I have many entries in this blog about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and it is a great place for bird photography.
But you shouldn’t visit St. Augustine just to watch the birds – it has many other photogenic settings. In this post, I’ll show you a few that you should consider seeing. Make sure you click the links that I’ve inserted into the captions below for more information. You can also visit my St. Augustine set on Flickr to see these and other photos I’ve made there.
In photography, wide angle lenses typically have a focal length that is much shorter than the diagonal dimension of the image sensor (or film). For a full frame 35mm digital camera, the diagonal measure of the sensor is about 50mm, and this is considered a “normal” focal length. Wide angle lenses have a focal length shorter than this (typically 12 – 35mm). It’s important to understand the characteristics of shorter focal length lenses so that you know how to use them in your photography.
Of course, wide angle lenses take in a wide field of view. They also have a larger depth of field when compared to normal or telephoto lenses. And they are also very good at helping you vary the perspective of your image. What’s perspective? It’s the relative scale of nearby and distant features. This is what I want to discuss today.
Take a look at the two photos below. Both have the same subject matter. They were both shot with similar focal lengths, but the perspective differs greatly. In the first photo, the nearest tree is only about 1/3 of the length of the fort in the distance. In the second, the same tree is almost as tall as the fort is long. This is a huge change in the relative size of the image elements.
How can you achieve a similar effect? Wide angle lenses exaggerate the size of things that are close, and make things farther away look smaller. The wider the lens, the greater this effect is. When you have a wide angle lens on your camera, you can move closer or farther away from things so that you can control the relative size of close image elements and those that are farther away.
I wasn’t happy with the composition of the first image. I made the second by moving in closer to the trees. Since they were nearby, and the fort was in the distance, the trees were enlarged much more than the fort. Simply adjusting where I placed the camera allowed me to vary the relative size of the trees and fort.
Castillo de San Marco at sunrise, 17mm focal length, f/4.0 @ 1/800 sec, ISO 200
Sunrise at Castillo de San Marcos #4, 16mm focal length, f/11 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 200
Now that you understand this basic principle of photography, you too can use it to control the relative size of the elements in your composition. I will leave a discussion of why wide angle lenses aren’t used for portrait photography very often as an exercise for the reader.
Lynn and I spent a couple of nights at the Gaylord Palms Resort last weekend. This very nice hotel is located in the Kissimmee area, near the Disney parks. It has several great restaurants and a huge atrium divided into four sections modeled after different areas of Florida. There are also two outdoor swimming pools, one for kids and one that’s adults only. It made for a nice weekend and also provided quite a bit of photographic interest.
One of my favorite photos from the trip. It’s called “One second Koi” or “One second, Koi”, or “One second Koi?”
Info for Photographers
You’ll find photo opportunities just about everywhere you point your camera – so make sure you do bring one!
A small waterfall in the Everglades portion of the Atrium, just outside of the Old Hickory Steakhouse
Photo hints: Light can be a bit on the low side, so be prepared: Higher ISOs, wide apertures, image stabilization and camera supports will all help. I used some pretty slow shutter speeds. If you look at any of these images on Flickr (just click on the photos) and then click on the “More properties” link, you can see the exposures I used for each and use that as a guide for the conditions you can expect.
Tripod/Monopod: Would come in handy, and shouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t see anyone with a tripod, although I didn’t see any signs saying they weren’t allowed. In most areas there should be room for one – just be courteous and don’t block the pathways. I didn’t bring my tripod and ended up sometimes bracing my camera on various objects.
Lenses: The wider the aperture the more flexibility you’ll have, and image stabilization will be a plus. You might especially enjoy using a wide angle zoom and a macro.
Best time to visit: Anytime.
Other: Check Priceline.com for potentially lower room rates. Be prepared to pay for parking. And bring plenty of money for the restaurants.
Interior of the resort’s version of Castillo de San Marco
I’ve found that one of the pleasures of bird photography and bird watching in general is the repeated observation of locations over the course of a nesting season. When you return to a place regularly, you can watch the behavior of the parents over time as well as the young birds as they develop.
I’m fortunate to live relatively close to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Bird Rookery and I was able to visit four times recently. This was the first year that Roseate Spoonbills have nested there and the farthest north that they’ve been recorded nesting. In this post, I’ll show you a sequence of photographs made over about six weeks of the two easily seen Spoonbill nests at the Rookery. Nest 1 is on the right side of the boardwalk closest to the entrance. Nest 2 is the one you can see from the far end of the boardwalk close to the large tree.
This first photo was taken at the end of May and shows one Spoonbill above and to the right of nest 2. At the bottom left you can barely make out one of the very young and small Spoonbills. This is the first photo I managed to make of the chicks. Sorry about the quality. The chicks didn’t come out in the open at all when I was there that time.
Mother Spoonbill keeps an eye on chick, nest 2. May 30th, 2010
Here is the same nest (#2) two weeks later. The chicks have grown a bit, have some beginning feathers, and are more active.
Roseate Spoonbill Mom and chicks in nest 2, June 13th, 2010
And this photo shows how large the chicks had grown yesterday when I visited – quite a difference in only 16 days!
Roseate Spoonbill Mom and chicks near nest 1, July 5th, 2010
Several of the young Spoonbills have fledged and I was able to capture this photo of one of them trying its wings:
Juvenille Spoonbill tests its wings, July 5th, 2010
So you can see how fast these Spoonbills develop. From just hatched and barely moving to flying in about 6 weeks. I’ve enjoyed following their progress this year. What a wonderful opportunity!
The bad news for those of you that haven’t yet visited the Alligator Farm is that you’ve missed most of the nesting season. Make your plans for next year!