Category Archives: Marineland Beach

Lessons from a photogenic place

There were a few lights in the parking lot way back behind the sand dunes and the clouds were thick and low, making it so very dark on Marineland Beach south of St. Augustine, Florida that my first few exposures didn’t even register on the sensor. I kept raising exposure times and ISO until I was able to capture this:

99 seconds in the dark
99 seconds in the dark – ISO 400, 99 seconds @ f/8; Marineland Beach, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

It sure didn’t look this way to my eyes.  I couldn’t see much at all and had to use my head lamp to compose and focus.

When I got home and processed the photos, they reminded me of some things that might be useful to others.

Pre-visualize before, during, and after you press the shutter

You should always try to pre-visualize the photo you’re making before you compose and shoot – and it’s a delightful feeling when the image turns out just like you imagined.  But this is often harder than it sounds.  Especially if you can’t see what you’re photographing.  There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your vision as you go.  This is a wonderful advantage of digital cameras that we’d be foolish to ignore.  Check your results on the LCD during the shoot and adapt as necessary.  In this case, I knew exactly what I needed to change when I first looked at my (black) LCD.  I needed more exposure!

Pre visualization is great, but there’s also nothing wrong with post visualization.  What I mean is to try as many things as you can think of while you’re there and sort it out later when you get home.  Try HDR, panoramas, high tripod, low tripod, and focus stacking.  Use different  focal lengths, shutter / aperture combinations, and positions / directions.  Exploit changing weather / light as time goes on.  Capture them all and give yourself a better chance to come out with something you like.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is a critical variable when photographing moving water.  The 99 second exposure above gave me very smooth and milky looking water, nicely outlining the rocks.  A 1/1000th second (or faster) exposure can freeze drops of water.  In between, you can find other speeds that look very different from the extremes.  Capture the scene with different shutter speeds when possible.  In this 1 second exposure, I like the added interest from the flow patterns in the water.

Marineland Beach and cochina rocks
Marineland Beach and cochin a rocks – ISO 100, 1 second @ f/4 with 8 2/3 stop neutral density filter, ~30 minutes after sunrise.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and ghost removal

There are so many controls and sliders in HDR software that it’s hard to know which ones to change.  Most HDR software has an option for removing “ghosts” (differences between multiple frames for anything moving in the image) and I think it’s a critical setting.  HDR Efex allows me to select the baseline frame I want to use as well as the amount of ghost removal to apply.  I like to experiment with these and select the combination that looks best.  In the image below, there was only one  setting that showed the breaking wave. And I think the wave definitely adds to the image.

Golden rocks and sand
Golden rocks and sand – 5 image bracket (-4 to +4 stops), almost an hour after sunrise.

Don’t leave too soon

I made these three images (and more!) over a period of 90 minutes.  The changing light provided different looks and opportunities to photograph this place.  It’s worth getting there early and staying for a while.

Don’t get overwhelmed

When you visit a beautiful place, especially for the first time – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and forget about everything except pressing the shutter button.  It helps to visit multiple times. The first time, it’s hard to see all the possible compositions until you get over the novelty and excitement. When you can relax and enjoy the experience you can open your mind and get in the zone.  Then you’ll make images you’ll be happy to share with others.

You can see more of my photos from Marineland in this set on Flickr.

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

St. Augustine, Florida and vicinity – photo hints

Lynn was out-of-town last week at the Pressing Iron & Trivet Collectors of America Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I talked her into letting me out of my spousal support services subcontract, so I had a chance to sneak in a few days of photography while she was away. I spent the time in St. Augustine, Florida, which is “the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States”. I’ve written about it many times (see this link) and it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. Photo ops abound and include landscapes, architecture, street scenes, beaches, historic landmarks, wildlife, and much more. It’s hard to go anywhere in the area and not come back with a photo! Here are some of mine along with hints on how I made them.
There are some wonderful sunrise and sunset spots. Friends told me about Marineland Beach (thanks Kevin M. and JT) which is just a little south of St. Augustine. It’s now one of my new favorites. The coquina rocks there worked really well as foreground objects in my photos.

Long exposure sunrise

Long exposure sunrise – Marineland Beach, Florida

This is a single exposure, made through a Hoya ND400 filter right after sunrise. The waves were coming in around me, but I stood my tripod on one of the rocks to keep us dry. I used my lowest ISO setting (50) and even with the sun in the frame, the 8 2/3 stop ND filter gave me a 14 second exposure at f/8 . The long shutter speed makes the water surface contrast nicely with the rock texture.

One thing you’ll run into in Florida on summer mornings is condensation. It’s so humid that if you take your camera gear directly from your air-conditioned room or car out into the moist air, you can expect 15 to 30 minutes of fog before they clear. You can decrease this by not running your car’s AC on the way. You can also seal your camera and lens in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible until it warms up. And it’s a good idea to bring along a micro-fiber cloth to remove condensation if needed. The larger your camera / lens is, the longer it will take to warm up. This is one time that good glass works against you – at least until the temperature equalizes. One more point: try not to change lenses under these conditions. If water condenses on your sensor, it can be hard to remove and may cause dust to adhere to the surface.

The harbor and fort (Castillo de San Marcos) also provide interesting detail for sunrise or sunset and landscapes in general.

A calm morning in the St. Augustine harbor.
A calm morning in the St. Augustine harbor: Clouds to the north over the Castillo de San Marcos and the quarter Moon above the Bridge of Lions add interesting detail to this image.

This photo and the next were both multi-shot panoramas made with the techniques I described last week. Images like the harbor scene can be tough to blend due to smooth gradients in the sky and water. Be sure you check carefully and correct any glitches.

Another thing about summer in Florida: We have awesome afternoon thunderstorms. Clouds add a lot of drama to photos, but the storms were so bad on two of the days I was there that I couldn’t go out for sunset. Plan accordingly.

St. Augustine Sunset
St. Augustine Sunset behind the Castillo de San Marcos

On this evening at the fort, there was a large thunder-storm to the west. The sky wasn’t colorful at all until the sun moved down below the thunder head, resulting in these shadows and rays. One big advantage of sunset photography vs. sunrise is that you can wait to see what develops. At sunrise, you need to be in place extremely early to see all the variations happen.

I had a great time walking around the fort at sunset with my large tripod and big DSLR camera. Most people were oblivious and walked right through my photos (I don’t blame them – I don’t own the place).  I’d wait for a clear spot in the traffic and make another exposure. Other folks stood next to me since they thought wherever someone with a big camera is has to be a good spot. At one point, a tour guide in a pirate costume leading a group of 20 or so people saw me and stopped his group from walking in front of me until I finished my exposure. It turned out he’s a photographer too.

I wanted to try a night photo of the lighthouse. I also wanted to capture the look of the beam coming out of the light. This turned out to be a tough assignment. The contrast range is huge and there’s a lot of glare from the lights in the scene.

St. Augustine Light Station
St. Augustine Light Station

I ended up merging two exposures. The first one was long (f/4 @ 3 seconds) at a low ISO (400) to decrease noise. The slow shutter blurred the light beam, so I made a second exposure (ISO 3200, f/4 @ 0.4 seconds) and this stopped the beam enough to highlight it. The second exposure had some noise, but was fine with a bit of post processing before I blended the two manually in Photoshop.  I made this photo about an hour before sunrise. It was dark and there was no one around. One of my contacts on Flickr commented that spooky things happen in this area. I’m glad I didn’t notice any when I was there.

Tom M. met me up there on one of the days and we spent several hours just walking around. There were many interesting scenes, and I never saw any two doors  alike.

Red door #33
Red door #33

We were walking down one street and saw someone in the distance photographing this house with his iPhone. He was really working it, making multiple photos / compositions and was still there when we arrived several minutes later. We waited for him to finish and when he looked up and noticed us he asked what kind of cameras we had. It turned out he’s a photographer too and was there on vacation, but forgot his Nikon D3S DSLR. He said using the iPhone was “very liberating”. Photo hint 101: If someone’s taking a picture, look at what he’s photographing – it might be interesting. Photo hint 102: Don’t forget your camera.

A little later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this waiter zipping through traffic on the way to work.  On a skate board.  I managed to make a quick photo.

Morning commute
Morning commute – very eco-friendly

We also noticed this person reading on the bench.  I really liked the symmetry of the columns and how they led my eye towards the subject. Tom posted a different composition that I think is really good too.

Reading
Reading.

By the way, if you have Lightroom 5, try out the “Upright” settings in the Lens Corrections panel on photos like the one above. It does a great job squaring things up.

Like I said, there’s a tremendous amount of photo-ops in the area. I didn’t make it by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm on this visit, but from March to June, it’s one of the best places in Florida to photograph a variety of wild birds nesting in the rookery there.  I also didn’t get to Fort Matanzas.  It’s a little south of the city and makes a nice side excursion. The Nombre de Dios Mission in the northern part of the city has a beautiful chapel and grounds as well as a view into the harbor.  And I’m sure that there are a great many more photo ops that I still have to discover in this beautiful place.

You can see these photos larger if you click on them and I have many others from St. Augustine in this set on Flickr.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved