All posts by MaryKate

Whale of a Trip!

I was lucky to have some downtime in Seattle before a recent business trip to Vancouver, so one of my best friends – Jessica – popped up from San Francisco to join me for some National Park adventures and whale watching!  I love exploring our National Park system and its jewels – and we packed a lot of them into one weekend.

Our first stop was Mt. Rainier National Park – America’s fifth oldest national park.  Blessed with amazingly perfect sunny weather, we spent Saturday driving through the park and stopping along the way to appreciate its beauty.  The Nisqually Entrance is open year round, and with an SUV its an easy drive through the park with lots of scenic overlooks.  But winter at Mt. Rainier means renting chains to carry in your car – even if you’re not required to put them on – or you’ll have to turn around and drive to the nearest rental place (like we did!).  Plan time to stop at the Longmire and Paradise Visitors Centers to learn more about the park’s history, ask a ranger questions, or get a souvenir!

Mt. RainierMt. Rainier

On Sunday, we took a 4-5 hour whale watching trip with Island Adventures out of downtown Seattle – I’d highly recommend this company, and Tyson our naturalist was very knowledgeable!  While January isn’t peak whale watching season, they still run a trip everyday and have luck spotting resident orcas or a humpback here and there.  While the first few hours of our trip were pretty quiet and peaceful, we were excited to find Speckles the Humpback Whale – a juvenile humpback that has been spending a lot of time in the area.  Named Speckles for his distinguishing marks on his back and tail, this little guy gave us a show for about an hour fishing, surfacing, and even blowing his whale stench in our direction (quite a smell if you’ve never experienced it!).

"Speckles" the Humpback WhaleSpeckles and his Speckles

Speckles really gave the two guys on this boat a close encounter!

Humpback Whale and BoatSpeckles the Humpback Whale 

We finished the weekend with a scenic drive through the Western part of North Cascades National Park.  While there were many breathtaking views, it was mostly closed for the season (or for Martin Luther King Day) – so we’ll have to come another time when its warmer.  It was still worth taking the longer loop back to the airport (vs. the interstate) for views like this:

North CascadesNorth Cascades National Park

More photos from my trip can be found in my album here, or check out Ed’s previous post with additional whale photos.

Thanks for reading about my whale of a trip.  Now go make some photos!

©2017, MK Rosack. All rights reserved

TURTLEy Awesome Adventure

While technically outside of the Central Florida Photo Ops area, this week’s post comes to you from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center down in Juno Beach, FL.  The Center is a turtley awesome 12,000 square foot non-profit education and ocean conservation facility with a veterinary hospital, exhibit, outdoor classroom, research lab, resource center, and – my favorite – a really great gift shop (you don’t have to feel guilty leaving with souvenirs, it’s all for a great cause!).

Turtle rescue and rehabilitationLoggerhead Marinelife Center facility

For the second year in a row (now a tradition!), some of the family headed down to meet Pumpkin, the green sea turtle patient I adopted this Christmas for my sister-in-law Sara.  Pumpkin was stranded at Palm Beach, FL and arrived to the Marinelife Center on November 2.  The  victim of a net entanglement, Pumpkin has an injury to its left front flipper and hasn’t been eating well.  However, Pumpkin seemed active and in good spirits when we visited, and we can keep tabs on his progress (and hopefully eventual release date) through his patient page on the Center website.

Turtle rescue and rehabilitationPumpkin, Sara’s green sea turtle adoptee

The main section of the facility has six large glass-front tanks where you can watch the turtles from the top or get a “fish eye” view from the front.  We really flipped out over our two new friends: Squash and Nicklen were really shelling it out for the cameras!

Turtle rescue and rehabilitationHeros In A Half Shell: Turtle Power!

SquashSquash was squishing against the glass to see us!

You can also watch the vet staff interact with and treat the turtles.  In the picture below, they were draining the water in Waffle’s tank for a disinfectant treatment on its flipper.  The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is great with education and makes the turtles very accessible to watch and learn about – you can also watch the vet staff in the turtle hospital through their large front windows.

Turtle rescue and rehabilitationWaffle prepares for his disinfectant treatment

The Center is a wonderful place for kids and adults alike – whether you visit in person, attend a turtle release, or check out their Turtle Cam, there are lots of ways to learn about these gentle giants.  And if you’re looking for a last-minute 2016 charitable deduction, then consider donating or even adopting your own! You can help the Loggerhead Marinelife Center rehabilitate and release even more endangered sea turtles.

Editors notes:

Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.  Now go save some turtles – and make some photos!

Turtle rescue and rehabilitationDon’t get thrown in the tank during your New Years SHELLebration!!

©2016, MK and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The Great Wall of Photography

If there’s one person who loves travel as much as me (or more), it’s my cousin Phil. That’s why I was so excited for our whirlwind adventure to China! Our journey was just five days, so I had to pack lightly, but I wish I could have brought my Dad and more camera equipment with me: the photography conditions were tricky! Since he couldn’t be there with me, he processed my photos after, and has joined me in this post with photo hints.  So here it is: Central Florida Photo Ops official furthest-away post ever!

Great Wall - MutianyuMK and Phil on the Great Wall – Mutianyu

First, we visited Shanghai – If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend the Shanghai Museum, and then a meal at the Living Room restaurant on the 87th floor of the Park Hyatt Shanghai. From there, you’ll find sweeping views of the Bund and the Huangpu River, and on a clear day like we were lucky to have, you’ll gain an amazing appreciation for just how large the city is.

My Dad lent me his polarizing filter, but I enjoyed the meal so much I didn’t think to use it on this shot while we were indoors.

Shanghai SkylineView from the 87th: Shanghai

Editor:  A polarizer can be useful to darken skies, reduce the fog / haze in a photo, and eliminate reflections when shooting through glass.  It doesn't always work - success depends on the conditions (amount and direction of the light).  I always try to carry one with me and use it if I remember.   I processed this image through DxO Optics Pro for sharpening / noise reduction.  Then in Lightroom, I adjusted the exposure, and contrast, straitened buildings, and used clarity and dehaze adjustments along the horizon with a radial filter to lessen the haze.  Here is a "before version":

The highlight of Beijing was, of course, the Great Wall of China. There are several places along the wall you can easily visit from Beijing.  We chose Mutianyu for its sweeping views (and it’s reputation of being less crowded than nearby spots). While we had perfect weather in Shanghai, fog almost completely enveloped us at Mutianyu. But every once in a while the fog would shift and we’d get a quick but miraculous glimpse of just how Great the Great Wall is.

Mutianyu is about an hour from Beijing.  I recommend hiring a private driver – we used John Yellowcar – for about $150 USD, we had our own private driver/translator/tour guide for the entire day.  We thought this was a great value for a 10-hour day trip.  While there are restaurants and souvenirs at the wall, bring water/snacks and wear comfortable hiking shoes!  Also remember that haggling with vendors is accepted and expected at the Wall.

Great Wall - MutianyuMisty Mutianyu Watchtower

The fog was too thick for the polarizing lens, so I tried to take as many photos as I could and hoped my Dad could help when I got home! Here are some pointers from him on how he was able to save these photos, and in hindsight, things I could have done differently to make the photos even better.

Great Wall - MutianyuWinding Wall and Watchtowers – Mutianyu

Editor:  MK faced some tough photo conditions.  Fog greatly reduces contrast and the amount of light.  It also diffuses the light so that the polarizing filter won't be much help  (sorry MK!) and the filter itself also reduces the amount of light getting to the sensor by 1 or 2 stops.  About the only thing I could recommend is to be careful with exposure (sometimes fog can cause underexposure). I processed this photo like the previous one.  DxO Optics Pro and Lightroom.  In these conditions, clarity and dehaze adjustments are again very helpful.  I used quite a bit of dehaze in this image.  It's easy to go too far - be careful.  Here's the "before version" of this one:

More photos from my trip (with my Dad’s amazing edits) can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marykate/sets/72157676855966605/

Thanks to our roving correspondent MK for our first ever opposite side of the globe post! And thanks to all for stopping by and reading the blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2016, MK and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Channeling the Beauty of our National Parks

Editors note:  Today we have another post from our roving correspondent,  MaryKate.  This time she travelled to the Channel Islands off the coast of California.   I hope you enjoy her report!


I’ve recently become even more enthralled with our country’s amazing National Park system. So when I headed to Los Angeles for an event with my friend Molly a few weekends ago, I jumped on the opportunity to visit two of our country’s jewels: Santa Monica National Recreation Area and Channel Islands National Park.

Just 35 miles from Los Angeles, the Santa Monica National Recreation Area is an escape from the bustle of the city. We headed to the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center for some orientation (and souvenir shopping), and did the short but steep hike up to Inspiration Point. We saw lizards and birds along the way, and the dry landscape made for dramatic views against the Santa Monica Mountains:

Plant at the PinnaclePlant at the Pinnacle

That Saturday, we took a morning boat trip out to Anacapa Island – the smallest of the Channel Islands – with a company I’d highly recommend: Island Packers. For just $29 each way, the beautiful boat ride alone was worth the trip. On our way to Anacapa, we enjoyed stunning views of Oxnard Harbor, a few Harbor Seals “sunning”, and even an illusive Minke Whale (he was too quick to photograph and never came back up).

Seal ReflectionsSeal Reflections

The Channel Islands are truly a magical place, sometimes called the United States’ Galapagos Islands because there are 145 species of plants and animals only found there. We stayed 3 hours on the island exploring, seeing as much as we could, and eating the picnic we brought, but there are many arrival/departure options so you can stay as long as you’d like (or even camp over – although the smell of pigeon poop was rather strong!).

Anacapa LighthouseAnacapa Lighthouse

I also enjoyed playing with the fish eye lens I borrowed from my Dad – I thought it brought an interesting perspective to the Island.

Channel Islands National Park SignChannel Islands National park Sign

On our way back to land, we had the treat of a humpback whale doing acrobatics for us: for about 10 minutes we watched him partake in “pectoral slapping” – spinning back and forth and slapping his fin on the water – quite the site juxtaposed against a giant oil rig in the background.

Whale vs. ManMan vs. Whale

If you ever find yourself on the West Coast, it’s definitely worth the trip out to the Channel Islands (and a hike over in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area).  It’s amazing to find so much nature near such a large metropolitan area.  Check out the other photos from my trip in this flickr album (including a life bird: the Rock Wren!).


Thanks for stopping by and reading MaryKate’s blog post.  Now, go make some photos!

©2016, MaryKate. All rights reserved.

Kodiak, Alaska

Editors note:  Today we have a special treat.  MaryKate has agreed to write a guest blog post about her recent trip to Kodiak Island, Alaska.   Sit back ,relax, and enjoy your vacation from my writing!


Five years ago, my birthday snuck up on me. A week or so before the big day, I called my good friend Monette and said “It’s a birthday emergency! I have no plans!” We booked a last-minute cruise, and ever since, our annual Emergency Birthday Trip has become a tradition I look forward to every year – exploring places as close by as the Florida Keys, and as far away as Oregon and Alaska. The trips always involve spontaneity, road tripping, shopping, National Parks (or the outdoors), wildlife, shopping, eating, shopping and exploring. This year, I returned to Alaska to visit Monette in her current location: Kodiak, the country’s second largest island.


These Boots Were Made For Traveling (Courtesy of Monette)

I take a lot of iPhone photos. But for this trip, my Dad let me borrow one of his many cameras since photo opportunities would be plentiful and I knew I might want to enlarge and print some wildlife pictures. He added an all in one 28 to 240mm equivalent lens to his Olympus E-M1 camera and programmed it with an iAuto setting (for fast-moving wildlife) and a P setting (for “Pretty much everything else”). While we had some rare Kodiak sunshine, the lighting was generally overcast and difficult. But with my Dad’s processing, I got some great shots!


Near Reflections: Boat harbor on Near Island

Saturday morning, we drove the Island road system and saw everything from a herd of wild buffalo to majestic mountains and mud flats. Monette said a lot of the vegetation had changed over the last week or so from bright and blooming to brown. I thought this picture eloquently captured the end of a season.

The End of Fall

That night we took an intimate dinner cruise with Galley Gourmet. Marty and Marion Owen were amazing hosts on board the Sea Breaze, where Marion made a from-scratch dinner with fresh ingredients from her garden and Marty steered the boat towards captivating wildlife like Stellar Sea Lions, Horned and Tufted Puffins and Sea Otters. I would highly recommend this dinner cruise for anyone in the area!

Marty said they hadn’t seen whales in a week or two, but sure enough, it was a Birthday Miracle and we found some Humpback Whales to watch and enjoy for about 30 minutes. I have some Humpback pictures from when my Dad and I were in Maine, but I’ve never been able to catch the illusive Puffin (which fly faster than I zoom through an airport!). I found that the P setting on the camera worked a little better.

Puffin Zone

We enjoyed watching this pair of baby Stellar Sea Lions play (the two smaller, darker ones near the middle). To our entertainment – but to the annoyance of the older residents – the babies kept jumping and splashing in and out of the water.

Stellar Viewing

It was an amazing trip filled with beautiful views and memories. And like all Emergency Birthday trips, I’m already counting down the days until next year.

You Otter Be Here

Here are more photos from the trip.  Click on any of the thumbnails to see them larger.


Thanks for stopping by and reading MaryKate’s blog post.  Now, go make some photos!

©2016, MaryKate and Monette. All rights reserved.