Early Friday at MINWR

I don’t have much to say this morning, so the photos will have to do most of the talking.  I started  yesterday along the Indian River at Space View Park.

Watching the morning sunWatching the morning sun.  This is a two frame, blended exposure.  I made the bottom half  exposed for the water with a Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed to 20 seconds at ISO 100 and f/11.  I made the top part with the filter off, exposed for the sunrise at ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 second.  I was very happy to see the Osprey fly through the frame with a fish as I clicked the shutter.  I blended them together in Photoshop with a layer mask.

I planned to drive around on Gator Creek Road next, but it was closed – so I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron
Juvenile Little Blue Heron.  There were several around, so they must be nesting nearby.  I’ve seen Green Herons breeding there, but not Little Blue Herons.

A Mottled Duck
A Mottled Duck.  I don’t spot these too often.  When I looked it up, I learned (or maybe re-learned) some things.  Mottled Ducks are related to both Black Ducks and Mallards, and are the only duck adapted to breeding in southern marshes.  The Florida population is a subspecies and the male has lost its distinctive plumage so that the both sexes are colored alike.

You can click on these photos to see larger versions, and I have many more MINWR images in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Fireflies at Fanning Springs

Lynn and I drove over to the Suwannee River west of Gainesville, Florida last week and stayed for a couple of nights at Fanning Springs State Park in one of their cabins.

Into the Suwannee RiverInto the Suwannee River – The Manatee Springs run into the Suwannee.

It turns out that April is peak season for Fireflies, at least around here.  It’s been many years since we’ve seen any and it was a treat to watch them.  On the second night, I set up my camera on a tripod and used the remote control app on my phone to make this photo from the mosquito free comfort of  the screened porch at the cabin.

Fireflies 2Fireflies 2 – I used my Olympus E-M5 Mark II in Live Composite mode. This is an ~11 minutes total exposure, with ~330 frames at 2 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600 each. Composited in camera.

We saw other wildlife too, including lots of birds and a few Gulf Sturgeons jumping in Fanning Springs.  I managed to catch this snake swimming through the high water at Manatee Springs with my iPhone.

Florida Brown Water SnakeFlorida Brown Water Snake – Manatee Springs, Florida

It’s a great time of year for a drive in Central Florida too.  We enjoyed the beautiful wildflowers blooming along most of the roads.

Train Track WildflowersTrain Track Wildflowers – Next to the Williston, Florida Train Depot

And the farms in the Ocala area along our route are both scenic and idyllic.

Greener PasturesGreener Pastures – A cattle ranch near Ocala, Florida

Fanning Springs and Manatee Springs are about 7 miles apart along the Suwannee.  Both offer kayaking, and swimming (usually), and many other activities.  High water at Fanning closed the swimming when we were there, but Manatee was open.

You can rent kayaks and canoes, and if you put in at Fanning, you can coast with the current down to Manatee.  There’s a service that will return you back to your starting point.  This sounds like a relaxing paddle to Lynn and I and we plan to try it next time.  We’ll have to watch out for the jumping Sturgeons, though.  There’s also a pontoon boat tour you can take from the concession at Manatee.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go enjoy some Florida State Parks and make some photos too!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Flower in IR

Keith H. had his Olympus EM-5 MII camera converted to infrared, so one day after lunch we stopped by Central Winds Park in Winter Springs so he could test it.  I’ve had my IR E-PL5 for a while, but wanted to see how it worked with the Oly 50 – 140mm f/2.8 lens.

Flower in IRFlower in IR

This frame was at ISO 200, 150mm (300mm equivalent), f/5.6, 1/80 second.  It’s handheld, but I braced the camera and the winds were calm so the shutter speed was high enough to prevent motion blur.  And the long focal length and close focus makes the blurred background look very nice.  So I think this lens works well in IR.

The processing was comparatively straightforward.  I ran it through DxO Optics Pro for noise reduction and detail improvement.  The rest was in Lightroom:  Crop, exposure, contrast, clarity, to taste; spot removal for small specs of dirt on the flower; and then small doses of post-crop vignette and de-haze to get to an initial false color IR image.

As a last step, I tried something new.  Instead of converting to Black and White, I played around with the vibrance slider to partly desaturate the colors in the image.  This gave me the “pseudo B&W” you see above.  I like this rendering and I’m going to try it in the future for IR images.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Update – 8 April 2016

I had a delightful visit to Gatorland yesterday morning.  Tom M. and Jim B. were also there.  I started following Jim’s blog several years ago and we’ve been web friends for a while.  I’m happy I finally got to meet him in person!

Anhinga gathering nest materialAnhinga gathering nest material

The nesting season is going full blast now, and this gives everyone a chance to see and photograph wild birds in breeding colors doing nesting season behaviors.  Quite an opportunity!

We saw Anhingas, Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Great Egrets, Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, and Woodstorks all in various stages of breeding.  Little ones in the nest are quite common and some of the baby Great Egrets have grown into “teenagers” already and will be fledging shortly.

Nesting Double-crested CormorantNesting Double-crested Cormorant – Can you tell where this bird gets its name?

The early entry program at Gatorland is perfect for catching the birds in good light on the west side of the breeding pond.  They enjoy the morning light too.

I'll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry...I’ll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry… – This Wood Stork was soaking in  the morning sun

Keep an eye out for backlit birds – they can also be beautiful.

Great Glowing EgretGreat Glowing Egret

Gatorland is an exceptional place to practice your “birds-in-flight” skills.  Patient observation lets you figure out movement patterns and get ready.  I waited several minutes with my camera in “BIF” mode (high shutter speed, continuous auto focus) until this Tri-Colored took off.  I didn’t expect it to grab a little fish on the way, but I was glad it did!

Breakfast to goBreakfast to go – A Tri-colored Heron scoops up a minnow on the fly

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  If you haven’t been to Gatorland yet, go.  And if you haven’t checked out Jim’s blog yet, go do that too.  Then – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – March 30, 2016

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week with Tom M. Here are a few of the things we saw on this trip.

St. Johns Sunrise - silver lining and sun raysSt. Johns Sunrise – silver lining and sun rays:  This is a long exposure (10 second) image I made at the boat ramp on the St. Johns where it meets HW 50.  The water is higher than I’ve seen it there before 

Pollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple ThistlePollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple Thistle:  These thistles are blooming all over Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  The pollen on this bee may be an indication of why we’re having such severe allergy problems here in Central Florida.

Spoonbill in the reedsSpoonbill in the reeds:  There were many other birds around too.

Life and death in the Florida wildLife and death in the Florida wild: The bird (a female Red-breasted Merganser) was looking for fish along a small grass island in the distance. I glanced over when I heard some splashing but couldn’t see anything at first. Then I noticed this alligator with the bird. The struggle was hard to watch, but mercifully brief.

On a related subject, you may have seen news about the recent fish kills we’ve had in the Indian River Lagoon.  These are occurring just south of MINWR, nearer Melbourne, Florida.  As we were driving around the refuge, I was struck by how natural it looked and by the absence of any dead fish. I’m very thankful that the Refuge has preserved this natural area for us to enjoy.

I worry about the areas where fertilizer runoff and septic tank leakage can lead to pollution, brown tide, lack of oxygen and dead fish and animals.  I hope that we can figure out solutions so that people living near our natural resources don’t damage them.

OK, sorry for the commentary.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

TICO Warbird Airshow 2016

For 39 years, the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum in Titusville has hosted the TICO Warbird Airshow.  I’ve heard a lot about it over the years, but hadn’t ever been until my friend Van asked me if I wanted to go with him to this year’s version on March 13 at the Space Coast Regional Airport.

North American B-25 Mitchell bomber flight demoNorth American B-25 Mitchell bomber flight demo

There was a 50% chance of rain, but the downpour held off for us.  I liked the overcast conditions – the clouds made more interesting backgrounds than plain blue sky would have.  The forecast may have helped with the crowds too – we found easy parking and a place up front near the demo area.

The planes were mostly older ones, some dating back to World War I:

Snoopy and the Red Baron - WW I aircraft flight demonstrationSnoopy and the Red Baron – WW I aircraft flight demo

Other aircraft flight demos included B-29, F/A-18s, F-16s, MiG 17, F4U Corsair, A-4C Skyhawk, P-51, T-33, F-104, UH-1, and AH-1.  They also had static displays including the A-6, F-14, A-10, and S-2 that were in the service when I was (way back when!)

S2FGrumman S-2 static display

Parachute demos, helicopter and airplane rides, and even war-games were also big attractions.

Wargames - Sherman tank on the moveWargames – World War II Sherman tank on the move.  The Germans lost again.

So, a lot to see and photograph.  Here are some things to consider if you go:

  • You’ll mostly need a telephoto lens.  Even when flying over the demo area, you’ll want to make the aircraft as large in your viewfinder as possible.  I used a 200 – 600mm equivalent lens.
  • Practice your panning and don’t frame too tight.  If you’re not careful, sudden maneuvers (there’s a lot of them) could cut off portions of the planes.  A zoom lens helps with the framing.
  • When photographing the jets, leave even more room – they move fast!
  • A normal or wide-angle lens will be nice for the static displays.  Or use your telephoto for up close details.
  • Use continuous autofocus
  • Check your histogram often to make sure the sky in the background isn’t fooling your camera’s exposure meter.
  • Vary the shutter speed.  Try for some photos where the props are blurred, but make sure you keep the airframe itself sharp.
  • Wear a hat and use sunscreen.  Even in the cloudy conditions we had, I got too much sun.
  • Bring folding chairs or scout out seating areas.  We sat up front with excellent visibility.

It was a great show – I’m glad Van invited me!  Unfortunately, you’ve missed it for this year – but be ready 2017 or go to another airshow in your area.   And during the rest of the year Central Florida folks can stop by the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum  – check their website for info.

Click on the photos in this post to see larger versions on Flickr, and I’ve posted more photos from this event in this album.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Anhinga portrait

Anhingas are large water birds common here in Florida.  You often see them pose with wings spread as they dry out after a swim.  You can read more about them in this article on Wikipedia.

For most of the year you might say they’re drab, especially around the head with plain black or brown feathers and eyes.  But with springtime love in the air, their appearance changes – especially for males.  They develop highlights in the feathers on the back of their heads, a lot of color around their eyes, and look like they wear red contact lenses.  This fellow has the full style going.

Anhinga - full length portraitAnhinga – full length portrait

Here’s a close up crop from this photo so you can better see the colors and detail (click for a larger version on Flickr).

Anhinga - head shotAnhinga – head shot

They’re very handsome and I enjoy photographing them, especially when they’re as patient and tolerant as this one was.

I made the photo at Gatorland in Orlando on March 10th during my first visit this year.  The breeding season is underway and hundreds of wild birds are participating.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to see colors and behaviors of anhinga, egret, herons  and other species up close.   And Gatorland has an early entry program for photographers so you can photograph in the early morning light while avoiding crowds of tourists later in the day.  Go see for yourself!

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.