and that I would have close to magic light when the sun hit the water in narrow beams.

Almost magic light 2

It was during this timeframe that I shot the two images at the top of this post.

I may have gotten even better images if I had stayed on the beach and fought the wind longer, but I also wanted to get some shots that showed how large the waves were, which you really can’t see from the photos so far. I went to the main beach at Muskegon State Park, where I put the 100-400 mm lens to use to shoot this one.

A windy day at Muskegon

I shot a good number of photos similar to that one, some with the waves breaking over the top of the red structure on the breakwater that you see here. But, I liked that one the best because of the color of the water, the waves crashing into the breakwater, and the gulls flying in formation on such a windy day.

Say what you will about gulls, but they are amazing fliers to be out in the winds this day. And, they make it look easy, when I saw other birds fighting the wind for all that they were worth earlier in the day. I had watched a great blue heron battling the wind, getting blown back in wind gusts, then struggling forward when the wind slacked off a little, only to be blown back again, until it gave up and landed on the nearest solid ground. When I photographed the swans in flight earlier, they were being blown about in the wind also.

Anyway, I took a short break, then decided to go north to Duck Lake State Park to catch the sunset there. I shot these next two in order to warm up and check the camera settings again.

Getting ready for sunset

 

Seeing some color begin to appear

Seeing that, which I shot from my car, I decided that it was time to fight the wind, set-up my tripod, and do things the correct way.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park

This turned out to be another “if only” time, for if only the clouds hadn’t been where they were at sunset, my images would have been even better. As it was, this is the best I came up with as far as color in the sky.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park 2

The wind had increased to the point where it was gusting to close to 50 MPH (80 KPH) by then. I didn’t level the tripod and camera the way that I normally would have, I pushed the legs down into the sand far enough to hold it steady and to level it at the same time.

Also, I made use of one of the free camera bags that I’ve received from B&H Photo recently to carry the 24-70 mm and 70-200 mm lenses with me if I had felt the need to switch to one of them rather than use the 16-35 mm lens. I had to tie the camera bag to the fallen limb that you see in the foreground of the two images above, the camera bag with the two lenses in it was being blown across the sand if it wasn’t tied down. I had thought to take a lens cleaning cloth with me, which I needed to dry the front of the lens off between shots due to the spray from the waves being blown by the wind.

So, even though I knew what was going to happen next, I returned to my car to get out of the wind. Oh, and that reminds me, the temperature was dropping rapidly as the wind was blowing colder air with it. The temperature today is 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than this time yesterday, and that drop in temperature started just before sunset, as I was shooting these images. Fortunately, I had taken a heavy, long sleeve T-shirt with me to put over the light T-shirt I had on all day before this, but I should have brought a sweatshirt or jacket to go with the T-shirt. And, it didn’t help matters any that I was getting wet from the windblown spray from the waves to go with the colder air.

Of course what happened next was that the colors from the setting sun below the horizon lit up the underside of the clouds…

After sunset 1

…I considered going back out into the wind and cold and burying my tripod in the sand again to hold it steady…

After sunset 2

…but I did the best that I could shooting handheld from the inside of my vehicle with the window down.

After sunset 3

These aren’t bad, but the ISO was too high for them to be as good as they could have been had I used the tripod to hold the camera. And, because of the lay out of the area, I couldn’t get a good composition either.

By then, the sand from the beach was being blown around so much by the wind that it looked like snow drifting in the winter. The sting on exposed skin from the windblown sand didn’t feel very nice to begin with, and I didn’t want to expose my camera gear to it any more than I had already. So yes, I settled for less than I could have gotten as far as image quality.

Thinking about that last paragraph since I typed it has me in a bit of a corundum. Maybe I should have used one of my older camera bodies and lenses in the extreme weather as it was on that evening to prevent any damage to my newer and better gear. The images that I would have gotten would be very close to what I did get. And, this goes along with the moment that I described earlier when the sand slid out from under my foot and I fell to the ground to prevent myself from going the other way and into the water.

Stuff happens as we all know, which is why I won’t sell my older gear even though it isn’t as good as what I’m currently using. I could have easily knocked either the camera or lens, or both, out of commission when I fell, and the same could have happened from the wind-blown sand and spray later in the evening. Having my older gear as back-ups is a wise decision I believe. If I were on a trip somewhere, it would be hard for me to replace something that got broken, damaged by the weather, or just quit working, due to both the financial costs and the availability of a replacement lens or camera body in a timely manner.

However, all of my newer photo gear is weather sealed and better suited to such conditions than my older gear, which makes the decision as to what stuff I should risk to get an image more difficult to make. And, knowing that I wouldn’t be getting the very best image that was possible if I used my best gear would make it less likely for me to put the effort into shooting the photos as I should. If I had thought of using my old gear, I probably would have still stayed in my car and shot the same photos rather than face the wind, sand, and spray. I suppose what I use will depend on the exact situation at the time, but it is something for me to keep in mind in the future.

Switching gears somewhat, I did learn a lot from this weekend. For one thing, not all landscape photos have to be shot early in the morning or in the late in the evening, I needed the full sun to bring out the true colors of the waters of Lake Michigan as I saw them at the time, and to bring out the patterns that the wind made on the surface of the water between the waves. So, I’m going back to what I used to do more often, if I love the view, I’m going to shoot it when I see it, then decide later if I could do better at a different time of day.

Also, and here’s where I brag on my newest camera gear, the Canon 5D Mk IV and both of the newest L series wide-angle lenses that I’ve purchased make a huge difference in the quality of the landscape images that I’m shooting. I absolutely love the 16-35 mm f/4 lens as I’ve said before. It’s sharp from corner to corner, and the colors in the images that I shoot with it really pop, as in the days when I shot with Kodachrome slide film. I think that the 24-70 mm lens is as good as the 16-35 mm lens, but I haven’t shot any images that would let me do a side by side comparison between the two lenses. The scenes that I’ve shot with the 24-70 mm lens haven’t been as compelling as the ones that I’ve shot with the 16-35 mm lens. Maybe I’ll have to do this next week. I’ll try to find a scene what I can shoot somewhere between 24 mm and 35 mm, and shoot the scene with both lenses to test them out to see how they compare.

I didn’t know that wide-angle zoom lenses could be that good. In my film days, I used a 24 mm prime lens, which apparently wasn’t very good quality. Both of my new lenses are far superior to it.

And, the 5D Mk IV continues to amaze me even when I’m shooting some of the more mundane photos that I shoot. Purchasing it has left me broke, but it’s worth it, as I love seeing the detail that I get in all the images that I shoot. It has really raised the quality of my images, and not only that, it makes me want to put more effort into shooting the photos in the first place, because I know what the camera is capable of producing when I do things the right way, and put some thought into the images I’m shooting.

I’ve seen incremental increases in image quality as I’ve purchased better equipment in the past, but nothing has made as big of an impact as moving up to the full-frame sensor of the 5D.

The downside to that is that I have a harder time motivating myself to shoot more mundane images. This is something that I have to work on. I’m not always going to have great, or even good lighting. The subject matter may not always be great, but it may be something that many people may find interesting.  And in many cases, since I’m not interested in shooting mundane photos, I don’t even track a subject with the camera to shoot any images so if the subject does do something that would be worth recording, even if in a poor image, I’m not prepared to record it.

Anyway, as I said earlier in this post, I’m including a poll that I hope people take the time to click. There’s not much point to me continuing to blog and rave about how good some of my images are if the people seeing the photos and reading my blog don’t have the best view of the images in my post as they could have. So if you could please take the time to answer this short question, I’d appreciate it.

To help people make the decision, I’ve brightened this version of the very first image in this post by 1/3 of a stop…

Gale warnings on the big lake lightened

…and here’s the original version again.

Gale warnings on the big lake

I have to say that the original version looks better full size and at full resolution on my computer. However, within this post, the lightened version looks better. I don’t know why it is, but now that I’ve reviewed all the images in this post, and others from previous posts, all of the images shot with the 5D appear darker in my blog than when I view them in Lightroom. Maybe it’s because of the site of the original files from the 5D? It produces image files almost twice as large as I get from the 7D, while the number of mega pixels is only half again as large as the 7D. Anyway, it’s something that I need to keep in mind and work on in the future.

 

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

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18 responses

  1. Voted for the lighter version because lately I’ve been printing some of my photos and notice that what appears fine on the computer screen is usually too dark on photo paper. By the way, I did calibrate my 4K screen.

    Your two Bluebird shots are superb! I like them a lot, as well as the one captioned “A windy day at Muskegon”.

    I agree with you on the 16-35 f/4 lens. It is a pleasure to use and the images that it produces are very sharp and vibrant.

    September 24, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I calibrated my screen as well, it has to be in the way that various bits of software process the information as I’ve also noted the same thing while printing. But, that too is different for the 5D Mk IV than it is for the 7D Mk II, which at least I find strange. I guess I’ll have to process in Lightroom based on the camera that the images were shot with.

      The 16-35 mm lens is incredible, I wish that I could use it for every type of image.

      September 24, 2018 at 5:59 pm

  2. What a mammoth post! I loved all the pictures of the big lake however they were shot and am sorry that you were so attacked by biting insects, hard luck. Glad you saved yourself and your gear from falling in the water.

    September 25, 2018 at 3:34 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! It was a long post, too long, but I got carried away as I went and couldn’t stop. It’s unusual to find any biting insects on a Lake Michigan beach, which is why millions of people visit the beaches each year.It’s not so unusual for me to be a klutz though, especially when I have my face glued to the camera while shooting photos.

      September 25, 2018 at 2:30 pm

  3. All these wonderful photos are well worth your itching, stinging, falling and cold….great artists make great art despite what they have to go through! Especially love the blue bird, the windy day and the magic light photos but all of the photos are amazing and powerful. Re the vote: Both versions of the photos are great but the lighter version shows more detail and colour. However, the light changes the ‘drama’ of the photo and makes the photo say something different!

    September 25, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! It was hard for me to believe several of the events from this past weekend. Seeing my legs, as well as the legs of others who came to the beach covered with swarms of the sand flies was one. Then, watching a camera bag holding 5 pounds (2 1/4 Kg) blowing across the beach was another. But, it was all worth it as you said. It was also nice of the bluebird to pose for me, they are generally very skittish and good at keeping their distance from humans. It was a dramatic time on the beach, constantly changing light as the sun popped in and out of the clouds, the waves crashing on the shore, the wind howling, and I did want to capture that, which is why I began with the darker version. The lighter one is prettier though, however you’re right, it isn’t as dramatic. I’ll have to work on getting both the next time.

      September 25, 2018 at 3:44 pm

  4. I like them both but I voted for the lighter one because that’s what I would have done if it were mine. In fact, I love all the seascapes. Or lakescapes, which is a word I’ve never heard.
    I don’t know what that maroon shrubby plant is but it’s a beauty. I don’t know what that sparkly plant is either but the unidentified fungus looks like a dyer’s polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii,) which is also called velvet top.
    You’re right about the young mushroom growing up to look like its older brother. They both look like fly agarics to me.
    Interesting about the flicker closing its eyes, I’ve never heard that.
    I always use bug spray but I know you can’t and that’s too bad. I’d have a hard time without it. There must be something you can use?

    September 25, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! Actually, I was thinking of calling the landscape photos cloudscapes, as I waited when taking each one until the sunlight on the clouds and the patterns of the clouds added a great deal to the photos.

      At first I thought that the maroon plant was prairie smoke when I first saw it, but obviously it wasn’t. Thanks for identifying the fungi also, I thought that I had just recently seen the fly agarics in one of your posts, but I didn’t have time to check.

      Not only do flickers close their eyes while digging for ants, all species of woodpeckers close their eyes while chiseling away on wood also. I’ve shot many photos of that, but I don’t post them, I want to show their eyes open. But, it’s hard to catch them with their eyes open.

      I can use bug spray once in a while without too much of a problem, but the stuff that they sell these days doesn’t slow down sand flies a bit, and it doesn’t work well enough on skeeters to prevent them all from biting as thick as they are around here right now.

      September 26, 2018 at 7:29 am

  5. As always, I enjoy your wildlife photos, Jerry! But the many beach/water landscapes showing the waves from the gale winds are beautiful! Well done post of captures throughout!! Your new camera and lenses are working well!

    September 26, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I probably shouldn’t go on so much about the new camera and lenses, but it’s almost as if I purchased the ability to be more creative some how, rather than just new camera gear.

      September 26, 2018 at 9:16 pm

  6. Hi Jerry. I LOVE your Lake shots – the combination of colors is a sight I’ve forgotten – been a long time since I’ve been to the Lake in anything but daylight. They’re mesmerizing.

    Hoping to see some fall color in your posts soon. We are way north in Canada, but any color seems to be slow in coming.

    I’m really enjoying your broadened range of subjects these days. You’ve got a good eye, and it’s always a treat to see familiar sights that have been Jerryized.

    On Mon, Sep 24, 2018, 5:04 PM Quiet Solo Pursuits wrote:

    > quietsolopursuits posted: “Well, I was going to whine about the swarms of > sand flies and mosquitos that drove me off the beach in Muskegon State Park > this last Thursday, but I won’t spend too much time doing so. One of the > many great things about the beaches along the Great Lakes i” >

    September 29, 2018 at 7:52 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! It was a special afternoon on the Big Lake last week, and now I have a camera that can really capture what I see. My next post may show you yet another side of the lake.

      Pinning down fall colors is a tough thing to do in advance. I’m just beginning to see some good color around here, and more leaves are changing by the day. I’m planning at least one trip up north to the Manistee River valley, hoping to avoid the crowds at some other more well known fall destinations. We’ll see how that goes, it’s easier photographing an area that you know well, which for me is the Jordan River Valley.

      I’m actually returning to the way that I used to photograph a wide variety of things before I became obsessed with birds. I’m still going to work on adding new species all the time, but there are so many other things to photograph also.

      September 29, 2018 at 10:13 am

  7. The “Gale warnings on the big lake lightened” gets my vote! From one day to the next my preference can change on how light or dark to make an image.

    October 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob! There are times when I like two different versions of the same image equally, and that makes it very hard to decide on which version to post.

      October 1, 2018 at 3:48 pm

  8. Definitely too dark – I am using a calibrated screen – the calibration takes account of the ambient light you work in – I use a Datacolour Spyder Pro. Also if you using different digital camera manufacturers they make save their files on different colour models so I would advise to edit in same profile in whatever software use edit in. Hope this helps and I am not teaching you to suck eggs. Great photos btw and outstanding blog post with tonnes of content. I have had a blog beat her and am starting to catch up on what people are doing. Scott

    October 3, 2018 at 3:46 am

    • Thank you very much Scott! The problem that I’m having with dark images starts when I export the edited RAW files to JPG files for my blog to save space. And, that began when I purchased the Canon 5D Mk IV, I don’t have the same problem with my older Canon cameras. I’m not sure why it happens, but it’s really no big deal, just part of the learning curve that comes with new camera gear.

      October 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm

  9. Great set of images. I need to get that wide angle for my Mark IV

    October 4, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Michael! I loved the 16-35 mm f/4 L when I used it on the 7D, it’s even better on the Mk IV

      October 5, 2018 at 1:01 am