Thursday, September 21, 2017

A SEASON PASSES


Harvested fields plowed into interesting patterns.  Tinges of color in background trees.  Hay bales rolled and stacked.  Leftover sunflower tracks a south-moving sun.  A slower season beckons.  













Thursday, September 14, 2017

BIRDING HABITATS


My backyard provides several rich habitats for the bird population in my area.  Let me take you on a tour of the various places where they live.



Directly behind my home is this huge stand of trees.  I see birds continually come and go from this macro-habitat all day long.  When I'm in yard, I hear birds squawking at me from there and it's where they built their nests and protect their fledglings.



At the far right end of my yard is another large stand of trees.  This second macro-environment also attracts many birds, although I only see them coming and going from a distance.



Closer to my home are several micro-environments where birds visit, but don't live.  Two Mountain Ash trees are right outside my next door neighbor's deck.  The two trees are currently lush with fruit although the birds probably won't enjoy them until either winter or spring when the berries have had more time to ferment.  Maybe I'll see a few drunken birds.  Not kidding.



Another micro-habitat is the lilac bush right next to my deck.  Here a cardinal hides as it waits its turn on the nearby feeder.



A second micro-habitat is the lovely Rose of Sharon tree on the other side of my deck.  It's in bloom now and I've really enjoyed its beauty.



Birds also use it as a hiding place before they jump off to the feeders.  Besides my regular bird visitors, I've had lots of bees, humming birds, and even a Baltimore Oriole.  I wasn't quick enough, however, to photograph any of those.



 Truth to told, I love the Rose of Sharon as much as the birds do.  I've always admired this tree and was excited to see that it was already established in my yard when I moved in.



The blossoms are lovely at all stages, from full bloom to just unfolding, as in this image.  This one reminds me of a rose.



And what about this beauty?  This female Rose-breasted Grosbeak appears to be enjoying the Rose of Sharon too.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SUMMER COMING TO A CLOSE


Even though the official end to summer isn't for another couple weeks, Labor Day signifies the unofficial end.  I visited the beaches and parks in both Traverse City and Empire to see how people were enjoying the waning days of summer.



Cruising the bay on a tall ship...



Dog walking and water-watching...


Sailing a huge catamaran...


Biking the many trails....



Kayaking...


Playing beach volleyball...


And just plain relaxing.  I ended my afternoon of photography in Empire, hoping to catch the sunset.  But there were no parking spaces and the sun was becoming obscured by a low cloud cover.  I went into a nearby neighborhood to turn around and found this young deer relaxing under a fruit tree.  Wonder what she thought about summer's end.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

ORANGE EYES


I was driving around farm country when I spotted a medium-sized, brown bird picking around in a field that had already been plowed.  I thought there wasn't much left for this bird, whatever it was.



It had long spindly legs and I hadn't a clue as to its identity.



The way it walked reminded me of an Egret or a Sandhill Crane, but I knew it wasn't either of those.



And then it turned towards me and I saw it.  A beautiful orange eye!



I whipped out my bird app on my phone and typed in "orange eye" as my identifier and it came up right away.  My new bird is a killdeer belonging to the plover family.



I also learned that for habitats, the killdeer prefers open areas, such as plowed fields.  No wonder it seemed right at home where I saw it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

REFLECTIONS ON THE SOLAR ECLIPSE


There was a lot of information and hype out there about Monday's Solar Eclipse.  I'd read many articles and bought my solar glasses and was ready for the main event.  I'd hesitated in buying a solar filter because they were very expensive, over $200, especially with the cloud cover forecast being quite iffy.



I did buy a solar film, however, and fashioned my own filter to protect my lens from sun damage.  Once I had it taped over my lens, it was 1 pm and time to go shoot.  But it was very frustrating to even FIND the sun with the solar glasses and the solar film, let alone PHOTOGRAPH it.  Everything was completely black!  My first shots looked like this, clouds and black with no sign of an eclipsing sun. 



My first plan alteration was to dispense of the tripod.  With the sun nearly overhead, it was difficult to aim the camera towards the right spot with it on the tripod.  Hand-holding my camera gave me much greater control of where to aim.  Still everything was so dark.  So in GREAT frustration, I next tore off my homemade filter.  One of the sources I'd read said the need for a solar filter was over hyped.  He went on to say how many sunsets he'd photographed without any filter and he'd had no problem.  I identified with that opinion.  So without a tripod and filter, I easily found the sun and the beginning of its eclipse.



Finally being in business, I was able to see and shoot the sun as it was progressively being eclipsed more and more by the moon.  While there was definitely a cloud cover, it was thin enough or opened up enough to view the eclipse.



I still have many questions about the whole photographic process, like why the images are so dark, almost as if I were shooting in black and white, yet I wasn't.



I was also curious why the shape of the sun changed as the it reached the partial totality that we got here in Northern Lower Michigan.



About here, I would say, we'd reached the point where it was as good as it would get in our part of the country.  I was surprised at some of the comments I'd read from people who were in the path of totality.  "Life-changing."  "It was like God saying, Let there be light."  "It's like nothing I've ever experienced."



As we began exiting the eclipse, I was glad I had the chance to see it, and photograph it, but more as an interesting natural  phenomenon versus the emotional event it was for some folks.



At this point, I stopped photographing the eclipse and just watched it as it ended.  I was happy with how my images turned out, but still have questions and lots more to learn.  For me, photographing an eclipse was similar to photographing fireworks.  It's a long time until you'll get another opportunity for a "do-over."

Friday, August 18, 2017

DEER ONES


When I lived in the woods near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, deer were a huge part of my photographic life.



They got so used to my habitat that some would come and rest just outside my fence.  This doe was a frequent visitor.



In the late spring, she would often bring her fawns to share the feed blocks at the edge of my yard.  She did this for several years.



One winter, when the snow was especially deep, the deer even jumped my fence and helped themselves to the seed at my bird feeders.  When I moved to Traverse City last December, I left behind these readily available photography subjects.  For the first time in many years, I went the entire winter without seeing a single deer.



Then in the spring, I got a welcome surprise.  I was backing out of my driveway when a doe crossed right in front of me.  I grabbed my iPhone and quickly took snapshots of the fast-moving deer.  Even though the picture wasn't to my liking, I was VERY excited to be seeing deer again.



A few days later, I was working at my computer when Gracie alerted me that there was something going on.  I grabbed my camera and caught sight of a fawn running through my backyard.  I wondered whether the fawn belonged to the doe I'd seen earlier.



Over the spring and summer, I've begun exploring rural areas that I learned were good habitats for birds and other critters.  I began to spot deer here and there.  This young buck was just beginning to sprout some velvet.



Then I caught sight of a doe entering a two-track.  She was watching me as closely as I was watching her.  I wondered if there might be a fawn or two around, but I didn't see any.



Then, on my way home from one of my photo-shoots, a big deer crossed the road in front of me, entered a field, and turned to watch me.  It was nearly dark and I felt lucky to have caught this image.  This guy was really sprouting some antlers.  It feels good to be getting my "deer fix" once again.




Friday, August 11, 2017

EVERYWHERE SUNSETS


Most of my sunset photography has taken place on the shores of Lake Michigan.  There's something dramatic and beautiful about watching the sun seemingly sink into the water.  But, more recently, I've encountered some gorgeous sunsets while driving around farm country as I seek out critters to photograph.