Monthly Archives: September 2010

The St. Johns River near Sanford and Deland

Intro / Description

At 310 miles, the St. Johns is the longest river in Florida.  It’s one of the few rivers in the US that flow from south to north.  Near Orlando it forms the dividing line between Seminole and Volusia counties, and it’s a favorite destination for fishermen, boaters, and folks on jet skis.  It should be a favorite destination for photographers, too.

A beautiful place to catch some fish

Vince invited Tom and I out on his boat for a photo expedition a while back.  We finally took him up on his offer  a couple of weeks ago.  We were up early, put in near the I-4 bridge right around dawn, and motored north.

There’s a rule of thumb about sunrise and sunset.  The rule of thumb is that there’s no rule of thumb telling you when the good colors / conditions will occur.  You have to hang around and keep making photographs until you’re sure the show is over.  The next photo is a good example of this rule (or is it a lack of rules?):

The St. Johns River near Blue SpringsThe St. Johns River near Blue Springs

When we first got out on the river around sunrise (~7am), there was some color in the sky, but nothing spectacular.  About an hour later the conditions were quite different and much more photogenic.

This image is a 5 frame panorama that I merged in Photoshop. I made the exposures hand-held from a moving boat, so they weren’t aligned all that well.  In post, I first ran all 5 RAW frames through Lightroom and adjusted several  parameters  identically, including color balance, lens profile, and camera profile.  Then I moved to Photoshop to do the merge.  After that, I worked on it a little more to take a small curve out of the shoreline, and then used Topaz Denoise 5 to selectively reduce the residual noise that you could see in the full res version.  The last step was to add a duplicate layer and run it through Topaz Adjust 4.  Back in Photoshop, I modified the transparency of the resulting layer and the strength of the Topaz filter.  I also selectively erased portions of the Topaz layer until I liked the result.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  We saw many kinds of birds and several alligators.  But the wild life doesn’t like power boats very much.  We had a hard time getting close to any of the birds, and alligators would see or hear us coming and submerge long before we got close to them.   If you have time, you might try coasting in from a longer distance – but that could take a while and we didn’t try it so I can’t tell you whether it will help.  You can also look for alligators on docks.  They don’t seem to be as skittish when they’re out sunning themselves.  In fact, they seem quite friendly.

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

Tripod/Monopod: They won’t do you much good on a moving boat, so save yourself some trouble and don’t bring them unless you’re going ashore.

Lenses:  The boat motion will also make hand holding a long lens difficult, so don’t bother bringing really long glass either.  Instead, carry your wide angle lens and maybe a short telephoto or zoom.

Best time to visit:  Early in the morning on a calm day before the other boats show up.  The water should be calm,  undisturbed, and very scenic.  And you can get some photography in before it gets too hot.

Calm, dawn light

Other:  There are several places to stop and eat along the river.  If you want to grab lunch ashore, do some research first.  Also, if you don’t have a friend with a boat, don’t let that stop you.  Nearly every marina we passed had pontoon  and house boats for rent.

By the way, if you’re visiting Florida you may not know that it’s probably not a very good idea to swim in the river.  The alligator in the photo above was about 5 feet long.  It (along with some much larger relatives) lives in the river.  We also occasionally have people  infected with water-borne diseases (such as amoebic meningoencephalitis), although that usually occurs in lake water.

Summary

We had a great time and were very grateful to Vince for taking us out.  I got a photo or two that I really like.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157624991879878/with/5010338576/
Website: N/A
Address / Phone: View in Google Maps
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Very scenic.  If you have a boat, go!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

All around the compass

Lynn and I went out for breakfast this morning.  We were up early and in the car right before sunrise.  She was driving.

I checked out the sky (there was just a touch of color in the east) and said “It doesn’t look like much of a sunrise.  I’m glad I went to Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday.”

Just a few minutes later, I had to ask her to pull over so I could make this photo:

Sunrise, grass and trees

3 minutes after that, the sky to the east looked like this:

Sunrise over Lake Jessup

And just a little while later, all around the compass, the sky showed at least a hint of color. This morning was one of the best sunrise shows I’ve ever seen.  I hope you saw it too.

By the way, don’t bother asking me whether the sunrise will be any good.  And always keep a camera in your pocket.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Photoshop CS5 Merge to HDR Pro – Ghost Removal and Colors

Burning waters @ Orlando WetlandsBurning waters @ Orlando Wetlands – Sunrise and flowers at Lake Searcy

I’ve been using Photoshop CS5 for a while and I really like the new capabilities.  Using  content aware fill to delete/ replace areas in photographs works amazingly well.

The new “Merge to HDR Pro” also works better than the CS4 version.  I had also been very impressed with the “Remove ghosts” check box when merging images into an HDR.  This automatically identifies and fixes features in the image that move between the multiple exposures used to create the HDR.  In the image below, the wind was blowing and caused the flower to move between shots.  It shows how effective the automatic Ghost removal can be.

Left: Ghost removal off;  Right: Ghost removal on
Left: Ghost removal off; Right: Ghost removal on

But…  I’ve noticed some issues with color when using CS5 to create several of my HDR photos.  Very bright areas sometimes have sections that are discolored, as in the example below.

Discolored areas in CS5 HDR image processed with Ghost removal on
Discolored areas in CS5 HDR image processed with Ghost removal on

This puzzled me until I discovered today that the discolored area seems to be related to Ghost removal.  Here is the same image, but this time processed with Ghost removal off.  You can see that the discoloring is gone (or at least greatly reduced).

Discolored areas in CS5 HDR image do not appear with Ghost removal off
Discolored areas in CS5 HDR image do not appear with Ghost removal off

So, how can you get around this problem if you have bright areas like a sunrise or sunset and you want to use Ghost removal?

What I did was run the Merge to HDR twice – once with Ghost removal on and the second time with it off.  Then I copied the results into separate layers in a single file and used a layer mask to select which version I wanted in different areas of the photo. For the sky, I chose the layer with Ghost removal off and for the foreground area with moving vegetation, I used the layer with Ghost removal on. It is an extra step, but definitely worth it for an image you really like, like the one at the beginning of this post.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A post of many questions

Something a little different this week.  I have some guest photography along with many questions and some information about our photographs and the future.

Cherry blossoms, moon and Mt. Fuji
Cherry blossoms, moon and Mt. Fuji, photo by Edward V. Rosack

Why do you make photographs?

Is it because you see something (interesting, beautiful, unusual, …) and would like to share it with others?

Are you documenting memories so that you can revisit them later?

Are you using the camera as a tool to let you see something you couldn’t see or didn’t notice at the time?

Will your photographs be lost to you or others in the future?

What steps are you taking to make sure they survive?  Do you backup?  In multiple places? Online?  Outside your house?

Are your photos safe from:

  • Equipment failure?  If you Google “Hard Disk MTBF” you’ll find hard drive failure rate predictions are between 1% and 14% a year.  And this doesn’t count bit errors that can corrupt single files. And then get copied to all of your backups.
  • Media failure?  DVD lifespan is predicted to be anywhere from 2 to more than 100  years.
  • Technology obsolescence? Have you tried reading data from a Floppy disc lately?  How many years into the future will we still be able to read CDs?
  • Natural disasters?  How many people in New Orleans were able to take their photos to safety during Hurricane Katrina?
  • Getting hidden in the shear overwhelming number of photos that are made every day?  4,974 photos were uploaded to Flickr in one minute before I wrote this sentence.  What about all of the rest of the photo sharing sites?  How about the ones that weren’t uploaded?  How will someone (even if they’re interested and trying hard) find your photos among the incredible (and increasing) number that exist now?
Pacific Island
Pacific Island, photo by Edward V. Rosack

Do your photographs stand alone?

What will people think of them when you aren’t around to explain them and provide some background?  Will they even think of them?

Will people look at your photos after you’re gone and wonder where and when they were made and who the people in them are?  Will they even know who the photographer was?

The gang at Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan; photographer unknown
"The gang at Shuri Castle" in Okinawa, Japan; My uncle is 2nd from the left in the top row; photographer unknown.

Do your photos need words and information along side them so the viewer can understand them?

Do your photos have meta data associated with them?  Do you keyword and caption them? Is the EXIF data recorded by your camera and the IPTC data entered by you intact, or stripped away by one or more steps in your work flow?

Do you organize your photos into a meaningful folder structure to make them easier to find?

Do you rename them to something that makes sense?

Do you organize your photos using a proprietary program that may not exist in the future?

Conclusions and Credits

Ted Rosack, Macarello, Henley, On the wing of a German Aircraft after WW II; Photographer unknown.

The photographs in this post belonged to my uncle – Edward V. Rosack.  There’s very little information to go along with them.  I recognize my Dad and my Uncle, but none of the other people.  I can tell from the context more or less where they were made.  A few have short captions.  I imagine that to my uncle, these photographs were important because they are a record of people and scenes that had a large impact on him as he helped fight WW II.

They were made and printed more than 60 years ago and although they are not in very good shape they’ve lasted until today.   Will they last another 60 years?  Will any of yours or mine?

Badly damaged church, photo by Edward V. Rosack

There’s a lot to think about and do if you want your photos to last, and people to look at them and see and feel what you want them to see and feel.  If you don’t take steps to make them last, no one else is likely to do it for you.

Photographs ©1946, Edward V. Rosack and others.  Text ©2010, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved.

Casey Key

Intro / Description

Lynn and I have been visiting Casey Key on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years and last weekend Mary joined us for another very pleasant stay over Labor Day.

Casey Key is a barrier island created by the intracoastal waterway and is south of Sarasota and just north of Venice.  It lies partially in the city of Nokomis, Florida and is an easy drive that’s about 2 hours from Orlando via I-4 and I-75.

It’s a very wealthy community with very little commercial development and consists mostly of high end homes.  There are a few small beach hotels near the southern end.  We stayed at the Gulf Sands Beach Resort, which is an older place located right on the beach.

Info for Photographers

Casey Key is very scenic and would be a good place to hold a workshop on sunset photography.  The three nights we were there, they ranged from very nice to spectacular.  Here is one photo I made with some fairly prominent sun dogs visible.

Sunset, pelican, and parheliaCasey Key: Sunset, flowers, pelican, and parhelia

Photo hints: We don’t normally go to the Gulf coast for surfing since the water is usually calm and clear.  In the past I’ve seen it as clear as a swimming pool, so it’s often a wonderful place for snorkeling.  Anticipating this, I brought  my Canon G9 and underwater housing.  But I didn’t get to use them much this time because the waves were pretty high (for the Gulf) and the water was murky.  I think it’s still stirred up from recent tropical storms passing through.

Casey Key itself has the best view to the west so get ready for some very nice sunset photos.  The scenery to the east consists mostly of housing.  You may get some color in the morning clouds to the west if you watch for it.  You might also want to try a sunrise photo from the jetty area.

For sunsets, set up early and stay late since the color often changes after the sun goes down.  This is easy to do if you have a place right on the beach.  You may also want to go back out later for some night shots.  The night sky to the west will be fairly dark and allow you to get some stars in your exposure. Vary your foreground, the height of your camera, and your lens field of view to create some different looks.

You’ll also see a variety of birds.  We saw pelicans, gulls, Great Blue Herons, and several other species during our visit.

Seagull
Bird watching me – a seagull at Casey Key

Tripod/Monopod: You can get by without a tripod, but having one will give you much more flexibility.  I tried some High Dynamic Range photography and was glad I had my tripod.

Lenses: You’ll appreciate a wide angle lens for sunset and landscape photos.  My most used lens was the  16-35mm wide angle.  You might also want to bring a longer lens too for the birds on the beach and nearby.

Best time to visit: Anytime (when the tropical outlook is calm).

Other:

If you like to fish, you can do so from the beach and also from the north jetty which is a very short drive to the south end of the key.  I once caught a very nice snook from this jetty, but had to let it go because the season ended the day before.

Three Fishermen
Three Fishermen: A Great Blue Heron stalks two humans, waiting for a handout.

There are many shells on the beach at Casey Key, so walking can be a bit rough for a city tenderfoot.   You might want to bring something to walk in.  And you definitely should walk the beach.  You’ll find many pretty shells as well as sharks teeth there.

Casey Key shells and shark teeth

Here are some other things that are close to Casey Key.  If you can stay a bit longer, you might want to check them out:

  • Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida is a private resort with beautiful clear water.  Take your snorkel and underwater camera.
  • The Venice Rookery is a few miles south.  This is a small island in a small pond and hosts many species during nesting season.  If you’re there in the spring, be sure to stop by.
  • The Myakka River State Park has an unusual Canopy Walkway that would be worth seeing.
  • Oscar Scherer State Park is also very close by.
  • We’ve also been to the Mote Marine Lab for an interesting visit.  One morning we also saw one of their researchers monitoring the sea turtle nests on the beach at Casey Key.

Summary

Please visit my set on Flickr to see more photos from Casey Key as well as larger versions of the ones above.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157624780918915/
Website: http://www.gulfsandsbeachresort.com/
Address / Phone: Gulf Sands Beach Resort

433 Casey Key Rd.
Nokomis, Fl. 34275
941-488-7272
Fax (941) 484-6827

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Make some nice photos while you relax

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.