Osceola Wander

Kevin M. organized a Photography Interest Group expedition yesterday.   I went along with  Kevin K., and Frank B.  The four of us were up extremely early to beat the sun to this pasture in Osceola County along Canoe Creek Road.

The sky was kind of plain when we arrived, except for the very thin moon rising ahead of the sun, and the ground fog over the grass in the distance.

Sliver moon and mistSliver moon and mist

After photographing there we moved on to Joe Overstreet Road and then Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area to see what we could see.

There’s a photography joke:

Q: Why did the bird cross the road?

A: To get to the bad light.

I don’t know about you, but this often happens to me when I’m trying to make photos of birds.  And if they don’t hurry into the bad light, then they usually turn away from the camera.  The backs of birds are not as photogenic as the front.  Yesterday the birds were a little slow and we managed to catch some of them in very good light and not facing away!

Into the lightInto the light

I wish I hadn’t been framed so close on this Bald Eagle.  I would have loved to catch it in full flight.  They’re seen down there often, so I’ll have to try again.

The meadows along the roads were full of Eastern Meadowlarks.  And when we couldn’t see them we could definitely hear them.

Morning songMorning song

There were signs posted at the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area with results from recent hunts. And the deer we saw were definitely very wary. These two stared at us for a while before running off into the trees.

Two wary deerTwo wary deer

All in all, it was a good day for photography.  And the banter in the car was quite entertaining too.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lion Country Safari

Intro / Description

I’d heard about Lion Country Safari and I’ve wanted to visit for a while.  Lynn and I finally got a chance to go last week.

“Lion Country Safari is a drive-through safari park located in Loxahatchee (near West Palm Beach), in Palm Beach County, Florida. Founded in 1967, it claims to be the first ‘cageless zoo’ in the United States.  In 2009, USA Travel Guide named Lion Country the 3rd best zoo in the nation.”  Wikipedia’s Lion Country Safari Page

Striped stareStriped stare

There are about 5 miles of paved roads running through several large areas divided by water and fences with more than 1,000 animals throughout.  I haven’t been to Africa, but it seems like a wonderful place to get a small taste of what safari might be like.

Info for Photographers

Rhino napRhino nap

Access for photographers is excellent.  It’s similar in some ways to Animal Kingdom in Orlando.  The photo ops for most of the large African animals  are better than the safari ride at Animal Kingdom.  At Lion Country Safari you go at your own pace in your own car.  At Animal Kingdom, you’re in a vehicle with others that you have no control over and most of the time you’ll have to shoot from the moving / shaking vehicle.  That said, Animal Kingdom does have some animals that Lion country Safari doesn’t have and in some cases with much better photography access.

Photo hints:

WildebeestWildebeest

You’re cautioned to drive slowly and not stop too close to the animals.  You’re also supposed to keep your doors locked and windows shut at all times.  I did cheat and one of the rangers yelled at me on a loudspeaker – “Close your window right now!”.  I did, of course and felt a little embarrassed.  The ranger probably would have been embarrassed too if she knew she yelled at the Central Florida Photo Ops lead writer!

When we drove through the zebra herd, I was a little leery of stopping behind any of them – I believe they have a very powerful kick.  But in general we felt very safe and I didn’t have any problems positioning the car for the shots I wanted.

Tripod/Monopod:  Nope.  You’ll be in your vehicle – so they aren’t useful.

Lenses:  Long lenses are good, although the animals are very close at times.  You’ll do fine if you have at least a 200mm equivalent lens.  Zooms are also very helpful to frame your composition from inside your car.  Unless it’s very overcast you should have plenty of light, but you’ll want to use a wide open aperture to blur out distracting detail (e.g. fences, etc.) and to keep your shutter speed high.

Best time to visit:  The animals are most active early in the morning.  Plan to drive through at least twice (no extra charge):  the light and the animals activities / positions will change.

Other:

The entrance fee is $31, although you can find discount coupons on-line.  This includes both the drive through safari park as well as the walk through safari and amusement park areas.  Lynn and I didn’t really explore the amusement park side, for more info on this, please see the Lion Country Safari web page.

We stayed at Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Jupiter, Florida in one of their small cabins and it made a great base of operations for exploring the area.

Our cabin at Johnathan Dickenson State Park

Our base of operations at Jonathan Dickenson State Park

Summary

We both liked Lion Country Safari.  The animals all seemed well fed, healthy, and even interested in the visitors.  They do animal rehabilitation, sanctuary, and research and seem to take very good care of the residents.  It’s one of the best zoos I’ve been to and I wish I’d gone sooner.  You can see more Lion Country Safari photos in this set on Flickr.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157650144549843
Website:  http://www.lioncountrysafari.com
Address / Phone: 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd
Loxahatchee, FL 33470
(561) 793-1084
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

 


On a different subject, this blog celebrated its 8th birthday last week – the first post was published on May 4th, 2007.  That’s a long time ago in web years!  I hope that my photography and writing has improved at least a little since then.  Many thanks to everyone stopping by to read the articles and comment on them. It really helps to motivate me!

Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

We’ve had fantastic weather here in Central Florida this week – perfect for a photo outing.  When Kevin K. invited me to go back to Viera Wetlands yesterday with Frank B., I readily agreed. There’s a lot to see with many baby birds about and even reports of a King Rail family.  There are also a great many Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Black Bellied Whistling DuckBlack-bellied Whistling Duck

These are common around here this time of year.  I’ve also seen them at the Circle B-BarOrlando Wetlands, and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

They’re unusual ducks.  Their appearance is distinctive and instead of quacking, they do have a whistle like call.  I usually see most ducks paddling around in the water.  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are sometimes in the water, but you’re much more likely to see these perched in trees.

I managed to catch this sequence yesterday.  One bird was minding its own business on a dead palm tree and another wanted to join or replace it.  These four photos capture what happened.  The bird on the tree was not interested in sharing!

Black Bellied Whistling Duck disputes -1 of 4Duck dispute – 1 of 4.  “Hey what do you think you’re doing?”

Black Bellied Whistling Duck disputes - 2 of 4Duck dispute – 2 of 4.  “You can’t land here!”

Black Bellied Whistling Duck disputes - 3 of 4Duck dispute – 3 of 4.  “I said back off, buddy!”

Black Bellied Whistling Duck disputes - 4 of 4Duck dispute – 4 of 4.  “OK, that does it – GET LOST!”

This same kind of thing happened more than once on different trees, with different ducks.  Fun to watch!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Vera Wetlands, Earth Day 2015

I realize this post comes a little late for Earth Day.  But I usually only publish once a week on the weekends, and on April 22nd  I was out enjoying the Earth.

“Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970″  Wikipedia

I haven’t written anything here about Viera Wetlands lately and decided to head down and see what’s going on there.  On the way, I ran into this scene.  I really liked the clouds, the way the their edge leads to the sun, the reflections in the calm water,  and the illumination on the flowers in the foreground.

Sunrise by the riverEarth Day sunrise by the Arlington / St. Johns River at SR 50, east of Christmas, Florida

I think Viera Wetlands is an appropriate place to celebrate Earth Day.  It’s a water reclamation facility and the very clean water provides a home for many birds and animals.  Here’s a link to a chart showing the 233 kinds of birds sighted there, organized by month.  Last Thursday, I saw:  Alligator, American Coot, Anhinga, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Double-crested Cormorant, Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron,Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Limpkin, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule, Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Mockingbird, Least Bittern, and Red-winged Blackbird.

This next photo is interesting.  The bird was hiding in the reeds and severely back-lit.  I couldn’t really tell what it was but managed to focus through the plants and get a good exposure.  At the time I thought it was probably a Green Heron since I’ve seen many of them at Viera.  When I got home and could check it on the computer, I realized it was a Least Bittern, a much rarer sighting (for me anyway).

Had I realized it then, I’d have spent more time trying to get a better photo.  Two teaching points (remember these, Ed):  1)  The camera is a good tool for extending your eyesight.  It can see what you sometimes can’t.  2) Always take the photo – you can’t be sure what you’ve got until later.

Least BitternLeast Bittern – I found this little one hiding in the reeds at Viera Wetlands. It was extremely back-lit and hard to see.

Here’s one more somewhat interesting photo from that day.  To me, these look like a large sparrow, but they’re actually female Red-winged Blackbirds.  If you start trying to ID it by comparing it to different types of sparrows, it’ll take you a while to climb back out of that rabbit hole.  The good news is that once you do learn this ID you’re more likely to remember it next time.  If you’re interested, here’s a photo of a male.

Female Red Winged BlackbirdFemale Red-winged Blackbird

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Algorithmic and Computational Photography

I have a long time interest in photography and a degree in Electrical Engineering.  I’ve also worked for many years in digital design, software engineering, and system engineering.  The changes happening in photography fascinate me.  Here’s an example:

TranquilityTranquility – An exceptionally calm morning in the marsh (On Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.)

I made this image yesterday using the high-resolution mode available in the Olympus OM-D E-M5II.  It’s a two frame panorama, but this discussion applies to single frame images too.  The camera comes with a 16 Mega-Pixel sensor and can generate images 4 times larger (~64 Mega Pixels) using some very clever built-in technology and processing.  I won’t go into how it does it (if you’re curious, here’s a good explanation).  If you’re careful and the conditions are right (no motion) the results are outstanding.  I’m also seeing  lower noise and better color results compared to normal resolution images.  Heres a small crop that’ll give you an idea of the detail captured.

An exceptionally calm morning in the marsh; On Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
A 1:1 crop from the photo above showing the detail captured

Each new model of camera adds more capability:  High Dynamic Range, Panoramas, Lens distortion / aberration correction, 3-D / post shot focusing (Lytro), face recognition, image stabilization, Live Composite, and many more algorithms are all being done now in camera.

Most of these (and more) can also be done with software on your computer or phone.  In fact, the computation capabilities inside your phone are one reason they’re replacing point and shoot cameras.  Algorithms / computation  can overcome many of the limitations of the relatively simple camera in your phone.  Look at the Hydra app for an example of this.

Photography started as an analog activity.  Capture the light via optics, film, chemicals, and sometimes (for experts) manipulation / fine tuning of the chemical process.  Create prints with more chemistry and manipulation of light during printing.

Photography today still involves capturing light using optics.  Instead of chemistry, most people use digital sensors.  And capturing the light as digital information allows us to apply algorithms using computers in many places in the process – either in camera like the E-M5II or in post processing.

I think the pace of change in the camera industry is slowing down at least with regard to sensors.  For instance, the E-M5II sensor is said to be identical to the first model (from three years ago).  But the rate of change in algorithms and processing is speeding up.  The new model has a faster processor with added capabilities.

Where’s all this going?  I don’t really know.  As they say:  “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future”.  I do know it’s a very interesting time to be a photographer.  And if you’re a photographer, I don’t think you should ignore the algorithmic and computational side of things.  Some of the processing tools can provide exciting capabilities.


On a different subject, there’s a Clyde Butcher exhibition in town at the Maitland Art Center until May 16th, 2015.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend that you go.  The subjects / compositions / technique are wonderful and the prints are large and masterfully done.  Lynn and I went last Thursday and as we were leaving, Clyde Butcher walked in.  I very much enjoyed meeting him.

He achieves beautiful results with an analog, large format, black and white approach which would be very difficult to reproduce with a digital workflow.  That won’t be true forever.  What will most likely be true forever is that his kind of artistic inspiration and results will be extremely difficult to reproduce with an algorithm.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Climate Change

We had a wonderful visit with Mike and Sara last week in Wisconsin.  We waited until April to go so the weather would have time to warm up.  And it did – but it was still a change for Lynn and I.  We’re used to Florida’s climate.

On one day, we drove up into Door County and had a good time tasting local wines.  The area’s scenic, although not quite thawed out yet.  It was just above freezing with a strong wind – nice and brisk!  This photo is from Fish Creek Harbor.

Spring is on the waySpring is on the way – Door County, Wisconsin

By way of contrast,  yesterday in Florida looked like this.  When I made the photo, it was in the mid-70s and on the way up to 90 degrees F.

No one watching?No one watching? – Just south of Rotary Riverfront Park in Titusville, Florida

We did find patches of color while we were in Wisconsin.  Here’s one scene we all enjoyed on another morning.

S.A.L.T. Restauranct in De Pere, Wisconsin
S.A.L.T. Restaurant in De Pere, Wisconsin

So that’s our version of personal climate change over the last week.  It was chilly in Wisconsin, but we got a very warm welcome.  And if you clicked on this hoping for a debate about global warming, sorry.  Maybe another day.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your family – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Explore and discover – then react

Some photographers plan their photo ops in detail.  In many cases that’s a good approach. Portrait and wedding photography are genres that need advanced planning.  And if you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, planning is prudent.  Other genres are more reactive (e.g. photo journalism).

I try to do research and planning if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been, but I don’t plan most of my photography.  Especially if I’ve been to a place before, my approach is to explore and discover, and then react to what I find.  Often, I end up with photos that I never imagine when I start out.  Which is loads of fun!

A few weeks ago, I went over to the Sanford Marina to make sunrise photos.  I arrived early and discovered very calm conditions in the harbor.  I reacted with this photo.  It’s nothing like the sunrise I originally went looking for.

Still water, sailboats, and starsStill water, sailboats, and stars – Very early and very calm at the Sanford marina

Last week, I took a ride here in Central Florida along Maytown Road between Osteen and Oak Hill.  It goes through some very undeveloped areas and ends at Seminole Rest, a small park in the Canaveral National Seashore.  In this case, I hadn’t really planned for any photos.  I was just driving to see what’s there.  I was glad to discover this gnarled old tree, although I wish I’d found a little better light to go with it.

Weathered TreeWeathered Tree – Seminole Rest, Canaveral National Seashore in Oak Hill, Florida

This last photo is from back in 2013.  It sat in my archives until this week when I discovered it again and processed it.  It took a while for me to complete my reaction to the scene.

Sun and shadowsSun and shadows – Long exposure under the pier at Cocoa Beach

The photo and video in last week’s post also resulted from the “explore, discover, react” approach.

So what’s the moral of this story?  I suppose it’s this:  If you approach photography like I do, you’d better be ready to react to a scene when you see it.  Know your equipment so you can capture what you need when you discover something.  Even in the dark or in rapidly changing situations.  Know your software capabilities too, so you understand what you need to capture.  Be ready for the opportunities that you find, and the ones that find you.


On a different subject, I realized after I published last week’s blog that embedded video isn’t included in the email.  The Jetpack plugin software that I use doesn’t even put in a link to it.  So if you read the blog only via email and wondered what the video was about, you can click here to view it on YouTube.   And you can always click on the title of the post inside the email to view it on the web.  Sorry for any confusion.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.