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

Posts tagged “Whitetail deer

A Fabulous Fall

Ahhh, what a difference a year makes! Last November, we were setting records for the coldest temperatures ever on a number of days, and we set the record for the most snow ever in the month of November, over 30 inches (76 cm).

This year, we’ve seen a few snowflakes, and had a couple of cool days, but overall, temperatures are running well above average. Best of all has been how many sunny days we’ve had! In a normal year, cool air coming across the relatively warm waters of Lake Michigan picks up moisture from the lake, and once the air makes it over Michigan, that moisture is turned to clouds, and often some of the moisture is dropped as rain or snow. That’s called lake effect here, and most years it clouds up early in November, and peaks at the sun  are rare until the next spring. Not this year. Hardly a cloud in the sky looking west…

An unbelievably nice November day

An unbelievably nice November day

…and even fewer clouds to the east.

A fine, sunny day

A fine, sunny day

Those two were shot November 1st, before a storm packing winds over 50 MPH hit this area earlier this week, and blew most of the leaves off from the trees.

It was almost as nice yesterday for a trip to the Muskegon area to look for rare birds that may have been blown here during the storm earlier this week. I was greeted by several thousand very common Canada geese.

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

That was just a small portion of the flock, but some how, I had moved the switch that locks out any adjustments to the settings on my camera. So instead of getting a better shot of the geese, I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t make any adjustments, since I never use that switch. I figured it out before I came to a large flock of gulls. I was looking over the flock to see if there were any rarities but there were all herring gulls in that flock from what I could see. So, I decided that since I wasn’t seeing any special birds, I would attempt to take special photos of the common birds.

Herring gull

Herring gull

 

Herring gull

Herring gull

 

Herring gull

Herring gull

In a way, that turned out to be the theme for the day. I heard from a fellow birder that there was a red phalarope hanging out in the east lagoon, but when I arrived there, all I saw were mallards.

Mostly mallards with a couple of ruddy ducks

Mostly mallards with a couple of ruddy ducks

Here’s a cropped version of that same photo to show what tricks our eyes can play on us when watching ducks battling waves. You can see a female mallard in the left side of the image with a funny look on her face because she has the head of a male mallard growing out of her back. Towards the center, there’s a female mallard playing submarine, with just her head out of the water.

The tricks our eyes can play on us

The tricks our eyes can play on us

I did find an American black duck, which look almost like mallards, other than their bright yellow bill.

American black duck

American black duck

No visit to the wastewater facility would be complete without checking the “eagle trees” to see if an eagle or two are around, there were.

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

As I was swapping the 2 X extender for the 1.4 X one, the eagle on top flew off, leaving the one on the lower branch, so I shot a photo or two of it.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

I know that these look identical to a few that I recently posted, but on this day, I had a cloudless sky for a background. These also show again that eagles are creatures of habit, find them perched in a tree once, and it’s a likely bet that you’ll find them in the same tree at a later date.

It was opening day of firearms deer season, which was one of the reasons I went to the places that I did on this day, to avoid any hunters. I guess that this buck had the same idea.

Whitetail buck

Whitetail buck

But, I was slow getting the camera on the buck, so that very poor photo will have to do.

I saw a male northern harrier several times as I searched for the phalarope, but usually off in the distance. I did shoot a few photos for the record, as it seems as though I see many more females than males.

Male northern harrier in flight

Male northern harrier in flight

 

Male northern harrier in flight

Male northern harrier in flight

The males are grey as you can see in the photos, while the females…

Northern Harrier in flight

Northern Harrier in flight

…are brown.

I did eventually find the red phalarope, which puts me at 216 species of birds photographed in Michigan. That means that I’m closing in on the two-thirds mark as I check species off the list from the Audubon Society.

Red phalarope

Red phalarope

 

Red phalarope

Red phalarope

I walked around my favorite woodlot on the wastewater property and saw very few birds at all, but it was mid-afternoon, so I wasn’t completely surprised by that. I sure miss my old work schedule that allowed me to be up before sunrise so that I could start my days of birding at sunrise. I saw many more birds when I got an earlier start.

I decided that it was time to head for the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve to see what I could find there. Unfortunately not very much. I did shoot a few of the brightly colored leaves that had survived the storm that I mentioned earlier.

Fabulous fall 1

Fabulous fall 1

 

Fabulous fall 2

Fabulous fall 2

 

Fabulous fall 3

Fabulous fall 3

This next series reminds me to mention something that I’ve learned from all the tutorial videos that I’ve been watching online, but first, a couple of photos.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

 

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I shot those with the camera pointed almost directly at the late afternoon sun, I was fortunate that the shade that the tree provided produced relatively even lighting. However, when I first viewed this images as they came out of the camera, they were too blue, due to the shade. That brings me to a point.

In watching the online tutorials, different experts have different ways of setting up their cameras to get the shots that they do, in this case, it has to do with white balance and color temperature. So, to illustrate this, I went back into Lightroom and made a virtual copy of one of the nuthatch images, and set the white balance back to where it was when I shot the photo.

"Blue" white-breasted nuthatch

“Blue” white-breasted nuthatch

And here’s the same image with the corrected white balance/color temperature.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

That reminds me, I love using Lightroom, the ability to make virtual copies to use in experimentation is just one small reason. That feature is also great if you want to have both a color and black and white version of the same image(s). But, I digress.

We think of sunlight as white, when it really isn’t, it’s made up of different wavelengths of light which produce different colors, as seen in a rainbow when water drops act as a prism to separate the different wavelengths of light. I don’t want to get too technical, but differing weather conditions and the way that sunlight travels through the atmosphere at different times of the day shift the color of sunlight slightly. We don’t notice it so much, our brains do the corrections automatically, our cameras can’t, which is why there is the ability to change the white balance setting in cameras, or in this case, post-processing.

Some experts say that you should leave the white balance set to auto, let the camera determine and adjust for the color of the light, and then fix your images as needed during post-processing. That’s what I used to do, but that didn’t work out very well for me.

Other experts say that you should always adjust your light balance as the light changes. That may work if you are photographing landscapes or other subjects that don’t move, or for when photo ops don’t pop up quickly as the nuthatch did for me. Just a minute or two before, I had been photographing one of the leaves in full sun. I didn’t have time to fiddle with any more adjustments before the nuthatch flew off.

Still other experts say that you should always use the daylight setting for white balance, and fix your images as necessary during post processing. This is what I generally do with the birding/wildlife set-up, it’s one of the ways that I’ve improved my images.

Actually, I should say that I use a combination of the second and third recommendations. The birding set-up is normally set to daylight white balance, unless it’s a very cloudy day, with a solid deck of clouds. Then, I’ll switch to the cloudy setting. Since it was a sunny day when I shot the nuthatch, I had the 7D set to daylight, which is why the nuthatch photos were too blue out of the camera. It was easy to change the images in Lightroom by simply clicking the cloudy white balance setting, so the images look correct as I saw them as I shot them. The overall blue cast to everything is gone, and the colors in the image look like what we see under those conditions.

For landscape photos, I always manually set the white balance for the lighting at the moment that I’m shooting. As the light changes, I’ll change the white balance.

I’ve been learning a lot from the videos that I’ve been watching, sometimes it’s what not to do. One of the experts said that he often set the white balance manually to around 8,000K when shooting at sunrise or sunsets, to juice up the colors. So, I opened one of my sunrise images in Lightroom, and began dragging the color temperature slider to increase the temperature, planning on going to the 8,000K the expert recommended. I didn’t even get to 7,000K before I said “Whoa, too much, that looks so fake no one would believe that the image is a true representation of what I saw!”.

I ended up at around 6,500K, only a few hundred degrees K more than the image was originally shot at.

So, I thought that maybe 8,000K in Lightroom was different from shooting with the camera set at 8,000K, nope, it was still way too much when I set the 7D to 8,000K and tested the results. With the camera set to 8,000K, the images looked surreal, with the colors over-saturated and shifted way too far towards orange. Heck, I get photos that I think are over the top as it is with the camera set to daylight and shooting toward the setting sun, there’s no reason to juice up the colors even more by going that high with the color temperature.

But, that brings me to my main point. When listening to the experts, you will find that they differ on their settings, and it’s up to you to find out what works best for your equipment, and the subjects that you shoot. It also depends on what you find pleasing. I apparently prefer slightly cooler images than most people do, but that may be due to the way that my eyes perceive nature in the first place.

Anyway, while I was at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, I spent some time on one of the observation platforms watching the passing gulls in hopes of spotting a rare species. Besides, it was such a nice day, it felt good to stand there in the late afternoon sun. Still, just standing there was a bit boring, so I had to shoot a few photos of any gulls that came close to me.

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

Here’s a gull impersonating an eagle.

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

Using the polarizing filter on the 300 mm lens with the 1.4X extender slows the auto-focusing of the 7D down a little, but when that set-up works, it really works!

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

My next stop was the channel where Bear Lake enters Muskegon Lake. All that I found there were more gulls, mallards and some escaped Pekin ducks. Still, with good light, I thought that I’d shoot a few photos.

Ring-billed gull flexing

Ring-billed gull flexing

And, who knew that either the inside of their beak or their tongue was orange?

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

With mallards around, I had to shoot a couple of them.

Mallard drake

Mallard drake

 

Mallard hen

Mallard hen, the Michigan leaning duck

I also shot a few photos of the Pekin ducks.

Pekin duck

Pekin duck

 

Pekin duck

Pekin duck

I knew that they had orange feet…

The foot of a Pekin duck

The foot of a Pekin duck

…but I didn’t know what pretty blue-grey eyes they have.

Pekin duck

Pekin duck

I tried for a similar shot of a male mallard, but the darn drake duck ducked…

Mallard drake ducking

Mallard drake ducking

…just as I pressed the shutter release.

I considered going to Duck Lake for the sunset, but things didn’t look very promising for a good sunset, not a cloud in the sky. I had noticed some nice opportunities for photos on the road that leads to Duck Lake on previous trips, so I thought that I’d shoot them this evening. However, the storm this week had blown all the leaves off from the trees, so that photos that I should have shot earlier this month would have been junk this day. I turned around at what’s known as the blockhouse, sorry, no photo of it this time. I did shoot a few Juncos there.

Dark-eyed juncos

Dark-eyed Juncos

And, a bird of a different kind.

Drone in flight

Drone in flight

I hadn’t been able to tell where a strange buzzing sound was coming from until I looked up and spotted the drone over my head. They will be something to watch for in the future as they become more popular.

I also shot a spotted knapweed flower in the late afternoon sun.

Spotted knapweed

Spotted knapweed

With no clouds in the sky, I didn’t think that the sunset would be worth shooting, but I still didn’t want to leave until I was sure, so my last stop of the day was the Muskegon Lake channel where it empties into Lake Michigan. No sunset, but I did shoot these.

Goldenrod in the sun

Goldenrod in the sun

 

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I think that I worked as hard for this next photo as for any that I have ever shot as far as camera settings.

Having a brain fart, I used to grow these and still can't recall their name

Having a brain fart, I used to grow these and still can’t recall their name

The light was so poor that I couldn’t get a photo without the flash. But, since the fastest shutter speed the camera will synchronize with the flash is 1/250 second, and Canon cameras default to ISO 400 when using the flash, that entails setting the shutter, ISO, and aperture all manually to get a good photo when shooting at 420 mm of focal length. That, and a steady hand as I leaned over a fence to get the composition the best that I could.

My last photo of the day, just dune grass in the sun.

Dune grasses in the sun

Dune grasses in the sun

I just love the way that the dune grasses light up in the late afternoon sun, even though it makes for a very busy photo.

So, overall it was a day for practicing my photography skills more so than finding rare birds, although I did get the red phalarope. I should apologize for so many photos of the gulls and ducks, but I won’t. They are some of the best photos of those species that I have ever shot, which is my goal, continuing to improve the images that I shoot. They may be common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get great photos of them, and the practice of photographing them is always good, as they say, practice makes perfect. I still have a long way to go to even approach perfect, but I do like the progress that I’m making.

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

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Using them up

I still have photos that I shot back in May of this year saved on my computer that I’ve been meaning to post here. Many of them are of poorer quality, but they are of subjects that are either interesting, or that I seldom see, for the most part. So, I think that it’s time that I used a few of them up, to make room for more, and hopefully, better photos in the future. I’ll start with this one.

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

Next up, a chipmunk from back in May…

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

…and here’s one from August.

Hanging in there

Hanging in there

This photo was also shot back in August, on a rainy morning, so the quality isn’t the greatest.

Unidentified fly object

Unidentified fly object

On the other end of the spectrum, this was shot in June, early in the morning.

June sunrise

June sunrise

That same morning, I also shot this one.

Bumblebee on dead nettle

Bumblebee on horse nettle

This one is rather recent, it was shot in October.

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

These next two date back to July of this year.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

 

Grey squirrel in the sunlight

Grey squirrel in the sunlight

Aha! I have found the folder were I had saved these two to.

Unidentified flowering objects

Unidentified flowering objects

This one is of the largest single fungus that I have ever seen, it was 18 inches (45 cm) long and a foot (30 cm) wide!

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I had to retreat to get the entire thing in the frame.

Here’s a lesser scaup taking flight on a rainy day back in June.

Lesser scaup taking flight

Lesser scaup taking flight

Also from June, two photos of a coastal duck that breeds in the subarctic, a Black Scoter. They have not been well-studied in North America, only a few nests have ever been found.

Juvenile black scoter

Juvenile black scoter

 

Juvenile black scoter

Juvenile black scoter

And also from June, a first summer male orchard oriole.

First summer male orchard oriole

First summer male orchard oriole

July 26th must have been my first time out with the Canon 2 X teleconverter, as I have a few photos left over from that date as I was testing it out.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

 

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

 

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

 

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

 

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

 

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

 

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

I shoot way too many photos of fox squirrels, but I can’t help myself. They have so much personality. They are like mallards in a way, always fun to watch as they gather acorns…

Fox squirrel gathering acorns

Fox squirrel gathering acorns

…carefully bury their prizes…

Fox squirrel burying an acorn

Fox squirrel burying an acorn

…go off to look for more…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…then warn photographers to stay away from their nuts.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Oh, by the way, I didn’t mean to imply that mallards gather and bury acorns, just that fox squirrels and mallards both exude personality. Speaking of mallards…

Mother mallard

Mother mallard

 

Mallard chick

Mallard chick

 

Mallard chick

Mallard chick

…and here’s a couple of other mother ducks and their broods.

Female northern shoveler

Female northern shoveler

 

Female northern shoveler and ducklings

Female northern shoveler and ducklings

 

Blue winged teal

Blue winged teal

 

Blue winged teal

Blue winged teal

Hmm, I didn’t post very many photos of young birds this summer, I’ll have to make up for it with these shots of a young tufted titmouse letting its parents know that it’s hungry.

Juvenile tufted titmouse

Juvenile tufted titmouse

 

Juvenile tufted titmouse

Juvenile tufted titmouse

 

Juvenile tufted titmouse

Juvenile tufted titmouse

I have way too many photos saved, I’ve just getting started in this post, and I’ve already hitting my self-imposed limit for the number of photos. Even at that limit, it’s more than some people would prefer. I suppose that I could have left out the series of the fox squirrel, but I liked those photos, and I run this blog. 😉

I should note that over the course of the summer as these were shot is the period of time when I transitioned from optimizing my images to post here, to optimizing them to appear their best as seen full screen on my computer. On my old computer with the small display, I would crop many photos a lot more, since they looked fine that way on that computer or here on my blog. But, on the iMac with the large display, cropping images as much as I used leaves them looking quite bad as far as sharpness. While the images look great on my computer, the subject is often very small in the versions of my photos that I post now. So, I should apologize to every one who follows my blog and takes the time to comment.

I’m working on that, trying to get even closer to my subjects than I have in the past, but it isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many photo opportunities I’ve missed by trying to get better photos, either a bit closer, or changing the angle at which I’m shooting to avoid getting distractions in the frame. But, that also means that I don’t force you to see as many of the same old, same old photos, like a robin eating sumac drupes.

American robin eating sumac

American robin eating sumac

 

American robin eating sumac

American robin eating sumac

If I left those out, I’d have more room here for birds that aren’t seen as often, such as this snow bunting.

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

 

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

That’s always a dilemma for me, which photos to post, and which ones do I leave out. So, at least for the time being, I’ll keep on plugging away as I have been.

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


Some blasts from the past

In preparation for the arrival of my new computer, I’ve been looking at a few of my old photos, shot a few years ago with my old Nikon camera and lens.

I’ve asked around as to whether the new iMac would be able to read the image files that I have on the back-up drive that I have, and the answers have been yes, no, and maybe, so I’ll go with maybe for now. However, I think that I can transfer a few of the photos at a time to a flash drive that I have, and import them onto the new iMac that way, or so I’ve been told. So, I dug up the flash drive and found the images that I’ll use for this post, a best of the best from my old Nikon I suppose you could say.

But first, some other news, I have received my long-term visitor’s pass to the Muskegon County wastewater facility. That means that I don’t have to call ahead each time to arrange to have a pass left there for me on weekends, and can go anytime that the weather makes it worth going.

Then, there’s the weather, it seems like when I get time off from work, it’s cloudy and dreary outside. I did make it out on Sunday, not only was it dreary, but it was foggy as well, very poor for photography. I’m saving the few photos that I shot until the new computer arrives. I would have had time for a walk today, but the day dawned much as it did yesterday, although right on cue, just before I had to leave for work, the sun came out. That seems to be the way things have been going lately, if I’m working, the sun is out, if I have time off, then the weather stinks.

Now then, I have received my Federal Income Tax refund already, which bulged my checking account beyond what I needed for the new computer, and was all set to order the 21.5 inch display iMac that I had decided was the best for me. Funny thing, 1 to 3 days to build it special for me, and 2 day shipping to get it to the local Apple store became 10 to 14 days before it would arrive.

This coming weekend is going to be miserable for any outdoor activities, and I wanted the new computer here by then so I could get it set-up while the weather was too bad outdoors for even me. Wind chills down so low as to be dangerous with off and on lake effect snow is not good weather to be out in.

So, I did some more research. I thought that I could purchase the base model iMac with just 8 Gb of ram, then add more myself, no can do. The case of the 21.5 inch iMac is sealed, the ram has to be added at the factory when the computer is built, or by an authorized service center, meaning big bucks to add ram to it.

So, more research again. I found that the 27 inch display iMac can be upgraded by the user. You push a button on the back of the computer, a small door pops open, and you can add more ram yourself. Not only that, but the maximum ram for the 21.5 inch is 16 Gb, while the 27 inch will accept 32 Gb of ram.

Okay, the base 27 inch model is $300 more than the base 21.5 inch model, except that with the added ram that I wanted, and the other upgrades, it works out that the base 27 inch model is less than $100 more than the 21.5 inch model that I was going to special order.

You know what that means, I’ll be picking up the base 27 inch model this weekend. There are more advantages than just being able to add ram myself. The 27 inch comes with a faster processor, faster hard drive, and better video card as well. I’m sure that the standard 8 Gb of ram will work for me for the time being, and I can add more ram later, and for probably less than the $200 that Apple charges to do so. More ram is always good, so being able to go all the way to 32 Gb rather than 16 Gb is a good thing. Not to mention the much larger display to view my images on. 😉

So, if things go as planned, this weekend I’ll be getting a new 27 inch display iMac set-up and ready to go in time for spring, as I look out my window and not feel guilty about not going out as the wind howls and blows the snow around. 🙂

Okay then, now it’s time for some photos. A few of you may remember some of these, as I said earlier, they were shot with my old Nikon for the most part, although I may slip in a few from my Canon Powershot as well. They were taken when I still lived at the previous apartment complex where I lived at the time these were shot.

While I don’t miss those apartments, or the poor management there, I do miss the wildlife, especially my “pet” red-tailed hawks.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Because of the way that those apartments were laid out, each summer I got to witness young hawks learning to hunt, and they grew used to my presence, allowing me to shoot some good photos despite the quirks of the Nikon.

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Then, there were the man-made lakes that surrounded most of the apartment complex. The land had been a gold course at one time, built in a naturally wet area. The golf course went broke, and developers built the apartments along what had been the fairways, and left the old water hazards in place. With several small bodies of water connected by a creek that flowed between them, and eventually to the Grand River, each summer, there would be great blue herons hunting along the water edges.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

During the spring and fall, migrating waterfowl would stop over at some of the lakes for short periods of time, like these mute swans.

Mute swan

Mute swan

Mute swans

Mute swans

Mute swan

Mute swan

Mute swan

Mute swan

Probably one of the most memorable and beautiful things that I have ever witnessed in nature was the courting behavior of a pair of swans.

Mute swan courtship

Mute swan courtship

Mute swan courtship

Mute swan courtship

Mute swan courtship

Mute swan courtship

The lakes attracted plenty of geese as well.

Canada geese taking flight

Canada geese taking flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

The trees that had once lined the fairways of the old golf course became the home for many small songbirds as well.

Juvenile barn swallow

Juvenile barn swallow

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

American robin

American robin

Male house finch

Male house finch

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

We also had a flock of turkeys that called the area home.

Male turkey

Male turkey

Young male turkey

Young male turkey

As you can see, I used to luck out and get a few good photos from the old Nikon before it croaked. However, I’d love to have my new Canon and my current lenses and live in an area like that with so much wildlife around. But, moving has worked out better for me overall, this area has plenty of wildlife also, but it’s spread out more, and critters are wilder, not as used to people. That makes it tougher to get as close as I used to be able to get where I used to live, and remember, I’m posting the best of the best, not the thousands of poor images I used to end up with while I struggled with the Nikon.

In fact, to prove that it’s not so much the camera as the person using it, here’s a few from my old Canon Powershot, a compact digital point and shoot camera.

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Iris

Iris

Green heron

Green heron

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Patterns on the Lake Michigan beach

Patterns on the Lake Michigan beach

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle

IMG_2032

Spring flowers

 

Green heron

Green heron

I think that this post is about done, but I have two photos from my old Nikon of a bald eagle that I’d like to share as well.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look back in time, I know that I have. I still have a few more of the best of the best that I may post soon, when I get the time. I plan to be busy this weekend getting the new computer set-up, if everything goes as planned. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. 😉

Oh, one more photo for this one.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

The eagle and the doe were the only winter photos that I could tolerate posting at this time of year, I am so looking forward to spring! I want to be photographing flowers, insects, and of course, songbirds, especially as they are singing. Just a few short weeks to go, and winter should be about over with, I hope!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by, and I hope that my next post will have been written on my new computer!


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.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

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.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

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.

Young whitetail buck

Young whitetail buck

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.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

And, the drunken squirrel had made it to the top of the power pole.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

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.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

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.

Red-tailed hawk hiding

Red-tailed hawk 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.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Not only are they always on the move…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…they stay on the shady side of trees for the most part…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…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.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

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)…

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

..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.

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

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.

White-crowned sparrow

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.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Well, that one isn’t perched, but these two were squabbling over a choice perch.

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

There was a pair of mute swans.

Mute swans

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.

Merlin

Merlin

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.

Merlin in flight

Merlin in flight

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.

Double crested cormorant crashing

Double crested cormorant crashing

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.

Lake at Milennium Park

Lake at Millennium Park

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.

Early oak colors

Early oak colors

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.

Into the sun

Into the sun

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. 😉

Old railroad trestle

Old railroad trestle

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.

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking  downstream

The Grand River looking downstream

Just a short distance from the bridge, I hit a bird bonanza, all of these were shot as I stood in one place.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse in flight

Tufted titmouse in flight

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

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.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I decided to take a few steps closer and then crop this image.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

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….

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

…I tried for some time to get a good shot of the sapsucker, but most of them looked like this.

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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….

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…the warbler spotted me…

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…and struck a pose for me.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

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.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

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.

Reflections

Reflections

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…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…before hopping down to the ground to eat.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I got back to where the cormorants hang out, and decided to get some practice shooting flying birds.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

This one was directing traffic.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

There were a few turtles watching the cormorants.

Turtles

Turtles

Two more flight photos.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

On my way back to my car, I got this juvenile pied-billed grebe.

Pied-billed grebe

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.

Pied-billed grebes

Pied-billed grebes

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!


Watch the birdies!

My posts have been short on bird images lately, there’s been too many bugs and blooms to photograph. However, I was up early one morning, and got to the park where I walk weekdays earlier than I usually do, ad before many other people had arrived. I saw more birds that morning than I have been seeing in a week when I walk just a little later. The number of birds has increased lately as well, since there are fledglings of many species just leaving the nest. So this post will have more birds photos, but I have a few bugs and blooms to share as well.

I’ll start with a juvenile downy woodpecker that was having feather problems. It was trying to find insects in the branch it was perched on….

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

…but as he pecked away at the bark on the branch, some of its feathers popped out-of-place…

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

…and you can see that the woodpecker was not happy with its misbehaving feathers. After getting the feathers where they belonged, the woodpecker went back to looking for food, but then, the feathers on its neck popped out-of-place.

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

The woodpecker did some serious preening….

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

…but its feathers would not stay in place no matter how hard the woodpecker worked, so it closed its eyes, and sighed.

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

It’s tough to be a young bird with wayward feathers, here’s a juvenile male Baltimore oriole with the same problem.

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

He noticed me taking photos and shot me one of those “Do you mind, I’d like some privacy!” looks.

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Then he went back to preening.

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

The adult male Baltimore orioles were too busy looking for food for their young to do any preening.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

The next four images are for those people who have tried chasing birds around to get photos of the birds. It’s a female Baltimore oriole doing her best to stay out of my viewfinder.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

The only reason that I shot that one was that I’m trying to learn how make the new 300 mm prime lens do what the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) can do, pick birds out of the brush when the birds are trying to hide. The oriole figured out that I was still able to get photos of her where she was, so she changed tactics, and hid in the deep shade, where she thought that she would be safe. I think that she even laughed about it.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

But little did she know, I can get the bird just about anywhere.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

She tried hiding in a sunny area again.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

But, when she heard the shutter still clicking away, she decided to put an end to the game, and flew off out of range.

This flicker was much more cooperative, posing and allowing me to choose its good side.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

These next three images aren’t very good, but they show how a song sparrow eats mulberries, first spearing the berry…

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

…shaking the berry violently…

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

…then spearing it again.

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

Song sparrow eating a mulberry

I have a few more goose photos to add since I haven’t posted any goose photos for some time.

Canada goose

Canada goose

Canada goose diving

Canada goose diving

Canada goose

Canada goose

Canada goose

Canada goose

While the geese were playing, the mallards were engaged in their favorite activity, snoozing in the shade.

Mallards that forgot their sunscreen

Mallards that forgot their sunscreen

Time for some bugs and blooms.

Green bee and chicory

Green bee and chicory

Green bee and chicory

Green bee and chicory

Unidentiied red beetle

Unidentified red beetle

Daddy log legs

Daddy log legs

Unidentified beetle

Unidentified beetle

Now then, back to the birds.

American robin

American robin

This catbird had just been harassed by a red-winged blackbird, and looked a bit bewildered as to why another bird would chase him.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Seeing the blackbird again, the catbird decided to vamoose.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I got a few more fair images of a barn swallow.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

One of the readers of my blog told me that I couldn’t delete photos of red-winged blackbirds attacking hawks. So, I decided not to crop these to see if the approaching storm clouds would add a little more drama to these images.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

This next one is the pits, but it’s to remind me that the hawk had its fill of the blackbirds, and made a very quick manuever, quicker than I thought that a hawk could turn.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

And to wrap this post up, a happy squirrel.

Laughing fox squirrel

Happy fox squirrel

I’ve been looking out the window and watching the fireworks as I’ve typed this, which reminds me….

Happy Birthday America!!!!!!!!!!

I hope that every one is having a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!

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

 


Pounding them out

I hate to brag, but I’ve been getting some of the very best photos of my life the past two weeks. Most of that is due to my equipment, and that I’m getting a handle on how to use it. It’s not that every photo from the past few weeks are great, but I’m getting at least a couple of very good images that I am very proud of each day.

I’ve talked a lot about the new 300 mm L series prime lens, but the real gem in my kit is turning out to be something that I didn’t intend to purchase, the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter. While researching macro lenses, several constants turned up, one being that longer is better as far as focal lengths. That allows one to stay farther away from a subject such as an insect, without scaring it away.

I chose the Tokina 100 mm macro lens as it was relatively inexpensive for the image quality that it produces. The only knock on that lens in reviews was that it was too short, but you could overcome that by adding a tele-converter behind it. That led me to the Tamron extender, as it too is relatively inexpensive, and it functions correctly with all my lenses, both optically and electronically.

Seeing how good the Tamron extender is optically behind either the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the Tokina macro lens is what influenced my decision to purchase the 300 mm prime over a 400 mm prime. It was a wise decision in my opinion.

Fly

Fly

Fly

Fly

Yeah, I know, it’s only a fly, but it gives you an idea of what it’s like to have a 420 mm macro lens that can also turn out photos like these.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

One of these days, I’m going to have to use just the prime lens without the Tamron extender and see what it can do on small birds in flight. I lucked out with the barn swallow, usually, neither I nor the auto-focus of the prime lens are fast enough to follow smaller birds as they fly. I can’t keep the birds in the viewfinder as close as 420 mm gets me, and the extender does slow down the auto-focus to the point where it can’t track the smaller birds as quickly as they move.

Anyway, changing the subject, here’s a few turkeys from this past week.

Tom turkey

Tom turkey

Tom turkeys

Tom turkeys

And for Allen, who asked where the females were when I posted images of the males, here are the females.

Hen turkeys

Hen turkeys

I think that I have also figured out why the turkeys favor that area. We had a very rainy week here, and it rained overnight several times. If you’ve ever seen a turkey in the rain, you’d see that their feathers soak up water far more than the feathers of other species of birds do. Every time I saw the turkeys in that open area, it was just after rain had stopped. I believe that the turkeys come out into the open like that to dry off, if they stayed back in the weeds and brush as they normally do, their feathers would soaking up the water drops that remained on the vegetation. At least that’s my theory for now, as it is rare to see the turkeys out in the open like that when the weather has been dry.

I have two more photos that require slightly longer explanations, starting with this image, which was shot with the Tokina macro lens.

The storm approaches

The storm approaches

I had wanted to get a photo of the trees still in full sun with the very dark storm clouds as a background. I tried to capture that with the 300 mm prime and extender, but of course that set-up didn’t allow me to get very much of either the foliage or the sky in the frame. I started to walk away, but then it dawned on me that I had the 100 mm lens with me, which would allow me to get more of both sky and foliage in the frame. I’ll have to remember that when I’m trying to get a flock of birds or other subjects that require a wider view than I can get at 420 mm.

Sorry for the interruption, not that you knew that I had left.

I received my extra check yesterday from work, for all the sick days that I didn’t use. So, I checked the local camera store’s website to check on the availability of the 10-18 mm lens that I wanted to purchase. The website said that the lens was sold out, horrors! I called the store once they had opened, they had one of those lenses still in stock, so I asked them to hold it for me, and ran right over to pick it up before they sold that one.

I used the new lens on my walk, and let’s just say that I have a lot to learn about ultra-wide angle photography.

New 10-18 mm lens, 10 mm

New 10-18 mm lens, 10 mm

New 10-18 mm lens, 18 mm

New 10-18 mm lens, 18 mm

I’ll have a lot more to say about the new lens as I go, but my first impressions are that it is very good optically, extremely light, and that I’ll have a ton of fun learning how to use it. I see a little vignetting in the left corners of the photo from the polarizing filter at 10 mm, I don’t think that it will be a problem as I can get by without the filter if I absolutely need 10 mm, or crop the image slightly to remove the dark corners. I do wonder why the vignetting only shows up on the left side and not the right, just one of those things I guess.

Enough of that, back to the last week in photos. 😉

Where was I? Oh yeah, the second of the photos that needed a longer explanation.

Reflections

Reflections

I learned something from that photo, it’s the reflection of trees in a puddle in the road. If you noticed, the surface of the road is out of focus, but the reflection of the leaves is in focus. When I focused on the surface of the road, the leaves were out of focus.

Apparently, when shooting reflections like that, the distance at which the reflections are in focus is the total distance from the camera to the surface of the puddle plus the distance from the surface to the puddle to the leaves, and not just the distance from the camera to the surface of the puddle. When I had the surface of the road in focus, the reflections were out of focus. Who knew? I think that I remember reading about that phenomenon once a long time ago.

By the way, that was shot with the Tokina macro lens, as were the next few except for the birds,  not that it really makes a difference.

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Alfalfa flowers

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown with skipper

Unknown with skipper

From here on, the photos all came from the 300 mm prime lens. Other than that, I don’t think any more words are required for these.

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Juvenile mourning dove

Juvenile mourning dove

Juvenile mourning dove

Juvenile mourning dove

Water strider

Water strider

Bindweed

Bindweed

Unknown legume? that grows in marshes

Unknown legume? that grows in marshes

Red and green

Red and green

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Tiger lily

Tiger lily

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose with green bee

Wild rose with green bee

Wild rose with green bee

Wild rose with green bee

Grass flowers

Grass flowers

damselfly

damselfly

damselfly cropped

damselfly cropped

???

???

Elderberry flowers

Elderberry flowers

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Insect on pokeweed flower

Insect on pokeweed flower

The weather this coming weekend is forecast to be as close to perfect as it can be, cool, sunny, and with very little wind. So rather than prattle on and bore every one, I’m going to go to bed early, get up early tomorrow, and shoot hundreds of photos! Some of them may even be good enough to make it into a post or two. 😉

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

 


Finally caught up

It’s a Monday morning as I start this, I was up way too early, but the heat and humidity has been getting to me. Today is forecast to be the end of it, with cooler and drier air coming for tomorrow and right through the holiday weekend.

Part of me would love to head north for the weekend, but another even larger part doesn’t want to deal with the crowds and traffic on a three-day weekend. Besides, staying home will save me a few bucks that I can put towards the new 10-18 mm lens I’m planning on purchasing soon. I’m sure that I’ll find enough flowers, insects and birds to fill a few posts even if I do stay close to home.

I’ll probably return to the Hofma Preserve on one day to make another attempt at photographing the sedge wrens there. On one of the other days, I’ll get serious with my Tokina macro lens mounted on my tripod as it should be. And, I think that a day at Pickerel Lake is in order for the flowers and possibly birds there.

After my difficulties with the new 300 mm prime L series lens, I would say that overall, I’m very, very pleased with the images it produces. However, it isn’t a great lens for birding, it doesn’t do well at the distances where I photograph most birds. That’s okay, it makes a great lens for this time of the year when I’m shooting more insects and flowers than birds.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Damselfly eating a mosquito

Damselfly eating a mosquito

Damselfly eating a mosquito

Damselfly eating a mosquito

One thing about the 300 mm L series lens that I don’t think that I’ve mentioned, is that the image stabilization seems to draw a lot more power from the camera battery than any of my other lenses. Although, that could be because I use that lens differently than any of my other lenses. I hold the camera on subjects longer, and force the auto-focus into the servo mode for all the close-ups of flowers and insects. I hold on birds longer as well, as I tweak the focus after the auto-focus locks.

The IS is running the entire time that I hold the camera on a subject, and not only does it seem to draw more power, it is quite loud as well.

But, no matter what the reason, I can’t go a full week of using the 300 mm lens without charging the battery as I can with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) or the 70-200 mm L series lens.

Anyway, time for a few more photos so I can really be caught up.

I’ll start with a male house finch.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Which flew to another branch. I was holding the camera on him, waiting for him to turn so that the light would be better, when a female English sparrow popped her head up from within the spruce tree to see what was going on.

Male house finch and English sparrow

Male house finch and English sparrow

This next one is from the Tokina macro lens used handheld, and hasn’t been cropped at all.

Horsenettle

Horsenettle

An update on the witch’s broom.

Witches broom

Witches broom

I found a rather handsome looking beetle.

Beetle

Beetle

Beetle

Beetle

The next few are of flowers and insects that I found in the marshes of the Hofma Preserve while waiting for sedge wrens.

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

Unidentified marsh flower

Butterfly

Butterfly

I found this grasshopper on a leaf near home.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

But, when I tried for a side view, the hopper slipped over the side of the leaf to hide. I think that most of us probably believe that since insects are small, that they “see” small. That is, they see things in relation to their size the way that we see things in relation to our size. That’s wrong though, insects obviously see as much or more than we do, in order to spot potential predators, and to hide from them.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

These guys and gals are everywhere this year! Because of the weather the past two summers, I saw very few butterflies. This year, even after the long harsh winter that we had, I’ve been seeing more butterflies than the past two summers combined.

Skipper on knapweed

Skipper on knapweed

Seeing mallard ducklings, I was going for as good of a photo as I could get, and of course one of them decided to shake itself off just as I pressed the shutter release.

Mallard ducklings

Mallard ducklings

I think that I have a mental block when it comes to identifying flowers. I know that I have seen these common yellow roadside flowers in several blog posts by others, yet their name escapes me.

Unidentified common yellow flower whose name I can't rmember

Unidentified common yellow flower whose name I can’t remember

These next white flowers were tiny, this photo wasn’t cropped at all, shot with the 300 mm lens. I hope that I can find them again when I have the Tokina with me to get a better photo.

Tiny flowers

Tiny flowers

Damselfly

Damselfly

Fly

Fly

I tried all spring to get a good image of this next flower, it’s a shade loving plant from what I can tell. I finally found one in the sun for a good photo.

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified yellow flower

Buttercups?

Buttercups?

Fly

Fly

The next flower is another that I shot many photos of to finally get this one. I had to go down 1 1/3 EV to prevent the center of the flower from being blown out.

???

???

The next two came from the Tokina lens.

Unidentified berry flowers

Unidentified berry flowers

Spider

Spider

This one is courtesy of the 300 mm prime lens.

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan

As are the rest of the images in this post from here on.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Moth

Moth

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

This next photo isn’t very good, but I caught both of the meadowlarks taking a break from feeding their young in the same tree at the same time.

Eastern meadowlarks

Eastern meadowlarks

Common mullein

Common mullein

In one of my last posts I had photos of a young rabbit, here’s an adult.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

How the cottontail got its name.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

The mulberries are getting ripe, and normally the birds flock to the mulberry trees to feed on the berries, that’s not happening yet this year. But, this squirrel was making sure that the berries didn’t go to waste.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Curly dock

Curly dock

Well, I was caught up for a very short time. Since I began working on this post, young birds of several species have fledged, and they and their parents have been everywhere. It was also the end of the month, so I walked over to the office to pay my rent, and stopped off at one of the ponds nearby since I had taken my camera. I went crazy shooting photos of the geese there at the pond. And of course, more flowers have bloomed, so once again, I find myself with too many photos to sort through. That’s really bad timing, with a three-day weekend coming up, I’ll have images coming out of my ears again.

Oh, and by the way, the weather for this long weekend is looking like it will be close to perfect! The forecast is for a cool Canadian high pressure area to park over Michigan with sunny skies, pleasant temperatures, and low humidity. If that turns out to be true, I may end up with enough photos to last me into winter. 😉

I better stay away from the ponds around here.

Canada geese

Canada geese

Or I’ll end up with two years worth of photos. 😉

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

 


Getting along

It’s early (for me) on a Sunday morning as I try to get caught up with my postings. It’s been hot and muggy here all week, with on and off rain showers, and occasional thunder showers. My plan was to get a walk in early before it became too hot, but there’s another line of showers headed this way, so I’ll work on this until the rain moves past me.

After all the whining that I did about the long, cold winter we had here, I swore that I wouldn’t whine about the summer heat. I’ll stick to that, and whine about the humidity instead. 😉 It’s been like being in a sauna around here this past week, with high temperatures approaching 85 degrees (30 C), and we had over 4 inches (100 mm) of rain.

There were at least two days when it rained the entire time I was out walking, and another day or two when it sprinkled while I walked, but I came home dripping wet every day. If it wasn’t raining, I was sweating so much that it may as well have been raining.

Yesterday was the worst so far, my plan was to visit two small nature preserves near Grand Haven, Michigan in the morning, then spend the afternoon in the shade around Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park.

My first stop was the Hofma Nature Preserve, because there have been sedge wrens spotted there, and I need photos of them for the My Photo Life List project. The Hofma Nature Preserve is a small (100 acres or so) preserve just south of the city of Grand Haven. I heard the sedge wrens, along with marsh wrens, but despite my sitting near where one was singing as I baked in the sun for a couple of hours, I can’t say for sure that I ever saw one of the wrens.

The wrens stayed down in the vegetation, and while I did see flashes of brown in the area where I heard them singing, the brown flashes may have been swamp sparrows or other species of birds. I did shoot a few pictures of flowers and insects that will appear in a later post, but my only bird of the day was a swamp sparrow singing.

Swamp sparrow singing

Swamp sparrow singing

Because of the haze in the air, that photo isn’t as sharp as it should have been, so maybe it’s just as well that I never had a chance to photograph the wrens.

My second stop was the Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve, which is on the north shore of the Grand River where it flows into Lake Michigan. It’s another small preserve, but I thought that I’d get photos of purple martins there, and possibly other species as well.

It was cooler there when I parked my vehicle, the breeze, what little there was of it, coming off the cool waters of Lake Michigan felt good. But, I walked just a few hundred yards, gave up, and turned around. It was just too hot and steamy for me to trudge through the loose sand of sand dunes when the dunes blocked the breeze.

I saw the purple martins, but didn’t even try to photograph them, conditions were just too bad to expect that the images would have been good enough to use. I did shoot a barn swallow…

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

…and these plains puccoon….

Plains Puccoon, Lithospermum caroliniense

Plains Puccoon, Lithospermum caroliniense

 

Plains Puccoon, Lithospermum caroliniense

Plains Puccoon, Lithospermum caroliniense

I thought about shooting a few landscape shots of the beaches there, but conditions were too bad for them to have been any good.

I had planned on going to Lost Lake, but as I thought about it, I decided not to bother, as it was just too hot and steamy anywhere but right on the Lake Michigan beaches, and they were extremely crowded with all the other people escaping the heat. The haze from all the moisture in the air would have made any photos other than close-ups unusable anyway.

It wasn’t a wasted day though, I did find those two smaller preserves, and both are worth returning to when the weather is more suitable.  And, fighting the crowds in Grand Haven, I have decided not to fight the crowds over the Fourth of July weekend, I’ll stay closer to home, and avoid the traffic of a holiday weekend. There’s plenty of flowers to photograph around here, and a few birds as well.

So, the rest of this post will be of things that I saw this past week around here while I was walking, starting with the deer, turkey, and squirrel together as promised.

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Mom was keeping an eye on me as she was chewing her cud, the fawns were wandering around looking for goodies to munch, as was the squirrel, while the turkey did some preening.

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

At one point, the turkey decided to stretch its wings, scaring the crap out of one of the fawns and the squirrel.

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

After that, mom kept an eye on the turkey as much as she did me.

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail doe, fawns, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail deer often give birth to twin fawns, when they do, they are most often one of each sex. I’m not positive, but this looks like a male to me, I’ll call him junior, and after the turkey scared him, he gave the turkey a nasty look…

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

…then, looked around for more goodies to munch.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Mom and sis kept a close eye on junior.

Whitetail doe and fawn

Whitetail doe and fawn

Then, mom decided it was time to head back into cover, with sis following close at her heels.

Whitetail doe and fawns

Whitetail doe and fawns

Junior had found something that must have tasted really good.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

But, one soft bleat from mom, and he decided that minding mom was more important than food.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Next up are the photos of the blue jays. I spotted this one sitting on the fence.

Blue jay

Blue jay

The jay flew down to snatch an earthworm.

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

Then, struck a couple of poses for me.

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

The squeamish may want to look away as the next few photos show the jay eating the worm.

Blue jay

Blue jay

The worm fought back valiantly…

Blue jay

Blue jay

..but the worm was soon consumed.

Blue jay

Blue jay

My image of the blue jay flying may not have been good, but I did catch it hopping around while looking for more food.

Blue jay

Blue jay

The jay flew back up to the fence where it was joined by first one of its young…

Blue jays

Blue jays

…then a second offspring.

Blue jays

Blue jays

I was hoping to get photos of the jay feeding its young, but a passing jogger caused them to move back into the woods.

I hate to end this with bad photos, but I may as well use these up, a male Baltimore oriole in action.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

The oriole spotted an insect on nearby vegetation, and hovered while plucking the bug.

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Then, spotting an even better catch, the oriole strapped on the jet-pack….

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

…to catch a caterpillar before it could hide.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Oh what the heck, I’ll throw in two photos of a young cottontail rabbit to end this post. If I can’t end it with a great photo, I may as well end it with a cute one.

Young Cottontail rabbit

Young Cottontail rabbit

Young Cottontail rabbit

Young Cottontail rabbit

I still have a few photos left over, mostly flowers and insects, but I’m not sure how many of them will end up getting put into a post other than flowers I saw at the Hofma Preserve, since they are not flowers that I see everyday. The same is true of the insects, they are quite common, but I do have images of a damselfly trying to eat a mosquito, and I’m sure that I know who every one will be rooting for in that battle. 😉

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

 


Still trying to catch up, Part II

I’m finding it very hard to get caught up, even though it rained the entire time I was walking on two days, and so I saved just a couple of photos from those days combined. It’s summer in west Michigan, and there are so many flowers in bloom…

Yellow day lily

Yellow day lily

…insects to photograph…

Spider with its meal

Spider with its meal

…birds…

American crows

American crows

…amphibians…

Toad

Toad

…and mammals…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…that it’s hard for me not to go crazy shooting too many photos every day.

I’m trying to cut back on the photos, and the frequency of my posts, I really am. So I have been deleting most of the photos of the same old same old, like red-winged blackbirds attacking hawks.

Red-winged blackbirds attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbirds attacking a red-tailed hawk

But those photos seem to be the favorites of some of the readers of my blog.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve been testing my short lenses out, here’s a few photos taken with the 15-85 mm lens.

Sumac flowers

Sumac flowers

Sumac flowers

Sumac flowers

Yellow moth mullein

Yellow moth mullein

Crown vetch

Crown vetch

Unknown not cropped

Unknown not cropped

Unknown cropped

Unknown cropped

Unknown not cropped

Unknown not cropped

Unknown cropped

Unknown cropped

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

And here’s a few from the Tokina macro lens shot handheld.

Yarrow

Yarrow

Sumac

Sumac

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Motherwort

Motherwort

Fleabane

Fleabane

Fleabane

Fleabane

A couple of quick notes.

The 15-85 mm lens is a fine lens, but it can’t quite match the image quality that I get from either the 300 mm prime or Tokina macro lens, which is no surprise. Full size, the images look great, but you can see that the quality drops off when I crop the images.

The Tokina macro lens really belongs on a tripod for true macro photography to get the best results from it, but, I can make do shooting handheld if I have to.

I really need to change my ways. I typically shoot what I see exactly how I saw it at the time. But, by doing that, I often get things in the frame that distract from the subject that I’m going for. That’s apparent in the photo of the bird’s foot trefoil, I should have moved the buds in the top of the photo out of the way before I shot that photo.

So the past few days, I have been paying more attention to everything that would appear in a photo, and trying to get better photos by moving things around, or even trimming grasses or other plants out of the way.

Here’s a few more from the Tokina macro lens.

Dianthus

Dianthus

Black eyed Susan

Black eyed Susan

Ground ivy?

Ground ivy?

Skipper on sulfur cinquefoil

Skipper on sulfur cinquefoil

Unknown berry flowers

Unknown berry flowers

Tiny beetles on unknown berry flowers

Tiny beetles on unknown berry flowers

Tiny beetles on unknown berry flowers

Tiny beetles on unknown berry flowers

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Heal all

Heal all

Heal all

Heal all

St. John's wort

St. John’s wort

Like I said, I should be using the tripod more, but it’s too time consuming while on my daily walks to do so. The tripod sets up quickly, but I have to set everything that I’m carrying down, set the tripod up, mount the camera, shoot the photos, then reverse the procedure for every new flower that I see. Maybe if I did it more often I’d get quicker at it, but I doubt it. I will be using the tripod more on weekends when time isn’t a factor.

I have two more photos from the Tokina which really illustrate the need for a tripod. These yellow flowers are very small, the entire cluster of flowers is about the size of a pencil eraser. This is as close as I could get handheld with just the Tokina lens.

Unknown

Unknown

I put the Tamron 1.4 X extender behind the Tokina for this photo.

Unknown

Unknown

Even though I was laying down, I couldn’t hold steady enough to get a really sharp image of the flowers. Still, that isn’t too bad considering how small each individual flower is. Those photos weren’t cropped at all, I was trying to see just how large I could make the flowers appear without resorting to cropping.

I would love to have the time to really learn macro photography, but that’s not going to happen right away. With my new cameras and lenses, it’s like an entirely new world to me out there, and I want to get great photos of everything that there is to photograph. And with so many things to see….

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

Hover fly?

Hover fly?

Fly on milkweed

Fly on milkweed

Eastern kingbird in flight

Eastern kingbird in flight

…I don’t know when I’m going to have the time to get around to learning macro photography. 😉

Making things worse is that I keep finding and shooting things that I find very interesting, like a doe, her fawns, a turkey, and a fox squirrel hanging out together.

Whitetail deer, turkey, and fox squirrel

Whitetail deer, turkey, and fox squirrel

You just have to know that I didn’t shoot just one photo of this, or of a blue jay and its young.

Blue jays

Blue jays

…so you know that there will be more photos of these coming soon.

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

 


Still trying to catch up, Part I

Well, I still find myself a week behind and trying to catch up with my photos, while trying not to post everyday. That’s been made worse, as over this past weekend, I brought the second camera body and one of my shorter lenses each day. Give me two cameras and I take twice as many photos. 😉

The photos from this weekend won’t appear here, but I’m going to relay what I found out while it’s still fresh in my mind.

The EF S 15-85 mm lens is a fine lens, it even comes close to being useful for macro photography, however, it can’t compete with either the 300 mm prime lens or the Tokina 100 mm macro lens as far as sharpness when shooting very small subjects. Of course, I’m being overly picky, and if the 15-85 mm lens was the only one that I had for macro photography, I’d be happy with it. I would still use it in a pinch if I had to, but with two other lenses better suited for such photos, I’ll reserve the 15-85 mm lens for landscapes, which it does a superb job of.

That said, I could see myself taking the 15-85 mm lens along with me on days when I use the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) for wildlife because of the shorter lens’ versatility. The 15-85 mm will do both landscapes and a credible job of macros if any such photo ops come up.

The Tokina 100 mm macro lens is as sharp or sharper than the 300 mm prime lens. I used it handheld on Sunday, which really isn’t the way to get the best out of it, but it was too hot and muggy for me to lug around my tripod. Besides, I was walking a busy trail, and using a tripod wasn’t a wise thing to do. I was still able to get subjects full frame that I had to crop down images shot with the 300 mm prime to get to the same size in the image shot with the Tokina. On top of that, because of the shorter working range with the Tokina, inches rather than feet with the 300 mm prime, it opens up more possibilities as far as composing the photos that I shoot.

I did have problems getting the exposure correct with the Tokina, part of that was me, I didn’t believe the LCD display when I checked my images. I think that another part of the problem was one of those obscure camera settings.

The engineers at Canon are fully aware of the short comings of some of their lenses. So, they program their lenses and cameras to compensate for that. For example, when I use the 15-85 mm lens, the camera body “knows” that and adjusts the way that it records images to make the images look better than they would if the compensations for that lens weren’t programmed in. I had that setting set wrong. The engineers at Canon don’t program their bodies to improve the images shot with another brand of lens. Gee, I wonder why? 😉

One more thing about the Tokina, and possibly the 300 mm prime lens. They may be too sharp, with too much color saturation, and other things as far as image quality for the camera settings that I am currently using. Some of you may remember that the Canon lets me store three sets of offsets pertaining to image quality. At first, I was dialing in one set of offsets for each lens I owned at the time, but by the end of the summer, I found that all three lenses did well with the same settings. Those are all zoom lenses. I then set the offsets for good light/poor light, and that has worked well.

However, some of the images that I’ve shot lately using the two prime lenses are telling me that I should back the camera body’s compensations for those two lenses, some of my photos have actually been too sharp, the colors too dense, and so on. Here’s an example from the 300 mm prime, and remember that this image has been reduced in quality for posting here.

Unknown

Unknown

To me, that photo looks faked, or if it had been “juiced” in post-processing. It wasn’t, it was “juiced” in the camera body when it was recorded. I think that I will back off the compensations for the two prime lenses, and that I’ll end up with settings for my zoom lenses, another for my prime lenses, and a poor light setting for the zoom lenses. For the prime lenses in poor light, I’ll use the good light setting for the zoom lenses, at least for now.

Anyway, the Tokina macro lens and the Canon 300 mm prime make an awesome one-two punch for flowers, insects and other small subjects. That’s like the Beast and the Canon 300 mm prime making a great one-two punch for birding and wildlife.

And, the reason I’m putting this in this post is so that I remember what I’ve done in case the setting changes I make don’t work. 😉

Now then, for the old photos.

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

Hairy vetch

Hairy vetch

St. John's wort

St. John’s wort

After my bad photo of a woodchuck in my last post, here’s a better one.

IMG_4686

Woodchuck

A cedar waxwing exercising its feathers.

Cedar waxwing fluffed

Cedar waxwing fluffed

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Iris slightly overexposed with insect

Iris slightly overexposed with insect

Iris slightly correctly exposed with out insect

Iris correctly exposed with out insect

Catalpa

Catalpa

Catalpa and bumblebee

Catalpa and bumblebee

Peony

Peony

I know that I shouldn’t post any more squirrel photos, but they are such clowns that I can’t help myself.

Muddy fox squirrel

Muddy fox squirrel

Muddy fox squirrel

Muddy fox squirrel

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

This male cardinal was in a singing war with another nearby male, I wish the lighting had been better for this one.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

I was wrong about the meadowlarks not nesting here this year, it may be due to the weather that they didn’t act the same as last year. Then, a flock of meadowlarks showed up and stuck around for a week or more, with the males singing daily as they courted the females.

This year, the flock showed up, and only stayed a day or two, with very little singing. I don’t know if the same pair is nesting here again this year, maybe because of the long winter we had, once they arrived, they did away with the long courtship, and got right to nesting. And, I do where their nest is, but you won’t see any young meadowlark photos, I avoid nesting birds.

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

You may see a few more than the three photos of motherwort that I’m posting here today, as I am determined to get a good close-up of how complicated each of the small flowers are.

Motherwort

Motherwort

Motherwort

Motherwort

Motherwort

Motherwort

Chicory

Chicory

Beardtongue

Beardtongue

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

From the bad photos too good not to post file. I was going to try for a photo of the reflections on the water, but a mallard photo-bombed me as I was about to press the shutter release.

Female mallard

Female mallard

She did her best to splash me. I was only a few feet from her, so I couldn’t keep her in focus or freeze the action.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Then she gave me that innocent ” What did I do” look.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Then, as if to make up for ruining my shot of the reflections, she moved a short distance away where I could get all of her in the frame to dry her wings. That was nice of her, as I like these next two, if only the leaves didn’t intrude on the left.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Bindweed

Bindweed

I found out that there are really two woodchucks that have moved into the burrow near the creek.

Woodchuck 1

Woodchuck 1

Woodchuck 2

Woodchuck 2

Bumblebee on unknown

Bumblebee on unknown

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Sedge or grass??

Sedge or grass??

Chipping sparrow in the rain

Chipping sparrow in the rain

Red and green

Red and green

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Well, I’m caught up to this last weekend’s photos, so I guess that it’s time to stick a fork in this post, it’s done.

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