Around home, 13 days to go!
Well, today is February 1st as I begin working on this post, and the 13 days to go refers to when I’ll be ordering my new iMac computer! At least I hope that it will be just 13 more days.
I probably should be out walking right now, as it is a Sunday, but there’s a snowstorm raging outside, and I decided to catch up on some things inside, one of them being getting my taxes filed, along with some mundane chores such as laundry.
The taxes have been filed, and with the refunds that are due me, that money will put me over the top of what the new computer will cost. If I remember correctly, it doesn’t take but a week or two for the refunds to show up in my checking account. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll wait until my next payday, which is February 13th, and a Friday the 13th at that.
I have more than enough saved to purchase the base model iMac that I was originally going to purchase, but after Apple lowered their prices right after Christmas, I decided to go for the top of the line 21.5 inch display model, the one with a faster quad-core processor vs. a dual-core, 16 GB RAM and a 1 GB RAM video card, which added $500 to the price of the base model. Just enough more to make me wait another two weeks to pull the trigger on the purchase, but it will be worth it to have a machine built to do what I intend to do, edit photos.
I’m still not quite used to budgeting based on getting paid every two weeks though, I know that I made a good chunk of money this past week at work, so the paycheck that I receive on the 13th should be a good one. I’ll hold off until my next payday to be sure that I have not only enough to buy the computer, but to pay my bills for the month as well. 😉 Then, the tax refunds are only for insurance so to speak.
Since I’ve been working as much as they’d let me the past two weeks, I haven’t had many chances to get outside to shoot photos, but it will be worth it to have the new computer. And, the weather hasn’t been that great either, since it is winter in West Michigan. We haven’t gotten much snow until the storm today, but it has been cold, cloudy, and dreary most days.
But hey, we’ve turned a page on the calendar, it is February, the shortest month of the year. I’ve already heard birds singing their spring songs, so they know that spring isn’t that far off, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. By the first of March, signs of spring will be appearing no matter how bad the weather is, so that will be something to look forward to.
I say that even though it’s now February 2nd, groundhog’s day, and the snowstorm yesterday was the real deal. We received over a foot of snow, and today, the temperature has dropped into the bone chilling range. Even though I’d have the time for a walk today, I’m going to chicken out again. I’ll continue to work on my inside chores, and get them out of the way before spring does arrive.
It has dawned on me that I may have already ordered and possibly received the new computer by the time that I post this. I don’t have enough photos saved to fill out a post, and from the weather forecast for this coming week, I may not add many either. We’ll see, and it will also depend on my work schedule.
That’s the downside of seeing and/or hearing some of the first signs of spring, it gets me all wound up for the better weather to come later in the year, and that makes it harder to deal with the brutal cold that often sets in this time of year. Going for a walk when the wind chills are well below zero Farenheit and I have to trudge through over a foot of snow just doesn’t appeal to me any longer, I’m getting too old for that. And, that’s what the weather forecast is calling for most of this week.
So, what to write about until then? Well, I guess that I’ll start with the photos that I do have saved.
You may have noticed that I titled that one Icy morning 3, that’s because this is the first of the series of photos that I shot.
I liked that one, but knew that I could find a better photo in the ice patterns than the that, so I continued to view different portions of the ice through my viewfinder, this is the second shot.
And eventually, I found the image that I began with, my favorite of the lot.
As you can see, we do get some sunshine around here at times, but it’s a rare treat, rather than the rule. So, I played with another shot of some ice patterns, this is the normal exposure.
Typically, I then go down with the exposure to increase the contrast, but in this instance, I went up for this one.
I found that I liked the slightly overexposed version, which surprised me. It never hurts to play around, I learn a little more every time that I do. That now includes playing during post-processing my images to make up for poor light. My last post from along the lakeshore was filled with images that I tweaked the exposure on, here’s two shots of mallards that I have also post-processed. The first was easy to tweak.
All that I had to do was lighten up the shadows a little to bring out the green in the males’ heads.
Now, you would think that as I walked towards the mallards that they would fly away from me, no such luck, as then, I’d have had good light for a mallard in flight photo. They turned around, and flew straight at me so I had to shoot this one as the male passed me, and got between myself and what sunshine that there was.
Not great, the only reason that I’m including it is because I was able to salvage it using the editing software that came with my camera. It took a lot of adjustments to get it as good as it is, for what it’s worth. However, I’m seeing the value of editing more, the more often that I try it. Before editing, the mallard was mostly a dark blob, I’m amazed at how well this one turned out with the software that I currently have to use.
Anyway, on the same day that I shot the video of the house finch singing, there were plenty of other birds in the same thicket as he was. Here’s another male house finch eating lunch, which I shot while searching for the one that was singing.
Here’s a dark-eyed junco fluffed up against the cold.
And, here’s a goldfinch that was also fluffed up against the cold.
Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think that I see the first hints that the goldfinch is a male, and beginning to grow his brighter summer feathers.
All the birds in the brush were staying well hidden, and here’s why, one of the worst photos of a Cooper’s hawk that I have ever posted.
I could not get a focus on the hawk, with it behind so much brush. But, I wanted to include the reason that all the birds were staying deep in the brush that day, including the house finch that was doing the singing. I think that I’d stay hidden with a predator so close to me!
I spooked the hawk while trying to get a clear view of it, then, the small birds came out into the open a little more for these photos.
When the birds were hunkered down in the brush to avoid being seen by the hawk, it was easier for me to get close to them, as the birds were more afraid of the hawk than me. With the hawk gone, their fear of humans took over again.
One of the mornings when I had a chance to walk, I was out just at sunrise, a golden one at that.
As the sun rose, the light changed to icy blue.
I’m not sure if I caught both colors in this next one, or if it was just a lens flare. 😉
The early morning light gave me plenty of opportunities for photos outside of the box which I typically shoot from.
I’m not quite sure if I like all of those or not, especially the sumac, but it was fun to play shooting photos that aren’t in my usual style. It never hurts to play around with shots or settings that one normally doesn’t, it’s always a learning experience even if the images end up getting deleted in the end.
With ice crystals covering many things, I headed for the British soldier lichens that grow on a fence at the entrance to the park, as I had found very interesting ice crystal formations there on an earlier day. Once again, I tried, and failed, to get a good photo of the complex ice crystals on the lichen.
The best examples were in the shade for the most part, sheltered from the sun that was already beginning to melt the ice formations that it hit. I attempted to use my monopod with the new ball head attached so that I could stop the lens down for more depth of field, but I was foiled by the fact that when the county plows a small parking area for the dog walkers, they push the snow right up against the fence. With the piles of snow in the way, I couldn’t find a good example of the ice crystals that I could use the monopod on, until I found this less complex formation.
One of these days, it will work out so that I find something like that with a less jumbled background and where I can get set-up properly for a good photo, maybe. 😉
Maybe it’s time to go back to birds.
I didn’t have time to turn off the IS as the pigeon flew past me, so there’s the ghosting present in that photo as a result, darn.
Okay then, as I was heading towards home one morning, I heard a flock of blue jays making a fuss in the apartment complex across the street from the one that I live in. I kept an eye out for what would be causing the jays to carry on like they were, and soon, one came flying straight at me with something in its beak. It landed almost directly over my head, and set a piece of pizza crust down in the crotch of the tree. Then, the jay hopped to a branch where it could look back at where it had come from.
After a few minutes, the jay went back to where it had placed the pizza, picked it up, and moved to a better location at which to dine.
Sorry for so many of the blue jay, but I thought that it was an interesting glimpse into their behavior.
On a sad note, this is all that remains of one of the woodlots that I walk past when I do go for a walk around here.
Funny thing about myself, I look at that photo and I’m struck by how I should have set-up and done a HDR image of the scene, even though it’s a throw away type of photo. The snow is blown out, and now, that bugs me when it didn’t use to bother me.
In one of his recent posts, Allen, who does the New Hampshire Gardens Solutions blog was worried about birds and small animals finding water in the winter that they could drink. Here’s one source of liquid that I’ve seen both birds and squirrels use in the winter.
That tree had been damaged and the sap was flowing from the wound. As cold as it’s been around here, the sap eventually freezes, but I’ve seen small birds and squirrels drinking the unfrozen sap either from where it flows from the wound, or from the drops at the tips of the icicle that form. Chickadees in particular will land on the icicles, and drink the drops of sap off from the end. Squirrels tend to go for the sap as it exits the wound in the tree, but I’ve seen them reach up to slurp the drops coming down as well.
The next two are rather boring, if I had others, these would be deleted. The first is a shot of the sun on a cloudy day, as the image came from the camera.
This next one is a HDR that I tried, just to see what I’d get.
It made the sun look more like the moon, which is why I was prompted to try that shot.
The next one is quite boring as well, but it was the only photo that I shot that day, and it seems silly to walk that far and not come back with at least one photo.
That’s every photo that I have saved on my computer right now, other than bird photos for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. Speaking of that, my next post in the series puts me at the half-way point, not too bad for having started it almost exactly two years ago. I have 29 more species saved after the half-way point, so I should be able to stay ahead of my posting schedule for those.
Since I’m developing a case of spring fever, despite the bitterly cold temperatures outside right now, I’m going to throw in my last butterfly photo that I saved for just this time of year.
I’ll tell you, it’s so tempting to run over to the Apple store and pick up one of the base model iMacs and use the time during this cold spell to get it set-up the way that I want it. But, I’ll hold off, since I know that I’ll be happier with the better model in the long run, besides, the cold doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. Now that I’ve been working on this post for a few days, the countdown is down to 10 days until I order the model that I really want.
I’d also like to get outside and shoot some photos, but I know that getting my housecleaning and other chores done before the weather gets nicer will pay off in the long run as well.
I may not be posting much for the next few weeks, other than species of birds once a week. It will depend on the weather, my work schedule, and a few other things. So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m busy preparing for spring! That, and hopefully setting up my new iMac when it arrives.
I’ll have to set-up Apple’s Boot Camp to run windows on my Mac in order to use the software that came with my GPS unit and a few other bits of software that I have. I have a copy of Windows Vista on hand, and while Vista stinks, I doubt if I’ll be using it very often. I have a copy of Lightroom to install and set-up, along with the 4 Tb external drive. Since I’ve never used a Mac before, I think that it will take me at least one full day of getting it set-up the way that I want it. I’m also trying to decide if I want to go with a traditional mouse, or with one of Apple’s trackpads, decisions, decisions. 😉 I tried the trackpad in the store and really liked it, but I wasn’t using the software that I’ll be running on my Mac. I’ll probably buy it with the mouse to begin with, then add the trackpad later, that sounds like a plan.
Can you tell that I’ve been doing some planning and getting very excited! Between the new computer and seeing spring on the horizon, I may well burst. 🙂
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
The first sign of spring!
Sorry for another post so soon, and neither the photos or video are very good, but I have managed to find the first real sign that spring is on its way.
I thought that the red-tailed hawks had been acting a bit frisky lately, as if they were flirting to strengthen their pair bonding before the actual mating season arrived. One can never be sure of that though, it could be a pair hunting together, with no thoughts of mating.
However, we had two warmer days in a row, and even though it began to turn colder, we did get a little sunshine for a while. We were on the cusp of the storm that’s going to hit the northeast with a nasty blizzard, all of that went just to the south of my location. So, I could look to the north and see sunshine, and looking to the south, I saw the storm clouds as the storm tracked south of here.
Anyway, I got to the sheltered area of the park that I walk around home, down in the valley near the creek and out of the wind. The brush is very thick along the creek, and there was a large flock of mixed species of birds feeding in the brush.
The big news is that a few of the birds were warming up their vocal chords in preparation for true spring when it arrives. While some of the birds were out in the open, feeding their faces….
…there was a male house finch hidden back in the brush just singing away!
You can just make him out in that photo, but of course you can’t hear him singing. So, I switched over to shoot a video, and while you can’t really see the finch, you can certainly hear him!
I tried several times to find the finch in the brush while shooting videos, but I had a hard enough time finding him through the viewfinder, using the LCD display, he was impossible to see. Then, there’s the background noise of the traffic going past the park, but you get the idea, the birds have begun to sing their spring songs!
I also heard a male cardinal practicing a few bars of his songs, as well as a goldfinch, but they weren’t as persistent as the finch. All it took was a bit of sunshine, and almost right on cue, the last week of January, the first singing birds. While there’s still an entire month of winter left here, just hearing a few birds singing really lifted my spirits, and now, the winter won’t seem as hard to take.
So, I hope that hearing a bird singing lifts your spirits as well, especially those of you that are about to be hit by the blizzard! Spring is coming, we just need to hold on a little longer.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Around home, in the deep freeze
To refresh every one’s memory, around here, November was very cold and snowy, we set several record low temperatures as well as the most snow ever for the month of November. December was slightly milder than average, with only a little over an inch of snow, but no sunshine to speak of. Well, with January came a return to the cold and snow.
We’ve set a couple of more records for low temperatures, one morning it got down to -13 degree Fahrenheit (-25 degree Celsius), the coldest it’s been here in twenty years. Even with little snow in December, we’re still well above average for the season, almost on pace with last winter which was the second snowiest on record.
To put it different terms, this past Sunday I went to the Lake Michigan shore again, and the temperature was right around the freezing point, but it was forty degrees warmer than it had been a few mornings before.
So with the extreme cold, and the hours that I’ve been working, there was an entire week when I wasn’t able to get outside at all. That doesn’t mean that there will be a shortage of photos in this post though, as I’m still playing with my camera equipment, learning how to get better images out of the camera.
And, I have been trying to learn Photomatix, the HDR software, along with the photo editing software that came with my camera in order to improve my images even more. That has been a real pain on my badly outdated computer, it takes around thirty seconds to convert a RAW image to a jpeg for use here in my blog. It takes over five minutes for Photomatix to process a single HDR image.
I came home from the lakeshore on Sunday with 165 images that I cut down to 85 possible for my blog, it took my computer over an hour to process those images from the after edited RAW format to jpeg format for my blog. I don’t have the time or patience to wait that long. However, the new iMac computer is still a few weeks to a month away.
Things have slowed down a little at my new employer, so while I’m still earning more money than at my last job, it hasn’t been as much more as I hoped it would be. The new company is tied to the auto industry, which almost always slows down around the holidays. Signs are that things are starting to pick back up again though. Ha, as if right on cue, as I was typing that, dispatch at work called to see how soon I could make it there as they were swamped with loads. That was Wednesday morning, it’s now Thursday morning before I go into work, and I already have just over thirty hours in for the week. That’s more like it.
Anyway, maybe I’ve been foolish trying to do too much with too little computing power as far as processing my images up to this point, but I’m learning all the time, albeit slowly.
It’s funny, but I was opposed to any post-processing of images up until a few months ago. I can still recall when my opinion began to change, it was last summer. I was up at the Haymarsh State Game Area as a thunderstorm was moving in. I tried shooting photos, but either the approaching clouds were blown out (way overexposed), or all the shadow details in the wooded areas in the foreground were rendered as black (way underexposed).
That’s because the sensor in even the best digital cameras can not handle the dynamic range between very bright and very dark portions of a scene. It was shortly after that trip that I looked into HDR software, and purchased Photomatix software in an attempt to improve my images, that is, getting images that looked the same as the scene that I was trying to shoot.
Like everything else, the Photomatix software comes with a learning curve. The first step is to get images exposed correctly for the software to do its job properly. To assist me in that respect, I’m actually viewing the histograms of the images that I intend to load into Photomatix, and I have turned the “blinkies” on in the camera body that I use for landscapes and macros. The “blinkies” are another name for the highlight alert system in many cameras today. Any part of the image that is overexposed blinks on and off in different colors to alert you to the fact that parts of the images are overexposed.
I had tried that before, but for most bird or wildlife photos, I found the blinkies to be a distraction, especially since I knew that the background was overexposed even without using the blinkies. However, for landscapes, especially if I intend to merge several images into a HDR image, the blinkies are a great way of checking to see that I’m getting the exposure correct.
Maybe I should back up a step here, HDR software blends two or more images shot at different exposure settings into one image to capture the dynamic range in a scene better. Typically, I’ve been using three images, one shot at what the camera tells me is the correct exposure, one shot underexposed to capture the highlight detail (the brighter parts of a scene) and one shot overexposed to capture the shadow detail (the darker parts of a scene).
I’m finding that getting the correct amount of over and under exposure for a scene is one of the keys to getting good results out of the Photomatix software, and those settings are different for different scenes, depending on the amount of dynamic range in the scene. Sometimes, it’s only 2/3 of a stop, other times it can be 2 full stops, or even more. For some extreme scenes, three images may not be enough, it may take 5, 7, or even more exposures to get the final image correct. I haven’t run into one of those situations yet though, three images are usually enough if exposed correctly.
Okay then, with the explanation almost out of the way, here’s an example of what Photomatix can do, starting with the before, an image shot with what the camera told me was the best exposure for this scene.
Now, here’s the HDR version of the same scene.
In the HDR version, you can see down into the water and the broken slabs of concrete that are there, while the creek looks basically black in the first image. That’s what I like about HDR photography, it puts the color that was in a scene, but lost by the limitations of the camera sensor, back into the scene. Here’s another example of that.
In the HDR version, you can see that the pine needles are green, and the tree trunks brown, not almost black as they are in the non-HDR version.
These were shot the day after a storm moved through the area. It started as snow, changed to freezing rain, then rain, back to freezing rain, and ended as snow. So, most of the trees had ice and snow clinging to them, it was a beautiful day, even if there was no sunlight to speak of. I had switched to the 15-85 mm lens early on, knowing that I’d be trying to capture the scenes presented to me by nature.
Sometimes, I didn’t need to resort to HDR images.
However, I set-up to shoot three images of everything with the expectation of loading the images into Photomatix if needed. And, here’s the best example of why from the day. I loved this scene, I don’t know why, but I did.
Of course, I was disappointed in that photo, the evergreens look black for one thing. So, here’s the HDR image of the same scene.
The color is back! The evergreens look green, you can see the snowflakes in the air, just as I saw the scene when I shot it!
However, Photomatix is not without its faults, some of those are actually related to my computer, but not all.
For one thing, the adjustments available in Photomatix after you have done the basic merge of the images don’t make much sense as the adjustments relate to what you’d like to do to the image to improve it as far as the way that the adjustments are labeled. As I wrote before, I have watched several tutorials on how to use the Photomatix software, and the person doing the tutorial tells you to just play with the adjustments until you get the photo the way that you want it.
Well, I’ve been playing, but Photomatix has several different modes, and in each mode, the adjustments are different. It also seems that the adjustments have different effects in different images, so I’ve been doing a great deal of playing. That’s one area where my old computer really limits what I do.
Due to how slow my computer does the processing, I don’t have the patience to wait while Photomatix does its thing. I also don’t have the patience to dump the image if it doesn’t come out the way that I’d like, and start over.
Another thing related to my computer is the small view that I get of the processed image. I may think that I have it right, but after I save it, and then view the image full size, I found that I missed, usually by getting the image too bright.
And, there are times when I like both the HDR and non-HDR version of a scene.
Switching gears here for a while, I’ve also been using the Canon Digital Professional Photo editing software that came with my camera. That software is modeled after Lightroom, and intended to be Canon’s version of Lightroom, but it falls far short of Lightroom. It will however, allow me to tweak RAW images at least to some degree.
That’s Bruiser, the male red-tailed hawk doing a fly by for me. I used the Canon DPP software to brighten up the shadows under his wings a little. That software is better than nothing, but it is lacking many of the features of Lightroom, and doesn’t do a very good job of what it can do.
It also has another serious short-coming, it will only edit RAW images, not jpeg or tiff images. I save the output from Photomatix in 16 bit tiff format to preserve as much image quality as possible. I tried doing what most people who use Photomatix do, doing the final tweaking of a HDR image in Lightroom, but the Canon software that I have doesn’t allow that. But, the Canon software was free, and it’s all that I have to work with right now.
I may find that once I have a computer that can handle Lightroom, that I won’t need to use the Photomatix HDR software as often, but only time will tell about that. I do know that some scenes call for a HDR image, no matter how good Lightroom may be for basic editing.
Anyway, here’s the remainder of the photos that I shot after the mixed precipitation storm, some are HDR images, some aren’t.
So, on to other things, how about a few male cardinal photos to brighten up the winter.
And, for all of you squirrel lovers out there, a big, fat fox squirrel.
After the extremely cold air retreated back to the north for a few days, I found this.
There are a few species of stoneflies that hatch during the winter, I don’t know which species that one is, but it isn’t unusual to find them along rivers and creeks on a slightly warmer winter day.
Oh, that reminds me, I’ve forgotten a few things. One, I did some really dumb things in the past. In preparation for my new computer, I went back and looked at a few of the photos that I had shot with my old Nikon to see if I should import them into Lightroom once I have it. No, there’s no need, not only are most of the photos poor quality, but I saved them the same size and quality as they appeared in my blog. There’s really no reason to import them into Lightroom, as there’s nothing worth trying to improve in the state that I saved them in.
It was an eye-opening experience though, seeing how much the quality of my photos have improved since I made the switch from the old Nikon to my current Canon gear. That’s not to bash Nikon, but better lenses on a better camera equals better photos.
Not all of my editing of images has been done on the computer, sometimes it happens in the camera. Here’s the color version of some ice on the creek….
…then, I switched the camera to high contrast black and white for this one.
How about another cardinal to brighten things up again?
Do you remember the “selfie” that I had in a recent post? Here are the ornaments that decorated one of the small trees here.
And here’s another selfie, this one has the Death Star in it.
Here’s another image shot during the few minutes of sunshine that we had this past few weeks.
I suppose a few more birds are called for.
I threw in the eagle as I was playing with the new ball head that I recently purchased and mounted on my monopod. Since I didn’t find any subjects outside worth shooting, I played around indoors to see how well that set-up worked for macros. So far, so good!
The last two photos for this post are of the same thing, shot at slightly different settings. I can’t decide which one I like best, so here’s both of them.
It’s now Friday morning as I type this part before I go into work today. I have 42 hours in already this week, and I haven’t had to do a Chicago run this week either, so I’m a happy camper. My paycheck should be a good one, which will get me that new iMac soon.
I think that I’ll stay home this weekend, and just walk around here. As I said earlier, I went to the Lake Michigan shoreline last Sunday with the promise of some sunshine that never materialized, so most of my photos were shot in very poor light.
It doesn’t make much sense to drive that far when the weather forecast is calling for clouds and snow, I can stay home and shoot poor photos and save the money that I’d spend on gas towards the new computer.
Well, I was going to click the publish button yesterday morning before I left for work, but changed my mind, thinking that I’d read through this post again first after I got home that night. That didn’t happen, as I had my load changed at work, from a local run to an expedited run to Honda of America near Columbus, Ohio. So, I picked up and delivered the load on time, but had to spend the night at a motel since I didn’t have enough driving time left under DOT regulations to make it home last night.
The upshot of this is that I made some really big money this week, and it shows that the dispatchers trust me to run a load that absolutely has to be delivered on time. Not only that, but I was thanked to the point of embarrassment for taking such a run on no notice, and getting it done correctly. Like any job, there are things about this one that I dislike, but the way that management treats their employees more than makes up for the dislikes.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Ready or not, it’s coming!
Fall that is, I’m seeing more signs every day that summer is winding down and is about ready to give way to fall. It’s been a wonderful summer so far, no real heat waves, we haven’t even made 90 degrees (32 C) at all this year, although we’ve come close a few times. We’ve been in a weather pattern with great, but warm weekends, the cold fronts have come through on Mondays or Tuesdays, which have resulted in cool, pleasant conditions during the work week. We could use some rain, but overall, I have no complaints with the weather.
As summer is winding down, the fall bird migration is picking up in intensity. I’ve seen fewer summer resident species with each passing week for the past month, and from the birding reports, more of the species that spend the summer north of here are being spotted as they work their way south.
Every week, new flowers are blooming, and a few leaves are even beginning to change color, so while it’s quieter around here without the songs of the birds, it is getting more colorful to the eye.
I think that I have done a good job of not going crazy and getting as close to things as I can with the Tokina macro lens so far, that may change.
I purposely stayed farther away from these flowers to show the leaves of the plants the flowers are on.
It’s quite remarkable, almost every time I point the Tokina at flowers, I see insects that I didn’t see with the naked eye.
I’m not sure what that was, it seems to have too many legs to be even a spider, which aren’t technically insects, even though most of us lump them in with insects. I tried for a better shot, but the bug was better at hiding than most birds are.
Looking for an excuse to use my new 10-18 mm lens, I shot this.
That lens is everything that it’s cracked up to be, maybe more! Being all plastic, it feels like a toy, but it’s as sharp as a tack. I was sitting on the ground less than ten feet (3 M) from the trunk of the tree in that photo and was able to get the entire tree in the frame, I even had to zoom in a little. Really surprising is how well it works as a near macro lens. In a future post, I’ll have close-up photos of a teasel flower taken with that lens. Oh what the heck, I’ll throw them in now even though it will make this post longer than I intended.
The only complaint that I have with the 10-18 mm lens is that even with the aperture wide open, as it was in the last photo, the depth of field is too great. 😉 Oh, and for the record, both of those images were cropped, but not as much as you may think. Like I said, it surprised me just how well that lens performs close-up!
The next few were shot with one of three lenses, the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm), 300 mm prime, or the Tokina 100 mm macro lens.
It sure is nice to have right lens for the job! That’s especially true for the birds, and there are a few left around here.
While the juvenile waxwing looks like an adult, I had no trouble identifying it as a juvenile by the way it was begging its parents for food.
Here’s a short series of a juvenile downy woodpecker finding food for itself.
Next up, a pair of a pair of mourning doves.
The barn swallows are still around to amuse me.
And for me to amuse them.
The cardinals stick around all year, so I shouldn’t be posting these now, but what the heck.
This little song sparrow was following me around and talking to me.
We had a pleasant conversation.
The sparrow was wondering what I was doing.
I tried to explain what photographs are, I’m not sure that the sparrow quite grasped what I was telling it.
I interrupted this robin’s preening session.
And finally, one more cardinal.
Well, that’s all I have to say for this one. Tomorrow, I’ll be going to Muskegon to attempt to track down some migrating birds, especially shorebirds. I goofed on some of my identifications in the posts I’ve done so far, and/or mixed up the photos as I saved them to folders to be saved until I posted them.
Some one was kind enough to let me know, so I hope to be able to get the correct photos soon. I goofed on the ID of the stilt sandpiper, although it’s been so long ago that I’m not sure what happened. My post on Baird’s sandpipers has photos of semipalmated sandpipers, but I have a folder of photos labeled as that species, however the photos in the folder are of Baird’s sandpipers. I think that as I was trying to sort and saved the photos from a day when I shot almost 500 photos, that I sent the wrong photos to the folders that I had set-up. I’ll get it fixed soon.
In the meantime, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Spring vacation 2014, the 4th day
It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Wednesday morning, another very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. I was surprised by the rain after the sunset the night before, but I was in northern Michigan, where it doesn’t take much for it to rain.
Being near the “tip of the mitt” as the area is known, a small area of land surrounded by two of the Great Lakes, it is a maritime climate there.
Anyway, I did my morning tour around the campground and came up with these photos, starting with a red squirrel’s antics.
I had seen and heard bird calls coming from a marsh behind my campsite, so checking the marsh out, I found this.
Returning to my campsite for more coffee, I found that a pair of geese were thinking of joining me.
I looked towards the river and saw a pair of common mergansers headed downstream and set off after them, hoping to get to a bend in the river before they did. On the way, I spotted this wood duck, but since he had seen me, I thought my best option was to continue after the mergansers, and then to try to sneak up on the wood duck later, after he had settled down.
In the very poor light, this was my best image of one of the mergansers.
But when I stepped into an opening for that photo, the wood duck saw me again, and took off, so I never did get a better photo.
But, the geese were still feeding in my campsite.
Here’s the rest of the photos from the morning.
While hiking the Mason Tract the day before, I learned that there is a dirt road that runs parallel to the pathway and that there are several points where there are parking areas where the pathway and road come very close together. I had chosen one of those points to turn around at the day before, and that’s where I picked up from on this day.
I did the last three miles (and back) of the Mason tract pathway, I didn’t do the Thayer’s Creek loop, as it was closed due to high water over the bridge that spans Thayer’s Creek, or at least that’s what the signs said.
Once again, I saw just one other person the entire time that I was hiking and sitting, it was if I had the entire Mason Tract to myself! I did even more sitting than on the previous day as well, since the weather had improved a little over the day before, it was almost sunny for short periods of time.
It looked like a dandelion to me, but the stem looked different, and there were no leaves at the base, so I believe that I have seen my first colt’s foot.
I think that you can see that the clouds had really thickened up again by the time that I had finished my hike for the day. On my way back to my campsite, I listened to the weather forecast for the next few days, and every station had the same forecast, rain and snow for the next three days. It even sprinkled a little on my way back to the campground.
So, I wimped out, when I arrived back at Goose Creek where I was staying, I packed up and headed home. I had already spent three days in rainy weather, and even though I don’t mind hiking in the rain, and the temperatures weren’t going to be much below freezing, three more days of gloomy weather were not what I had been looking forward to. I knew that I wasn’t going to spend the entire two weeks of my vacation camping, so it seemed like a good time to come home, shower, and resupply for my next trip north.
Which, as this is published, I will be on. I’m getting ready to leave as soon as I finish this, I’ll be spending a few days near Alpena, Michigan chasing birds, then go from there as the mood strikes me.
In fact, I feel as if I should apologize for the quality of this post, as I am rushing through it so that I can be on my way. I’ll respond to comments when I return home.
That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Spring vacation 2014, the 3rd day
It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Tuesday morning, another very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. It did, for a little while anyway.
I decided to go hiking and birding, my plan was to locate and check out the Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area, a United States Forest Service nature preserve in the Huron Manistee National Forest. But, being the silly goose that I am, I hadn’t written down the directions on how to get there. I had remembered seeing signs for it in the past, and I thought that if I went to the area it was in, that I would see the signs again. I didn’t, but the Mason Tract is in the same area, and I had only hiked the southern end of the Mason Tract trail, so I thought that this day would be a good one to hike more of that trail, since it is one of my new favorite areas. Here’s a little about it from the Michigan DNR’s website.
Mason Tract: A 4,493 acre special management area along the South Branch of the Au Sable River designed to protect the quality fishing waters of this area. The Mason Tract originated from acceptance of a 1500-acre gift from The George Mason family in 1954. Over time, additional acreage has been acquired from the US Forest Service and private individuals through land exchanges. The Mason gift was contingent the area be used as a permanent game preserve, no part shall ever be sold by the state, and no camping be allowed in the area for 25 years. The State of Michigan has continued the no camping restriction in the Mason Tract. The only camping allowed is within Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground, located at the north end of the Tract on the Au Sable River. The Mason Tract offers quality fishing, hunting, and canoeing opportunities. The Mason Tract is home to the pristine Mason Chapel. The Mason Family constructed the Chapel in 1960 to provide fishermen with a place of reverence and has developed into a popular tourist attraction. The Mason Tract also contains the Mason Tract Pathway, which is used for hiking and cross-country skiing. Mountain biking on the Mason Tract Pathway is prohibited via a Director’s Order.
The Mason Tract Pathway is a little over nine miles in length if you take the direct trail, almost twelve miles long if you take the Thayer’s Creek loop and campground loop which is far too long for me to do in one day by myself, as I would have had to hike all the way back to my vehicle, doubling the length of my hike. So, I decided that since I had done the south third of the trail, that on this day, I would start on the north end and hike three miles in, then four miles back, by taking the campground loop on my way back. I saw one other person during my entire hike, they were doing just the campground loop.
Here are a few of the photos that I shot while there.
The sun was almost breaking through the clouds at that point, but they soon thickened up again for the rest of my hike.
Not a great angle, but it was the best of many oven bird photos that I shot.
In a reverse of what normally happens, I got an image of a black-throated green warbler flying towards me.
As I was going to shoot a photo of the warbler perched, I was distracted momentarily by this guy.
Then I returned to the warbler.
I’m not sure if this next plant is a species of moss or not.
I was able to get better photos of a blackburnian warbler than what I had saved on my computer for when I do a post on them in the My Photo Life List project.
I could hear a tanager singing and calling, and as I tried to locate him, he flew to directly over my head to pose for these rather poor photos, but I’m including them for the record.
Just a species of mushroom that I saw frequently while up north.
Despite the poor weather, I was able to get some better images of a Nashville warbler, this one showing its brown crown, which they don’t always do.
I was surprised by how tame the chipmunks were, and how close I was able to get to them.
I saw many of these butterflies, but couldn’t get a photo of one with its wings spread.
And finally, this junco for the record.
This is my opinion, for what it’s worth, I would skip the part of the Mason Tract Pathway from the north parking lot to past the campground loop, unless you want to be able to say that you’ve done the entire pathway. The nearly one mile of trail from the parking lot to the junction of the campground loop is rather boring northern Michigan open jack pine scrub and not very scenic.
The campground loop is very nice, with a good view of the river (sorry, I didn’t take a short lens) and two small wetlands around springs that feed the river. I would hike that again many times.
Even better is from the campground south, that’s the true Mason Tract, and you get the feeling of being in an unspoiled wilderness!
A great feature of this pathway is that they have placed benches at each of the signposts along the trail, making convenient rest stops spaced out along the way. There’s a map at every signpost, although not all the maps have the distances on them. But, that’s a small detail. It was so nice to sit out in the woods with no one or no sounds other than nature all around me. I may not have taken many photos, but it was a very enjoyable day!
On my way back to my campground, I saw the signs for Wakeley Lake, so I had to stop. Even though I had already hiked seven miles, I did the short one mile beaver pond loop at Wakeley Lake.
I had seen the evidence of woodpeckers everywhere I had gone, I had heard them, including a pileated, but this is the only one that I was able to get a photo of the entire time I was up north. Strange, very strange.
It was raining again by then, a small thunder shower was passing just to the south, so the photos aren’t very good, but here’s the rest from Wakeley Lake.
The Wakeley Lake area is a federal facility, and there’s a $5 fee to access it. That irks me, as there are no real improvements there, they charge the $5 just to access a wilderness area? But, I broke the law and didn’t pay, I wanted to get a feel for the place to see if it was worth returning to at a later date.
I would say that it is, so the next time, I will pay, and hike more of the trails there, even if I disagree with the government charging us to access what our tax dollars have already paid for.
After returning to my campground, and eating supper, I did my tour of the campground at dusk, and found this.
The night before, she and her mate had perched in the same tree, but that was while I was fishing, and didn’t have my camera with me. Argh!
A few minutes later is when I shot these, seen in a previous post.
After that, there was nothing to do but eat supper, and turn in for the night. It’s too bad that the owls didn’t do the same. I had heard them before, but on this night, they decided to use one of the large white pine trees that I had my tent/cot set up under to use as a rendezvous point. I have to tell you that I woke up to some strange sounds that had me scratching my head trying to figure out what was making the sounds. It sounded as if whatever was making the sounds was in or on my tent!
It wasn’t any of the classic sounds that owls typically make, it almost sounded like a canine’s bark, and I wondered if there were coyotes outside of my tent. But then, I heard the second owl answering the barks of the first one from off in the distance with a plain hoot, and getting closer each time it hooted. Eventually, both owls ended up in the tree over my tent, and I’m not sure, but I think that they were making owlets over where I was trying to sleep. Whatever they were doing up there, they sure were noisy! Eventually they flew off, and I was able to get back to sleep.
I had considered getting up, going for my camera and a flashlight, and trying for photos, but I doubted if it would be worth the effort. I listened to the sounds of owls of common Michigan species on eBird to try to identify the sounds, but couldn’t. The plain hoots that I heard could have been made by several species, but I’d be lying if I tried to make a positive ID. My best guess is great horned owls, but that’s only a guess.
I’m heading back up north this morning shortly after this is published, so I may not get around to replying to comments you may leave until next week.
That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Spring vacation 2014, the 2nd day
It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Monday morning, a very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. It didn’t, instead, the rain picked up to a steady, moderate rainfall. I didn’t feel like trying to cook outside in the rain, and I sure didn’t feel like eating my soggy cooking in the rain either.
But, I had planned somewhat for bad weather, that’s why I chose Goose Creek campground to stay in for at least the first few days, it’s only a few miles west of Grayling, Michigan. Hartwick Pines State Park is just a few miles north of Grayling, so I decided to run into town, get something to eat, then start my day at Hartwick Pines.
One reason, besides the weather, is that I have always seen evening grosbeaks at Hartwick Pines, and I needed photos of them for the My Life List project that I’m working on. Another reason is that Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the crown jewels of Michigan’s excellent state park system. Here’s a bit of the history of the place from the Michigan DNR’s website.
“With an area of 9,672 acres, Hartwick Pines is one of the largest state parks in the Lower Peninsula. The park’s rolling hills, which are built of ancient glacial deposit, overlook the valley of the East Branch of the AuSable River, four small lakes and unique timber lands. The principal feature of this park is the 49-acre forest of Old Growth Pines which gives the park its name. This forest is a reminder of Michigan’s past importance in the pine lumber industry as well as a source of inspiration for the future of our forests. The park is rich in scenic beauty and because of the different habitats it encompasses, there is ample subject matter for the sports person, photographer, or naturalist throughout the year. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round.
The Story Behind The Pines In 1927, Karen Michelson Hartwick purchased over 8,000 acres of land, which included 85 acres of old growth white pine, from the Salling-Hanson Company of Grayling. Mrs. Hartwick was a daughter of Nels Michelson, a founding partner of the Salling-Hanson logging company. A short while later, Mrs. Hartwick donated the land to the State of Michigan as a memorial park to be named for her husband, the late Major Edward E. Hartwick of Grayling. Edward Hartwick had died overseas during World War I. Also wishing to commemorate the logging history of the region and of her family, Karen Hartwick requested that the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum be built in the park.
In 1934 and 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps work crew located within the park built two log structures to house this museum. Today, the museum uses exhibits, artifacts, and photographs, to recreate the atmosphere of a logging camp and tell the tale of the “shanty boys” who turned Michigan’s vast forests into timber. Period settings depicting a bunkhouse, mess hall, blacksmith shop, camp office, and van (store) give the visitor a sense of what logging camp life was like.
Mrs. Hartwick was also involved in the naming of two of the park’s lakes. Nels Michelson had a team of oxen which he used for skidding logs out of the forest. They were named Bright and Star. Karen Hartwick requested that the former Alexander Lakes be renamed in their honor. The state board of geographic names felt that there were already too many Star Lakes in Michigan, but they settled on Glory instead, and our Bright Lake and Glory Lake became named after logging oxen.
In November of 1940, a fierce wind storm struck the area of the park and removed nearly half of the old growth pine. Today, only 49 of the original 85 acres remain standing.”
Since that was written, more wind storms, disease, and old age have taken their toll on the old giants which once stood in the park, there are just a few remaining now. However, it’s still a magnificent feeling to stand under one of the giant white pines that do remain, and look up in awe as they seem to go on forever, reaching almost to the clouds.
But, I couldn’t figure out how to capture that in a photo, I’m not sure it can be done in a stand of trees like they are.
I’ve been through the logging museum a few times, it is well worth a visit in it’s own right if you’re ever in the area. So, I’ll start with a few photos of the larger equipment outdoors to give you a little feel for the place. I’d have taken photos in the museum buildings, but they had school tours going through them, and all the displays are behind glass, and it’s hard to get good flash photos shooting through glass.
I did find the evening grosbeaks, and a few other critters.
On my way out, I stopped at the visitor’s center to thank the employees for doing such a great job with the park, as they are always very helpful and knowledgeable. I started chatting with one of the employees, and he gave me a tip on the location of a bog that had been on part of the hiking trail system in the park, but the boardwalk through the bog had fallen into disrepair.
Unfortunately, there were two decades when our Michigan DNR, which oversees our park system, was severely underfunded, and many needed repairs weren’t done. Hopefully, that has changed with the new system of funding our parks that we have here in Michigan now. But it will be years before the DNR is able to catch up on the maintenance, although you can already see major improvements.
Anyway, I found the bog, I didn’t find any birds, but what a place! I have a feeling that Allen, who does the New Hampshire Gardening Solutions blog would go crazy if he ever saw that bog, the plants amazed me, and I know little about them. I want to go back later in the year when the plants are flowering! Here’s a very small sampling of what I found.
By then, it was pouring down rain between thundershowers. Not exactly great weather for photos, or photography equipment, which is why I got so few photos.
I did stop at Bright and Glory Lakes between downpours.
The rain let up a little, so I tried fishing the east branch of the AuSable River for a while, but couldn’t even turn a brook trout.
So, I did a little exploring by car, as there are so many places I have yet to find, and here’s what I came up with as far as photos.
Arriving back at the campground, I noticed one benefit to all the rain, jelly mold showing up on the railings next to the river. So, in a break between rain showers, I set up my tripod, and did further testing with the Tokina macro lens, starting with a test shot.
This next one is as close as I can get with just the Tokina lens.
And, this is as close as I can get with the 1.4 X extender behind the lens.
I must have bumped the tripod when I added the extender, since I didn’t get the exact same molds as in the second shot, but these were about the same size. None of the photos were cropped at all. I used the LCD panel light for lighting, and for the first time ever, I had it turned up as high as it would go as far as light output, and I could have used more.
After that, there was nothing to do but eat supper, and turn in for the night.
That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!
My vacation, spring (???) 2014, an overview
Okay, I knew that I wouldn’t be camping for the two entire weeks of my vacation without at least a couple of days back home, but so far, the weather is not cooperating at all. When the forecast for Thursday through Saturday called for more rain, rain/snow mix, and a stiff north wind, I decided to come home for a few days. And, as I am editing this on Friday, the area where I was did indeed see accumulating snow this morning.
I left home early on Sunday morning, and had my camp set up in Goose Creek State Forest Campground on the banks of the upper Manistee River before 2 PM. It was warm and sunny then, I was wearing just a light short-sleeved T-shirt and jeans.
But before I get into the details of the trip, a few other thoughts first.
First, my Cabela’s tent/cot is a breeze to set-up and take down. I slept fairly well in it, given that it was really warmer than what my sleeping bag is designed for. I was too warm inside the first two nights, but since I wasn’t sure just how weather proof the tent/cot was, I didn’t dare open up the windows or other ventilation very much the first night. I got a little braver each night, as I found out that the unit does protect from the elements very well. That was important, because it rained off and on from the first evening that I was there, right through Wednesday evening, when I packed up to return home.
My biggest problem was condensation inside the unit, because I hadn’t opened up the ventilation as I should. I’ll know better next time. But, I don’t think that any tent would have been able to deal with the weather from Monday to Wednesday morning. The humidity was so high that it was foggy for much of the time.
Also, it was a lot easier to use the tent/cot in my living room when I tested it at home than it was outdoors in real use, but it will do what I intended it to do. It’s quick and easy to set up, or take down, but if one is claustrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend one of these tent/cots to them. 😉
I tried fishing a few times when I was sure that there were no thunder showers in the area, I don’t mind fishing in the rain, it can be a great time to fish, but I won’t stand in the middle of a river, holding a graphite fly rod in my hand, while there’s lightning nearby. I fished for at least a little while on several evenings, and all I could manage is one hit from a small trout, which is about as well as any of the other fishermen that I spoke to were doing. It was a long, tough winter for the trout as well as people.
The big story was the weather. It started raining, with an occasional passing thundershower Sunday evening right on through until Tuesday evening, and it rained at least a little each day. Monday and Tuesday, there was more time when it was raining than not. Sunday and Monday were very warm, hot even, especially for up there this time of the year. It cooled off to about average for Tuesday and Wednesday. There were a few short peeks at the sun on every day as well, with Sunday being the brightest day. Wednesday was cloudy most of the time, with just a few light sprinkles of rain a couple of times, but at least the fog was gone that had been around most of Monday and Tuesday.
It was so gloomy most of the time that I set the ISO of my camera to go as high as 3200 on auto, but even that wasn’t high enough. I shot some photos at ISO 3200, f/5.6, and a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, not nearly fast enough for the new 300 mm prime lens and the extender behind it for a total of 420 mm. Not even as steady as I am, or the lens’ IS could get great photos under the conditions I had to work with most of the time. But, that didn’t stop me from trying. 😉
I probably should have switched to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I was hiking long distances each day. For the two nicer days, I also brought the second body and short lenses, and six to eight miles with the Beast is more than enough by itself. When I didn’t bring the other gear, the 300 mm prime did the job for macro photos as well as it can, which is quite good. Besides, the 300 mm prime is better weather sealed than the Beast, and that was important.
About all that I could do was hike, the weather wasn’t any good for much else. I did get some fishing in at times, but it was too wet and rainy to just sit around the campground as I had planned on doing. I need one of those canopies to set up to provide cover if I’m going to just sit outside and it’s raining.
But, I have to be serious, I’m not much of a sitter. I may not move fast or far, but I can’t just sit still for very long doing nothing either. When I did sit, it was out in the woods most of the time, and even then, not for very long. I’m the type that wants to see what’s over the next hill or around the next bend.
My best photo from my time up there is this one, taken Tuesday evening, when the bulk of the rain finally ended.
A close second is this one, same time and place, slightly different position.
I tried a few other landscapes, but none of them are very good as far as subject matter, except for this one.
That was shot on Tuesday morning. I had been drinking my coffee, leaning on the railing next to the river that you can see in the second sunset photo. I was thinking that even though I had images of many species of birds, that I hadn’t gotten any lifers so far on this trip, and that was disappointing to me. I thought to myself that just being there used to be enough to keep me contented, that I used to think that this was one of the truly special places in Michigan, then it hit me. It still is, I’m just so used to seeing it that it is more like an old friend than anything else, but other people haven’t seen it, so I should grab my camera and tripod, and capture the moment.
So, I ran around the area shooting landscapes using live view, which was a mistake. Little did I know that the lens had fogged up from the extremely high humidity, even though the camera and lens had been sitting in my vehicle all night, and should have been the same temperature as the air. When I looked at the camera screen, I thought that the camera was seeing the fog thicker than I was with my naked eye, so I never checked the lens. That’s the only photo that turned out at all, because it was the first one that I shot, before the lens fogged over completely. Lesson learned.
Also, I am happy to report that after four days of counting yellow-rumped warblers, that there’s a gazillion of them, give or take a hundred billion here or there. The sheer number of them interfered with my getting photos of other species. They were everywhere I went, and in huge numbers. I’d see a small bird, pull the camera to my eye, get a focus lock, and at least 95% of the time, it was a yellow-rumped, from here on in to be known as YRW’s.
I started to assume that any warbler perched long enough for me to get a good look at it was a YRW. They were on the ground, in the brush, in the air, and in the treetops, there were times when I had 20 in sight at the same time.
They had infested the campground, just as everywhere else that I went, so naturally, one of them will appear as my first bird photos.
Those were shot while I strolled around the campground, checking it out, as were these.
It was still only mid-afternoon, so I drove up to the De Ward Tract, which I have written about before, there’s info about it in my hiking places pages if you’re curious. I walked along the bluff on the east side of the river for a mile or so, and only saw YRW in the brush below me, other than a lone kingfisher, the photo of it was too bad to post. But, I found a few interesting things to shoot.
I wasn’t finding much to photograph, and it was quite warm, above 80 degrees F ( 27 C), so I returned to the campground for these.
I don’t know if this grackle was fascinated by its own reflection, or if it was watching something in the water.
But he kept getting closer….
…until he went in!
One way or the other, it didn’t take him long to get out of the water, it was still very cold, as I found out when I fished later on.
This palm warbler looked on, wondering what the grackle was doing.
Then resumed looking for insects.
That’s it for the photos from the first day.
I slipped into my waders, and spent the rest of the day fishing. I fished all the way through the campground, and had one hit the entire time. That was the best that I did of all the times I tried fishing.
Just as I was finishing my supper, the rain started, so I slipped into my tent cot, and called it a night.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
My Week, itching to go!
A few thoughts about this past weekend. I feel bad about not putting more effort into getting better photos of the wildflowers at Aman Park yesterday, but I just wasn’t feeling it. It would have been too much like work to have battled the wind any more than I did, and I want my photography to remain a fun hobby, and not become a chore.
The second thought has to do with the small wetlands that I visited, I’m such a lucky guy! I go stumbling around doing things the wrong way, and manage to come home with four relatively rare birds. In fact, the daily rare bird alert from eBird this morning is from my reported sightings on Sunday.
I have to say that it’s pretty cool to see my name attached to the rare bird sightings, but I had better be careful and not allow myself to get drawn into the world of serious birders. They are a different breed, and I won’t fit in their clique, not at all.
I met the guy who verifies the rare bird sightings in this area for eBird on Saturday, and I could tell that it irked him that I had seen a white-eyed vireo in this area before he had. Why else would he have even remembered my name or that sighting if it hadn’t bugged him? And yes, when he walked up to me, he asked if I was Jerry, and when I replied that I was, he immediately brought up the vireo sighting. They are so competitive, and I do it just for fun, which is what I think bothered him the most.
I say that I do it just for fun, I really do it out of my love of nature, and the fact that I live in a state like Michigan that has so much nature to be seen, and access to the nature. I don’t want that to change either, I want to find the birds on my list to show what a great state that I live in, how much wildlife that we have, and as a reason to wander around with a camera, not to beat any one else or to rack up big numbers.
I’ll let other people spend long hours behind a spotting scope hoping to score a major sighting, then I’ll follow them up and shoot a few photos, as I’m too lazy to put the hard work that it takes to find the rare birds in the first place. 😉
There’s one more reason that I’ve taken on the project of trying to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan, and that is an attempt to keep my mind sharp, as well as to learn more about nature. Identifying birds is tricky at times, and it takes mental skills to do so, and I’ve learned so much already in the little over a year that it has been since I began my project.
Well, enough of that prattle, time to head on out to see what I can find today.
I’m back, another day, another lifer, at least as far as photos. I know that I have seen, and probably photographed magnolia warblers before, but when I checked my list, I don’t have that species checked off. I may have seen them before I became as serious about identifying birds as I am now.
Now, I wish that I had taken the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me, rather than the new 300 mm prime lens, as the prime lens didn’t achieve a good focus lock for any of my shots of the male warbler, and missed the female completely. But, the day that was forecast to be pleasant and sunny turned out to be cool, cloudy, with occasional sprinkles of rain, so I left the Beast home where it would be safe and dry.
I may have been able to try a few more photos of the warblers, but I got distracted by several juvenile white-throated sparrows in the same area, which I mistook for white-crowned sparrows at first, until I got some close-up images.
I’m going to relate my day today back to what I was writing about before I left, not wanting to become a serious birder. I see them standing back from the birds, and using high-powered binoculars and/or spotting scopes to survey an area, then move on.
That seems like a cold, sterile way of birding. Me, I like to get right in the middle of the birds and feel their life force all around me. I was in my glory the past two days at the small wetlands, there were several times that I thought that birds were going to collide with me as I worked my way through the brush, now that’s cool!
So it was today, by getting in the thicker stuff where the birds hang out, I was able to get these photos.
If you noticed, the bird that I labeled as a juvenile white-throated sparrow doesn’t have the yellow lores (area between the beak and eyes) that the second sparrow has. That’s what threw me for a while, the lack of the yellow lores.
And, that reminds me of a conversation that I had with Bruce, the guy who counts and bands birds in the Muskegon area, about how much and many variations that there are in individual birds of the same species. That also makes many birding field guides that have only one photo of the prototypical example of a species less of a help than they could be if they included a few of the known variations. But, that comes with experience, something that I accumulate a little more of everyday.
I have a few other photos from today, not great, but they were my attempts to get a usable photo in the worst of conditions.
I probably should save photos like the last ones for my own edification and not post them, but I want to pass on what I’m learning to do. Crank up the exposure compensation and forget about the background. And besides, the photos of the oriole are my first for the year, and you can see that it was feeding on something in the cottonwood catkins, or the catkins themselves.
I didn’t do a post in the My Photo Life List last week, and I won’t this week either, despite the fact that I now have five new species besides the ones that I had saved. What I’ll do is finish a few of them this week, but schedule them to be published while I’m on vacation. So, don’t be surprised when I don’t reply to comments right away. And, that reminds me, I now have photos of enough species to put me over half-way finished with the project right now. All the photos may not be great, but I have them, and can always update the posts with better photos in the future.
You know, that’s quite an accomplishment, getting photos good enough to positively identify over half of the species of birds regularly seen in Michigan in just over a year! I have my vacation coming up, I’d be shocked if I don’t add to my species total during those two weeks, and I sure am itching to go!
It’s late, I worked late, slept in late, and now I’m pressed for time, so this will be short.
The weather today is what had been forecast for yesterday, a wonderful day.
The weather forecast for next week, the first week of my vacation is looking very good as well, I think that the weatherman was trying to give me a heart attack by predicting snow for the middle of next week.
I have two full weeks off, so I’ll do my laundry, cooking, and packing on Saturday, and start north on Sunday. That’s something I would probably do anyway, as doing that, I avoid the weekend traffic and crowds. I still have no set plans as to where to start, but it’s looking like I’ll spend the first few nights along the upper Manistee River to do some trout fishing, and possibly go looking for Kirkland warblers.
That’s all for now, I’m going to get outside and enjoy as much of this day as I can!
Well once again, I spent too much time enjoying this fine example of a spring day, and I don’t have much time left to describe the day, other than in my photos. But, before I get to them, I have to say that I can not tell you in words just how much I love this time of year! The days are cool, the nights are nippy, and new life is appearing everywhere!
So, on to the photos, starting with a goldfinch that was alternately eating parts of the flowers he is perched near…
…and singing his fool head off.
There are many flowers in bloom.
If dandelions weren’t so hard to kill, we would probably give them the respect as a flower that they deserve.
I stood in a thorn-bush and fought the wind for these next two, I wouldn’t say that the wind won, I would call it a tie. The photos aren’t as sharp as they could be, but they were the best I could do since the flower never stopped moving.
This is the time of year when many leaves look almost as pretty as flowers as they open.
There were birds about as well.
This next one may be the son of the oriole above from last summer, as it is a first year male that doesn’t have his adult plumage yet.
Now then, a few more words about the weather forecasts. A light wind, as was forecast for today, does not cause this to happen.
A seven mile an hour wind also doesn’t cause flags to fly straight out either, but I didn’t shoot a photo of that. But, I’m sure glad that the meteorologists can’t get the forecast for the day correct, as now they are back to predicting snow up north for the end of next week. I hope that they are wrong, but I had better be prepared, as snow has happened to me before up there this time of year.
One more thing, there may be storms tomorrow morning about the time that I go for my walk, if that does happen, I’m going to do some shopping for a few items that I need for my vacation, as I haven’t gotten around to that yet.
The storms have already moved through the area, and the weather is improving as I type this. It also looks like I’ll have at least one full week of close to perfect for me weather for my vacation. Not too hot, not to cold, and not too much rain. I hope that the latest forecast holds true!
I’m feeling antsy because I haven’t started packing yet, but on the other hand, since I have everything for camping stored in totes and ready to go, I know that other than food, I don’t have much packing to do. It’s just a matter of throwing some clothes into a duffel bag, and then shoving everything into my Forester. I can do all that on Saturday, and be ready to hit the road bright and early on Sunday. If things go my way, I should have my camp set up on the banks of the Manistee River by early afternoon, and I can do some late afternoon fishing.
Sorry, I drifted off in a dream there for a few minutes, time for me to get moving. 😉
I’m back, and the first thing that I have to report is that the park that I walk in during the week, myself, and the photo of the white-eyed vireo that I sent to eBird for verification are all becoming celebrities of sorts.
I bumped into another serious birder this morning, and he knew my name, and that I was the one that reported the vireo to eBirds. He told me that another birder had been at the park earlier in the morning, and had reported over 70 species of birds, so the guy I was talking to had taken an early long lunch from work to stop at the park to check it out. During the course of our conversation, I found out that the photo of mine had made the rounds among the serious birders, who knew that there were so many hardcore birders out there?
Now, I feel almost obligated to come up with another rare sighting to prove that the vireo wasn’t a fluke. 😉
Well, it was, and it wasn’t. It’s not as if I were stalking white-eyed vireos when I saw one, but, I am always on the lookout for new species of birds, so the fact that I am one of the handful of people to have seen a white-eyed vireo in this area isn’t a total surprise, given how much time I spend chasing birds. I may not be that good at identifying them yet, but I can usually tell a new to me species when I see it. The reason that I started carrying a camera with me when I started walking for exercise is that I saw so many different species of birds.
Anyway, I didn’t see any rare birds today, just a few of the more common ones around here.
Just as yesterday, I’m going to start with a goldfinch, as I believe that it is the same one as yesterday, as it was in the same tree, but my photos are better today.
And, just like yesterday, he was alternately eating and singing.
I haven’t posted an image of a fox squirrel lately, this one is pretty good in its own way.
I shot a couple of good photos of a turkey vulture, but I think that I’ll skip those today to keep this reasonable. I’ll post one of a female red-winged blackbird instead.
I think that the focusing of the new 300 mm prime lens is getting broken in, as it seems to do a little better each day. I’m not sure that the photo above would have been as good as it is the way the lens functioned when I first got it.
I’m not sure what species of snake that this is, but it was cute.
If you look at the pavement, you can see how short the depth of field is with the new lens and extender in poor light, the focus has to be perfect.
I caught a field sparrow checking to see if I was ready to catch his singing performance, I was.
I posted a couple of photos of white-throated sparrows yesterday to show the variations in color. I have three more from today to both show that the new lens is working better, and also to show what a typical adult white-throated sparrow looks like.
Here’s a cottonwood catkin just beginning to open.
A song sparrow.
And finally, another of my favorite species of bird has returned for the summer, a grey catbird. I had to go in after him, but only the images of him on the ground were cropped at all. The photos may not be great, but, I did get the bird!
I was actually too close to get the entire catbird in the frame at first, and there were small branches between us, but my persistence paid off, now I’ll have to catch him in good light! It was good the hear him singing again. They and brown thrashers both use parts of other bird’s songs in their own songs, it they are a pleasure to listen to.
Time has slipped away from me again, that’s it for today.
I think that every morning this week I have awoken at dawn, which is way too early for some one who doesn’t get home from work until around 1 AM, and then I’ve gone back to sleep. I’ve ended up sleeping in later than I would have liked to, so I’ve had less time for my walk and blogging. The same thing happened this morning. Waking up at dawn is great, I intend to do so everyday for the next two weeks, but it has messed up my week this week.
Today is forecast to be hot, the warmest day since the beginning of September of 2013, eight long, cold months ago. I would probably complain about the heat if we were having this type of weather every day right now, but since it will only last for today, I’ll deal with it.
I’d try some flower macro photos today, but there’s a 30 MPH wind blowing the warm air in this direction. This spring has been very windy most days, the windiest that I can remember. That goes with the roller coaster temperatures that we’ve had, one or two nice days per week, then cool to cold for the rest of the week. It takes a stiff wind to constantly change the air mass over us. The only calm days that I can remember have been on the rainy days, oh well, there’s always next spring.
The forecast for tomorrow is calling for strong to severe storms tomorrow morning, if that turns out to be true, I’ll do my shopping then, along with stopping at the bank for cash for my vacation. The Michigan DNR doesn’t accept credit or debit cards when one pays daily to camp in a State Forest campground, and it is $13 per night, so I’ll need some ones.
Well, I’m just babbling now, time for food and a walk.
I’m back, and it’s late. The park is erupting in birds and blooms, there simply wasn’t time for me to get photos of everything that I wanted to. And, with so many birds that I’m seeing for the first time this year, I had to check the identification of several that I photographed today. Some of the first of the year were easy, like the rose-breasted grosbeaks, but there others, such as black-throated green warblers and pine warblers, that I had to verify what they were. I also tried to not photograph familiar subjects, but I couldn’t stop myself, as you will see. Here’s the photos, I don’t know if I’ll have time to elaborate on them tonight after work or not.
Sorry folks, I didn’t get back to this last night, I have put getting ready for my vacation ahead of working on my blog. I say that even though this morning, I did four drafts of posts in the My Photo Life List project this morning, which are scheduled to be published while I’m on vacation.
It’s been raining this morning, with an occasional flash of lightning, and rumble of thunder, nothing serious, but enough to keep me inside so far. I don’t mind the rain, but the lightning is what keeps me in.
The rain has about ended, and I’m torn as to whether I should go for a walk to see if there are as many birds as yesterday, or if I should do my shopping today. I may be sorry tomorrow, but I’m going for a walk today.
I’m back, and the jury is still out as far as whether walking today was a good idea or not. I know that I have left myself a lot to do tomorrow, but I enjoyed my walk today, despite the weather.
It was very windy (again) as colder air is heading this way, and the dark clouds overhead spit sprinkles of rain from time to time. There weren’t as many species of birds as yesterday, but it was hard to tell since the treetops were swaying so wildly. I did see a few smaller birds up high, along with orioles, but I didn’t bother even trying to get any photos. That is, until I saw a Cooper’s hawk swoop past me to land on a fence.
I have an image of the hawk as it took flight, but it’s not very good, and also a few of the hawk going from tree to tree looking for lunch, but there’s no reason to post them.
Along the creek, I shot a couple of my favorite birds.
I didn’t crop the photo of the cardinal at all, I liked how it looked in the middle of all the new green leaves, although the leaves didn’t come out as well as I had hoped. I included the catbird because it was trying to feed on sumac drupes, but every time it landed in the sumac, the resident robin would chase the catbird away. That turned out okay, because a little later, I found a pair of catbirds in another patch of sumac.
I was fighting both the wind, which was blowing the birds and the sumac around, and the short depth of field due to the very low light and wide open aperture. But then, the second catbird perched in a nearby bush where I could get better photos.
Finally, a trillium to remind me to mention the flowers this spring.
This is only my second year walking Creekside Park, I don’t remember seeing so many early spring flowers last year. It could be that I was too fixated on birds and also that I didn’t have a lens suitable for photographing flowers last spring. It could have been the weather, we had record rains and flooding last April. Or, it could be that I was walking in the wrongs areas in the park, who knows? But, there may not be a carpet of trillium as in Aman Park, but there seems to be more species of flowers here.
That brings up something else. In a way, I’m going to miss mid-spring this year due to the timing of my vacation. I’ll be going “back in time” by going up north, two to three weeks back, if things are as they normally are.
In a normal year, spring is well on its way to early summer around here by this time, but because of the long, cold winter, spring has been late this year. There’s part of me that wants to stick closer to home, as it is just now getting to my favorite time of the year. On the other hand, I need to get away to the peace and quiet of up north, even if it won’t be as spring-like as it usually is.
That’s the reason I try to take a vacation in mid-May, so that I hit spring twice, once here, then again, up there. That’s not going to be the case this year. Oh well, there will be plenty more springs for me to photograph flowers, maybe there’ll be less wind next year. This spring has been a very windy one, and it doesn’t look as if that’s going to change soon.
I slept like a rock last night, it’s so good to know that I have two full weeks off from work. I have a lot to do today to prepare for my excursion up north, so this will be short today.
I have some errands to run this morning, then packing this afternoon, so I don’t know if I’ll have time for a walk or not. The weather is perfect, so I hope to, but may not be able to fit it in.
So, I have a few leftover photos to throw in, then, I’m off.
I have a few posts done that will publish while I’m on vacation, but other than those, I don’t know when I’ll get back to post anything from my vacation. The weather forecast towards the end of next week doesn’t look very good right now, but that’s subject to change. I know that I won’t be spending the entire two weeks up north in one solid block, that I will return home for food and laundry at least once.
So, until I make it back, that’s it for now, as always, thanks for stopping by!
My Week, April showers, finally.
Starting out another week the same as always, sitting here drinking my coffee, looking back at last week, and pondering the upcoming week.
After the perfect weather and the bird bonanza yesterday, clouds have moved in for today. That may not be all bad, since I’m headed to Aman Park to photograph the wildflowers there. I still haven’t learned all the secrets to good macro photography, but one thing that I am learning is that bright sunshine may not be the best lighting as it is too harsh and casts too many shadows. I do need to remember to grab the LED panel light that I purchased for macro photography, along with the Gorillapod to hold it.
I haven’t begun working on a post from yesterday, I’m have a difficult time cutting down the number of photos to put into that post. It’s not as if the photos are all great, many are not, but I saw so many species, and caught so many of them engaged in interesting behavior that it is hard for me to whittle them down to a manageable number. I started with over 100, and I’m down to 70 right now, I have to cut that in half for a post, at least. But, how often does one see a blue-gray gnatcatcher building its nest, or a yellow-rumped warbler licking aphids from a twig?
My leg, which I injured at work (again) held up quite well yesterday, despite how long I was out there, and is feeling much better today. I’m not going to push it too hard today, I’ll get to Aman Park, take the short path to where most of the wildflowers are to be found, and photograph them. Then, if the weather holds, I’ll return to my car and drop off the macro equipment, and then do a little birding with just the new 300 mm prime lens.
I should stop at Cabela’s on the way back from the park. I looked for some of the items that I need for my vacation last night while I was grocery shopping, but Meijer’s has really cut back on their sporting goods department.
Well, I think that I have fooled around here long enough, time to get moving!
Even though I didn’t get the photos that I had hoped for, I did a stand alone post on my day today.
No rain yet, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re in for another dry year. Last year wasn’t, we had record rainfall in April, but it had been dry for several years before that.
There is a high wind advisory out for today, and it is cloudy, so that will limit my chances for photos of at least some subjects. And, today is also my short day, so I had better get moving.
I’m back, a light rain did begin to fall just as I was starting out. The rain never really amounted to very much, but any rain driven by 30 MPH winds seems much worse than what it actually is.
Because of that I didn’t think that I would be shooting any photos today, but of course, I was wrong. I wasn’t going to pull my camera out of its protective dry bag unless I saw something special. Well, I think that capturing cedar waxwings eating willow catkins was special enough for a few photos, even if the light was poor. Look closely, and you can see three of the waxwings in the first photo.
A few steps closer and some cropping yielded these. I have seen the waxwings in the willows before, but I thought that they were feeding on insects attracted to the catkins, wrong! I’m sure that the waxwings don’t mind any insects that they happen to find, but they eat just the catkins alone, plucking the catkins from the tree and consuming them like we would spaghetti.
I also spotted a male ruby-crowned kinglet displaying more of his ruby crown than they often do, but in the one image that I managed to get, he had the crown all but hidden again.
But, that gives me an excuse to use up a few photos from Saturday. If you’re at all familiar with kinglets, you know that they seldom stop moving, so I’m quite proud of these even if I didn’t get the best angle on the birds.
I have a lot of images of empty branches where a kinglet had been a split second before, along with blurry olive-green shapes in images, but I have to post one of those, as it looks as if the kinglet is dropping right into my lens.
They’re quick little buggers, let me tell you!
I hate to end the day with a bad photo, so here’s another from Saturday.
Since it’s Monday, time for a shower, then a visit with my mom.
I slept in a little later than usual this morning, since I worked a little later than usual last night. It’s just as well, the rain that had been falling this morning is exiting the area, and it should be dry, if cool, for my walk this morning. Best of all, the high winds of yesterday have diminished to a more reasonable level today.
We did get a good soaking rain overnight into this morning, which should go a long way to getting things to green up around here. Now, if we could only get temperatures to match the calendar on a regular basis, rather than just one or two days a week, with temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average for the bulk of the time.
I’m not complaining, even if it sounds as if I am, that’s just a statement of fact, for I’d rather have a cool spring like this one has been rather than the very hot spring of two years ago! That year, we went straight from winter to summer, with very little spring in between. I may be in a hurry for all the sights, sounds, and smells of full spring to arrive, but in some ways, having spring drawn out is quite nice.
And right now, I’m going to get out there and enjoy it for as long as I can!
I’m back, and it’s late. I shot too many photos while I was walking, then, once I returned home, I shot a few macro photos of a flower opening on my house plant. I also entered one of the photos that I shot indoors in a photo contest co-sponsored by a local camera store and Sigma lenses. First prize is a Sigma 105 mm macro lens, and I doubt if I will win, but if I did, I could do some test shots with that lens compared to my Tokina macro lens, keep the better of the lenses, and sell the other. Here’s the photo that I entered.
Okay, for my outdoor photos, they are of familiar subjects, but I just love the photos that I shot today.
That image is full framed, not cropped at all. It’s seldom that a duck looks directly at me like that, and I like the expression on his face.
Next is a series of photos of a robin taking a shower, and part of the reason for including them is to remind me to say once again how much most species of birds love water, and not just for hygiene purposes. Many insect-eating birds stick close to water as that’s where they find the most insects to eat.
And, I hate to do this, but here’s a few more chickadees. In the first two, the setting is the major reason for my including them.
And, these next ones show that this chickadee has a bald spot.
The bald spot could be because the chickadee bumps its head going in and out of small holes. 😉
A flower with water drops.
And finally, a goldfinch. I had a couple of fair photos of one preening after it had showered, but this is a better photo, so I’m including it instead.
I suppose that I shouldn’t have used so many photos of the chickadees again, but that gets back to the question of do I hold off posting photos until I see if I get better ones or not?
Having good camera gear is creating a dilemma for me, actually, a couple of them. The quality of images that I’m now deleting on a daily basis is still difficult for me, as most of my “bad” photos now are far better than my “good” photos from just over a year ago. I still see improvements in my photos, and I’m doing less cropping than ever, which results in larger file sizes when I save the images.
I’m using up the free storage space that WordPress gives us at a much faster rate, even though I’m trying to conserve that space. I’m also filling the hard drive of my computer at an increasing rate.
And, I worry about boring people with so many photos of the same species of birds, but that seems to go in cycles. Right now, I’m getting great photos of chickadees and waxwings, a month ago, it was cardinals and song sparrows. It will soon be orioles and grosbeaks, I hope. 😉
I could have left out the photos of the chickadee on the fence rails, but they are almost full frame, and technically, some of the best images of chickadees that I have ever gotten. I love the two of the chickadee surrounded by the burgundy leaves of the crab apple tree, just as I loved the previous ones of a chickadee in front of a green background, so where do I draw the line?
The quality of the images that I now get on a daily basis were not only impossible for me with my old camera, they were unimaginable to me just over a year ago. (It was just over a year ago that I purchased my new camera) So in some respects, I’m like a kid with a new toy that just wants to play with the new toy, on the other hand, I have become much more serious about improving my skills as a photographer.
I know, I’ve said that before, so I am repeating myself again, but I think that it bears repeating. Maybe I’m bragging, but it seems to me that every month, the quality of images that I post improves, and I want to continue that trend. I also need to pound that into my head, so that I don’t shoot so many photos that I know that I’m going to delete when I get home. I’m getting better about that, doing it right or not at all, which does save time for me to concentrate on getting even better photos when I do decide that a subject is worth photographing.
That’s all just some disjointed ramblings as I try to pull some thoughts together, I should have worked out my thoughts better before heading down that path. And, speaking of paths, it’s time for me to head down the one outside.
I’m back, and I know what my disjointed ramblings were leading up to.
It was early April of last year when I purchased the Canon 60 D camera and the Beast. (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) The 70-200 mm L series lens soon followed, then the 15-85 mm, the Tokina 100 mm macro, the Tamron 1.4 X extender, and finally, the 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens just last month. Each piece of equipment has come with things for me to learn in order to get the best image quality from it.
However, the biggest learning curve has been digital photography overall. Everything that I thought that I had learned while using my old camera was wrong, as it was a very poor camera as it turns out, and the lens I was using was even worse.
So, I have spent the year concentrating more on photography than what the subjects I was trying to photograph were doing.
To go along with that, I began the My Photo Life List project last year, and I was in a hurry to add species to it so that I didn’t look like a complete fool to have started such a project, and only have a couple of common species of birds completed in that project. I know that every one doing something similar has to start somewhere, but it bugged me more than it probably should have to not have many species completed.
So, now we come to the present time. I think that I have a pretty good handle on the photography aspect, not to brag, but my photos have come a long way in the past year, a very long way.
I’m also approaching the half-way point in the My Photo Life List project, so I don’t feel the need get photos of new species of birds everyday, or at least every week. I know now that I’ll eventually get the bird. 😉
I think that one of the “claims to fame” of my blog has been my ability to get close to critters, and to photograph them doing things most people never get to see. That part of my blogging slipped a bit last year, as I was too busy learning my equipment, and chasing new species of birds.
It has dawned on me slowly over this past month that I’m getting back into my old groove again, I’m getting more images of birds and other critters in action again. The waxwings eating willow catkins from earlier this week is just one example. Who knew that waxwings slurped down willow catkins like we would slurp down noodles? I didn’t.
Here’s another example from Saturday in Palmer Park, a yellow-rumped warbler closely eyeing tree branches, then licking what was probably small insects such as aphids off from the branches. It may not show up well in the smaller sizes of these photos, so you may need to click on the images to see what I’m talking about.
I can’t say for sure if what the warbler was licking off from the tree were aphids, or even insects of any kind. However, she was definitely closely scrutinizing the tree, she was licking something off from it, and there is a small translucent something on the end of her beak in the last photo. I suppose that what she was finding could have been tiny spiders that had just hatched, or some other tiny insect, the warbler wouldn’t let me get close enough to shoot a macro of what she was eating. 😉
Those photos aren’t great technically, but given the backlighting that let me see the warbler’s tongue and that there was something stuck to her beak, I don’t think that I did too badly as far as photo quality. The year it took me to learn to get any shot under those conditions was well worth it! The warbler would have been nothing but a black blob in any photo that I would have tried with my old gear.
Okay, on to today’s photos, nothing noteworthy, just a few good photos, and a few so-so photos for the record.
I’ve posted a few red squirrels lately, but once again, my photos are improving, so I have to post this one.
This next one is a blue jay playing peek-a-boo with me, it is full frame, not cropped at all.
I normally wouldn’t post this one, but, it shows that I’m getting better at getting a focus with the new lens while birds are trying to hide from me, and, it shows the tiny little “horns” that towhees have over their eyes, similar to the horns of a horned lark.
I missed a shot of the female towhee, better luck next time.
This next one was a mistake of sorts, the blackbird looked like it was about to fly, so I was getting set to try for a bird in flight photo. Instead, he broke out in song. As I was checking to see that my settings were right for perched birds after the first shot, he flew off, so I didn’t get a shot of him in flight.
Well, that’s it for today, nothing special, but overall, not bad.
I managed to fool around far too long this morning, it has felt good to just waste some time for a change. It has seemed like I’ve been very busy the past two weeks, with not much to show for all of my scurrying around.
The weather outside is just as gloomy as it has been all week, and just as windy, although the wind has finally shifted direction as the low pressure area that has been just to the west of here all week is finally starting to move. That’s also brought much cooler temperatures with it, which will stick around into the weekend.
Sunday looks like my best chance of seeing the full bloom of the trillium going on in Aman Park, so that’s on my schedule for Sunday. Saturday is still up in the air, but I’m thinking either Palmer Park or Pickerel Lake to do some birding, it will depend on what the weather is going to be like. Maybe if the wind finally drops off, I’ll just stick around home and play with my macro lens for most of the day.
I have been playing with the macro lens indoors, since we’ve had very windy conditions since last Sunday when I went to Aman Park. In fact, one of the ways that I’ve wasted time this morning was by shooting a few extreme close-ups of my houseplant blooming. I haven’t downloaded the images from my camera yet to see how well they came out, I’ll do that after my walk. I used the macro lens and the extender to see just how close that I could get to things this morning, something that I hadn’t done yet, so we’ll see once I do download the images.
For right now, it’s time for a walk.
I’m back, it was a rather raw day today, with wind-driven rain most of the time. The rain did let up for a short time, enough for me to shoot a few photos, but I only saved two from today.
I learned two things from this morning’s macro photos, one, that it was time to clean the lens, and two, that I can still get camera shake even with my new tripod. But, it isn’t the tripod’s fault. A simple thing like leaving the camera strap swinging slightly while the shutter is open can foul up what otherwise would have been a good photo.
So, I just got done re-shooting the ones from this morning, making sure that there would be nothing to mess up the images other than my poor compositional skills. 😉
Here’s the entire flower….
…and this is as about as close as I can get to the center without cropping.
I did a side shot, but I didn’t like it. It was sharp enough, and I was a little closer, but I simply didn’t care for it. But, I do know now just how small of an object that I can get to show up well in a photo.
I have to admit that getting objects that are close to being microscopic in size is pretty cool, however, I prefer the photo of the entire flower. And, that’s what I really bought the macro lens for.
Since that’s only four images from today, I’m going to throw in a few more from Saturday to use them up. Since there are flowers from today, I’ll do butterflies and insects from Saturday, these were taken with the 300 mm prime lens.
I had to go to manual focus for the hoverfly, but I got it!
That’s it for today, as I spent too much time on the macro photos today.
Well, I didn’t think that it was possible, but it’s even gloomier today than what it has been all week so far, as it’s foggy today to go along with the cool temperatures and occasional rain. That’s OK, I still prefer a long, drawn out and cool spring over a quick and hot one.
I was going to do something silly today, and take all of my photo gear with me, but the forecast for tomorrow is much the same, so I’ll postpone my silliness until then. 😉 That may be a mistake, as there will probably be more wind tomorrow, but I’ll take that chance. The past few days there have been times when I wished that I had the macro or wide-angle lens with me, but the subjects that I wanted to shoot don’t move, so they’ll still be there tomorrow.
I’ll spend most of the day outside around here tomorrow, since the weather will be iffy, but Sunday is looking good for Aman Park and the trillium and other wildflowers.
Just one week of work left until my vacation starts! That’s the good news, the bad news is that the local meteorologist is talking snow for the first week of my vacation. No! It can’t be!
Well, if that does happen, I’ll find things to do closer to home, I’m sure that there will be some stretches of weather nice enough for me to spend some quality time up north. No matter what the weather, it will be good to have an extended time off from work to play around.
I’m back from my walk, and the weather tried to fool me. As I started out, it looked as if it was getting brighter, and there didn’t seem to be much wind. I almost came back for all my gear, but then the wind began to pick up, which cleared the fog for a while. It didn’t really stop raining, there were always a few drops falling, and by the time I started for home, the rain was steady, and the wind made it feel worse than it was.
That didn’t stop me from getting a few photos though.
If only those small branches hadn’t been in the way!
Nothing spoiled this next one though.
My new nickname for cedar waxwings is flying goats, as they will eat just about anything it seems. I couldn’t get anything more than a poor photo of them in action today, so here’s a fair image of one letting his lunch settle.
One part of the flock of waxwings was in the top of a cottonwood tree, eating the cottonwood catkins, and great quantities of the catkins. The waxwings have been pigging out. They’ve stripped most of the highbush cranberries that were left on the bushes, the crab apples that made it through winter, yesterday they did a number on the willow catkins, and on it goes. Maybe I should call them pigs with wings, as they sure do eat a lot, and don’t seem to be too particular about what it is that they are eating.
The next two images are of white-throated sparrows, because they won’t be around much longer.
I have a few more photos from today, some are actually good, but I’m not going to post them now. They are to remind me of what to look for tomorrow when I have my macro lens and tripod with me. They are mostly flowers and lichens, if I mess up tomorrow, I’ll use the photos from today.
So, with time and space left, here’s a few more from last Saturday at Palmer Park.
I have several of deer from Saturday, but that’s the only one that I’m including, as I caught her walking daintily as deer often do. Sometimes it’s hard to remember how strong and powerful they are, if I had spooked her, she could easily have covered 10 feet in her first bound from a standing start, and that takes a lot of strength!
The rest are birds, starting with a phoebe and a gnatcatcher.
The rest are flickers that I caught doing their spring thing.
That’s it for today, I’ll decide later when this will get posted.
Unlike my usual routine, I allowed myself to sleep in this morning, due to the weather. The storm system that has been parked over the area all week-long is finally moving away from here. Already this morning, there have been periods of both sun and rain, and it looks as if sunshine may win, at least for right now.
Since it is the weekend, and I can, I’m going to change-up my routine even more. I’ll do a quick version of my daily walk with just the new 300 mm lens, then return home for lunch. If the weather is still cooperating, I’ll load all my camera gear into my Forester, and go on a bird hunt at a location not far away, looking for trumpeter swans and an American Bittern. On my way home, I’ll stop back at the park that I walk daily to see if I can get some good photos of the early spring flowers. Wish me luck!
I’m back from round one, a bit later than I expected. I bumped into the person who verifies the rare bird sightings for eBird, and we had an extended conversation, and exchanged cell phone numbers.
I’m going to throw in the photos from this morning, as there aren’t many, then call this one done before I head on out for my bird hunt for the swans and bitten.
At least I think it’s a violet, I hope for better photos this afternoon.
Here’s two more images of a kinglet, as it spots me taking its photo, which it apparently didn’t like.
What this turkey was doing in the ball field in the park, other than running at full speed, I have no idea. Maybe it was running the bases for exercise. I thought that the turkey would be a good chance to test out the action mode of the IS of the new 300 mm lens, that works great, but my timing needs to improve. Oh, let me tell you, turkeys can flat out run when they are spooked out in the open like this one!
My best photo of the day.
I probably didn’t need to post this next one, as it’s just a male mallard.
But, having spotted him, I knew that there had to be a female close by, and after some careful investigation, I found her on her nest.
I think that I have excellent eyesight, but it took me a while to spot her, since she blends in so well with the background where she chose to build her nest.
So, that’s it for right now, and this post. I have already installed the Beast on my camera for my hunt this afternoon. The 300 mm prime lens may be extremely sharp, but it missed a few birds this morning, including the first Baltimore oriole of the year. I’ll live with the quality of photos that the Beast turns out in order to be sure of getting the bird if I see it, especially when I’m after a bittern, which are extremely wary birds from what I’ve heard.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
A disappointing day
I went to Aman Park today, hoping to catch the trillium bloom at its peak, no such luck! I think that the weather had a lot to do with it. It was raining a little as I left home, and the rain continued until I had almost reached the park. The clouds held on until mid-afternoon, and it was very windy the entire time.
It’s probably just as well that I didn’t find many flowers to photograph, as I would have gotten extremely frustrated by the wind if I had tried to use my macro lens and tripod. I had a hard enough time shooting handheld at high ISO.
But, when I got to the park, I wasn’t sure what I would find. Most of the flowers are down in a valley along Sand Creek, and I was hoping that the wind wouldn’t be as much of a problem in the shelter of the bluffs above the creek. So, I loaded everything up and set off down the trail. The farther I went, the worse it looked as far as no flowers open, and sure enough, I got down to where the trillium are present in huge numbers, and all I could see were buds. I wandered around a little and had a difficult time finding any flowers that were open of any species. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like almost all of the early spring flowers close up at night and open in sunshine, as I couldn’t even find spring beauties or trout lily open, and they’ve been blooming for almost two weeks.
So, I turned around, went back to my vehicle, and put the second body, macro lens, and tripod back in it, then set off the other direction to look for birds.
I didn’t have much luck with birds either, other than a few bad photos of the same species as what I saw yesterday at Palmer Park, which I still need to do a post on.
And, that reminds me, because of an error on my part, most of you didn’t receive a notice about this post that I finished on Saturday, if you’re interested, you may follow the link if you choose to do so. It includes photos like this one.
Since the weather wasn’t nearly as good today as it was yesterday, here’s the best that I could do.