Monthly Archives: June 2012

Merritt Island – June 29th 2012

Waiting to launch...
Waiting to launch – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket sits on the pad at Launch Complex 37B before dawn at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

I got up very early on Friday morning and arrived on Merritt Island in time for the Delta IV Heavy rocket launch scheduled for 6:15am. I figured it might be very picturesque, since sunrise was scheduled for 6:30. Unfortunately, the sunrise happened on time, but the launch didn’t.

If you’re not a Florida resident, you may not be aware of how hard it is to actually see a launch unless you live very close to or are staying at the Cape. I live about an hour away, and going over is an investment of time and effort. The problem is that launches very rarely happen when they’re first scheduled. At least when I try to see them. There always seems to be a technical problem, hold, or reschedule. Maybe I’m a jinx?

Anyway, this one finally did go at about 9:15 – although it wasn’t as photogenic as I hoped.

Delta IV Heavy Launch
Delta IV Heavy Launch – From Peacocks Pocket Road in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is not the kind of bird I normally photograph at Merritt Island.

The delay gave me an excuse to drive around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge while I waited. It’s the time of year when there’s not much happening there. But I did see some of the usual birds including Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Turkey and Black Vultures, Killdeer, and others. I also saw a group of Black Skimmers, a Loggerhead Shrike, a few Terns and gulls, and some smaller shorebirds.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – I know, I know: these birds are common around here, but they’re pretty and it’s hard to resist making a photo when they pose in good light.

I also (of course!) took advantage of the opportunity to make a few landscaped photos.

Sunrise crossing - from the Bennet Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida
Sunrise crossing – from the Bennett Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The rising sun’s reflection and a boat wake created the cross pattern in the water near the cruise ship dock.

I had a good time. You will too, as long as you keep your expectations in check and work the other photo-ops if the launch is late.

Please see this blog post for info about Kennedy Space Center. For several other articles about Merritt Island, see this link.

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

Touchscreen Focus Stacking

Focus stacking is a computational photography technique where multiple images at different focus distances are combined to increase depth of field.  This enables much more of a subject to be in focus than with a single exposure.  I’ve written about this before.  Please read that article for background on the methods and software used.

Normally you would set things up and carefully vary the focus or the distance to the subject by very small amounts using a focusing rail or else by very carefully changing the manual focus of your lens.

Knockout rosebud
Knockout Rosebud

For this photo, I wanted to try something a little different.  I placed the rosebud in front of my tripod mounted camera and used the touch screen to control the focus point and trigger the shutter.  I had the self timer on a 2 second delay to prevent any motion due to my touches.  It was a simple matter to point at various portions of the flower until there were enough photos for the depth of field I wanted.  Then I used the focus stacking ability in Photoshop to blend the images together.

I think that a touchscreen is very useful for this type of photography.  What do you think?

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

Queen Extravaganza at the Plaza

Queen Extravaganza performed at Orlando’s Plaza Theater on Fathers Day to a sold out, enthusiastic crowd.

Yvan Pedneault, Francois-Olivier Doyon, Tyler Warren, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian
Queen Extravaganza at the Plaza: Yvan Pedneault, Francois-Olivier Doyon, Tyler Warren, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian

QE as we’ll call them, is a tribute band backed by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.  The show ‘celebrates the music and live experience of Queen’.  They’re on their summer tour and stopped for one night in Orlando.

Brian Gresh solo
Brian Gresh solo

This very talented group of musicians put on a wonderful show and performed many of Queen’s greatest hits.  I’m not a proper Queen super fan, but to my uninitiated ears, QE were really good.  The very loud sound mix and very annoying lighting (which occasionally flashed strobes directly into the eyes of the audience) bothered me a bit.  I suspect that the sound level and lights are purposeful and similar to a live Queen show, but I have to admit I never saw them live, so I don’t know.

Brandon Ethridge, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian, Francois-Olivier Doyon and Yvan Pedneault
Brandon Ethridge, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian, Francois-Olivier Doyon and Yvan Pedneault

The Plaza has been one of my favorite venues for concert photography.  I think their policy used to be “no professional cameras”, but at this show their sign said “no interchangeable lens cameras” and “no flash or video”.  They didn’t give me any hassle at all, but they were stopping people making videos with their phones.  I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or was specific to this event.  It would be a shame if it’s permanent.  I really enjoy the acts at the Plaza, but one of the key draws for me is the opportunity to make some photos.  If it becomes too hard to carry my camera in, I’ll probably go there less.

You can read my earlier blog entries about the Plaza here Keb’ Mo’ at the Plaza and here Hot Tuna at the Plaza.  You can view more Queen Extravaganza photos in this set on Flickr, and other photos from the Plaza in this collection on Flickr.

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

Large photo processing

Mullet Lake, Geneva Florida
Dawn at Mullet Lake – Geneva, Florida

With all the large photo files I process (sometimes with multiple layers in Photoshop) my late 2009 iMac has felt a bit slow and crowded.

To solve the disk space problem, I added an OWC Guardian Maximus firewire 2 TB RAID-1 (Mirrored) external disk.  It’s running great, has more space than I need (for now), and since it’s mirrored it should be pretty safe storage.  I also do a periodic complete backup.

To address the speed issue, I doubled the memory in my iMac to 16 GB (also ordered from OWC).  To test it, I put together this panorama. The full size image is 85 mega pixels and the iMac handled it just fine.

I’m happy with the changes and I think I’m set for a while on computer upgrades.  And it wasn’t too painful.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Port Orange Camera Club

I used to live in Port Orange and I’m honored to be the guest speaker at their camera club meeting this Wednesday evening at 7pm.  I plan to present ideas on local photo-ops and discuss some tips and techniques.  If you can, stop by –  I’m sure the club would welcome you.

Our house in Port Orange, 1979

6/15 update: Lynn and I had a great time Wednesday night at the Port Orange Camera Club. We enjoyed meeting this enthusiastic group of fellow photographers and I also enjoyed talking about photo-ops in central Florida. Here’s a PDF of a Port Orange centric version of my Table of Contents page. Please visit the original page for additions and updates in the future.

Blue Cypress Lake

Intro / Description

What a beautiful place.

One cypress treeBlue Cypress Lake

I’d seen a few mentions online of Blue Cypress Lake near Vero Beach, Florida. It’s a long drive from Winter Springs – which is why I hadn’t made it down there. But that’s also why I was up at “0 dark thirty” last Saturday. Fortunately, I packed the night before so I was able to sleep in just a bit.  I also didn’t want to arrive in the dark on my first time there. So Kevin M. and I met at 5:30 near his house and were off.  There was a lot of fog and drizzle on our drive down, although it eventually cleared up and the clouds added some drama to the skies.  We turned in to Blue Cypress Lake Road just after 7am, but were delayed by stops for photos of Wild Turkeys in the fields on the west side and three Otters playing in the road up near the lake.

At Middleton’s Fish camp, we first parked near the camp sites, but couldn’t really see much from the shore – although with the right lens a sunrise shot from the bridge over the canal might be very pretty. We decided to rent a small boat to explore out in the water and wow, I’m glad we did!  We went north and scouted the trees, shoreline, and birds for about two hours.

The calm water and weathered cypress trees make for some outstanding scenery. We also saw literally hundreds of Ospreys and a good portion of them were carrying or eating fish. There were also plenty of alligators, a few quite large.  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were also numerous and they serenaded us the whole morning.  We heard an eagle but didn’t see it and although there are supposed to be hawks and barred owls, we didn’t see any of them.

Osprey Family
Osprey Family – One of the many nests on Blue Cypress Lake. Many are just a few feet from the water. (Photo courtesy of Kevin McKinney)

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

According to the locals, the best cypress trees are on the west side of the lake (where Middleton’s is) both north and south of the canal. For sunrise shots, you’d probably want to get between the shore and some of the farther out trees. This might be tough, especially in the dark if you don’t know the lake.  Be careful of hidden snags / submerged fallen trees that could hang you up! If you’re on the lake later in the day, a safer photo might be an evening sunset from a little farther out with a telephoto lens.

Many cypress trees
Many cypress trees: The north-west shore of Blue Cypress Lake, Black & White, Infrared

If you have an IR camera or filter, YOU MUST BRING IT to Blue Cypress Lake! I just love the way Cypress trees show up in infrared.

Depending on how much time you have available, there are a couple of other places you could check out in the area.  On the way home, we went by Joe Overstreet Road.  On the way we saw (and I finally got a photo of) a Swallow-tailed Kite.  When we arrived, we saw Eastern Meadowlarks, Sandhill Cranes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Bobwhite, egrets, herons, and other birds.  We hoped to see a Whooping Crane, but no such luck.

Swallow-tailed Kite with snake
Swallow-tailed Kite with snake


I brought mine, but didn’t use it out on the lake.  It’s not much use inside the boat.  Although many people get out into the water to use theirs, I was a bit leery of doing this.  If you do, just be very careful of the depth and your footing and be sure to watch for alligators!


I had a 16 – 35mm on one camera and a 28 – 82 equivalent on the other.  I felt the 16 – 35 was a bit too wide for the conditions.  Next time I go, I think a 24 – 70 would be ideal for Cypress trees /  landscapes.  For birds of course, you’ll want a stabilized telephoto lens that you can handhold in a moving boat.  Kevin used his 70 – 300VR  on his DX crop body for some great shots.

Best time to visit:

If you go in February – April, you’ll be able to see Osprey’s nesting, breeding and raising their young. Some of the nests are quite close to the water so you can get an excellent look. Just be sure you don’t stress the birds.

There will still be many Ospreys around to photograph the rest of the year. Many of them are fishing and carrying their catch back to a convenient tree, so opportunities for flight shots of these magnificent birds with their prey abound.

Of course, the cypress trees are here year round.


Middleton’s Fish Camp offers tours and rents boats, and cabins.  If you also fish, they rent fishing tackle and sell bait.  If you do want to rent or take a tour, call ahead for availability.


My Gallery / Flickr photo set: My Blue Cypress Lake photos on Flickr

Kevin M’s Blue Cypress Lake photos on Flickr

Address / Phone:

21704 73rd Manor
Vero Beach, Florida 32966


View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Central Florida Photo-Op must do!

A wonderful, wonderful trip.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.