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

Archive for October, 2018

Off to a good start

My day off from work last Friday started off on a good foot…

Down on the farm at sunrise 1

…that’s the second of two HDR images that I shot at sunrise, here’s the other.

Down on the farm at sunrise 2

Actually, I took them in the opposite order, shooting the zoomed in view first, then wanting to get more of the glorious colors of the sky in the image, I zoomed out for the other one.

Forgive me for this, but I want to explain something that I learned while making those images.

While I was using the Canon 7D Mk II or even the 60D cameras, I used software called Photomatix to create HDR images, in part, because Adobe Lightroom wasn’t capable of merging several images together to create the HDR image back then. And, even when Lightroom did include the ability to merge images into HDR images, I felt that Photomatix still did a better job, so I continued to use it, and not the photo merge feature in Lightroom.

However, since I purchased the Canon 5D Mk IV, I’ve never been happy with the HDR images that Photomatix produced when I merged images in that software. That was okay, because the 5D has so much more dynamic range than either of the crop sensor cameras I had been using that for most landscape images that I shot with the 5D, I didn’t need to create a HDR image most of the time. After all, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and in a way, the 5D has that capability built-in.

But, for sunrises and sunsets, not even the 5D can capture the entire dynamic range between light and dark. I’ve tried loading three images shot bracketing the exposure by two stops into Photomatix just as I used to do with images from my crop sensor cameras, but I haven’t been pleased with the results. I was already thinking of ways to get more realistic looking HDR images from images shot with the 5D, so on the morning of this sunrise, I tried something new. Because the 5D has so much more dynamic range than my other cameras, I reasoned that maybe the problem was that Photomatix couldn’t calculate the true lighting of the scenes that I’ve shot up until now, so instead of bracketing the exposure by two stops, I went with just one stop in each direction to take advantage of the higher dynamic range of the 5D to begin with.

Then when I got home, more or less on a lark, I used the photo merge HDR feature in Lightroom for these images, rather than use Photomatix. As you’ve seen, the photo merge feature in Lightroom produced very good HDR images that look realistic. So, I then tried loading the same three images into Photomatix to create a HDR image, this is the result.

Bad HDR image of the same scene

I much prefer the HDR images from Lightroom to the one produced by Photomatix software, but then, I’m going for realistic, and I don’t want to create those wild, over the top HDR images that some people prefer. I don’t want halos around the roof of the barn, the silo, or around the trees in the background as the Photomatix software produced in this image. The halos are faint, but they are there, and they make the image less sharp than the images produced by Lightroom. I also prefer the more realistic colors in the clouds as well.

However, after having said all of that, I’ll be willing to bet that if I use the 7D body for a HDR image in the future, I’ll find that Photomatix performs better as it has in the past. All of this is part of the learning curve in using the new 5D Mk IV, since so much of photography these days is driven by software as much as the camera and lens used. The main thing is that I’ve learned how to make better use of the dynamic range of the 5D in the way that I process the RAW images that it produces.

Just one more quick thought on the subject, it could also be that the Photomatix software as trouble handling the much larger file size produced by the 5D camera as compared to the 7D. Because of its higher resolution and much larger sensor, the 5D produces RAW files that are twice the size of the RAW files produced by the 7D.

Anyway, I shot the sunrise on my way to the Muskegon County wastewater facility, where I hoped to find a few birds that I don’t regularly see around here as they migrate south. I did find three species, these dunlin…


…too bad that they were in the shadows most of the time…


…I also found this Red Phalarope showing a little of its breeding plumage yet…

Red phalarope

…but I hope to catch one next spring when its showing it full spring colors…

Red phalarope

A quick note here, I originally identified this as a red-necked phalarope, which I have already photographed in the past for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on. However, it turns out that this is a red phalarope instead, and is a lifer for me. Now I’m doubly glad that I was able to get such good images of it. The differences between the two species are subtle, especially this time of year. I changed my original ID based on the reports and photos from more experienced birders, and by comparing the bills between the two species. The Red Phalarope has a shorter, stouter bill than the red-necked phalarope.

…and the same holds true for this black-bellied plover…

Juvenile black-bellied plover

…as it also looks rather plain in the fall.

Juvenile black-bellied plover

By then, the clouds were thickening, so I lost direct sunlight for these two.

Female lesser scaup

There were a few bufflehead that retained their breeding plumage, I caught this one.

Male bufflehead

I’m not sure what this gull was carrying…

Ring-billed gull carrying something

…but it dropped what ever it was…

Ring-billed gull dropping what it was carrying

…and while it looks like a stone that it dropped, I’m not sure of that.

Ring-billed gull

By the way, I shot those with the 7D and the 400 mm prime lens, and I’m glad that I did. With its higher frame rate, I was able to catch the action as the gull dropped whatever it was carrying. I didn’t have enough sense to watch the gull any longer to see what it was up to though. As much as I love the new 5D, there will still be times in good light when the 7D will be the best choice to use, especially when there’s action taking place that I want to capture.

With rain in the forecast for later, I wanted to get a walk in before the rain, so I went to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve next, where I shot this.

Just a scene that I like, nothing special

I did see a few birds, but the only one that I managed to get a photo of was a chickadee, and not a very good photo at that, so when the rain started, I went to the Snug Harbor part of Muskegon State Park to see how much the leaves had turned there.

One of the picnic pavilions at the Snug Harbor portion of Muskegon State Park

I also saw birds there, including two red-bellied woodpeckers chasing each other around in circles for a very long time, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of them, or the other birds there. The on and off rain during my time there didn’t help.

So, when the steady rain that had been forecast did arrive, I called it a day even though I hadn’t shot very many images. That gives me a week until I make it out with a camera again, and I hope to be able to resist the urge to talk about photography and the associated gear that goes with it.

Well, I managed to resist going off on a rant about the people who review cameras online, and how image quality is completely ignored or only rates a passing mention in most reviews. The only reason that I’m mentioning that now is because my day on Thursday began with me photographing one of the nearly tame Canada geese outside of my apartment.

Canada goose about to stretch

Canada geese may be common, but with their white “chin strap” on their otherwise black heads, they’re difficult to photograph well, at least they have been for me. So, ever since I purchased the 5D Mk IV, I’ve been wanting to test it out on several hard to photograph well birds, including the geese. That one is straight out the camera as far as exposure and cropping. The higher dynamic range of the 5D shows up well in that image, also in this one.

Canada goose stretching a wing

Later in the day, I got a chance to photograph another bird that’s to get right in a photo, a crow.

American crow

Since that one was shot full frame, I could crop in on this one to show the feather details on the crow’s head better.

American crow

I had over-exposed these slightly to make sure that I’d get the feather details in the images, so these required some adjustments to the exposure, but not much. I love the way that you can see the crow’s bushy feathers growing at the base of its beak, and its “ear patches”, which I’ve never been able to show in an image before. You may also notice that crows have brown eyes, they’re not black as they appear in most photos of them.

However, just when I think that I want to shoot everything with the 5D, I shoot a series of action photos…

Female northern shoveler taking a bath

…that show how well the 7D Mk II can do in good light…

Female northern shoveler taking a bath

…with its much faster frame rate…

Female northern shoveler drying her wings

…even if I didn’t get the best view of the colors on her wings…

Female northern shoveler drying her wings

…or completely freeze all the motion in these photos…

Female northern shoveler drying her wings

…I know that one of these days, everything will fall into place, and I’ll get the exact images that I’m striving for. It’s only a matter of time and luck, as I’m getting closer all the time, just as with the close-up of the crow.

It’s also just a matter of time for me to get most of the species of birds regularly seen in Michigan for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. To go with the red phalarope from earlier in this post, this week, I was able to photograph a Little gull.

Little gull feeding

Adding this species puts me at 240 species so far, not bad for some one that isn’t a hardcore birder.

Anyway, I first spotted the Little gull as it flew from the pond to the far side of the man-made pond, but that meant that it was really too far away for good images of it by itself.

Little gull, Bonaparte’s gulls, and northern shovelers

You can tell the Little gull by its orange feet compared to the pale pink feet of the Bonaparte’s gulls. It also has white wingtips as opposed to the black wingtips of the Bonaparte’s gull. Those were the two clues that I used to pick the Little gull out of the flock of 30 to 40 Bonaparte’s gulls that it was sharing the pond with.

This is why I continue to return to the Muskegon County wastewater facility, not only do I continue to find new to me species of birds there as shown in this post, but there’s so many species of birds there on a regular basis, especially during migration. Here’s a shot that includes a Wilson’s snipe, dunlin, the Little gull, Bonaparte’s gulls, a ring-billed gull and a few of the thousands of northern shovelers there.

Assorted species of birds

That image shows the size difference between the three species of gulls in the image better, you can see that the Little gull is, as its name implies, much smaller than the Bonaparte’s gulls, which are in turn, much smaller than the ring-billed gull. By the way, the Wilson’s snipe is to the far left in the frame and hard to make out.

I hung around quite a while, and it’s a good thing that I did, for eventually, I got the image of the Little gull alone in the frame, along with this one.

Little gull

And just like that, I’m almost to my self-imposed limit for photos in a post, so I’ll end this one with a photo from this Friday.

Dark-eyed junco in the fall

Two sure signs that winter is approaching, the Juncos have come back to this area from their breeding grounds to the north, and the fall colors of the leaves behind the junco. There’s a story behind that photo and many of the others that I shot on Friday of this week, but I’ll save that for the next post.

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


What should I title this one?

This past week, as I was on my way to the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, or as we refer to it here, simply “going up north”, to shoot a few images of the fall colors…

The Manistee River from an overlook along the North Country trail

…I spotted two adult bald eagles feeding on road kill right on the shoulder of the road. I pulled off to the other shoulder of the road as I passed them, slamming on the brakes as I did. But, as I backed up, they both flew off, leaving me this shot because they didn’t fly very far.

Adult bald eagle

The second eagle flew past me…

Adult bald eagle in flight

…but I didn’t have time to switch the camera to the saved bird in flight setting that I have saved in the camera, so that one was shot with the same settings used for perched birds. The shutter speed was too slow to freeze the motion, but at least I got a fairly good image of the eagle.

I backed up away from the eagles, hoping that they would return to feeding, one did, and I was able to get close enough to it to get this photo of it.

Adult bald eagle eating

I had an idea what would happen next, so I switched over to the saved bird in flight settings, as the eagle took off.

Adult bald eagle in flight

It isn’t easy to track even such a large bird as it takes off, as they rise and fall with each wing beat, and trying to keep their entire wings in the frame as that’s happening meant that I missed on almost all the rest of the photos in the short burst that I shot. I wish that I had led the eagle as it took off a little more so that there was more space ahead of the eagle in that image, but at least I didn’t cut its wings off in that one.

I can’t help it, but I also have to say that the image above would have been impossible if I had been using the 7D Mk II camera. That image was another shot at ISO 25600 to get the required shutter speed needed to freeze the action with the maximum aperture of f/8 that I’m forced to use with the 100-400 mm lens and extender behind it. Seeing that I was able to shoot this with the 5D Mk IV makes me even more happy to have purchased it when I did,rather than waiting longer until it would have been more affordable for me. Getting the entire adult bald eagle in the frame so that it nearly fills the frame with that level of detail makes being broke for a while longer worth it to me.

As the eagle turned away from me, I stopped tracking it with the auto-focus, which was the wrong thing to do, for the eagle turned around, and flew past me in the other direction…

Adult bald eagle in flight

…and I wasn’t able to get a solid focus lock on it as it twisted and turned as it flew to join the other eagle that was still perched in a tree.

A sidenote here, you may have noticed the band on the eagle’s leg. That makes me wonder how old this eagle is, as it’s the first eagle that I’ve seen where I can see that it had been banded at some point. I know that a few eagles are still banded in Michigan, but most aren’t, as they’re no longer an endangered species in Michigan. This eagle was either one that had been banded in an ongoing study of eagles, or is one that’s so old that it had been banded while eagles were still on the endangered species list in Michigan. Since eagle can live for decades, maybe as long as 50 years, it’s quite possible that this is a very old eagle. It’s certainly a fine specimen that looks very healthy, and although the second photo of it in flight isn’t very good, it does show how muscular and powerfully built eagles are.

I tried backing away from the eagles again, but they didn’t return as quickly as they had before. So, I turned around, and went down the road a little way to shoot this photo to warm up for shooting the fall colors later, while hoping that the eagles would return to feed on the carcass of the roadkill.

A warm up photo for later

When I returned to where the eagles were, some one else was pulled off the road, photographing the eagles perched in the trees, so I continued on my way north. I stopped at Peterson Bridge over the Pine River to shoot these photos.

The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 1

There are probably too many from this location…

The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 2

…but I was doing what I still have to do far too often…

The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 3

….learning how to compose the images that I shoot with wide-angle lenses…

The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 4

…while trying to show as much of the limited color in the leaves as there was here.

The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 5


The view from Peterson Bridge over the Pine River 6

A short distance to the north, I pulled off the main road onto an US Forest Service road for this one shot at 24 mm with the 24-70 mm lens…

The forest beginning to show some color at 24 mm

…then I switched to the 16-35 mm lens for this one.

The forest beginning to show some color at 16 mm

I’d say that the two lenses are equal in image quality, but you can see more distortion in the image shot at 16 mm than the one shot at 24 mm because of the way that the trees seem to all lean towards the center of the frame. In this case, I was going for that distortion, probably because I’m old enough to remember how bad the distortion in older wide-angle lenses was. I also like that effect at times, and this is one of them.

Back on the main road, I pulled off on a side road now and then to shoot these, more to show the brilliant colors rather than to create a truly good landscape image.

Just to show some color 1


Just to show some color 2


Just to show some color 3


Just to show some color 4

As you may have noticed, there was solid cloud cover all day, although I did shoot two images later when a tiny hole in the clouds opened up, which you’ll see later. The clouds meant that I could shoot in any direction at any time, which was good, but I’m not sure how much the lack of sunshine “hid” the colors of the leaves in the distance of some of the images to come. For example, I stopped at the roadside park that overlooks the Hodenpyle Pond, and shot this one.

Overlooking the Hodenpyle Pond, wide-angle

But, the colors on the hills across the pond looked muted to me, so I zoomed in to shoot a series of photos to stitch into this panoramic image.

Overlooking the Hodenpyle Pond, zoomed in view

The hills on the other side of the pond do show up a little better in the pano, but the colors in the pano don’t. I didn’t have very much time to shoot there, as it was, I’d set-up the tripod to shoot a few photos, then have to move to get out of the way of other people who had stopped to admire the view, then after they left, move back into position to try something else. I also had to wait until any people going up or down the stairway were out of the scene before I shot any photos.

My next major stop was right along the side of the road, M 37, just north of the intersection with M 115. This is where I had shot some of the images of the Milky Way during my earlier scouting trip.

Manistee River Valley at night

This is how the area looks during a fall day.

Michigan M 37 as it crosses the Manistee River Valley

I purposely shot that image to show the view from the highway as you get to the Manistee River Valley. I then tried for better images…

The view of the Manistee River Valley wide-angle

And once again, I tried stitching several images together to form this panoramic view.

The view of the Manistee River Valley panoramic view

This was the scene behind me…

More fall color

…and it was here that I saw the only blue sky of the day…

Still more fall colors

…but you can’t see the opening in the clouds in the image, drat. At least a small shaft of sunlight hit a few of the more colorful trees then.

I then spent quite a bit of time driving the back roads in the area, as I’m not that familiar with it, and where the best views were to be found. I stopped at a one lane bridge over the Manistee River to shoot this photo though.

Michigan’s Manistee River in the fall

I hate to admit it, but I was somewhat lost for a while because I was following directions from Google Maps, and what I thought would be a maintained dirt road was in reality a seasonal two-track and there weren’t any road signs at intersections with other two-tracks along the way. I ended up having backtrack and then stick to better roads to make it to my next destination. However, while I didn’t shoot any photos during this period, I did enjoy seeing the fall colors as I was driving.

I finally made it to the destination that I had in mind for this trip, the high rollway observation deck along the Manistee River. The observation deck is also along the North Country Trail, but there’s a parking lot nearby, with just a short walk to the deck.

A short walk through the woods to the observation deck

Even on a Friday, it was a popular spot for people doing fall color tours, so I had to wait my turn to get to the best spot on the deck for photography. While I was waiting, I shot these two.

Waiting on the high rollway observation deck overlooking the Manistee River


Waiting on the high rollway observation deck overlooking the Manistee River

When I had my chance to set-up at the best spot on the deck, I shot this one.

From the high rollway observation deck overlooking the Manistee River

I shot several more images from there, but I’m not going to put them in this post. That’s because I hope to return there this coming weekend when there will hopefully be a bit more color and better weather than this week. I would have rather had light rain to really saturate the colors more, or a bright sunny day with a few clouds in the sky than the dull grey overcast of this day.

I made several more stops on the way home, but this is the only photo that I’m going to include in this post.

From the scenic overlook near Cadillac, Michigan

I’m including that one because I shot it with the 70-200 mm lens, not that the lens is any big deal. But, I am learning which lens to use more quickly than I thought that I would. I’m not used to using my short lenses, so it surprised me at how well I chose the correct lens for a scene when I first saw what I intended to shoot. There were only one or two times when the lens that I put on the camera didn’t give me the field of view that I wanted, and had to switch lenses before shooting the scene. Of course that doesn’t include scenes where I knew that I’d want to shoot with different lenses to record the scene in different ways. I did that several times, and I’ve included the version that I liked the best here, rather than including all the images that I shot at a particular location, again, because I plan to go back this weekend.

Also, I made a few stops on Thursday to shoot some fall color scenes…

A yellow border for a dirt road


An unnamed small lake near Grant, Michigan


The Muskegon River high banks near Newaygo, Michigan

You can see that the weather on Thursday was the same as it was Friday, low, grey clouds. It’s that time of year in Michigan, cool, fall air coming across the relatively warm waters of Lake Michigan produces the lake effect clouds that will plague west Michigan all winter long. Sunny winter days are as rare as hen’s teeth in West Michigan, which I’ve whined about every winter.

The good news is that the cool fall weather has killed most of the mosquito population for this year, and with no warm weather in sight, we may be skeeter free until next May.

The bad news is that I was stupid enough to make my quarterly appointments with my dermatologist for this Thursday, and that also means that I have to first go to a medical lab to have blood work done first. On top of that because I’m a truck driver, I must have a physical every other year as a condition of being allowed to drive a commercial vehicle. Since my Thursday was already ruined for the purposes of photography, I went and had that DOT physical done as well so that I’ll be able to continue working and getting a paycheck every week.

It was a very sunny day, in fact, there were no clouds in the sky at all to add any interest to landscape photos I would have shot if I’d had the time to return up north. On Friday, the clouds rolled in at sunrise, and the rest of the day was just as dreary as it had been the previous week, so I didn’t bother returning to any of the places featured in the photos in this post, I stuck around Muskegon instead.

Muskegon State Park, Snug Harbor portion

The rest of the photos that I shot on Friday will go into my next post. Hopefully, the leaves will be at their peak color around here then, but it’s not going to be a good year for color from what I’m seeing so far. I think that it’s because of the drought that we had this summer that many of the leaves are going straight to brown this year.

If nothing else, maybe I’ll be able to find a few birds that only pass through my area twice a year during migration.

Juvenile black-bellied plover

I do have a dentist appointment next week, but at least I made that one for earlier in the morning, so I’ll be able to get out in the afternoon and continue shooting until sunset, if it’s worth photographing.

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

Some more boring photography talk

Sorry, I can’t help it, there’s quite a bit of news when it comes to photography gear, and about my learning how to use what I have more effectively.

Both Canon and Nikon have recently introduced full frame sensor mirrorless cameras, which are going to be the wave of the future for cameras as we know them. The old familiar DSLR is going to fade away over the next decade, at least that’s how I see things going.

Since mirrorless cameras can be built smaller, lighter, and cheaper by not needing the mirror assembly, that’s a big selling point to begin with. Then, because the rear element of the lens attached to the camera can be mounted closer to the sensor because the designers don’t need to leave room for the mirror assembly, the light coming through the lens doesn’t have to be bent as much to get the lens to project the image onto the sensor. This is particularly true with wide-angle lenses, less so for telephoto lenses. That means that the new wide-angle lenses will be even sharper than the best lenses built so far for traditional DSLR bodies, because the less that the light needs to be bent ass it passes through the lens, the sharper the image will be.

Because of that, both Nikon and Canon have designed new lens mounts to take advantage of that, and I can’t tell you about the new Nikon lenses, but the new Canon lenses are indeed sharper than the older style lenses built for a traditional DSLR mount.

Doesn’t that figure, I just upgraded my wide-angle lenses, and now they are obsolete, sort of. The superior sharpness of the new lenses designed for mirrorless cameras is mostly when the aperture is wide open, and as the lens is stopped down to get a wider depth of field, the advantage of the mirrorless lenses shrinks  to nothing at the apertures typically used for landscapes when everything in the frame needs to be in sharp focus.

Sony has been building full frame mirrorless cameras for some time now, and their cameras are much better than the first generations of mirrorless cameras from Nikon and Canon. However, Sony hasn’t been able to match them when it comes to lenses. A lot of Sony camera users mount other manufacturer’s lenses to their Sony using an adaptor.

So at least for now, I see no reason to think about upgrading from the Canon 5D Mk IV or the Canon 7D Mk II bodies that I’m using now. That’s especially true because Canon put the same sensor as the 5D has in its new mirrorless camera. In many ways, the new mirrorless body would be a step backwards for me, but I won’t list all the reasons for that.

However, I will be watching to see what Canon does with their line-up of mirrorless cameras, if they bring out a mirrorless version of the 5DS R body with the super high-resolution sensor with no low pass filter, I could be tempted, because that would be something that would make dramatic improvements in any landscape images that I shoot. But’s that’s a long way off right now, as I have no idea what Canon is planning on as far as their line-up of mirrorless bodies, or if the even plan on building an updated 5DS R body. And even if they do, it would have to be a lot cheaper than the current 5DS R body before I would consider making such a move. That’s why I’m hoping that they release a mirrorless version of it as they perfect their mirrorless designs in the future. The new Canon mirrorless body is $1,000 less than the 5D Mk IV that I recently purchased, even though they use the same sensor. I hope that the trend continues in future generations of Canon mirrorless cameras.

For right now, I’m going to concentrate on learning to get the best out of the 5D and the new wide-angle lenses I’ve acquired. They have been a big step up in quality over the crop sensor bodies I have been using, along with the EF-S lenses designed for the crop sensor bodies.

The outlet from Duck Lake meeting Lake Michigan


Looking north from Duck Lake State Park

However, the biggest improvement that I see with the 5D comes when I use my older telephoto lenses in low-light situations…

Juvenile wild turkey at dusk

…as that was shot at ISO 25600, much higher than I could have gotten away with if I had used the 7D body instead.

It was a dark, dreary, foggy day this spring when I tried to shoot migrating warblers and other small birds the made me decide to upgrade to the 5D. Some of you may remember the post that I did about that day, and how I whined about the poor quality of the images that I ended up with. Well, last Friday was very similar to that day last spring as you can see in this photo…

The Cobb power plant in Muskegon

…right down to the on and off mist and drizzle falling as I looked for things to photograph. By the way, I included yet another photo of the Cobb power plant as I’m planning on recording the work as it is dismantled. I’m not sure what’s going to be done with the land that it’s on, as I’m sure that since it was a coal-fired plant that there’s a lot of environmental clean-up that will have to be done once the plant is gone.

Anyway, here are the birds that I photographed in the very raw conditions of that day.

Downy woodpecker


Downy woodpecker


White-throated sparrow

All three of those were shot at higher ISO settings, yet there isn’t the loss of detail or color saturation that I gotten when I’ve used the 7D Mk II in such conditions. As a comparison, here’s an image from that dreary day this spring.

Bay-breasted warbler

Forgive me for bragging, but wow, what a difference! Especially when you consider that I used the exact same lens for the birds on Friday as I did for the warbler this spring. The differences in image quality is all due to the camera used, and seeing them side by side here makes being broke for a while longer worth the investment that I made in the 5D.

Here are the other images that I shot in the mist while I was at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve on Friday.

Fall colors starting

In these, which were also shot at higher ISO settings, the clarity and color improvements of the 5D…

Pokeweed berries

…are also put to good use…

Virginia creeper putting on a display of color

…although I missed the composition in that last photo. I wanted to show the colors in the background as well as the Virginia creeper vines in the foreground, but I should have moved to the left and showed more of the Virginia creeper vines. Oh well, I messed up this one also.

Natural decorations

I liked the way that the Virginia creeper and grape vines spiraled up the spruce tree naturally, like Christmas decorations, but I used a wide-angle lens from very close to the spruce. I should have moved back, and used a longer lens to have gotten a better angle of the scene.

While I usually use the aperture priority mode while photographing birds, I’m thinking of using the manual mode more often, just because that would allow me to change the shutter speed more quickly when I see something similar to the bluebirds bathing from my last post.

Eastern bluebird bathing

The one fly in that ointment is the maximum aperture of the lenses that I’m using now, especially when I have the 1.4 X tele-converter behind them as I typically do. Most of the time, I’m starting out at f/8 due to the loss of light from the extender. There’s no getting around that short of purchasing a faster (and much more expensive) lens. But, on a sunny day as when I photographed the bluebirds, I could have pushed the ISO higher to get faster shutter speeds to freeze the motion better. That’s especially true with the 5D, but I could have gone higher with the ISO with the 7D when I had such good light. Just something for me to keep in mind on nice days with good light.

While I’m on the subject of trying different things, on Thursday, I finally got around to testing the new 24-70 mm lens with an extension tube behind it to allow the lens to focus closer than it does without the extension tube.

Assorted lichen on a post

I had to crop off the bottom of the photo, as there was a harsh shadow there caused by the lens hood touching the post because that’s how close that set-up focuses. I deliberately chose a post with only a few widely spaced small lichen to help me judge the depth of field of that set-up. Also, I used the medium length extension tube only, I didn’t test the long tube out. I’m not sure that the long tube would work behind that lens as close as I was when using the medium length tube. I don’t think that it will work for insects because of how close the lens has to be to the subject, but for subjects that remain stationary, I think that this set-up will work every bit as well as my 100 mm macro lens.

This was a similar test shot, but without the extension tube behind the 24-70 mm lens.

Unidentified fungal object

It’s hard for me not to jump forward to the images that I shot this weekend, when I have so many left from last week. So, since I’ve babbled on long enough already, here are the rest of the photos from last week, as I shot a few hints of the fall colors that are showing up around here, and also tried to shoot a wider variety of birds that I haven’t posted many photos of lately.



The first hints of fall colors


Mute swan


White-breasted nuthatch


White-breasted nuthatch


More fall colors showing


White-crowned sparrow hiding


Dragonfly hanging out on a nice fall day


So it begins


More from the Snug Harbor part of Muskegon SP


Just a depth of field test


Savannah sparrow


Savannah sparrow


Greater yellowlegs


Greater yellowlegs


American pipit

I’m really excited about my next post, as I was able to shoot one of my better images of an adult bald eagle in flight as I was on my way to northern Michigan to shoot some pretty good images of the fall colors on display there.

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

Anatomy of a sunset

With conditions similar to last week, although not as extreme as far as the wind, I returned to Duck Lake State Park Friday evening to capture this sunset.

Lake Michigan sunset from Duck Lake State Park

I was going to say that I don’t know how dedicated landscape photographers do what they do, set-up in advance, and get great sun sets or rises behind what would be a pleasing scene even without the colors of the sky being present. However, I do know how they do it, I chose not to do things the correct way Friday evening.

I’m still learning the 5D Mk IV and how it works with my two new wide-angle lenses, so I shot all the sunset images you’ll see in this post handheld. In some ways, I’m glad that I did, because the light that evening was always changing, and there were different scenes that I shot, which I’ll get to later.

I could have set-up in a different spot while using my tripod and I would have gotten an even better image of the sunset at its peak. In the past, I’ve gone so far as to set-up two tripods, one on the west side of the road that runs next to Lake Michigan there at Duck Lake, and the other tripod on the east side of the road, looking out over Duck Lake. But on this evening, there were still too many people who had come to see the sunset, and I didn’t feel safe leaving either of my cameras unattended while I raced under the bridge back and forth to shoot excellent images of the sun sets or rises that I’ve seen there during the times that I’ve shot with two set-ups in the past.

I think that I’ll go back a little, and go through the photos that I shot in the order that I shot them to help to explain my thinking. I had stopped in Muskegon State Park to check the horizon to see if there was a chance that the cloud cover that had been overhead all day would break to reveal a good sunset.

Looking toward the beach and breakwaters at Muskegon State Park

By the way, that’s one of three scenes that I shot with both the 16-35 mm and 24-70 mm lenses to compare the two, and I can see no difference between the two.

Anyway, looking to the south, as I was there, things looked pretty grim as far as there being a good sunset to photograph, but looking to the north, I could see some breaks in the clouds, and even a few patches of blue sky. So, I drove the short distance to Duck Lake State Park, and made another set of test shots to compare the two lenses.

Lens test and a warm up for things to come.

As the light changed, I shot this one, looking to the north.

The beginnings of a good sunset at Duck Lake State Park

I shot this series of three photos as the sun actually set.

Actual sunset at Duck Lake State Park 1

…but, because the color in the sky was in a narrow band at the horizon, I zoomed in a little with each shot…

Actual sunset at Duck Lake State Park 2

…ending with this one.

Actual sunset at Duck Lake State Park 3

I then zoomed all the way back out to 16 mm for this image.

Sunset looking northwest at Duck Lake State Park

I should have shot a panorama of two images to be stitched together for that view, either that, or I’ll need an even wider lens. But, I am impressed by the field of view of the 16-35 mm lens on a full frame sensor camera versus what I got on the crop sensor 7D.

I thought that there’d be a short period of time between when the sun slipped below the horizon, and when the light from the sun hit the underside of the clouds, so I was headed back to my Subaru when I saw that this had been behind me.

Looking to the east

Seeing that, I wanted to explore that scene further, but a check of the sky looking to the west again is when I saw the scene that is the first image in this post, which I’ll insert here again.

Lake Michigan sunset from Duck Lake State Park

I tried going wider, I tried zooming in more, but that’s the image that I liked the best from the many that I shot in that direction at the time.

I then turned back to the north to shoot this one…

Looking northwest over Lake Michigan

…and then literally ran up the dune that was behind my Subaru in the earlier photo to shoot this one on my way up the dune…

Looking east over Duck Lake

…and this one when I got to the top of the dune.

Looking east over Duck Lake at Duck Lake State Park

By the way, all of these were shot as single images with the 5D Mk IV, to see how well it reproduced the colors of the sunset. These aren’t bad, but I believe that more of the subtle colors would have been shown if I had bracketed three images to create a HDR image. I suppose that I could also bring out more color by using Lightroom, but this was all about learning what the camera is capable of by itself, for my future reference.

Anyway, the display of color in the sky wasn’t done yet, I shot this on my way back down the dune…

From one of the dunes at Duck Lake State Park

…and I shot these three as the colors began to fade.

Fading sunset at Duck Lake State Park 1


Fading sunset at Duck Lake State Park 2


Fading sunset at Duck Lake State Park 3

These last three are the ones that would have benefitted the most by my using my tripod and bracketing for HDR images.After having viewed these images again, and written what I have about them, now I have decided that what I should have tried was tilting the camera over to the portrait orientation to get even more of the clouds in  some of the scenes, and shot multiple images to be stitched together in panoramas to get the width that I wanted. Sigh, hindsight is always 20/20, and I did think about  panorama while I was there, but with the camera in the landscape orientation. I’m not sure if it would have worked as fast as the clouds were moving and with the waves on Lake Michigan, but I should have at least tested it to see if it would work. I have to keep telling myself these things in the hope that I will remember to try them the next time a similar occasion arrises.

That didn’t happen this week though, I did set-up the tripod and shoot a HDR image of the sunset Thursday evening.

Another Duck Lake State Park sunset

In fact, I shot quite a few HDR images on Thursday while using the new 5D Mk IV camera, here’s the best of the lot.

Muskegon SP colors in HDR

However, I’m finding that I don’t need to shoot bracketed images to blend into a HDR image with the 5D…

Muskegon SP colors in a single image

…as I prefer the single image version over the HDR version.

That’s been the case most of the times that I’ve tried shooting HDR images with the 5D with its expanded dynamic range over the crop sensor 60D and 7D Mk II bodies that I’ve been used to shooting with. Also, the sky ends up looking wonky in HDR images that I shoot with the 5D, along with the fact that the final image looks fake.

Bad HDR image of the fall colors

Anyway, I was using the 5D with the 24-70 mm f/4 so often on Thursday that I grew tired of swapping lenses all the time, so I put the birding set-up on the 7D just in case, and the just in case did happen.

Eastern bluebird getting ready for a bath

I had seen the bluebirds perched on sign posts as I moved from one part of the Snug Harbor area in Muskegon State Park to another area. They all flew off, but I parked there in hopes that they would return, and as you can see, they did. I shot the bluebird above as it bathed…

Eastern bluebird bathing


Eastern bluebird bathing

…when a second bird landed in the puddle to join the first…

Eastern bluebirds

…but due to the short depth of field as close as they were to me, I wasn’t able to get them both in focus at the same time. But, when the second one started its bath, I fired away…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…I kept an eye on the shutter speed as I shot…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…and seeing that it was 1/800 to 1/1000 second…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…I hoped that I’d get the amount of motion blur that I hoped for…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…while freezing some of the water drops in the air…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…but I should have gone even quicker with the shutter speed…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…to freeze the bird completely in at least a few photos…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…even if the water drops look good…

Eastern bluebird bathing

…and of course I thought about switching over to the 5D for more dynamic range so that the shadows in that last photo wouldn’t be as dark as they are. But by then, the birds felt clean enough that they moved off to look for food. Also, these were cropped only slightly, I would have had to crop more if I had used the 5D because of the crop factor of the 7D.

Sorry for so many photos of the bluebirds, but they are usually difficult for me to get that close to since they are quite wary of humans most of the time. They’re such cheerful little birds, and one of my favorite species to watch and hear singing, that I went a little overboard with the photos.

Earlier in the day I had been chasing other species of small birds…

Pine warbler stretching to see

…luckily, this pine warbler stuck around long enough for me to dial in the correct exposure…

Pine warbler looking chunky

…and, this white-breasted nuthatch worked its way towards me as I shot a good many photos of it, ending with this one.

White-breasted nuthatch with an attitude

I’ve already put too many images in this post, and I have plenty leftover from both last week, and from yesterday, so it’s time to put an end to this post before I go out again today to see what I can find now that the morning rain has ended.

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