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

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The death watch is over, a celebration of a life!

As some of you may know, my mother has been in a nursing home for the past few years, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I haven’t said anything about her condition lately, but she was going downhill quickly the last two weeks. Just last week, we had to call in hospice care again for her, as she was getting to the point where the portion of her brain that controls swallowing and eating was shutting down, making it almost impossible for the care givers to get any nourishment or water into her.

Well, today, just after noon, my mother’s suffering came to an end as she passed away, and went to the arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I have very mixed feelings about this right now, on one hand, I’m deeply saddened by my mother’s passing. On the other hand, I know that she wouldn’t have wanted to continue existing the way that she has for the last year or so, so in some ways, her death is a blessing, which may come as a shock to some people. All I can say is that watching the strong, intelligent woman who my mother was for most of her life reduced to little more than a vegetable as Alzheimer’s destroyed her brain was in many ways worse than her passing.

Some of you may even be wondering why I would choose to do a blog post right now, well, it’s a form of therapy for me, and I’m going to make this post a celebration of the love of nature that my mother instilled in me as I was growing up.

Over the years that I have been blogging, I’ve mentioned a few times that both my mother and father were nature lovers, in particular, my mother loved birds and flowers. So, I’m going to start this post out with a few photos of her favorite birds, northern cardinals.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

While my mom could still get around well enough to feed the birds, she could tell you how many pairs of cardinals that she had coming to her feeders each day, and her favorite sweater had cardinals on it of course.

I wish that I had a few photos of hummingbirds for this post also, because my mom also spent hours watching the hummers come and go from the feeder she put out for them as well, sorry mom.

These will have to do, as a way of paying tribute to the love of nature that my mom passed on to me.

While my mom would never have approved of how much I spent on my photography gear, she would have loved these images. She would also commended my attempts to share what I’ve learned with others. While she didn’t have the patience to be a great teacher, she certainly had the knowledge, and she believed in sharing her knowledge with others.

So I will add which lens I shot it with, with no other comments from me.

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Smooth-leaved thistle?

Smooth-leaved thistle?

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Sedge flowers

Sedge flowers

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Great blue lobelia

Great blue lobelia

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Creek scene

Creek scene

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Water strider

Water strider

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Sumac leaves in the sun

Sumac leaves in the sun

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Sunny day

Sunny day

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Silver spotted skipper

Silver spotted skipper

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Primrose moth, Schinia florida

Primrose moth, Schinia florida

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye weed

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

American robin

American robin

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

American robin

American robin

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Great blue lobelia

Great blue lobelia

I said that my mom wouldn’t have approved of how much I spent on photo gear, as she was a very frugal person. On the other hand, I can’t remember the number of times I heard as a kid, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right!”, so, I listened to half of what she tried to teach me at least.

I feel as though I should write a lot more about the person that my mother was, but I don’t have it in me right now, I’m feeling drained more than anything.

It’s been very difficult watching my mom’s health decline the past two weeks, and that has weighed heavily on me. Both of my parents are now gone, and I know that I’ll miss my mom as much or more than I do my dad. But, every time I see a bird, or hear a one singing, every flower I see blooming, will remind me of both of them.

Bye mom, I love you!

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Ju Dee, Ju Dee, Ju Dee, or, lost in my own little great big world

Okay, so I do a terrible Cary Grant impersonation.

The reason for even trying is that a local reader of my blog had decided that they would like to accompany me when I went on one of my of my hikes. I’m not sure why she wanted to go along, I think that she thought that I was some kind of critter whisperer or something, and that when I step into the woods, the critters come running to me like in a Disney cartoon.

But, before I go any further along that line, I have to apologize to Judy for asking her to lug my tripod, and then not using it, even though there were times when I should have. I have a one track mind, and the reason that I wanted the tripod along was to shoot a specific species of flower, spotted bee balm. However, the spotted bee balm was a long way from reaching its peak.

I had great plans to always use my tripod for macro photography, but those plans sort of went by the wayside. I found that there were many times I simply could not set the tripod up in such a way as to be able to shoot the subject that I wanted to shoot. I started using the macro lens handheld, with disastrous results. Okay, I needed practice using it handheld, so for most of the last month, that’s what I’ve been doing. When I see a specific species of flower that I know that I should use the tripod for, then, I bring it with me and use it the next time I know I’ll see that species of plant, otherwise it remains at home to reduce the weight that I have to carry. I get into routines for no real reason, and then it becomes hard for me to break those routines. Right now, one of those routines is getting better using the macro lens handheld, so I forget the tripod entirely, even when I should or could use it.

So once again, I’m sorry that you carried the tripod with us for nothing, Judy!

One the great side of the ledger, I actually enjoyed having some one to talk to while I was hiking! After what had happened over the last few years, I had forgotten that there was such a thing as pleasant company on a nature walk.

It’s been several years since any one went along with me on any of my hikes, and I would say that I’m used to getting lost in my own little world, except, nature isn’t a little world, it’s a great big wonderful world, that never ceases to amaze me! The little world that I get lost in is that of my own thoughts, since I’m so used to be alone.

That brings me to something about myself that is very hard to explain, getting completely immersed in nature.

But, since the time that I have begun this post, I have decided that I should devote an entire post to the subject of how deeply immersed in nature I become at times, so I’ll focus the rest of this post on that day.

It was an enlightening day for me in a way, I knew in the back of my mind that I have been so intent on photographing insects and flowers that I haven’t been paying much attention to other subjects, and that hit home almost as soon as we started walking on the boardwalk that takes you across a corner of Pickerel Lake. I was so intent on finding water flowers or dragonflies to shoot that Judy had to point this turtle out to me.

Painted turtle basking in the sun

Painted turtle basking in the sun

I did see a water strider, and one of these days, I’ll get a good photo of one, until then, this will have to do.

Water strider

Water strider

I tried the new 10-18 mm lens out on this dead tree that’s very close to the boardwalk, to see if I could get the entire tree in the frame, I did.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

But, that shot isn’t really all that great, I should have gotten down lower. The problem is the fence along the boardwalk to prevent people from falling into the lake. The next time I’m there, I’m going to see if I can shoot through one of the openings in the fence, or maybe from under the fence to get a better angle on the tree.

Here’s a few more photos that really don’t need any explanation.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Wasp or fly?

Wasp or fly?

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

White moth

White moth

White mushroom

White mushroom

It’s kind of funny, Judy was wondering why I wasn’t photographing more of the things that we were seeing along the trail, but, that’s from my new attitude towards photography. Many of the things that she asked if I was going to shoot were in poor light, or not very good examples of what ever species they were. It’s kind of nice not coming home with 400 images to sort through, most of them not very good,  to come up with a few for a post. I’ve learned to go for good shots to begin with, since I’m outside every day, I have no trouble getting enough photos for my blog.

We did see a few birds, or I should say that I saw a few birds. Judy was afraid of spooking them, so she stayed well back, and I doubt that she saw very many. They were all the more common species of birds, and few of them were willing to pose for me on this day.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

So, we walked along, with me occasionally shooting some of the other subjects to be found.

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Green spider

Green spider

Butterfly on milkweed

Butterfly on milkweed

The butterfly was actually hanging upside down on a drooping milkweed flower, but looking at the image as I shot it, it just didn’t look right, so I rotated it. It still doesn’t look quite right, but at least it doesn’t give me vertigo looking at it. 😉

We reached the spot where the spotted bee balm grows.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The flowers weren’t much farther along than last week, but I did capture this wasp or bee feeding on either the nectar or pollen.

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

And, I tried for a good photo of the actual flowers.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The tripod wasn’t a complete waste of energy for Judy to have carried it, I used the case as a background for this shot to help make this grass stand out from a boring background.

Unknown grass flower

Unknown grass flower

Continuing on, Judy pointed these tiny mushrooms out to me, the heads of them were only about a half an inch (12 mm) in diameter.

Orange mushrooms

Orange mushrooms

I cropped this next one down, and I can see a tiny insect on the mushroom.

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

You may not have been able to see the insect with the smaller size of the photos here, but it’s on the left third of the head of the mushroom. I’m not sure, but I think that what look to be crystals or spots of lighter color in the mushroom are grains of sand. I’m loving the Tokina macro lens!

I also used it for these two photos.

Unidentified mushroom

Unidentified mushroom

Lichens and mosses

Lichens and mosses

But, I should have switched to the new 10-18 mm lens for that last one. I wasn’t trying to get super close, I was going for the vibrant colors, which I almost got, but the short depth of field of the macro lens means some of what’s in the photo is out of focus, detracting from the quality of the image. With the close focusing ability of the wide-angle lens, it would have been a better choice of lenses. I almost went back to re-shoot that, but didn’t want to take the time, silly me.

Here’s a few more photos that need no explanation.

Unidentified round flower

Button bush

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

Black jelly mold?

Black jelly mold?

Beetle on a lilypad

Beetle on a lily pad

Here’s an image where my one track mind took over again. I saw this bee balm and knew how I could capture it almost instantly.

Bee balm

Bee balm

I love the lighting in that shot.

Judy was looking at the way that the tendrils of a vine were wrapped around the stem of the bee balm, I tried lowering the camera slightly as well as stepping back, but then I lost the lighting that I wanted for the flower itself. You can see that I was getting a few of the petals of the flower over-exposed in this next photo.

Bee balm

Bee balm

It was one of many times that I should have done two things. One, take more time explaining to Judy what I was doing and why so that I wouldn’t seem like such a jerk. Two, I should have taken more time looking the lighting over, I may have been able to get a good photo of both the flower and the vine, which would have been even better than the flower alone. But, I didn’t do either.

I did shoot a couple of dragonflies.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I found another of the orange butterflies on swamp milkweed.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

This butterfly was being dive-bombed by bees or wasps, and would flinch whenever the smaller insects got close.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

I tried to time a photo to see if the smaller insects were stinging the butterfly or not, but even I’m not that good. 😉 So, another shot of the butterfly will have to do.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

I was able to get a couple of photos of pickerel-weed that are better than before.

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Judy pointed these out to me.

More unidentified round flowers

Bur reed

While I was sizing up this fungi for this photo.

Fungi

Fungi

And finally, as far as photos, this cardinal in jail.

Male northern cardinal in "jail"

Male northern cardinal in “jail”

It makes one wonder how birds are able to fly through the tangle of branches.

It was a very good day, and if Judy ever wants to come along again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat, as she is the first true nature lover that I’ve met in at least the last five years, other than a few of the people from the Muskegon County Nature Club. They tend to be serious birders who use spotting scopes and/or high-powered binoculars and bird from a distance, which doesn’t work out well for my efforts to photograph birds.

If you would like to read Judy’s take on the day, see photos of me crawling on my belly while shooting some of the photos in this post, or for just a good laugh, you can find a post that she did here.

That’s it for this one, except for this quote I found….

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

…thanks for stopping by!


How’d I do, rating myself on what’s in my bag

I’ve had my new camera and lenses long enough now to do a post about them, their strengths and weaknesses, and how I did in light of the recent post that I did on buying camera gear on a budget.

For new readers, or those who stumble across this, here’s a list of what my new equipment is.

  • Canon EOS 60 D body
  • Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM-Canon Mount
  • Canon EF 70-200MM F4L USM
  • Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens

If you’re looking for a technical review, complete with specifications and charts, sorry, you won’t find that here, as there are many other places where that information appears.

My purpose here isn’t to convince any one to run out and buy the exact same camera and lenses I have, in fact, it’s just the opposite of that.

What I am going to do here is put down my thoughts as to how well each piece performs for me as a nature photographer who does everything the wrong way. By that, I don’t set up someplace in a blind or hide, almost all of my photos are taken while I am walking in the woods. That means that I seldom have much time to make many adjustments, or to use a tripod.

I hope that in doing this post, that I can guide others through the thought process that they should follow in choosing what would work best for them.

So, here we go, I’ll start with the camera body, even though in my previous post linked above, I suggested that people start by shopping for lenses, then matching the best lenses they could afford to a body in their price range. That’s how I chose the 60 D body, looking at the many lens manufacturers line-ups, I decided that Canon had the best lenses I could afford in the range that I wanted, and the 60 D fit my needs and budget.

The 60 D is a cropped sensor body, the least expensive body in Canon’s mid-level line up of cameras. The controls are generally well laid out, the exception is the on/off switch, which is located on the left side of the camera, tucked under the mode selection dial. For shooting on the fly as I do, I find it easier to turn the camera on, and leave it on for as long as I am outside. That works very well, as the camera goes to “sleep” after one minute to conserve battery life.

Battery life seems to be excellent, I have not drained the battery yet, even though I leave the camera on for hours every day. I charge it once a week on Fridays, so the camera is ready for my weekend adventures, and that charge lasts me the entire week.

It did take me a few days to get used to the Multi-control Dial on the rear of the camera. The outer of the two dials is used to adjust the exposure compensation. At first, I fumbled a bit in trying to make adjustments, but the outer dial has ridges on it to help differentiate if from the inner dial. Now I have no problem adjusting the exposure when required.

I shoot in the program mode most of the time, since I am generally on the move. The exposure setting that the Canon comes up with are very good. The camera reads the focal length of the lenses I’m using, and comes up with exposures that work well for the lens I’m using at the time for the most part. The exposure settings that the camera comes up with aren’t perfectly spot on every time, but, they are very close. The camera tends to over-expose light subjects, and under-expose darker subjects, I suppose that’s to be expected.

The huge improvement that I see over the Nikon D 50 I used to have is that the exposure for the Canon is predictable and repeatable. I could shoot three shots with the Nikon and come up with three completely different exposures, often all three were wrong. With the Canon, I can look through the viewfinder and know which way and how much to adjust the exposure, that’s becoming automatic.

Oh, and speaking of the viewfinder, it is huge compared to the old Nikon, which was like looking through a tunnel. The info you need is displayed well in the viewfinder also.

Back to the exposure system. At times, I do shoot in other modes, primarily aperture mode, and that is easily set with a wheel on the top of the body very near the shutter release button. The same applies to shutter speed when shooting in that mode. When shooting in the program mode, that same wheel allows you to scroll through exposure settings the camera came up with to speed up the shutter, and/or change the aperture.

To be perfectly honest, I have had this camera for about a month, and I am just beginning to learn what it is capable of. My old Nikon was so finicky, that I didn’t dare adjust much of anything for fear of getting nothing but junk photos, as that was the result if I did adjust anything.

One of the features that I am falling in love with is using the AI Focus AF mode for auto-focusing. I can press the shutter release halfway down, and the camera starts off in the One-shot mode, meaning that I can tweak the focus manually if needed when using a lens that allows that, like the 70-200 mm L series lens I have. That alone has saved some shots already.

But, if I continue to hold the shutter release halfway down without taking a photo, and the camera detects motion, it automatically switches to the AI Servo AF mode to track subjects in motion. That works very well when I’m trying to keep up with quick little birds, or even flowers moving in the wind. In fact, I need to use that feature even more often, it works, and works well!

It’s so nice to have a camera that actually functions well again.

I haven’t said anything about the images I’m getting yet, that’s because the lenses are more responsible for image quality than the camera itself, for the most part. I will say that the 60 D is turning out some fantastic photos for me already, and I’m just getting started.

Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM-Canon Mount

Before I start raving about how great this lens is, I’ll start with the only real negative thing that I have found so far, the thing is a beast to carry, and use.

But, I shoot hand-held 99% of the time, I walk three miles everyday during the week, and try to go at least five miles per day on the weekends. By the time I’m finished for the day, I am literally finished, so arm weary that I sometimes think twice about hoisting it up to my eye for a so-so shot. At times when I am following a small bird in the brush, or waiting for a plant to stop moving in the wind, I have to lower the camera and this lens to let my arms rest before trying again.

This lens would be at its best on a tripod, but it would have to be a substantial tripod to hold that much weight steady.

Is it as sharp at 500 mm as it is at 150 mm? No, I can see a drop off in sharpness as I increase the focal length.

Is it as sharp at its maximum aperture as it is when stopped down to say f/8? No, it isn’t, but those same things could be said of every zoom lens on the market, there’s no such thing as a perfect lens.

I look at it this way, the Sigma is sharp at 500 mm and f/6.3, and gets even sharper at shorter focal lengths and/or stopping down the aperture. When you can not only see individual feathers on a bird, but also get a feel for the textures of the bird’s feathers, that’s sharp enough for me!

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

One other note of caution I should include before I forget to, it takes a fairly good camera body to make good use of this lens. I was toying with the idea of purchasing this lens for use on my Nikon D 50, I’m glad that I didn’t, as the sensor in the D 50 couldn’t have handled this lens. The sticking point would have been sensor noise at the higher ISO settings that the Sigma often requires to maintain a relatively fast shutter speed to prevent camera shake at 500 mm, even with the lens’ built in Optical Stabilization.

So, match the Sigma lens to a newer body with the better noise reduction of today’s cameras, and I would say that this lens is a winner!

The auto-focus is fast, quiet, and accurate until you get to extreme conditions. I’ll get to those in a second, but first, if you’ve seen some of my recent posts, you’ll have seen that I’ve been having great fun picking small birds out of the brush that the birds are trying to hide in. If you have reasonable expectations of what the auto-focus of the Sigma lens can do, you won’t be disappointed.

However, if you think that the lens should be able to focus on anything, under any lighting conditions, you will be disappointed. For example, if you’re trying to focus on a brownish grey bird partially hidden in greyish brown branches on a dark, overcast day, chances are that the lens will fail. The only other time that the auto-focus doesn’t perform extremely well is when I’m trying to focus on subjects very near the close focusing limit of the lens. There are times when the auto-focus will miss by an inch or so, but with the very short depth of field, that’s enough to ruin the photo.

Shooting using a tripod and manual focus would work in that case.

As it happens, I was able to test my 60 D and the Sigma 150-500 mm lens against a Canon 7 D body, a 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens, and a 1.4X converter on my recent birding trip to Muskegon.

I met another birder using the 7 D body and lens setup just listed, and we began chatting. An American Redstart landed in a tree close to us, I pointed it out to the other birder, then we both started shooting. We were standing only a couple of feet from one another, I could hear his camera beep when it got a focus lock, and had to pay attention to that, so that I didn’t mistake his beeps for mine. At one point, the redstart perched in a spot that for some reason, I couldn’t get a focus lock on it. I heard the fellow birder mumbling to himself, wondering why he wasn’t able to get a focus lock either.

So, in this very unscientific, but very enlightening test, I would say that the two setups are just about equal. There were times when he got a focus lock first, other times that I got a lock first, and both of our setups failed under the exact same conditions.

The Sigma has two modes of Optical Stabilization, Sigma’s equivalent to Canon’s Image Stabilization. Mode 1 is for stationary subjects, Mode 2 is for subjects moving in the horizontal plane.

Sigma claims that the OS will provide up to four stops of shake correction, I’ve never counted the stops, but the OS does do its job on stationary subjects! I have shot a few photos under very low light for a lens of the Sigma’s focal length, and have been amazed at how well the OS performed.

However, I have tried Mode 2 on some shots of birds in flight, and the OS isn’t as impressive then. If the bird is moving horizontally, the OS does work well, but most of the time, birds don’t fly in straight horizontal lines.

If the bird is moving diagonally, as they often are, then the OS fails, as far as getting a sharp photo. I find that when shooting birds in flight, I am better off switching the OS off completely, boosting the ISO, and shooting at faster shutter speeds. The problem is, birds seldom give me the time to make those adjustments. So if you’re thinking of buying this lens for action photography, there are probably better choices out there.

My rating of this lens

For my use, I would give myself a grade of B for purchasing this lens. I had checked it out in the store, and rejected it for my use because of its size and weight. But, when my Nikon died, I was forced to re-evaluate what lenses I was going to purchase. The only reason I give the lens a B is because of its weight, it does leave me arm weary by the end of the day, and it isn’t as good for bird in flight photos as I would like.

If I were a more traditional birder, shooting from a stationary position, and using a tripod more often, then, I would give it an A, it is an excellent lens!

Let’s look at the competition. There’s the Canon 100-400 mm zoom, or either a 400 mm or 500 mm prime telephoto.

The 100-400 mm Canon is close to the same size and weight as the Sigma, and trying one out in the store, I did not like the push-pull zoom mechanism of the Canon. In addition, it was 50% more expensive than the Sigma.

I don’t have figures for the 400 mm primes that Canon offers, but I do know that the 500 mm prime is nearly 10 times as expensive as the Sigma. I’m sure that the 500 mm is sharper, and faster, but I seriously doubt if it is ten times better than the Sigma. That doesn’t matter, I couldn’t afford the Canon 500 mm anyway.

I do know this, I love the reach of the Sigma, and I am extremely happy with its performance! It will get a lot of use, even if I do eventually purchase a more suitable lens to carry while hiking.

Canon EF 70-200MM F4L USM

If I made a mistake in my purchases, this was it, sorry all you Canon L series fans. 😉

Actually, buying this lens wasn’t a mistake, I just tried to convince myself for several weeks that I had goofed. I had this lens on my list of lenses to purchase for several reasons, one was to fill in between the 15-85 mm I knew I was going to buy and the Sigma 150-500 mm, primarily for landscapes.

After I purchased the 60 D body and the Sigma lens, we had 14 days in a row of off and on rain, mostly on. Because the Sigma isn’t weather sealed, and is hard to carry and protect under those conditions, I tried to make the 70-200 mm take the place of the Sigma, it doesn’t work for that.

It’s an OK lens, and I’m sure that I will put it to good use for the purposes for which I had added it to my list in the first place. The Auto-focus isn’t as fast as the Sigma, and it’s a lot noisier as well. I can barely hear the Sigma’s auto-focus, the 70-200 mm has a very mechanical sound to it when the auto-focus is in action.

It doesn’t have Image Stabilization, I knew that when I bought it. In addition, the 60 D body tends to set the shutter speed a little low for this lens without IS, that I can remedy easily enough by shooting in shutter priority, or dialing up a faster shutter speed in program mode.

This lens is the least expensive of the five 70-200 mm zoom lenses that Canon produces, at $709 US.

For a few weeks there, I was telling myself that I should have purchased the version with IS and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, then added a 1.4 converter behind it. That would have totaled just under $3,000 US, over four times as much as what I paid for the version that I did buy.

That setup would have been lighter and easier to carry than the Sigma lens, but without the converter, any lens in this range will be the lens I use the least of any lenses I have.

So, I told myself to quit kicking myself, learn to use what I have purchased, then think of the best solution to the problem of the weight of the Sigma lens. That’s what I have done.

This lens does perform well enough, but I don’t shoot that many photos where this length of lens will be used that often. It will be mostly for landscapes, where I can use my tripod, so IS isn’t that important. Also, for close-ups of things like flowers that are out of the range of the 15-85 mm lens. That’s why I bought this lens, and trying to make it do things other than what I originally intended it to do was silly on my part.

My rating of this lens

Funny as it may sound, I’m giving this one an A grade. It does very well at what I bought it for, it’s very sharp, well made, weather sealed, and fills the small niche I intended it to. I would recommend that any one thinking of a lens of this length consider one of the versions with IS over this one, unless you do use a tripod most of the time.

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens

If I didn’t photograph birds most the time, this lens would be on my camera almost all of the time. I would say that of the three lenses I have, that this is the best of them! It is very sharp, color, contrast, color rendition, and color saturation are all extremely good with this lens. Now, I am going to have to start putting it to use!

The auto-focus is fast, quiet, and accurate, right down to the close focusing capabilities of the lens.

It has Canon’s Mode 2 IS, a sensor in the lens detects when you are panning with a subject in motion, and corrects camera shake automatically based on that, and it works. I have shot a few flying birds, and the Mode 2 IS is a huge improvement over the OS of the Sigma lens, but that’s comparing apples to oranges, not a knock on the Sigma.

All the photos that I shot of the flood in downtown Grand Rapids, and most of the flower photos I took in Aman Park were shot with this lens, and I love the results!

If you are considering a lens in this focal length, I recommend it with one caveat, the maximum aperture is a little slow if you’re planning to use it without a flash in low light situations. That wasn’t a concern for me, I bought this lens for landscapes and close-ups, and it excels in that role.

I should note that this is an EF S lens, meaning it is designed to be used on crop sensor cameras. It isn’t compatible with full size sensor cameras.

My rating of this lens

I give myself and this lens an A+! For the purposes I intend to use this lens, it can’t be beaten. It was around half the price of a comparable L series lens from Canon, based mostly on the maximum aperture, but for landscapes, that isn’t an issue. So I have a high quality lens that works exactly as I planned on, at a reasonable price.

What I’ve learned, and where I go from here.

The first thing that I learned is that even a 500 mm lens isn’t long enough for many situations. But, for every situation where 500 mm isn’t long enough, there are situations when it is too long. Following small birds flitting in the brush for example. Yes, the 500 mm lets me get good close-ups, if I can get and keep the bird in the viewfinder long enough to get the shot. Many times, I find myself shooting at around 300 mm so that I can get any shot at all.

The second thing that I learned is that you can’t make a lens do things it wasn’t really intended to be used for. That applies to both the 70-200 mm lens, and the 150-500 mm lens.

The third thing that I learned is that IS, or OS, depending on the manufacturer, is better, and more important than what I had thought before using lenses with it. But, other than that, what I had recommended in my earlier post on buying camera equipment on a budget held true, pick quality lenses and match them to the body that you can afford.

The next thing that I learned is that a man’s got to know his limitations. Carrying the Sigma lens by itself for a three-mile walk everyday isn’t bad, but trying to go much farther than that, while wearing a pack and carrying the rest of my camera gears is a bit much, even for me.

I keep harping on the weight of the Sigma lens, yet I love it, and have a hard time switching to one of the other lenses, because I never know when some bird is going to show up that I’ll want to photograph. But, as good as it is, it is not a walking around lens. However, I can, and will make it work for me that way for a while.

My original list of lenses that I was going to buy was a Canon L series 400 mm prime, the 70-200 mm, and the 15-85 mm lenses, now, I’m not sure that a 400 mm prime is a good idea, after having used the Sigma for a month. That’s the problem with buying lenses, other than renting one, you can’t take one out for a “test drive” to see how well they will work for you. I also had a macro lens on the list to be purchased in the future.

I really liked the setup that the other birder that I mentioned earlier had, a 300 mm L series prime, with a 1.4X converter. That works out to being 420 mm, which may still be too much in the brush. No problem, take the 1.4 X converter off, and I’ll have a 300 mm lens to work with. I’m used to that, as that’s what I had with the old Nikon, but thought that I wanted a longer lens.

I still would, but now I have one, the Sigma, for those times when I don’t have to carry it for miles. The 300 mm and converter is much lighter than the Sigma, I think it will make a nice walking around package in the future. The 1.4 X converter will also work with the 70-200 mm lens, but I see no reason that I would ever use it that way, but you never know.

The 300 mm f/4 L series prime lens also has Mode 2 IS, which works very well for me on my 15-85 mm lens. I’ll be able to get some good actions shots again someday with that package. But, that will be a while.

The surprising thing is, the 300 mm prime, a 1.4X converter, and the 70-200 mm that I have already purchased total less than the top of the line 70-200 mm L series and the converter by several hundred dollars, and will actually work better for me.

The 15-85 mm isn’t a true macro lens, but with cropping, I can make it work as one for the time being. I’m thinking that I can try an extension tube with the 15-85 mm for macro work, saving myself a lot of money there, rather than buying a dedicated macro lens. I know that extension tubes are old school, but then, so am I.

So, overall, I would give myself either a B+ or an A- overall. You know, I should change that, to an A. I was knocking my grade down because the Sigma isn’t a very good walking around lens, but hey, I’m buying on a budget, so I shouldn’t expert perfect. The Sigma may not be a good walking around lens, but it excels during my birding trips to Muskegon, and when I sit out in the woods someplace, something that I will be doing more often, especially as I get older.

Also on my wish list was a 500 mm prime for those reasons, but that was just a wish that would probably never come to pass as expensive as the 500 mm prime is. The Sigma may not equal the 500 mm prime’s performance, but it’s close enough for me, I see no reason to shell out over ten grand for a lens that is only a little bit better than what I already have.

The 15-85 performs so well that I am crossing a macro lens off from my wish list as well.

That means that I have dropped one very expensive, and one moderately expensive lens off my wish list, and replaced them with one moderately priced lens, and a few relatively inexpensive accessories.

So, all told, after rebates and the trade in I got from Sigma on the dead Nikon, I spent $2,000 US for the 60 D body, the Sigma lens, and the needed accessories.

I spent $750 US for the 70-200 mm Canon lens.

I spent $800 US for the 15-85 mm lens and lens hood (Yes, I shelled out 50 bucks for the almost nothing lens hood, proving that I’m not a total tightwad, but I see it as not so cheap added insurance to help protect the front element of the lens).

That comes to $3,550 US to cover everything from 15 mm to 500 mm with a solid performing camera body, not bad in my not so humble opinion. That includes everything, UV filters, SD cards, and the lens hood for the 15-85 mm lens.

After using this new equipment long enough to have a very good handle on what I would like to add in the future, the list has changed as I have noted above, and has become much shorter.

I would like something better suited to carrying in inclement weather, something lighter than the Sigma. Having given much thought to it, I am leaning heavily towards the Canon 300 mm L series prime and a 1.4X converter. Once my bank account recovers, I could pick up the converter and use it behind the 70-200 mm I have, it won’t be ideal, but it will work in nasty weather for the time being. Next spring, I’ll use my tax refund to purchase the 300 mm prime lens, and be good to go.

One other thing I would truly love to have is another body, mine is getting old and tired. 😉

Seriously, I have always wanted two camera bodies, one left set-up and at the ready for wildlife photography, and a second one for everything else. But, that’s a long way off in the future, and I have no way of foreseeing what the manufacturers will have on the market in two or three years, so anything I add here would be pure speculation, very much subject to change.

If and when I do make that purchase, it will be another crop sensor body, the equivalent to the current Canon 7 D.

So there you have it, I stand by the original proposition that I made in my earlier post, select the lenses that work the best for you in your price range, then match them to the best body that you can afford. I won’t be “trading up”, that is, selling (at a loss) any of the lenses or the camera that I have purchased so far, unless I were to win the lottery or something. I can see no reason to, from the photos that this equipment is turning out. Two examples, full size, not cropped, unedited, and the quality has not been reduced at all, you can click on them to see them full size.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Tulip

Tulip

I think that the quality of those shots speak for themselves, so there’s nothing more for me to add.

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


Trying to remain positive

It’s been a rough month for me, in so many ways that it’s hard for me to not get down in the dumps. I don’t even know where to start. The weather, yuck. People trying to rip me off almost daily, I hope that they rot in Hades, and it gets worse.

There have been a few good things happening to me lately, but they have usually come as a result of something negative in the first place. Like, I found out that I have really good auto insurance through Allstate. How do I know that? Because some one shot my brand new Subaru, leaving a dent and bare spot in the paint around the dent. I’m not positive, but it looks like the projectile came from either a pellet gun, or possibly a .22 caliber gun fired from a distance. I’m also almost positive that it was a stray shot and not intentional. The good news is that my insurance will cover it.

I also found out that I have good renters insurance, also through Allstate. How do I know this? Because on Sunday night, some one in another apartment started a grease fire in my apartment building. The fire forced us to evacuate the building, and I was forced to spend the night in a motel. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it was not a pleasant experience to say the least. I could do an entire post on what I think of the cops and the Red Cross who were supposedly here to “assist” us, all I’ll say is that their so-called assistance was worse than no help at all.

I found out (finally) that I have good dental insurance, and I have also found a new dentist. I know that a while back I wrote about the problems I was having with the dentist that took over the practice of the dentist I had been going to for years. Because of that dentist’s philosophy of extracting as much cash as possible from his patient’s pockets, and my stubbornness in resisting his attempts, I am going to have to have two teeth removed tomorrow (Thursday as I start this post), and the worst part is that one of the teeth could have been saved if the old dentist had been willing to work with me, and not been worrying about his bottom line. My sister recommended her dentist, and while I’ve only seen her once, she and her staff are much more to my liking than the previous one.

I’ve worked for the same company for almost 4 full years now, and no one could tell me whether or not we had dental insurance, it wasn’t until I pitched a bit of a fit and demanded to know that I was told by the owner, “I think so, you’ll have to check with the union”. What a place!

Anyway, we actually had two sunny days in a row! But, now we’re back to the clouds, however, instead of lake effect snow, today we received lake effect drizzle instead! Things are looking up, it is getting a little warmer, and the birds are beginning to tell me that spring is coming, even though it may not seem like it.

There are more cardinals singing everyday now, not just on days when the sun makes a rare appearance.

I saw a flock of bluebirds today, which surprised the heck out me, for we had a storm consisting of snow, rain, sleet, ice pellets, and strong winds yesterday.

Just as shocking, I saw a male red-winged blackbird today as well.

When did the bluebirds and blackbird arrive here? During the storm? I suppose they could have been in the area since this weekend when the weather was nice, but that I didn’t see or hear them until today.

Speaking of nice weather, here’s a few photos from my walk on Sunday, before the fertilizer hit the ventilator.

Sunny day!

Sunny day!

Fox squirrel enjoying the sun

Fox squirrel enjoying the sun

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Since I didn’t have many photos of female downy woodpeckers when I did the post on them in my Photo Life List project, I’m going to add a few that I shot on Sunday to that post, Downy Woodpecker.

Creekside snow

Creekside snow

Alder seed pods

Alder seed pods

Alder catkins

Alder catkins

One of the reasons I went back to the county park where I walked last weekend was in hopes of getting better shots of the Carolina wren I saw there. I was able to track the little bugger down, but, this was the only photo I got of it. If you look closely, you can see the wren’s beak sticking out from behind the small branch in the center of the frame. Let me tell you, he’s fast! I’ll probably continue to return to the same park every weekend if the weather is good, until I get a good photo of the wren, or it moves on to another place.

Carolina wren's beak

Carolina wren’s beak

With the nice warm sunshine, the deer were in no hurry. I watched a small herd get up to stretch their legs and munch on a few buds that are beginning to appear.

Whitetail deer feeding

Whitetail deer feeding

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Sycamore tree

Sycamore tree

Another sunny creek

Another sunny creek

I’ve been short on practice as far as shooting birds in flight, so when these mallards took off, I couldn’t resist.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

The same holds true of this great blue heron that came winging its way past me.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

The heron landed in a marshy area where there was some open water, and began to look for lunch. He’s hard to see, but I still like this photo for some reason.

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

Cattail

Cattail

Then, the biggest treat of the day, a house finch singing his spring song!

House finch warming up his vocal chords

House finch warming up his vocal chords

And finally, another of those shots that I like, but can’t say why.

Tree

Tree

It’s a good thing that I got as many photos on Sunday as I did, because I was forced to miss two days as far as my daily walks. One was the day after the fire of course, and the other was the day that I had the teeth pulled.

A quick housekeeping note before I continue on, Lori from What the Ducks has nominated my blog for the Liebster Award. While I don’t participate in these awards, it is always nice to learn that others find my blog worthy of any award. If you’re interested in ducks, or having a good laugh, I would suggest that you check out her blog!

Now then, for some really good local news! For the first time in months, the forecast for the next week has no snow in it! I find that quite amazing! The local meteorologists tells us that the up coming week will be our sunniest since the first part of November, I sure hope that he’s right for a change.

For the month of February, we received almost 3 feet of snow, Muskegon got almost 5 feet for the month. Maybe spring is going to get here after all. The bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds seem to think so, I spotted bluebirds again today.

It’s Friday now as I’m typing this section, and there’s a hint of sun poking through the clouds, with the promise of even more sunshine this weekend. So, I am going to make another attempt to track down and photograph the Carolina wren tomorrow, then head to Muskegon on Sunday for another duck hunt, with the added chance of spotting some Bohemian waxwings! A small flock of them has been spotted in the Muskegon area, so I’ll go searching for them, and who knows what I’ll find.

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


Should I, or shouldn’t I?

I’m really chomping at the bit to get as many posts in my photo life list project posted as I can, but for the most part, I’ve been limiting myself to one per day.

Before I expound on that, I have started another blog where I am going to post only the very best photos that I have taken. I have done that as part of my plan in an attempt to earn a few extra bucks selling my photos. I doubt if I will ever make a sale directly off from the other blog, but it is part of an overall scheme. Anyway, you can find it here. I think that long time followers of this blog have already seen the photos there, but I have them displayed larger, and I haven’t reduced the quality as much as I do for the photos that I post here.

Back to my life list project. I still have a number of species that I can do a post on, but, if I do them now, they will be incomplete compared to what I would like them to be. But, that was my idea when I decided how I was going to do this project. It’s darned hard to keep hundreds of photos sorted and stored on my computer, waiting until I have very good photos of every species. I’d like to post what I have now, as I already accidentally deleted a few of the photos that I was storing. Luckily, they were of white breasted nuthatches, and I was able to shoot replacement photos the same week as I deleted my older ones.

The way that I organized the project, using pages to navigate to the individual species posts makes it easy for me to find older posts, no matter how long ago it was posted, or how many posts I’ve done since. I did it that way intentionally so that I could continually update the older posts as I get better photos.

I can easily knock off three or four posts in the series per day on the weekends, up till now, I do and save a week’s worth as drafts on the weekends, then publish one per day as not to dump multiple posts per day on my regular readers.

However, since I began this project, I seem to have lost a few of the regular readers that I looked forward to receiving comments from. I’m not sure why that happened. I don’t know if it because of how often I’m posting, or for other reasons. I am tempted to pound out as many posts in the series as I have photos for right now, to get those done so that I can get back to my regular blogging.

Today (Friday) I have reached a decision during my daily walk, but before I announce it, I have a few things to say about WordPress, blogging, and bloggers.

First, WordPress, it’s great! I started my blog using a different platform, and found it very hard to use. Not so with WordPress, it is very easy to create an attractive blog, and they also make it easy to publicize your blog as well.

However, one thing that is usually overlooked is that their motives are not totally altruistic, the survival of WordPress depends on our participation. It takes money to purchase and maintain the servers and hardware, it takes money to pay the wages of the developers and other employees.

That’s one of the reasons that they push so hard for us to post more often, and to visit other blogs to build a following for our blogs.

One of the ways that WordPress generates revenue is through the sale of ads which appear in our posts if we use the free version. The more often we post, the more ads WordPress can sell.

Being a free market capitalist, I’m OK with that. I get a free platform for my blog, WordPress makes the money to pay for it by selling advertising space in my blog. No problem.

So, (I have to quit starting sentences that way, I’m beginning to sound like an NPR liberal) where the problem lies is that, in my opinion, far too many bloggers take the WordPress tips for developing a following for their blog too far.

How do I know that? I have a pretty good idea that when I click the button to publish this, then return to the dashboard, that this post will have received a “like” or two by the time that the dashboard has fully loaded on my old, slow computer. There’s no way that the person liking my post would have been able to read my entire post and determined that they did indeed like it enough to click the like button in that short of time.

I have come to the conclusion that much of the traffic to my blog is false traffic, it is from other bloggers who view as many blogs as they can, and like or follow those blogs in order to generate more traffic to their own blogs.

I can’t say as I blame them, that’s one of the tips from WordPress. Again, that tip is not totally altruistic, the more traffic on WordPress, the more that they can charge per ad. Again, I’m OK with that.

For me, the problem begins when a blogger places too much emphasis on their site stats. I’ll admit, I check my blog’s stats from time to time, but I am really past caring about the overall numbers for the most part. What I do care about is what posts people are looking at, and why. Other than the traffic seekers, I can tell that most people who visit my blog find it through the search engines while looking for specific information. Those are the people I was aiming for when I began this blog way back when.

One more thing before my big announcement, I do value those of you who do visit my blog for what I consider to be the right reasons. I think that you all know who you are, please don’t ask me to make up a list, because I’m sure I would forget one or two of you. I want to thank all of you with whom I have had conversations with through comments here, or on your blog! I hope that my announcement won’t drive you away permanently.

So, my big announcement, and then the why I came to this decision.

Look out folks, there’s going to be a major increase in the number of posts that I will be doing for a while, multiple posts per day for a while. I am going to post this, hopefully yet today, take a break over the weekend while I work on posts in my photo life list project, then start posting them as quickly as I can finish them, starting on Monday.

Those of you have been long time readers can ignore those posts if you like, there won’t be any spectacular photos in them, as I have exhausted my very limited supply (6) of spectacular photos.

The reason for doing this is that I have to get the number of photos I have stored ready to post down to a manageable number, I can’t keep sorting through hundreds of photos looking for the ones I want for a particular post.

I’m already having trouble as far as what to do with new photos I am taking, it’s becoming a monster!

Another reason for multiple posts is because of the way that I am made. Give me a project and/or a goal, and I dive in headfirst to get as much accomplished as quickly as I can. That always serves me in good stead in the business world, that may not hold true in the blogosphere, time will tell. I want to get the species that I have photos of now posted, even if the posts are not as complete as I would like at the present time. At least I’ll have the posts as placeholders for my future photos, and room on my computer for new photos as I get them.

Another reason for doing as many of the posts in that series as quickly as I can is so that I can get back to what I consider to be the normal nature of my posts, and only do posts in the photo life list when I get photos of a species that I haven’t already done a post on.

I also want to get as many of the posts at least started as I can right now, so that I’ll have time when the weather gets nice to do the kinds of things that I want to do, rather than doing those posts when I’d rather be outdoors enjoying spring here in Michigan.

I am not going to be publishing all those posts just to drive up my site stats, I don’t give a rat’s rear end about my site stats, just so you know.

I do apologize advance to those of you who truly follow my blog for what is about to hit you! I see no other good way to do it.

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


You must have a really good camera!

“You must have a really good camera!”

Just as people almost invariably ask me “You getting any good pictures?” when they see me carrying my camera, when people see the photos I have taken, at some point they almost always make that comment about my camera. As if the camera was the only thing responsible for the photos!

I’m sure that many of you, who take better photos than I, hear that even more often!

I should say that this subject is a bit of a double-edged sword right for me right now, as I am blaming my camera and lens for not producing the quality of photos that I think I am capable of, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic, one which I have been beating to death, so I’ll try to avoid that in this post.

It sort of irks me, the idea that the quality of one’s camera is the only thing responsible for the quality of the photos a person produces.

That’s right, the person behind the camera actually produces the photo, the camera only records what the photographer tells it to record.

I wasn’t around back then, but I seriously doubt that any one said to Rembrandt “Wow, you must have a really good paintbrush!”. I can’t quite picture some one seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture Statue of David and saying to him, “Wow, you must have a really good hammer and chisel!”.

So, what is it about photography that most people equate the quality of a photo with the equipment used to take it, rather than the skill of the person operating the camera?

Most of that is due to the fact that nearly every one has a camera, and this is especially true now that just about every cell phone comes with a camera built-in. Everybody can, and most people do, take photographs. But, most people don’t invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into camera gear, so when they look at the photos they take compared to others, it’s easy for them to chalk up the difference in the quality of the photos to the differences in equipment.

We can all draw, every one has access to a pencil and paper, and many people doodle and sketch. In our early years of school, most of us used crayons and/or paint to try our hand at those arts. Most of us played with clay to try our hand at sculpting.

Therein lies much of the reason people view photography in the way that they do. Pencils, crayons, paints, clay, for the most part, they’re all equal, so when we see that our work isn’t as good as that done by others, we know that our talent (or lack of it) is the only difference, there’s no blaming the equipment.

But with photography, it’s easy for people to think to themselves, “If only I had the very best of equipment, I could take photos as good as anyone”.

One of the things that led me to post this was a recent post from Kerry at the Lightscapes Photography Blog. Another is the huge number of really bad photos being passed off as great examples of the art of photography in the blogosphere.

(Note! This does not apply to naturalists who post photos to illustrate their posts, I am talking about people who call themselves photographers)

There are probably few people who call themselves photographers who post as many really bad photos as I do, but I know that they are bad, I am under no illusions to the contrary. I post some of them because they are humorous in some way, or because they are captures of something that one does not see everyday, or to show budding photographers what not to do.

However, as bad as my bad photos are, I see a lot of just outright crap being posted in blogs by people who call themselves photographers. They may be a poor snapshot type photo of a landscape, and the “photographer” uses photo editing software to “juice up” the coloration to the point where the photo looks like nothing that you would see in the real world. Or, an everyday shot converted to black and white, and held up as a great example of the “photographer’s” artistic skills just because it’s a black and white photo.

I know that since photography began that photographers have edited photos in the darkroom, often to make up for the limitations of the cameras and lenses ability to capture what our eyes see. They have also tinted, toned, and done other tricks in the darkroom to make a more pleasing photograph, but they usually began with an excellent photo to begin with.

In a way, I see photography as a dying art, and that photo editing is replacing it. It’s as if this new crop of photographers could care less what they see in the viewfinder when they hit the shutter release, they want to get something, anything, to play with in Photoshop.

Well, to me, photography is an art, in a way, it is two different forms of art at the same time. One is the art of photojournalism, telling a story if you will. The other form is more along the lines of more “traditional” art, much like painting.

But, photography can also be a scientific tool, one example of that is freezing the motion of things in order for us to study that which happens too quickly for our eyes to follow.

And, to make things even more complicated, photography is a science at its root, the science of capturing light on media of some type for future reproduction or transmission. While modern cameras make conquering the technical aspects of photography much easier these days, it does require that the photographer have at least a working knowledge of the science of photography.

This spring, I noticed that almost all the photos of flowers I was taking at the time all looked very similar as far as the way I was composing the shots. It isn’t that the shots I was getting were bad shots, it was that they all looked the same, other than the species of flower. I even stopped taking photos of flowers for a while, to make myself start looking at them in a different way. It worked, or at least I think that it did. (You can click on any photo for a larger version)

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Morning glory

Morning glory

Daylily

Day lily

Morning glory

Morning glory

Thistle

Thistle

Thistle

Thistle

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Wild rose

Wild rose

OK, so most of those shots are still clichéd, but there are only so many ways to photograph a flower.

When I show them to friends, what I hear is “Wow, you must have a really good camera!”. I want to slap them up side of the head and say “No, photography is an art! It takes skills to get photos like that!”, but I don’t.

But it does!

I worked for every one of those photos, getting the light just the way I wanted for the way I wanted to compose the shot. I had to set my camera to record the shot the way I saw it in my mind’s eye. Those shots didn’t just happen! Not only did I work for each of those shots, I put a lot of thought into each one as well. I tried to match the quality of the lighting to the “personality” of the flower. From soft, subtle lighting for the morning glories, to somewhat harsh lighting for the prickly thistles. I paid attention to the backgrounds, and how they would affect the overall picture.

Take this shot for example.

Snow blasted teasel

Snow blasted teasel

I have been trying for two months to get the shot of a teasel seed head the way I want it to look in a photo, and that’s the best that I have done, so far. That’s still not exactly the shot I am looking for, but it’s as close as I have come of all the photos of them I have taken. I can’t even explain to you why that isn’t the shot I want, I just know that it’s not, and I’ll keep trying until I do get the shot I want.

Not only does artistic photography require skills, it requires a determination to produce art. That may require you to shoot so many photos of a subject that you get bored with it for a while, and have to take a break, then try again. Or, get down on your hands and knees and crawl through a wild rose-bush, getting stuck with thorns, to get into the exact spot you want to be in to be able to capture the shot that you want. Then, you try to hold still as you have the thorns of the rose sticking into you as you work the camera.

Of course art is subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that, so I am not saying that those photos are great works of art, but they are works of art, even if only somewhat humble works of art. I’ll admit it, I am far from being a great artistic photographer, although I do enjoy dabbling in more artistic photography from time to time.

I have never taken any classes, but I have read books and attended exhibitions of fine photography, so I have some basis for my opinions.

It’s funny, several decades ago, two of my friends took photography courses in college, thinking that the photography class would be an easy way to fulfill the art requirements towards their degrees. Both of them talked me into shooting many of their homework assignments, yeah, we cheated. I don’t remember exactly how we did in those assignments, but I do believe it was quite well.

My last long-term girlfriend also took a photography class, and she would come home and say “Now I know what you’ve been trying to tell me, but you don’t explain it very well”. (Photography wasn’t the only thing we had difficulty in communicating on, which is why we’re no longer together.)

Over the years, I have gravitated towards nature photography almost exclusively. I believe that nature is beautiful enough just the way that it is, that it doesn’t need our “help” in any way. I also believe that the person taking any photograph should do everything possible at the moment that a photo is taken to get the very best photo that they can without resorting to editing to make up for a lack of skill on the part of the photographer.

Here’s a few of my attempts at artistic nature photography from this last summer.

Blue moon

Blue moon

Silhoutte

silhouette

Bee in a bonnet

Bee in a bonnet

Headlights

Headlights

Berry still life

Berry still life

Floating

Floating

Autumn

Autumn

Dried still life

Dried still life

Gull

Gull

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Wispy

Wispy

Swallows

Swallows

drops

drops

Reflections

Reflections

So, how did I do?

I know that there are no award winners in the bunch, if for no other reason than that the subjects are too common for any judges, and that I have done no editing other than cropping a couple of them. No “straight up” photo will ever win a competition these days.

( I noticed that the photos I selected were all shot on bright sunny days, that may be because I have been socked in with fog the last three days?)

Anyway, I think that you can see that I like to play with light, shadow, color, color contrasts, textures, and composition when I attempt to get artsy, and isn’t that what photography is really all about? And, if that is what photography is all about, then, the quality of your equipment becomes less of an issue.

One of my basic goals when it comes to nature photography is to capture the beauty in nature that most people miss. Most people would walk right past any of the things that I captured in those photos without even pausing, but when they see the photos I take, I hear “You must have a really good camera”. No, I pay attention to what there is to be seen. You have to stop to not only smell the roses, but to really see the roses as well, something that I think more people should do.

I also wish that more people who like to think of themselves as photographers would pay more attention to the basics, and even if they are going to go crazy editing their work, at least start with a good photo in the first place.

I’ve been working on this post on and off for a while now, it really isn’t quite how I want it yet, but something happened last night to push me to publish it now. I picked out 40 of what I think are my best photos, and had them printed 8 X 10 to see  how they would come out. Last night I went to pick the prints up. As I was standing there inspecting the prints, I hear from behind me, “Wow, you must have a really good camera!”

ARGH!

That’s my rant for this week, thanks for stopping by!


My favorite nature quotes

I have already done a post of my favorite fishing quotes, and it is one of the most viewed posts that I have done. That isn’t why I am doing this one, these are quotes about the great outdoors and nature that I love. These quotes tell why I love the great outdoors the way that I do in a way that says it much better than I can.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ John Lubbock

 “Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Be like a rock in the middle of a river, let all of the water flow around and past you.”~ Zen Saying

“Time Flowed Past Like The Water Of The River” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I think if you’re interested in really studying nature you have to do it over time to understand how and why things change.” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.” ~ Kerry Mark Leibowitz (Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog)

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”~ John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”~ John Muir

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”~ John Muir

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.”~ John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.” ~ John Muir

“A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Not till we are completely lost or turned around… do we begin to find ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The universe is wider than our views of it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have a room all to myself; it is nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.” ~ Michael Crichton

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” ~Ansel Adams

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed… We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.” ~ Wallace Stegner

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others”~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”~ Aldo Leopold

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” ~ Albert Einstein

“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.” ~ Wendell Berry

“A crowd whose discontent has risen no higher than the level of slogans is only a crowd. But a crowd that understands the reasons for its discontent and knows the remedies is a vital community, and it will have to be reckoned with. I would rather go before the government with two people who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied.
But even the most articulate public protest is not enough. We don’t live in the government or in institutions or in our public utterances and acts, and the environmental crisis has its roots in our lives. By the same token, environmental health will also be rooted in our lives. That is, I take it, simply a fact, and in the light of it we can see how superficial and foolish we would be to think that we could correct what is wrong merely by tinkering with the institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.” ~ Wendell Berry

“[T]his readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs—whatever—just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game’s outcome.”  ~ Slovoj Zizek

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” ~ Chief Seattle

“We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don’t understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas. Humans are content to blame someone else, like government or corporations, for the messes we create, and yet we each continue doing the same things, day in and day out, that have created the problems. Sure, corporations create pollution. If they do, don’t buy their products. If you have to buy their products (gasoline for example), keep it to a minimum. Sure, municipal waste incinerators pollute the air. Stop throwing trash away. Minimize your production of waste. Recycle. Buy food in bulk and avoid packaging waste. Simplify. Turn off your TV. Grow your own food. Make compost. Plant a garden. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don’t, who will?”  ~ Joseph Jenkins

“A tree is alive, and thus it is always more than you can see. Roots to leaves, yes-those you can, in part, see. But it is more-it is the lichens and moss and ferns that grow on its bark, the life too small to see that lives among its roots, a community we know of, but do not think on. It is every fly and bee and beetle that uses it for shelter or food, every bird that nests in its branches. Every one an individual, and yet every one part of the tree, and the tree part of every one.” ~ Elizabeth Moon

“Environmentalists generally object to battery-powered devices and for good reason: batteries require mined minerals, employ manufacturing processes that leak toxins into local ecosystems and leave behind an even-worse trail of side effects upon disposal. Though when it comes to the largest mass-produced battery-powered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.” ~ Ozzie Zehner

“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” ~ Gil Stern

“Trees are always a relief, after people.”~ David Mitchell

“The environment you save should be your own!” ~ Me

That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!


I’m baaack!

I could sub-title this post “What a long strange trip it’s been” or “All’s well that ends well”, but my trip hasn’t ended yet.

If you remember, I shut off my Internet service in an effort to save money to purchase a condo, that didn’t happen. I found several very nice condos that would have worked for me, but after two real estate agents and five, count them five, mortgage companies, I was forced to move to a different apartment complex because the immature snot managing my old apartment complex refused to continue my lease on a month to month basis because he heard that I “made negative comments about the Byron Lakes community”.

My new apartment is just as nice as the old one, for $150 a month less, plus, the new one has a garage, so that saves me another $110 a month on the storage unit I was renting. I took some of the money that I had saved towards a condo and bought a great, reliable, fun to drive vehicle to replace the Ford explorer that I had owned and was on its last leg.

My 2013 Subaru Foreter!

My 2013 Subaru Forester!

That’s right, I leased a 2013 Subaru Forester, and I love it! During my move, I loaded all my outdoor gear as if I were going on a week-long camping, fishing, kayaking, hiking trip, and everything fits. It also get 25 MPG in town compared to the old Ford’s 14 MPG, so the gas savings I am seeing pays for the insurance on the Subaru.

I could go on forever about how much I love it, but I’ll just say that if you’re in the market for a vehicle, you should really check out a Subaru, you’ll be glad you did.

On the nature/nature photography side, I have hundreds of photos to share as I get the time to sort through them all. Some are technically good,

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…some are extremely interesting, even if they aren’t the greatest photos in the world.

Great blue heron carrying a rodent it had just captured

Great blue heron carrying a rodent it had just captured

I would like to thank every one who commented looking forward to my returning online, and I have saved all the links to all the blog posts people have done over the last few months so I can see what all of you have been up to as well. It will take me a while to get caught up, and to sort through all my photos, but it sure feels good to be back.

I signed a one year lease here, so I’ll start saving money again and hope that the mortgage industry comes to its senses (I’m not really counting on that), then purchase a condo this coming fall. I found a very nice one in the development that I like for under $35,000, but the banks wouldn’t write a mortgage for it for me. They said I qualified, they said the condo and development qualified, but the combination of myself and the condo didn’t qualify. They couldn’t tell me why that was, all they could tell me was that their automated approval software kicked the loan out as rejected. So, I’ll try again next year.

I’m going to make this a short post, as I have a lot to do as far as getting caught up yet, but I will be posting on a regular basis again. Thanks for stopping by!


Decisions, decisions, decisions

There will be photos later on, I promise, but first, I have some thoughts to put into words for my own sanity, and maybe even another bad customer service rant to get off my chest before I get to the photos.

I am getting far enough along in my quest for a new place to live that I have begun to find the flies hiding in the ointment, and the hoops that I will have to jump through. Since I’m not going to have much of a down payment saved up, I will have to use a FHA loan to make the deal happen. I have learned that in order for FHA to approve the loan, the entire condo complex has to have been approved by the FHA in advance.

So, of course the condos that I liked best as far as looking online are not FHA approved, and that leaves them out, darn! They were mid-priced and had mid-levels of amenities, just what I was looking for. That leaves me with two options, go cheap, or go close to the maximum I want to spend right now.

Now I have many decisions to make, as part of planning the rest of my life also involves the purchase of a different vehicle to replace the Ford Explorer that I currently own, but is on its last legs.

If I purchase a really cheap condo, I can afford a brand new Subaru, which will probably be the last vehicle that I ever purchase. But, I’m not sure I’ll be happy in a cheap condo, and that means I’ll end up buying a nicer one later on, and moving one more time in my life.

If I purchase a condo that is on the upper end of what I can afford, it will probably do me for the rest of my life, but that means buying a cheap car that I know will have to be replaced in just a few years.

As part of the decision-making process, it helps to have some actual numbers to go by to help me make the decision. So, to that end, I paid a visit to a couple of car dealerships today in the attempt to get some real numbers. My first stop was the local Subaru dealership. There, I was waited on by a very nice young man, to whom I explained why I was there, and that it would be some time before I actually made a purchase. He grasped that no problem, and spent well over an hour with me going over Subaru’s product line and giving me numbers for their base models, and what my options for financing were. Now I have some real numbers that I can plug into a spreadsheet to help me set up my budget for when I make my move.

My second stop was at a local Ford dealership, and what a difference! I told the salesman why I was there, that I was in the planning stages of what I was going to do, and that I needed some information to help me decide. My first concern when buying any vehicle is will I even fit. I’m 6′ 6″ tall, and not a little guy as far as width, so I need to sit in a vehicle to see if there’s enough room for me.

(BTW, all the Subarus passed that test with flying colors. I owned a WRX at one time, the best vehicle I have ever owned, and it had a ton of head and leg room, even though it is based on Subaru’s smallest model.)

Anyway, looking around the lot, there were four Ford models I was interested in, and asked the salesman if he could grab the keys to one of each of the four models so I could see if they would even work out for me. He returned with the keys to one vehicle, a Ford Freestyle, and then he informed me he had other customers waiting, and that I should just look around. Once again I told him that looking at the outside did me no good, that I had to sit in them and see if they would hold all me gear and hold me, and I asked him if some one else could unlock a few of the other models I had in mind. He told me that he would be back, I waited half an hour in the hot sun, and gave up waiting. I forgot to mention that he was bad-mouthing the Freestyle and trying to push me towards a newer Taurus X or an Edge, both of which are well more expensive than I am looking to spend.

I headed over to the new truck section, as I wanted to check out a Ford Transit Connect van. Those are small delivery vans, something that would work out very well for my camping, kayaking, fishing excursions, as they have a very large cargo area. I had better luck there, at least the salesman took me over to show me one of the Transit Connects, and even let me sit in it.

One of those would work out very well for what I have in mind, I could finish the rear of it off exactly the way I want it to hold all my stuff in a well-organized manner. I did that with a 1972 Ford truck that I owned, and a buddy of mine and I did that to a commercial van that he bought just for that reason.

I am leaning towards crossing the Transit Connect off from my list though, it does have a ton of room and I fit in it, but it looks and feels cheap on the inside, they are under-powered, and they cost just as much as a Subaru Legacy or Forester, either of which get better fuel mileage than the Transit Connect does.

I suppose Ford gets away with pricing the Transit Connect so high because it is a cheaper option than the others available to businesses in the market for a delivery van. It’s a plain-jane vehicle with nothing finished in the rear cargo area, just two-wheel drive, and an engine that is really to small for a vehicle of its type. For the same money, I can get either a Subaru Legacy or Forester which are all wheel drive, completely finished in the interior, get better mileage, fit me better, and are way more fun to drive! I hate to sound like a Subaru commercial, but there are times when I wonder why they aren’t a lot more popular than they are, actually I know the reason, Subarus have the reputation for being practical.

Subaru builds safe, reliable vehicles that well suit the needs of their owners, which is why no one buys them. The buying public wants sexy, impractical vehicles, luckily, I do not suffer from that affliction.

To top it off, there’s the customer service aspect of today’s little jaunt, I will not go back to that same Ford dealer. The salesman that wouldn’t wait on me because I wasn’t ready to buy yesterday sealed that deal for himself. As did the other salesman walking past me shoving pizza into his face and trying to keep the pizza in his mouth while he asked if I was being helped. When I replied “sort of”, he thought that that was funny, and had even a harder time keeping the pizza contained as he laughed. Just a little note to any one considering a career in commissioned sales, do not go trolling for customers while shoving food into your face! Yes, you put in long hours and there will be times you need to eat while on the job, and you may even lose a customer or two by taking time out to eat, but, you would lose those same customers anyway by spitting pizza at them while you try to eat and talk at the same time!

As you may have been able to tell, I am leaning towards a cheap condo and a nice vehicle at this point, after being nearly homebound for the last two years because of my Explorer’s condition, I know that I wouldn’t be spending much time at home in the cheap condo if I had the ability to go places again.

On the other hand, I am not looking forward to moving again, once, let alone twice. I’m sure that a cheap condo will come with bad neighbors, too much noise, and some other negatives as well. The cheap condos don’t have garages, that means I have to continue to pay for a storage unit, but, since my mortgage payments would be around $150, I could easily afford the storage unit.

To help me pull more numbers together, I had already made an appointment with my insurance agent to run some numbers on the different vehicles, and on the cost of home owners insurance versus the renters insurance I have now. In the next two weeks, I hope to have a spreadsheet done with all my options plugged in to help me make the final decision.

Now then, for nature and some photos. The drought is getting worse. The media have just picked up on the fact that we are in a drought, I think it’s only because Michigan has begun to allow the sale of fireworks like other states have allowed for years. Give the media a cause, and they will ride that horse to death. They are more worried about people having fun than they are about everything that’s dying because of the drought.

Several of the creeks here have gone dry, meaning the fish and other wildlife that depended on the water in the creeks for life are dying or dead. I see more trees everyday that are turning brown and losing their leaves, and it just keeps getting worse.

Droughts breed droughts. It is so dry here that the soil and plant life is trying to absorb any moisture that there is in the air, so the humidity levels get even lower over time. Even if a more humid air mass moves over the area that could lead to rain eventually under normal conditions, the moisture in the air mass is sucked out of it by the soil and plants, which helps to perpetuate the drought. That may not be the best scientific explanation as to why droughts breed droughts, but I think that it is close enough.

The weather forecast calls for continued heat, and maybe a slight chance of showers over the next few days, but it may be too late for many plants and animals if the rain does come.

Here’s a few of my photos from the last few days.

Young cottontail rabbit

Young black-capped chickadee

Female Baltimore oriole gathering food for her young

Daylily

Female house finch gathering nesting material

A pair of house finches

Bullfrog caught mid-croak

Grackle eating a Japanese beetle

American robin

English sparrow with what looks to be several Japanese beetles in its beak

American robin in flight

12 spotted skimmer? Dragonfly

Thistle flower

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

Eastern bluebird in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

That’s all the photos for this one, but one more thing to say.

Today is the last scheduled day of Internet service for me, so I don’t know how often I will be able to post from now on. I will most likely get behind on replying to comments if you leave them, please bear with me as I will get to them eventually. That goes double for the posts of the bloggers that I follow as well.

When I do get back online, hopefully this blog will get back to what I intended it to be when I started it, a journal of my adventures in nature in the State of Michigan, and not so much of the same old, same old of my daily walks.

Until then, I want to thank those who read my ramblings on a regular basis, and even those that just stop by now and then. That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Who in their right mind does this?

I am furious! There were some snapdragons that had escaped the wrath of Mary Dye, the new manager here at Byron Lakes apartments, but she must have spotted them and ordered the groundskeepers to destroy them, as she obviously is a deranged individual that hates any display of color.

Dead snapdragons

Those snapdragons were flowers that had managed to re-seed themselves from back in the day when the landscaping around here was a sight to behold, with flowers everywhere. These had been growing in the crevices of a rock wall along one of the creeks. I had taken and posted a few photos of them, but I was waiting until they really got going as far as blooming, then, I was going to do an entire post on just them.

That obviously isn’t going to happen now, as they have all been ripped out of the ground and dumped into the creek to die. I just do not understand any one who has the flowers trimmed off from flowering bushes, or has people rip flowers out of the ground to kill them. I have got to get out of this place before I go even crazier than I am already!