Brevard Zoo

I’ve heard nice things about the Brevard Zoo and I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.  It’s just a coincidence that my first visit was this week – at the same time that TripAdvisor named it one of the nation’s best.

It’s a smaller zoo than either the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa or the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, but it’s laid out nicely and the animals seem happy.  Especially the Meerkats.

Muddy Meerkat says "Cheese"Muddy Meerkat says “Cheese”

Meerkats make wonderful subjects and these were active – digging burrows and keeping watch.  This one even looked like it was trying to smile for my camera.  I was able to frame this photo over the glass against a nice background.

One of the things mentioned by TripAdvisor is how friendly their staff is.  We saw that too.  A deer kept following this zookeeper around the enclosure and bumping into her.  After she bent down and hugged it, the deer left her alone and wandered off for a while.  The animals do seem well cared for.

Animal CareAnimal Care

Like at every zoo, I was somewhat conflicted.  A few of the animals act a little too “caged”.  The big cats for instance seem either restless or a little melancholy.  Watching them can make me feel a bit low too.  This Jaguar was resting in the shade and watching the watchers.

JaguarJaguar

By the way, I knew that Jaguars once lived from Brazil up to much of the Southwest United States.  I didn’t realize that they’ve been sighted as recently as 2013 in Arizona.

Brevard Zoo is very nice.  One of the best smaller zoos I’ve ever been too.  They have some unique attractions too – like a guided kayak tour around their African exhibit.  If you like zoos or want to practice your animal photography, it’s a great place to visit.

You can see a few more of my photos here.  For some hints on zoo photography, you can look at prior blog posts herehere, and here.  And the Firefall Photography Blog has a write-up about the Brevard zoo with some good info and photos – well worth a look.

The zoo is in Melbourne, Florida at 8225 N. Wickham Road (Phone: 321-254-9453).  It’s not too far from Viera Wetlands, so check that out too if you get down there.  Admission is $15 for adults and the hours are 9:30 to 5.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Apopka Two-fer

Kevin K., Kevin M., and I went round the Wildlife Drive on the Lake Apopka North Shore yesterday.  This 11 mile long section of dirt roads opened to the public earlier this year and provides access to a large part of the restoration area near the lake.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive EntranceLake Apopka Wildlife Drive Entrance.

This was mostly a scouting trip as Kevin K. and I had never been, and since it’s the middle of the summer we didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife.  But similar to Viera Wetlands, there was lot going on.  We saw many of the usual Florida birds and even some unusual ones like Least Bitterns.  About half way through, we stopped behind another car observing a tree full of birds that turned out to be swallows.

My experience with swallows is that they’re very erratic flyers and seldom sit still – which makes them hard to photograph or even identify.  But these were happily perched in the tree and later on power lines.  This allowed us to get some good photos and recognize several species.  Two (Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow) were lifers for me.  I even got both of them in the same frame – how cool is that?!!

Bank Swallow and Barn SwallowBank Swallow and Barn Swallow

There was a reported sighting of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow at this same place shortly before we got there, but we didn’t see it.  We did see a Purple Martin, which was also cool, although not a life bird.

Lake Apopka was polluted for many years but it seems like the restoration efforts are paying off.  This osprey for example, looks like it’s living large.

Osprey with catfishOsprey and catfish

The wildlife drive doesn’t open until sunrise, so we got there too late for a morning landscape, but we did stop by Lake Monroe in Sanford on the way.  Here’s one image I made there.

Marina at dawnMarina at dawn

Judging by this trip, I’ll be returning often, especially after it cools off and migration starts.  For more info on this place, visit Scott Simmons’ post on his blog.  You can see Kevin Ms photos in this album on Flickr, and Kevin K’s in this album.  I only have a couple in my album so far, but I’ll be adding more.

Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area:  another great Central Florida Photo Op!  Go!  See!  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Three more from Viera

I enjoyed Viera Wetlands so much the last time I visited, that when my friend Robert Wilson suggested we meet there I was more than willing to go again.  Here are three more photos showing some of what you can find there.

It's  not easy being greenIt’s not easy being green – A Pig Frog.  Believe it or not, these aren’t too hard to spot once you know what to look for.

Least BitternLeast Bittern – Most of the time they hide down deep in the reeds. This one hung out at the top for a bit.  It’s a little better look than the last one I posted.

A pair of ottersA pair of otters – We enjoyed watching these two take their morning dust bath on the dirt road.  I’ve seen them do this several times at Viera Wetlands.  The one on the right seems to have an injury to its mouth.  Robert thinks it might be a cleft palate.

I had a great time exploring Viera with Robert.  By the way, he’s an excellent photographer and really into digiscoping.  He explains what it is and shows some wonderful examples of his photos in this article he wrote on the Photography World site.  Well  worth a look!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island and Viera Wetlands

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Viera Wetlands are two of my favorite places to photograph and I had time to visit both last week.  They’re each wonderful and seem similar, yet they can be very different.  When I was at MINWR, it was very quiet with few birds or other wildlife around.  July isn’t the best time for birds in Central Florida, so I wasn’t expecting much.

Blackpoint dawnBlack Point dawn – I’ve seen this area along Black Point Wildlife Drive in MINWR full of birds. Not last week.

On the other hand, Viera Wetlands was full of activity.  Right away, we saw a couple of Osprey fishing:

Osprey with catchOsprey with catch at Viera – always fun to see and a thrill to get a good, in focus photo

And as we walked around we saw Sand Hill Cranes, a Caracara, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swamp Chickens (Common Gallinules), a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Least Bitterns, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and Green Herons.

Green HeronGreen Heron at Viera – posing nicely in very good light

My friend Kevin M. was with me, and he saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  We also spotted a family of four otters crossing the road, and multiple Alligators.

Why did we see so much more at Viera than Merritt Island?  Was it the weather (don’t think it was much different)?  Time of day (we were there a bit later)?  Water type (fresh vs. brackish)?  Vegetation?  Kevin’s luck?

I really don’t know.  I’m just grateful I went to both places and got to see so much.  The moral of the story:  If one of your local photo spots is quiet, try a different one.  You never know what you’ll see.

I have more photos from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge collected in this set on Flickr.  And more from Viera Wetlands in this set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Contemplating Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier was an enigmatic nanny and an extremely prolific street photographer who passed away in 2009.  She’s the subject of the film Finding Vivian Maier.  Lynn, Mary and I saw it when it played recently in Orlando.  I enjoyed the movie and  recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re interested in photography.

If you haven’t followed her story, you can easily catch up by googling her name or clicking on her website (first link above).  It’s worth your time.

What I find fascinating is that while she made over 100,000 photographs, she was completely unknown before they were discovered in an abandoned storage locker in 2007.  And her photos are very good.  She captured street scenes in Chicago and other places that show us what life was like.  She was obviously passionate about photography.  But –  she apparently had no interest in sharing her work.  There were even 2000 rolls of film that she never developed.

Brooks Jenson (publisher of Lenswork Magazine) has a podcast that I listen to.  His latest one is a little over 7 minutes long, and in it he talks about why we photographers are so passionate about what we do.  For him, photography is a way to explore life.  I like that idea.  It seems Vivian Maier was exploring life around her with her photography too.  He goes on to say that there are two sides to photography:  The observation / capture side, and the publication / sharing side.  Brooks says you can’t have one without the other.  I think that’s right for most people.  They want to share something they’ve seen with others.  Something that they see differently or that others may pass by.

Street photography isn’t my forte, but I suppose we need at least one photo for this post. Vivian Maier would sometimes include herself in her photos.  So here’s my attempt.

Waiting at the corner of Venice and NokomisWaiting at the corner of Venice and Nokomis – I was playing with my camera while the ladies shopped.  Vivian Meir’s version of this would be in Black and White, and probably use a vertical 4×5 format.  It also might include a reflection of her, not me.

I find Vivian Maier’s story compelling.  She did the observation / capture side of photography without the publication / sharing side.  Until recently her photography was incomplete since no one had seen it.  After she’s gone, her work is finally being shared and we’re seeing some of what she observed.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – and share them!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Casey Key Clouds

I’ve written about Casey Key before.  Lynn and I have been visiting this little island on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years.  If you’d like to read other articles about it, click on the “Casey Key” link under the “Places / Categories” menu over on the right.

When we got home this week and I reviewed the photos I made there on this trip, I was struck by how much the clouds enhance the images.

Stormy ShoreStormy Shore

This strong storm moved through one afternoon and dropped considerable hail and rain on the area.  But we also got to see the awesome cloud front pass over the beach.

This next photo includes some lovely clouds too.

Sunset BeachSunset Beach

And finally, here’s one last photo combining the sky and wispy sunset clouds with a sun or beach totem – not something I see everyday.

Sun totemSun totem

I have more photos from Casey Key as well as larger versions of the ones above in this set on Flickr.

Clear skies are often boring.  Clouds and storms add interest and drama, and enhance almost any photo.  Add some clouds to your compositions.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go find some clouds – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

On the way home from our trip to the Florida Panhandle last month, Lynn and I decided to break up the drive and spend one night at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

Wakulla RiverWakulla River, just down stream from the spring

This gorgeous park is about 14 miles south of Tallahassee and surrounds a first magnitude spring.  Water from the Floridan Aquifer flows into the Wakulla and through the St. Marks Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.  The flow comes out of an  extensive cave system and divers have explored about 12 miles of the network.  It’s been a popular place with film crews and several movies were filmed here, including Creature from the Black Lagoon.

You can see how clear the water is in the photo above.  It was even clearer:  When Lynn and I were last there (~ 15 years ago) we could see the mouth of the spring from the surface.  But now:

“Sadly, Glass-Bottom Boat Tours over the spring basin have become the exception rather than the rule in recent years. Tea-stained or green water impedes the penetration of light needed to view the impressive features of the deep chasm of Wakulla Spring. Heavy rains combined with other factors still to be fully understood are thought to be the cause of decreased visibility.”  https://www.floridastateparks.org/park-activities/wakulla-springs#Boat-Tours

Even though the glass bottom boat tours are rare, they run guided riverboat tours every day – make sure you take one.  The Wakulla River is protected in the park and they’re the only boats allowed.  It’s an isolated and very pretty ride, and in addition to the scenery we saw lots of wildlife including Manatees, Turtles, and birds.  The ranger even pointed out a Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the nest with chicks – a life bird for me.  Unfortunately, it was far back in the leaves and my photo isn’t good at all.  :-(

Alligators were up on the banks and swimming in the river although we didn’t see any close to the roped off swimming area.  When I asked the ranger about that he said “We have an agreement with the gators.”  I hope it’s a binding contract!

Built in the 1930s, the Lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places.  If you want to get away from it all, this is a fine place to do it.  There’s no television, and cell reception is spotty at best.  But they have telephone land lines and even wi-fi now!  There’s also a nice dinning room so you don’t have to leave the park for meals.

Edward Ball Lodge, Exterior viewEdward Ball Lodge exterior

We also enjoyed the live entertainment and beverages while reading in the lobby.

Edward Ball Lodge, Live entertainmentEdward Ball Lodge lobby

If you get a chance, Wakulla Springs is obviously worth a visit.   Reservations at the lodge are much easier to get than at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.  Lynn and I need to go back more often than every 15 years.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.