Monthly Archives: March 2012

Orlando's Leu Gardens

Intro / Description

Do you enjoy gardening?  Flower or landscape photography?  Historical sites?  Then Leu Gardens in downtown Orlando, is a place you should check out. It’s a 50 acre park on the grounds of the former home of Harry P. Leu, who donated the property to the city in 1961.

Hibiscus and sky
Hibiscus and sky

There are about 40 different plant collections in the park including aroids, azaleas, bamboo, bananas, bromeliads, camellias, citrus, conifers, crepe myrtles, conifers, cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs, flowering trees, gingers, heliconias, hibiscus and mallows,magnolias, ornamental grasses, palms,perennials, roses, trees, and vines.  Many are labeled to help you figure out what you’re looking at.  Various pieces of sculpture are also located around the garden as well as some interesting planters.

Planter
Pot Heads:  Heads full of flowers:  A Leu Gardens Planter

The gardens are arranged in sometimes geometrical layouts which can lead to interesting photos.  These include the butterfly, kitchen, rose, and palm gardens along with many others.  And don’t forget to see the fairly famous floral clock!

The Leu House Museum has been restored and is on the National Historical Register.  It’s open for tours on the half hour starting at 10am (except in July when it’s closed for refurbishment).

Info for Photographers

Leu Gardens is very photo friendly.  Photography and video is permitted for personal, non-commercial use, but commercial photography requires approval in advance.

The house at the end of the lane
The house at the end of the lane on one end of the gardens.  False color IR photograph.

Photo hints:

A leisurely stroll through the grounds is the best way to find photo opportunities and will take you an hour or two.  Make sure you carry your gear with you.  The parking lot is too far to go back to if you want to switch lenses or grab a flash.  Speaking of flash – some of the flowers are located in very shaded areas.  I found myself making photos with my camera in my right hand and a flash in my left to help light my subjects.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee gathers pollen at Leu Gardens

Tripod/Monopod:

Tripods are allowed and would be good for all the normal reasons.  I didn’t bring one either time I visited.  I know, I know – I should have, but I was just carrying too much already.

Lenses:

You’ll want to have your macro and wide-angle lenses with you.  A longer macro will be most helpful.  Not all the blooms and interesting plants are right next to the paths.  And a longer distance to your subject will scare fewer insects away.

Best time to visit:

They’re open all year except Christmas day. Hours are 9am to 5pm.  There are different plants blooming year round.  Here’s a partial list by season (info from the Leu Gardens Map and Visitors Guide):

Spring  roses, hibiscus, day lilies, gardenias, trumpet trees, azaleas, citrus
Summer  roses, hibiscus, ginger, heliconias, canna, magnolia, crepe myrtle, banana, cassia, bird of paradise
Autumn roses, floss silk tree, cassia, hibiscus, ginger, helconia, bottlebrush tree
Winter  camellia, pink trumpet tree, azaleas, orchid tree

They occasionally host flower shows.  If you can catch one of those, you’ll be in for some extra treats.

Leu Gardens can be a very popular place, especially on weekends and during wedding season.  I visited once when two weddings were taking place and almost got knocked over by two photographers running backwards photographing a wedding party.  The weddings can sometimes block off areas in the park too.  Another time I visited was on a Friday morning and I had most of the place to myself.  So I’d suggest you try to avoid the weekends and weddings if you can.

Other:

Adult admission is $7.00, children in grades K – 12 are $2.00.  If you can visit on the first Monday of the month, admission is free.

I did see some birds there during my visit including Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Northern Mockingbirds, among others.  And the birdsong adds a nice soundtrack to your stroll.

Summary

Please visit my Leu Gardens set on Flickr to see more examples of the photo ops you might find there.  I’m sure if you go, you come up with many others.  If you do, let me know about it.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157629660062855/with/7012298391/
Website:  http://www.leugardens.org/index.htm
Address / Phone: 1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL; Phone: 407-246-2620
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  Botanical beauty.  A great place for a walk with many fine photo opportunities.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Black Swan

The Black Swan is an interesting bird. Not only from an avian perspective, but also from a philosophy and ideas perspective. Wikipedia introduces the Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) as “a large water bird, a species of swan, which breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia.”

Black Swan
Black Swan at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando

Australia? Then what is a photo of a Black Swan doing on the Central Florida Photo Ops blog?

All known swans were white until Black Swans were discovered in Australia. People would never expect to find a black Swan (even in Orlando). So this bird is often used as a metaphor for an unexpected event.

Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. His theory is that outlier events (which are essentially unpredictable) have an outsized impact, especially due to the human tendency to settle for simple solutions. This is called the Black Swan Theory.

If no one told, you’d never expect to find a Black Swan in Central Florida. But you can – at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. So seeing a Black Swan there is a black swan event – highly unexpected. Or it was, until I just told you.

There are other Swan species there too. I saw Whooper Swans, Mute Swans, and Black Necked Swans last weekend.

You can see other photo’s I’ve made at Lake Eola in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some unexpected photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Digital Infrared Photography – a post processing example

Introduction

If you’ve read through my blog or looked at my photostream on Flickr, you’ll already know that I enjoy black and white photography and occasionally post B&W images. Removing color from a scene abstracts reality – and emphasizes shapes, composition, and texture. The image becomes a bit unreal, but since we’re used to B&W  – not too unreal.  This makes B&W a great way to make your images stand out.

Another way to make your images stand out is by using infrared (IR) film or an IR modified camera:

  • IR captures a portion of the spectrum of light that’s different from what your eyes can see.
  • The spectral response makes blue sky look dark and foliage bright.  This reverses a normal daylight scene’s brightness values, helps tame contrast, and allows you to shoot even when the sun is high in the sky.
  • You can interpret this alternate version of reality by processing your IR photo as B&W or various types of false color images.
  • IR can sometimes also capture details that aren’t seen with visible light.
  • If you use a modified digital camera, you may see improved detail in your photos, since the conversion process removes the anti-aliasing filter that most digital cameras use to slightly blur the image during capture (and remove Moire patterns and other aliasing artifacts).

I’ve gotten some questions about my infra-red images.  And I haven’t written anything about technique recently, so in this post, I’ll go into detail about a recent IR image I made.  I’m relatively inexperienced at this, but as a IR n00b I’ve learned a few things that may come in handy if you want to try it.

Messy knees

Messy knees:  Cypress trees on the south shore of Lake Jessup.  Cypress trees and their roots are good subjects, especially along the water where they’re usually found. The light hitting these tree trunks and the Spanish Moss also caught my eye.  I’m still playing around with infra-red. There’s a range of post processing options available. I was hoping that this false color version looks just alien enough to make people take a second look.  Click here to view a larger version of this photo on Flickr.

Camera

I use an Olympus E-PL1 modified for IR by http://www.lifepixel.com/ and I’m very pleased with the result.

Using a micro 4/3 camera has advantages for IR:

  • Older models like the E-PL1 are relatively inexpensive;
  • They have a large sensor (compared with compact cameras) which helps image quality;
  • They use the sensor for contrast type focusing so there are no focus calibration issues that can occur in a DSLR
  • Most have RAW format capture available

Settings

I shoot in RAW, not jpeg.  For IR, it would be tough to get all the settings perfect in camera.  Plus, there are a lot of post processing options which you’d give up if you only capture jpeg.

White balance is one thing that you should set.  If you shoot in RAW, white balance can be adjusted in post processing.  But setting a white balance in camera is important since it lets you judge your shots on the LCD screen as you take them.  Unless you set a custom (preset) white balance all IR images would look very red. On my E-PL1 I use a temperature setting of 2000K which is as low as it will go.  This camera has no tint adjustment, so photos still look blue, but it’s good enough for judging exposure.

Workflow

Here are 7 versions of this photo that show the processing steps I went through along the way.  Don’t be alarmed – this is quicker and easier than it sounds.

This is the RAW photo straight out of the camera. My custom white balance adjustment isn’t able to completely correct the IR spectrum so there’s a pronounced bluish tint.

 

This is the image after white balance and levels adjustment in Photoshop. Other initial adjustments in LR or Photoshop may include a bit of noise reduction, lens corrections (if available), cropping / straightening, and spot removal.

 

In this version, I’ve used several copies of the same scene (shot from a tripod) to smooth the water’s surface and make the trees / knees stand out more.

 

This version has a Channel Mixer preset adjustment layer (red and blue colors swapped).  Debra Sandige’s IR page (listed in the references below) has  detailed steps on how to do this in Photoshop.

 

A Hue / Saturation / Brightness adjustment layer was used to modify the Hue in the cyan and blue channels so it looks a bit more natural.

 

This is after final adjustments in Lightroom: clarity(+47), vibrance (+24), medium contrast tone curve, sharpening with edge mask.  (note: this is the same image as at top of post).

For comparison, a black and white conversion of the final false color image.  I like the false color version better.

References

You can find out more about Infrared photography at these places:

  1. This Wikipedia article has some background information on infrared photography – especially film techniques.
  2. I had my camera converted by LifePixel and was extremely pleased with the result.  They have a huge amount of IR information including tutorials, FAQs, and a blog on their website.
  3. I read and enjoyed Debra Sandige’s recent book about IR photography. She’s very creative and presents a lot of good information.  She has a page on her website with IR information.
  4. Lloyd Chambers also has an intro to infra-red on his site and offers a paid site with more info.
  5. The Khromagery website has several good articles on IR cameras and processing.  They also offer an IR Photoshop action as a free download.

Conclusions?

So, is IR an infatuation? Will I use it for a while and then let it fade away? Will I only bring it out for special photo ops as inspiration? Will it take over my photo life to the exclusion of all other approaches? Who can say? You’ll just have to keep reading my blog and see what happens. Along with me.

You can visit my IR set on Flickr to see more examples of what I’ve done.  What do you think?  Is IR photography something you’d like to explore?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some IR photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

[Additional info, added 1/24/2014]:

Three photos

Five of us from the Photography Interest Group had a pleasant walk at Orlando Wetlands Park this morning.  Here are three photos I made.

Orlando Wetlands black and white
Water, trees and sky – made with my Infra Red modified Olympus E-PL1 and converted to black and white.

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands
The view looking east at dawn this morning.  The city did a lot of work last winter in this area.  There’s more clear water now than there used to be and I think it’s much more scenic.

Palm Warbler at Orlando Wetlands
Palm Warbler – another life bird for me.  I’ve seen these before, but this is my best photo of one and the first time I’ve actually identified the bird.

You can see other photos I’ve made at OWP in these sets on Flickr:  set 1, set 2, set 3.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved