Bird population loss

A study released last week in Science Journal reports that the North American wild bird population is in steep decline.  About 29%  of the breeding population (2.9 billion) vanished since 1970.  This includes species we see here in Central Florida.  There are 92 million fewer Red-winged Blackbirds:

Red-winged Blackbird in flightRed-winged Blackbird in flight, Viera Wetlands

And Eastern Meadowlarks declined by ~70% (73 million):

A Messy Molting MeadowlarkA Messy Molting Meadowlark – Joe Overstreet Road, Osceola County

The study is based on multiple independent data sources including bird counts and radar information.  This particular study didn’t investigate causes, but habitat loss and degradation are seen as the biggest overall drivers of the decline.

The news isn’t all bleak.  Raptors have increased by 15 million since 1970 due to  banning some pesticides, and waterfowl gained 35 million because of wetland regeneration.  This shows we can make a difference.

Bald Eagle in flightBald Eagle in flight – Kenansville, Fl.

The loss of birds is consistent with other data showing massive declines in insects and amphibians.  These are symptoms that our environment is not healthy and they should be a tremendous wake up call.

We must do everything we can to help keep our only planet healthy .  How will you answer your children and grandchildren when they ask you what you did about this?

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go support conservation.  And make some photos.  Before it’s too late.

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

#BringBirdsBack

Bracketing vs. Graduated ND Filters

I’d long ago answered this question, but a comment from Frank B. about this image caused me to reconsider some things.

Cocoa Beach Pier before dawnCocoa Beach Pier before dawn

Fair warning:  This post is a little deep into the weeds.  Feel free to look at the photo and move on if it isn’t your thing.  But I think it’s an appropriate subject, since part of the blog’s purpose is “… and how to photograph them.”

What are we talking about?

Bracketing means taking multiple photos of a scene, each with different camera settings (see this Wikipedia entry).  In this case, I made three photos at different exposures so I could capture the entire dynamic range from super dark under the pier to super bright above the clouds.  Making just a single exposure would’ve risked losing detail in the shadows or highlights (or both).

You can also use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND) – an optical filter you add in front of your lens to reduce light in the bright part of the frame (see this Wikipedia entry).  Typically they have a 2 or 3 stop reduction that transitions into clear.

I’d long ago experimented with GNDs and decided not to use them.  I can  mostly reproduce their effect in static scenes by bracketing and then blending the resulting frames in post-processing.  For landscape images bracketing is an easier solution in the field and gives me more control and a better final result.  You can read about one example of my technique in this post (from back in 2011).

But then … Frank left a comment:

… amazing how the clouds remain sharp compared to the water given the time of exposure

And my reply:

Frank, this is a 3 frame, hi-res exposure bracket hand blended in Photoshop. The bottom portion was at f/5 for 25 seconds. The top was at f/5 for 3.2 seconds. So that and distance is why the clouds are sharp compared to the water.

The way I made this image resulted in a huge difference in shutter speed between the water at the bottom and the clouds at the top.  And using the Olympus Hi-Res mode exaggerated the shutter speed differences since it combines 8 separate captures to create each hi-res output file.

If I’d used a GND the shutter speed would be constant throughout the frame and the blur in the clouds would’ve matched the blur in the water.  In this particular case,  bracketing exposure by varying aperture instead of shutter speed would also make the motion blur consistent.  I’ve never done that since it seemed like it would lead to other issues (inconsistent focus / depth of field).  It’s something to think about and maybe try in the future for a setting where consistent motion blur is important.

Thanks for the question Frank!  Photography is fascinating.  There is so much to think about and still left to learn.

And thanks to everyone else for stopping by and reading my blog (especially if you read all the way through!). Now – go make some photos!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR, 9/7/10

Editor’s note:  First things first:  We’re safe here in Central Florida and came through our brush with  Hurricane Dorian with very little damage, although people are still worried about possible future flooding from all the rain – especially along the St. Johns river. Other places weren’t as fortunate as we are. The news from The Bahamas is horrific and some locations along the US east coast have severe impacts too. I hope recovery efforts are swift and thorough.


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge announced they were re-opening on Friday (9/6/19) although BioLab Road and BioLab boat ramp were damaged and are closed for now. Kevin M. and I decided to ride over on Saturday morning and explore a bit.  Here are some photos from the visit.

Sunrise OspreySunrise Osprey.

There were several Ospreys fishing along the sunrise side of the entrance and we stopped  to watch.  I caught this one very close to the rising sun but unfortunately clipped a small part of its wing.  I was shooting in continuous mode though, so I was able to make this composite image using a separate frame to fill in the missing bit.

Wood Stork portraitWood Stork portrait

For some reason, I haven’t made / posted a Wood Stork photo in a while.  There were three or four hanging out at Parrish Park as we left.  They’re very tolerant of people (the folks fishing must give them handouts) and it posed quietly while I made this close-up portrait.  Some folks might not think they’re handsome, but I like their rugged good looks.  They have a lot of character and seem to own their unique style!

Perched OspreyPerched Osprey –  watching us from a dead tree branch on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron. Not a great photo, but I don’t see Night-Herons very often, so I’ll include it.

In general, the conditions at MINWR are pretty good.  The water is high, and wildlife is a bit scarce, but that’s not unusual for this time of year.  It’ll cool off soon and we can look forward to lots of birds visiting in the fall and winter.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Take the shot? Or not?

Editor’s note:  For everyone in The Bahamas, here in Florida, and up and down the east coast of the US – please keep an eye on hurricane Dorian, get prepared, and stay safe!


I’ve driven by this tree many times – every time I go around Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I like its isolation and the reflection it makes in the usually very still water.

Lone pine between the canal and roadLone pine between the canal and road

I saw and admired it again on my visit a few weeks ago, but I almost didn’t make this image.  Why not?  Because I thought I’d already made that very one before and didn’t need another.  Fortunately, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I stopped and made a two frame vertical panorama with my IR camera.

When I got home, I tried to find the photo I thought I remembered.  Here are two of that same tree that I found in my archives.  This first one is from nearly the same spot:

Clear day, calm water 1Clear day, calm water, January 2011

And this one is from the other side:

Left at the lone pine treeLeft at the lone pine tree, August 2018

I like the newest photo the best.  I’m glad I went ahead and made it!

On the other hand: When Kevin M. and I were down in Osceola county, we saw two or three Bald Eagles.  When I was young, Bald Eagles were rare and I never saw one in the wild until I moved to Florida and started paying more attention to wildlife.  Now they’re getting much more common but I still get a thrill whenever I see one.  One of the eagles was sitting on a pile of dirt a little off the road.  Kevin asked if I wanted him to stop for a photo and I said no.  I have quite a few Bald Eagle photos that I like (e.g. this one), and the setting that day just didn’t look like it would make a good photo.  It would probably have sat on my hard drive or been deleted when I went through the photos.  Why make it?

Take the shot or not? Like many things, it depends.  I suppose the moral of this story is: “When in doubt, make the photo.  But don’t make every photo.”

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, or not!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Overdue in Osceola

Kevin M. wanted to go down to Osceola county and Joe Overstreet road last Friday.  I don’t seem to get down there very often (the last time I wrote about it was in March of 2017).  Since a visit was so overdue, I readily agreed to join him.

We stopped first along a side road for a sunrise pasture photo.  It’ll be hard to see at web resolution, but there’s a large herd of cattle on the right in the distance.

Cow contry sunriseCow country sunrise

Next, we drove down Joe Overstreet road.  This is a great place to see birds that aren’t too common elsewhere in Central Florida.  Here are some examples:

Bob WhiteBobwhite

Snail KiteSnail Kite

Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead Shrike

We also saw many of our common wading birds including some Sandhill Cranes, Anhingas, Cattle Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks.  There were a couple of Bald Eagles, a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers, an Upland Sandpiper, several Solitary Sandpipers (several? solitary? I know, right?), many molting Meadowlarks, lots of Killdeer, and lots of swallows ( I think these were Cave Swallows, although there could have been others mixed in).

And dragonflies were very plentiful.

Dragonfly Dragonfly – Not sure of ID on this. Maybe a Red Saddlebags?

After Joe Overstreet, we stopped by Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area to see if we could spot any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers but they weren’t cooperating.

If you haven’t been to these areas, check them out.  They seem to attract a diverse group of species.  Click on any of these for larger versions, and you can see a few more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A nice surprise

When I wrote about Father Crowley Overlook a couple weeks ago, I realized I had several promising Death Valley images in my  archives that I’d never processed.  A trip like that can be overwhelming, and dealing with so many photos takes time and effort.  I suppose back then I picked out ones I thought were best and left the rest for later.

Well this week I went back, found this one I liked, and worked on it.

Shifting sun, shadows, and sandShifting sun, shadows, and sand – early morning at Mesquite dunes in Death Valley.

This scene is looking roughly north about 15 minutes after sunrise.  The low sun angle makes for lovely contrasts and colors, and helps emphasize the shapes and textures of the dunes.

While I was working on this in Lightroom, I noticed something on the far sand dune, just below the shadow at the top. Please click on the image below so you can see it better.

.                                                                  The hidden surprise!

I was making landscape images, so I used a 24-120mm lens and fortunately liked the framing at 120mm.  My Nikon D800 camera had a 36 MP sensor and captured a great deal of information in the file.  Even though it’s at the limits of resolution, you can definitely tell there’s something there – tracks in the sand and one (maybe two?) animals!

A photo like this is a good example of something I wrote about 10 years ago: Photographic “Level of Detail”.  Looking at it from a distance, you see colors, shapes, shadows and lines.  Zoom in a bit and textures, tracks, and other details become visible.  Zoom in all the way and you can spot wildlife.  How cool is that?!

I really enjoy this aspect of photography.  Have you ever discovered something like this in one of your images?

You can view my other DVNP photos here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – it’s can be surprising!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Back to nature

It seems like ages since I’ve been out amongst our natural Florida wonders.  So I was eager to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week for a look ’round.  I stopped first by the Indian River before dawn.  The geometry of the pier, bridge and sun rays teamed up to form nice leading lines toward the pending sunrise.

A peaceful morning on the pier by the bridgeA peaceful morning on the pier by the bridge – Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier by the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Florida

East Gator Creek road was closed, so I drove up to Haulover Canal and the Mantee Observation Point – of course there were no manatees visible there!  Then I circled back to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Standing birdStanding bird – Tri-colored Heron on a bush. It was so still that I had time to zoom in and make a three frame vertical panorama.

We’ve had lots of rain lately and there was plenty of water at Black Point.  I saw fish schooling in several spots, although for some reason the birds weren’t interested. I think the highlight of the trip for me was watching two Reddish Egrets dancing over the water.

Running birdRunning bird – a prancing Reddish Egret seems to walk on water

There were just a couple other people on the drive and I only saw them briefly.  It’s a special privilege to have a place like this mostly to yourself – even at this time of the year when it’s so hot and the wildlife is a bit sparse.

Flying birdFlying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water

What a delightful morning!  I have many more MINWR photos here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go enjoy nature – it’s good for you!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

F-18 jet exiting "Star Wars Canon" into Death Valley at Father C

Father Crowley Overlook in Death Valley NP

You may have seen the tragic news last week about a US Navy F18 crash in Death Valley.  The jet was flying through Rainbow Canyon next to Father Crawley Point when it hit, killing the pilot and injuring seven bystanders.

I feel a connection to this.  One reason is because of my own Navy service.  During NROTC training, I was assigned to an attack squadron aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.  I saw firsthand how professional, dedicated and skilled Navy aircrews are.  My heart goes out to the pilot’s family.

I also feel connected because I’ve visited that exact spot. Back in 2015, Tom M. and I drove up to Father Crowley Point during a trip to Death Valley and made a few photos.  At the time, we weren’t aware of the background of this place and just planned to make landscape photos.  But then we heard the jets overhead.

F-18 jet exiting "Star Wars Canyon" into Death Valley at Father Crowley Point, October 2015US Navy F-18 exiting “Star Wars Canyon” in Death Valley at Father Crowley Overlook, October 2015

Air Force and Navy pilots have trained there since the 1930s and it’s become a hotspot for military aircraft photographers and enthusiasts (see this article in the LA times). Rainbow Canyon has a couple of nicknames:  “Star Wars Canyon” and the “Jedi Transition”.  It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see and photograph military aircraft below you as they fly by (here’s another good article on Arstechnica).

Tom and I were getting ready to move on when we heard another jet approaching and getting much louder.  I managed to switch to continuous mode and follow with my camera as it roared through the canyon right next to us.  The photo above is a 9 frame sequence merged into a single image to show the progression as it leaves the canyon.  I’d only ever processed a single frame of it before (here on Flickr).  Although this set of frames is from a more recent (and capable) camera, I went through processing steps similar to those I described here:  Reprocessing-a-mt-evans-elk-herd-panorama.  I merged it manually this time to make sure all images of the aircraft were preserved in the final version.

I have other Death Valley blog posts here: https://edrosack.com/2015/11/01/death-valley-national-park-california/, here: https://edrosack.com/2015/11/15/death-valley-addendum/, and here: https://edrosack.com/2015/10/25/night-sky-in-death-valley/).  And you can view my other Death Valley photos in this set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157657912609623.

I’m glad bystanders’ injuries weren’t too serious. I feel very sad for the young pilot and his family.  And I’m grateful that we have people that volunteer to serve and protect us, even at such great risk to themselves.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go thank someone in the military for their service.

©2019, Lynn and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Flying Home

Lynn and I flew up to Wisconsin for a wonderful visit with Mike, Sara, and Calvin last weekend.  Just before landing back in Orlando, the sky lit up.  Lynn had the window seat and was making many photos, and she made a few for me too.

Almost home 2Almost home – a lovely sunset on our way in to Orlando from Wisconsin

Before I gave her my iPhone, I opened the Lightroom Mobile App and set the file format to RAW DNG.  When I got home I processed it in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I think it’s very nice for a grab shot through a thick window!

If you have a recent generation phone, you should look into using RAW format, especially for scenes like this.  It records much more information and gives you adjustment room in your post processing, especially when changing white balance and recovering highlights and shadows.  It’s well worth it!

We’re both a little under the weather after our trip, so that’s all I have for you this week.

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

©2019, Lynn and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Howell Creek

Howell Branch creek starts at Lake Maitland and flows into Lake Waumpi.  From there it’s called Howell Creek as it goes through Lake Howell and then wanders east and north  to empty into Lake Jessup. It passes within a half mile of our home in Winter Springs.

I’ve driven by this spot below in Maitland many times, but didn’t realize it’s on the same waterway:

Howell Creek No. 2Howell Creek – Where it crosses Lake Howell Road.  A small dam there creates a lovely little waterfall / rapid.  I’ve driven by it for years and finally made a photo.

I never stopped before because there’s no obvious parking nearby.  But Lynn volunteered to drive me over, drop me off (and come back and pick me up too!).  So off we went…

My plan was to make a few images from down near the water with a wide angle lens, maybe up close to the dam.  But several  “No Trespassing” signs scuttled that. I stayed up on the bridge by the road and made my images from there.  I’m glad I brought my 24 – 200 mm (eq.) lens too – the reach came in handy!

Several people walked by while I was there and mentioned how pretty the view is.  They talked about wading birds and the otter family they see there.  I didn’t see any otters, but a Great Egret eventually wandered into my frame.  I was lucky it stayed still while I made a long  exposure to blur the water.  When Lynn saw the photo, she thought it needed a dark colored bird – I should’ve waited for an anhinga!

Wind caused some blurring in the leaves and Spanish moss.  I was also worried the vibration caused by trucks on the road behind me would shake my tripod and blur things.  I made several frames just in case and this one came out pretty well.

Research indicates there was a water powered mill located just up stream from this dam in the mid 1800s.  And I found an old article in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that the first dam in this spot was built around 1900. One story says residents blew up the dam during a hurricane and replaced it later.  Apparently, a more durable one was built in  the 1950s and was replaced by the current dam in 1979 when Orange County widened Howell Branch Road.

It doesn’t seem like I’ve used other photos of Howell Creek in the blog before, so I’ll end this post with two older images from closer to our home in Winter Springs.

Howell CreekHowell Creek infra red (October 2013)

Howell CreekHowell Creek bed and reflections (October 2013)

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – stop somewhere you’ve been passing by and make some photos!

©2013 and 2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved