Tag Archives: lighthouse

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

A few photos from St. Augustine

I visited St. Augustine, Florida last week with fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. It’s a high density photo-op  environment and if you haven’t ever been there you really should go.  We only spent a few hours, but we saw interesting things to photograph almost everywhere we looked.  Here are a few examples:

Three trees, their  shadows, and the  Castillo de San Marco
Three trees, their shadows, and the Castillo de San Marcos

Bottoms up
Bottoms up – The St. Augustine Lighthouse staircase

Alcove in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
Alcove in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

Whistling waters
Whistling waters

I’ve written about this town several times before. You can browse through those posts by selecting the category from the pull down on the right (or click this link). And you can visit this set on Flickr to see other images from St. Augustine.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Before and After, Again

This is another entry in my occasional series on reprocessing photos. You can see the other posts here, here, and here. You can also read the original blog post about this image here.

Post-processing skills as well as taste develop over time. New tools come out or get updated.  Reviewing your image library for things you may want to change is a good idea.  Just don’t spend too much time on post processing – leave enough to go out and make new images too!

This is one of my favorite photographs and one that I’ve even sold, but re-looking at it I saw several things I thought I could make a little better.  Here’s the updated version after all my re-edits (which are described below):

Ponce Inlet light, sunset, bird (re-do)

After: Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, Final Edit

I started over from the RAW file (you do save your RAW files, don’t you?) and re-did the basic adjustments in Lightroom (color balance, initial exposure adjustments).  Then I moved into Photoshop and cleaned up distracting elements (tire tracks, poles, the tip of the cloud just right of the lighthouse, …).  I then added a duplicate layer and ran that through Topaz Adjust using the “Spicify” preset to bring up structure, detail, and color saturation.  I don’t usually like applying this filter all over an image at 100%, so once back in Photoshop I added a hide all layer mask and partially painted in the  effect, using a higher opacity brush for the sky to let more of the filter show and a lower one for the rocks and ocean to mute the filter effect.  I then took the result  back to Lightroom for final tweaks to color balance, sharpening and a crop to remove part of the sky.  I thought that the colors of the sky and rocks were still a little off, so as one last tweak I added graduated filters to help adjust their tints.

For reference purposes, here’s the old edit of this photo:

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird

Before: Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, Initial Edit

Note:  you can click the two versions above to go to my Flickr account, where you can view larger versions.

And also for reference, I uploaded the original RAW file (with default development settings in Lightroom) below.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, RAW Capture

Would I go to this much effort for every image?  No.  But sometimes a photo really appeals to me and I want to get the absolute best I can from it.  It helps that I enjoy working in Photoshop and learning about new techniques.

So what do you think?  Quite a few changes, some more subtle than others – but overall I like the new version better.

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

My Favorite Photos of 2010

I hope that all of you and your families and friends are having a joyful and happy holiday season!

The weather has been pretty gloomy here this weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to go out and make any new photos. I thought it would be a good time to jump the gun and put together my second annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.

One again, I’ve gone through the photos I made in the last 12 months. I use Lightroom to rate them from 0 through 5 stars. My rating system definitions are:

  • 1 star – The photo is interesting
  • 2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others
  • 3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot
  • 4 stars – My favorite photo of a year
  • 5 stars – My favorite photo (ever)

Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. I’ve used this system consistently, and it seems to work for me. Of course, this is all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve chosen.

Again in 2010, I was really blessed with a huge number of photo opportunities. On my hard drive in my 2010 folder, I have about 11,700 files (not all are photos), taking up 145GB of space. Of these:

  • 5997 of the 2010 images have been cataloged in Lightroom. Many of the rest are source images for multi-shot panoramas or HDRs, or high rate bursts that I selected from.
  • 1139 are rated 1 star or higher
  • 639 are 2 star or higher
  • 88 are 3 star or higher
  • 1 is 4 star, and
  • None are 5 star (I’m still not done taking photos yet!)

Of the 88 that are 3 star or higher, I’ve selected 10 images to include in a gallery of my favorite 2010 photos. You can click on each of these to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version. One interesting difference from my 2009  Favorite Photos post is that all the ones this year were made in the Central Florida area.

So, here we go…

My #10 favorite 2010 photo is: Waving Gator. Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving! No, I didn’t Photoshop the wave. The gator really did it all by itself. I have witnesses.

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

My #9 favorite 2010 photo is: Roadside Flowers. Wildflower photography is a little different in Central Florida than some other areas of the country. Some might say it’s more challenging here, and I doubt anyone comes to Central Florida specifically to photograph wildflowers. None the less, wildflower photo ops are around here too if you keep your eyes open. These are along the Florida Turnpike. I saw them while driving home from Gainesville, Florida and just had to stop and photograph them.

Roadside flowers (IMG_0713)

My #8 favorite 2010 photo is: Cattle Egret in Flight. For once, I was ready when this bird flew close by. Right lens, correct camera settings, and paying attention. I could almost feel my camera nail the shot. I wish I felt like that more often.

Cattle Egret in flight

My #7 favorite 2010 photo is: One Second Koi or “One second, Koi” or “One second Koi?” I don’t usually make this sort of photo. On this occasion, I decided to experiment and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

One Second Koi

My #6 favorite 2010 photo is: Sunrise, fog, palms, pond. This scene is close to the north-west shore of Lake Jessup. On this particular morning, the mist in the distance and the clouds on the horizon shaping the sunlight drew my attention.

Sunrise, fog, palms, pond

My #5 favorite 2010 photo is: Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands. We were at Orlando Wetlands Park back in late September before dawn. It was raining very softly, but not enough to discourage us from hiking out to Lake Searcy and capturing this scene. I like the light hitting the flowers on the left, the rain cloud in the distance, and the dawn colors in the sky.

Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands

My #4 favorite 2010 photo is: Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

We have a local camera club and three of us decided to go over to the beach to try to photograph the Perseid meteor shower. My two friends went out on the beach while I stayed up on the boardwalk. At one point I looked down and could barely make out this scene in the dark. I like the way the camera’s LCD is lit up and draws the viewer’s eye to the two photographers. I also like how the three strangers (who were watching for meteors) look like they’re watching my friends.

I was using ISO 1600 and my “nifty 50” 50mm lens at f/1.8 to keep exposures as short as possible (I was trying to prevent the stars from trailing), and I had focused manually at infinity. All I had to do was switch on live-view, re-compose, and zoom in on my friend’s white shirt to manually re-focus. Fortunately no one moved very much during the 4 second exposure. It’s really amazing how modern cameras can capture scenes that are barely visible to our eyes! And yes, we did get a few meteor photos. (Grasshopper and Donuts are nicknames for the two photographers in the scene).

Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

My #3 favorite 2010 photo is: Cyprus tree and knees. I wanted to try the Nikon D7000 on some landscape photos, but didn’t really have time to go anywhere special. This tree is very close to my home – along the shore of Lake Jessup in Central Winds Park. Cypress trees make very good photo subjects since they can provide both near and middle distance content for a scene.

Cyprus tree and knees

My #2 favorite 2010 photo is: Cormorant at the Circle Bar B. These birds have been posing for me lately. I think it’s amazing how pretty they look in the right light.

Cormorant

And … my #1 favorite photo of the year 2010 is: Ponce Inlet light, sunset, bird. Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined right there on your computer screen in all it’s glory. That’s what happened to me last August.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird

I’ve uploaded these photos to this Flickr set, and you can click this link to watch a slide show. When you watch the show, you might want to click the “show info” link.

Thanks for looking.

All content ©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

We take a day trip through rural Wisconsin, after our son’s wedding

We stayed an extra day and a half after Sara and Mike’s wedding to make sure everyone got back to the airport OK and all the tuxedos got returned, etc.

We also wanted some time to ourselves to relax a little bit. The weather on Monday was a bit sporty, so we didn’t want to spend all day outside at the Wisconsin state fair. Lynn did a little research on the web and located a wildlife sanctuary about 50 miles north of where we were staying, so we decided to drive up there and take a look. We wanted to see a little bit more of Wisconsin and ended up taking mostly back roads on the way up. It was a very pleasant drive (until we ran into some construction – but we routed around that easily enough). One place we went through was Port Washington, on the coast of Lake Michigan. It is a scenic little town, although they seem to have been hit pretty hard by the slow economy. This first picture is their lighthouse, built in 1860.

Port Washington Lighthouse

The Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bend Wisconsin was our main destination for the day. They have elk, bison, big horn sheep, several variety of deer, wild turkey, and other animals. You can drive through the property in a golf cart and if you’re quiet and the animals cooperate, you can see quite a few of them. The day we were there it was very overcast and in fact started to rain fairly hard by the end of our visit. Photography was quite a challenge due to the low illumination. I was traveling light with just my Canon G9, which is not a good low light camera, so my photos of the bison, are a bit blurry. Oh well – there’s always next time.

I do like this photo of a native American animal skull display. I’m thinking about making a large print for my office at work. I’m hoping it will warn my enemies to stay away. The rest of my photos from this trip are at http://edrosack.com/Port-Washington

Native American Totum

©2008, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.