Viera Wetlands – 8/28/15

Kevin M. organized a trip to Viera Wetlands on Friday and Kevin K., and I went along.  We were at the small park across from the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River about 45 minutes before sunrise.   It was very dark – making focusing difficult  and exposures long.  It was also very calm, and I thought the reflections in the water were lovely.

Before SunriseBefore Sunrise – Two frame panorama, 24mm, f/8, 30 seconds at ISO 160

Kevin M. noticed a puddle in the parking lot and we spent several minutes using it to frame the sunrise.  You should check out Kevin K’s version of this here on Flickr.

Hey Ed - sunrise is over here!“Hey Ed – sunrise is over here!” – Kevin K. helping me figure out which way is east.  Isn’t it amazing how level he’s holding that leg of his tripod?

At Viera Wetlands,  the rangers closed the roads because of all the rain we’ve had, so we walked around the cell closest to the entrance.  It was quieter than the last few times I’ve been there, but we still saw many of the usual Florida avians.  This Turkey Vulture was posing in good light on one of the observation platforms.

Why don't I ever see Eagles posing like this?Why don’t I ever see Eagles posing like this?

It’s still plenty hot here in Florida, but the days are getting shorter.  We can look forward to  cooler weather soon along with the arrival of migrants and winter visitors to make the birding even more interesting.

We’ve posted many more photos from this trip on Flickr.  You can see Kevin K’s photos  hereKevin M’s photos here, and mine are in this album.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Prowling Egret Composite

This is a five frame composite B&W image of a single Reddish Egret patrolling a small pool of water at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Prowling Egret
Prowling Egret

There was some interest in how I did this and it’s relatively simple, so I thought I’d show you the steps.

To start with, the light was very strong, so I overexposed to get details in the bird and this washed out the water / background.  I’d made several frames, so I processed all of them identically in Lightroom to force the background further to white and then loaded them into layers in Photoshop. 1

I selected all the layers and set their blend modes to “Darken” which forces only the darkest parts of each frame to show through.  This is a key step – with the right background, the blend mode does all the work and you don’t have to do any selection / cutting / pasting.2I made the canvas larger so I had room to work:3

Then I used the move tool (top of the tool bar) and selected each layer so I could place them:

4

Once I moved them to where I thought they looked good, I use curve adjustments on each layer to reduce brightness differences and followed with the clone tool to smooth a few remaining variations.  After cropping out the extra canvas, and adding a bit of clarity to the bird shapes I was ready to return to Lightroom.

5

In Lightroom I finished tweaking it (white and black points, sharpening, vignette, etc), converted to Black and White “and Bob’s your uncle“.

I’m sure there are other ways to do this, but I found this method easy enough.  If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.  And if you’ve tried anything like this, I’d love to see your images.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Museum of Seminole County Displays Senator Sculptures

Big Tree Exhibit Panorama
Big Tree Exhibit Panorama

There’s an interesting exhibit at the Museum of Seminole County History through September 30, 2015.  It features over a hundred works of art made from the charred remains of The Senator – the 3,500 year-old cypress tree that burned in 2012.

Big Tree Exhibit - Mark Rice Senator Painting
Big Tree Exhibit – Mark Rice Senator Painting

I’ve written about The Senator before.  You can view those posts at this link.  This latest chapter in the story provides some beautiful artwork made from the ruins of a tragedy.

Big Tree Exhibit - Ted Page Seminole Indian Carving
Big Tree Exhibit – Ted Page Seminole Indian Carving

It’s well worth going over to see these in person.  It you’re there this Wednesday night (August 19th, 2015) between 5 and 7 pm, you can also meet the artists.  I have some other photos from the exhibit at this link.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Processing Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II High Resolution Photos

Introduction

I’ve been using an Olympus E-M5 Mark II for several months and I’ve mentioned it once before (in this post about algorithmic and computational photography).  I very much like the camera and the photos I’ve made with it.  You can see some of these in this set on Flickr.

Today I’d like to talk more about its high res mode and some things I’ve learned so far while working with it.  I’ll use this recent image from the north bank of Haulover Canal in Merritt Island NWR for my example.  By the way, please click on the photo, you’ll be able to see a higher resolution version on Flickr.

Daybreak at Haulover CanalDaybreak at Haulover Canal

For those of you who aren’t interested in this particular camera or capability, here’s the tl;dr summary:  Your capture and processing tools, technique, and skill make a difference in the resulting photo.  But that’s true of every camera.  And you already knew that, didn’t you?

Okay, for those of you that are interested, here’s some hints on how to get the best out of this mode.

RAW Import

I’ve found that the software I use makes a big difference in the detail that shows up in the file.  I normally use Lightroom for all my photos, although I also have DxO Optics pro and I think it does a good job with higher ISO images.  But I noticed issues when using either of them with the Olympus high-resolution files.  Here are three 1:1 crops, processed in the three different software packages.  These are just after importing from the RAW file, with (mostly) default processing, although I did adjust sharpening on the first two to try to improve detail.

Lightroom Processed

Processed in Lightroom  CC Version 2015.1.1

DxO Processed

Processed in DxO Optics Pro 10 Version 10.4.2 

Olympus Processed

Processed in Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In 

To my eye there’s no question:  the Olympus software does a better job processing the High Res Raw file.  The result is sharper, with more detail – so I’ve switched to using it instead of either Lightroom or DxO Optics Pro for initial input of the high res files.  There are limited adjustments available with it, so after importing the file I usually add an Adobe Camera Raw adjustment layer in Photoshop to help fine tune the highlights, shadows, etc.

Motion Artifacts

You can see artifacts on the water surface in the crops above.  These are from the way the high res files are created.  Each file is composed of 8 separate captures that the camera combines into the high res RAW output file.  So any motion during capture will result in strange-looking distractions.  If your camera is moving, the image will be unusable.  So I use a sturdy tripod, a cable release and / or a shutter delay.  If part of the scene is moving (like water, or wind-blown branches) you’ll see the distracting artifacts in that part of the frame.  For some subjects (e.g. still life) this isn’t a problem – nothing moves.  For landscapes, you’ll need a very calm day or you may want to remove the artifacts in post processing.

If they bother you, there are (at least) a couple of things you can try.  Olympus also saves the first of the 8 frames that it uses to create the RAW file.  You can open this, up-res it, and mask it into the high res version wherever there are artifacts you want to remove.  (Note that you’ll have to rename the normal res file – your software probably won’t recognize the .ORI extension).  And you’ll have carefully process the normal and high res files exactly the same up until the point where you do this so that any color or brightness difference doesn’t show.  And finally, you’ll have to recognize that wherever you do this, the resolution will suffer.

For water surfaces, you can also try applying a motion blur in Photoshop and masking it in to hide the artifacts.  That was easy to do in this photo, since it was a relatively long exposure (1/2 sec.) and the water surface was calm.  Here’s a before and after 1:1 comparison:

Motion Artifacts

Motion Artifacts – prior to removal

Motion Artifact removal

Motion Artifacts – masked out using a motion blur layer in Photoshop 

Other Artifacts?

Olympus outputs 64 Mega Pixel RAW files.  Olympus themselves say there’s not 64MP of information in the file.  It’s more like 40MP, so they downsize their JPG files to 40MP.  When using this mode keep that in mind.

There’s not too much else to worry about, although I have seen some things that look like “hot pixels” in the high res images (2 or less per file).  I’m not sure if that’s what they are and I also don’t see them in normal res files from the camera.  But they are pretty easy to remove with the Healing Brush in Lightroom.  By the way, If anyone else has seen these, I’d be interested in hearing from you.

Red Dot Artifact

High Res “Hot Pixel”

Conclusions

So, the E-M5 Mark II High Res mode:

  • Is most suitable for still life types of images when the camera is mounted on a tripod and nothing is moving.
  • Is best processed from RAW by the Olympus High Res Shot Raw File Photoshop Plug-In – at least with current (August 2015) versions of software.
  • Offers better resolution and improved color and noise characteristics than the normal mode images.
  • Can be used in other situations (e.g. landscapes), but unless the subject is still, you’ll need to deal with motion artifacts.
  • Provides the greatest benefit with better lenses.  Lower quality glass could compromise the output resolution of the system.

If you capture images in high res mode and the artifacts are too difficult to deal with, you can always drop back and use the normal resolution file.  The results will be almost as good for anything except large prints (or pixel peeping).

Have you used a capability like this?  What have you discovered?

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Blue Moon and Sunrise at Ponce Inlet

I met Tom M. at Ponce Inlet last Friday at dawn.  We arrived at 6 am when the park opened and were the first ones in.  We didn’t see anyone else for about 30 minutes.  I was surprised by how few people were there.  I guess it helps to go during the week instead of on weekends.

I thought I’d share three photos along with some details on how I made them.

The moon was full on Friday for the second time in July and was just setting as we got out on the jetty.  I found this vantage point to highlight the “Blue Moon” over the water along the rocks.  This is a two exposure composite that I blended manually using layers and masks in Photoshop.  I exposed the top part for the moon (ISO 50, f/11, 1.6 sec.) and  the bottom part for the water (ISO 50, f/11, 5 sec.).  I used my Nikon 24 – 120mm f/4 lens at 120mm – it’s very versatile for these kinds of outings.

Blue Moon decendsBlue Moon descends

I liked the way the area just north of the jetty looked, with the sun and clouds above the water and rocks.  I made a few exposures, and then waited for the sun to rise a bit more so it would be behind the clouds and the light would be less harsh.  I saw a pelican flying by and managed to catch it just about under the sun (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.).  I thought it would look better with silky smooth water, so I made one more exposure using an 8 2/3 stop Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 8 sec.).  This image was also blended manually using layers in Photoshop.  I did have some issues with color balance.  The ND filter added a yellowish tint to the bottom that the top didn’t have.  So I adjusted it to match as closely as I could before blending.

Ponce SunrisePonce Sunrise – Early morning, just north of the jetty at Ponce Inlet.

For comparison, here is one of the photos I made about 5 minutes earlier when the sun was lower.  This is a single exposure (50 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.).  I made a burst of several and picked one that best showed the sun highlighting the spray on top of the breaking wave.  I like the framing on this one better too as I can see the sun reflecting off the jetty wall.  The colors are more orange since there’s more of the sun showing through the clouds.

Ponce Sunrise too
Ponce Sunrise too – Same place as the previous photo, and a few minutes earlier.

I’m not sure which one of these sunrise images I like best.  I’m leaning toward the second one.  Too bad the Pelican wasn’t in place when the wave broke!  Which one do you like?  Have you tried any techniques like this?

On a side note, I used my Nikon D800 camera that I’ve had for more than three years to make these.  A couple of weeks ago, Nikon sent me an email and offered to clean and inspect it and fix anything they found wrong – for free!  I took advantage of the offer, got it back, and was anxious to test it out.  It seems to work fine and it’s nice to know it’s still in good shape.  Thanks Nikon!

You can see more images from Ponce Inlet in this set on Flickr.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And do it more often than “once in a blue moon”!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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.