Lake Apopka Restoration Area

If you take a look at my blog archives, you’d see only a few mentions of Lake Apopka and the wildlife drive that goes through the restoration area out there.  If you look for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge posts, you’d find almost 70!  Judging solely by these numbers, you might assume that MINWR is a better place to visit.  At least some of the time, you’d be wrong!

I met my friend Robert Wilson one morning a couple of weeks ago at the entrance to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  I hadn’t seen him (or Lake Apopka!) in a while.

Country RoadCountry Road – Near the Lust Road entrance to the drive

There’s been lots of activity there this summer.  Robert and others described feeding frenzies in the ponds by the pump house. Alligators and birds have gorged on fish, creating some great photo opportunities.

And people have seen many interesting birds too including Swallowtail and Mississippi kites, Brown Thrashers, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, Purple Martins, and others.

_EM128449_DxO.jpgSwallow-tailed Kite

Red Shouldered Hawk with Field MouseRed Shouldered Hawk with Field Mouse (in right claw). It had just caught the mouse on the road and carried it to this tree.

You can get a good idea of the birds at a place using eBbird.  Here’s their chart of bird observations by species and month for Lake Apopka.  And here is the same thing for MINWR.

On our trip, we also saw several kinds of dragon flies:

Holloween Pennant DragonflyHalloween Pennant Dragonfly

And many water lilies blooming, some of them in very pretty light:

Water LilyWater Lily

MINWR can be quiet through the hot part of the year and the times I checked on it this summer, I saw few birds / wildlife. Conditions were poor with little rainfall for long periods followed by some huge fires along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

On the other hand, Lake Apopka’s been a wonderful place to visit this summer.  It’s a shame I didn’t go over there more often.  Not too long ago, the lake was polluted with farm runoff.  Restoration efforts and the opening of the wildlife drive about two years ago have made it a premier nature and wildlife destination in Central Florida.

It’s about the same distance from me as MINWR.  I’m going to make a point of visiting more often.  If you haven’t been recently – go.

You can see more Lake Apopka images in this folder on Flickr.  And MINWR photos in this folder.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Moon Shadows – August 21, 2017

Did any of you notice the solar eclipse in the US last week?  Here at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ we certainly did!  And even though the full moon covered “only” ~85% of the sun, it was still an awe-inspiring show.

Our experience in Winter Springs started with heavy rain and thick cloud cover, but the sky quickly cleared and from then on we had an amazing view.  I put together this time-lapse movie with ten photos I made at about ten minutes intervals :

To set up my camera, I first focused manually on a very distant tree and taped down the focus ring.  Then I spent some time figuring out exposure so detail on the sun’s surface would show.  The sun is really bright!  I put two stacked neutral density filters in front of my lens to cut the light by about 11 stops.  I ended up shooting in manual exposure mode at ISO 64, f/16, and 1/1000 sec at 800mm equivalent focal length.   For insurance, I also bracketed around that base exposure.  Luckily there were a few sunspots to see:

Sunspots on the surface

We had two other roving photographers on assignment to help document the eclipse.  Kevin McKinney was in Orlando south of us.  He noticed the sun shining through a tree and made the photo below.  Small openings between the leaves were acting as pinhole lenses and focusing multiple images of the crescent sun on the ground.  I’m glad he noticed this, I didn’t think to look:

Eclipse 2017 - thanks to the trees for my only photo opEclipse 2017 – thanks to the trees.  ©Kevin McKinney, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Howard Thomas (our other roving photographer) braved scarce hotels and huge traffic jams to report from Santee, South Carolina along the path of totality.  He made these next three photos:

The Sun’s atmosphere is 300 times hotter than the surface.  A total eclipse is one of the best ways to study the corona.  ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Total eclipse and the star Regulus (upper left corner – click to see larger).  ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Baily’s beads, or the Diamond ring effect, is visible during a total solar eclipse. The rough terrain on the edge of the moon allow beads of sunlight to shine through in some places. ©Howard Thomas, 2017, all rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Eclipses are fun to think about.  They’re such a huge coincidence!  The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, and the Sun is 400 times farther way.  So they’re the same apparent size in the sky – that can’t be very common in the universe.  We don’t see one very often because the Moon’s orbit tilts with respect to Earth’s orbit around the sun.  And since the moon is slowly moving away from the earth, the geometry will be ruined after another billion years.

You can click on any of these photos to look at larger versions.  I hope you were able to see this stunning event and get some photos of your own.  If not, the next one in the US is in 2024.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go be amazed by rare natural phenomenon.  And make some photos!

©2017, Kevin McKinney, Howard Thomas, and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wonderful Wisconsin Vacation Visit

It’s been a while since our last trip to Wisconsin to see Mike and Sara (April of 2015!), so Lynn and I were excited to spend a week with them at the beginning of August.  We were also quite happy to finally get to meet Avon – who is (probably) a mountain cur that they adopted from a rescue society.  He’s a real sweet dog!

I didn’t realize how big of a crop Sunflowers are in Wisconsin.  And fortunately for us, the beginning of August is peak bloom time.  In fact, Bergsbaken Farms near Cecil Wisconsin was having a Sunflower Fest while we were there so we stopped by.

Riding in the rain through the sunflower fieldsRiding in the rain through the sunflower fields

Even though it was a bit rainy that day, there was still a large crowd and we enjoyed seeing the seemingly endless fields of flowers. We also saw a few strange creatures:

Strange creature seen in Wisconsin fieldStrange creature seen in Wisconsin field

There were several of these tall, happy looking beings along one of the paths through the  field. Authorities didn’t respond to questions on where they came from or why they wore  sunglasses in the rain.  One of my Flickr friends commented: “A nice guy no doubt, but a little seedy, wouldn’t you agree?”  Yes, I do agree!

These cultivated sunflowers are different than our wild Florida swamp sunflower variety, which by the way will start blooming in late September or early October.

Field of sunflowersField of sunflowers

We had also planned to stop by the Wisconsin State Fair, but the weather forecast was iffy and we didn’t make it – maybe next time!  However we did do a few other touristy things in the area.

WindmillWisconsin Windmill in downtown Little Chute.  This is an authentic design, working mill built to celebrate the region’s Dutch heritage (see www.littlechutewindmill.org//)

Lake WinnebagoLake Winnebago – At High Cliff State Park, Wisconsin;  IR, B&W, panorama

Among other gourmet treats, we also stopped by Wilmar Chocolates for yummy custom chocolate bars (mine had gummy bears in it!).

Our Wisconsin stay was delightful, but ended way too quickly!

You can read other blog posts about Wisconsin at this link:   http://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-categorized-by-place/photo-ops-outside-florida/wisconsin/.  And I’ve collected some of my Wisconsin photos in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157628253961205

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your family.  And make some photos too!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Any Micro 4/3 Camera Regrets?

The short answer is “Nope, not really”.  For the longer answer, read on…

Sometimes I’ll take a camera by Bear Creek Nature Trail in our neighborhood (the middle of Tuscawilla, along the north side of Winter Springs Boulevard).  On this particular day back in January of 2017, sunlight was filtering down through the trees and hitting the water at a bend in the creek.  The light refracting  through ripples in the surface created interesting patterns and colors I thought were worth a shutter click.

Bear Creek ripples 1aBear Creek Ripples 1a  (28mm eq. focal length, f/8, 0.5 seconds, ISO 64)

This was a month or so after I started using the Olympus E-M1 Mark II camera.  I’d sold my Nikon D-800 and lenses so I could afford to upgrade my Olympus kit and I was still getting used to the new gear.  I’d had the D-800 for over four years and it’d worked extremely well for me.  It was the very best camera I’d ever used so getting rid of it was a big step and I was still second guessing my decision.

Why did I sell the Nikon gear and move exclusively to Olympus?  And how is it working out?  Glad you asked!

It seems that discovering micro four thirds cameras is a big thing on the web, lately.  Here are a few links with a lot of information you can investigate:

I won’t repeat these discussions.  Everyone will have their own opinion and reasoning for the camera equipment they use. I’ll just summarize by saying that for me, no regrets.  The smaller and more modern design has many advantages with few real issues.  For what I shoot, I haven’t seen much downside.

I can carry much more camera capability with far less weight.  And the new gear does things the older Nikon equipment doesn’t.  Really, the only thing that concerns me even a bit is star / astro photography with the smaller sensor.  I haven’t had much of a chance to test this yet and hopefully ease my concerns, but even if the Olympus isn’t as good at this type of photography, I’m not very worried.  I don’t do it all that often and if I need to, I can always rent / borrow a different camera with a larger sensor or use something like the iOptron SkyTrackerTM  to make really long exposures. Your mileage may vary of course, and you should investigate thoroughly before you make such a significant change.

If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments.  I’ll be more than glad to try to answer.  And you can click on the image below to go to Flickr and browse through an album of the images I’ve  made with the new camera:

Great Egret head shotGreat Egret head shot

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – no matter the camera you have, go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Hawaii Five-Oh (Top 5 Photos from Hawaii)

Editors note:  Today we have another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This time from the middle of the Pacific Ocean – enjoy!

Back in May, I (willingly) kidnapped my youngest cousin Annie and took her to one of my bucket-list destinations and remaining states to visit: Hawaii!  We were there for 5 days and 4 nights, so we stayed on Oahu the entire time (vs. island hopping) – which was a different and enjoyable experience for me since I’m usually on the go!  We shared amazing outdoor experiences like snorkeling with wildlife, reflecting at somber memorials like Pearl Harbor, and discovering captivating views while exploring the island on the drive of a lifetime.

Lāʻie Point State WaysideLāʻie Point State Wayside

The most memorable experience was snorkeling off of Waianae.  There are many tour companies that will take you out to snorkel with wildlife like sea turtles and dolphins.  If you’ve read any of my past blog posts, you know I have a passion for wildlife, especially dolphins and whales.  While we visited at the wrong time of the year to see humpback whales, I was really excited to see that companies take tourists out to swim in the wild with dolphins (vs. swimming with dolphins in captivity).

Spinner DolphinHawaiian Spinner Dolphin

We snorkeled with five Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, green sea turtles, and even a baby hammerhead shark.  The tour company was respectful about keeping our distance, being quiet and still, and not harassing the wildlife.  It was surreal to put your mask under water and watch the spinner dolphins majestically glide by you and dive through the ocean.

Green Sea TurtleGreen Turtle

However, while in Hawaii, I found the book The Lives of Hawaii’s Dolphins and Whales by Robin W. Baird, and was saddened to read that “because spinners do all of their feeding at night and all of their resting during the day…exposure to vessel traffic and swimmers may disrupt their resting patterns or cause them to leave the relative safety of their traditional resting areas.  A recent study off Kona showed that spinner dolphins were exposed to humans, boaters, and/or swimmers within 100 yards of them about 82 percent of their time during the day.”   Because of this, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering new regulations “to prohibit swimming with and approaching a Hawaiian spinner dolphin within 50 yards.”  Swimming with these amazing creatures in the wild is far better than doing so in captivity, but I will probably cherish the memories I have from this one experience and instead watch them from the shore in the future – even if the rules don’t change.

Spinner DolphinHawaiian Spinner Dolphin

If you make it to Oahu, definitely follow my brother Mike’s advice to rent a car and drive the island.  We got a better feel for the place by seeing so much more of it.  From Waikiki, we drove north up the middle of the island (stopping at the obligatory tourist stop: Dole Plantation), then to the north shore for some shave ice, lunch at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, scenic views, and a tour at the Kualoa Ranch where movies like Jurassic Park and TV shows like Lost were filmed (can’t you just imagine a T-Rex popping out of the shot below?).  The drive and the views are the destination, so take your time and enjoy the ride!

Kualoa RanchKualoa Ranch – Home of Jurassic Park (if it’s a good photo you’re raptor, come here!)

Editors note 2:  
Thanks so much MK – it was wonderful to read about your trip.  Hawaii is still on my bucket list!
 Also readers, if you’re going to visit, you might want to take a look at the Hawaii category on my on-line friend Jeff Stamer’s blog.  He’s been to there several times and has some amazing photos and tips. 

You can click on any of these photos to see a much higher res version on Flickr.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!

©2017, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few more New Mexico photos

I hope you don’t mind a few more New Mexico images for today’s blog post.  There was a lot to see out there and I really like many of the photos I came back with.

Way upWay up.

This ridge is close to the Sandia Peak Tramway .  I made the image through the window on the way up. I wanted a mountain goat or some other wildlife to pose for me but they didn’t get the memo!

Soaptree YuccaSoaptree Yucca. IR, B&W, 2 frame panorama

We saw these plants blooming in several places.  This one was at White Sands National Monument.  The heat and glare were incredible there.  I think the IR camera did well taming the harsh mid day light.

Clouds, Mountains, DesertClouds, Mountains, Desert. Near San Augustin Peak, NM.  7 frame panorama.

I find western landscapes extremely appealing.  Maybe it’s just that they’re so different from Florida.  When I saw these mountains, I made MK pull over so I could make this image.

Volcano Cinder ConeVolcano Cinder Cone.  IR, B&W, 3 frame panorama

This is a view of one of the three Volcanoes visible from the Volcano Day Use Area in Petroglyph National Monument, a little west of Albuquerque.  When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped a lens cap somewhere along the path.  I did go back and look for it and of course, couldn’t find it.  Does that happen to you too?

San Miguel Mission interiorSan Miguel Mission interior.  

Located in Santa Fe, NM, this is the oldest known church in the US.  It was  built between 1610 and 1626.  Sunday Mass is still celebrated.  See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Miguel_Mission  for more info.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these five more NM photos.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

In the Back Garden…

Lynn’s been busy in our back garden and suddenly it’s even more photogenic.  Lots of new plantings / flowers and they’ve attracted some interesting visitors. I’ve been keeping a camera at the ready so I can go out quickly and see what’s happening.

The Bird of Paradise plants are a new treat.  They’re blooming and I couldn’t resist making some photos.

Bird of Paradise (partial)Bird of Paradise (partial)

This blue bit is the stamen – I like this composition more than one I made of the entire flower.  I left a small piece of the rest of the bloom in the bottom left of the frame for context.

Bees and Butterflies seem as happy with the new garden as I am.

Bumblebee in flight (BIF)Bumblebee in flight (BIF)  (Olympus E-M1 II Pro Capture mode)

Gulf Fritillary butterflyGulf Fritillary butterfly

I briefly spotted some Ruby-throated Hummingbirds too.  But in my excitement to let Lynn know, I let go of the screen door too quickly and the noise was enough to drive them off.  I’ll be more careful next time and hopefully get some photos of them as well.

I’m very lucky that Lynn has set up such nice photo ops for me!  I can’t wait to see what else she arranges in front of my lens.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved