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

Archive for November, 2018

Pushing and learning

With winter here, and no light to work with for good images of birds, no flowers or insects to photograph, and a general feeling that I’m wasting my time going out with a camera this time of year, I’ve decided instead of giving up, I’d work on pushing my equipment to the limits and beyond, and to also learn to tweak my camera settings to get the best possible images that I can, no matter what time of year it is.

But first, I’m going to go back to an idea that I had a long time ago, that having two cameras with me at all times is a good thing despite the weight of carrying them, along with the expense.

I stopped at the beach at Muskegon State Park more or less on a lark, just to see the waves crashing into the breakwater there. I noticed a hole opening in the clouds, so I put the 24-70 mm lens on the 5D body, and I shot a series of images of the magic light that appeared, here’s the best of the series.

Crepuscular rays at Muskegon State Park

It was a raw, windy day, if you look closely, you can see that there’s sand being blown around, which is the reason that they put the snow fencing up along the beach, trying to control the sand.

But, as I was watching the light change, I noticed a bald eagle flying along the beach. So, I grabbed the 7D with the 400 mm prime lens on it to shoot the eagle.

Bald eagle hunting along the beach

I didn’t crop that image much, as it would never be a great image of the eagle itself, I wanted to capture the moment, with the eagle flying above the waves of Lake Michigan as it looked for prey. I was hoping that I’d be able to record it diving down to capture a fish, but that didn’t happen.

I wished that I had a better foreground in the landscape image, but as quickly as the light was changing, I didn’t dare move at that time. Later, when the light had mostly gone over to plain grey skies, I did test the new tires on my vehicle to drive through piles of wind-blown sand to what would have been a better location for the first image.

A few remaining crepuscular rays

You can see that the great light was all but gone, but I did have a better foreground and middle ground in the second landscape.

That location was also better to shoot photos of the eagle as it looked for food.

Bald eagle hunting at the beach in Muskegon SP

I still hoped to capture the eagle catching a fish, but it turned out that the eagle had spotted a dead fish on the beach to eat.

Bald eagle hunting at the beach in Muskegon SP

I could tell what was going on by the gulls and crows nearby waiting for the eagle to eat its fill. As soon as the eagle left, the other scavengers moved in to get their portions of the remains.

Anyway, having two camera with me allowed me to get photos of both events as they occurred, the crepuscular rays over the beach, and the eagle on the prowl.

Two other things come to mind about that time at the beach, one is that the 24-70 mm is an excellent lens, as you can see how sharp the landscape images are from corner to corner. It’s funny though, I still like the 16-35 mm lens more, even though the 24-70 mm lens is its equal. I think that my preference is based on what I use each lens for, rather than image quality though.

The other thing is that the new tires on my Subaru work well, I drove through some drifted sand that many other vehicles would have gotten stuck in. In fact, I had turned around the first time that I saw the sand drifts, as I could see where other vehicles had gotten stuck in the sand.

Okay, my images of birds in flight have improved a great deal over the past few years, and now, some of them are better than my images of stationary birds from the past.

Male northern shoveler in flight

However, back when I was still using the Nikon D50 before it died, I shot a photo of a flock of mallards that I would like to have a do-over on.

Mallards in flight, a blast from the past

There are several things that I really like about that photo, but there’s also plenty that I don’t like about it. I like the facts that the mallards in flight are mostly frozen and sharp, other than some blur in their wings as they flapped. But, the background is blurred because I was following the mallard with the camera, and the blurred background adds to the sense of motion in the photo. I also liked the soft light that allows the colors of the mallards to show without any harsh shadows.

I don’t like the way that the mallards are “clumped together” in several places within the image, nor do I like the horizon being off because I had the camera tilted when I shot that one. I also wish that I had been able to zoom in just a tad more to make the mallards in the frame slightly larger.

That photo was pure luck, it’s one of the few times that the old Nikon performed well. Also, I didn’t have time to zoom in very far with the old 70-300 mm lens that I used at the time, which actually worked to my advantage this one time.

So, one of the things that I’m going to work on this winter is getting better images of flocks of birds in flight. I should add that I’ll be able to spend the time that it takes for this because I no longer have to struggle to come up with any good shots from a day out with a camera. This also goes along with my plans to shoot in the manual mode more often. The settings that I have saved in all of my cameras for birds in flight are all manual mode settings, and I’ve also learned that when I use a flash for extra light in macro photos, switching to manual is a must. I also know that my long lenses, both the 100-400 mm zoom and 400 mm prime, are too long for the image of a flock of birds that I have in mind.

And now that I’m typing out my thoughts on this subject, I remember that this spring, I shot a number of images of gulls in flight with the 16-35 mm lens that I really liked.

Gulls flying in formation

With all of this in mind, last week I set out to begin playing with my lens selection and camera settings to learn how to get better images of flocks of birds in flight. Wouldn’t you know, as always, the best laid plans of mice and men seldom work out as their plan was laid out. Typically, the mallards at the Muskegon wastewater facility prefer to hang out in the flooded fields of the rapid filtration cells rather than the large storage lagoons. In fact, I should mention that mallards and many other puddle ducks love freshly flooded land, even if the flooded area is just a large puddle. I don’t know what it is that they find to eat in these flooded areas, but it has to be something that puddle ducks love, because they can be found in such places more often than not.

I got my equipment set-up in advance, using the 70-200 mm lens on the 7D, choosing that lens to prevent myself from zooming in too far as I do most of the time. Usually, I can drive to next to one of the rapid filtration cells and I have to wait until the mallards become nervous by my presence before they take flight, and this is where my plan failed.

For some reason, long before I approached the cell that the mallards were in, the entire flock took flight, so this was my best shot in this attempt.

Many mallards in flight

At least you get an idea how many mallards were there, although that’s just a small portion of the flock. And, I learned a little from the camera settings that I used for that image as well, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.

Just as the mallards all took flight long before I got into the position that I wanted to be in, you can never predict what’s going to happen when attempting to photograph nature. Earlier on that day, I had been parked where I could look out over mixed flocks of ducks to see if there were any species in the flock worth trying to photograph. Suddenly, wave after wave of northern shovelers came flying towards me to join the flock that was already there. Each wave consisted of about a dozen to about twenty ducks, but I had my long lenses on both cameras, and this is what happens most of the time in that situation.

Female northern shoveler photo bombing my attempt

In all, I’d say that well over 100 northern shovelers came flying towards me, but as in that photo above, there was an out of focus duck in the foreground to ruin the photos. I did better when a lone male approached from the other direction a bit later.

Male northern shoveler landing

I love it when I catch the moment of touchdown, if only the light had been a little better. From all the photos of waterfowl landing on water I shoot, you may have noticed that northern shovelers lower their bodies into the water so that their butts and spread-out tail feathers slow them down much more quickly than some other species of waterfowl. Mallards and Canada geese in particular seem to enjoy skating across the top pf the water on only their feet for extended distances as if they were waterskiing. That may have something to do with the way that shovelers feed, I don’t know. Shovelers strain the surface water for their food, so maybe they prefer not to disturb the water any more than necessary. That’s just a thought of mine, it’s not based on any scientific study.

In some ways, having fewer subjects to photograph during the winter is a good thing, for it allows me to slow down while watching a flock of birds since I’m not in a race with myself to try to photograph everything that there is to see in nature in one day. Then, when I see a northern shoveler in a flock taking a bath and at about the best distance from me as possible…

Male northern shoveler taking a bath

…I know that it will dry its wings when finished, so I can be prepared…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…and capture the entire sequence…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…from start to finish…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…and show his beautiful coloration while he’s doing his thing…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…and the best part was that I was able to keep him in the frame…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…because I’ve practiced shooting this sequence so many times in the past.

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

Slowing down and paying more attention to the background also pays dividends.

Oriental bittersweet

I also tried to shoot a few snow scenes this past week, nothing great though.

Cloudy, snowy morning 1

These would have been better with a little sun and blue skies…

Cloudy, snowy morning 2

…something that I may actually see this week.

Cloudy, snowy morning 3

I have some ideas about some other things to try this winter, one is shooting snow scenes at night under a full moon. However, that’s so dependent on the weather that I’m not sure if I’ll ever see the right conditions on any of my days off. I do stand a better chance of that than a sunny day though, because the wind usually drops off at night, which allows the lake effect clouds to break up until sunrise. As soon as the wind picks up, the clouds soon follow. At least I now have a camera and lenses for such photos if the weather does ever cooperate.

Switching gears, there has been a northern shrike that has spent the winter months at the Muskegon County wastewater facility for several years, until last year. I never saw it, and I never saw one reported there on eBird when I’d check what species were being seen in Muskegon County. I don’t know if the shrike that had been seen there for years died of old age, or if it had chosen a new area to spend the winter. But last week, I saw this one there.

First year northern shrike

That’s one of last summer’s young, you can tell from the way that its chest is brownish, with bits of white to go with the brown.

First year northern shrike

Its chest will eventually turn all white as it grows its adult feathers.

I was much closer to the shrike when I first spotted it, but it was mostly hidden by a few remaining leaves along with branches of the bush it was perched in. As I followed it with my camera, I caught this.

Northern shrike hacking up a pellet

Owls are known for regurgitating the indigestible parts of critters that they eat in the form of pellets, but it turns out that most, or all raptors do the same thing, even the smallest ones such as the shrike. As I’ve sat watching eagles and several species of hawks, I’ve seen them regurgitate pellets, but I’ve never been able to photograph it. This photo of the shrike doing so was mostly luck, I was just shooting away hoping for a good pose with a clean foreground. I was able to see the pellet drop right after that photo was recorded, but I was hooting in slow continuous rather than high-speed, so the pellet was out of the frame before the camera fired again.

Thanksgiving Day was another cold, dreary day here, and the majority of the photos that I shot were almost identical to those that I’ve already put in this post, so I’ve decided not to use most of them. I did catch a juvenile bald eagle flying overhead early in the day.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

And, I caught yet another northern shoveler drying its wings…

Male northern shoveler drying its wings

…and I’m including this one to show how birds “blast a hole in the water” as they bathe…

Male northern shoveler taking a bath

…along with two different versions of how shovelers form tightly knit rafts as they feed…

Northern shoveler feeding frenzy

…as I can’t decide which of these two I like the best.

Northern shoveler feeding frenzy

We have more species of birds moving into the area to spend the winter, I’m not sure if I shot a photo of a rough-legged hawk at all last winter…

Rough-legged hawk in flight

…so it was good to see one this early this winter.

Also, the snow buntings have returned…

Male snow bunting

…but for some reason, neither of my cameras seem to be able to produce a sharp image of one, these were shot with the 5D…

Male snow bunting

…and this one was shot with the 7D.

Female snow bunting

This species is going to be a challenge for me this winter, to get an excellent image of one. They are very flighty birds, that form large flocks. Just when you think that you’re close enough to one to get a good image, one of the other members of the flock will take flight, and away they all go. They seem to expend far too much energy as they fly from place to place, and in the way that they feed. Many small birds are always in motion, no species more than snow buntings, they’re always moving.

Well, the good news is that there were a few hours of sunshine last Friday, the bad news is that by noon, the clouds rolled back in and have been here ever since. I’ll save those images for my next post, as I’m up to my limit for this post already.

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

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Another winter begins

Well, it’s begun, winter in West Michigan that is. That means no flowers, no insects, and also a lack of many other subjects other than birds and an occasional landscape for several months. I have some photos that I shot from this spring and summer that I saved to put into earlier posts, but didn’t, that I can use to fill in my posts over the winter. I’ll also be restarting my series of posts on one specific species of birds per post in the My Photo Life List project that I’ve been working on as well.

Last Thursday was what’s become all too typical already this year, dark and dreary, so I didn’t shoot many photos at all. The weather was even worse on Friday, when we set a record for the date for snowfall at 4 inches. That’s not a lot compared to the records later in the year, but it was for so early in November. I’m not whining yet, just stating fact, but we’ve had 0% of possible sunshine on 8 of the last 12 days, and we’re at less than 4% of possible sunshine for the month of November so far.

I blew it on Friday, it was the first day that the snow accumulated to any degree, and the scenes of the first real snow were as lovely as any I’ve ever seen, due in part to how early in the year it came. Many trees were still holding their finest fall colors, and with the fresh white snow falling on them, it was really beautiful to see. But, I need new tires for my vehicle, and had chosen Friday as the best day to get them, because of the weather forecast. But it turned out, I couldn’t get the tires installed on that day, so I went home, had lunch, then set out to capture some of the scenes I had seen, but it was too late. The wind had picked up, and most of the snow was melting already, so I headed to Muskegon in hopes that I’d find landscapes to shoot there, I didn’t.

Another reason that I haven’t been shooting as many photos lately is that since the first part of October, I’ve been running into Brian Johnson, who does the bird banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to him. I enjoy the chats that we have, it isn’t often that I meet a true nature lover as Brian is, and on top of that, he’s extremely knowledgeable, since his real job is to do environmental impact research, he bands birds as a hobby. Since on most days when I’ve run into him have been dark and dreary, I spend an hour or two each time talking to him rather than looking for things to photograph. I learn so much from him that I consider it time well spent for the information that I learn, both as far as where to look for certain species of birds, and so many other things that I can’t possibly list them all here.

Anyway, I’m going to begin the photos in this post with a species that you’re all probably tired of seeing, but it’s the best image that I’ve shot in the last two weeks but haven’t posted yet.

Two male northern shovelers

I was hoping that I was close enough to them so that you’d be able to see the specialized structures that they have on their bills to strain food out of the water, but in this small size image, you can’t. I’ll have to get even closer, and hopefully in the spring, when one is in full breeding plumage.

These next two are from yesterday as I type this, and they show how my days have been going the past few weeks. This one was shot at about 11:30 AM to show that I had missed the sun again, and because there was some color in the sky that really doesn’t show well in this photo.

Missed the sunshine again

Just 40 minutes later, there was a pretty good snow squall taking place, so I shot this one to show that.

And the snow moves in

It’s funny, despite the terrible light that I’ve had the last several weeks, I’ve been shooting a lot of ducks in flight, both for practice, and to push my gear and myself to see what’s possible. I know that in low light that the 5D would be the better camera to use, but my 7D camera is still my choice for flying birds, so I’ve been working with it.

Joining the crowd

What I learn from each camera is often transferable to the other, for example, what I learned about the auto-focus system of the 5D when shooting stationary subjects has helped me get sharper images with the 7D. And, the 7D, with its much higher frame rate, is still the best choice for me to get shots like this.

The take-off ballet

One thing about the low light, there’s no shadows in these photos.

Male mallard in flight

Although, there’s too much noise in them for the photos to be considered good…

Male mallard in flight

…so I’ll have to work on that this winter. That goes with getting better shots of flocks of birds in flight as well.

Mallards in flight

Now then, for a boring bit here. The 7D is rated at ten frames per second, and it can actually shoot that many photos per second, or very, very close to it, which is why I still prefer it over the 5D. The 5D is rated at 7 frames per second, however, how I have that body set-up, my guess is that I’m lucky to get 5 frames per second, and the buffer of the 5D also fills much sooner, than the 7D, so I’m not able to shoot as many photos with the 5D before it stops to write what’s in the buffer to the memory card(s).

Both cameras hold two memory cards, both a CF card and a SD card. The write speed for CF cards is much faster than the write speed for the SD cards, and I believe that’s why the 5D can’t match its rated frames per second for me. I have the 7D body set-up to record to only the faster CF card which is why it will match its rated speed without filling the buffer as quickly as the 5D body. I have the 5D set to record to both cards at once, just in case the CF card were to fail, which does happen on occasion, although not to me, yet. I did have trouble getting the photos off from a CF card once, but I was able to download the photos on the card by using recovery software that came with the card. I’m pretty sure that the slower SD card in the 5D is the bottleneck in the camera that causes it to shoot slightly slower and fill the buffer sooner, along with the camera having to write to both cards simultaneously.

Since I feel that I’m more likely to get a once in a lifetime image with the 5D, that’s why I have it set to record to both cards, if one fails, the other is the backup.

Anyway, I may as well use my other two photos from yesterday now.

Bald eagle

The eagle’s mate flew to the same tree shortly after I had shot that photo, but I didn’t bother to go back and get them together because I’ve shown plenty of photos of them in the past.

Trumpeter swan family stopping over on their way south

There had been a much larger flock of trumpeter swans, with a few snow geese hanging out with them, a few weeks ago.

Trumpeter swans and snow geese

But, they were all too far away from me for a good photo.

While I’m at it, I may as well fill out this post with the poor photos that I shot during the past two weeks in the snow for the most part.

Hooded mergansers

 

Color on a grey day

 

A lonely patch of sunshine

 

Lesser black-backed gull

 

Female northern shoveler having fun

 

Female northern shoveler having fun

 

Female northern shoveler having fun

 

Female northern shoveler landing

 

Male northern shovelers landing

 

Male northern shovelers landing

 

Male northern shovelers landing

 

Northern shovelers in flight

 

Male northern shoveler landing

 

Common goldeneye

This series really has too many photos, but at the same time, it’s kind of cute also.

Common goldeneye yoga

 

Common goldeneye yoga

 

Common goldeneye yoga

 

Common goldeneye yoga

 

Common goldeneye yoga

I have three more photos shot during one of the rare and short sunny periods from the last two weeks to finish this post.

Canada geese landing on a sunny fall day

I’m including these two to show how short and stubby the wings of a ruddy duck are.

Ruddy duck wing stretch

 

Ruddy duck wing stretch

These two photos also show that ruddy ducks are pudgy little things, almost like basketballs with wings attached.

I’m already up to my self-imposed limit on photos, so it’s time to end this one. I hate to say this, but I think that my next post will be mostly about photography. The reason is that with as rotten as the weather has been, I’ve been shooting fewer photos when I do get the chance to get out with my cameras, and since that’s the case, I’ve been trying new things, or I should say, tweaking my settings from the way that I have been shooting. So, I’ll apologize in advance.

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


A hungry bird is an easy bird

While I was sitting at the Muskegon County wastewater facility looking over the flocks of various species of birds in view, I noticed this Merlin land quite near to my vehicle, and of course I had to photograph it.

Merlin

After I had identified the other species of birds nearby, I continued on my way, eventually circling back around to almost the same spot where I had seen the merlin before.

Merlin

That image was cropped a little, for one thing, the merlin was feeding on what remained of a duck that I’m guessing was killed by a larger predator, and I didn’t want any one to be put off seeing the blood and meat from what remained of the duck. However, here’s the full image, and you’ve been warned, so if you’re squeamish, scroll past this one quickly.

The reason that the merlin didn’t fly away was that it was hungry and didn’t want to give up its meal. I would have also stayed further away to allow it to eat in peace, but that was on the center dike where’s there’s only a single track running the length of it, with little room to turn around. So, I had to make a choice, drive past the merlin to continue on my way, or risk damaging my vehicle on the rocks on the edges of the dike. I assumed that the merlin would fly a short distance away, then return after I had passed, but stayed put instead.

Those images go with some that I had shot the previous day at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, at the bird feeders near the outdoor classroom. One of the volunteers was using a large riding lawn mower to blow the leaves off from the paved trails there intended for cyclists, because wet leaves on pavement are very slippery and could lead to a cyclist wiping out, getting injured, and suing the group that operates the preserve. However, the sounds of the tractor and leaf blower were keeping all the birds at bay along the trails, the only quiet spot in the preserve was near the bird feeding station. I was also lucky that the volunteer clearing the leaves from the trails had also filled the feeders before they had begun the leaf removal.

While the overwhelming majority of the photos of birds I shoot are birds that I find “in the wild”, I have on rare occasions sat near the feeding station at the preserve to photograph birds as they approach the feeders, like this cardinal.

Male northern cardinal

However, he wouldn’t raise his crest to show his full beauty until he was on the feeder.

Male northern cardinal

I shot a series of him cracking open sunflower seeds…

Male northern cardinal

…to get at the meat inside…

Male northern cardinal

…but still photos don’t do justice to how the birds manipulate the seeds with their tongues as they remove the outer husks of the seeds. I suppose that the way birds eat shouldn’t surprise me, humans do the same thing as far as moving food in our mouths as we eat, still, I find watching birds in action fascinates me.

Also, shooting at the feeders provided me with another series of photos as well. In my last post, I noted that blue jays have a specialized pouch in their throats to hold food to be stored for later. Many people don’t know that, which is why many people think of blue jays as gluttons, they’ll land on a feeder and seemingly swallow large numbers of seeds quickly, but they’re not actually eating the seeds then…

Blue jay gathering a seed to eat later

…you can tell that this blue jay was filling its gular pouch with seeds, hulls and all, and later, in a safer setting, it did what other birds do…

Blue jay breaking open a sunflower seed to eat the meat

…break the sunflower seed open to get to the meat inside. While other birds will grab one seed to eat in a safer location…

White-breasted nuthatch

…the gular pouch that the blue jays have is similar to the large cheeks of a chipmunk…

Eastern chipmunk looking for dropped seeds

…which the chipmunks use to carry food to be stored for later.

I missed the nuthatch eating the seed that it carried away, but I did catch it cleaning its beak after eating the seed…

White-Breasted nuthatch cleaning its beak

…by rubbing it on the branch it was perched on. Then, after a quick look around…

White-Breasted nuthatch

…to make sure it was safe, and deciding where it was going to go next, it was off.

White-Breasted nuthatch

By the way, the chipmunk reminds me that once again, I failed to get photos of all three species of squirrels native to Michigan in one day, not that chipmunks are squirrels, but they are closely related. I did get red squirrels…

Red squirrel

 

Red squirrel

…and both color variations of grey squirrels…

Grey squirrel, black morph

 

Grey squirrel, grey morph

…but I wasn’t able to find a fox squirrel to get all of our squirrel species in one day. I did shoot this one just to test the dynamic range of my camera…

Grey squirrel, black morph

…because I thought that the black squirrel on the nearly white feeder would be a good test, and it was. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have shot that photo.

I know that I shouldn’t, but I can’t help bragging about the 5D Mk IV camera body and its dynamic range compared to the crop sensor 7D that I’ve been using. It doesn’t matter if it’s the black squirrel on the light feeder, a landscape…

From the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

…or birds in flight in a snowstorm…

Northern shoveler in flight in a snowstorm

…the 5D is so much better than what I’m used to, and while I’m not looking forward to winter, I know that my photos will be much better this winter than in past years because of how much better the 5D is.

Anyway, changing gears, in my last post I promised a few photos from the north campground at Muskegon State Park, and here they are.

Autumn in Muskegon State Park 1

 

Autumn in Muskegon State Park 2

 

Autumn in Muskegon State Park 3

I like the way that I got the color in this one…

Autumn in Muskegon State Park 4

…however, I like the overall composition in this version of the same scene…

Autumn in Muskegon State Park 5

…so I included both versions.

Speaking of different versions, that brings up something else. Later in the evening, after shooting the photos above, I caught the sunset at Duck Lake State park.

But as I was waiting for the sun to set, I shot this image as a rain squall approached from the north.

As the squall approaches

There wasn’t much of a gap in the clouds to let the sun shine through at the horizon, but it looked like it would be a good sunset to photograph.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park wide 1

But, even at 70 mm with the 24-70 mm lens, my field of view was too wide, so I switched to my 70-200 mm lens for this one.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park telephoto 1

That’s an older lens in Canon’s line up, and it shows in that photo because I got lens flare in it. Going back to the much newer 24-70 mm lens, which has much better coatings on the lens elements to prevent such flares, I was able to shoot this one with no lens flare.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park wide 2

However, while that one is okay, I really wanted to zoom in tighter on the sunset, so I went back to the 70-200 mm lens for the final shot of the evening.

Sunset at Duck Lake State Park telephoto 2

You can see that the lens flare was even worse, and ruined what could have been an excellent image of the sunset. I love the effect that light from the setting sun has on the dune grass, how it takes on the appearance of a spider web, something that I’ve captured in the past when the opportunity has presented itself.

I thought that I was done purchasing big-ticket photography gear such as lenses and cameras, but it looks as if that is a never-ending fact of life. This almost had to happen, as Canon has just announced their third version of their 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS lens that has much better coatings on the lens elements that virtually eliminate lens flare, along with improving color and contrast when shooting subjects with the sun behind the subject.

I’m not sure why Canon, or any other lens manufacturers for that matter, can’t simply change the coatings in older lenses, but I hear that it has to do with the way that each lens element bends the light, that the coatings do effect that. I hope that it’s the true reason that they can’t upgrade the lens coatings in older models of lenses, and that it isn’t just greed, forcing those of us with older lenses to upgrade if we want the best possible images.

That sort of goes along with the new full frame mirrorless cameras that are hitting the market at this time. As I wrote in an earlier post, due to the fact that the rear elements of the lenses for a mirrorless camera can be closer to the camera’s sensor, lens manufacturers can build better lenses for mirrorless cameras than they can for a DSLR with the mirror box between the lens and the camera sensor. From the early reviews, that seems to be true. Canon has released two professional grade lenses for their new EOS R mirrorless cameras that are far better than any of their existing DSLR lenses. And, the consumer grade 24-105 mm lens for the mirrorless camera tests out to being nearly as good as Canon’s best DSLR lenses, and cost nearly two-thirds less than the DSLR lenses.

Still, it’s a pretty hefty chunk of change at $1,100 for the new 24-105 mm lens, but that’s better than the nearly $3,000 for Canon’s best DSLR lenses in the same focal length range.

Fortunately, I don’t have to be in a hurry to upgrade any of my gear as it stands now. The new Canon mirrorless camera may be able to accept better lenses, but it lacks many of the features that I depend on in the 5D Mk IV or 7D MK II bodies I use now. The old 70-200 mm lens may be prone to lens flare and lack Image Stabilization, but it’s my least used lens. Although, part of the reason for that is because of its age and lack of the features of my newer lenses. I do find myself using it much more on the 5D than I did on my crop sensor bodies, because it’s the right lens as far as field of view in more instances with the full frame body than it was with the crop sensor bodies. That’s the reason that I’m thinking of upgrading, not because I got lens flare in the situation above, but because I’m using the 70-200 mm lens more all the time, although there are also times when I should use it but don’t, because of its shortcomings.

So, a few years from now, I could see myself upgrading to the new 70-200 mm lens once it’s been on the market for a while, the price drops a little, and Canon offers rebates on it. A bonus of the new lens would be that it could be an effective birding lens with a tele-converter behind it, but I won’t know until I try it. The new 70-200 mm lens with even a 2 X extender is as sharp as the 100-400 mm lens I’m using now is, but I’m not sure if that combination will focus quickly enough.

The same applies to a mirrorless body. Canon’s current model can’t cut it for most of the subjects that I shoot. But, once future models are designed, and more lenses added to the offerings beyond the three available now, I can see myself purchasing a mirrorless body and a wide-angle zoom lens for it, primarily for landscapes.

I’m going to add two more photos to this post to illustrate why all of this is important to me. Fist, my best eagle image shot with the Canon 60D and Sigma 150-500 mm lens…

Bald eagle shot at ISO 250 with 60D camera

…and the recent photo of an eagle in flight shot in about the worst conditions possible at ISO 25600.

Adult bald eagle in flight

Even though the eagle in the second photo is moving, its eye is sharper than the eye of the eagle in the first photo. There’s also more detail in the white feathers on the eagle’s head in the second photo. I’d say that the details in the eagle’s darker feathers are better in the first image, it was shot in great light, while the second image was shot shortly after dawn on a dreary day with very little light. The yellow colors of the eagle’s beak and feet are truer to real life in the second image as well. And, I can remember trying to adjust the yellows in the first image to get them as good as they are, while I didn’t have to do anything with the color in the second photo.

So, when I use equipment in poor light that can compare well to what I used to be able to get in very good light with my older gear, then it tells me that the upgrades were well worth it. Now, I have to catch an eagle willing to pose so nicely as the one in the first photo did to really show what the newer gear is capable of.

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


I’d better get used to it

It’s Autumn here in West Michigan, and the temperatures have been running below average for the second half of October, which means that I’ve been dealing with lake effect clouds for most of the time while I’ve been out with a camera lately. I’d better get used to it, as lake effect clouds will be the norm around here until next spring. Oh well, I’m sure that I’ll whine about the clouds, although not to the extent that I have in past years because with the 5D Mk IV, I now have a camera better suited to shooting in low light.

That said, I’m going to begin the photos in this post with images shot with the 7D Mk II because it’s a great camera to use for action photos in fair to good light. I shot this series as I was looking for the Little gull that I had in my last post. I had the 5D set-up to shoot portraits, and the 7D set-up for birds in flight. So, while I was sitting around hoping to get better images of the Little gull, I would occasionally shoot photos of the other gulls in flight to ease the boredom…

Bonaparte’s gulls and a dunlin in flight

…although I caught a dunlin in that photo as it was flying with the gulls.

Say what you want about gulls, they look very graceful in flight…

Bonaparte’s gull in flight

…and I loved the reflections of this gull as it landed…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…and I wondered if this gull was watching its own reflection as it landed…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…although it’s more likely that the gull found something to eat on the surface of the water…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…which is why it chose to land where it did.

Bonaparte’s gull landing

In my last post, I had a photo of a junco with a colorful background created by the fall leaves, here’s another version of the same junco.

Dark-eyed junco

I said that there was a story behind that photo, so here it is. I had stopped at the Snug Harbor day use part of Muskegon State Park in hopes of finding some really good fall colors to photograph, but the colors there were quite dull for the most part.

Snug Harbor, Muskegon State Park

Besides the picnic area and fishing pier at Snug Harbor, there’s also a public boat ramp there. I almost always go to the boat ramp so that I can look out over Muskegon Lake to see if there are any waterfowl nearby to photograph. As I was driving around the circular drive to and from the boat ramp, I noticed a few brighter colored leaves…

Just a small wooded area in Muskegon State Park

…but I couldn’t get a good image of the small wooded area within the circular drive. I did park nearby and wander around the rest of the are, but I doubt that I’ll post any of the poor photos that I shot while I did.

When I returned to my vehicle and started to drive away, I saw a thrush come out of that small wooded area to grab something off from the ground, then fly back into the woods. I stopped to look more closely, and I saw that the wooded area was filled with birds of many different species. So, I parked there again, and tried walking both within that wooded area, and around the edge of it.

It was very frustrating, I could see many birds, but they all stayed well out of range for a photo, no matter how slowly or quietly I tried to move through that wooded area. I’d take a few steps, then stop where I was somewhat hidden by brush and wait for a bird to land nearby, but none did, except for a juvenile cedar waxwing that landed above me. I’m not going to include that photo, as the waxwing was too far away and against the grey sky, I have so many better images of that species that I don’t feel like posting a poor one.

But, as I tried and failed to get any bird photos, here are two things that caught my eye as I was watching the birds.

Old and new sapsucker holes in a tree

I forgot to take note of what species of tree that was, it’s obvious that the sapsuckers find the sap from that species quite tasty, as the entire main trunk of the tree and several large branches all showed that generations of sapsuckers had been feeding on the sap from it.

Here’s the other subject that I shot.

Unidentified fungal object

By the way, portions of that small wooded area were very wet, too wet to walk through, but I covered as much of it as I could. After walking all the way around it, I returned to my vehicle to see several birds feeding on the ground and the edge of the woods around my vehicle. I had already been thinking that I wished that I had taken the portable hide with me and set it up in that small section of woods somewhere to sit and hope that a bird would land near to me if I were hidden. I really wish that I hadn’t taken the portable hide out of my vehicle, because I think that using it there would have worked on this day.

I did the next best thing though, I parked where I could use my vehicle for a hide, and sat there in comfort. Here are the birds, beside the junco that I already posted, that I was able to photograph from my vehicle.

Downy woodpecker

My luck got better…

Hermit thrush

…it’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of a hermit thrush…

Hermit thrush

…so I’m posting these three, even if they’re not very good.

Hermit thrush

With as many bluebirds in the woods as there were, I was hoping for a better photo than this.

Eastern bluebird

Blue jays often store food for later, they have a pouch in their throats that can hold an acorn or two much like the cheek pouches of chipmunks. Here’s a blue jay gathering acorns to store…

Blue jay picking up an acorn

…down the hatch.

Blue jay swallowing an acorn

The blue jay would have used its beak to open the acorn to eat the meat inside if it was going to eat it at that time, which is how I know that it was going to store the acorn for later.

While most of the birds that I wanted photos of the most refused to come as close as I would have liked, of course a chickadee was the exception to that.

Black-capped chickadee

Eventually, the birds all moved on and I wasn’t seeing them anymore, so I did the same. And by the way, I missed many more species than the ones that I got photos of, I couldn’t believe how many birds were flocked together in such a small area.

I’m not sure if I’d have been able to do any better with the portable hide, migrating birds tend to be more wary because they’re not familiar with the area and because they’re not tied to a location by their nests or young. But, I would have liked to have tried the hide, so it’s going back into my vehicle just in case. And, I’m not sure about using it for small birds to begin with, just as most of the birds were out of camera range as I used my vehicle as a hide, I’m afraid the same thing will happen if I’m sitting in the hide.

Well, I’m getting way behind in posting right now, along with reading other people’s posts, and about everything else as October has been a very busy month for me. I had a number of personal business items to take care of, along with doctor and dental appointments, it was as if everything had been dumped on me at once. So, I’m going to throw in a bunch of photos that are from the same timeframe as those already in this post without making many comments on them.

Manmade lake and fall reflections

 

Northern shovelers and dunlin enjoying their mid-day snooze

 

American pipit

 

Male northern shoveler stretching

 

Male northern shovelers

 

Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 1

 

Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 2

 

Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 3

 

Near the Muskegon State Park campground entrance

 

Near the Muskegon State Park campground entrance

 

The Muskegon State Park campground entrance

Actually, there are two campgrounds in Muskegon State Park, these photos are from the north campground which is on Lake Michigan. There’s also the south campground, which is on Muskegon Lake where it empties into the channel that leads to Lake Michigan. I’ll have more photos from within the north campground in my next post, as there were very few campers there this past weekend.

I had a couple of photos from Duck Lake State Park that I was going to share, but the colors there were rather drab this fall, so I changed my mind about using them. It doesn’t help that it has been cloudy most of the time for the better part of October, or this photo would have been a winner I think.

Fall colors on another cloudy day

I better get used to shooting when the skies are cloudy again, as that will be the case on most days this fall and winter until next March. I’m not looking forward to it, or the cold, or snow, but there’s not much that I can do about the weather.

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