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.

Gatorland – June 4, 2015

Once again, it’s that time of year:  The Gatorland photography pass season ends soon – so if you want to get in early at 7:30am, you’ll have to hurry.  After June 17th, they’re only open during regular hours.

I like to watch the progression of wild birds nesting in the rookery and usually visit several times. Check out this very handy bird nesting season reference guide on the St. Augustine Alligator Farm web page for hints on what you can see here in Florida and when.

A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical "hair-do")A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical “hair-do”).  This one was waiting for Mom or Dad to return with some food.

Great Egrets start the year off, but this late, most of their eggs have hatched and the chicks have grown and fledged into nice looking juveniles.  When I was there this week with Tom M., Wood Storks, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, and Tri-colored Herons were still raising chicks and tending to nests.

Wood StorkWood Stork – Bringing a branch back to Momma.

Several of the Wood Storks had found an abandoned Cormorant nest and were stealing branches from it.  This one made several trips!

Cattle Egrets are taking over the starring roles and are busy attracting mates, building nests, and breeding.

Cattle Egret - posing in breeding colorsCattle Egret – posing in breeding colors

This was probably my last visit to Gatorland for a while but I’m looking forward to returning next year.  It’s a wonderful place to get close access to a number of Florida bird species.  I’ve posted a great many photos from there in this set on Flickr.  You can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about Gatorland at this link and posts about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at this link.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A short trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Florida is blessed with a terrific State Park system.  According to Wikipedia, we have 161 locations in our state.

Lynn found a new one (to us, at least) online and mentioned how nice the cabins looked.  St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is up in the panhandle, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on one side, and St. Joseph Bay on the other.  They only have eight cabins and are usually fully booked – but cabin #4 was available for a single day, so we decided to drive up and see what it’s like.  Although it was a brief trip, it was a wonderful opportunity to explore a part of Florida that we don’t often get to.

On the way, we stopped in Perry, Florida for some great seafood and then went by the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge where I made a few photos.  I’d love to visit there more extensively.  I wish we lived closer.

Marsh land viewMarsh land – View from the observation tower next to the St. Marks Lighthouse.  IR, B&W, panorama

It’s no wonder that the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park cabins are usually booked.  They’re fairly new, well-kept, fully furnished and ideally located – especially if you like the sun and water.  It’s one of the top rated beaches in the US and swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, fishing, hiking, and even scalloping are all very close by.

Blazing CloudsBlazing Clouds – the morning, bay side view from cabin #4

We took a late afternoon walk along the bay shore.  The photographic glory was somewhat dampened by aggressive horse flies — we should have used insect repellent!  But I thought the clouds and driftwood were remarkably attractive.  This is the last of five photos I made on the walk.  You can see the complete sequence in this album on Flickr.

St. Joseph Bay stroll 5 of 5 St. Joseph Bay stroll (5 of 5).  IR, B&W, panorama

Alas, we had to leave after a single night – much too short a stay to do the area justice. Maybe another time we can get a longer reservation.

On the drive back, we stopped for coffee in Apalachicola and stumbled on this. I love old boats and this one is about as rundown as I’ve ever seen.  Another place that needs a longer look.

Welcome to the VenezellosWelcome to the Venezellos.  Panorama

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you check out the area.  Seafood, sun, sights, water – what more could you ask for?  Oh yes – perhaps a vacancy or two.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Florida Lighthouse Photography

When I wrote this post about Waterfalls in Florida, it was somewhat tongue in cheek – since we’re not really a waterfall kind of state.  Lighthouses are a different story.

Cape St. George LighthouseCape St. George Lighthouse and clouds. Infrared, Black and White, panorama, ISO 200, 28mm eq., 1/1000 @ f/5.6.

Florida has  1350 statute miles of shoreline (PDF) bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  Currents and shoals make navigation difficult so we have many lighthouses.   This Wikipedia page has 54 entries for Florida Lighthouses.  Some are gone or in ruins, but 32 are still in operation.

Cape St. George LighthouseCape St. George Lighthouse – rebuilt from the original bricks and plans after it collapsed in 2005. ISO 125, 33mm eq., 1/500 @f/4.0

There are many ways to photograph these interesting buildings. Straight exterior shots are one way. Look for good light or cloud formations to add interest to your photos.

Jupiter Lighthouse interiorJupiter Lighthouse interior. Hand held at ISO 800, 15mm eq. fish eye lens, 1/13 sec @ f/3.5

The interiors and especially the stairs can be good photos too. You may want to have a fish eye lens handy, since it’s usually very cramped inside.  You’ll most likely have to use a high ISO, wide aperture, and some form of built-in image stabilization, since tripods may not be allowed.

Night photos can also be very nice.  In this August 2013 post I have some details on how I made a different lighthouse night photo in St. Augustine.

Ponce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, SaturnPonce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn. ISO 200, 70mm, 6 sec @ f/8.0

Many of these are open to the public and you can take a tour and climb to the top.  If you have the energy, they’re a wonderful vantage point.

View from the Jupiter LighthouseView from the Jupiter Lighthouse. ISO 200, 15 mm eq. fish eye lens, 1/2000 sec @ f/5.6

If you like to photograph lighthouses or historic buildings, our state is a great hunting ground.  This map can help you find them. Try your favorite techniques with these photogenic structures as the subject.  I like to look for appealing details, interesting viewpoints / geometry, and scenes and background that look good with my Infrared camera.

I’ve posted more Florida Lighthouse photos in this album on Flickr and a few more lighthouse photos from other places in this album.  I’m nowhere near photographing all the lighthouses in Florida, but I’m going to keep working on it and I’ll add to those albums as I go.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.