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

Posts tagged “Wildflowers

Having trouble getting started

I’m having trouble getting started with this post at the present time, I could do a post about GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), which I thought that I had conquered. But, both Canon and Nikon have recently introduced full frame mirrorless cameras which will probably be the future of digital photography. I could explain why that is, and why I’m interested, but I don’t think that I will, at least not now.

I could do a post on why it’s hard for me to post average photos of common subjects…

Red-eyed vireo

…since I shot the image of the dragonfly from my last post, and I’ve been expanding my horizons this summer in shooting night photos, the Milky Way, and the other subjects that I’ve been shooting. But, I won’t, as that leads me back to photo gear and techniques, such as how my images of birds in flight…

Juvenile tree swallow in flight

 

Great blue heron in flight

…have improved to the point that I’m now proud of the images of them that I shoot far more often than not.

Or, I could brag about how much my macro images have improved lately…

Grasshopper

 

Water strider

…but I don’t want to go down that road either.

I could do a post on the ethics of baiting wildlife, and whether it’s a violation of my own ethics if I see that birds…

Male northern cardinal molting

 

Male northern cardinal molting

 

White-breasted nuthatch

 

White-breasted nuthatch

…or other wildlife comes to eat what others have left for them…

Red squirrel

…when I could just post this photo…

White-breasted nuthatch

…and not mention that I got that photo by standing near food that some one else had left to attract the bird in the photo.

In some ways, what I did in standing near the pile of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and other seeds on the ground isn’t much different from when I stand near a bush covered with berries that I see birds eating and photograph the birds as they come to eat the berries. The only difference is that the berries are a natural source of food that I take advantage of, rather than putting the food out myself.

I could do a detailed description of Huff Park, the park that I’ve gone to the past two weeks…

Sign for Huff Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan

…but I think that the signs says everything that I would have to say about the park.

Wait, that’s not true, I do have something to say about this park. It’s another of the postage stamp sized parks that attracts a wide variety of migrating birds that use the park during their journeys, both north in the spring, and south in the fall. This park, like many of the other smaller parks I’ve been visiting lately, provide the birds with food and cover, places for them to rest and refuel within the limits of Michigan’s second largest city.

I used to go to the largest parks and other public areas that there were in the area where I live, thinking that getting away from other people was the key to finding birds to photograph, and while I do see a few birds in large parks, they are spread out more, and harder to find. These small parks, such as Huff Park, The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and the East Grand River Park in Grand Haven, concentrate the birds in small areas, making them easier to find and photograph. Not only that, I would think that these small oasis parks are very important to the survival of many of the migrating birds that depend on these parks during migration.

That leads me to another observation that I’ve made recently, when I go to a large park, the birds are spread out over wide areas, and I see only one or two at a time. However, in the smaller parks, the birds form large mixed flocks that stay together as they move though the park as they search for food. I wonder why that is? Not that I have an answer, but it’s something that I hope to remember to ask Brian Johnson the next time that I bump into him.

Now, more than ever, I wish that I had been able to photograph more of the birds that I saw in Huff Park than I was able to.

Female northern cardinal

I missed more birds than I was able to get photos of.

Eastern wood-pewee

And for this next one, I threw the camera to my eye, hit the auto-focus button and shutter release at almost the same time, hoping that the camera would get a focus on the bird before it moved on me yet again.

Magnolia warbler

Just as on the trail to Lost Lake in Muskegon last week, I found flickers in flocks as they migrate south.

Northern Flicker

While the year round resident downy woodpeckers were nearby, but they were also there in small flocks mixed in the overall larger mixed flocks of birds.

Male downy woodpecker

Some of it makes sense to me, when I think about it. I can see why flycatchers such as the pewee and a few eastern Phoebe that I wasn’t able to get photos of, would hang around near the warblers, vireos, and other smaller birds, to pick off the flying insects stirred up by the smaller birds as they worked through the vegetation looking for their own preferred insects to eat.

I’m guessing that the flickers were in small family flocks, maybe several families of them migrating together, and they are vocal birds, often calling to one another as they search for food, or in the case last week while on the Lost Lake trail, alerting the others to the Cooper’s hawk that was hunting the flickers and other small birds.

Maybe I’m on to something here. In large parks, the birds are able to spread out more, making it harder for potential predators…

Domestic cat

…to locate them. In a small park, where they are already concentrated in a small area to begin with, and therefore easier for predators to find them, maybe it’s safer for the birds to all stick together in even tighter flocks so that they can warn the others in the flock of predators, or receive the warnings from the others.

Of course, that theory may be all wrong, but it’s something for me to continue to observe this fall as the birds migrate south.

That reminds me, I have another “mystery” that I’d love to be able to solve. It concerns this juvenile bald eagle…

Juvenile bald eagle carrying a fish

…where it catches fish, and where it goes to eat them. This is the third time that I’ve seen this juvenile eagle carrying fish while flying over the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve from south to north. I have to wonder why it travels so far to eat the fish that it catches, since it’s a juvenile, and given the time of year that it is, it can’t be carrying the fish back to  its nest to feed its young. I’d love to find out where it does its fishing, it can’t be very far from the preserve from the lay of the land and water in that area. There are also trees and manmade objects that the eagle could use as a perch to land and eat the fish that it catches off to the south of the preserve, so I don’t understand why it travels so far and burns so much energy carrying the fish as far as it does. It’s not as if eagles share food, quite the contrary, they often steal food from other eagles and other predators when they can. Maybe that’s why this eagle travels as far as it does, it has a spot where it feels safe to perch and eat its meal in peace, and not have to fight off other eagles trying to steal the meal it worked so hard for.

It could also be that the eagle doesn’t want to alert any other passing eagles to the fishing spot that it’s found if it were to perch nearer to where it had caught the fish it was carrying. If another eagle flying past saw this one eating its meal nearby, the other eagle may encroach on this one’s favorite fishing hole. So, maybe as I typed this out, I’ve explained the mystery, but I’d still love to learn where this eagle does its fishing in hopes that I’d be able to photograph it in action.

I suppose that the poor photo of the eagle carrying its meal should be my motivation to continue to shoot photos such as that, as they prompt me to think about the behavior of the subjects of such photographs, and I try to figure out why the subject is doing what it’s doing.

Sometimes, that’s easy.

Jumping spider with its meal

I did try to shoot a better photo from close to the same angle, but the vegetation made that impossible.

Jumping spider with its meal

So, I had to settle for this.

Jumping spider with its meal

I also wish that I’d been able to switch to my macro lens and get closer to the spider, but it was already trying to move away from me, dragging the grasshopper with it since it didn’t want to lose its meal. On the other hand, this garden spider was too busy wrapping its latest victim in its web as I shot this photo.

Garden spider and its meal

That’s one of the many times that I should have switched to shoot a video of the spider as it used its hind legs to wrap the grasshopper in its web. But, handholding the camera, the 100-400 mm lens, and the 1.4 X tele-converter would have resulted in such a poor video because of how shaky it would have been that I didn’t even try to shoot a video.

Come to think of it, I have another mystery to solve, and I don’t think that I’ll be able to do that on my own.

The mystery of the blue leaves

I took that wide shot after I had removed some of the other foliage from around these leaves…

The mystery of the blue leaves

…to get the best possible view, and best possible photo of them.

It looked to me as if these leaves had turned blue naturally, and weren’t a result of human interference, such as paint. I suppose that the minerals in the soil could be the reason that these leaves turned blue, but I’m not an expert on plants. I can’t even identify the species of plant that this is, which is the reason that I included the wider shot, in hopes that some one would be able to tell me what this plant is, and possibly, why its leaves would turn that shade of blue.

Anyway, here are a few more of the photos that I shot this last week.

Tickseed sunflower?

 

Bumblebee on the same species of flower

Sometimes, I prefer a wider shot that I shoot…

Joe Pye weed

…over images that I shoot with the macro lens.

Joe Pye weed

I wonder why all spiders seem to hang upside down on their webs, and also, why I seldom see them in a position where I can shoot the top of them.

Orb weaver spider

I really meant to pay more attention to the leaves of this next flower so that I’d have a chance of identifying it, but I was distracted by the spider shown above and forgot to shoot a photo of the leaves.

One of the smartweed? Possibly lady’s thumb?

My skill level when it comes to identifying flowers is close to zero, I believe that this next flower is in the aster family, and not the daisy family, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn otherwise.

White aster?

This next one is just a wider photo showing some of the colors and textures that I saw and enjoyed, even if the photo doesn’t do justice to the scene.

Fall colors and textures

And finally, one of my favorite wildflowers which is coming to the end of its blooming period as fall approaches.

Chicory

Well, I have a good many thoughts running through my head right now, things that I have to sort out as I go. I’ve already had another two days off from work since I began this post, and I just barely managed to shoot enough photos for another post, maybe. They were somewhat disappointing days, made worse by the swarms of mosquitoes everywhere I went during those two days. We received over a foot of rain over a two-week period not long ago, which as I explained in a previous post, has made finding trails dry enough to walk harder to do. And with all the standing water left from the rain, it’s going to be a bad fall as far as the skeeters, at least until it dries out here.

Enough of that, time for me to work on my plans for going up north in a few weeks to photograph the fall colors there, and to begin another post.

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

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What all the talk leads to

At  the end of my last post, I said that I had shot one of the best images that I’ve ever taken, so here it is.

Unidentified dragonfly

Although, some people may prefer this slightly brighter version a little more.

Unidentified dragonfly

Those aren’t the same image with the second one brightened a bit, you can tell that by the background as the cattails in the shade moved in the wind between the images.

Either version is what I’ve been trying to accomplish as far as improving my photography skills to get the best possible images that I can. In truth, all it takes is luck, and shooting 750 photos of dragonflies to this point since I’ve been adding keywords to my photos in Lightroom. I had followed several of this species of dragonfly around on that day, shooting many photos that were okay…

Unidentified dragonfly

…but didn’t have the dramatic lighting of the first two. I knew that I was getting something special as I viewed the dragonfly through the viewfinder, and for once, I didn’t blow my chance. The dragonfly was in a good position, well away from the background vegetation. The late afternoon sun low in the sky raked the dragonfly from the side, but was diffused enough not to cast harsh shadows. The only thing that I would have changed if I could have, is that I wish that it had been facing towards me a little more than it was.

Sorry, this will be the camera talk part of this post.

While using the 7D Mk II, I’ve been exposing to the right, that is, setting the exposure to as bright as I could get it without blowing out the highlights. I’ve had to do that to prevent getting too much noise in the images that I’ve shot with that camera. But, the 5D Mk IV is completely different, even though the first two images were shot at ISO 8000, there wasn’t much noise in them to remove in Lightroom, although I have gone back and cleaned those images up a bit since the versions that you see here.

Using the 7D is like shooting with color print film, I’ve gotten the best results over-exposing slightly, from 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop. Soon after I began using the 5D, I’ve been setting the exposure as I would for color slide film, going 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop lower in exposure to get the color saturation and fine details in the images I shoot with the 5D. Since my favorite film back in the old days was Kodachrome slide film, using the 5D is a natural to me.

I’ve since gone a little lower with the exposure when shooting with the 7D, and that helps a little as far as color saturation and capturing fine details, but that camera still requires a brighter exposure setting than the 5D to prevent excess noise in my images.

The 5D Mk IV is spoiling me, in so many ways. I can use all the focus points while using the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X tele-converter, while I’m limited to just the single center focus point with the same lens set-up on the 7D. I’ll try to move the focus point when using the 7D, or wonder why all the focus points don’t become active when I try to set the camera that way, and it takes me a few seconds to remember the differences between the two cameras.

Then there’s the better low-light performance of the 5D…

Whitetail family, sort of

…these were shot at ISO 25600…

Whitetail doe

…with no noise reduction other than what the camera itself does.

I wanted to get all three deer in the frame at once, but I wasn’t able to, as I also wanted to show that the closest fawn to me still has its spots. It was already turning to run off when I shot the first photo, with the other fawn following right behind it. Their mother stuck around for that last photo though, before she took off also. The 7D Mk II won’t even go that high for the ISO setting unless I enable the extended range for the ISO settings, and the amount of noise I’d get would be terrible. These aren’t bad at all considering how low the light was when I shot them.

Anyway, getting the image of the dragonfly that I did came at a good time for me. Since I’ve been expanding the range of subjects that I photograph, such as night photography in town, the Milky Way, and working on better macro images…

Unidentified orange mushroom

 

Violet webcap, Cortinarius violaceus?

…I haven’t been paying as much attention to birds…

Male northern cardinal molting

…or mammals…

Mosquito going after a squirrel that had stolen some one’s cookie

…as I should be.

I’ve been chasing great light…

Monarch butterfly

…or trying to be more artistic…

Damselfly and cattails

…although I think that the way that I framed that last shot to get the colors of the cattails and the composition the way that I did actually works to hide the damselfly. That’s why I continue to plug away with my photography, learning with each photo I shoot.

I was sitting on a bench taking a break, trying to cool down on a hot day, when I saw the damselfly. Rather than jump into action immediately, putting the focus point on the damselfly’s eye and firing away as I’ve done in the past, I sat there for a few minutes looking over the entire scene. I liked the colors of the cattails and the positions of the individual leaves, and the light, so I thought about ways I could incorporate them in my image when I shot it. I may have done too good of a job though, as the cattails distract the eye from the damselfly.

I did too much of the opposite on the previous day while at Lost Lake working on macro photos, as I walked to the observation deck to drop my un-needed photo gear, and after a quick stroll around the area, I found many of the subjects that I wanted to photograph. Then, I returned to the observation deck, got the macro set-up ready, and practically raced from subject to subject, checking them off from the mental list that I had made. That’s why many of the photos aren’t what I wanted…

Jelly fungus?

 

Unidentified fungal object

…I was in too much of a hurry to “complete a task”, rather than take the time to think about each image…

Puffball

…and get the best possible image of each subject.

I didn’t have to hurry, these things weren’t going anywhere, but I did. I only slowed down when I saw something that interested me that I hadn’t noticed before when I did my walk around the area.

Unidentified orange fungi

When I saw these, I noticed that the tips of them seemed to be different…

Unidentified orange fungi

…so I shot many photos of them.

Unidentified orange fungi

I thought that these were a species of coral fungi just beginning to grow, but now I don’t think so. In researching one of the subjects in another of my photos, I came across a website that may have provided me with the proper species name for these, but as I was researching something else at the time, I didn’t note the species or website that I found these on, silly me, again.

There are times when I see something that interest me, and after I’ve photographed it, I almost wish that I hadn’t. This has to be one of the ugliest, most menacing insects I’ve ever seen…

Ugly, menacing insect

…no matter what angle I shot it at.

Ugly, menacing insect

I’d hate to be bitten by that thing, whatever it was!

Anyway, even as I was rushing around shooting the macros and close-ups during my time at Lost Lake…

Partridge berry and plant?

…I was telling myself to slow down to get the best photo I could…

Unidentified fungal object

…but at the same time…

Unidentified fungal objects

….I had noted so many things that I wanted to shoot…

Unidentified fungal object

….that I wanted to make sure that I got to them…

Unidentified fungal object

…before I’d forgotten where they were.

Unidentified fungal object

Now it occurs to me that I should make use of a notebook that I purchased, but seldom use. I should have drawn a rough sketch of the area, and marked on the sketch where the things were that I wanted to shoot. That way, I wouldn’t have had to rely on my sometimes faulty memory to locate those things once I’m ready to begin shooting them. And, I know better than to carry the camera with me as I look for small subjects to photograph, as I would have missed most of these things if I had done that.

Most of the macros from my excursion to Lost Lake were shot in a very small area, perhaps 50 feet in diameter around the observation deck at the lake. In a way, I was overwhelmed by the possibilities, as some of the things I saw I did shoot photos of, but I’m not going to post them. I have a feeling that when it comes to macro photography, that this won’t be the only time that there are more subjects to photograph than I can remember if I scout first, and shoot later.

In my defense, I was also experimenting with the macro lighting set-up that I showed in my last post, some of the time that I should have been thinking about the best way to shoot some of these subjects was taken up by my thinking of how I could improve the lighting rig for in the future.

After the macro excursion on Thursday, I didn’t take my macro lens with me as I walked the local park on Friday, but I should have. I meant the Friday trip as a day of birding, staying in practice chasing small birds in the brush.

Red-bellied woodpecker

 

Great crested flycatcher

 

Eastern bluebird

 

Black-capped chickadee calling

 

Nashville warbler

I missed more birds than I was able to get, because it has been a while since I’ve chased them around to any degree. What I actually mean by chasing the birds around is usually standing in one spot waiting until I see a bird, then moving as little as possible to get a clear view of them. Most of the time on Friday, the birds had moved before I could get them in the viewfinder and in focus to shoot a photo of them. It didn’t help that my movements were limited because I was on the newly rebuilt boardwalk over the marsh at the park I was at.

For the record, I went to Huff Park in northeast Grand Rapids, very close to where I grew up as a kid. I’ve been there a couple of times in the past, but I quit going there because the boardwalk was falling apart, and if I remember right, part of it was closed during my last visit. The entire boardwalk has been replaced now, so I think that I’ll be going there one or two days a month this fall. It’s much closer to home than Muskegon, and it does attract a wide variety of migrating birds.

I wasn’t going to post this, it was a test of the new 24-70 mm lens, but it does show the marsh there at Huff Park.

The marsh at Huff Park, Grand Rapids, MI.

The birds are generally found around the edges of the marsh, and there’s a trail all the way around the marsh. Much of the trail is the raised boardwalk which does limit my ability to move around to get the best view of the birds, but I think that it will be worth it, time will tell.

 

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


Needs refinement

Before I get to this week’s photos, I have a few leftover from last week to use up.

Caspian tern yawning

I’m not going to add my commentary to these…

Pickerel weed flowers

…other than to say…

Arrowhead flowers

…that I dissect every photo that I shoot…

Ceiling of the blockhouse at Muskegon State Park

…and think of ways that I could improve it…

Bumblebee on purple loosestrife

…if I were given the chance…

Caspian terns

…to shoot the same subject…

Caspian terns

…under the same conditions…

Caspian tern

…which seldom happens.

Anyway, this week, I returned to Lost Lake when the light was better, and I had concocted a rather ugly and cheesy way to hold my flash unit when using my macro lens.

It works well for insects…

Wasp-like insect on goldenrod flowers

…and reasonably well on flowers…

Purple gerardia

 

Purple gerardia

…but not so well with some fungi…

Unidentified purple fungi

…because I can’t always position the flash at the correct angle for the subject.

Here’s a photo of the rig that I cobbled together.

Macro lighting rig

You can see that the flash fires down and towards the subject slightly when I use it, not shown is the piece of tissue paper I use to diffuse the light from the flash unit.

One downside to using that rig is that it is heavy, I definitely have to use both hands to hold the camera with the flash attached. That means that I don’t have a hand free to hold the subject in the perfect position when it’s needed.

Unidentified orchids

And, after 10 inches of rain in three days, everything was still very wet, and I didn’t enjoy crawling around on the ground getting wetter with every move that I made. So, some of my images aren’t quite what I had in mind when I thought about them in advance.

Unidentified orchids

Parts of the trail to Lost Lake were under water left from the storms earlier this week, and I had to do some bushwhacking to get back to the lake, but it was worth it.

Another unidentified flower

I need to work on the macro lighting rig and refine it. The cheap plate that attached the rig to the camera is too flexible, and I can’t tighten it enough so that everything stays in place all the time. The black flexible stand works well enough, although it doesn’t offer as much range of motion as I had hoped, and it’s very heavy. It does hold the flash unit in place though, and that’s what counts.

It takes even more light that I anticipated to shoot very good macro photos, in the deep shade where I found a few examples of fungi growing after the recent rain…

Oyster mushrooms

…I had to boost the ISO all the way to 6400 even when I used the flash unit. And even then, the way that the flash is pointed on my homemade rig…

Yet another unidentified fungi

…the stems of some subjects were in the deep shade caused by the angle of the flash unit.

I had planned on bringing the LED light that I have with me, but it wouldn’t fit in the backpack that I used to carry my gear in back to Lost Lake. The LED light would have helped to kill the shadows caused by the flash enough to make these better images, but since I wasn’t able to test it, I’m not sure.

If I had used a tripod, things would have been better, although the tripod that I have wouldn’t have worked as close to the subject that I have to be for macro photos, or as close to the ground as fungi are. And, I’d rather not purchase (and carry) yet another specialty tripod, one best suited for macro photography.

The lone fungi mini-scape

That was shot with the 24-70 mm lens as a test of sorts, I like the lone brightly colored fungi against the bright green moss, if I could have gotten lower, it would have been even better. But to do that, I’d have to have dug a hole to lower the camera down into. 😉

I don’t want this to be all talk of camera gear, but it’s hard not to, because this trip was another test of sorts.

This excursion was all about macro photography, although I did carry the 100-400 mm lens in case I saw birds, which I did.

Olive sided flycatcher

And, that set-up works well for close-ups as well…

Unidentified coral fungi

…on this day, it worked better than my macro lens on the 5D.

Unidentified coral fungi

I also carried the 100 mm macro lens, of course, and the new 24-70 mm lens, flash unit, and a few other accessories, like the set of extension tubes to go behind the macro lens.. I packed them all but the birding set-up in the free backpack that I received a few months ago, the bad part was that the free backpack didn’t hold all that I wanted to bring, and it’s very inconvenient to use. The 5D with the 100 mm macro lens filled the top compartment, everything else went into the lower compartment. That meant overtime that I wanted to shoot a macro, I’d have to take the backpack off, remove the camera from the top compartment, then move the backpack around to access the lower compartment for the required accessories. I had to reverse all of that to move to the next location. By the way, the lower compartment has not only a separate zippered cover, but extra material and straps that have to be packed into the compartment to close it again, a royal pain.

The good news was that with just about everything that I needed but the LED light, the backpack was light enough that I could have easily gone much farther than the mile that it is to Lost Lake, plus the mile for the return trip, even with having to detour around the flooded sections of the trail. In fact, I could have easily carried the 16-35 mm lens with me as well, and possibly the 70-200 mm lens also. In comparison to the backpack that I have filled with my crop sensor camera gear, the full frame sensor lenses seem to be much lighter.

I mentioned that I had brought the extension tubes with me, I should have used them for these tiny white fungi that I saw.

Tiny white fungi or slime mold

The green line across the photo is a pine needle, that’s how small the fungi were, and why I should have used an extension tube to get closer to them. But, I was having trouble getting enough light as it was, I couldn’t afford to lose another stop or more of light by adding the extension tube behind the lens. Again, the LED light would have helped to put more light into the scene. Here’s something else that I wished I had used an extension tube on.

Possibly mold on a fungi? Or slime mold?

It doesn’t look like much in that photo, but the network of intertwined filaments (for the lack of knowledge of what they really are) was quite beautiful when I looked through he viewfinder. I think that if I’d been able to get closer, I could have gotten more depth in that image, along with showing how it was structured much better than I did.

Overall, the day was a good one, even though after I’ve reviewed the images that I shot, I should have tried different angles and/or techniques for many of the things that I saw.

Heal all?

My biggest disappointment of the day was this image.

Puddle abstract

The leaf in the upper right of the frame was floating on top of the water in a puddle. The brown maple leaf left of center as on the bottom of the puddle, and the green blobs were the reflections of leaves from trees overhead. I could get the camera to focus on the reflections of the leaves, but then the puddle itself was out of focus. Just as in the water-lily image from my last post where I got the refracted light from the sky as bright blue rings…

Water lily and bee

…I like the bright green and blue lines around the bottom edge of the puddle, caused by the refraction of the light from the green of the leaves and blue sky overhead, along with the overall color combinations in the puddle scene.

It’s a funny thing about photographing reflections, the camera doesn’t “see” the reflections on the surface of the water on the same plane as the surface of the water, to get the reflections in focus, the camera goes by the distance from where the items being reflected are in reality, in this case twenty to thirty feet above the surface of the water. So, while the puddle was about five feet from me as I shot the image, I would have had to focus much farther away then that to get the reflections in focus.

I should have spent much more time at the puddle, trying different things. I could have zoomed in on just the bright green and blue lines along the edge of the puddle for a striking image. Or, I could have possibly gone to the wide-angle lens while moving closer to the puddle to retain the same composition, but gain depth of field to get both the puddle and its contents in focus along with the reflections of the leaves at the same time, the way my eyes saw the scene. I blew it again by being in too much of a hurry when presented with the opportunity to shoot something special.

Thinking more about the puddle image, maybe focus stacking software would have been a way to get the final image I was after with both the reflected leaves and the puddle all in focus at once. However, I was too dumb to shoot a shot of the leaf reflections in focus to try later.

It’s much easier to photograph the beauty in nature when it comes in the form of things such as a large flower, an iconic landscape, or a particularly beautiful species of wildlife. It’s harder to find ways to shoot images that require special equipment or techniques to be able to share the beauty that’s in nature all around us, but that most people miss because it’s so small or subtle.

Anyway, I have to do better as far as working a scene and getting the best that I can as far as images, I tell myself that all the time, but I usually fail.

My other big failure for the day was this one.

Smartweed?

I thought that I had enough depth of field and the correct focus point to get both the flowers and leaves with the water drops in focus, so sure that I didn’t bother to check when I should have. I loved the light that I had for that image, and I forgot everything else.

On the other hand, I was quite pleased with this photo.

Leaf cascade

On my way back to Lost Lake, there were more birds along the trail than I’ve seen in a long time. Most of them were woodpeckers of various species, including a pileated woodpecker. I worked my way along the trail very slowly, not wanting to scare the pileated away, while at the same time, I shot these.

Northern flicker

The flicker was looking for breakfast…

Northern flicker

…chipping away at the dead wood…

Northern flicker

…and spitting larger pieces of wood out as the flicker removed them.

Northern flicker

Hairy woodpeckers look exactly the same as their smaller cousins, downy woodpeckers, other than their size, and longer beak. But they are becoming rare around here, and no one knows why, when other species of woodpeckers are doing well.

Hairy woodpecker

I never did get a shot of the pileated woodpecker, as it stayed hidden behind some leaves, and just as I was about to get to an opening through the leaves, a Cooper’s hawk flew overhead, fighting all the birds away. I stood there for a while, and a short time later a flicker flew overhead with the Cooper’s hawk behind it. They did a semi-circle around me, but I wasn’t able to get the hawk in focus long enough for a photo, darn. I was looking almost straight up with the backpack on, which made it hard to follow the action as fast as it was.

I have quite a few macro photos from the day left over, but you’ll have to wait to see them. Also, I shot one of my very best images of a dragonfly, one of my best images of anything to tell the truth, yesterday while I was walking around in a local park. But, since I’m already over my self-imposed quota of photos for this post, the dragonfly will be in the next post also.

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


It’s a winner

I have another post started that will probably never finish, as it’s another of my long-winded discussions on photography.

For the most part, it all boils down into this, the new 24-70 mm lens is a winner!

Hemlock grove

Especially when on the 5D Mk IV with its extended dynamic range.

Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park

And, it works well up close also.

Mushroom and moss

The macro function of the lens isn’t quite what I hoped it would be…

Wasp gall from an oak tree

…but it does fill in a small void between photos such as this one…

Cardinal flowers

…and when I switch to the 100 mm macro lens for images like this.

Sweet pea

It’s funny, the image above shows how one typically sees a sweet pea flower, but I rotated the image 90 degrees, because the flower really looked like this as I shot it…

Sweet pea

….but the image looks odd, I suppose it’s because that’s not the way that I see sweet peas in my mind’s eye. However, the odd version does do a better job of showing the true shape of the flower, which makes these two doubly odd in some ways. But, that’s what happens when showing three-dimensional objects in only two dimensions. Still, it’s the same flower in the same light shown in the same two dimensions, so I can’t explain why these two images look so different to me. Maybe it’s just me and the way that I see things.

When I found the cardinal flowers, I hung around for a while, trying to find one plant out in the open and hoping that a hummingbird would come along to drink the nectar from any of them…

Cardinal flowers

…but the colony of cardinal flowers were growing in amongst a thick tangle of various grasses, sedges, and cattails, and I never found a single cardinal flower plant standing alone, and only tattered butterflies…

Unidentified fluttering object on a cardinal flower

…showed up at any of the cardinal flowers. I tried for other shots of the butterflies, as there were many of them, but I couldn’t get a clear view of any but the one above. I did attempt to identify the butterflies, there were several species drinking the cardinal flower nectar, but all of the butterflies that I saw had very tattered wings, so much so that I couldn’t be sure of any ID I may have tried to make. I think that there were red-spotted purples and also one of the swallowtail species there, but as I said, their wings were in extremely bad shape.

As I write this, I wonder if the butterflies were tearing their wings up by flying through the thick vegetation to get to the cardinal flowers. The damage to their wings was so severe in many cases that I wondered how the butterfly could still fly. I should have shot a few photos to illustrate the damage, but I was looking for beautiful butterflies to photograph, and not thinking about why so many of them looked as bad as they did. Anyway, no hummers showed up there while I waited, only this dragonfly…

Dragonfly

…and a female track team out training for the coming season, although I shot no photos of the girls as they ran past me on the very narrow Lost Lake trail at Muskegon State Park.

I really blew it in my planning of where to go and when to go there, as when I got to Lost Lake, the shore that I was on was in deep shade yet. I was using the short hike to Lost Lake and back as a test to see how it would work to carry the 7D camera with the 100-400 mm lens on it for birds, and the 5D with the 24-70 mm lens on it for landscapes and wide-angle close-ups. Overall, it worked well enough, although I never got close enough to any of the birds I heard to shoot photos of them. I saw only a few small birds in the tree tops, out of camera range, and one larger bird that I think was an owl. However, I got only short glimpses of the larger bird as it flew into a tree above me, them flew away again as I attempted to get a clear view of whatever it was.

The reason that I said I blew it is because I should never go to Lost Lake without my macro lens, and probably my flash unit. I see flowers blooming there that I see nowhere else that I go, and many of them are quite small.

Tiny purple flower

I should have swapped lenses between the two bodies, as there’s far too much noise in these from the 7D, but I’m hoping to go back with my macro lens and shoot these same flowers again…

Tiny white flowers

…when the light is better and I have the proper equipment with me. The entire cluster of flowers in this next photo was only 3/8 to 1/2 an inch across…

Very tiny white flowers

…but at least the light was better when I shot that.

I did better with the larger flowers…

Water lily opening

…after waiting patiently for the sun to hit them. When it did, I had to check out each flower through the viewfinder of the camera to see how the flowers appeared to the camera…

Water lily

…because the low sun angle and the effects of the surface tension of the water made for some interesting images.

Water lily and bee

So the day wasn’t a total waste, because that one image made the day worthwhile to me. I wish that you could all see that last one full size and the way that it appears on my computer, the bee is a nice addition, but the blue rings around the lily pads because of the refraction of the reflection of the bright blue sky above really make that image something special to me.

I chased a couple of other subjects around trying to get good photos of them, like this toad…

American toad

…and this beetle…

Six spotted tiger beetle

…which moved just as I had the light as I wanted it every time, so I had to settle for this.

Six spotted tiger beetle

I should also say that techniques that I’ve begun using with the 5D Mk IV body also work with the 7D body, as the images of the beetle show. I didn’t think that the 7D was capable of that level of fine detail, but I was wrong, it was me, not the camera.

That’s why I continue to take test shots such as this one…

Prehistoric stump monster in color

…with the 24-70 mm lens as a test, knowing that I planned to convert it to B&W…

Prehistoric stump monster in B&W

…and that I probably wouldn’t be able to decide which version that I preferred.

I suppose that I should throw in a bird photo, since I’m having difficult times shooting any good images of birds presently.

Sandhill crane in flight

There are reasons why I haven’t shot many photos of birds recently, some species have already migrated south for the year, and when it comes to ducks, they all look like female mallards at this time of year. I found out on Friday that the lack of birds may be caused by the weather this summer, but more on that later.

For Friday, I had planned on returning to Lost Lake, but in the afternoon so that I’d have better light to photograph the tiny flowers in. So, I let myself sleep in, then went to the local camera store to look for a backpack that will hold my full-frame camera with the grip on it, and the lenses required for it. I’ll keep my current backpack to hold my EF-S lenses, to use as back-ups, or if the time ever comes that I set-up a camera for time-lapse photography or something similar.

I checked every backpack in the store that looked deep enough to old either the 5D or 7D cameras with the grip attached, and there was something about every one of them that made me cross them of the list of possibilities. It seems that the manufacturers are going for gimmicks, when all that I want is a simple backpack that will hold a pro-level camera and 3 or 4 lenses, a few filters, my flash unit, and tripod. I won’t go into further detail though.

After playing with the flash for macro photography, and trying to shoot holding the camera in one hand and the flash in the other hand, I also checked in the store to see if they carried a simple bracket that would attach to the camera and hold the flash where I wanted it. They had nothing in the store that did what I wanted, but I did find a simple flexible rod, and after thinking about what I wanted, and the things that I already have, I picked up one of the flexible rods.

I didn’t have time to assemble it before I left for Muskegon, but last night after I got back, I did play with it and made it work. It’s a bit on the ugly side, and a bit cheesy, but it works, and that’s all that matters to me right now. I’ll show a photo of it the next time I mount it to the camera to show all of you what it looks like, and how it works.

Now then, weather and the birds. Even though the weather forecast had predicted mostly cloudy skies but no rain for the afternoon, by the time I got to Muskegon, the skies were such that I didn’t want to risk being too far from shelter, as it looked as if it would rain at any time. So, I changed my plans and stopped at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, rather than continuing on to Muskegon State Park, and Lost Lake there. That proved to be a wise decision.

It wasn’t long after I arrived there at the nature preserve that it began to rain, or I should say, sprinkle, as the rain was very light for some time before I was forced to take shelter.

I spent most of my time there in one very small area, shooting various species of birds that were in a mixed flock, I think that some of them were migrating south already.

Juvenile Tennessee warbler

 

Warbling vireo

 

Eastern wood-pewee

Other’s were local year round residents.

Female downy woodpecker

 

Male downy woodpecker

So far, the small birds were all shot with the 7D and 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X extender. But as the clouds thickened, and the rain increased in intensity, I could see that the ISO setting was going higher all the time. So, I swapped to the 5D with the same lens and extender for the rest of these. It was a good thing that I did.

Black-capped chickadee

You can see how wet the chickadee was by then, apparently, they don’t shed water as well as other species of birds.

Juvenile Tennessee warbler finding its lunch

 

Juvenile Tennessee warbler finding its lunch

It amazes me the way that birds are able to find insects that are doing their best to remain out of sight. But, the birds learn where insects are prone to hide, and they have to learn that to survive.

Juvenile Tennessee warbler finding its lunch

I like the way the warbler has a look as if saying “What caterpillar?”.

Juvenile Tennessee warbler finding its lunch

Right after I shot that series, the rain picked up enough that I went back to the shelter there at the preserve, and waited for the rain to let up. I amused myself by shooting water drops hitting a small pool of water on the ground at the edge of the shelter, but I know that I can do better, so I won’t bore you with the poor images from this day. It was another learning experience though.

Even though I’ve exceeded the number of photos in this post that I attempt to limit myself to, I have two more to share.

Grey squirrel, black morph

There are two reasons I’m including these, one is that I haven’t photographed many squirrels lately…

Grey squirrel, black morph

…and also to show how well the 5D Mk IV does in very low light when photographing a black subject. I could ramble on about that, but I won’t.

I’ve said it many times, but wildlife seems to be more active, or at least easier to approach, when the weather is less than what we humans consider ideal. I’ve sort of given up trying to photograph wildlife on days such as this one, but now that I have a camera that can produce good images in low light, I’ll go back to the way I used to do things as far as not letting the weather stop me, because I was more concerned with the quality of images that I’d come back with than in getting any images at all.

Anyway, for the rest of the day, the rain continued, sometimes only sprinkles, at other times it was heavy enough for me to stay either in my vehicle, or some other man-made shelter. I didn’t shoot many photos, but I didn’t let the rain stop me either. I’ll have the rest of the photos from the day in my next post.

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


The end of October around home

I’m starting this post on the morning before I begin my new job, which today will be going in for orientation. Tomorrow, they will have some one from the company ride with me to be sure that I understand their procedures, then on Wednesday, I’m on my own.

I must be getting old, I used to change jobs all the time and it never bothered me. This time, I’m nervous, and I don’t even know why. Maybe it’s because I’m hoping that this will be my last job before I retire in a few years.

Well, I’m home from orientation at my new employer, and it went well. I do get the feeling that this will be the last job that I start. I may not get rich there, or even earn as much as I could make at some other trucking companies, but it will be a huge leap up from what I was making. However, there’s more to life, or even a job, than money. I’ll be working a lot of hours over the winter, just to get ahead and to save for a new Canon 7D Mark II, but come next spring, I’ll slack off a little.

Judging from what the management said during my first day, they know how to run a short-haul regional trucking operation. It seems that they have figured out that it costs them a ton of money to hire a new driver, so being flexible and reasonable in the way that they schedule and treat their drivers pays off in the long run.

It will be good to work for a growing company that has a great reputation, rather than a dying one with a horrible reputation as my last employer was.

Anyway, I’m going to start the photos in this post with two of the better fall foliage shots that I got from around home, that I didn’t accidentally delete as I did the other half-dozen images that I had saved.

Fall foliage 1

Fall foliage 1

Fall foliage 2

Fall foliage 2

Keith, the grasshopper hunting heron hung around here until the end of October, and will appear several times in this post.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I haven’t seen him for quite some time now, I think that he’s flown south for the winter. That was a very wise decision on his part, as we’re going to have a long, cold winter this year.

The bird migration this fall was sporadic, and I saw very few migrating birds around home.

Male Eastern towhee

Male Eastern towhee

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird

Seeing the red-winged blackbird surprised me, as all the locals here left two months ago, and there were only one or two other blackbirds with it. They normally migrate in large flocks.

Here’s a shot that I liked, even though this image isn’t quite what I wanted. I thought that the scene had potential.

The fence 1

The fence 1

So, I tried again.

The fence 2

The fence 2

And a third time.

The fence 3

The fence 3

After that, I gave up and had to admit that what I tried to make that scene look like just wasn’t going to work.

Now, the leaves have almost all fallen from the trees, and about the only colors left are grey and brown. So, I guess that you’ll be seeing a lot of these from me this winter.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Black-capped chickadee take-off

Black-capped chickadee take-off

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Sorry so many of the finch, but I love getting series of photos of birds feeding to see how they go about it. That may sound a bit strange, but I often wonder how they get on so well without hands to hold what they eat, along with the foods that they consume.

Squirrels are both cute and interesting, along with loads of personality.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

In case you hadn’t noticed, there weren’t many sunny days the last month or so, it’s that time of year here. The lake effect clouds formed by cold air crossing the warmer waters of the Great Lakes has kept us socked in under those clouds most days, and it will only get worse this winter. So, when there was some sun, I tried to take advantage of it.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Two that I like, even though the subjects aren’t spectacular.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

Gee, more images of Keith the great blue heron, first, a wide shot…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…then, zoomed in.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I found a pair of downy woodpeckers within range of good photos.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

And a female mallard in a pretty setting.

Fall mallard

Fall mallard

On one of the sunny days, I did some lens testing, using British soldier lichens as the test subject. I started at 15 mm…

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

….then switched to the Tokina macro lens for a close-up….

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

….then, a depth of field shot with the same lens.

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

I tried shooting this wasp’s nest at several different focal lengths, here’s the one I like best.

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

One day, there were several young people in the park, and they asked me what I was taking pictures of. So, I pointed out to them that there was Keith the great blue heron….

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…Bertha, the female red-tailed hawk…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…and I tried pointing out Bruiser, Bertha’s mate, but being as stubborn as he is, he took off…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…but he did pull up for one better photo.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

While I was pointing out the hawks, Keith came running up with something in his mouth…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…it was a small snake! The snake fought back valiantly!

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

But it lost, and must have wiggled a bit on the way down.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It didn’t take Keith long to regain his composure though.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It’s true, great blue herons will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.

And my last photo for this post, one that I am quite proud of.

Fall Mallards in HDR

Fall Mallards in HDR

If only I could have gotten the mallards to cooperate a bit more to help me out with the composition. However, I walked all around the pond, checking the reflections at different places, and wound up with a very good image, but the colors were a bit dull due to the light. So, I did a cloned HDR version, where I adjusted the exposure of one image both up and down from my original image, then did the HDR merge from those three images.

That was shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, I really need to use that lens for more than macro photos more of the time. Here’s the original non-HDR version.

Fall Mallards

Fall Mallards

Not bad, but I was already losing the deep blue of the reflected sky at that exposure setting, and if I had gone up any more with the exposure, the sky would have been washed out.

Well, that’s about all for this one. I’m getting ready for my second day at my new job as I type this, which consists of drinking copious amounts of coffee, and I’m only on my first cup.

I know that for at least this first winter there, I won’t be able to do my daily walks most days, since the daylight hours are so short. Once spring arrives, with longer days, I should have a set schedule, and be able to work a walk in at some point in the day, we’ll see. However, I will have weekends off for the most part, so I’ll be able to get out and about then. In the meantime, I still have several posts worth of photos left to post, and I’ll revive posting to the My Photo Life List this winter.

I have enough photos saved for that to put me over 200 species of birds, not bad for less than two years of trying since I began that project. But, the first 200 were the easy ones, the remaining 150 species will be harder.

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


Going short and going crazy Part II

It seems like forever since I did the first post on this subject, learning how to more effectively use my shorter lenses and/or get better landscape photos. To refresh people’s memory, my eyesight runs towards excellent vision at distances, but with less angle of view than the average person’s vision. That, and having never owned very wide-angle lenses in the past, are my excuses for not getting good images while using my shorter lenses. 😉

Anyway, this post will have a few more fall color photos shot from around home here as I tried to get better using those short lenses, along with birds, flowers, etc.

But, before the I get to the photos, a short review of what I’ve been learning. One of those things has been how much going from a wide-angle focal length to even a short telephoto focal length changes the apparent distances between objects in an image. Towards the end of this exercise of using my shorter lenses, I did something that I should have done long ago, and probably should do every now and then as a reminder.

Remember, I’m used to shooting at 420 mm (300 mm prime plus 1.4 X tele-converter) or 500 mm with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) when shooting birds and wildlife.

So, I put the 15-85 mm lens on my camera one day, set at 15 mm, and picked out a brush pile in the woods that looked to be way off in the distance when looking through the viewfinder. I snapped a photo, which I won’t bore you with, then, zoomed to just 35 mm. Wow, that brush pile sure got closer in a hurry! I shot that photo, then went to 50 mm, and the brush pile dominated the scene. At 85 mm, I couldn’t get the entire brush pile in the viewfinder.

Then, I went the other way around, I picked out an object at 85 mm that looked to be off in the distance, then zoomed out step by step, stopping at more focal lengths on the way down. I saved the images that I shot, and look at the often to remind myself just how much a small change in focal length can make big differences in what a scene looks like in an image, lesson learned, I hope. 😉 It isn’t just how close or far an object in a scene is to the camera, it’s also all the distances in the scene. As an example, trees that look to be two feet apart at 85 mm look to be 10 feet apart or more at 15 mm.

I know that a few of the people reading this will think that I’m a complete dope, especially since I have said in the past that I absolutely love the 15-85 mm lens because of the zoom range of that lens makes it the lens that’s the most fun for me to play with. But, I have also said that I need to play with it more, and that still applies.

That said, only a few of the fall color photos in this post were shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I shot far more with each the 10-18 mm lens, to open up small scenes, or the 70-200 mm lens, to get just the foliage that looked the best in an image.

I’m going to start with a HDR image that’s an epic fail, as I tried to get too much in an image.

Epic fall fail

Epic fall fail

I like the yellow off to the left, but the main part of the scene that I liked were these parts, shot a day or two later.

Less of a failure

Less of a failure

Here’s a scene that I shot fairly well at first.

Not bad

Not bad

But, then I messed up by taking a few steps back and zooming out to get a small, brightly colored tree in the foreground.

Another epic fall fail

Another epic fall fail

Just because a tree has good colors doesn’t mean that it should be included in a photo. In fact, I’m learning that smaller trees do not photograph well no matter how beautifully they are colored.

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

I do kind of like the first one of those, but the rest were rather disappointing, other than the colors.

Parts of a larger tree seem to make better subjects.

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 3

Fall abstract 3

But then, I’m a sucker for backlighting, or any lighting on leaves like these.

Autumn still life

Autumn still life

I’m a bit frustrated right now, for one thing, I’m tired of posting crappy photos, and for another, some of the true landscape photographers whose blogs I follow have been posting images that are true works of art.

It’s no surprise that the scenery in a suburban county park in southern Michigan doesn’t measure up to the Canadian Rockies, but I feel like a fool posting even my best images from around here.

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 3

The best of the lot 3

If you’d like to see some truly spectacular photography of one of the most beautiful areas on the face of the Earth, than I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog!

As for me, I’m better sticking to things that I’m half-way good at…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

…which includes sneaking up on unsuspecting critters….

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…and catching their reactions…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel saying “My nut!”

…and finding beauty on a smaller scale.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

White daisy or aster?

White daisy or aster?

So I have deleted all the “what not to do” photos that I had saved for this post, and I’ll post these instead.

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Turkey

Turkey

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 2

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 3

I wouldn’t normally post this next one, as I have far better photos of hawks in flight, but I wanted to record this, as it is the second of two hawks.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The first had landed in a tree that was really out of range of what I would normally shoot.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

But when the one in the tree began calling, and the second hawk flew over to respond to the calls of the first one, I had to shoot them both. Then, I shot this scene…

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 4

…and the hawk flew over to see what I was up to.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I’ll still be playing with all my lenses to try different things, here’s a mushroom at 200 mm…

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

…and the same one at 35 mm, and a lower angle.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

All the images of the heron have been of Keith, the grasshopper hunting heron, but as you saw above, he’s not fussy about what he eats. He’s also the only heron I have ever come across that regularly lets me get this close to him.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Maybe I should combine fall foliage images with wildlife images?

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Those were a double test of a sort, seeing if I could resist zooming in on a squirrel, and seeing how the same scene looked here in my blog in both landscape and portrait orientation.

I’ve still much to learn about using my short lenses effectively, but that doesn’t mean that I have to prattle on about it, or post the poor images here. And speaking of short lenses, while the Tokina 100 mm macro lens is a short telephoto, I think that I should begin using it on birds now and then.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

So, that about wraps up this post, I’ll have several better posts from Muskegon and Pickerel Lake coming up soon. But, I’ve been busy, I had to do a driving test, drug test, and take a physical for my new job that I start next Monday. I’ve also been visiting the dentist, using up the benefits from the dental insurance I have for now.

Just in case you missed the link I put in this post earlier, here it is again.

I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog! You’ll be glad you did!

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


Pickerel Lake, the long and short of it

First of all, big news! I have accepted a new job, and given notice to my present employer. The pay per hour at the new job isn’t that much more than where I’m working now, but it’s a much better company, and I have the option of working as much overtime as I want, and still be home every night if that’s what I choose. The company tries to keep drivers working 50 to 55 hours a week for the first 90 days, no problem, I can use the money.

With winter coming on, that’s not all bad, for I doubt that I would be shooting many photos over the winter months, and it gives me the chance to work and collect plenty of overtime pay, and get in a better position financially. After I’ve been with the new company 90 days, I can bid on open dedicated runs, which are usually five-day a week runs, with two days off if I choose. If not, I can still work the one extra day for a bigger paycheck. No matter what, I’ll always have one full day off, as the company shuts down on Sundays.

The dedicated runs vary in length, but most are 9 to 10 hours per day, five days a week, and a driver can make extra money by working another run on his “off” day. I’ll also have the option of doing some longer overnight runs if I choose, which pay even more. Maybe the best thing is that I have options. They give all drivers the chance to bid on any open runs every 90 days, so I wouldn’t be stuck doing the exact same run day after day after day. They are also very good at working with drivers who want an occasional day off. Options are good, and even better is the feel that I get from every one that I talk to about the company, whether they work there or not. It’s one of the few trucking companies held in high esteem by both employees, and people who have heard about the company, the exact opposite of the company that I have been working for.

Anyway, I’m not sure how that will affect my hiking, or my blogging. My plan is to work my tail off over the winter, get my bills paid, and save some money. Next spring, I’ll back off a little, by then, I’ll know which runs are open, and I can pick one then.

In the meantime, I’ll be able to get caught up on my blog here, and start posting to the My Photo Lie List again.

So now then, about my day at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve. This was very early on in my attempts to get more familiar with my wide-angle lenses. As I started out, I fell victim to my old habits, “O0o, pretty colored leaves, and a reflection! Grab the 10-18 mm lens and shoot!” without looking the scene over in detail before shooting.

Pickerel Lake wide

Pickerel Lake wide

Wrong lens! Too much sky, too much uninteresting water, and neither the foliage or the reflection are as dominant as I wished it to be. Well, that was early in the morning, and unfortunately, in the short amount of time it took me to realize my mistake, move closer to the trees, and switch to the 15-85 mm lens, the wind had picked up enough to add some ripples to the lake, spoiling the reflections to a large degree.

Pickerel Lake, not as wide

Pickerel Lake, not as wide

One thing that I’m learning in landscape photography is what to leave in an image, and what to leave out. If the sky and/or lake aren’t interesting, I should leave them out.

Pickerel Lake, long 1

Pickerel Lake, long 1

That was shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), who would have thought that it would be a great landscape lens?

Pickerel Lake, long 2

Pickerel Lake, long 2

However, even at 150 mm, it was not quite the correct lens, I would have been better off at around 120 mm, but silly me, I hadn’t taken the 70-200 mm lens, as I was carrying enough weight already, with two camera bodies, four lenses, and my lighting equipment. I wished that I could have balanced these a little better, as far as the amount of sky and lake to go with the leaves. But, I did the best I could with what I had, here’s most of the rest of the shore of Pickerel Lake in a series of images that I wish I could stitch together in a panorama.

Pickerel Lake, long 2

Pickerel Lake, long 3

Pickerel Lake, long 3

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 5

By the time I got to the shoreline farthest from me, I was getting about the right balance.

Pickerel Lake, long 5

Pickerel Lake, long 6

The Beast also shot this one.

Golden brown

Golden brown

Then, I was an almost winner, almost in the right spot at almost the right time, an adult bald eagle flying past the fall foliage.

Bald eagle in the fall

Bald eagle in the fall

I got the eagle at its closest approach to me.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

I had planned on cropping down on the eagle as I was shooting these, but there’s really no reason to. I get better images of eagles on a regular basis, and these images double as landscapes, I just wish that the eagle had been closer.

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

Eagle in the fall

I’m impressed by how well the Beast performed for these, here’s a 500 mm landscape as another example of what it can do in good light.

500 mm landscape

500 mm landscape

Having seen the eagle and foliage together, and with flocks of geese returning to the lake, I decided to try geese and foliage shots.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

The geese gave me photo ops that the eagle hadn’t.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

 

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

Another case of being an almost winner, if the geese had been a little closer, and the surface of the lake smoother, this would have been a stunner.

Canada geese in the fall

Canada geese in the fall

I couldn’t resist zooming out for this next one, to me, it says fall in Michigan, with geese honking away on a lake ringed with fall color.

Fall in Michigan

Fall in Michigan

My next stop was the small pond that normally produces a few photos for me, on this day, a turtle was all I could come up with.

Painted turtle basking in the autumn sun

Painted turtle basking in the autumn sun

It has been a wet fall here, so I was hoping to find a few mushrooms and such, I wasn’t completely disappointed. Here’s the view that I would have settled for in the past.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

But, with my short lenses, I can get down low now days, and get a better shot.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

The reason that I use a shorter lens is to get the depth of field to get all the mushrooms and some of their surroundings in focus. I also find the vari-angle display of the Canon 60 D body helpful, I don’t have to lay on my belly in the dirt to shoot those shots. 😉

As I was walking along through the fallen, colorful leaves, I looked for opportunities to shoot those scenes.

Along the trail

Along the trail

Along the trail

Along the trail

I’m throwing this next one in as a reminder of what not to do!

Flubbed photo

Flubbed photo

It was a great scene, but I shot it in portrait orientation, missed the composition by a mile, and ended up with way too much uninteresting foreground, with the colors virtually disappearing because I missed the composition.  I cropped that section out of a much larger image. If I had spent a few more minutes analyzing the scene, that could have been my best photo of the day.

I continued on, and found a few interesting things to shoot clustered in a small area. As I was getting ready to shoot them, I decided that this was worthy of a photo.

Mushroom cove 1

Mushroom cove 1

With the Beast set aside in a safe spot, I shot this…

???

???

…these….

Unidentified mushrooms

Unidentified mushrooms

…decided that they would look better with more light, so I broke out my lighting equipment for this one…

Unidentified mushrooms

Unidentified mushrooms

…and this one…

Lichen, mold, fungi, or what the heck is this?

Lichen, mold, fungi, or what the heck is this?

…and this one, which I believe is a slime mold, but I’m probably wrong about that.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

I was using either the LED light, the flash unit, or both for those, it sure takes a lot of light for macro photos! While the day had started mostly sunny, by then, the clouds had mostly obscured the sun. But, a break in the clouds prompted me to shoot this scene a second time.

Mushroom Cove 2

Mushroom Cove 2

About the mushrooms and other things in the photos above, I hate to ask, but maybe Allen, who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog can ID a few of those things.

So, I continued along the way, still looking for things to photograph, as always.

Along the trail good

Along the trail good

As Tom, (Mr. Tootlepedal) pointed out, there’s a lot to landscape photography as far as getting the composition right so that the elements of an image lead a viewer’s eyes around an image well, this is a fail.

Along the trail, fail

Along the trail, fail

There’s something about the second one there, that confuses my eyes as I view it, I don’t know how else to describe it, or what I did wrong though.

I don’t know what these growths are either.

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

Odd growths on a maple tree

I do know that these are leaves though. 😉

Leaves

Leaves

Okay, another mystery to me.

Slime mold??

Slime mold??

I don’t know if the orange things were one of these again…

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

…as this was the end of a log right on the trail, and I’m sure that the orange things had been crushed by other hikers, but, I don’t know what they looked like before they were crushed. Anyway, here’s a closer view of one.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

On a completely different track, there were several species of waterfowl on the lake, but I never got a good shot of any of them other than the geese. However, here’s a bad photo of a pied-billed grebe for the record.

Pied-billed grebe

Pied-billed grebe

My main goal, besides landscapes, was birds of course, but herds of humans had interfered with my photographing birds all day long. I finally got close to a few.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

That didn’t mean that I got good shots though, I was in too much of a hurry, as I could hear another herd of humans approaching. I did get two of a ruby-crowned kinglet displaying his ruby crown though.

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Then, the kinglet let me know what it thought of me. 🙂

Male ruby-crowned kinglet's butt

Male ruby-crowned kinglet’s butt

About that time, the herd of humans tramped past me, and that was the end of the birds.

I shot this scene which I really like…

Fall marsh

Fall marsh

…in fact, I like the image more than I thought that I would, however, I should have shot this to process in Photomatix to create a HDR image to control the blown out sky. There’s no definition to the clouds at all since they are so badly blown out. (over-exposed) I’m still learning, but one thing that I need to remember is when in doubt, don’t slack off, set-up and shoot for a HDR image.

Maybe that could be spruced up a bit in Lightroom? I hope to be able to afford a new computer by next spring, and if so, I’ll be adding Lightroom to my software, which right now is limited to what Canon ships with their cameras, and Photomatix. I’d do more HDR landscapes, but it takes my poor 10-year-old computer forever to process each image, I don’t have the patience for it.

Anyway, I do quite well on a single leaf as it is.

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

And to wrap this up, two shots of a female downy woodpecker, since this post is short on birds.

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

As sort of an afterthought, I’m going to throw in a photo of a monarch butterfly from an earlier hike.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Well, it’s time for me to go do my driving test for my new job, so I’ll have to cut this short. Yeah, right, like I ever do a short post. 😉

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


Going short and going crazy Part I

Okay, I’ve been writing short blurbs about learning to use my shorter lenses more effectively, it’s time to go into detail on that subject. I could have titled this post “Learning to see” or “I knew the words, but I didn’t know what they meant”.

First, a little about me, specifically, my eyesight. This is not to brag, it’s an explanation of what I have to work around when I’m trying to photograph landscapes. Every time that I’ve had my eyesight tested, two things stand out. One, I have much better than average eyesight at distances, and two, I have much better than average depth perception. While those attributes are some of the reasons that I’m able to spot wildlife as well as I do, I think that the latter is what causes many of the problems I have when shooting landscapes. I see the world in enhanced 3D when compared to most people. Photography is a two-dimensional art form however. So, it is hard for me to relate what I see in “enhanced three dimensions” when the result is only in two dimensions.

Oops, I forgot the third aspect of my vision that affects my photography, I have poorer than average peripheral vision. I don’t have tunnel vision, but it’s close. When you add up all the aspects of my vision, it’s as if I’m walking around looking through a telephoto lens. That’s probably not good for shooting landscapes, but I wouldn’t know, because this is the only eyesight that I’ve ever had. 😉

A little more background, when I shot film, the shortest lens that I owned was a 28 mm lens, and not a very good one, so I seldom used it. I shot most off my landscape photos with either a 55 mm or 135 mm lens.

So, fast forward to the present, I’ve always wanted a good wide-angle lens, and now I have two, the 10-18 mm and 15-85 mm EF S lenses from Canon. I also have the 70-200 mm lens, which, while it isn’t a wide-angle lens, it’s still shorter than the 300 mm prime or the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) that I use for the majority of my photography, since I shoot birds and wildlife the majority of the time.

I’ve read a great deal about photography, and the way that lenses of varying lengths can change a scene. Telephoto lenses bring things closer, but they also change the apparent distance between objects in an image, “moving” things closer together. Wide-angle lenses do the opposite, they make things appear to be farther away, and also increase the distance between objects in an image. But, since I’ve never really used a wide-angle lens very much, I couldn’t related to what the things that I’ve read apply to the images I was trying to capture. Certainly not to the degree of change that the 10-18 mm lens makes at 10 mm, it’s been a whole new world for me.

My problems begin as soon as I bring the camera up to my eye, my first instinct is to zoom in on a subject, the same way that I would if it was a bird, deer, or other critter. I have to remind myself that I want a wide view. The second problem relates to my tunnel vision, I only look at the center portion of the scene in the viewfinder, and pay little attention to the rest of the scene that I’m about to capture.

However, my biggest problem is not slowing down to think about what I’m trying to capture in a scene. That hit me when I was up north on the color tour earlier in October, and is what has prompted me to spend more time using my shorter lenses. But, even slowing down and thinking about a scene doesn’t help a great deal if I don’t know how the final image is going to look if I don’t know how to relate what I see in the viewfinder when using my shorter lenses to what that final image will look like.

I can be walking along, look over and think “Oooo, pretty trees!” and slap one of the short lenses on the camera and begin composing the shot. I see several brightly colored trees standing together, with several more nearby, and think that I can get them all in one shot, which I can. But, then the two individual stands of trees “get lost” in the overall image. That’s because the wide-angle lenses increase the apparent distance between the stands of trees. Even though it runs counter to the title of this post, I would have been better off shooting each stand of colorful trees separately, so that they are the prominent part of the image, without “dead space” between the trees.

You may think that I would see that when I look through the viewfinder, but I don’t, because I look at each stand of trees independently as I’m looking through the viewfinder. Because of my eyesight, each stand looks great through the viewfinder, not so good in the final image.

The progression this month has been as follows, I went up north, shot many fall foliage images that I’m not completely happy with. That’s even though they are head and shoulders above the images I shot a few years ago, which I shot in the middle of the afternoon, an absolute no-no for landscape photography.

With cooler weather, I began carrying four lenses each day on my walk, a long lens for birding, my macro lens, and the two short lenses. Then came a day when it was raining, so I took only the 300 mm prime lens, which was a huge mistake. It was one of those magical days when the leaves seemed to create light themselves, and practically glow from within. I wasn’t able to take advantage of that, since I had just the long lens with me. For a few days after that, I carried the 70-200 mm lens with the Tamron 1.4 X extender behind it for birding, and at least my two short lenses on my daily walks. I haven’t been able to bring myself to carrying the 70-200 mm lens on weekends, as I may miss shot like this.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Okay, with that one out of the way, shot near Muskegon last weekend, back to the subject at hand.

I’ve shot way too many poor images, some of which will end up here as what not to do, unless you like to delete poor photos. 😉 But, I’ve been learning, or at least I hope that I have.

Where do I start?

One of the first things that’s really hitting home is why excellent landscape photographers start before sunrise, quit shooting when the sun gets very high, then shoot in the evening to after sunset. You can shoot at almost any angle when there’s no harsh sunlight, no harsh shadows, and the most even lighting. Cloudy days work well also, I find the darker the clouds, the better they appear in photos.

Related to that, unless there are interesting clouds that add something to an image, there’s no reason to include much, if any of the sky in a photo. Not getting the sky in an image makes getting the exposure correct much easier, especially if there’s a milky white haze overhead, which I find to be the worst possible lighting for landscapes. I’m better off shooting insects….

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

…or flowers on those days.

White aster?

White aster or daisy?

Okay then, I shot this next scene several days in a row, with the camera in both landscape and portrait orientation, and wasn’t happy with any of them. Then, I used the 70-200 mm lens for this one.

Unnamed creek

Unnamed creek

I loved it, except, I didn’t get very much of the leaves above the creek in the image. So, I shot that same scene again and again over several days, but wasn’t happy with any of them, until this one.

Unnamed creek

Unnamed creek

The second one was shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I think it was around 50 mm that I used for that. If I went wider, the leaves in the creek tended to disappear, and the leaves overhead took over the scene. I think that the second one struck the best balance overall. The first image has the better lighting though, that’s what I get for not knowing how to capture a scene when I see it.

Here’s another very important lesson I am learning, I may not be able to move things around within a scene, but there’s nothing stopping me from moving to change a scene.

Sumac

Sumac

Nicely colored sumac, but the wide-angle lens at the angle I shot that one at increased the distance between the fronds of the sumac, resulting in too much blank space. By moving off to the side, zooming in a little, I was able to turn the scene above into this one.

Sumac take two

Sumac take two

These next two show how moving a few feet can change a scene also, but instead of zooming in to decrease the distances between objects, I went wider to increase the distances.

Woodlot

Woodlot

Not bad, I shot that with the 15-85 mm lens at 15 mm. As I started to walk away, I decided to try the 10-18 mm lens for this one.

Woodlot number two

Woodlot number two

Moving just a few feet to the edge of the trail changed the image a lot, and going shorter with the focal length opened up the woods a bit more, or at least I think so. I much prefer the second image.

You may have noticed that there’s little to no sky in any of those. One day I went to Pickerel Lake Nature preserve and I came to a spot that I really wanted to shoot, even though I knew that I’d end up with a blown out sky in the image, and deep shadows in the bottom of the image as well. I did, but, I used Photomatix HDR software to come up with this.

Pickerel Lake, first try

Pickerel Lake, second try

Two things about that one that I liked, I got the exposure correct for one. The second thing was that in the first HDR version, the small branches in the top of the image were severely ghosted because they moved with the wind between the images that I shot to compile into the HDR image. I used the Photomatix selective de-ghosting to get the small branches sharp in the image. But, what I didn’t like is that the image had no “zing” it looks dead. So, I tried again, this time playing with the sliders to edit the image before I saved it.

Pickerel Lake, take three

Pickerel Lake, take three

That’s extremely close to what I saw when I decided to shoot that scene. And it brings up something I’ve been meaning to say about the Photomatix software. It works well, but I need more practice with it. That I’ve said before, however, I have been watching online tutorials about how to get better at using the software, and there are not any good tutorials that really explain the adjustments you can make using the sliders that control various aspects of the image. In every tutorial I’ve watched, the person doing it says to just play with the sliders until you get what you want. That’s not a lot of help! Most of the people doing the tutorials don’t even know what the sliders do, they just slide them back and forth in the trial and error method of editing the images they are working with. Oh well, I’m getting better at playing with Photomatix, I suppose that’s all that counts. 😉

A couple of more things I have to say. I don’t think that any of the images so far, or those to follow are anything great, some aren’t very good at all, but I am seeing improvements in my images. Also, there are no large sweeping vistas around here to photograph, so I’ve been limited to just how much I can play around. That all said, here’s a few more of the results of my playing.

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 5

Creekside Park 5

Creekside Park 6

Creekside Park 6

Creekside Park 7

Creekside Park 7

Creekside Park 8

Creekside Park 8

Creekside Park 9

Creekside Park 9

Creekside Park 10

Creekside Park 10

Creekside Park 11

Creekside Park 11

Creekside Park 12

Creekside Park 12

Creekside Park 13

Creekside Park 13

Creekside Park 14

Creekside Park 14

Creekside Park 15

Creekside Park 15

Creekside Park 16

Creekside Park 16

Creekside Park 17

Creekside Park 17

Creekside Park 18

Creekside Park 18

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, I have many more to go, but I’ve prattled on enough for one post, and fall foliage isn’t the only subject that I’ve been shooting. So, here’s a few birds for your viewing enjoyment.

Goofy female northern cardinal

Goofy female northern cardinal

Goofy female northern cardinal being bashful

Goofy female northern cardinal being bashful

Unidentified sparrow

Unidentified sparrow

Male House finch

Male House finch

Male red-bellied woodpecker

Male red-bellied woodpecker

The next two are of a lifer for me, an orange crowned warbler, which don’t have orange crowns. I don’t name them, I just shoot them. 😉

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Orange crowned warbler

Finally, one of the last day lilies of the year.

Day lily

Day lily

I’ll have a lot more fall colors in the next few posts, along with more to say about what I’ve been learning while shooting them.

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.

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!


Where is fall going so fast?

Well, I’m still way behind in my blogging, in fact, I’ve fallen even farther behind. All of the images in this post were shot on my daily walks around home, and I have too many for one post saved. I also have plenty of images from a day in Kent County’s Millenium Park, and two trips to Muskegon to get to as well, and now, a days worth of images from the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve.

I’ve been busy looking for a new job, along with visiting my dentist, the only reason that I have time to do this post is because I’m skipping my usual daily walk to do this post, so I have time to attend a job interview a little later today. So, this post will be heavy on photos, and short on words. Since I promised these in my last post, I’ll start with two images of milkweed seeds.

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

If any one is interested, those were shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, not cropped at all, but the small size in which they appear here doesn’t do them justice.

Also in my last post, I rambled on about how some birds will pose for me, even better in some respects is catching them as they are eating. This is a terrible photo, but it is of the last rose-breasted grosbeak that I’ve seen.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

The grosbeak was with a flock of cardinals, this female took a break from eating to strike a pose for me…

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

…before she went back to feeding her face.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

This male, possibly her mate, was hanging around, I guess he had eaten his fill already.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

But, birds aren’t the only things that I shot the past few weeks, here are a few of the other subjects.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

I don’t recall having seen mushrooms growing from a woodpecker’s nesting hole before.

Autumn skies

Autumn skies

Aster, no extra lighting

Aster, no extra lighting

Aster, with lighting from the LED panel light

Aster, with lighting from the LED panel light

A few days later, the mushrooms from above had grown, but the lighting was poor to say the least, but I managed this shot.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Since it is fall, I’m seeing quite a few interesting leaves to photograph.

Grape leaf

Grape leaf

The wasps sure do build elaborate nests.

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

Okay, back to a few more birds.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Juvenile female turkeys

Juvenile female turkeys

Juvenile male turkey

Juvenile male turkey

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Juvenile cedar waxwing

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

My interesting leaf of the day on one particular day just happened to define the season quite well.

Falling fall

Falling fall

I see many blue jays, but getting a good photo of one is usually harder than this one made it.

Blue jay

Blue jay

They typically are much too wary for me to get so close to one while it’s on the ground, and they do not photograph well against a blue sky. Speaking of being on the ground, and birds looking for food, I had just sprawled out on the ground to shoot a caterpillar, when this vulture flew over me.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

I shot that with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) then set it down, grabbed the second body with the Tokina lens on it for these.

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

Unidentified caterpillar

I was still on the ground when a second vulture flew over, so I grabbed the Beast again…

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

…I didn’t like the way that the vultures were eyeing me as they flew overhead while I was laying on the ground. By the way, do you know how hard it is to shoot a bird directly overhead while laying on your back?

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

I really didn’t like the way that one was looking me over! That wasn’t cropped at all, I guess the way to bring the vultures in close is to lay down like something dead, and wait for the vultures to swoop down to look you over. 😉

Another seasonal shot.

Goldenrod going to seed

Goldenrod going to seed

And, another.

Leaves

Leaves

It’s that time of year, and I’m a sucker for leaves.

Leaves

Leaves

Lots of leaves

Lots of leaves

I’m not sure what you’d call that color, but I liked it. I’ve deleted most of the fall foliage shots from this time frame, even though some were shot on sunny days. The colors grew more intense as time went on, and I’ll have plenty of images of fall foliage from later, when the colors were more intense. However, here’s a couple for the record.

Maple tree

Maple tree

Maple tree

Maple tree

I’ve gotten to the point where I prefer to photograph fall foliage on cloudy days, it’s even better if it is raining lightly. That’s a good thing, since it has been cloudy with off and on rain for the past week. I have plenty of images from around here that are much better than the ones from earlier, when there was sunshine, so those two will do for now. Besides, it’s time to get back to the birds.

House finch

House finch

I spotted a male bluebird, but it would not come out of the shade for me to get a good photo of it.

Male bluebird

Male bluebird

This female did though.

Female bluebird

Female bluebird

I love sneaking up on turkeys!

Male Turkey

Male Turkey

I love it even more when they stop running so that I get a good photo!

Male Turkey

Male Turkey

In a recent post, I had images of a great blue heron that I named Keith, for Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones due to the way it had the feathers on its head raised. Well, this isn’t Keith…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…this is Keith, eyeing a flock of crows.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

The crows must have known about herons eating anything that doesn’t eat them first, for the crows took off.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

And, I got a shot of Keith, which for some reason looks fuzzy here in my blog, when it doesn’t when I look at it on my computer.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I haven’t gotten any more photos of Keith with the feathers on his head standing up, but he’s been in the fields of the park almost every day lately, so I have plenty of images of him for later posts, when I get to them. Good old Keith is getting quite used to me photographing him, so I’m getting lots of images of him. It’s kind of weird having a heron around that let’s me walk up to it so close that I can fill the frame of the camera without cropping. What’s even weirder is that there have been days when I wasn’t going to shoot any more photos of the heron, as I have more than enough, and the heron walks over towards me so close that I don’t have to crop the images at all.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

That’s all that I have time for today, sorry for the rushed nature of this post, but I’ve been busy.

I’m sure that my next few posts will be of photos that I’ve shot at places other than around home, but here’s a hint of what’s to come. On my trip up north to photograph the colors there, I wasn’t happy with the way that I shot most of the landscapes. I’m not used to “seeing” through my shorter lenses, and knowing what the image that I shoot while using the short lenses will look like when I view them on my computer. On top of that, it was raining one day around home, so I took only the 300 mm prime lens with me, and the colors of the trees that day were almost magical because of the lighting that day. But, I couldn’t get photos of the colors that day because I had only the long lens with me.

So, for the next few days, I took the 70-200 mm lens, and my short lenses with me to learn how to use the short lenses more effectively. That has carried over while I’ve been on my longer hikes away from home on the weekends. Not only that, but I’ve also been learning how to use my longer lenses for better landscapes. For example, many of the landscape shots that I took at Pickerel Lake last weekend were shot with the Beast set at 150 mm.

But, I’ll get into the details when I have the time to work on the posts that include those images, for right now, it’s time for me to go see about a new job.

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