Category Archives: Lake Jesup Sunflowers

Photographing Florida Weather

Florida has wonderful weather photography opportunities.  They’re not often the kind that you see from tornado alley out west.  But the clouds here are awesome too.

Lynn and I traveled recently (New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia).  I realized when going through those photos that they lacked dramatic skies like we often see here in Central Florida.  Maybe our timing was just bad.  Anyway, it inspired me to put together this post with some examples of our weather along with a few hints.

We’d had several days of rain last August and even though afternoon light isn’t usually the best for photography, I decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and see if I could capture some of the weather drama.  This one is from the south-east side of the causeway.  There was a slight drizzle where I was standing and rain drops ruined several frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.

Weather over the WaterWeather over the Water (24mm focal length)

And this one was that same day, looking south along the back side of  Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Storm AheadStorm Ahead (stitched panorama, nine frames at 24mm focal length).

This next photo is from September of 2012, also at Black Point Wildlife Drive.  These clouds actually stopped me in my tracks and made me shift out of bird photography mode to make this B&W, IR image.  You can see a color version of this here.

A little stormyA little stormy (stitched panorama, three frames at 24mm eq. focal length).

These next two have been on the blog before, but they also illustrate my point:  Clouds and storms in Central Florida are photogenic!

Stormy ShoreStormy Shore:  Storm clouds blow through north of our hotel on Casey Key, Florida.  June 15, 2015 (stitched panorama, eight frames at 24mm eq. focal length).

And this last photo is from way back in October 2007.  I put it in to honor our fading Lake Jesup sunflower season.

Lakes Jesup Wildflowers and RainstormLakes Jesup Wildflowers and Rainstorm (105mm eq. focal length).

We don’t have mountains here in Central Florida.  And we don’t have very good waterfalls either.  But our clouds are just as good as anywhere else.  How are they where you are?

Photo hints:

  • Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
  • The storms are big.  As you can see from the captions, many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography, although some situations (like the last image) benefit from a longer focal length.
  • You can shoot from your car in many cases or just dodge the showers.  Do bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover  your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
  • Be careful with your exposures.  If you have clear sky behind the clouds you can easily blow out highlights in the image which will be tough to fix in post.
  • When processing your photos, try using some mid-range contrast / clarity to bring out details in the clouds.  Don’t go too far though or your results will look unrealistic.
  • Find yourself some good foreground locations so you’ll be ready to head out when the weather gets interesting.
  • And be careful – don’t get struck by lightning or ruin your equipment!

If you click on the photos above, you can see larger versions on Flickr and I also collected  other Florida Cloud and Storm photos that you can browse in this set on Flickr.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Beauty and Bugs in the Soggy Swamp: Sunflowers, 2015

I don’t know how long the Sunflowers have staged their fall nature extravaganza along the north side of Lake Jesup near Sanford Florida. I’ve been photographing them since 2006, and my first post about them was in October 2007 – a few months after I began the blog.

I didn’t make it last year and just had to see them this time, so off I went yesterday morning (October 9) to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation area.

Lake Jesup SunflowersLooking up

The flowers are just about in peak bloom.  If you want to hike out there, you’d better make plans quickly.  The blooms only last a couple of weeks, so by next weekend, they’ll be fading.

Lake Jesup SunflowersMonochrome flowers

The flowers are beautiful, but the bugs are swarming.  I didn’t make any photos of the insects, but I did bring home souvenir mosquito bites.  Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and use insect spray too.  It’s also wet.  I didn’t get far from the forest edge – but the water was already several inches deep.  Waterproof boots are a great idea.

Lake Jesup SunflowersLake Jesup Sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats

There are other things to see out there too.  It’s a good local birding spot with at least two Bald Eagle nests reported.

When you go, please be careful.  Don’t stop on the side of 417 – it’s dangerous!  It’s a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers.  And it’s still hot – wear a hat and bring water with you.

The Lake Jesup Wilderness area really is wild – I’ve seen bobcats and worried about wild hogs.  I haven’t seen any snakes, but I’ll bet they’re around.  And Lake Jesup has one of the densest populations of alligators in Florida.  So enjoy, but be careful!

You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr.  I also have more info on the area collected in these older articles:

And here are some more Florida Sunflower links you might find interesting:

For reference, here’s a Lightroom map of the area with the locations of photos I’ve made out there.  The streets leading in are also shown, so you can see how to get there (click for a larger version).

Marl Bed Flats area on the north shore of Lake Jesup
Marl Bed Flats area on the north shore of Lake Jesup

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Jesup Flowers – 2013

An update on the Lake Jesup Flowers – they are indeed back in full force.

Tom M. and I went over last Wednesday morning to check on them.  They seemed to me to still be a little before the peak.  I think they’ll get a bit higher and fuller before they start fading away in the next several days.  If you want to see them this year, you don’t have much time left.

The Marl Bed Flats are a little soggy.  There were places that were dry, but a large part of the area away from the woods had an inch or two of standing water.  The sky was incredibly clear and there was a soft wind blowing too – not ideal conditions for flower photography, but we looked for interesting compositions anyway.

Swamp Sunflower fields pano

With the sun so low, it was hard to keep myself out of this shot – hence the photographer shaped shadow in the middle bottom

Swamp Sunflowers

Finding flowers that reach above their neighbors is one way to isolate subjects

Swamp Sunflower

The light was very pretty in spots. This blossom was sheltered in a pocket of calm along the path out to the fields.  With a nice dark background, it called out for a close up.

For a different perspective and an example of how diverse the view here can be, look at this blog post from Jeff Stamer.  Jeff timed his visit better than we did and hiked out before sunrise on Thursday when the sky was beautiful.

Here are links to previous articles with more info:

And you can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr.  There’s also an article about the flowers in this month’s Orlando Magazine.

When you go, please be careful.  Stopping on the side of 417 is dangerous.  And the Lake Jessup Wilderness area is wild.  It’s also a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers.  Bring water and use sun screen and bug spray.  Long pants and waterproof hiking boots are a good idea too.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The flowers are coming! The flowers are coming!

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) start blooming at the end of September in our area.  One of the largest concentrations is in the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where the blooms stretch as far as you can see.

Lake Jesup Wildflowers
Swamp Sunflowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area

This is a truly unique photo-op and worth checking out.  See these links for more info:

You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr.  And here’s an article about the flowers in this month’s Orlando Magazine – featuring my photo!

When you go, please be careful.  Stopping on the side of 417 can be dangerous.  And the Lake Jessup Wilderness area is wild.  It’s also a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers.  Bring water and use sun screen and bug spray.  Long pants and waterproof hiking boots are a good idea too.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some flower photos – maybe I’ll see you out there!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wow – it was really crowded over there!

Crowded with both flowers and people…

I’ve photographed the wildflowers (swamp sunflowers) that bloom near Lake Jessup at this time of year since about 2006.  I’ve never seen as many people out there as I did tonight.  When I drove by on 417, there were 8 or 10 cars along the shoulder and people with cameras and tripods were clambering down into the flowers to get photos.  When I arrived at the Lake Jessup Conservation Area just before sunset, the gate was closed and the two parking spaces outside the gate were already taken – so I had to park on the road.  On my walk in, I met up with two people with cameras and on my way out another person stopped me to ask what I’d seen.  On most previous trips, I haven’t seen anyone.  I guess the word has gotten around.

Lake Jessup Conservation Area - Swamp Sunflowers
Lake Jessup Conservation Area – Fisheye fun with the Swamp Sunflowers.

The flowers are at their peak.  If you want to see or photograph them, you should go in the next few days.

Lake Jessup Conservation Area - Swamp Sunflowers

Lake Jessup Conservation Area Wildflowers

Check out these links for info and please  be careful.  Stopping along 417 could be dangerous.

You can see more photos of the area in this set on Flickr.

 Add a comment to the blog or drop me an email if you go.  I’d love to see your photos.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Get ready for the Lake Jesup flowers

If you live in the Central Florida area and want to photograph an endless field of flowers, get ready to head over to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) bloom from horizon to horizon during the last week in September and the first week of October.

Mr. McKinney in the flowers
Kevin M. in the flowers at the Lake Jessup Wilderness Area

I drove by on highway 417 this afternoon to see what’s going on, and there are already a few flowers out.  My guess is that they’ll start peaking next weekend.  Check out these links for info and maybe I’ll see you out there!

You can see more photos of the area in this set on Flickr.

If you do go out there and make some images, please add a comment to this post or drop me an email.  I’d love to see how your photos come out.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The Lake Jesup Flowers are back!

We may not get much Autumn color on our trees in Central Florida, but we do have one wonderful sign that fall is here – the sudden appearance of  huge fields of Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) covering the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area.

If you haven’t driven over Lake Jesup on the 417 toll road to see this year’s flower extravaganza on the north shore, now’s the time .  They started blooming last weekend and the peak will probably last through this coming weekend.  You can see my earlier posts for more info:

Here’s a photo I made last Sunday evening near sunset:

Marl Bed Flats Flowers
Marl Bed Flats Sunflowers: They bloom in late September / early October and cover a large part of the Lake Jesup Conservation area.

You can look at other photos I’ve made here in this set on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157622430520287/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved