Foggy morning start

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; …”
― John Muir

The first part of my visit to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Tuesday (2/2/16) was about as foggy as I’ve ever seen.  So much so that I was happy to follow a large truck along SR 46 on the way over – better than feeling my way through the low visibility on my own.

For some reason, I’d taken a macro lens with me and I was happy to use it on the following image:

Nature's necklaceNature’s necklace – Foggy mornings dew along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  This is a 5 frame, hand-held focus stack.

One of my on-line friends (Dorothy) asked me on Flickr how I got the reflections in the dew drops.  They were really a gift from nature.  I could see lots of dew covered webs from the car, and I watched for one where I could frame the drops standing out against a clear background.  When I found this particular one, I had to figure out how to best image them.  One part of it was making sure the sensor plane was as close to  parallel with the lines of drops as possible.  I stopped down to f/8 for increased depth of field.  Then I focused on the front string and made a high-speed sequence while I rocked slowly forward.  This captured about 17 frames with different parts of the scene in focus.  Back at my computer, I picked 5 of the frames and made a focus stack to get as much as possible in sharp focus.  The last steps were to do some selective contrast / sharpening on just the drops.  I like the way it turned out.

As I explored further on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, I saw something for the first time – a fogbow:

Fogbow and birds in the misty morning marshFogbow and birds in the misty morning marsh.  This is a two frame panorama (and exposure bracket) that I blended manually in Photoshop.  See this post for an explanation of my  technique.

Fogbows are mostly colorless because the water drops in fog are so small that diffraction smears the colors. Physics in action!

Eventually, the fog cleared and I was able to get some good light on a few birds.

SpoonieSpoonbill along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive

Double Gull stare-downDouble Gull stare-down – along the causeway into MINWR

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  And you can view an album of my MINWR photos here and some other fog / mist photos in this album.

I’ll leave you with another John Muir quote:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

That perfectly expresses my feelings after I got home last Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go ‘walk with nature’ and make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Boundary Warp

There’s a new feature in the latest Creative Cloud versions of Lightroom and Camera Raw, and if you stitch together multi-frame panoramas like I tend to, then you should take a close look at it.

It shows up as a new slider called “Boundary Warp” in the “Merge to Panorama” dialog and it’s designed to help fix the empty areas along the edges of some stitched panoramas.  You can see an example in the first image below.

The Tarn - This is a three frame panorama from Acadia National Park that I'd never processed. I used it to test the new "Boundary Warp" feature
The Tarn – This is a three frame panorama from Acadia National Park that I’d never processed. I used it to test the new “Boundary Warp” feature

An easy way to fix this is to crop out the empty portions of the frame, like this:

The Tarn - This version has been cropped to eliminate the missing portions.
The Tarn – I cropped the missing portions out of this version.

But that throws away pixels that you may want to keep.  You can also try to fill in the empty areas with content aware fill or the clone stamp, but that often leaves some anomalies that take time to clean up.

Using the new function is easy.  It keeps all the pixels in the image and warps the edges to fill in empty areas.

The Tarn - I used Boundary Warp on this version to fill in the missing areas.
The Tarn – I used Boundary Warp on this version to fill in the missing areas.

I like the way it works. It’s better than cropping or trying to fill in missing portions with the clone stamp.  Try it – I think you’ll like it too.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Arlo Guthrie at the Plaza

I’m sitting here this morning writing this while wearing the new t-shirt  I got last night at the Plaza Live in Downtown Orlando.

During the Vietnam War, the US government required men to register for the draft.  I suspect that many of these folks and their loved ones were and still are fans of Arlo Guthrie and his song “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree“.  He stopped by last night on his Alice’s Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour to entertain a full house.

Arlo GuthrieArlo Guthrie

Sarah Lee Guthrie (his daughter) opened for him and she’s a wonderful talent too.

Sara Lee GuthrieSara Lee Guthrie

“Alices Restaurant” is a favorite tune of mine and one of the first fingerstyle songs I learned to play on the guitar.  It was a special treat to see and hear him perform this and many other songs.  It was also special to hear him and Sarah Lee talk about their life, family, and friends.  Here are a couple of things I learned:

  • In the Alice’s Restaurant movie, Arlo, Officer Obie, Judge James Hannon and his seeing eye dog all portray themselves.  Relations between Arlo and Officer Obie were frosty at first, but they became good friends.
  • The Alice’s Restaurant song is 18 1/2 minutes long which is the same length as the famous gap in Nixon’s Watergate tapes.  Arlo suggested that Nixon listened to the song and that’s why he had to erase that section.

Arlo GuthrieArlo Guthrie and his band

Photography notes:  These were all made with a Sony RX-100 III point and shoot camera.  I took this one because I’m never sure what the camera policy will be at the Plaza – it seems to vary.  The Sony only has a 24 – 70mm equivalent lens, but we had seats up front.  I used it wide open (f/2.8) in aperture priority with the spot meter.  I manually varied ISO between 800 and 1600.  The shutter speeds varied between 1/60 and 1/200 seconds.  I shot in RAW and used DXO Optics Pro to process the RAW files.    This SW is excellent at removing noise and preserving sharpness – even with the smaller sensor in this camera.  The camera’s auto white balance did OK, but I used the eyedropper to set it based on Arlo’s gray shirt.

Lynn and I really enjoyed the concert.  And I like my new t-shirt too. We need more songs about social consciousness, activism, and protest.  There’re certainly enough subjects to write about.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Look at all the babies!

My buddy Tom M. suggested that we go by the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.  You may remember this post I wrote about it back in 2013.  I haven’t been since then and haven’t kept up with what’s going on there.  So I was surprised to spot this pair way in the back when we visited the Orangutans:

Baby Orangutan and Mom are both a little sleepy.Baby Orangutan and Mom are both a little sleepy

Baby GoJo is less than a month old – born on Dec. 21, 2015 to Josie, a 30-year-old Bornean Orangutan.  You can read more about them including info on the zoo’s Orangutan conservation efforts at their website:    www.lowryparkzoo.org/about/newsroom/2015/12/29/santa-baby…

Next we wandered over to see the Chimpanzees and immediately saw another very cute young one scampering about:

Baby Chimp and foster MomBaby Chimp and foster Mom

This one’s name is Keeva, and she was born on March 12, 2015 in a Maryland zoo. When her birth mother was unable to care for her, they brought her to Tampa where she’s been  adopted by Abby.  Abby has a lot of experience successfully fostering orphan chimps and was specifically picked to care for Keeva.  It was wonderful to see the youngster thriving with her foster Mom.  You can read more of this story at the Maryland zoo site, which also talks about their chimp conservation efforts:  www.marylandzoo.org/2015/05/keeva/

After seeing these two small ones, I started looking for others.  Next, I spotted a baby white Rhino.  Ahati was born at the zoo on May 21, 2015 to Alaka.
www.lowryparkzoo.org/animals/southern-white-rhinoceros

Baby Rhino and MomBaby Rhino and Mom

And there are two young elephants.  Mpumi was born on Dec 23, 2012 and was there the last time I visited.  Mavi was born on July 29, 2013 – I think that’s who this is.

Baby Elephant and MomBaby Elephant and Mom

We also saw a Zebra foal (Penda, born November23, 2015) and her Mom, although my long distance photo through two fences isn’t very good.  When I got home, I did the research I should have done before I went and found out there are other babies there that we didn’t spot.  Check out the Lowry Park Zoo’s baby page for more info.

If you like zoos and babies (who doesn’t like babies?) – now is a great time to visit the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.  While I sometimes have mixed feeling about zoos, this one seems very deserving of our support.  The animals appear well cared for and they’re doing important work in conservation of endangered animals such at the ones pictured in this post.  For a limited time, you can pay for a one day pass and use it during the rest of the year.  See here for details.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Apopka wildlife Drive

My friend Tom M. wanted to go out shooting last week and hadn’t ever been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive itself is only open to cars from Friday through Sunday, so we met on Friday morning and went over.  It was raining when I got up and still cloudy on the way over, which made for interesting skies in my infrared photos.

Lake Apopka Pump HouseLake Apopka Pump House – 2 frame panorama, infrared, black and white.

We did have a bit of good light while we were there.  We saw this bird struggling to swallow a fish and stopped to watch for a few minutes.  It was on the side of a canal with the clouds reflecting in the water behind it and flowers blooming in front.  I stayed in the car so I wouldn’t bother it and shot a series of single frames while we watched.  This one was the best one of the series.

Nice catch! Nice catch! – an Anhiga tosses a fish it caught along a canal on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

On this trip, I brought my micro four thirds cameras.  I’ve used the system for about four years and they’ve worked very well.  The dynamic range and noise performance are not as good as larger sensor cameras, but it’s “good enough”.  And the noise is not an issue for me.  DxO Optics Pro does an outstanding job processing the RAW files.  The focusing capabilities have been fast for static subjects – but I’ve never been able to do very well with continuous focus.  Well, I recently traded up to a used Olympus E-M1, which has phase detect sensors built into the image sensor and it’s been doing a great job with continuous focus. So much so that even for birds in flight it’s working “good enough” too.  Here’s an example from Friday:

Checking me outChecking me out – A hawk in flight looking at the camera

You can view other photos I’ve made with the micro four thirds system in this album on Flickr.

Lake Apopka is an awesome place, I’ll definitely go back.  I’m collecting photos from there in this folder on Flickr, and you can also read an earlier article I wrote about it here on the blog.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Panama Canal

Our visit to the Panama Canal and passage through the Gatun Locks was the main feature of our recent cruise.   As an engineer, I’ve long been intrigued by the canal and it lived up to my expectations.  It’s amazing that something built over 100 years ago in such difficult conditions is still operating and remains an import part of global commerce.

The ship’s Captain planned well.  We arrived near the entrance just in time to view the day’s sunrise.

Panamanian SunrisePanamanian Sunrise – a pilot-boat paces us as we head toward the canal entrance

The crew opened up normally closed areas at the bow for viewing and many folks crowded there to watch the activity.

Entering the Panama CanalEntering the Panama Canal

At the evening meal the night before we arrived, Nino (the maître d’) promised us the “best seat in the house” if we came to breakfast at 7:30 that morning.  We thought we had a nice view up on the bow, but decided to follow his recommendation and go down to breakfast.  It was surprising how few people were in the dining room.  He fulfilled his promise and we sat at a table at the very stern of the ship right next to the large windows on deck 2 – and it did have the best view!!  Watching the locks filling and the canal walls go by from that vantage point was captivating.  It took longer than normal for us to finish our meal!

In the Panama Canal Gatun LocksIn the Panama Canal Gatun Locks – view from the Main dining room on deck 2

The MS Zuiderdam is 106 feet wide and the canal is only 110 feet, so there’s very little clearance.

MS Zuiderdam in the Panama Canal - showing the 2 foot clearance
View from our balcony on the 6th deck – 2 foot clearance!

The operation, control, and precision while in the canal is very skilful.  The photo above shows the 2 foot clearance between the ship and the canal.  One of the “mules”  (center left) is helping to position us and move us safely through.

Once past the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake so people taking excursions could disembark.  Then we sailed back out through the canal and tied up for a port visit in Colon Harbor, where the excursions re-joined us that night.

Colon Harbor at nightColon Harbor at night

Colon wasn’t our favorite stop, although I was able to buy a genuine Panama Hat there.  Interesting fact:  Panama Hats are made in Ecuador!

I’ve posted a short video that we made in the canal here on YouTube.  It shows our entrance followed by a time-lapse as we descend into the Gatun Locks on our return.  Take a look if you get a chance.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Cruising Wildlife

Lynn and I returned last week from a wonderful visit with her brother Arthur, and his wife Michele.  We cruised together around the Caribbean on Holland America’s MS Zuiderdam. I’ll post more about the rest of our adventures later, but this time I’d like to write about wildlife photography from cruise ships.  Here’s one earlier post about this (North to Alaska, Ch. 1: Intro and Wildlife) but it’s a subject worth discussing again.

Our route went by the Bahamas, Aruba, Bonaire, Panama, and Costa Rica.  Many of the animals in these places are only inside zoos in the US.  It’s wonderful to see them wild in their natural habitats.

Sleepy SlothSleepy Sloth – A wild, two-toed sloth napping In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. They seem to be common there. We saw three on our tour – although they were hidden in trees and hard to find.

If you’re on vacation with your family,  the main reason for going isn’t wildlife photography, so you’ll have to improvise and stay alert for wildlife photo ops.  Since Lynn and I hadn’t ever been to these places, we took advantage of several “highlight” excursions offered by the cruise line.  The one to the Tortuguero Canal in Costa Rica was especially nice and we enjoyed seeing a variety of flora and fauna.

Masked Booby in flightMasked Booby in flight – These birds were feeding on fish (flying fish, and others) that were stirred up by the ship’s wake

The morning before we arrived in Aruba, we noticed “sea gulls” flying near the ship.  After breakfast I spent a while watching what turned out to be scores of Masked Boobies catching fish stirred up by the ship’s wake.  It was fun to watch (and photograph!).

American FlamingoA wild American / Caribbean Flamingo – Bonaire is famous for its flamingo populations and has one of only four nesting grounds for flamingos in the Caribbean.

On excursions, it’s helpful to have a good guide.  Our Costa Rican guide (Porfilio) was exceptional at seeing and pointing out the wildlife in the canal.  You could tell he liked his job, and we enjoyed our time with him immensely.

Howler MonkeyHowler Monkey – A wild monkey In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Here are a few pointers if you go on a similar adventure:

  • Do your research ahead of time.  Look into the wildlife that lives in each place.
  • Search for reviews and critiques of the excursions offered and pick ones that give the best photography opportunities.
  • If possible, schedule your excursions for early in the day.  Animals are more active then, and it’s cooler.  I found the Masked Boobies at breakfast and we left for the Tortuguero Canal at 6:30am.
  • Question the guides.  They’re very helpful and can let you know the best place to sit, etc.
  • Have your camera out and ready to go, not in your backpack.  Many times the sightings will be brief, so pay attention and be ready to shoot instantly.
  • The animals will likely be far away and you’ll have to hand hold your shots, so you’ll definitely want a long lens with stabilization.  I used an Olympus E-M1 M4/3 camera and a 200 – 600mm equivalent lens for the photos in this post.

Hard core wildlife photographers will want to spend much longer in places like Costa Rica, but if you’re on a cruise don’t overlook the opportunities.  A few hours in a new place can lead to wonderful memories and unique images.

I’m collecting photos from the cruise in this folder on Flickr.  Please check back as I finish processing and add more.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.