Monthly Archives: January 2014

Blue Spring State Park

Intro / Description

There’s been a lot of news here recently about all the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida – so I decided to go over and look for myself.

Many Manatees Around 20 Manatees in this one photo – There were more than 200 there on the day I went and the count’s been over 330 on some recent days.

Louis Thursby bought Blue Spring in 1856 and ran a steamboat landing.  The steamboats shipped people and goods up and down the St. Johns River and stopped at the landing until the 1880s.  The area became pretty run down until the state purchased the land in the 1960s and established the park.

There’s lots to do:  Plenty of picnic areas;  Hiking and nature trails; Cabins and a campground for overnight stays; Canoes and kayaks to rent;  And you can even take a River Boat tour right from the park. We’ve been several times in the past but I hadn’t visited in years.  It brought back very fond memories of tubing down the run from the spring and of our kids shivering in the 72 degree water, but enjoying it so much they refused to get out.  When I used to scuba dive (a very long time ago), I dove to the bottom of the spring.  In retrospect, that was at least a little reckless – people have died in there.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

You can’t go in the water when the Manatees are there.  But a lengthy boardwalk running from the St. Johns up to the spring  provides many vantage points for photos.  The Manatees are all along the run, but many congregate in the swimming area where you can get very close.

You must bring your Polarizer to cut the reflections so you can better see the manatees under the surface.  Remember this will block a couple stops of light.  And since the water is in shade in many places you may be a little starved for light.  A camera / lens with vibration reduction / optical stabilization and good output at higher ISOs (~640) will come in handy.

Take a breath

Take a breath – A manatee surfaces at Blue Springs State Park

Tripod/Monopod: They’re allowed, but crowds could make tripods a problem.  I left mine at home.

Lenses:

I used a 24 – 120 f/4 lens and was happy with it.  I really didn’t want to switch lenses (and polarizers) so the focal length range on this came in handy.  At times I wished for a little more reach but I could usually find another Manatee closer to me.  I also wished for a wider aperture (f/2.8?), but the stabilization made this lens my best choice.

Best time to visit: Visit during a wintertime cold snap for the best chance of seeing Manatees.  They can draw a crowd and the park is closed early to new arrivals if it fills up.  Go on a weekday or get there very early on a weekend to make sure you get in. For other activities, you’ll  have to work around their schedule – all water activities are prohibited when there’s a Manatee in the water.  For swimming, tubing, snorkeling / diving,  and kayaking in the spring run go when they aren’t there (March 15th – November 15th). Other: Manatees are the main attraction in the winter, but there are other animals there too.  I’ve seen Alligators, wild pigs, and common Florida birds  (e.g. Herons, Egrets, Anhingas, Limpkins, Wood Storks, Red Shouldered Hawks, and Vultures).  Other folks have reported some not so common Florida Birds like Florida Scrub Jays and Barred Owls, – so keep your eyes open! And there’s a three-story home built built by the original owners that’s worth a visit.

The Louis P. Thursby House The Louis P. Thursby House was built in 1872 at Blue Springs State Park

Summary

Manatees are on the endangered species list.  Blue Spring provides a unique opportunity to see these large animals up close.  If you’ve thought about going to Blue Spring, now’s the time.  If you haven’t thought about going to Blue Spring, now’s the time! You can find out a lot about Manatees at the Save the Manatee Club  website, including updated reports on conditions and counts at Blue Spring on this web page.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  Blue Spring on Flickr
Website:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/
Address / Phone: 2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, Florida 32763
(386) 775-3663
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: A Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos! ©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 1-12-14

Kevin M, Robert WTom M, Lutfi E, and I met at Parish Park in Titusville last weekend for a photo excursion.  We got there well before sunrise and had time for a few night photos.

Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park
Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park – Looking SW, before dawn.

When we’d all arrived, we carpooled over to East Gator Creek Road for sunrise.  Since it was so clear before dawn, I didn’t think it would be very good.  But once again, Mother Nature surprised me, and a set of clouds moved in to add interest and color to the sky.

Passing storm
Passing storm

After daybreak, we drove on around East Gator Creek Road and then Blackpoint Wildlife Drive looking for birds.  We didn’t have to look too hard – they’re out force!

We saw many species and huge numbers of some of them.  White Pelicans were especially plentiful, both foraging in the water and soaring above us.  There were other huge formations of ducks flying over, but they were too high for me to ID.  One smaller flock flew very low right down the road.  I didn’t see them coming and the noise when they passed startled me.

We also saw Ring billed Gulls, a Bonaparte’s Gull, a some Forster’s Terns, Least Terns, a Black Skimmer, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Blue winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Red Breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Pied billed Greebes, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandpipers, Killdeer, Roseate Spoonbills, a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Loggerhead Shrikes, Savanah Sparrows, Red winged Blackbirds, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, Reddish Egrets, a White Morph Redish Egret, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and maybe a few others.

Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike
Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike

Highlights also included a very cooperative Shrike that sat still while we all made way too many photos of it, a bald eagle that flew right overhead, and two life birds for me (the Bonaparte’s Gull and Greater Yellowlegs).  It’s definitely birding season at MINWR!

As a side note:  I got an email from a Flickr contact that’s going to be in the area for a couple of days.  They wanted some hints on how to see everything while they’re here, especially Gatorland, Viera Wetlands, and Merritt Island.  I did pass along some hints.  But then I had to tell them that’s a lot to see in 2 days!  The good news is that you’re almost certain to see some good things in those places.  The bad news is that you can’t possibly see everything in that short a time – it’s just too large an area and the weather / wildlife might not cooperate. The key is to relax, enjoy being there and be ready with your camera for whatever comes your way.  I hope I’m not misleading people into thinking that they can photograph all the things they see here on the blog on their first time out.  It takes persistence and even some luck.

Anyway, if you’ve wanted to go to MINWR, now’s the time.  You can see other posts I’ve written about MINWR here and you can see larger versions of the photos above and others from Merritt Island in this set on Flickr.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Infrared updates

These two posts on infrared photography seem to get a lot of hits:

Since they’re from a while back, I thought I’d update you on a couple of things.

Ebbing tideEbbing tide – The outgoing current cuts a temporary channel through the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park).  IR, B&W.

I’d been using an Olympus E-PL1 camera, modified for IR by  http://www.lifepixel.com/ and I’ve been pleased with the output.  But it uses a first generation 12 MP, micro 4/3 sensor and requires care to minimize noise.  I also have an Olympus E-PL5 with a 16MP current generation sensor.  It has much better noise characteristics and additional resolution, so I decided to have it modified to upgrade my infrared capabilities.

I was very happy with the service from LifePixel, but this time, I chose Precision Camera to do the mod.  They also did a fine job, were very prompt and even a few dollars cheaper.

One change I made was to select a 665 nm filter instead of 720 nm.  What this does is pass a bit more of the visual spectrum along with the IR light.  This gives you more flexibility in post processing.  You can still process for the IR B&W look, but with the extra visible spectrum light, false color post processing is easier. 

At restAt rest – Driftwood on the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park).  IR, false color.

When I process RAW files from the E-PL1, I can easily adjust white balance in Lightroom.  With the 665 nm filter on the E-PL5, I couldn’t get to a neutral white balance until I created a custom camera calibration profile for it using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor.  You can read more about this here.

The Road Under the Red Cedar Tree
The Road Under the Red Cedar Tree (Blackpoint Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge).  IR, B&W.

I made the photos in this post with the newer camera.  There’s less noise, the 665nm filter is more flexible in post, and the extra pixels are nice to have.  I like how it’s working so far!

You can see larger versions of these and other examples of my infrared photography in this set on Flickr.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Marineland Beach

Intro / Description

Historically, coquina’s been used as a building material.  The Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine and Bulow Plantation in Flagler Beach are made of it.  But today I think the best use of coquina is for photography – it makes a great foreground in landscape photos!

Marineland Beach morning 3
Marineland Beach morning – A colorful, brisk daybreak on the rocks (48mm, ISO 50, f/16, 3 seconds)

Several locations on the Atlantic coast of Florida have deposits of coquina rocks exposed on the beach.   Three that I know of are:

I’ve mentioned Blowing Rocks Preserve before and I haven’t been to Washington Oaks in a long while, so this post is about Marineland Beach.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

This is a terrific sunrise site.  There’s public parking right on the beach and the area isn’t closed at night, so you can arrive as early as you want to.  If you do arrive before dawn, be careful – the footing on or close to the rocks is tricky in the dark.  A misstep can result in broken camera equipment or broken photographers.

Bring a flashlight (or use your cell phone).  Just be mindful of any other photographers nearby – you don’t want to spoil their images with your lights.  And know how to use your camera in the dark so you don’t have to fumble with the flashlight – it will save you time and aggravation.

Bring a cable or remote release to help avoid camera shake.  I usually use manual focus, at least until it’s bright enough for my camera’s autofocus to work.  Many cameras will have a “live view” mode that lets you enlarge around the moon or a distant light so that you can carefully focus on infinity.  If you don’t have live view, try using the markings on your lens.  Just set it to the infinity mark and back off a little.  How much?  Experiment before hand.  If you’re stopped down to f/8 or smaller, depth of field should help.

Before dawn and sunrise are very good times to shoot in RAW format.  RAW will give you extra dynamic range to help control contrast in post processing.  Also, learn about “long exposure noise reduction” and consider turning it on.  For exposures over a second or so, it does well removing noise in camera (at the cost of some extra time after you make the image).

Tripod/Monopod:

Yes – you must bring yours! You can even put your camera on it when you’re not using it for a walking stick!  And make sure you always know where it is in the dark so you don’t knock it over.

Marineland Beach morning 2
KM on the rocks, working the scene (120mm, ISO 100, f/8, .4 seconds)

Lenses:

You can use a variety of lenses.  I’ve added the focal length to the captions for the three photos in this article.  Don’t change lenses on the beach.  It’s often windy and you don’t want salt spray or sand inside your camera.  Choose a versatile zoom lens and leave it on, or retreat to your car to swap to a different one.

Coquina rock sunrise
Coquina rock sunrise (14mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/8th sec)

Best time to visit:

Sunrise occurs later in the winter and gives you more time to get to this beach.  And check for high tide – it’s best for good water action near the rocks.

Other:

Wear good shoes.  Flip flops could be a problem for your toes on the rocks in the dark.

Make sure you keep an eye on the waves.  Every so often, a larger one will come along.

Summary

Marineland Beach is a wonderful place for landscape and sunrise photos.  You can see larger versions of the photos above if you click on them.  And this set on Flickr has several more photos I made there.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  Marineland Beach on Flickr
Website:  None
Address / Phone:
Just south of Marineland at
9600 N Oceanshore Blvd
St Augustine, FL 32080
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A must do sunrise spot!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.