Monthly Archives: October 2011

Using Selective White Balance to Fix Problem Photos

I thought about going to Orlando Wetlands Park on Saturday before it closes for the winter (in mid-November), but the weather was quite bad. This morning, I wanted to get up early in search of a sunrise but instead had to deal with a migraine headache (I need to be much more careful about restaurant MSG). So anyway, no new shots to post this weekend.

Instead, let’s go over a technique that can be quite useful in certain situations. Normally I shoot in RAW format and use Lightroom to adjust color balance globally over the whole photograph. This works well in most situations, but sometimes a photograph can be improved substantially by correcting white balance selectively.

How do you do this? The way I do it is to open the photo in Photoshop, duplicate the image in a second layer, and adjust the white balance globally in each layer, but for different areas of the photo. So in layer 1 the sky may look good, but the ground may be off – while in layer two the opposite is true. Then I blend the two layers together using a layer mask, taking the best portions of each. If you don’t already use layers and layer masks in Photoshop, you should really learn about them. They provide a very useful tool in many situations and the ability to paint in (and erase) from one layer to the other gives you a great deal of flexibility and control over the results.

In this first example, I initially used a “day light” color balance and this brought out the sunset colors in the clouds, but the clear sky and terrain are a little too warm.

Neighborhood Sunset – before selective white balance adjustment

In Photoshop, I left the color balance as is in one layer, and in the second layer, I made it much more neutral. I then painted the clouds from the first into the second.

Neighborhood Sunset
Neighborhood Sunset – after selective white balance adjustment

This second example is even more dramatic than the first. The scene included both the pre-dawn sky and artificial lights along the far shore of the river. No matter what I did with the global white balance adjustment, I couldn’t get it to look right.

The pre-dawn Potomac River – initial white balance

Again, duplicating the image into a second layer and blending with layer masks allowed me to neutralize the color balance of the lighting on the far shore and still make the sky and water more natural looking.

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown,  and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina
The pre-dawn Potomac River – after selective white balance adjustment

You owe it to yourself and your photography to try this technique. It some situations it can save a photo.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR is a big place!

I’m extremely fortunate to live near the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the more I learn about it, the bigger and better it seems. I’ve been going to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive for several years, but only recently started exploring other locations in the Refuge. If you only have a short time to visit, Blackpoint is a great place to see – but there’s so much more. If you have time, visit East Gator Creek Road, Shiloh Marsh Road, Bio-Lab Road, Scrub Ridge Trail and other areas. Look here for maps of these and other MINWR trails.

Kevin M., Lutfi and I were in place on East Gator Creek Road this morning in time for sunrise. It was my first time at this spot and I was very happy with the views. Highly recommended for sunrise shots!

Merrit Island Sunrise
Merritt Island Sunrise

Next, we drove up to Shiloh Marsh Road. We were able to drive in only a short distance from either end before the way was blocked by chains – I think for duck hunting season. If you decide to drive this road, check to make sure it’s open and make sure your vehicle has plenty of ground clearance. There are some grand canyon sized potholes out there.

After Shiloh, we drove Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. This road was resurfaced this year and is in very good shape. Not too many potholes here.

Little Green Heron in flight
Little Green Heron in flight; I made this photo very close to the same spot a few weeks ago – is this the same bird?

Finally, we headed over to the MINWR Visitor Center to see if the Painted Buntings had arrived for the winter. But it was closed too – we’re not sure why.

Today was a wonderful day for wildlife and nature watching. We saw Spoonbills, Ospreys, Redish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Little Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Tri-Color Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Crabs, a deer, flowers, Bald Eagles, Ibis, European Sparrows, Cormorants, Anhingas, Cardinals and butterflys among other things.

Butterfly and flower
Butterfly and flower

For more info on MINWR, this search will bring up other things I’ve written about it. And you can view some other photos I’ve made at the Refuge on Flickr here, and here.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

If you're a birder, go see it!

The Big Year ” opened in theatres this weekend.  It’s a comedy about competitive birders starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin.  If you enjoy birding or bird photography, ignore the mixed reviews and go see it – it’s good.  Lynn went with me and we both liked it.  A lot.


The movie is based on a book by Mark Obmascik about the competition to sight the most bird species in a single year.  In the movie, the winner (played by Owen Wilson) sacrifices everything else in his life to set the record at 745.


There are 924 species of bird in North America.  362 are common in Florida, 341 in Alaska, and 444 in California, so to reach 745 requires a lot of dedication, knowledge, and travel across the country.   I have a long way to go.  In my Lightroom catalog, I have photos of  67 different bird species.  I’ve probably seen about 20 more that I’ve identified.  745 is a big number.


More info:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Stormy Weather

We’ve had almost continuous heavy rain here since Friday evening.  If you’re a visitor to Central Florida – sorry.  If you’re a resident, you know we need the water – we’re still behind for the year.

Sunset storms and tree
Sunset storms and tree: The scene near my house on Friday evening as the storms started to move in

By mid-day Sunday, the weather service recorded somewhere between 8 and 15 inches of rainfall, depending on the location.  We’ve also had a flood watch along with a lake wind advisory in effect all weekend.

Sunset storm
Sunset storm over Lake Jesup

So it hasn’t been a particularly good time for photography.  I was going to meet Tom M. on Saturday morning and head out to the Marl Bed Flats at the Lake Jesup Conservation Area for another sunrise shoot.  But we called it off after getting woken up all night by the rain and wind.  Fields of flowers aren’t the best subject in windy and rainy conditions.  And I think there would be a lot of mud to slog through in that area.  That’s a shame, since  the flowers there will probably be past their peak by next weekend.

There’s almost always something beautiful to photograph – something unique to share with others.  Sometimes you just have to think a bit different or try a little harder.  The question is whether you have the time and energy to search these things out and the vision to see them when you find them.  In situations like this weekend, why not make weather the subject?

This pond is on the side of the main road close to our house, and I’ve wanted to photograph it for a while.  On our way back from breakfast, my loyal Sherpa dropped me off for a few minutes with her umbrella so I could capture the scene between cloud bursts.  The dark clouds on the left turned into another huge shower just after I made this photo.

A small pond, in between showers
A small pond, in between showers

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The Lake Jesup Flowers are back!

We may not get much Autumn color on our trees in Central Florida, but we do have one wonderful sign that fall is here – the sudden appearance of  huge fields of Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) covering the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area.

If you haven’t driven over Lake Jesup on the 417 toll road to see this year’s flower extravaganza on the north shore, now’s the time .  They started blooming last weekend and the peak will probably last through this coming weekend.  You can see my earlier posts for more info:

Here’s a photo I made last Sunday evening near sunset:

Marl Bed Flats Flowers
Marl Bed Flats Sunflowers: They bloom in late September / early October and cover a large part of the Lake Jesup Conservation area.

You can look at other photos I’ve made here in this set on Flickr:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Fall is here!

Well, Fall has arrived here in Central Florida.  It’s rescued us from our too hot climate and given us a few days of wonderful cool weather.  So it’s a perfect time to get out and photograph our area’s nature and wildlife, and Kevin M. and I took off early this morning to re-visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Drive.

We arrived at the 406 bridge over the Indian River Lagoon just before sunrise.  The cold front cleared out most of the clouds, so the sunrise wasn’t too spectacular, but we made some photographs anyway.

Indian River Lagoon at dawn
Indian River Lagoon at dawn

Our next stop was Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  It’s been closed while they resurface the road, but was open this weekend.  They are going to close it again while they finish.  There’s plenty of water at Blackpoint, but not too many birds.  We did see several Belted Kingfishers (these are winter visitors) and some of the usual birds (Tri-Colored Herons, a Reddish Egret, Great Blue Herons, etc.).  This Green Heron was posing in a bush on Cruickshank Trail, so I made a portrait.
Little Green Heron portrait

Little Green Heron portrait

Next, we drove over to Scrub Ridge Trail.  Once again the Scrub Jays were easy to find on the trail to the north of the parking area.  We saw a group of 8 – 10 along the left side of the trail.

Florida Scrub Jay with berry or acorn
Florida Scrub Jay with berry or acorn

We also wanted to stop by the visitor center, buy an annual pass ($15), and check to see if the Painted Buntings have arrived (another winter visitor – they aren’t here yet).  While at the center, we found out that there was a guided tour scheduled, but no one had shown up for it, so we decided to go.  Since there were only two of us, Ranger Al gave Kevin and I a semi private tour of Shiloh Marsh Road, which runs for about 10 miles through the marsh and along the lagoon.  It’s a narrow, two-way dirt road with very little room to pass.  We saw  many more birds here than at Blackpoint, especially on the southern end (near the radar dome).  We saw more Belted Kingfishers, Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Reddish Egrets, a female Blue Grosbeak, a Yellow Billed Cuckoo; and other species.  Ranger Al was very informative and pointed out all types of flowers, Butterflies, Dragonflies and birds. On the way to Shiloh Marsh Road we also stopped at Haulover Canal where we saw some Manatees.  They spend the hotter months around there and move to warmer waters in the Winter.

White Pelican
White Pelican: There was a large flock of these birds. These are usually migrants in Central Florida, but the ranger said that some had spent the summer.

This outing was a bit longer than our normal excursions – I didn’t get back home until 2:30.  But it was very pleasant – we saw a lot of things and the weather was wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved