A couple of photo hints and a Gatorland update

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed any photo techniques, so I thought I’d share two hints that you might not have tried recently.  I also wanted to let you know what’s going on at Gatorland now that breeding season is in full swing.

Photo Hints:

#1 – Focus stacking:  I’ve written about this before. You can read the posts here:

Both of those were macro-photography related.  But the technique can also be used for other situations such as landscapes.

Beneath the bridge, by the rocksBeneath the bridge, by the rocks – Parish Park in Titusville, about a half hour before sunrise

I was at Parish Park in Titusville one morning, looking for a new view point and discovered this area where I could place these rocks in the scene as a foreground for the bridge and far shore.  My problem was that without a tilt-shift lens, using the Scheimpflug principle, it’s  hard to get the entire composition in focus.

I decided to make three exposures, changing the focus point in each.  In the first, I focused on the rocks in the foreground, in the second on the nearest portion of the bridge, and the last was on the far shore.  At home, I did some initial processing (the same for all three) and brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.  Then I aligned the layers and manually blended them together using masks.  I could have used Photoshop’s focus stacking capability, but doing this myself with layers gave me more control.  The resulting depth of field is just how I wanted it.  What do you think?

#2 – Fill flash:  I often carry my flash and use it to add fill light or catch lights in eyes.  It helps and doesn’t seem to bother the animals.  I’ve also used fill flash for sunrise or sunset portraits of people.  It can do a good job of balancing the exposure of your subject against a bright background.

When I saw this Tri-colored Heron posing in the bush, I made a few photos.  But then I thought about adding flash.  When I got home, the photos with the flash looked much better.  The bright, ambient sunrise was balanced with the fill flash on the nearby bird.  There’s a better detail in the bird when I used the flash.

Early birdEarly bird – Tri-colored Heron at dawn (ISO 800, f/5.0, 1/320 sec, on camera flash in auto slow sync mode, -1 stop flash exposure compensation).

If you try this, you’ll need to practice a bit before you use it in a pressure situation.  Make sure you know how to adjust exposure compensation (on both the flash and the camera), shutter speed, and aperture to get the best results.  And if your camera has it, try enabling high-speed sync.  This lets you shoot with flash at higher shutter speeds without getting any black bands on your photos (at the expense of a lower light output).

Gatorland Update:

I went by Gatorland again last week.  The Great Egrets continue to breed and their hatched chicks are growing fast.  There are Snowy Egrets and Cormorants on eggs now and I saw  Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Wood Storks gathering nesting material although I didn’t spot their nest or eggs yet.  A few cattle egrets have also arrived and are courting.  And the gators are getting more active too.

Just before I left, I spotted this large turtle there – I’ve never seen one before.  It looks quite intimidating and I wouldn’t want to be too close to it in the water.

Alligator Snapping Turtle (?)Alligator Snapping Turtle

For a better idea of what you can photograph at Gatorland, you can look through my album on Flickr.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Fisheye, fog, and Flower

Wow – it’s been over a year since I’ve posted any fisheye photos on the blog. So one day last week, I mounted my Rokinon 7.5mm Micro Four Thirds lens and went out looking for some photos.  I ended up at Central Winds Park in Winter Springs.  It was very foggy and the light was a bit dim – it was a good thing I brought a tripod with me.  I noticed several kinds of wildflowers blooming and decided they might be good subjects..

Fog and mist can blur detail unless you get close.  Fog in the background can also help isolate your subject.  Getting close with a wide-angle lens (especially a fisheye) will emphasize close in objects and make them stand out.  So I got close to this flower.  It was off to the side of the path and I was able to frame it against the dead leaves so colors also helped it stand out.

Flowers in the forest by the footpath in the fog

Flowers in the forest by the footpath in the fog

Using an approach like this can give your image an almost 3d look. I stopped down to f/8 which made my depth of field large enough to cover the flower, but shallow enough to blur the background a little.  At base ISO (200) my exposure was 1/50 second.  I used -1 stop of exposure compensation so the sky in the background didn’t blow out, and this also helped with saturation.  The Rokinon is manual focus.  Since focus was critical, I carefully used magnified live view to get it just right.   I like how this turned out, but looking at it now maybe I should have gotten even closer.

You can see more of my fisheye photos in this set on Flickr.


A note about the blog:  I’m working to add Gallery / Portfolio pages to my site.  I’ve posted two so far.  You can get to them from the pull down menu at the top of the page, or by clicking these links:  Florida Landscapes,  Florida Wildlife.  Please take a look and let me know what you think.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

One way to improve your photography

If you want to get better at photography, you can find a lot of free advice on the inter webs.  Buy a new camera or lens, use new software, travel to an exotic location, take a workshop or a course, read books, study the masters, etc.

My free advice isn’t any of the above and it won’t cost you as much money as some of those things will.  And I don’t see it come up very often on-line.  Take my advice and not only will you learn new things – you’ll be exposed to different genres of photography, and you’ll be able to practice what you’ve been exposed to.  What’s the secret?

Join your local camera club.

The weather’s been gloomy around Central Florida recently.  solid grey clouds, rain and drizzle, and not much light to make photographs with.  So I was happy that there was a Still Life Event at the Orlando Camera Club meeting last Monday.  They brought in interesting items to photograph and had tables, lighting, and backdrops to use for set up.  I brought a camera, tripod and flash (although with my tripod, I ended up not needing the flash).  It was a lot of fun to choose items and arrange compositions.  It’s something I don’t usually do – but that’s a good thing.  Here are three photos from that evening.

TelephoneTelephone

Keb Mo bluesKeb Mo blues – Playing around with compositing: I made the foreground shot of the guitar & Blues sign at the Still Life event.  I added the background photo of Keb Mo that I made at his concert in the Plaza Theater in Orlando on Feb. 1 2012. 

Wrench, bolt, and lockWrench, bolt, and lock

I belong to the Orlando Camera Club (http://orlandocameraclub.com).  I’ve also attended meetings at the Port Orange Camera Club (http://www.portorangecameraclub.com) and the Oviedo Photo Club (http://oviedophotoclub.com).  Membership in any of these will benefit your photography.  Some things most clubs offer:

  • Photo competitions in different genres with feedback
  • Events (like the still life one I went to)
  • Guest speakers on many related topics
  • Workshops (free or inexpensive) about many subjects
  • Field trips to local photo ops
  • Libraries of photo books that you can borrow for free
  • And other people with similar (and diverse) interests to share your passion with

I’m sure that wherever you are, there’s a camera club that you can join too.

Here’s one other post I’ve written on still life photography, and you can see some of my other still life photographs in this set on Flickr


Update on the blog hosting change:  It does look like the transition’s been successful.  The email subscriptions seemed to go out ok last week and I haven’t received any problem reports.  One issue I’m aware of is that the move appears to have broken RSS subscriptions.  So If you’ve come here directly to find out why your Central Florida Photo Ops RSS feed isn’t working – I’m sorry.  I don’t think I can do anything about it.  You’ll have to re-subscribe.


And finally, I’m sure you heard that Leonard Nimoy passed away on Friday and will be buried today.  Of course I didn’t know him, but I felt I knew his famous Mr. Spock character that saved the day (and even the universe) so many times over the years.  May he rest in peace.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Two birds, a selfie, and the blog

I met Tom M., and Lee A. at Gatorland again last Thursday.  During breeding season I like to go at least once a month to keep up with the activity there.  It’s a very nice experience over time to  see different species nesting, eggs hatching, and young birds growing and fledging.  It was our coldest morning of the season so far, with temperatures a few degrees below freezing.  I know all of you that are suffering in colder climates are thinking that’s not cold – but down here we think it’s pretty chilly.

Anyway, the Great Egrets are wearing their fancy plumes and colors and looking for mates. One of the advantages of the photographer’s early entry program at Gatorland is that the light can be very nice in the morning.  It certainly was on this bird and it was displaying a bit too. I waited for the right moment, and made this image.

Displaying Egret Displaying Egret

A while ago, one of my friends on Flickr asked me about this photo of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Here’s the question and my answer:

Vicki:  “I was wondering about the heron you posted. It has only one leg. Was it missing a leg or is it the way they hold them? I spotted one near me last week and when I got the photos on the computer, I discovered it was only using one leg…even after it moved around in the tree. So I was wondering if you know if it is a normal pose for them to do that.”

Ed:  “I can’t be 100% sure since I didn’t see this heron’s other leg, but it is a typical pose to tuck one leg up against their body.”

In this new image, also of a Black Crowned Night Heron, you can see the other leg, since it’s not quite hidden in the feathers.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile

This last photo is my latest selfie.  For several years I’ve been looking for situations like this where the geometry is right to see my reflection in the Alligator’s eye and get close enough to photograph it.  This one is a tight crop, but I think it’s my best so far!

Gator eye selfie (crop) Gator eye selfie – Not photoshop – that’s the actual reflection in its eye of me standing on the boardwalk.

 And now about the blog.  I’ve been a bit aggravated for some time with the performance of my hosting service – the load times seemed slow and  I’ve also had intermittent, unexplained  outages  So finally last week I decide to move to a managed WordPress hosting service.  It seems to be working very well so far.  This is my first post on the new system and I hope that everything works well – including the email subscription function.  I’m only telling you this in case you notice any issues.  If so, please let me know so I can work on them.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Around Central Florida

Here are three photos from last week that I made in and around Central Florida. First up is the Cocoa Waterfront.  I liked the early morning look of the clouds and water at River Front Park.

Calm morning on the riverfrontCalm morning on the riverfront. (Two frame vertical panorama, Infrared, B&W, 34mm eq. fl, 1/40 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200)

The morning light was also nice at Viera Wetlands, and this American Bittern posed for us in the reeds.  I’ve been lucky enough to see them there several times over the years. I’m sure they’re in spots like Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge too, but I’ve never spotted one there.

American BitternAmerican Bittern.  (600mm, f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO 320)

Orlando Wetlands Park opened again February 1st.  It’s one of my favorite places for sunrise.  Our walk on Friday morning  was brisk and breezy, but I like the wind’s effect on the water in this photo.

Wee hour winds whisk water and reeds in the wetlandsWee hour winds whisk water and reeds in the wetlands.  (Two frame vertical panorama; 120mm; I shot the bottom frame at f/22 and ISO 50 to extend the shutter speed to 8 seconds and maximize depth of field.  I made the upper frame at f/8, .5 sec, ISO 100 to maximize sharpness)

So that’s some of what I photographed last week.  What did you shoot?  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – 1/31/15

Kevin M. organized a quick trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last weekend and invited me to go with him and Kevin K.  We started at Space View Park, where we watched a lovely sunrise.

Dawn from Space View Park Dawn from Space View Park

Next we drove around Blackpoint Wildlife Drive where there were lots of birds, some wild hogs, some alligators, and lots of  photographers!   Two different ponds had concentrations of fish attracting swarms of birds (mostly Snowy Egrets).  They were flying low over the water and snatching their meals “to – go”.  This one seemed full – it stood watching the action.

Fluffy Egret Fluffy Egret

The Great Horned Owl  nest was empty this time.  We scanned the surrounding trees trying to spot the owls (like Jim Boland did on his visit) but we weren’t able to find them.

At least three Painted Buntings were hanging around near the feeder at the visitor’s center.  The light’s usually difficult there for me, but this time I managed to get a good photo of this colorful bird.  It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild.  Now’s the best time – they migrate through here in the winter.

In the bushes 

In the bushes – Painted Bunting

MINWR is a wonderful place and there’s almost always something there worth seeing.  Check it out for yourself!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.