Circle B Bar Reserve – March 10, 2018

When I began writing this post, I looked at the Circle B Bar Reserve category on my blog (  To my surprise, once again it’s been about 2 years since my last visit!  Every time I’m there I think I should go more often.  This time I mean it – it’s a wonderful place!

It’s also a popular place – there’s a lot to see and a lot of people looking.  Kevin M. and I went over last Saturday and here are some highlights from our visit.

Great Horned Owl parent and chickGreat Horned Owl parent and chick

There’s been a Great Horned Owl nest along the entrance road for several years.  It’s marked off with tape and signs and there’s usually a crowd observing so you can’t miss it. The image above is a composite. They didn’t both look toward me at the same time, so I combined two exposures in Photoshop.  The chick seems pretty large.  I’m guessing it must be several weeks old.  They grow fast – go over soon if you want to see it before it fledges.

Cooper's HawkCooper’s Hawk

This hawk startled several birds (and me) when it launched towards a coot on the surface of the canal by Marsh Rabbit Run.  It missed and then stayed in this tree for a bit before moving on. I almost didn’t make the photo, since at first glance, it looked like a Red-shoulder Hawk to me.  But luckily someone nearby said “That’s a nice Cooper’s”, which is a new life bird for me.  It’s young so the colors aren’t typical for an adult, but the eyes give it away.

I also tried one of the features in the new firmware for the Olympus E-M1 MII camera:  Pro Capture (hi) mode with the PL 100 – 400 lens.  I wanted to catch the bird as it launched off the branch.  It didn’t quite work because hi speed Pro Capture freezes focus after the first shot.  It took off at an angle toward the camera and the bird isn’t sharp in the frame.  Oh well, another thing to add to my ‘try again’ list.

Pig and PeoplePig and People

This wild pig was foraging along the Heron Hideout path. It’s pretty small, seemed very calm and used to all the curious people, and minded its own business.  But I’d still be cautious around it.

Gray CatbirdGray Catbird – infrared, monochrome

I forgot the spare battery for my main camera back in the car and of course it died on our hike just after the hawk photo.  But I also had my IR camera with me with plenty of battery left. So I switched my long lens over to it and kept shooting.  We spotted this Gray Catbird in the bushes, and I like the way the bird stands out from the vegetation in IR converted to B&W.

Cedar Waxwing @ Circle BCedar Waxwing @ Circle B (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)

We found a flock of Cedar Waxwings in the branches above the path – but my photos of them are in infrared too.  Unlike me, Kevin was prepared and he was kind enough to let me use one of his from the day for this post.

Since it’s a long drive, we got lazy and slept in – so no sunrise images.  I did make some infrared landscapes there and I’m planning to use them in a future post, so check back for that.  Maybe I’ll include the IR Waxwings too.

We usually walk down Alligator Alley but it’s closed.  The gators are apparently active in that area although we didn’t spot any.  We did spot Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, a Barred Owl, Blue Wing Teals, Double Crested Cormorants, Anhingas, American Coots and chicks, a Purple Gallinule, the usual Herons and Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Warblers, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, turtles, and more.  Like I said – a lot to see!

You can view more Circle B Bar Reserve photos in my album on Flickr  ( and in Kevin’s  (

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

©2018, Ed Rosack and Kevin McKinney. All rights reserved

Dancing Hawk

Lynn and I were away, visiting our first grandchild – what a wonderful experience that is!!!

Anyway, this blog is about nature photography and I haven’t been able to do much of that recently.  So when we got home, I was eager to go back out and ended up at Orlando Wetlands Park last Thursday.  I made several photos I like.  This one is my favorite from the trip:

Dancing HawkRed-shouldered Hawk

At first, the bird was sitting on top of a dead tree facing into the sun – very harsh light:

Back-lit bird (unprocessed jpg file)

I have many better images of these hawks on my computer. I’m not even sure what made me raise my camera.  Maybe my subconscious was getting ahead of me.

Luckily I did and when the hawk decided to turn around I was ready.  I made a continuous series as it used its wings to balance and I really like the one at the top. The wings are nicely spread and one foot is raised as if it’s dancing.

I’m glad I was shooting in RAW mode – it allowed me to compensate for the harsh light in post processing.  For reference, here is an unprocessed jpg version:

Dancing Hawk (unprocessed jpg)

Processing included using DxO Photo Lab for basic exposure tuning and noise reduction and then tweaking tones, colors, and cropping in Lightroom.

A little luck, a few seconds, and some post-processing can make a huge difference, don’t you think?  It helps to practice and know what’s possible in a situation like this.  Try it  – you might be surprised at the end result.  And maybe your subconscious will start helping you too!

This is a very good time of year to visit Orlando Wetlands.  I saw lots of Spoonbills, a couple of hawks, herons, egrets, ducks, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, Ibis, a deer, etc.  And it’s cool and pleasant – great for a lovely walk.  You can look at more images from there in this album on Flickr:

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Some Recent Photos

I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.

Orlando WetlandsOrlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W.  I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.

Space View ParkSpace View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then.  Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.

Red-winged BlackbirdRed-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017.  Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!

A gull and the ocean, 1A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then.  I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird.  Blended in Photoshop

Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr.  And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  I will too!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Majestic Maui Migration

Editors note:  Today we have another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. She’s back in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but this time on Maui – enjoy!

I recently took the trip of a lifetime to Maui during whale watching season.  While I’ve been fortunate enough to whale watch in places like Alaska, Channel Islands National Park and Maine, I have never seen anything like the whales in Maui in February.  Each year around December/January through about March/April, North Pacific Humpback Whales migrate down from Alaska (bye, Monette!) to Hawaii to mate, give birth, and let their babies bulk up before the long journey back north.  These whales love the waters around Maui, and I’ve never been to a place where you can sit on the beach or at a restaurant on the coast and watch these amazing creatures from land.

Humpback Whale Tail

Tails from Maui

But you can get an even better view from the water!  I did two whale watching cruises, both with the Pacific Whale Foundation.  I’d highly recommend any cruise with PWF (and check out their amazing gift shop while you’re there!), because the money from your cruise goes to protect our oceans through research, education and conservation programs.  While all of their cruises are great experiences, if you have the time and the money and are an early bird like me, your best option is to go on a smaller boat as early in the day as possible.  We took the larger Ocean Discovery on a Saturday afternoon at 2 pm and there was plenty of whale watching, but it was nothing like the intimate photo safari experience on Sunday morning at 7 am aboard the Ocean Spirit catamaran.  With a  smaller, quieter boat, we could turn off the engine when we got 100 yards away from the whales, and sometimes they would come closer to us.  This humpback whale was curious and “spy hopped” right by our boat, poking its head up to check us out!

Humpback Whale Spy Hopping

Humpback Whale “Spy Hopping”

We were lucky to see many mom and baby pairs, which are easy to spot when you know what to look for: more frequent and smaller blows (the babies need to breathe a lot more often than the grownups), and a floating protective Mom beside them (Mom is always nearby!).

Humpback Whale Mom & Baby

Baby (left) and Mom (right) Humpback Whales

I really enjoyed the photo ops on this whale watch.  There was a photographer on board if you had any questions, and I was able to see and photograph whales in a way I never had before.  Fun fact – did you know Humpback Whales (and all baleen whales) have two blowholes side by side (kind of like a human nose) vs. toothed whales that only have one?

Humpback Whale Blow

Humpback Whale – Two Blows Up!

We also saw Maui by air via a Maverick Helicopter Tour.  It’s a lot tougher to get good photos from a helo, but it was really amazing to see whales from such a different perspective!  Below, a mom and baby (on the right) are “escorted” by a male (not the baby’s daddy!).

Humpback Whale Mom, Baby & Escort from Helicopter

Humpback Whales by Air: (From right to Left) Mom, Baby, and Male Escort

Click on any of the photos above to see a higher res version on Flickr, and click here to see the entire photo set from the trip.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some whaley good photos!

Editors note 2:  
Thanks again MK – it was wonderful to read about your trip and see your photos.  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 there several times and has some amazing photos and tips. 

©2018, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

Once in a while, conditions are just right.  Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed.  When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you –  count your blessings!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • The birds all compete for food.  Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
  • Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers.  Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
  • They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond.  Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
  • When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images.  After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
  • As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
  • You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc.  And conditions change rapidly.  Set up your camera in advance and be nimble.  I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed.  It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high.  You’ll need  1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
  • A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments.  I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
  • Your  “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to.  But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like.  Practice when you can and you’ll get better.

Landing IbisLanding Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one.  But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either.  I’m still practicing!

It’s not all about birds in flight.  Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.

On the banks of the pondOn the banks of the pond.  I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.

That was a wonderful morning.  I’m glad I was able to see all the action.  Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:

Dawn at the dock on the Indian RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

When the Experience Exceeds the Photo-op

Lynn and I met Howard and Nancy T. at the Cape last Tuesday to watch the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launchFalcon Heavy first launch – This is an Olympus Live Composite, multiple exposure image showing the ascent.  From ~12 miles away (the “Close” viewing area off of Vectorspace Blvd near Kennedy Space Center). 40mm eq. Field of View.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and it’s amazing to think about how far they’ve come in so short a time – all as a privately funded company.  Their first launch to orbit was in 2008 and last week they launched an object into solar orbit with the Falcon Heavy, which is now  the world’s most powerful launch system.

SpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy LaunchSpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy Launch – sending a red Tesla sports car past Mars!  ~600mm eq. Field of View.

To me as an engineer, the capability to land and reuse boosters is even more impressive.  Especially when you watch two boosters simultaneously landing back near the launch site!

SpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch - two simultaneous booster braking burnsSpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch – two simultaneous booster braking burns.  These two successfully landed back at the Cape.  Unfortunately, the third booster crashed at sea.  ~600mm eq. Field of View.

If you’re a space fan like I am, you’ve been following this story.  But if not, here are a few pages around the web that you might find interesting:

It was truly a wonderful experience to watch this happen.  It seems to me that Elon is well on the way to earning his place as another Edison.

As far as the photo-op went, it’s a tough assignment.  We were about 12 miles away in the area NASA calls “Close”.  This is much closer than our usual viewing area (our driveway – about 35 miles away), but still a bit distant.  They also have “Closer” and “Closest” areas about 7.5 miles from the pad.  VIPs and press were only 3 miles away.  If you want truly great photographs, you’ll have to figure out how to get closer than we did.

Hey Elon – Central Florida Photo Ops needs a press pass!!!

It turns out this wasn’t really about the photo-op.  It was about the experience of witnessing history with thousands of other space fans.  And these photos will help me remember the thrill.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launch - vapor trailPost launch vapor trail

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Rotary Park and Viera Wetlands

Greetings from Central Florida – the place of plentiful photo ops!  I think this morning I’ll just post a few photos and comments.  Hopefully you’ll find something of interest.

Cochina dawnCoquina dawn

I found a new sunrise spot: Rotary Park At Suntree. It’s on the way to Viera Wetlands in Rockledge, Florida next to the Indian River.  I like the look of coquina (very “Florida-ish”) and I wanted to see how the rocks would look at dawn.  The shore line is positioned a bit awkwardly, but I think I’ll go back!  An interesting point:  Flickr will display a map of photos around a location.  It can be a good tool for research before you go somewhere.  But when I looked a Rotary Park, the coquina rocks didn’t show up in other folks photos.  Hmm – maybe I’m alone in my admiration of coquina.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) WarblerYellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are common in Central Florida in the winter. I happened to search for them on the web yesterday and discovered that they’ll probably be split into four different species.  The variety we see on the East Coast of the US are Myrtle Warblers.  I guess I should pay more attention to bird taxonomy.

 Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

Taxonomy is hard though. Even though I’d seen this bird before, I couldn’t remember what it was. I use iBird on my phone and the search function sometimes isn’t very helpful. It didn’t list Phoebe as a possibility even though I entered location, size, etc.  Fortunately, I have a friend that can help (thanks Kevin M!!!)

"Stay off my berry bush!"“Stay off my berry bush!”

Sometimes you take the photo anyway.  Grackles are very common around here and I don’t often bother to photograph them.  But this one was in good light and was squawking at me as I went by.  I enjoyed imagining what he was saying!

Last time we went to Viera Wetlands we saw a Sandhill Crane couple that looked like they were building a nest.  I checked that area again yesterday and didn’t see any sign of them.  Since I didn’t see a nest there, I’m not sure now what they were doing – courtship behavior?

That’s all for this week.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved