Thursday, August 31, 2017


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


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


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


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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I had a nondescript brown bird often visiting my deck and feeders.  I hadn't been able to figure out what kind of bird it was.

Sometimes it would stand on my deck fencing.  It wasn't fearful like some breeds, which fly off at my first move.

It visited my feeders often.  Its coloring was a subdued, streaking brown.  At first I thought it was a large dark sparrow, but the bird app pictures didn't match my bird.

It also reminded me of the female House Finch, but much larger. 

Then I heard the familiar musical trill and saw the flash of orange of a Red-winged Blackbird.  Could it be?

Yes, after consulting my sources, I learned my little brown bird is the female Red-winged Blackbird.  I never would have guessed she was related to the showy, glossy black male.  Brown and nondescript?  Yes, but she's a beauty in her own right.