Monthly Archives: November 2010

Circle B Bar Reserve – Lakeland, Florida

Intro / Description

This nature wonderland in Lakeland, Florida is named after a cattle ranch that used to exist on the property. It was purchased by Polk County and the SW Florida Water Management District in late 2000. The area is 1,267 acres total and starting in 2005, 400 acres have undergone a marsh reclamation to recreate a natural habitat and food source for many kinds of resident and migrating birds and wildlife. The Circle B is also home to the Polk County Nature Discovery Center.

Lake Hancock - western shore

The western shore of Lake Hancock (from the Alligator Alley trail)

Circle B has a tremendous variety and number of birds. Alligators also inhabit Lake Hancock and can be seen from the trails in several places. There are a variety of different areas on the property including Oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lake shore.

The Circle B has over 7 miles of marked trails for walking or biking. If you go, make sure you see at least the Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run trails. We hiked these as well as the Shady Oak, Windmill Whisper and portions of Wading Bird Way and Eagle Roost trails when we were there for a total hike of more than 5 miles.

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

In our one visit we saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Ibises, Cattle Egrets, Ospreys, Red Shoulder Hawks, Cormorants, Anhingas, Limpkins, Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, a very brave rabbit and some other things as well. One local photographer we spoke with told us about a Barred Owl in the area as well as some otters, but we never saw them. Next time!

Cormorant

Cormorant – These birds have been posing for me lately.

In addition to the wildlife, the scenery is quite beautiful and different from our normal areas near the coast. There were many types of trees and flowers, including this sunflower variety that was very abundant all over the property.

Marsh flower close up - sunflower?

These sunflowers (?) were all over the Circle B Bar Reserve – very pretty. I wonder if they bloom all the time or if we just happened to be there when they’re in season?

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

I’ve only been to the Circle B once, and need to go several more times to get an idea of how consistent the photo ops there are. If you have the kind of experience we did, you’ll have lots of opportunity for photos of still as well as in-flight birds. If you’re quiet as you walk, you can avoid scaring off the nearby birds and get some better shots. They are somewhat used to people here, but not overly tolerant. Make sure you look all around as you hike (especially up) and take an occasional glance behind to see if you’ve missed anything.

In addition to my photo set from the Circle B, visit the Circle B bar group on Flickr to see what others are photographing there and to read up on discussions about the reserve.

Tripod/Monopod:

Allowed, of course. Tripods would be very handy for landscape photos or (with a gimbal head) for birds. You’ll have to decide how much gear you’re willing to carry on your hike. Since this was a scouting trip, we traveled light and I wished several times that I’d brought my tripod.

Lenses:

Telephoto for birds / wildlife and and wide-angle for landscapes. You’ll need a good range of lenses to cover everything here, but you’ll be able to get some good photos no matter which lens you have with you.

Best time to visit:

As for any place when looking for birds and wildlife, early in the day (or late) is best. I’m not yet sure what times of year are the best here, but mid to late November is definitely worth a visit.

Other:

You’ll be walking a good bit. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring some water with you.

Summary

You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr, where you can also see a larger version.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625343566505/
Website: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/circlebbarreserve.html
Address / Phone: 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540)

Lakeland, FL 33803

(View in Google maps)

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Another CFl Photo Op must do!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Local Park Landscapes

Just a short post today with an idea for local photo-ops:  How about the parks in your own neighborhood?

I wanted to try out the D7000 on some landscape photos, but didn’t really have time to go anywhere special.  Instead, I went out to three local parks and made the photos below.

You’ve seen this tree before – it’s along the shore of Lake Jessup in Central Winds Park.    I like this more complete composition, since it includes the cyprus knees.

Cyprus tree and knees

Cyprus tree and knees

This next one was made at Lake Marie in Trotwood Park.  There are almost always at least a few birds in this small lake and last night was no exception.

The geese aren't watching the sunset

The geese aren’t watching the sunset

And finally, here’s one from this morning at Sam Smith Park.  It was very quiet – almost no wind, which helps wonderfully with reflections in water. The cyprus trees here in Florida do change colors for the winter – the one on the left is starting to turn.

Sunrise and Cyprus

Sunrise and Cyprus

Visit your local parks and make some photos.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland cancels early entry program

Update (1/8/2012):  Gatorland has re-instated their photo pass.  See their blog post here.

Gatorland in Orlando announced on their Blog that they’re canceling the 2011 Photographers Pass Program.  This is very unfortunate for bird photographers, since the early entry / stay late times are during the best light of the day and when there are no “civilian” crowds.

The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine has issued an announcement in response on their mailing list saying that they will continue their Photo Pass / early entry program.

I’ve updated my post comparing Gatorland to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm as I think having a photo pass gives the  Alligator Farm a strong advantage for photography.

There’s some discussion of this on Flickr in the Gatorland Group (this discussion has since been deleted).

Sunrise, Otter, Eagle, Cormorants, Raccoon – a nice morning at Viera Wetlands

I’m coming down with another cold and wasn’t very enthusiastic about going to Viera Wetlands yesterday. Actually, “not very enthusiastic” is a big understatement. I almost didn’t get out of bed – but now I’m glad I did.

We had to leave at “O dark thirty” to get to the west side of the wetlands just before sunrise. I wanted to try the D7000 out on landscapes and it performed very well. The image below is a single exposure of the sunrise. I don’t care too much for silhouettes – I like to have some detail and color in the shadows. For this one, I exposed at -2 EV to prevent blowing out the sky and then brought up the shadows in post processing. The D7000 recorded a very broad dynamic range and has remarkably little noise in the shadows at base ISO, even when under exposed. This real world example, along with the the results from the recent DxOMark test of the D7000 indicate it’s going to be a very fine landscape camera. The only problem is that I don’t have a very wide lens for it.

Sunrise at Viera WetlandsSunrise at Viera Wetlands, D7000, ISO 100, 1/100 sec. @ f/11, 16 mm

As we were photographing the sunrise, an otter swam by right in front of us just past those reeds (about 8 – 10 feet away). That’s the closest one’s ever come to me in the wild. Of course, I didn’t have the right camera set up so I didn’t get a photo. I think the otter knew that, and swam by just to tease us. We saw it a couple more times but could never get a shot off. Those things are quick. And black. And hard to photograph.

After the sun was up, we drove around the wetlands and came up on this:

Bald EagleBald Eagle on dead tree, D7000, ISO 320, 1/500sec. @ f/8, 500 mm

This eagle was just surveying the area. I did get a few images when it flew off, but none blog worthy. I need more Birds in Flight practice, especially at 500mm!

The sun was up, but still low in the sky as we saw some cormorants sitting on a viewing platform. The light was hitting this one just right to show off the detail in his dark feathers.

CormorantCormorant, D7000, ISO 220, 1/500 sec. @ f/8, 500 mm

Here’s one more photo I want to show you. This little fellow was digging around in the reeds along with several birds. I’m not sure what they were after, but it might have been snails – we saw a lot of them yesterday. This image is a good example of the D7000 at ISO 1600. Very usable with minimal noise.

Rocky RacoonRocky Raccoon, D7000, ISO 1600, 1/500sec. @ f/9, 500 mm

Today I feel a bit worse, so I’m glad I went out yesterday. Hopefully I’ll start feeling better tomorrow.

Note: you can click on any of these to go to Flickr where you can see a larger version. You can see more of my Viera Wetlands photos in this set, and I’ve collected some Nikon D7000 photos in this set.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Macro photography – D7000 or D700?

There are many kinds of photography. I tend towards landscapes, birds & wildlife, and sometimes macro. When I was using a Nikon D90 and a D700, it was pretty easy to decide which camera to use for what. They had roughly the same number of pixels and well known ISO performance. I would use the D90 as my primary bird and wildlife photography body (especially in good light), and the D700 for almost everything else.

Now that I’ve swapped the D90 for a D7000, these questions have become a little harder to answer. The D7000 has better ISO performance than the D90, and more pixels than the D90 or the D700. Clearly, the D7000 is still a very good first choice for bird & wildlife (unless they’re especially cooperative and close), even more so than the D90 because of its improved autofocus and resolution. And in dim light, the D7000’s ISO performance should make it even more useful than the D90, although not as good as the D700. Using the camera now for a couple of weeks has confirmed all this.

But what about landscape photography and macros? This isn’t as easy a question. They’re most often done with a tripod and therefore ISO performance isn’t a factor, so you can use the camera’s base / optimum ISO (D7000 @ ISO 100, D700 @ ISO 200). Which body to use probably comes down to magnification and depth of field vs. diffraction. I hadn’t had a chance to explore using the D7000 for macros, so I decided to do a little experiment today.

My subject is a rosebud from our front garden (by the way, if you know what kind of bugs those are on our rose bush, let me know). The setup was fairly simple: Tripod mounted camera, using the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a Neewer LED ring light with the rose against a black background. I used matrix metering, with an exposure bias of -3EV to avoid blowing out the red channel (every digital camera I’ve owned – including the D7000, has overexposed red roses). I tried to keep the positions / setup as close as possible but unfortunately, I had to go back and re-take the D700 photo and it isn’t exactly positioned the same. I used an aperture of f/11 with the D7000 and f/16 with the D700, since those values should give the most depth of field without any degradation due to diffraction. I also used the cameras’ base ISO settings. I then ran the two photos through Capture NX2 with the exact same adjustments ( daylight White Balance, vivid Color Control, Noise Reduction off, and Unsharp Mask set to 30/5/2) and created a .jpg of each.

Rosebud:  D7000, ISO 100, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/20 sec @ f/11Rosebud: D7000, ISO 100, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/20 sec @ f/11

Rosebud:  D700, ISO 200, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/13 sec @ f/16Rosebud: D700, ISO 200, Nikon 105mm macro, 1/13 sec @ f/16

So what conclusions did I draw from this? With a sharp lens, using base ISO, the D7000 makes full use of all of it’s pixels and therefore has very good resolution when compared to the D700. For macro photography, the extra magnification, pixels, and increased apparent depth of field will almost always be an advantage. So my first choice for macro photography now will be the D7000.

What about landscapes? That adds a couple more things to consider (e.g. dynamic range, field of view), so it needs some additional thought and experimentation. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Note: A click on the photos above, will take you to Flickr where you can select Actions / View all sizes to see full resolution JPGs.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.