It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands, or actually since I’ve done any bird photography at all – so yesterday (8/28/10) I visited with the Photography Interest Group to see what’s going on.
Our hopes weren’t too high, since the nesting season is past and the migratory birds probably don’t arrive until next month. Our visit was mainly to scout a couple new areas nearby. We’ve had quit a bit of rain lately and when we got there right after sunrise, we expected to have to walk the dirt roads (they usually close the roads after heavy rains). Our first surprise was that the roads were in good shape and open – so we were able to drive through.
We noticed right away that the place is full of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks. Not only that, but (second surprise) there are also some whistling ducklings around. I would never have guessed that the young of this species would look so much different from the adults. Their coloring does seem to be very effective camouflage in the marsh.
Whistling Duck family
We also saw another species (third surprise) where the juveniles look completely different from the adults. This young bird seemed to be out on it’s own, hunting in the vegetation near shore.
We spent about two hours in the main Viera Wetlands area and then went in search of the two new places. The first one we visited was the “Click Ponds”. This is an area to the right of the treatment plant entrance. We saw little activity other than some Anhiga and Cormorants sunning themselves. The water looks to be much deeper here and we guessed that’s the reason it isn’t as attractive to the birds.
We then went a little further west to check out the Moccasin Island parking area. Once again there was very little going on, although I did make a photograph of a Sand Hill Crane. By this time it was getting hot and we were hungry so we left and headed out to Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast / early lunch.
If you journey to to Viera, will your trip be as surprising as ours was yesterday? It’s hard to say – it depends on you and the Wetlands. But I can say that if you don’t go, you won’t know. Visit and tell us how it turns out.
1. I updated the blog’s table of contents again. If you haven’t looked at it, please do. In the TOC, I list the places I’ve blogged about along with links to the blog entry and the image gallery. It also has a collection of links to other resources on the web where you can find photo-op info. If you’re doing research on photogenic locations in Central Florida (and some other places too) this is a good start.
2. The Lake Jesup wildflower season is almost here. This photo-op is seasonal and usually starts in late September and is over by early October. If you want to photograph it, get ready. You can find info in two of my blog posts:
Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting light from the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined on your computer screen in all it’s glory. This imaginary trip can be made real for you too if you venture over to Ponce Inlet, Florida and have a bit of luck, like we did.
Once again my friends, the Photography Interest Group braved many hazards to bring you extraordinary photographic insight into another wonderful place for outstanding Central Florida Photo Ops. Three of us wanted to do something a little different from our normal photo excursions. We’ve been talking about night-time / low light photography so we decided to visit Ponce Inlet last Thursday night to try out some techniques. It was also an interesting day from an astronomical perspective, since there was a conjunction of Mars, Venus, Saturn and the Moon in the western sky after sunset, as well as the annual Perseid meteor shower to observe later in the evening. We planned this as a “scouting trip”, since we’d never been there (photographically at least), and our expectations for “wall hanger” images were pretty low. We figured we’d scout the place and come back another time armed with knowledge and hoping for good results.
The weather report wasn’t very good. Earlier in the week, heavy cloud cover and rain were predicted, and it was cloudy and rainy earlier that day. But by the time we arrived at Ponce inlet the clouds had parted and we were left with beautiful (but very hot) conditions.
We stopped first at the jetty and I made several photos including the one above and this one of a fisherman below the conjunction.
Ponce Inlet at dusk, fishing under the Moon and Venus – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm lens @ 32mm, 13 second exposure @ f/22, ISO 200)
Next, we ventured over to the lighthouse looking to pair it with the conjunction. We had a bit of trouble finding the right place to park. This photo is from the parking lot on the south side of the lighthouse. We didn’t get there in time, but it’s possible that the view would have been better from the lot on the north side – something to try next trip. I made this two shot panorama with a 70 – 200mm lens. You could use a wider angle lens as well.
When we finished at the light house, there was time for a “Slurpee break” to cool off before moving down the beach. We found a good off beach parking area not far from the lighthouse and stopped to look for debris from comet Swift-Tuttle’s tail. Within the first few minutes (before our camera gear was set up), “Grasshopper” saw a large fireball meteor. But that was the only large one that night. Here’s a photo of “Donuts” and “Grasshopper” making star / meteor photos.
Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 4 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on Donuts’ white shirt with Liveview)
For the set up at this place, I combined my old 50mm f/1.8 lens with the high ISO capabilities of the Nikon D-700. I wanted to make my exposures short so that the stars didn’t trail. I shot in manual exposure mode and checked the results to make sure I was getting what I wanted. There were some high clouds and haze and coupled with the light pollution in the area that made exposure tricky. It was too easy to overexpose the haze / glare, leading to an incandescent glow that hid the stars and meteors. I also used manual focus. I started by using Liveview enlarged around what I wanted to focus on. But with the 50mm lens, it was just as simple to use the infinity mark on the scale. I did manage to catch a couple of meteors, and here is one photo I made.
Long, dim, green Perseid meteor – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 3 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on infinity mark)
All in all, this was a very fine expedition and we all had a lot of fun. It exceeded expectations and you should try it sometime!
If you do want to try this, make sure you have both wide-angle and telephoto lenses and a sturdy tripod with a cable release. You can also read my post on night time photography for some hints on technique.
Sorry about not updating my Blog last weekend. We were on vacation and didn’t get back home until late on Sunday. Having to be at work all week, starting on Monday morning has really interfered with my photographic activities.
The convention was held and we stayed at the Aztar Casino Hotel in downtown Evansville – right on the Ohio River. I enjoyed the parts of the convention that I attended – it’s amazing how knowledgeable people are. But I also used some time while Lynn was busy with trivet things to explore the area looking for photo ops. Here’s a couple of views from the Casino area:
Sunset at the Aztar Casino, looking southwest over the Ohio River
Night time Ohio River at Evansville
Evansville has a very nice river walk and they’ve done quite a bit of flower gardening along the way. Here are some examples of what it looks like:
The USS LST-325 Ship Memorial in Evansville is the home of the only remaining operational Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the world. The LST-325 has quite a history and is a very lucky ship. She made 44 trips between England and France during the WW II invasion of Normandy. Here is an interesting account of how the ship was acquired, repaired and sailed across the Atlantic by a crew of US Navy Veterans in 2000.
By the way, all of the photos I made of the ship were with a Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR lens, combined with auto ISO on my D-700 DSLR. The lens VR combined with setting the minimum shutter speed to 1/15 sec and the ISO range of 200 – 1600 allowed me to shoot without flash in the dim interior of the ship. I also was able to make sharp hand held photos down to a shutter speed of 1/8 sec, when the light was even dimmer.
On the second day of the convention auction, I left the hotel early to visit the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which is a little over 3 hours away from Evansville. It was worth the time, although I didn’t stay very long due to the heat.
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
I’m sure there are many other photo ops in the area that I didn’t have time to explore. For instance there is a zoo and botanical gardens in the city, and several caves within driving distance. The PITCA convention will probably return to Evansville next year, so I may get a chance to continue my search.
This is a nice photo I made recently. I’d rate it a “2” meaning it’s good enough to show other people. But it’s not that good, and I keep thinking there was a better photo there and I just didn’t find it.
Crypts at dawn (click to view on Flickr)
I’ve been by this particular place several times. Each time I see it, I just know that there must be one or more great photographs lurking about. All I have to do is find them and push the shutter.
At many places it works out that way for me. I’m able to capture amazing images and come back with something special. Sometimes it doesn’t work. For some reason I can’t “find the photo”. I’m calling this “Location Block”. The location above has bothered me since I first saw it. I’ve tried several times and so far, I haven’t ever been really happy with any of the photos I’ve made there (including this one). Have you ever felt this way?
I’m still searching for a solution. Is it the time of day? Lighting? Clouds? Lens? Filters? Position? Random Luck? Am I mistaken in the first place and there really is no truly great photo there? I don’t know yet, but one of the very interesting things about photography is that there are rules of thumb and guide lines – but there’s no surefire formula. Sometimes you have to keep exploring. Each time you try something different you learn. And if you have to try a large number of things over a long time to get a great photo, it’s fun. You’ll learn a lot and when you finally do get the photo, the satisfaction will be immense.
This past week, I noticed a problem with my blog. I was looking at an older post and the photos weren’t showing up. I’ve been working to correct this all week and I almost have it done. What happened? Read on.
In early 2009, I wasn’t happy with the flexibility and customization provided by Google’s Blogger service, so I decided to move my blog to my own web server and use WordPress. I won’t get into a debate here about the relative merits of the two platforms – you can find too much info about that on the web. Suffice it to say that after more than a year of use, I’m very happy with WordPress, it’s useability, flexibility, and how easy it is to customize. I don’t regret my decision to move at all.
However, this particular problem has been a bear to fix. When I switched to WordPress, I used one of its features to import all of the posts from my old blog into my new one. This worked very well and made the switch mostly painless. I guess I should have known that was too good to be true.
The import process of course imported all of the links to photos within the existing posts. But the links point to the original location – on Blogspot. At the time, I realized this and since everything displayed correctly, I just accepted it and moved on. Over a year later, it turns out that the source of my problem with missing photos is that some of those links no longer work. So I only postponed the work – I didn’t avoid it.
What I’ve been doing intermittently over the past week is going back through all of my older posts and changing all of the links that point to Blogspot. For photos, I can point to copies on my server or on Flickr. But sometimes, I don’t have a photo anywhere but on Blogspot and in those cased I have to upload the photo as well as change the link. One thing that’s been really helpful is the search function within WordPress. I can easily search for “blogspot” in all of my posts and know which ones I still have to work on.
This is a fairly straightforward problem and solution. It just takes some time to fix. And it also points out that having control of web content used in your blog posts is important. If you’re switching to WordPress, it’s something to be aware of.
I apologize if this has been a problem for you. I should have everything corrected later today, and if you notice any lingering issues in the future, please let me know.