Flagler Beach Whale Quest

MK and I decided to drive over to Flagler Beach last Sunday.   Several whales have been seen recently – one the week before from the pier. We knew the chance we’d spot one was very small, but it’s a pretty place for sunrise and the restaurant on the pier serves a decent breakfast!

Quilted surf sunriseQuilted surf sunrise

We set off at “o-dark-thirty” and arrived before dawn.  I spent some time making photos on the beach and when it was light enough, we went up on the pier to scout.

Under the pierUnder the pier

North Atlantic Right Whales are among the most endangered whales in the world.  There are only about 450 left.  In addition to deaths from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement, their birth rate seems to be declining.  They migrate south from New England to the warm waters off Florida to mate and give birth.  Unfortunately, there were no new calves spotted last year during the whole 2017 – 2018 season.

Fishing trawler "Miss Hope" at daybreak near the pierFishing trawler “Miss Hope” at daybreak near the pier

So it was pretty exciting when the first calf was spotted this year:  https://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20181228/right-whale-watchers-rejoice-as-calf-spotted-off-jacksonville-coast!

Flying close to the sunFlying close to the sun

Humpback Whales are also seen off our coast.  They’re usually further out than the Right Whales, which seem to stick closer to shore.

We ate breakfast and then drove to a couple more spots on the beach.  We knew before we left that day that our chances of seeing whales were slim.  But we all know our chances are zero if we never look.  And although we came up empty, it sure was a nice morning and worth the drive.

Here’s more info on Florida whales:

I’ve collected more photos from Flagler Beach in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157675598379207

You can view whale photos I’ve made here:  https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=8231395%40N04&sort=date-taken-desc&text=whale&view_all=1

And MK has many whale images in her Flickr stream.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

In a Garden

Lynn added some Birds of Paradise plants to our front and back gardens a few years ago.  They’ve done well – we often have multiple flowers open at the same time.

I featured a portion of one blossom in this post from the summer of 2017.  It turns out that they bloom in the winter too!  Here are some more photos, this time  of the whole flower.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – side view, on black

The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is also known at the Crane Flower because it resembles the head and beak of a colorful exotic bird.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – from above

They’re indigenous to South Africa and enjoy full sun and warm temperatures like we have here in Central Florida.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – side view, on white

In their natural habitat, they’re pollinated by Sunbirds, not insects.  The weight of the bird standing on the flower releases pollen onto the bird’s chest or feet, which is deposited on the next flower it visits.

They make lovely additions to our Florida garden, and lovely photography subjects too.  I made these images in the early morning before the light got harsh.  Lynn held black or white material behind them for me.  I like the one on black the best.  How about you?

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shutdown?

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown.  We also invited Kevin K. to go along.

Sunrise by the causewaySunrise by the causeway

We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps.  A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary.  But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.

As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:

“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”

So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point).  We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.

Note:  Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.

Some of what we saw:  a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.

Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron

The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images.  The light was  dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away.  We even came up on a feeding frenzy.  But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through.  Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:

Launching IbisLaunching Ibis

The sun broke through one other time before we left:

Sunbeams in the swampSunbeams in the swamp

All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition.  So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Long(er) cruise exposures

I thought you might be interested in a photo technique that I used on our recent cruise. Here’s an example image:

Journey's End

Journey’s End. (eq. FOV: 26mm, f/4.5, .8 sec @ ISO 1250)

In low light situations, I wanted the ship sharp in the foreground, and nearby water showing motion blur. I also wanted features on the horizon to be sharp (with no motion blur).

You can see the settings I used in the captions. The secret is to use a wide-angle lens, and keep your shutter speed fast enough so that the ship’s motion doesn’t result in blurred features on the horizon, but long enough so that the close by water shows some motion blur. For this image, a little less than a second worked out. Here’s another example (that was in last week’s blog too):

Approaching the Cayman Islands

Approaching the Cayman Islands. (eq. FOV: 26mm, f/4, 2 sec @ ISO 200)

Here are the steps to try this yourself:

  • Go on a cruise!
  • Choose an aperture that gives you the depth of field you want (e.g. sharp focus from foreground to horizon).  My Olympus 12-100 f/4 lens is sharp and has sufficient depth of field used wide open.
  • Choose an ISO value that results in the shutter speed you want (between 1/2 and 2 seconds).  With my micro 4/3 cameras, I’m conservative with ISO, but I’ll use up to 3200 if pressed – even for landscape shots.
  • Use your camera’s built-in image stabilization (or mount your camera on a tripod) to stabilize it on the ship.  Since my setup has the Olympus dual-IS capability, I didn’t use a tripod.  Instead, I braced myself against the ship and  hand-held these.
  • Make several exposures and check for sharpness. Since the ship is moving relative to the horizon, this setup is different from a normal dry-land photo.  To keep the horizon sharp, you’ll have to either time the ship’s motion and expose when it’s minimized (difficult), or make multiple frames and pick ones where the horizon features are sharp (easier).  I was able to get sharp images with exposures as long as 2 seconds, but I made multiple frames for insurance.

Here’s one more photo.  The light was brighter in this one, so I couldn’t get much blur in the water:

Dusk at seaDusk at sea. (eq. FOV: 24mm, f/4, 1/40sec @ ISO 200)

So that’s it.  A fun technique that will give you some nice “cruisey” images.  If you try this, let me know how it works for you.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Caribbean Voyage

Lynn and I returned a week ago from a Caribbean cruise on the Holland America MS Oosterdam where we met up with her brother Art and his wife Michele.  Since we’ve been back we’ve had Mike, Sara, Calvin, and Avon in town for the holidays (and MaryKate – yay family!!!).  Anyway, I don’t have a lot of spare time for writing this week, so  I think you’ll just have to make do with some photos and captions from our cruise.  I hope you enjoy them!

Inviting!Inviting!  – This scene is from the beach on Half Moon Cay (Holland America’s private island).  Lynn and I both enjoyed the sun, some swimming and conversations with Art and Michelle.

Make it a double...Make it a double.  – There were other things to do on the island too!

Clouds over CubaClouds over Cuba – We haven’t ever been to Cuba and this is as close as we got on this cruise.  This photo is from six miles east of the Punta Maisi Lighthouse.  I wish it had been clearer and closer!

Clouds in the valleyClouds in the valley – I spotted this low cloud bank as we arrived in Montego Bay Jamaica and rushed to make several images.

Masked Booby in flightMasked Booby in flight – Different people on (and off) the ship saw a variety of wildlife.  I enjoyed photographing the Masked and Brown Boobies that followed us for a while.

Approachig the Cayman IslandsApproaching the Cayman Islands – We were scheduled to stop in Grand Cayman, but the seas were too rough for the tenders to operate.  The captain ended up skipping that port call and moving on early to the next one.

Cozumel at nightCozumel at night. – I had hoped to get many more images in Cozumel, but the photography tour we’d signed up for was canceled (due to lack of interest!).   I like this photo of the city after dark.

It was an enjoyable, relaxing trip.  You can see a few more photos in this album on Flikr.  And you can read other cruising blog posts at this link.

We’re having a wonderful time with family visits for the holidays – I hope you are too!.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Remember to make some family portraits while you have a chance!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island Postcard

Hello faithful readers!  This is the next entry in the blog category called “Postcards” where  I occasionally post photos of Central Florida scenes – similar to a postcard.

I’m using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for these instead of “All rights reserved”, so you’re welcome to download these at full resolution for your personal use.   Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply:  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.

It’s easy to find these using the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and selecting “Postcards”.  If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you might not see that menu – if so, just type “postcards” into the search box.

I made this image at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There was a slight drizzle where I was standing, and rain drops ruined several of my frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.  For more info, please see this post:  https://edrosack.com/2015/10/17/photographing-florida-weather/

Weather over the Water
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

To download, just click the image to go to the source and then right-click to download it.  I hope you like it!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

 

Computational Photography at KSC

You may know that I’m very interested in computational photography (image capture and processing techniques that use computer processing instead of / or in addition to optical processes). My last post on this was about a year ago (https://edrosack.com/2017/11/26/more-computational-photography/), and things are still changing very fast!

Lynn and I went over to Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago with MaryKate and our nephew Ted.  I thought I’d try out the new iPhone XS and use some of the resulting photos as examples to discuss updated capabilities.  So this post isn’t really about KSC – if you’re not interested in computational photography, feel free to just look at the photos or go on to something else.  Or if you’d like to see some other posts about KSC, please look at the links   on this search page:  https://edrosack.com/?s=Kennedy+space+center.

Mercury-Atlas rocketMercury-Atlas rocket: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 when he launched in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft on an Atlas rocket.  Smart HDR  mode, ISO 25, f/1.8, 1/22000 sec

In this first photo, I deliberately shot into the sun.   I wanted to see how it handles very high contrast situations.  I have the camera’s “Smart HDR” mode enabled in settings and I used the Lightroom CC iPhone app to shoot in RAW mode.  The file it generates is a .dng file that includes the Smart HDR processing.  I waited for the photos to sync to my desktop computer and processed them there.  I think the colors and exposure in both the sky and shadows look excellent.  I’m amazed that even the writing on the capsule in the shadows looks good.

Here’s another example that shows the amount of flexibility and recoverable detail that’s present in these RAW files.  This next image is the default capture with no editing.  You can see that with even with Smart HDR on, the extreme contrast causes loss of detail in the highlights and shadows.

This next one is the same image after editing the RAW file – there’s much more of the scene visible in this version.  In situations such as this, the secret is to shoot and process RAW files!

Here’s what Apple says about Smart HDR:

Leveraging multiple technologies — like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms — Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.” Apple

I’d say it does that!

I’d also like to comment on the enhanced bokeh effects (blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image) and adjustable depth of field.  DPReview has a good article comparing iPhone bokeh to a high end portrait lens.  You can read the article yourself, but the bottom line is it compares very favorably.  And these capabilities aren’t just for people portraits.  Some examples:

Atlantis shuttle rear viewAtlantis shuttle rear view.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

Shuttle robot arm close upShuttle robot arm close up.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

In these images, I adjusted the simulated aperture after the images were taken to focus viewers’ eyes on the subjects.  It’s very easy to vary the amount of blur in the background to get the effect I wanted.  I’ve also used the “portrait mode” for actual portraits, and while it’s improved from earlier versions, you can still see issues if you look for them.  For example, the depth map and processing has occasional (but fewer?) problems with stray hair around faces (blurs them when they should be sharp).

I use an iPhone, but Android users also benefit from developments in computational photography.   For instance the Pixel 3 phone has a “Night Sight” feature that is reportedly amazing.  See this article for details:  https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/14/google-pixel-night-sight-launch-sample-photos-comparison/

I hope Apple can add a similar algorithm!

Should you give away your non-phone cameras?  No, not yet.  Phones are still at a disadvantage in some ways:  Lens selection and sensor size are two important ones.  And the interfaces on dedicated cameras are better and allow quicker control.  But in some (many?) cases, your phone is an excellent photo (and video!) tool.  And they’re going to get better.  Just make sure you’re up to date on how to use the latest functions.

You can read more about this at the Apple iPhone XS Camera specifications web page.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

You Otter Visit Homer, AK

Editors note: Today we have an update from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This post features some new friends she made on her Alaska visit back in September – enjoy!


I wrote a post awhile back about my Labor Day trip to Alaska and the majestic Orcas we observed in Seward with Seward Ocean Excursions.  But there was so much amazing wildlife on the other stops of our trip that it deserves another post.

After Seward, we drove three hours down to Homer.  I was excited to visit Homer since I’ve only been there once, and it was so foggy that I didn’t really get to “see” Homer.  This time though, our weather was simply beautiful!

Homer, AK Panoramic View

iPhone Panoramic View from our Rental (Homer Spit is in the distance to the left) 

While in Homer, we ferried from Homer down to Seldovia on a 7 hour Seldovia Wildlife Tour aboard Rainbow Tours.  While it was towards the end of the tourist season in Seldovia, it was worth the trip just for the wildlife and views from the ferry, and there were plenty of photography opportunities.

Sea Otter in Kelp

Sea Otter in Kelp

My favorite photo from the trip was this Sea Otter in Kelp.  Sea otters sometimes wrap themselves in kelp like this to anchor themselves and relax a little.  While sea otters are very common in Alaska, and friendly enough that they make great photography subjects, I thought that the composition of this shot made for an especially interesting photo.  If you click-through to the Flickr album, you can see the progression of the sea otter unwinding himself from the kelp to swim away.

Sea Otter Floating AwaySea Otter Floating Away

When we were almost back to Homer, we saw a raft of otters.  I’d seen several of these on our trip, but all were too far away to photograph, so I was glad to catch these guys.

Raft of Otters

Raft of Otters

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post.  Now – go be amazed by wildlife and you otter make some photos!

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

Orlando Balloon Glow

The Orlando Balloon Glow was last weekend in Baldwin Park.  Thanks Kevin M. for telling me about it!  Lynn and I had never been to anything like this.  It was fascinating to see the process – especially at dusk, and it made for a compelling photo op.

The action took place in a large field in Blue Jacket Park, which can accommodate a big crowd with good viewing for everyone.  It started around sundown when air blowers began inflating the balloons.  Scout the layout so you can catch some of the activity in good light or against the sunset.

Dusk inflationDusk inflation.  iPhone XS back camera, 4.25mm, 1/200 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 32

Once they’re partially inflated, propane burners light up and provide heat needed to make the balloons float in the air.

Hot AirHot Air.  Olympus E-M1 MII, 40mm, 1/10 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 500

The light is challenging.  There’s very high contrast with bright flames against dark surroundings.   You’ll need to balance aperture and shutter speed with ISO and image stabilization to eliminate motion blur and get sharp, well exposed images.  I’ve added my setting info to these photos to give you an idea of how I shot them.  These were all made hand-held.  If you don’t have image stabilization, you’ll probably need a tripod.

Heating upHeating up. Olympus E-M1 MII, 40mm, 1/10 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 500

The balloons strain against their tie downs and then rise into a blue hour sky.

Blue hour balloonsBlue hour balloons. Olympus Pen F, 17mm, 1/3 sec @f/1.8, ISO 500

Once they’re ready, you can purchase tethered rides on some of the balloons.  The event also features Orlando area food trucks, a retail village and activities for kids.  We splurged for paid parking and were glad we did, since space was tight for all the cars.

And one warning:  There were a lot of ant hills in the field, so be careful where you step – especially after dark.  You may want to wear closed shoes instead of our typical Florida flip-flops.  Just sayin’.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel (it may be pay walled), organizers hope to bring a full-scale balloon festival to Orlando in 2019.  I’ll be watching for that!  I have a few more images here on Flickr in this album:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157703724477924

This was a very colorful, unique, and interesting Central Florida Photo Op.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

News Flash!

The Pacific Whale Foundation is holding a charity auction ending very soon on Monday, November 11, 2018.  They have over 100 donated items up for bid (at this link).

As readers of the Central Florida Photo Ops blog, you might recognize two of the items. MK and I have each contributed one of our whale photos as an 11×14 inch modern metal print with float mount from mpix.

MK’s photo was featured on the blog in February 2018 ( https://edrosack.com/2018/02/24/majestic-maui-migration/).

Humpback Whale Spy Hopping

Humpback Whale “Spy Hopping”

You can see the auction listing at this link:  https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/item-detail.cfm?auctionID=3324&ItemID=606667&viewType=1&style=46&font=1&catName=Art

My photo is from way back in September of 2009 (https://edrosack.com/2009/09/20/north-to-alaska-ch-1-intro-and-wildlife/).

Breaching humpback whale near JuneauBreaching humpback whale near Juneau

And you can see this auction here:  https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/item-detail.cfm?auctionID=3324&ItemID=606672&viewType=1&style=46&font=1&catName=Art

Pacific Whale Foundation is a 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt charitable organization dedicated to protecting our oceans through science and advocacy.  MK and I both strongly believe it deserves our support.  If you get a chance, please check out the auctions and consider bidding on these two prints to help out this worthy cause!

Thank you!!!

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