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

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!


24 responses

  1. Superb photos as usual for you, and I love those first two sunrise pictures. They are absolutely beautiful! I also like the amazing action shots you obtained with the 7D Mark II. Kudos to you!

    I used to use Photomatix when I only had the 7D, but now I rarely if ever use it. They have a newer version, but I may not upgrade. There are so many alternatives to creating HDR photos now, and so far I have not had to use any special software to do that. Fingers crossed.

    October 27, 2018 at 8:18 am

    • Thank you Hien! I rely on sunrises and sunsets too often, if there’s good color in the sky, it’s too easy to shoot an image with a good wow factor to it, even if the basic landscape under the clouds is nothing special. I hope to catch such a sunrise someplace where’s there’s a great landscape image to begin with in the future.

      I’m still learning that software is just as important as the cameras and lenses used to create digital images. I did the update to Photomatix, and it works great with the 7D, but it’s horrible when I use it for images from the 5D. But, I use Lightroom to create 16 bit Tiff files from my RAW images to load into Photomatix, as that was the only way that I could get good HDR images from the 7D in Photomatix. As long as Lightroom creates good HDR images from the 5D, I’m happy now that I’ve learned how to do it.

      October 27, 2018 at 8:46 am

  2. The gulls in flight are especially stunning!

    October 27, 2018 at 8:25 am

    • Thank you very much Cindy! Boredom and wanting to shoot something led to the gull photos, but that’s okay in a way, I got more than I bargained for and that’s always a good thing.

      October 27, 2018 at 8:49 am

  3. Hi Jerry. I like (and agree with) your philosophy on post processing of images you feature in your blog. So many others are highlighted with outrageous colors, that distract from the actual image itself. Happy that you haven’t fallen into that trap.

    Love that you can always find something new to photograph in a familiar old place. I really should practice that more.

    Have a good week.

    On Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 7:56 AM Quiet Solo Pursuits wrote:

    > quietsolopursuits posted: “My day off from work last Friday started off on > a good foot… …that’s the second of two HDR images that I shot at > sunrise, here’s the other. Actually, I took them in the opposite order, > shooting the zoomed in view first, then wanting to g” >

    October 27, 2018 at 8:28 am

    • Thanks Judy! It’s tough not to use the color saturation slider in Lightroom to push the colors well past what any one could see with their own eyes, because of the praise such images get from most of the general public. I won’t mention any names, but there are several local photogs whose photos are often featured on TV 8 that over process their images to the point where I can see the artifacts of the over processing in the images, but they get lots of likes on FB and Twitter. I figure that nature is beautiful enough that it doesn’t need my help.

      If you want to learn to look for new things to photograph locally, just buy new cameras and lenses all the time so that you’re looking for reasons to test the new gear out. 😉

      I hope that your week is a good one as well.

      October 27, 2018 at 8:58 am

  4. Stunning sunrise photos, Jerry, as always! My favorite though, is the crow. You have caught him in a thoughtful pose. I’ve never noticed the ear patches before, but will be more attentive when I see these birds up close.

    October 27, 2018 at 10:22 am

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’m happy that you liked the photo of the crow, as my goal is to be able to show things that most people never see, such as the ear patches that crows have.

      October 27, 2018 at 10:39 am

  5. Awesome photos! Looks like a fun day!

    October 27, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    • Thank you very much! It was a fun day, other than some sprinkles of rain now and then.

      October 27, 2018 at 1:53 pm

  6. Another fine and wonderful post full of interesting photos and comments…even if I don’t understand one word of camera speak- I get the gist of it! I think the sunset photos are beautiful but so too the photos of the Dunlin, Phalarope and Plover. I wonder where that mystery path leads too…I like photos that have a touch of mystery. Best of all for me though is the crow photo with his brown eyes, his cocked head, his little moustache and his ear ‘muffs’…I shall watch out for all those things when the crows arrive on our bird table. Thank you.

    October 27, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    • Thank you Marianne! I had a very good morning starting with the sunrise and some very good light for the birds that you mentioned, which helped a lot. The crow was a willing model for a change, normally they won’t let a person get that close. But, when I saw through the viewfinder what I’ve been able to see with the naked eye for a change, I knew that I’d get a winner or two if I continued to watch and photograph the crow. Just as with human models, the pose is everything, and when the crow cocked its head, I was ready for a change.

      October 27, 2018 at 2:43 pm

  7. Stunning pictures of the gulls in flight and those sunrise shots were something else, wow!

    October 27, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      October 28, 2018 at 6:56 am

  8. I am deeply impressed by your 240 species. You do know how to keep your eyes open when you are out and about.

    October 27, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    • Thank you Tom! It’s actually quite easy to find that many species when one actively searches for them and lives in an area where migrating birds pause to refuel before they continue their journeys.

      October 28, 2018 at 6:56 am

  9. The sunrise shots are excellent. Such beautiful colors! I caught one the other day but it wasn’t anywhere near as colorful.
    I zoomed in on what that gull was carrying and I couldn’t figure it out. It almost looks like a walnut.
    Congratulations on the new lifers. I think your list is 300? You’re getting there!
    I like the splashing duck and sitting junco. The juncos have come back here too, in large numbers.

    October 27, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I hope that you’re able to catch a similar sunrise or sunset soon, although I think that the Great Lakes play a role in producing the dramatic ones we have here.

      I zoomed in on the object that the gull dropped also, and I thought that it looked like a walnut too. I know that crows will drop walnuts on rocks to crack them open, I don’t know if gulls are smart enough to do the same thing. That why I wish that I had followed the gull to see what it was doing.

      There are 350 species on my list, so I still have a long way to go. But at least I’m still finding new species around here.

      October 28, 2018 at 7:12 am

  10. A fabulous post of stunning captures, Jerry! The sunrise shots are spectacular!

    October 27, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    • Thanks again Donna!

      October 28, 2018 at 6:49 am

  11. Congratulations on two more lifers, Jerry! I really enjoyed scrolling through this post as there was so much to see. The sunrise shots are beautiful and I liked the leaf colour shots you took at Muskegon too. The crow photos are excellent as are the Canada goose ones. I am sorry the weather prevented you from taking more shots.

    October 28, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Two lifers in a week was just luck and from paying attention. I had to look long and hard to find leaves with bright colors this year, most trees are looking dull this year because of the weather this year. I also lucked out with the crow and goose, with good light which has been rare this fall. It’s been like some one flipped a switch and we went right from summer to early winter.

      October 29, 2018 at 7:51 am

  12. Excellent photos, Jerry! “As usual”, I should say.

    October 29, 2018 at 11:01 am

    • Thank you very much Cynthia!

      October 29, 2018 at 4:01 pm