A look back, a fresh start
Well, I did it, I went out and purchased the 27 inch display iMac that I had written about in my last post. All I can say so far is wow!
While I was at the Apple store, I looked at my blog (and the photos) and was blown away by how much better things looked on a better computer than my old Gateway. That’s been reinforced since I’ve been playing with the new computer since I’m getting it set-up. I may have to tone down some of my camera settings, I think that the color saturation was set too high for one thing. But, I’ll hold off until I get a chance to view more of my photos.
I’ve formatted the 4 Tb drive to Mac to hold just my photos. I moved my old photos from the old 1 Tb drive to the larger drive, then formatted the old drive to be used as a system back-up. Of course this hasn’t been easy, I’ve never used a Mac before, and I was dead tired last night as I was getting started.
I’ve installed Lightroom, and created two catalogs, I think. Since I’m also new to Lightroom, I can see why there are so many tutorials on how to use it floating around online. I could have gotten by with just one catalog, but I want to mark the point in time when I made the switch to Mac, and I’m beginning to use Lightroom. I’m working on learning Lightroom, it certainly has a lot to offer.
I’ve also installed the Mac version of Photomatix to do HDR images, and set it up to function as a plug-in to Lightroom.
Anyway, that takes me back to the computer for a bit, it’s faster than a speeding bullet! This new Mac can process a HDR image in just a few seconds, rather than the ten minutes or so that it required on my old computer. That’s with it running with Lightroom also running, I couldn’t use Photomatix at the same time that I had the Canon editing program running. I’d have to pick the photos in the Canon software, then exit it to do the HDR image, and then restart it after having closed Photomatix.
And, I’m so glad that I went with the larger display, I would have been happy with the smaller version, but this huge 27 inch display is the bee’s knees for working in multiple applications at the same time. That, and having the computer power to do so. I have Lightroom working on a task in the background right now as I’m typing this, and things are going along so quickly that it’s already hard to remember having to wait all the time on the old computer.
Seems as if I’ve created three catalogs, oh well, better safe than sorry. I can always go back and delete the extra one, once I’m sure that the other two are safe and contain the images that I wanted.
Okay then, let’s see if I can add a photo here that I just shot, and used Lightroom to convert it to jpeg.
Hey, it worked!
Now then, you’d think that I would have spruced that one up a bit since I have Lightroom up and running, but a snapshot of my computer isn’t really worth playing with, other than to see if I could get Lightroom to do what I wanted, convert the RAW image to jpeg, reduce the size and quality for online use, and even add a watermark to my image. Yup, it worked.
I have been playing with a few of my older images in Lightroom, you may find this funny, but so far, what I’ve played with most has been fixing the perspective distortions caused by my lenses. What I mean by that, is especially with wider lenses, vertical subjects get distorted, leaning in towards the top in most images. One of the many features of Lightroom is that it will automatically fix those distortions. So, I’ve been going through some of my old photos of lighthouses, and fixing the distortion, so that the towers of the lighthouses don’t lean, and are vertical the way that they should be. Here’s the before…
That may not be the best example, but it gives you an idea of what I mean.
Back to the computer, I played with the trackpad a little more while at the store, and decided to go with just the mouse for now. Apple calls it the magic mouse, and it is, as it also functions much the same as a trackpad. I can scroll both up and down and side to side by swiping across the top of the mouse, it’s a really cool feature!
If I seem to be jumping all over the place here, there are several reasons for that. One, my sleep patterns were destroyed by my work schedule last week. Then, I was up for over 24 hours yesterday, after working 15 hours, I picked up the computer, and played until I had to get some sleep. Being as excited as a kid at Christmas, I was up way too early to begin playing again the morning. I feel a nap coming on, and it’s only 9:30 AM. 😉 So, I’ll get a short nap in, then go back to learning more about Lightroom and my new Mac!
I’m back, I had a nap, did some more set-up work on the new Mac, and played with Lightroom a little more. Both the Mac and Lightroom have so many capabilities, it’s hard keeping track of what they can do. Even though I have watched an online tutorial on using Lightroom several times, I was finding it difficult to find all the little icons and other tricks in Lightroom to allow me to access the controls I was looking for.
So, I watched the video again, this time with Lightroom up and running, so I could play at the same time that I watched.
By the way, that brings up a pet peeve of mine, I received zero documentation with either Lightroom or the new Mac. I know my way around a computer, so figuring out the Mac isn’t too bad, but I’d be lost in Lightroom without the videos.
Anyway, for some reason, I can’t bring myself to work on a relatively good photo yet, so I played with some that should have been deleted. You may remember this HDR image that I shot a few weeks ago.
That’s one that I played with, just to see what the adjustments in Lightroom do. I may have gotten carried away, but here’s the new version.
You’d think that I would play more with the exposure, however I find that exposure isn’t that hard to get correct in the first place. Also the software that came with my camera did quite well and adjusting the exposure. So, I have been playing with the other features of Lightroom in order to learn them.
A side bar, I have set up the new Mac to use the voice dictation to work on this post. It isn’t foolproof by any means however it does work much better than an earlier version that I used on a Windows machine. In fact this doesn’t work bad at all. If I can just speak into the computer and create my posts that way, blogging will be a lot easier.
Any way one of the other bad photos that I’ve played with is this one that I shot as a record of the weather that day.
As you can see the sound barrier wall on the left hand side of the image leans in towards the top, so I used Lightroom to correct the lean. Since it seemed like a good candidate to do more playing with I kept plugging away at it, removing the noise and correcting the exposure to get this.
On the same day that photo was shot I found this mourning dove, so I tweaked this photo a little to see how well Lightroom worked.
I know that none of these are great photos, like I said, I’m just trying to learn the software now.
I’m finding it difficult to work on my old photos and I’m not sure why that is. Part of it is just getting used to Lightroom and learning my way around it. But another part of it is that I want to make a fresh start using new photos that I shoot from this moment on. Although I did go back to my trip up north first weekend of October and do a new HDR image from the photos that I had shot in RAW then. I also tweaked this one a little in Lightroom after using Photomatix to create the HDR.
I’m finding that Lightroom does not do well on jpegs, at the least not as good as it does on RAW images. I didn’t begin shooting RAW all the time up until the past few weeks. Therefore, I don’t have that many images to play with yet. I hope to remedy that as soon as the weather gets nicer. It’s so cold outside right now that I wouldn’t want to subject my camera gear to this cold.
So, I’ve got a lot of learning ahead of me, a whole lot of learning! While I can navigate the Mac fairly well already, I still have much to learn about it. But, I do know that the purchase was worth it, this thing screams! I can be running Lightroom, Photomatix, and several other programs all at the same time, and Photomatix takes just a few seconds to process a HDR image. According to the activity monitor, I’m barely using any of the processing power that this Mac has available, which is a good thing. As quickly as it can process a HDR image now, I see no reason to rush out and add more ram for the time being. I haven’t tried converting a batch of RAW images to jpeg yet, I’ve been doing them one at a time so far. But, I don’t think that it matters, as I can let the batch conversion go on in the background as I do something else.
Lightroom is a different story though, not that it doesn’t run fast on this Mac, but that there’s so much to it that it’s going to take me a while to master it. I will catch on though, it will just take me a while to learn what adjustments do what, and how much of a difference that they can make. We’ll see, heres a snowy owl that I tweaked slightly.
I know that I could make more improvements to that image, but I still haven’t learned how yet. That will come with time and experience.
Earlier I mentioned a fresh start, so to go with that, I have an announcement of sorts about my blog. This didn’t start out being all nature all the time, I used to occasionally do posts on other subjects. I love photography, always have, and I’d like to expand my subject matter to more than just nature. Not to worry, it will still be nature most of the time. However, I read other people’s blogs and see the photos that they have of historic buildings and other things as well.
We don’t have many historic buildings around here, but there are a few, especially some of the old churches in downtown Grand Rapids that I would like to photograph. I would also like to do more landscape photography as well, when I get the chance. If next weekend is anywhere near as cold as this weekend, I may go to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan to photograph the World War II era planes that they have there. I had planned to go there last winter but never made it, as the weather started to improve about the time that I decided to give it a try.
Last winter was bad enough we got a lot of snow and it was cold but this winter is shaping up to be even colder. The windchill outside right now is -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 C) and that’s just too darn cold to go outside and try to photograph something.
There’s also the Fredrick Meijer Gardens as a source for photos. I already missed the orchid show this year, but I did do a post on that several years ago. They have added a lot of artwork since the last time I was there and they have also begun work on a Japanese garden which I would like to see.
Well, that’s about all for this one, as I have a lot of studying to do trying to learn Lightroom. I may need another nap before I go grocery shopping too.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Millennium Park, October 11th, 2014
Kent County’s Millennium Park is a unique, ambitious project to reclaim 1,500 acres of heavily used land for public recreation. It is the largest park close to where I live, and a good spot for birding. I’ve been there a couple of times before, so I won’t go into great detail about the park in this post.
I did check the online maps before I went though, and had decided to check out a different section of the park to start my day there. When I arrived, I couldn’t find the parking lot for that section of the park, so I parked along the road to do a quick check of that section.
I had just started down the trail, when I spotted a tiny raptor crossing the sky above me, but I was too slow to get a shot of it. As I was looking around, hoping that the unknown raptor would appear again, I saw this squirrel laying flat on the crossbar of a power pole. I thought it strange for a squirrel to be out there in the open with no food around, and when the squirrel started moving, I found out why it was acting so strangely, it was drunk.
It must have been eating fermented berries and not feeling very well. 😉
A few feet later, a cedar waxwing that posed for me, but in a shadow.
The trail I was on looped around a small pond drained by a small creek. As I was walking near the creek, I heard something crashing through the brush on the other side of the creek. I caught a glimpse of a deer, and managed to get to a relatively open spot before the deer to wait for it.
The was the second of two shots the bucks stood for before he took off back into the thick stuff. But, that was enough to convince me that I needed to spend more time in the area, and that I should find a better place to park than along the road. I paused along the way for this flower.
And, the drunken squirrel had made it to the top of the power pole.
That seemed like a poor place to sober up, for there was a red-tailed hawk perched near my Subaru when I returned to it.
And, after I found a parking lot on the other end of that part of the park, as soon as I started down the trail, I found another hawk, this one was hiding.
I know, far from my best hawk photos, but I still thought it strange for the drunken squirrel to be on top of the power pole with so many hungry predators all around it.
Next up, a species of bird that I find it very hard to get a good shot of, a brown creeper.
Not only are they always on the move…
…they stay on the shady side of trees for the most part…
…and their color blends in well with tree bark. I must have worn this one out, for it perched behind a few leaves and actually stayed there.
I watched for quite a while, waiting for it to come out into the open, but it didn’t move until I tried to get a good angle on it so there wouldn’t be the leaves in the way, then it was gone.
Next up, a monarch butterfly. I shot a few images of it with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens)…
..then, I started to walk away, since I have posted too many photos of monarchs lately. But, I made myself go back, switch to the second camera body with the Tokina macro lens on it, and shoot way too many more photos of the butterfly.
I have many more, but I won’t bore you with all of them now, I’ll dole them out over several posts.
The part of the park I was walking in was a newer addition to the park overall, and the trails didn’t go far. So, I headed over to the core of Millennium Park to check that out.
It wasn’t long before I managed a shot of a white-crowned sparrow.
I got to the narrow isthmus of land between two man-made lakes and spent some time watching the double crested cormorants that perch on the far side of one of the lakes.
Well, that one isn’t perched, but these two were squabbling over a choice perch.
There was a pair of mute swans.
Then, I spotted two small birds flying up into the trees near the cormorants, pausing for a while, then swooping down to catch something.
They were merlins, a lifer for me, or at least I suspected that they were. This image isn’t great, but it does help me nail down my identification of the pair of falcons as merlin.
The checkerboard pattern under the wings confirms my hunch, along with their small size. Another lifer on my list!
While I was shooting more photos of the merlin, a cormorant came crashing into a tree.
I am happy to report that the cormorant survived the crash, but it was touch and go there for a few seconds. 😉
Anyway, here’s a wide view of the far end of the lake.
That one, and the next few photos were all shot with my newer 10-18 mm lens, more for practice than anything else. I say practice, because I’m still not very good at being able to tell what an image shot from my two short lenses will look like when I view them full size on the computer. But, I’ll go into more detail on that in a later post. I thought that this oak tree would be a piece of cake, but other than capturing its color, it really isn’t a good photo.
In almost every review that I’ve seen of the 10-18 mm lens, they included an image shot with the lens pointed almost directly at the sun, and I’ve been amazed by the photos. I assumed that they had been doctored, now, I’m not so sure. The blown out area in the top center of this photo is from the sun, but somehow, the rest of the image came out very well as far as the exposure.
Arriving at an old railroad trestle that has been converted into a walking/cycling bridge over the Grand River, I shot this one. There’s very little barrel or other distortion that normally comes with lower cost super wide-angle lenses. I almost wish that the lens had a little distortion, so you could tell that I was using a 10 mm lens. 😉
The subject matter, the Grand River, isn’t great in these next two, but I’m happy with how they turned out, which is better than what the scene looked to the naked eye. The green leaves looked dull and washed out in real life, The lens and camera deepened the colors and added some contrast.
Just a short distance from the bridge, I hit a bird bonanza, all of these were shot as I stood in one place.
This red squirrel was on the other side of the trail and must have been there in the open the entire time I was shooting birds.
I decided to take a few steps closer and then crop this image.
As you can probably tell, it was a fantastic day, I think the red squirrel was sitting there soaking up the autumn sun. It isn’t often that one sits still for very long. Speaking of not sitting still….
…I tried for some time to get a good shot of the sapsucker, but most of them looked like this.
The sapsucker would not sit for me to get a good photo. But, a little farther down the trail, I spied a yellow-rumped warbler feeding on berries….
…the warbler spotted me…
…and struck a pose for me.
But, the wind moved something around which either change the exposure, or was between myself and the warbler, which is why the last one looks a bit odd. Things worked out okay, the warbler moved to a better spot for this one.
This next one was another short lens practice shot, but I think that it marks a change in the way that I shoot landscapes, even though it’s a ho-hum photo.
When I first got to where I shot that one, there were ripples on the water from the wind, and there were reflections of the clouds obscuring the reflections of the trees. That didn’t stop me from shooting several poor photos though. Then, I stopped to think about what I was doing, and what I wanted the scene to look like in an image. I waited for the wind to die down, and for the clouds to move so their reflections weren’t mixed with the reflections of the trees, and I’m actually happy with the way that one came out. The subject isn’t special, but that image is a huge improvement over the first few images I shot there. It could be that there is some hope for me yet. 😉
Next up, a song sparrow that paused for a photo…
…before hopping down to the ground to eat.
I got back to where the cormorants hang out, and decided to get some practice shooting flying birds.
This one was directing traffic.
There were a few turtles watching the cormorants.
Two more flight photos.
On my way back to my car, I got this juvenile pied-billed grebe.
If its head and bill look too large for its body, it’s because the grebe was already beginning to sink into the water to hide from the big bad photographer. 😉 A grebe’s first choice is to dive away from danger, their second choice is to run across the surface of the water. They only fly when they are forced to because the first two options won’t do.
To wrap this one up, a shot of the other grebes close to where the one above was, but these were on the other side of the lake, frolicking in the late afternoon sun.
A great day to be outside, the merlin were a lifer for me, and a good selection of other birds to photograph, what more could I ask for?
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Northern color tour, 2014, Part II
As I ended the last post, I was on my way back into East Jordan, Michigan to eat breakfast after having spent the morning shooting good but not great photos of the Jordan River Valley.
Of the many things that I had been learning so far, a few stand out. One, once I get the camera set properly, I get much better color saturation as far as the fall foliage in lower light, and rain if possible. The colors of the wet leaves really pop, whereas dry leaves on a sunny day tend to be washed out a little. Two, I need a lot more practice with the Photomatix software to get really good HDR images. I suppose that’s understandable, I’ve only used that software a few times so far, and never for really broad landscapes like the ones I shot at the Landslide or Deadman’s Hill overlooks.
Maybe most importantly, I seem to choke when shooting well-known landscapes, the same thing occurred last year while I was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I do much better when I find some out of the way place on my own. So, on my way back to town, as I was enjoying the views from the bottom of the Jordan River Valley, I was looking for suitable subjects to photograph. I spied this scene as I was driving along.
Of course, the sky is blown out (over exposed) because the sensor of my camera can’t handle the dynamic range from light to dark in the scene. I wanted to shoot for a HDR image, but the horse in the foreground wouldn’t hold still. So, I waited until it moved out of the frame for this one.
Now, the sky is exposed correctly, but I lost some of the pop of the color of the leaves, more practice is called for! I need to become better at using the adjustments within Photomatix to get the desired results, rather than just loading three images and hoping that the software does everything for me.
I arrived in East Jordan, which is on the shores of Lake Charlevoix, a large inland lake which in turn, empties into Lake Michigan. The Jordan River empties into the south arm of Lake Charlevoix there in East Jordan.
Unlike Petoskey, Traverse City, or Charlevoix, which have become huge tourist traps, East Jordan remains more of a working class town, although the population explodes in the summer months. East Jordan is the home of the East Jordan Ironworks, which produces manhole covers and storm sewer grates. In fact, these next photos were shot less than a block from the factory.
A second swan was preening a short distance from the first.
These are another species of bird that has to be heard to be fully appreciated, as their call sounds like some one blowing a trumpet, which is of course, how they got their name. I stood there shooting a few photos, when the two swans began calling to each other, then joined together for these.
Another birder/photographer pulled into the parking lot where I was standing to get these photos, and we began a conversation, which caused me to miss one of the swans with its wings spread.
The swan shot me a look as if to say that it wasn’t its fault that I missed. 😉
But then, this redhead duck nearby decided to show the swan how to pose for a photographer.
The light, as you can obviously see, was terrible, with what little sunlight there was reflecting off from the rippled surface of the water, with the ripples caused by the wind. I was using the 300 mm prime lens, and like the complete idiot that I am sometimes, I forgot that I had purchased a polarizing filter just for such occasions. I’ve never tried it, but the filter sure couldn’t have hurt, and would have cut down on at least some of the glare coming off the water. In my defense, I was engaged in conversation with the other birder, and, I was also eyeing the scene for a landscape photo.
I tried several, but they came out horrible, and in the middle of my fumbling around, a bald eagle flew over us. By the time that I switched cameras, this was the best I could do.
Remember, this is in East Jordan, and within sight of the ironworks factory!
I got my tripod out to set-up for a HDR image, at the same time, one of the swans decided to stretch its wings, and I was quicker this time.
If only that mallard hadn’t been following the swans like a puppy dog to photobomb my photos. 😉
I got my HDR image, one of the best I have done so far.
It isn’t that special as far as the view, but it is the closest that I’ve come to getting the scene exactly as I saw it through the viewfinder. It also looks much better full screen. 😉
I shot a few photos of a flock of blue-winged teal….
…but they wouldn’t stop feeding long enough to pose, they must have been extremely hungry. So was I, time for a great breakfast at Darlene’s! The best food, homemade baked goods and pastries in the northern half of Michigan.
After some food, I went to the other side of the river to walk through a nature preserve there. I started by shooting this thistle…
…the eagle or one of its friends did another flyby…
…then, my catch of the day!
I sure wish that I had remembered to test the polarizing filter! But, these are still some of my better images of a wood duck, so maybe my luck is changing.
The trails at the nature preserve were all overgrown, so I didn’t go very far, but I did find these two cosmos still blooming.
Since the trails at the nature preserve were overgrown, and it was early afternoon, I decided to start back towards home, hoping to beat the traffic, and to give me time to stop and shoot a few more fall foliage photos. I also decided that I need a lot more practice “seeing” scenes through my wide-angle lenses, so I wouldn’t bother trying for perfection or getting images to load into the HDR software, I’d go back to basics and work on composition. I’m not sure how that went.
Yeah, I know, I didn’t have to have the road in that last shot, I did that on purpose just for the heck of it.
Overall, I’m very happy with the color and sharpness of these, and it began to feel more natural shooting these, and many others that I won’t bore you with.
I also stopped at a scenic overlook near Cadillac on my way home for these.
All in all, a great weekend!
I learned a great deal about landscape photography, and while I’m not satisfied with the images from this trip, they are still a huge improvement over what I got my last two trips to the same area. A lot of the improvement came from thinking ahead, and shooting the Landslide and Deadman’s Hill areas early in the morning when the light is much better at those places than in the afternoon or evening.
I don’t have to worry about rain or clouds when shooting fall colors, in fact, I got better color in the rain than during the few minutes of sunshine that there were.
Changing light is a bear, no matter what, I need to slow down and think about what I’m doing at those times, rather than shoot and hope.
I need to remember all the gear that I have now, such as the polarizing filter when shooting the waterfowl.
Most of all, I need more practice both shooting landscapes and using the Photomatix software. When I first started this blog, I would shoot a few landscapes of the places that I went to show readers the visual appeal of those places, but I’ve moved away from doing that. As a result, it’s now rare for me to shoot any landscape photos, I need to return to my old ways just so I remember how to shoot landscapes.
A word about the Photomatix software for HDR images, it works very well, but I thought that the final images were soft when I first began playing with it. I now save the images in 16 bit Tiff format when I finish in Photomatix, and then use the software that came with my Canon cameras to convert from Tiff to Jpeg format, and I think that I get sharper images that way.
Some type of HDR software is a must for good landscape images, the sensors of a digital camera, while very good, can not handle the dynamic range of even simple landscapes. I wish that I had shot series of images for the landscapes in this post as I did in the previous one, but, I needed to get back to basics first. I suppose that if I had Lightroom, or some similar software, I could tweak the images to make them look better. That probably also applies to the HDR images that I did shoot as well.
But, that’s all new to me, since I was one of those people who believed that editing images using software was cheating, so trying to think of how I can edit an image as I shoot it is something that I’m not used to doing.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Northern color tour, 2014, Part I
Well, I’m back from my trip up north. As per usual, things did not go as I had planned, but it was great to get away for the weekend. And, I learned a great deal about photography, myself as a photographer, and places to go here in Michigan. I’ll touch on all three of those things as I go.
I started out from home just before noon on Saturday, later than I would like, but with my work schedule, that’s the best that I could do after getting everything loaded into my Subaru. Traffic was quite heavy for a weekend, a portent of things to come. I also saw a few scenes along the road that I would have liked to have stopped to photograph, but between the traffic, and wanting to make it to Petoskey with enough time left for photography, I didn’t stop until I got to the rest area on US 131 north near Cadillac, Michigan.
The weather was living up to the forecast, raining more than not, and windy. So, when I stopped at the rest area, I thought that it would be a good time to get my landscape camera body set-up for the conditions, while stretching my legs.
While I was playing with the camera settings on the one body, I heard, then saw, a flock of sandhill cranes flying over, so I grabbed the second body with the 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter on it for this shot.
Hearing the croaking warbling of the cranes still gets to me the same way that hearing the call of a loon does, hence the rather poor image of the cranes compared to others I have posted recently.
Back on the road, I passed a juvenile bald eagle perched just above the highway, and an American kestrel that was also in range of the camera had I stopped. But, silly me, I wanted to get to my destination, and didn’t want to take the time to stop for them, or the gorgeous displays of fall colors that I was seeing while driving.
When I got to Petoskey, it was a madhouse, much like when I went to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last summer, complete with traffic jams, and just way too many people for my tastes.
Every year, I read about how beautiful the drive along M 119 from Petoskey, north to Cross Village is during the fall, and apparently, so have thousands of other people. As a matter of fact, M 119 is known as the “Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route”, which has me wondering how it received that designation. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely drive, except for the traffic, and no places to pull over and photograph what scenery there was. I would guess that the route is best viewed as a passenger in a vehicle, rather than as the driver.
M 119 is a narrow, twisty road, and after two days of heavy to moderate rain, many places along the road were covered by water. That made dealing with the traffic even worse, as a lot of people were trying to avoid driving through the puddles, and hogging what little pavement that there was to drive on. So, I didn’t have much of a chance to really take in what few views that there were. In my opinion, there are many other back roads in the area that offer as good or better views, with a lot less traffic, and with places to pull off the road to enjoy the views.
However, the drive wasn’t a complete waste, as along the way, I saw a sign pointing to a nature preserve owned by the Little Traverse Conservancy, of which I’m a member. Actually, they own several preserves along M 119, but I only stopped at this one.
A great place to escape the traffic, and stretch the legs out, even if it was raining moderately hard at the time. I started by visiting the interpretive building….
…amazed by how much stuff that they packed into that small building. I also had a chance to talk to the resident manager of the preserve, he was very informative. Then, despite the rain, I set off for a short walk down to the Lake Michigan beach and back.
Because of the rain, I didn’t take my tripod, I should have. I did take my umbrella, which the wind destroyed the first time that I opened it. Without it, I had a hard time keeping the lens free of rain drops, so I didn’t linger over any of the photos, I simply pulled the camera out of my rain jacket and shot as quickly as I could.
I was a bit surprised at how small the waves were on Lake Michigan, as strong as the wind was, but that shore is in the lee of Beaver Island, and somewhat protected from the gale that was blowing at the time. Because of the rain and fog, I couldn’t see the island well enough to attempt to photograph it.
Not wanting to deal with the traffic on my way back to Petoskey, I took the back roads, and doing so planted a seed in my brain that I should have allowed to grow faster than I did. On the way, I stopped to shoot these three deer in a field, using a wide-angle lens to also get the trees behind the deer.
I should have gotten the exposure right, but I thought that I would end up deleting that image, but it plays into what I’m learning.
A little further down the road, I came to an open marshy area too good not to photograph, despite not being able to keep the rain off from the lens. 😉
If there had been less wind or rain, I would have gotten out my tripod and shot the scene to create HDR images so that I could have gotten the sky exposed correctly. But, I still wasn’t allowing that seedling that had been planted in my brain to grow, after all, this was just a no-name marsh in the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan.
I made my way back through the traffic jams in Petoskey, and continued to the southeast to East Jordan, Michigan, where I stopped for a bite to eat before continuing to the Graves Crossing State Forest campground, where I spent the night. I slept in the back of my Forester, which isn’t the most comfortable arrangement, but I used my skills as a truck driver to make it work. To be a good over the road driver, you need to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime, and besides, the back of my Forester was dry. I woke up several times during the night, and it was still raining every time that I did wake up.
At 6 Am, I did roll out, and I could see stars above me, so I fired up the camp stove and brewed a pot of coffee. While I was drinking the coffee, I shot a few photos in the campground, using the flash, since it was still dark.
Neither are very good, but at least I didn’t get my feet in the second one. 😉
As soon as it was light enough to see, I wondered over to the Jordan River, set-up my tripod, and shot these.
My goal on this day was to shoot the Jordan River valley from the Landslide and Deadman’s hill scenic overlooks, and as I starting driving to get to the Landslide area, it began to rain. I stopped to shoot this one on the way, just to be sure that I could get a shot under the conditions at the time.
The low fog had me worried, so I stopped again for these.
Not great, but it was just light enough to see, and it was raining lightly, so I thought that I was good to go.
I didn’t mention it earlier, but the previous day, I had stopped at Deadman’s Hill to check to see how far along the colors were, and the parking lots were jam-packed! There are two parking lots, one for long-term parking for people hiking the North Country Trail, or the Jordan River Valley Trail, which is a loop off from the North Country Trail. The second lot is for people visiting the scenic overlook, and like I said, there wasn’t a place to park in either lot the day before.
I could tell by the lack of tire tracks in the dirt two-track that leads to the scenic overlook that I was the first person to drive back to the Landslide area that morning. So, I parked, strapped my camera gear to myself, and started the short hike from the parking lot to the scenic overlook. That’s when panic set in!
NO! The sun was coming out! Not only that, but there was uneven lighting all across the valley, what the heck do I do? I’m not prepared for this at all!
I told myself to calm down, but it didn’t help much. I tried going small, shooting just small parts of the valley at one time.
No, no,no! The last one, shot with the 70-200 mm L series lens wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted either.
I was at a complete loss as to how to set-up to shoot the entire valley. I told myself that this view was one of the reasons that I had purchased to Photomatix software to create HDR images, but I’ve never had a chance to shoot such a large view as the one before me since I had purchased the software. It wasn’t as if I could shoot the scene, run the images through Photomatix to see how they turned out, adjust my settings and try again.
To make matter worse, the clouds began to roll back in, so the lighting was constantly changing. I would think that I was set-up correctly, but when I went to actually shoot the images, the light had changed again. I did the best that I could.
I tried again.
Oh no! Now there’s something else going on, the sky and clouds are turning pink as the sun rises! Now what do I do?
I sure wished that I knew what I was doing! That could have been the shot of the trip, but I blew it, so I tried again, but by this time, the clouds had closed in for more even lighting.
Thoroughly disgusted with my lack of ability, I gave up. I had a lot of respect for really good landscape photographers before, now, I have even more!
I tried to console myself by thinking that I didn’t know how the HDR images were going to turn out, and that I may be pleasantly surprised when I processed the images once I arrived back home. But, my mood was not helped when I blew a great shot of a northern harrier, with help from the 300 mm prime lens.
I had seen the harrier coming towards me as I was driving to the Deadman’s Hill area, and managed to get pulled off the road and stopped in time to get the harrier in the viewfinder as it was passing me. But, the darned 300 mm lens would not focus on the harrier thirty feet from me, it insisted on focusing on the trees 100 yards behind the harrier. I couldn’t get the bird in focus until it had pulled up, and turned away from me, but then, I didn’t have time to adjust the exposure correctly.
I arrived at the Deadman’s Hill area early enough so that I was just the third vehicle there, much better than the day before. I grabbed my photo gear, and headed up the hill for these.
The rest of these are as they came straight out of the camera.
Still not great, but I’m making progress, these are ten times better than the photos that I shot the last time I was there in the fall.
One thing that I learned was not to use the live view mode to shoot landscapes, I can’t see the details well enough on the small screen to get my compositions correct. I did much better when I used the viewfinder, even if it’s a pain to do so when the camera is on the tripod.
I’m getting better at setting the camera up to get images to be processed in Photomatix for HDR images, but I need more practice. The same could be said for my shooting large-scale landscapes like the Jordan River Valley overall, and in processing the images later.
I thought about reshooting both places, but I was frustrated at that point, so much so that I knew my second effort would be even worse than I had done already. And, it was already 11 AM and I was hungry. So, I decided to head back into East Jordan for breakfast, and to do a little birding, and that’s where the next post will begin.
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!
My Week, a repeat of last week
A couple of short items before I really get started. One, the theme that I am using now seems to be getting better at choosing the worst photo from a post to add to the slide show at the top of the page. According to the documentation with the theme, it is supposed to use the first photo that I upload into a post for the slide show. So, I have been going to great lengths to attempt to get a good photo for the slide show, with little success of late. Of course the ultimate answer is to stop taking bad photos, or at least stop posting them, but that’s not going to happen. It does tick me off though when it chooses ones like it did for last week’s post, of the downy woodpecker and Carolina wren, which was horrible.
I may start reposting one of the best photos from the previous week to start each one of my new posts from now on to get a good photo in the slide show.
I have received my order of two pairs of boots from Cabela’s, and just as I thought, the Keens are great, but I think that the pair of Cabela’s brand Twin Rivers Hikers are even more comfortable than the Keens. That’s saying a lot, but, as good as both pair feel, neither are as comfy as the old New Balance boots that I wore out. I did a six-mile hike in those the first time that I wore them outside, I’m not going to take that chance with either of the new pairs of boots, I’m going to break both pair in with shorter walks.
Now then, for the weather in October, it was split down the middle. The first two weeks were generally sunny and warm. The last second half of the month was cloudy and wet. From Oct. 1-12, we had only one day that didn’t reach 70. Those 12 days were 8 degrees warmer than average. For the first two weeks of October we had a whopping 67% of possible sunshine and the average wind speed was 6 mph. From Oct. 15-31 we had just 21% of possible sunshine and the average wind speed was 9.3 mph. From Oct. 19-29 we didn’t have a single day warmer than average. Overall the month was 2.1 deg. warmer than average. Grand Rapids had a trace of snow on the 23rd, but some spots in the lakeshore counties had 1-3″ of snowfall. Rainfall in October totaled 5.46″, the 10th wettest October ever and 2.2″ above average. We had measurable rain on 16 of 31 days of the month and four other days with a trace of rain.
The weather forecast for this week is close to a repeat of last week, cool for both weekends, warmer with heavy rain mid-week.
I have submitted some of my recent bird sightings to eBird, it’s funny, my report of a bald eagle and the rest of the birds I’ve seen around here went through with no problem, except the white-eyed vireo. I received an email from some one who volunteers to confirm sightings of rare birds asking for more details and/or a photo, which I have sent in to confirm my sighting. We’ll see if my ID of the bird in question is correct, and I’ll let you know one way or the other. But still, I can’t get over the fact that a bald eagle here isn’t rare, but a white-eyed vireo is.
It’s also pretty cool that some of my first reports to eBird includes the sighting of a rare enough species to warrant confirmation by one of their expert volunteers.
Enough gibberish for one morning, time to head to Muskegon for some serious birding.
Of course my trip to Muskegon yesterday warrants its own post. I got photos of another lifer for me, rough-legged hawks, and I also shot many more photos of a pair of peregrine falcons, a red phalarope, juvenile red-headed woodpecker, and that just scratches the surface. I had changed my plans and didn’t hike Hoffmaster SP to start, but you will be able to read why in the post that I do on that trip.
My sighting of the white-eyed vireo has been confirmed, photos don’t lie, not usually anyway.
I have a dentist appointment tomorrow, I doubt if I will get to do my walk, but that’s still up in the air right now.
I’m back from my walk today, I think that I may have shot 6 photos, I’m not sure as I haven’t downloaded them from the camera yet.
The weather was cloudy and cool, the wind today had a bite that I haven’t felt yet this fall, just a hint of what’s to come. The forecast for today was for “filtered sunshine”, a nice euphemism for cloudy, but if you look hard, you can see a bright spot in the clouds.
I didn’t see many birds to photograph anyway, so the dreary day really didn’t matter. I’m going to spend the rest of my time today working on the post for yesterday birding in Muskegon.
It’s cloudy outside as I type this, I have the rescheduled dentist appointment at noon today, that really messes up my chance for a walk. If I were to run into a flock of birds worth photographing, I’d be late or miss the appointment. So, I’ll work on the photos from Muskegon this morning, and have everything ready for when I get home from the dentist so that I can slip in a walk before work this afternoon.
I did manage a quick walk yesterday, and it proved worthwhile. I have also finally downloaded the photos from Monday, I’ll get to the photos shortly.
First, I want to thank every one who sent encouragement my way as far as quitting smoking, it helps more than you will know. I received more positive feedback at the dentist’s office yesterday, when they took my blood pressure, I was surprised that it was as low as it was. My blood pressure had dropped 20 points from what it has been averaging the last few years in just two days of hardly smoking at all.
I know that I said that I had stopped completely, I’m using Mr. Tootlepedal’s suggestion of telling myself that I am an ex-smoker, which helps, and I only cave in and have one or two per day when the cravings get really bad. It’s getting easier not lighting up all the time, and the few times that I do cave, the cigarettes are horrible, and I ask myself why I lit the darn thing in the first place.
It’s a relatively warm morning today, but there’s a steady light to moderate rain falling which is going to stick around most of the day. So, there’s no need to be in any rush to get going. Therefore, I have time to post a couple of photos from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
There, I’m all caught up with both photos and the news, time to go out and get some more, but that could be tough the way the weather is today.
I didn’t shoot a single photo today, even though I had taken my camera with me. The rain was moderately heavy the entire time I was out, and the wind was strong enough that I considered pulling the drawstring of the hood of my rain jacket tight to prevent the hood from being blown off from my head all the time. Most of the birds were hunkered down in the thick brush to stay out of the weather, the one exception was the “giant” red-tailed hawk that was perched in its favorite spot for a while. That hawk is 25% larger than any of the others around here, or any others that I have seen for that matter. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but I am positive that it is a red-tailed hawk as I see it often and have photographed it on occasion.
Since I have no photos to sort or upload, I think that this afternoon will be a good time for me to spend some quality time with the manual for my camera again. I tend to take a very methodical approach to things, taking one step at a time until I am sure that I have mastered something before moving on. There are so many options available to me on the 60 D that I work with one at a time, in part so that I can remember how to get to the setting I am working with in the menu. I have two camera bodies now, one is dedicated to wildlife, and the other to landscapes and close-ups. It’s time for me to work on saved settings for bird in flight photos using the wildlife body. I’m doing better with those, but with some tweaks to the settings, I think that I can do better, and I have the option of saving one complete set up with my camera, so that’s what I’ll do this afternoon.
Wow, Thursday already, I’d better be making plans for the weekend. I think that a return to Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve will be good for Sunday, as it’s been a while since I’ve been there, and I’d like to see the larch trees turning yellow.
It’s actually sunny this morning, but with that has come some of the coldest air of the season, we had a hard freeze overnight. That was on top of over an inch of rain again yesterday, that’s two weeks in a row when we had one day that either set, or came close to setting, a record for the most rain on that date.
I did go through the manual for my camera, and the settings for it, and have saved a set-up just for birds in flight. I love the exposure solutions that the Canon 60 D comes up with in program mode for all around photography, it does a very good job of balancing the exposure triad, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, to produce good photos of stationary objects. The hybrid auto-focusing mode, where it focuses on something until the camera detects movement, then switches to servo mode to track the movement works very well for birds in the brush, but there have been times when it hasn’t switched to servo quickly enough to track a bird in flight, and the bird is out of range before the camera makes the switch.
So, what I have done is set the ISO to 800 rather than let the camera adjust it automatically, and set the aperture to f/7.1, I hope that combination will give me the highest possible shutter speeds to freeze the movement of birds in flight. I have also set it up to use all 9 focusing points, rather than just the center point, and use the servo mode of auto-focus, in hopes that it will do a better job of tracking the moving birds.
I saved all those settings to the customizable position on the mode control dial, so all I have to do is turn the dial, and all the settings should be good to go. I can go back to the program mode for stationary subjects. I won’t have to change each individual setting each time, everything will be changed in one fell swoop.
I really should have done this long ago, but like I said, I tend to be methodical, and take one step at a time. I could have done a better job of the falcons and hawks that I photographed in Muskegon on Sunday. One reason that I didn’t do this sooner is that I couldn’t decide whether to use that setting for landscape or moving critter photos before. Now, with two bodies, that isn’t an issue any longer.
So, I think that I’ll get something to eat, put the Beast back on the camera since it is sunny today, and go out and see if I can find some flying birds to try it all out on.
Well, I’m back, and the birds, what few that there were, didn’t cooperate with me very well. I did manage a couple of shots of a red-tailed hawk under the worst lighting conditions of the day. I learned enough from those shots to know that ISO 800 is higher than I want. I can also stop the aperture down slightly as well.
That was shot at a shutter speed of 1/3200 second, which is faster than I really need, even this next one was at 1/2000 second.
I have discovered one other thing, I can edit the settings while I am taking the photos of course, but to edit the saved set-up, I have to change every setting to the way that I want them, then overwrite what I have already saved, I can’t pick and choose what to change and what to leave as is.
Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny also, so I’ll try again tomorrow with the new settings.
My other photo of the day is this one of a fox squirrel.
The only reason for that one was that the squirrel was under the bumper of my Forester when I stepped outside. I tried to get a photo of that, but as soon as I raised the camera, the squirrel was off to the races.
I don’t know if it was the twenty degree drop in temperature since yesterday, or the cold wind out of the northwest today, but I saw very few birds, not even the flocks of geese that have been flying back and forth for the past two months. Isn’t that the way that it goes, I get ready for flying birds, and they all leave. Other than a handful each of robins and goldfinches, along with a few resident species, it was slim pickings today.
It was a year ago that I moved into this apartment, and I remember that for the first few months, I didn’t find many things, birds or otherwise, to photograph. If I remember correctly, I didn’t even resurrect my series of posts about my daily walks until late winter.
There are subdivisions on either side of the park that I walk in, and there are quite a few people in those subdivisions that feed the birds, so during the winter, the birds flock together near their favorite feeder(s). We’ll see how it goes, but I may end up suspending the weekly summaries of my daily walks for the winter. “Cloudy, cold, no birds, and no photos” will get boring fast, and that may be what this will become. We’ll see.
Sunny and cold, another hard freeze last night, along with some lake effect rain and snow. That makes me glad that I don’t work first shift, the morning news was all about the rash of car wrecks as people have to learn to drive in the snow again. I had to drive through the snow squalls last night, but it hadn’t gotten cold enough to get slippery yet.
With the sunshine, any snow that fell around where I live is gone, it could be a great day for a walk.
My brother purchased the version of the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm) to fit his Pentax camera a couple of days ago, it will be interesting to compare photos and notes. He hasn’t had a chance to really try it out yet, but his set-up seems to do better at extremely close photos, well, down to the close focusing capabilities of the Beast, which is about 8 feet.
By the way, my brother lives in South Carolina, where he has flowers and insects to photograph this time of year, it almost makes me want to move down there. That is until summer rolls around, and he tells me how hot and humid it is there. I think that I’ll stick right here for now.
I have noticed that at least the first of the two Canon 60 D bodies that I have does not auto-focus well down to the close limits of any of my lenses. I may have to switch the roles that I have set for my cameras, as I thought that body number two did better at close-ups than body number one. There’s no hurry, but it’s something for me to consider.
I’m back from my walk, and I found a few more flying birds to test my saved set-up on today, in fact, as soon as I stepped outdoors, a few gulls made willing test subjects.
I’m pleased with these, but then, gulls are easy. However, I think that I’m very close with my set-up now, as I also had a chance to test it on a hawk later during my walk.
I think that I am going to make one more adjustment, then probably call it good. There’s a reason that I want saved settings for birds in flight, if you remember, back in March of this year, I shot many photos of a flock of bald eagles at Mona Lake. I want to be ready for another chance to photograph the eagles if they flock up there again this spring. I hope to have purchased a 400 mm prime telephoto lens by then, but I can get by with the Beast, it does OK if I switch the OS off and use the correct settings for birds in flight.
For the record, I shot those at ISO 640, an aperture of f/8, +2/3 EV, and shutter speeds between 1/1250 and 1/2000.
The +2/3 EV was a little much for the gulls, and maybe not quite enough for the hawk, but it is a good starting point to get a usable shot in a hurry if I need to, then adjust from there if I have time.
I did find a few other subjects to photograph today as well, starting with a goose.
That was taken during the same timeframe as the gulls in flight. I wanted to see how quickly I could make the switch back and forth between stationary birds, and those in flight. It works well!
My other photos for the day…
I would have liked to have included more of the trees over the mallards, but that would have also meant more of the apartment building in the background would show as well. I found a female cardinal that I think was eating ragweed seeds.
I got my best photo of a red squirrel so far.
That was a quicky, as I didn’t know how long it was going to stay still, not long.
Most of the older, larger trees have lost their leaves, but this grove of younger trees is showing well.
And the last photo for the day is a so-so one of a Cooper’s hawk. I shot this one at the same spot as the red-tailed in flight, once again to practice going back and forth between saved settings. It is also a good example of why I need saved settings, as I had forgotten to go back to using just the center focus point for auto-focus yesterday when I tweaked the saved settings, so the camera was using all 9 focus points, hence the hawk is slightly out of focus.
Using all 9 focus points for birds in flight speeds up the auto-focus, as I don’t have to try to keep the center point on the bird, which can be difficult. As long as the camera “sees” something at any of the focus points, it locks in on it. But, when a bird is back in the brush, the camera may choose the wrong focus point when using all 9, which is why I generally use only the center one. If my brain was crying out for nicotine, I may have noticed that I had all nine focus points activated for the Cooper’s hawk photos.
That’s about it for today, other than once again, there were very few birds around today.
Oh, one other thing, I went back through some old photos for one purpose this week, and some of my older posts to this blog today to find the one about the eagles at Mona Lake, and this may sound as if I’m bragging, but my photos show a huge improvement over what I used to post. I sure used to post a lot of really bad photos, I feel as if I should apologize.
Somewhat of a change in plans this morning, I’ve got a full tank of gas in the Forester, new hiking boots to break in, and a severe case of wanderlust this morning. I’ve been wracking my nicotine starved brain trying to think of someplace that I haven’t been to lately, but still fairly close to home, and I have decided to head east for a change, rather than west or north as I usually go, and go to the Ionia Recreation Area today. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so I have no idea what I’ll run into.
Well, the number one thing that I ran into was the wind, I knew that it was going to be windy, but had no idea that it was going to be so windy that most birds stuck to the ground.
OK, the weather forecast had said that the wind was going to die down during the day, wrong, it had also said that it would become sunny, or at least partly cloudy, wrong again. It was the brightest out when I first arrived, and from there, the clouds thickened and lowered, and the wind sounded like the roar of a jet engine most of the time. I had chosen Ionia, as it’s in the Grand River valley, somewhat protected from the wind, I can only imagine what it was like along the Lake Michigan shore.
Despite the winds and clouds, it was a good day, not that I shot many photos, but the woods were quite pretty with all the new fallen leaves covering the ground.
I took the Beast, of course, and also the second body with the 15-85 mm lens, which is what I used on those last three photos.
The bridge over Sessions Creek washed out several years ago, and while crossing the creek today by walking across the rocks, I learned that the Keen hiking boots I just purchased aren’t 100% waterproof. They weren’t advertised as waterproof, so I have no room to complain there, but there’s not enough room for my big toes, so I am going to complain about that, some.
I did the 4 mile long trail around Sessions Lake, and I should have stopped there, as my feet felt fine after that. But, I went off to explore a trail along the Grand River, and that was a little farther than I should have gone. I think that the Keens will be fine after I’ve worn them a few times, on shorter walks for the time being. 😉
My other photos for the day.
That last photo, and a few other attempts at photographing birds, are what convinced me to give it up for the day. For the record, the shooting info for the red squirrel, ISO 1600, f/6.3 (wide open for the Beast) and a shutter speed of 1/160 second while zoomed to 500 mm. It was so dark and dreary that there simply wasn’t enough light for any photos. I followed a brown creeper up the trunk of a tree, and the fastest shutter speed that I saw was 1/60 second, there was no way that I was going to get a good photo, so I didn’t bother to try.
It was good going back to Ionia and reconnecting again, I had forgotten what a nice place it is for a long walk/hike. I’m sure that I’ll be going back in the next few months, as it is 25 miles or so to the east of where I live. There are many days when the lake effect clouds are breaking up in that area when it is still completely cloudy here. Less snow falls there as well, because the lake effect has a harder time staying intact that far inland.
I have to go grocery shopping yet tonight, so I’m going to end this here.
That’s it or this one, thanks for stopping by!
Almost deleted Fall foliage photos
I went to Palmer Park this morning, specifically to shoot photos of the fall foliage before it is gone. I arrived at the park right at sunrise and started shooting. During the course of the day, I shot just over 100 photos, many were duplicates as I bracketed the exposure to make sure that I got good ones. However, when I downloaded them to my computer, I wasn’t happy with any of them, and considered deleting them all.
I changed my mind after reading another blogger’s post, then going back and looking at my photos again. These aren’t as bad as I first thought that they were, I am my harshest critic. There’s really no reason for further words on my part, the photos are of the fall foliage, so here they are.
I learned a few things today. One, I should have gotten to the park before actual sunrise and been shooting even earlier than I was. Pre-dawn light worked much better than the light right after the sun rose over the trees, until later in the day when there was some sunshine and blue skies to work with.
Two, after getting up at 5:30 AM, hiking 6 miles, and coming home tired and hungry, that a good meal and a long nap makes my photos look a lot better. 😉
Three, I have to stop judging my own photos so harshly. They may not be the best in the world, but these aren’t bad, and there’s a couple that are actually good.
Four, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. I can’t control the amount of color that there is to the leaves, nor the lighting on a given day. All I can do is give it my best and hope that it’s good enough.
Five, I have to learn that what I see in the small LCD display of my camera is not what the full size photos are going to look like. That’s what led to my disappointment in the photos themselves, these looked super good on the camera display.
I hope that you have found a least of couple of these that you like.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Sometimes it works
This is an old post that I started but didn’t care for the way it turned out. The pictures were too good not to post, so I am going to just delete my useless ramblings and post it for the photos.
I saw the shape of the spray from the fountain, and the shape of the way the flowers were growing next to the pond that the fountain is in, and thought that the shapes were similar enough, that if I got everything lined up just right, it would make a great photo. The problem, it was a nasty, cloudy day with a gale blowing through our area. I could not get the flowers and the fountain lined up the way I wanted, no matter how I tried to time the gusts of wind. I’ll go back and try again, maybe I won’t like what I end up with, but I think it’s worth a try.
But, every once in a while it does turn out the way I saw it when I shot the picture.
I wanted to show the fuzzy texture of the grass seed heads, the way the light played off the fibers of the seeds, the way the wind shaped them, and the feeling of what kind of day it was that day.
Or this one.
I can only imagine how helpless and alone I would feel if I were caught in a spider’s web. I took other shots zoomed in closer, but they didn’t convey the sense of loneliness that I wanted the photo to show.
Or this one.
Just two leaves, one green, one yellow, lined up so that they appear to be one leaf.
Nothing special, nothing really dramatic, but I like to let nature provide the art, and I’ll just show up to record it.
As always, thanks for stopping by!
I am curious (why) (yellow)
This has nothing to do with the notorious Swedish “art film” from the 1960’s, you know, the one that helped give rise to the phrase “Banned in Boston”, which in turn became a tag line that art films used in advertising themselves after the media picked up on it.
Anyway, it was a somewhat strange fall here in West Michigan, for one thing, it was slightly warmer than normal, and we had a lot more sunshine than our typical fall. Early on, near the end of September, the leaves began to change color the way they always do.
I did an earlier post of nothing but fall foliage shots, you can see the photos here. After that initial burst of color, most of the trees around here dropped the early red colored leaves, and the remaining leaves began to turn yellow.
You can see some almost bare branches, that’s where the red used to be. Even the burning bush showed more yellow than I can ever remember seeing in the past.
And, it wasn’t long after that photo was taken that the burning bushes around here dropped all their leaves. Don’t get me wrong, we had a glorious fall.
I wondered all the time what made the leaves all turn yellow, even the maples that usually turn fire red.
The woods were all about yellow.
Everywhere you looked, you saw yellow.
Even the few leaves that showed some red were muted, almost pink rather than red.
Then they began to turn yellow as well, creating some interesting colors.
Of course that meant most of the fallen leaves were yellow as well.
But they looked much better while still on the trees.
Not every tree turned yellow…
..but most did.
I am still curious as to why there was so much more yellow foliage than normal, and will this post be banned in Boston?
If you have any clue as to why there was so much yellow foliage this fall, I would really like to hear why, thanks for stopping by.
It’s been a bad week
In some respects that is, in other ways, it has been a good week. My new Internet service is so much faster than the old Verizon wireless “broadband” that I used to have, so far I am more than pleased! I have now have Bloom Broadband, and it flies, at least ten times as fast as Verizon, and cheaper too.
The weather has been up and down around here. One day I wear nothing but a heavy long sleeve T-shirt, the next day I’m wearing a winter parka to ward off the wind and rain. Most of the time it has been cloudy, I took some photos today around noon, and the exposure settings were 1/40 of a second at F/4, and that was out in the open, not in the woods. Needless to say, I have been using the flash a lot for about everything.
The critters have been driving me crazy, either they won’t sit still, or they won’t move.
I have been trying to get some good photos of some of the smaller birds around here, and trying a new technique. That is, just keep shooting rather than trying to catch them sitting still. If you have ever tried to photograph a small bird like a chickadee, you know that they are perpetual motion machines, they never sit still for very long. Back in the old days of film, it made no sense to waste an entire roll of film hoping that you would catch a bird sitting still, you waited and hoped that it would pause long enough for a shot. Since digital photos cost nothing, when I see one of the small birds close enough for a photo now, I start clicking the shutter about as rapidly as I can, then delete all the blurry ones from when the bird was moving. It does take some time to sort through the photos as I end up with many like this one.
But then, I do get a few like this.
Or this one of a downy woodpecker.
I’m sure that other people have figured this out before, it is a lot less frustrating to shoot a bunch of photos and get a couple good ones than it is to chase the little buggers through the woods trying to time when they are going to sit still for a split second 😉
I have been testing it on larger animals as well, that lead to this interesting little series. I was all set to photograph a small whitetail deer….
when the larger one in the foreground barged into the frame, startling the smaller one, which caused it to move enough to make the photo look out of focus. But, the next quick shot shows the small deer in the background in focus as I intended.
Then the auto-focus picked up the deer in the foreground…
This was one of the times the critters wouldn’t move when I wanted them to. There was a small herd of deer pinning me in to a spot I didn’t want to be in.
The deer kept milling around back and forth in front of me.
I didn’t want to be in the spot that I was as the light was too poor for a good shot of them, and there were even more around, so I didn’t want to frighten these and spook the others too. They finally moved off after about 15 minutes, and by then it was getting so dark that any photo would be an iffy one.
With the deer gone, I moved off and saw a small flock of wood ducks land in a small pond not far from me. There is an even smaller cove in the pond, which is where the ducks went. The cove is surrounded by large pines, so I thought it would be my chance to sneak up on the ducks, wrong. One of the ducks swam out of the cove enough to catch a glimpse of me through a tiny opening between the pine boughs. I froze, but too late. All birds seem to have incredibly good eyesight, and wood ducks must have some of the best among birds. That duck was off in a flash, and not the flash unit of my camera either, it was way too far away for that. Of course the rest of the flock followed the first one, so much for that idea. I should get to the pond earlier some evening and sit in the pines and wait for the ducks, that’s the third time I’ve seen them there. Maybe next weekend.
By then it was really dark, but I couldn’t pass up this shot.
The two bucks were pushing each other a little, a sparring match for the true battles they will have in a few weeks when the rut begins. I was hoping for a few more shots like that, but they back away from each other a short way, then went back to feeding again.
On one of the few sunny days, I did get a few shots like these.
You can see that all the wind we’ve had has stripped many of the leaves off from the trees.
On a more typical day, I was chasing some of the small birds around a stand of pines, never getting a shot of any of the birds, when noticed an orange butterfly land near me. It was the first butterfly I have seen in a couple of weeks with the weather the way that it’s been. I moved to get closer to the butterfly, and spooked a small herd of deer on the edge of the woods near the pines I was in. No birds, no butterfly, no deer.
There are times I think wildlife does that on purpose, use decoys to confuse us. If I hadn’t been watching the birds, I probably would have noticed the butterfly sooner, and if I hadn’t been intent on the butterfly, I may have seen the deer before they saw me.
I did see the drunken raccoon again.
It had wedged itself into the opening of the hollow tree it lives in, and was sleeping soundly as I approached. As I tried to move around to get a better photo, I stepped on a twig which broke and woke the raccoon up.
About that time, the batteries in my camera went dead, and as I was reaching in my pocket for some fresh ones, I managed to shove my hand into a briar I was standing next to, sticking a number of thorns in my fingers. After pulling the thorns out with my teeth, I changed batteries, only to find the set I thought were fresh were really the dead ones from my GPS unit, so there I was with a drunken coon watching me and no batteries for my camera. Not the best of days in a week that hasn’t been the best of weeks.
If that wasn’t enough, Monday after my walk, I started a number of blog posts for here that I intended to be just drafts for me to work on over time. I like to keep ahead on drafts, it works better than if I try to do an entire post all at once. It fits my method of writing better, which I won’t bore you with by explaining it here. I started a couple of drafts, including the Dumb Human Trick, but somehow either I clicked the wrong button or WordPress screwed up and it published the draft long before I was done with it. I think WordPress screwed up, because it didn’t take me to the page that tells me what a great blogger I am when I finish a post, it took me to the dashboard instead. Anyway, I rushed through that post a lot quicker than I wanted to since it was already published. I am going to go back and edit it heavily when I get a chance, I am sorry about the quality of that post.
Thanks for stopping by!
I signed up for Internet service through my apartment complex yesterday, and they got around to switching it on around noon today. So far, I’m loving it! It is so much faster than my old Verizon wireless service was, and cheaper to boot!
It will take me a few days to get caught up, good thing the weekend is almost here. There have been quite a few new readers signed up to my blog, and I haven’t been able to get back with them to thank them, so here’s a big
for right now.
I have a number of posts I am working on, and a huge backlog of photos to post.
After our two weeks of magnificent weather, last Thursday the wind and rain returned. It has been either extremely windy, rainy, or both, everyday for a week. Of course the wind kicked in just as the trees were getting to their peak of fall color, it seems to happen most years. I did manage to get a few good photos, although I didn’t make it up to the Jordan River valley like I had hoped. Oh well, there’s always next year, and maybe the wind won’t be howling with gusts over 40 MPH next year.
While running around chasing birds and deer, I did manage a poor shot of an Eastern Towhee.
And this photo of a hermit thrush, I believe.
And one of yet another warbler I can’t identify, in fact, I’m not even sure it is a warbler.
As I said in an earlier post, the woods were alive with more birds than I have ever seen in one day last Sunday, but I couldn’t get close enough, get them to sit still, or get the lighting right most of the time.
I missed the weekly photo challenge last week, hopefully I will get a photo for this week’s topic. Not having Internet service at home seemed to be more time consuming than I thought it was going to be.
Well, that’s it for now, I have a lot more catching up to do, as always, thanks for stopping by!
The fall fireworks begin
I’m not going to bore you with any of my rantings in this post, and nothing I can write would do justice to the beauty that nature puts on display for us this time of year. After two weeks of this…
The skies have finally cleared, and this is what I got to see as I took my daily hike.
That’s it for this one, but there will be more! We’re still a week or two away from the peak colors of fall!
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Honoring the fallen (Leaves)
I hope no one takes offense at my title for this post, as the son of some one who served in the Air Force, and the brother of a retired Airman, I don’t mean to make light of the sacrifices members of the armed services have made. This post is photos of fallen leaves. “Why?”, you may ask. Well, we’ve had two weeks of crappy weather as far as photography is concerned. There has been a cut-off low over Michigan for what seems like forever, with cloudy skies most of the time, and rain showers on and off the entire time. I can’t remember the last day it was that I got in an entire hike without getting rained on at least a little. That, and it is still early in the fall for the peak of the fall foliage.
This is also a post that I am going to whip out while I still have Internet access at home. Sunday, October 3rd is the last day of my poor Verizon Wireless Internet Access, I refuse to pay $60 per month for slow, unreliable service. So I am going to do several posts now, save them as drafts, then publish them when I get to a wi-fi hotspot from time to time.
Here goes, the pictures are self-explanatory, mostly fallen maple leaves that I found on the ground that were too colorful to pass by without capturing their beauty.
You can see that many of the leaves were wet from all the rainy days we’ve had. We didn’t get a lot of rain as far as the overall amount, but it rained lightly on and off for almost two full weeks. At least the creeks and ponds are filling up a little.
I know, they’re not great photos, but this is the type of weather we’ve been having around here.
A small hole opened up in the clouds, just enough to make that shot possible. But, back to the fallen, even the maple seeds are getting into the act.
Sometimes I took “group” shots.
And finally, my favorite one.
It’s hard to believe that nature can pack that many colors into one lone leaf! To prove that I could play with digital image manipulation like most photographers, I did this to it.
I much prefer the subtle, delicate beauty of the real thing, and I’ll have more to say about that in some upcoming posts.
As always, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog!
The first full day of fall
Yesterday was the first day of fall, I have already forgotten the exact time it arrived, like it makes a difference. Notes on a calendar don’t mean much to nature, the transition to fall has been going on for over a month, and autumn will continue to push summer aside, a little at a time.
Fall seems like more of a transition from one year to the next to me, much more so than the New Years Day when our calendars say that it happens. Fall is when one year dies, and most of nature goes into its resting stage over our long, cold, snowy winters here in Michigan. So I am always a little sad when fall does arrive, to me, it signifies the passing of another year.
Some of that is old age talking. I swear that each year is at least a month shorter than the year before, even though the calendars I get in the mail say that there are still 12 months, and they are all the same length they have always been. As soon as I figure out where those months are disappearing to, I’ll be sure to let every one know. 😉
Fall is also the season of spectacular beauty, when nature pulls out all the stops in vivid displays of color unlike any of the other seasons.
Not to mention there are no biting bugs left to bother me while I am hiking or kayaking.
Some trees seem to turn all one color…
…while other trees seem bent on having every leaf a different color.
They’re all beautiful on a sunny autumn day.
From the time they begin to change…
…to when most have changed….
…until they fall.
From either the bottom…
…or the top
This display of color is our reward for sticking it out in an area where winters are so long.
And fall is just getting started. It will be several weeks before we get the full display of color that happens most years. I say most years, because once in a while a storm will blow through just as the trees are near their peak, and all the leaves will be blown off from the trees. I hope that doesn’t happen this year.