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The End and The Beginning

8/19/2020 and 8/22/2020


It feels like I had a busy weekend, but I was lazy all-day on Sunday. The photography started on Wednesday night, when I went for what is, arguably, the last decent night for Milky Way shots around here. Friday night, I drove to Michigan for a morning of shooting with a couple other Indiana photographers just over the state border.


Wednesday was technically the day after the new moon. Work kept me from heading out Tuesday night, though. It is late in the season, and the milky way is far to the southwest this time of year. I did not have time to do any more research on locations within the state to shoot from; so, I hung my hat on the same place I visited my last times out - Tulip Trestle. I had issues both the previous visits, and I felt I could do better. After a third trip, I still feel I could do better, but I probably would not have as much luck. For one, I remembered all my equipment this time. Two, the fog stayed relatively low and thin. Three... a train came by while I was shooting. I could hear it coming, and I scrambled to finish the series of shots I had started and make some adjustments to the settings. I dialed the ISO back a little to control noise and not blow out the bright lights of the train. I just got things adjusted when the train came into sight. I hit the shutter and sat back and hoped I was not messing up too badly.


I learned a couple things. One, I don't know enough about what I'm doing. No surprise. I probably should have dialed the ISO back a little more. Dialing back would have thinned out the light trails a bit more and kept the trees from blowing out a little more. Two, I am definitely not taking enough photos. Okay, for the train, there is not much I can do. It is only there while it is there. The milky way is a different story. With the camera and lens I am shooting, I am shooting 8 second subs. Even at that low of a length, I am getting a little trailing. It is a high megapixel body. To counter the low exposure time, I am taking multiple shots and stacking them in Sequator. It helps bring out detail and reduce noise. Shortly before the train came through, I had just finished a round of 18 shots. Normally, I take 9. I had kicked off a second round to experiment a bit, and the difference of stacking 18 vs 9 is quite telling. I doubt that shooting more will buy me much, but I will have to experiment some more next year. Yes, next year. While some shooting can be squeezed in the rest of this year, the length of time to shoot and the overall low height of the galactic core do not make the travel times to get someplace dark worth it. At least I got one decent shot this year. I am quite happy the way it turned out. Not bad for Indiana.

Some quick details about this shot. It is a blend; meaning (to me) that it is multiple photos taken from the exact same location but at different settings. The sky portion is composed of 18 shots stacked in Sequator. The foreground is a stack of the first three train shots. These were stacked to pull together a complete band of light trails. The two resulting photos were processed in LR and blended in PS. For what it is worth, a composite (again, to me) is two photos taken from different locations to represent an imaginary scene. In my mind, a blend represents a real scene. This is all highly subjective.


So, birding....


Saturday morning began shorebird season for me. The beaches in Indiana are closed (well, I guess Marquette and Miller are actually open at partial capacity, but I did not know that); so, I headed to Michigan to meet Mike Bourdon and Jason Jablonski - two of my favorite Indiana photographers. I met them at New Buffalo, and they had already scouted the area and gave it the thumbs-down. Off to Tiscornia! 25 minutes or so north is Tiscornia Beach. I had never been here. Turns out we were not going to be shooting from the beach. Instead, we shot from the pier. This required (for me) partially laying in wet algae while trying to keep the other half of me dry on a 45 degree slope. Basically, I am laying on the slope using a forearm and knee in the muck to hold me up and trying to shoot a moving shorebird. It was a new experience. Laying in the sand is easier.

I wish I could have gotten photos of the event. Events, really. I was way too close to the action, and I was not wise enough to move back; not to mention that I initially was spell-bound and sat back watching it unfold instead of trying to capture it. Semipalmated Sandpiper is not a big bird by any measure. It is tiny, and when walks right by you, can appreciate how small they are and how epic their migration is in comparison. Well, one of these little guys had staked out a section of the pier. It was his. Every time another bird came through, the attacked with a fury I have rarely witnessed in birds. The size of the opponent did not matter. Several times while standing there, a Sanderling (easily 3 times the size of this bird) wandered into the Semi's area. Each time, the Semi immediately went after the bird and attacked it. This meant flying around the Sanderling's face, standing on its back and riding around on it, and even standing on its head; all the while, pecking at the poor confused Sanderling and driving it off. When more Sanderling flew in, we sat back and waited for the show. Mike Bourdon ended up with some amazing shots of it. I missed all my shots. It pays to shoot with better photographers, but only if you pay attention to them. I should have backed up to where Mike shot from. Congrats to him on getting the best shots of the day - and recording an amazing experience and bit of bird behavior. If you know him and have not seen the photos, go look them up.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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