Georgia vacation report

Lynn and I spent a week in Georgia this month.  She had a school reunion and we wanted to visit the north Georgia mountains for a few days beforehand.  We have fond memories of weekend hikes along the Appalachian Trail when we were in college.  I can report that the area is just as pretty as I remember, but the trails seem a lot steeper now.

We stayed in a cabin at the Enota Mountain Retreat, between Helen and Hiawassee.  This was only a few miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.  The Cherokee people called this mountain Enotah.

Brasstown Bald is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and there’s a small entrance fee at the parking area, but if you have a National Park Service Senior Pass, you can use that.  The 0.6 mile paved trail from the parking area to the top is very steep, although a bus runs between 10am and 5pm.  We arrived after 5 on our first day – it was well worth the hike to the top.  The spectacular 360 degree view was the best one we saw.

The view from Brasstown Bald
The view from Brasstown Bald – This is the highest point in the state of Georgia (4,784 feet). 5 frame infrared panorama, B&W.

Compare that to a very similar view from an un-modified camera to see how the infrared sensor helps cuts through the haze.

The view from Brasstown Bald
Color view from Brasstown Bald – Looking a bit to the right of the IR version. Also a 5 frame panorama, 

Good vistas don’t seem as common here as they are for instance in the Rockies.  The small roads have places to pull over, but the view is often blocked by trees.  Which makes the outlook from Brasstown Bald exceptional.

North Georgia also has a huge number of waterfalls – but some are more difficult to find, get to, and see clearly than others.  There are four on the Enota Resort grounds.  The trail to this one was steep and muddy in spots and led up along the side of a ravine to this spot  across from the falls.  We couldn’t find a viewpoint with a clear view through the trees, although there were other paths that we didn’t have time (or energy) to try.

Hidden falls
Hidden falls – Along a trail inside the Enota campground.  ISO 200, f/8, 0.6 sec.

We did visit other waterfalls that are easier to get to and see.  There’s even a pull off just outside Vogel State Park where we could view a large waterfall from the road (no hike!).  Anna Ruby Falls is on federal land inside Unicoi State park near Helen.  The paved path to the falls is about 1/2 mile long and not too difficult with resting places along the way.  We also visited Amicolola Falls near Dahlonaga after our wonderful lunch at the Smith House Restaurant.  This falls also has a relatively short and easier paved path to a wonderful open view.  But the hike might be even easier when your stomach isn’t so full!

Amicolola Falls
Amicolola Falls – Near Dahlonega, Georgia.  ISO 100, f/16, 0.1 second.

I used a variety of shutter speeds on the waterfalls and I think 1/10 to 1/2 is the range to play in to make the water look best. Unless you find a pool of swirling water – where a longer exposure might be better.  Try different shutter speeds while you’re there so you can pick the best result when you get home.  Most of the time I could get my shutter speed in range by adjusting ISO and aperture.  I did have a variable neutral density filter with me that I used a couple of times – it was handy when the sun was out.  Most of the time it was cloudy enough so that I didn’t have to worry about using the filter or fight the extreme contrast of sun shining on white water.

As far as wildlife goes, we didn’t spend a lot of effort looking and we didn’t see many animals.  I was able to photograph one new life bird:  a Louisiana Waterthrush.  Lynn found it foraging on the ground outside (while we did the laundry!).

After our time in North Georgia, we headed to Atlanta for the reunion.  For various reasons, my photo ops there were limited, but we did have a nice vantage point from our hotel room.

Incoming storm
Incoming Storm – Atlanta.  During a long exposure needed to capture this ominous cloud rolling in, I also caught a flash of lightning.

One place I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to visit is the Georgia aquarium.  I’ll have to save it for next time.

All in all, an exceptional, relaxing, and photogenic trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  These and other Georgia photos are in this  album  on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. Also, if you haven’t seen last week’s post about the Narcosee Indian Mound, please take a look at that.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Ceremonial Cherokee Indian mound

The Nacoochee Indian mound is just outside Helen, Georgia.  Lynn and I were up there on vacation last week and happened to find it on our way out-of-town.  Of course, I had to pull over for a photo.

I like the setting, the look of the mound, and the hills and clouds beyond it.  It seems very spiritual to me.

Nacoochee Cherokee Indian ceremonial mound, just outside Helen, Georgia
Nacoochee Cherokee Indian ceremonial mound, just outside Helen, Georgia – This was the center of the Cherokee town of Gauxule, visited by DeSoto in 1540 while searching for gold. The mound is 190 feet long by 150 foot wide by 20 feet high. Research beginning in 1915 showed that the Cherokee people buried their ancestors on this spot and lived on the land around it.

My grandparents on my mother’s side both lived in North Carolina and Georgia and had some Cherokee blood in their background.  I wonder if any of my distant relatives lived and died near here?

I haven’t had time to organize / process photos from this trip. Hopefully I’ll get to that this week and have a better report ready for next time.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Silver Springs State Park

Intro / Description

I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May.  This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park.  Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong.  But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.

Silver Springs headwaters, view 2
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm

Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides.  The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone.  It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water.  You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in.  I used the launch close to the headwaters.  It’s a short paddle to the main spring.  It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!

In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me!  One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring.   Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.

A view from my kayak
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs.  Take a look – they like it as much as I do!

If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion.  You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Tripod/Monopod:  I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would.  It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.

Lenses:  Bring what you can carry.  I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them.  If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.

Best time to visit:  It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly.  If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable.  I went during the week.  Weekends will be crowded.

Other:

There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida.  For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.   I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species.  There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs.  And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys  descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.

Typical Turtle
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays).  Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer.  You’ll have to call the park for details.

Cracker cabin
Cracker cabin

Finally, 60 campsites are available along with 10 very nice, two bedroom cabins.  I’d recommend staying for one or two nights so you have some time to explore.  There are also several other great areas nearby including the Ocala National ForestRainbow Springs State ParkJuniper Springs Recreation Area, and Salt Springs Recreation Area.

Summary

Click on any of these photos to go to Flickr where you can see larger versions.  My Silver Springs album on Flickr includes these and a few other  photos.

Silver Springs State Park is a wonderful place to visit and an especially wonderful place to paddle!

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157644924434114
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/default.cfm/explore.html 
Address / Phone: 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34470(352) 236-7148
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

P.S. – In the good news department, it looks like those of you that subscribe to the blog via email are getting the updates.  If you’re having any issues, please let me know.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Photographic Friction

Friction synonyms: Hostility, frustration, conflict, discord, strife, opposition, contention, dispute, fighting, antipathy, resentment, …

Friction antonyms: Harmony.

For the past week or so, my photographic pursuits seem to be in slow motion.  Creating  photos is difficult.  Friction and frustration are up and harmony and flow are down.

What’s going on?  Glad you asked.  1.  I’m having problems finding things to photograph.  2. I’m also having problems with the software I use to process photos.  3. And I’m having problems with my blog.  Hmm.

1. The Images

I was a little busy this week (with #2 and #3) so it left me less time to photograph.  But I did go out on Saturday with Kevin M.  He needed  a park pass and suggested we drive over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to pick one up at the Visitor’s Center.  Of course, I talked him into leaving early for sunrise and we went by Gator Creek just before dawn.  This is a nice enough image, but leaves me wanting better.  The sky’s a little bland and I couldn’t find a nicer foreground.  And the no-see-ums were fierce!

Another Gator Creek morning
Another Gator Creek morning – a 4 frame panorama, ISO 100, f/11 at 2 seconds

We also drove around Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, but honestly, there aren’t many birds or animals there now.  We saw very few of the regular birds and a wild pig, but most of the wildlife seems to be somewhere else.  Summer slow down indeed.  When we swung by the Visitors center there wasn’t much bird activity there either.  I carried my infrared camera and experimented with IR insects.  I like this one – but it also leaves me wanting.

An infrared butterfly
An infrared butterfly

I guess the moral of this part of the story is that making good photos isn’t easy and some photo ops aren’t as good as others.  Don’t let all the good ones you see on the web convince you otherwise.  Keep looking and shooting.  And don’t go just looking for photos –  you should also go for the experience.  Enjoy being out and don’t make it all about the image.  And in Florida, in the summer, before dawn – bring insect repellent to cut your hostile friction with the bugs.

2. The Software

I’ve had issues for some time using the “Edit in Photoshop” command in Lightroom.  Photoshop would open, but sometimes the file itself would never show up.  If I tried to open the file directly from inside Photoshop, it worked every time.  With the latest updates to both programs the problem got much worse.  Every time I tried to open a RAW file in Photoshop from Lightroom, it wouldn’t work.

After several searches on Google, I found others are having this problem too.  But there wasn’t any clear-cut solution, so I  called Adobe.   They told me to uninstall both programs and reinstall, but make sure to reinstall Photoshop first.  This is a pain since I have to also reinstall all the plug-ins and presets I use too.  I did get through it and it’s now working better, although it’s still happened a few times since.  Frustrating friction.

3. The Blog

If you follow this blog via email or Twitter, you probably didn’t see last week’s post – a shame – I thought it was pretty good!

For some reason, the server isn’t sending email or Twitter notifications when a new post goes up.  I’ve tweaked some settings and hope it’s corrected now.  If not, I’ll have to keep troubleshooting.  Curious, conflicting friction.

By the way, if you didn’t see last week’s post, here’s a link:  http://edrosack.com/wordpress/2014/06/18/wild-orchids-and-more-at-fort-christmas/


Photography is a great hobby that’s sometimes frustrating.  But I’ve done it long enough to know that harmony will eventually return.  When it does, the frictionless flow will be truly enjoyable.

If it doesn’t I’ll have to get a giant can of WD-40 to spray all over everything.  That should lower the friction.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Wild Orchids and more at Fort Christmas

I follow Florida Hikes and they tweeted about wild orchids blooming at Fort Christmas,

Fort Christmas Historical Park is east of Orlando close to Orlando Wetlands Park.  I’ve written about it before:

I hadn’t ever seen Orchids in the wild and I hadn’t been out there since 2012, so this was a big enough motivation to make me want to visit again.  I ended up exploring with Tom M. on a morning last week.

Once we knew what to look for, the orchids weren’t hard to find.  There were a lot of them higher up in the large live oak trees.  The strong back light, wind, and distance made them hard to photograph well, but with a longer lens, a flash, and some careful camera positioning I managed to isolate these blooms against a dark background.  I like the colors and background, which remind me of an oriental flower painting.

Wild Orchids
Wild Orchids – Up in the live oak trees. Two frames, with flash, different focus points, hand merged in Photoshop.  I believe these are Florida Butterfly Orchids (Encyclia tampensis).

Sunflowers were also blooming in one of the small gardens on the site.

Sunflower bloom
Sunflower bloom – In the garden. Single frame, ambient light.

We also spent some time looking around inside the buildings.  You’re free to enter most of them as long as you’re careful.  And since we were there on a mid-week morning, there weren’t many other folks around.  Until two busses of summer camp kids showed up around 10:30.

In the bedroom
In the bedroom – Single 1/2 second exposure at f/8 for depth of field. I didn’t have a tripod, so I rested the camera on the window sill

Antique fixtures and appliances fill the rooms.  These and the wood and fabric textures make for some very photogenic settings – perfect material for a bit of nostalgic, B&W processing.

In the kitchen 1
In the kitchen – I was able to hand hold this one when I opened the aperture to f/2.8. The depth of field is acceptable since there’s nothing too close to the viewpoint.

Here are some photo hints for you:

  • For the orchids, you’ll probably want a longer zoom lens, a flash, a tripod and remote release.
  • Some of the flowers and other items would make good macro subjects.
  • For photos of the building and room interiors, I found a wide-angle lens very useful.  A tripod might be handy for this too, but I was able to brace my camera and / or use the pop up flash to eliminate camera shake / blur.

I’ve posted other photos from Fort Christmas in this set on Flickr.  It’s a wonderful year round photo-op.  And the blooming orchids in the summertime are a nice bonus.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.