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

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!

35 responses

  1. Jassan

    The Wild Wings


    November 1, 2018 at 9:35 am

  2. You’ve captured the splendor of autumn beautifully, Jerry! I loved this post so much! We are still awaiting the color changes here in the mid-Atlantic. With the drop in temps, it’s going to happen any day soon I am sure!


    October 27, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    • Thanks Donna! I hope that your fall displays of color is better than ours. I had to search out the few good fall scenes for this post because the leaf colors on most trees has been dull this year due to the weather.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 28, 2018 at 6:52 am

  3. i.m reveur

    Green Valley


    October 22, 2018 at 11:41 pm

  4. Such amazing foliage!
    Beautiful colors!
    So many possibilities, so many interesting spots.
    Autumn is beautiful. And colorful.


    October 22, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornell! It hasn’t been the best fall for the colors of the leaves, but I managed to find a few places with better than average color.


      October 22, 2018 at 4:28 pm

  5. I have no words to describe what I felt reading and seeing these photos!
    I loved the photos! What a beautiful scene! 😀
    And that eagle, so beautiful!


    October 22, 2018 at 8:06 am

    • Thank you very much! The landscape images show the importance of scouting for a good location in advance, but the eagle was mostly luck, other than I was able to anticipate what it was going to do, and set the camera to the correct settings in advance.


      October 22, 2018 at 4:45 pm

  6. Love the shot from the high rollway observation deck overlooking the Manistee River!


    October 22, 2018 at 6:48 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! I hope that you’re having a good fall color display in Ohio.


      October 22, 2018 at 4:29 pm

  7. I love that shot of the flying eagle! It is so good! The fall colours are lovely too. Ours have been very disappointing this autumn because of the drought. I wish you all the best with all your medical appointments, Jerry.


    October 21, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Our colors here have been somewhat disappointing also, but I tried enough locations to get a few good images here and there. All the medical exams and tests went fine, I’m still as healthy as a horse, I hope that it continues.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 22, 2018 at 4:47 pm

  8. Michigan Eye Candy describes this collection perfectly. I think this is the best group of fall color photos you have ever published.

    Only you could be driving along and come across two eagles enjoying a snack. The flying photo with the fall colors in the background is my favorite. Seeing those talons all clenched up – guess I never thought about the aerodynamics of eagle flight before.

    We were amazed to arrive home yesterday, and find all the trees in our neighborhood to be mostly green. Maybe they just were too heat and water stressed this summer to produce great color. It’s really odd.

    Don’t know how you could find better color than these photos, but I’m looking forward to your next post already.


    October 21, 2018 at 8:41 am

    • Thanks Judy! I think that I’ve shot better color in the past, but the images weren’t as good due to my equipment at the time and my lack of skills. As you said about the trees in your neighborhood, I think that the weather this summer has hurt the colors of the leaves this fall, but I tried to do my best.

      Other people saw the eagles as well, but I’m one of the few people who isn’t in a mad rush to get to where they are going, I saw it as a great photo op. My only real regret is that I wasn’t able to shoot both eagles on the roadkill at one time, even if that would have been a challenge to get them both in focus. And, what you noticed about the eagle’s talons is why I’ve been working so hard to make my photos better, to show both the beauty of wildlife, and their behavior at the same time. Few people get to watch birds or other wildlife from as close as I’m able to get, and so they don’t see the same things as I do, such as how powerfully built eagles are.


      October 21, 2018 at 2:59 pm

  9. Pingback: Cider House Blues (Before and After) – Proscenium

  10. Great eagle shot, well worth being broke to get that. I loved your autumn colours even if they disappointed you.


    October 20, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I like the way that it looks like you are almost touching the eagle’s wing in that photo. I agree that the colors are good in the images that I put in this post, what you didn’t see are all the photos that I shot where the color was lacking, and those images were shot in areas that have produced good photos in the past.


      October 21, 2018 at 6:53 am

  11. Boy I don’t know Jerry, I think you’re wrong about Michigan fall colors not being as good as New England. After seeing these photos I’m almost tempted to say they’re better than ours. They’re beautiful!
    I love the eagle shots too!
    Hope you have good luck with the medical exams.


    October 20, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    • Thank you Allen! Part of the problem here in Michigan is that after most of the state was clear cut for lumber, then the brush piles left over from the logging fed huge wildfires, too many pines were planted, plus our forests here are much younger than the ones in New England. and, what you’re not seeing are all the photos with dull colors that I shot but didn’t put in this post.

      For the eagle, things went as planned for a change, which allowed me to get that photo.

      My medical tests and check-ups were the same as they always are, I’m as healthy as a horse, although the horse is getting older. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      October 21, 2018 at 6:59 am

  12. Fantastic flying eagle photo- all in one frame, with a great background and amazing contrasting wing colours…it’s a winner! I can’t believe you are disappointed with the autumn colours this year they look so beautiful in your photos…love them all. Hope all your medical appointments go well…best to get everything sorted in one go then your ready for more adventures taking photos.


    October 20, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    • Thanks Marianne! I love that eagle photo, it looks as if the eagle’s wing is almost touching the lens, so things worked out as planned for a change.

      As I’ve told others, you didn’t see all the photos that showed how dull many of the leaves are this year, because I didn’t put them in this post.

      Well, if the tests and the doctors are to be believed, I’m still as healthy as a horse, so I’m ready for more adventures.

      Liked by 1 person

      October 21, 2018 at 7:03 am

      • Hooray for all your test results! Keep adventuring.

        Liked by 1 person

        October 21, 2018 at 2:25 pm

  13. You certainly did the autumn colours justice but that shot of the flying eagle was to die for, I looked and looked at it. Thank you so much for sharing it.


    October 20, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    • Thank you Susan! For once, things went as planned for both the fall colors and for the eagle, I’m glad that you enjoyed them so much.


      October 21, 2018 at 7:26 am

  14. Wow those eagle pictures are amazing, as well as the fall colours!


    October 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm

  15. This post is a real treat for those who appreciate fall colors, even though it seemed you were affected by clouds and rain as much as I was in Acadia. I think the gray clouds may be good after all, because they let the leaves colors stand out more than if the sky was a perfect blue. All in all, a very enjoyable leaf-peeping post!


    October 20, 2018 at 10:22 am

    • Thank you very much Hien! You’re right, and there’s no harsh shadows or lens flare to deal with on an overcast day. But, blue skies help to create color contrasts between the sky and the colors of the leaves that’s missing on an overcast day. The best circumstance would be two days of shooting the same scenes, one day overcast, and the other a sunny day.


      October 20, 2018 at 10:59 am

  16. quite the photography survey…..difficult to pick a title, “something for everyone”?


    October 20, 2018 at 9:30 am

    • Thank you very much Michael! That’s not a bad title, but it would apply most to the posts that I do in the summer when there are flowers, insects, and other subjects in many of my posts.


      October 20, 2018 at 10:56 am