Monthly Archives: March 2013

Merritt Island – March 26, 2013

I saw an interesting article in the New Your Times this week confirming what I feel:  Spending time out in nature can improve your mind.  It’s called “Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park” and references a study published this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.  (I hope you can read the NYT article – I’m not sure how their pay wall works.)  The study measured volunteer’s brain waves as they walked along a path through three parts of a city.  Then they looked at the recorded patterns for signs of frustration, agitation, attention / engagement, and calmness.  The portion of the path through a park engaged the people’s attention while at the same time increasing their calmness.  The urban portions of the walk increased their frustration.  The moral of the story (at least for me):  Spend more time with nature, and wildlife.

I increased my engagement with nature and my calmness this week by visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

I stopped first at Kars Park.  I hadn’t been there before and wanted to scout it as a sunrise spot.  I also hoped I could see / photograph the cruise ships at Port Canaveral from there.  They should make a good subject when they’re lit up in the dark.  I arrived before dawn and found a pier, but didn’t really like the results and moved on.  I’ll have to try again some time.

On the way to MINWR I noticed clouds developing on the horizon.  They were pretty enough to make me pull over for this photo:

Pretty clouds
Pretty clouds – My sunrise photos didn’t come out so well, but the light was interesting a little later in the morning.

Turning in to Gator Creek Road, I spotted an Osprey in a dead tree.  I crept up slowly, stayed in my car, and tried not to disturb it.  It gave me a few hard looks but kept eating and was still there when I left.

No sushi for you – An Osprey with breakfast along Gator creek Road. It watched me as I drove slowly by and didn’t seem to want to share.

A little further on, I ran into this pair, also enjoying breakfast:

No sushi for you! 2
No sushi for you! (2) – A pair of eagles. They didn’t look like they wanted to share their meal either. I enjoyed watching them for a while and when they finished eating they flew away together – so I’m pretty sure they’re a couple.  I’d like to go back to the area to see if I can get a better photo.

After Gator Creek, I took a turn around Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  It was pretty quiet but I did see a few of the regular birds (Great Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black Skimmers, Gulls, Mottled Ducks, Terns, Scaups, etc.).

My last stop was the Bairs Cove boat ramp.  I wanted to check out a new kayak launch area just across Haulover Canal from there.  On the way in to Bairs Cove I noticed an isolated tree on the left and made a quick photo.  As I drove around the boat ramp parking area I kept thinking about the scene.  Something was very appealing and I didn’t want to get home without a good image of it, so on the way out I stopped again and made this more careful photo.  It’s two IR, HDR images arranged so I could stitch a vertical panorama to get this square format result.

A tree along the road to Bairs Cove
A tree along the road to Bairs Cove

As usual, my visit to MINWR was very enjoyable – and engaging, and calming.  Click on the photos above to see larger versions.  You can also see more photos from MINWR in this set on Flickr, and Black Point in this set.  And I have many older posts about MINWR  – you can look through them from this link.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And by the way, Happy Easter!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Baseball Spring Training

Intro / Description

I visited Osceola Stadium last Friday with Tom and Vince to watch the Houston Astros play the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training baseball game.

Houston won 3 – 2.  Jose Altuve played well, going 2-for-3 and scoring two of Houston’s three runs. If you like baseball and are anywhere near Florida in the spring time, it’s a great opportunity to see and photograph many spring training baseball photo ops.

Houston's Jose Altuve (#27) is safe as he slides into 2nd base against St. Louis' Matt Carpenter (#13)
Houston’s Jose Altuve (#27) is safe as he slides into 2nd base against St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (#13)

Spring training in Florida starts in late February and lasts through March.  Fifteen major league teams play in the “Grapefruit League” at 14 locations over a wide area of the state.  Here’s a link to the list of teams and stadiums on Wikipedia.  This should stay up to date as venues change in the future.

Info for Photographers

Sports photography is a lot of fun.  Results depend on your photography equipment and skills, but also on your knowledge of the game.  The better you understand the game, the more you can anticipate where the action will be.  If you’re not a baseball expert, it helps to go with a friend who is.

You won’t get professional quality photos from the stands because 1) You’ll be in the stands, not on the field.  and 2) They won’t let you bring large lenses into the stadium.  But you can get some nice images.  Here are some hints to help.

Houstons's Brandon Barnes (#2) connects
Houstons’s Brandon Barnes (#2) connects

Photo hints:

At spring training games, you can often get good seats near the action for a more reasonable price than during the regular season.  We sat close to the field near 1st base and had great views of the batter and base runners.

You should always keep both eyes open when photographing.  This is even more important in baseball.  Foul balls often come into the stands and if you see it, you’ll be better able to catch it (or duck).  With practice, you can also keep your camera aimed through the viewfinder, and at the same time watch what’s going on with your other eye.  This will let you anticipate the action so you can press the shutter at the right time.  Make sure your camera is in continuos high speed mode, start  shooting before you think you need to and keep the shutter pressed until you’re sure the action is over. Be careful about reviewing your photos on the back of your camera – you could miss a great play, or you could get hit by a foul ball!

Shutter speed and frame rate:  A baseball ball moves at 90-100 mph when pitched and may be even faster when hit.  This can mean up to 14 or 15 feet of travel between frames even if you can shoot at 10 frames per second.  If you’re zoomed in tight on the action, you may not ever see the ball in the frame.  Keep your frame rate as high as possible and zoom out a bit – then crop some in post.  Similarly, you’ll need a shutter speed faster than 1/1000 sec. to get a somewhat sharp image of the ball, since it can travel a couple of inches in that time.  Up your ISO to get the speed you need  – faster is better.  I shot between 400 and 800 ISO on a bright, sunny day.

Tripod/Monopod:  Nope.

Lenses: They’ll look at your camera equipment when you enter and generally only allow smaller lenses.  They don’t want you scooping the pro photographers down on the field.  So you’ll have to leave your 300mm f/2.8 at home.  This is a good place to use a micro 4/3 camera if you have one along with a 300mm zoom lens.  You won’t be able to throw the background out of focus like the pros do, but the setup will give you enough reach.  If you’re using a DSLR, you can usually get in with a 70-300mm zoom.

Best time to visit:  Late February through March.

Other:

Baseball has long periods of not much happening interspersed with seconds of intense activity.  Anticipate and be ready.  You might get more keepers if you pick the kind of shot you want next, based on what’s going on in the game.   Pre-focus on the spot where you think the action is going to happen and wait for it.  For instance, I concentrated on batters until I got a couple of photos I liked, then I shifted to base running to catch some action there, and so on.

This is Florida – the sun can be very intense even in the spring, so bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.  Enjoy yourself and the game.

Houston's Justin Maxwell (#44) snags a fly ball
Houston’s Justin Maxwell (#44) snags a fly ball

Summary

If you like baseball, Florida in the springtime is the place to be.  Even if you’re not that big a baseball fan, photographing a game can be challenging and fun.

You can click the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr.  There’s a link to more photos in the table below.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: Spring training set on Flickr
Website: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/tickets/spring_training.jsp 
Address / Phone: Multiple, see this link on Wikipedia
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  Hot dogs, peanuts, baseball, and photography – what more could you want?

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida

Intro / Description

I’ve wanted to visit the Lowry Park zoo in Tampa, Florida for a long time.  I finally made it over there for the first time last week with fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M.

This non-profit zoo opened in 1957.  It’s 56 acres in size and houses more than 1500 animals including many native Florida species.  There are eight major areas in the zoo, divided into typical habitats.  Some of them are quite large and natural and there are also free flight aviaries with a variety of birds to interact with.

Hornbill
A Sulawesi Tarictic Hornbill at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida

We spent a good bit of time in “Primate World” watching the family of Orangutans.  The young one (I think this is RanDee, born in August 2008) was full of energy, swinging all around on the platforms and ropes.  The adults watched her with very human-like  “where does she get the energy” looks.  Finally, RanDee rested for a bit behind her mom (DeeDee).

Resting behind mom
Resting behind mom – A young orangutan rests after play.

Parents.com has rated this zoo #1 for kids in the US based on the strength of its educational programs, safety, hands on exhibits and other factors.  But I rate it highly for photographers too – based on the many available, close and unobstructed views.  One example is the Giraffe feeding station.  You can buy food for the kids to give to the Giraffes, but if you’re a photographer, you can stand to the side and photograph the animals from very close range.  There are also a number of children’s rides at the zoo.  These can be great family photo ops – so don’t forget to use your camera there.

Info for Photographers

Hours are 9:30 to 5, every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas and admission is $24.95 for adults, which is a relative bargain when compared to theme parks costs.   Parking is plentiful, close and free.  I think many of the photo-ops are even better than at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and cheaper too).

Their photography policy is fairly standard:  photos / video are permitted “for personal use”.  Permission is required in advance if your photos or video will be used for commercial purposes.

Eye contact
Eye contact – A Mandrill evaluates my camera technique.  And doesn’t seem to like it.

Photo hints:

Travel as light as you can, you’ll be walking a good bit.

Tripod/Monopod:  I didn’t see any signs allowing or prohibiting tripods and I didn’t see anyone using one.  I usually leave mine at home for zoo visits, since it’s easy to find something to prop your camera on to steady it, and using a tripod when it’s crowded can block other visitors.

Lenses:

A moderate to long (or all in one) zoom would be the best single lens to bring.  At this zoo, you can sometimes get quite close to many of the animals so a shorter focal length is handy too.

Best time to visit:

If you’re a Florida resident, you already know that the cool time of the year is best for outdoor parks.  Arrive as early in the day as possible.  You’ll beat some of the crowds and the animals are more active then.

Other:

A few of the animals are behind glass, so you might want to bring a polarizing filter – although you can probably make do by placing your lens right up against the glass to avoid reflections.  A small flash may be handy in some instances to fill in shadows.

Do a little research before you go to make sure you’re up to date on recent arrivals.  The young ones are extra fun to see.  As I watched Mpumi make her way across the elephant enclosure (closely watched by two adult females), I remarked  “cute baby”.  The woman standing next to me (holding her own infant) said “thank you”.  Her baby – which I hadn’t noticed before then, was cute too.

Baby elephant Mpumi
Baby elephant Mpumi – She was born in December 2012.

This zoo has had some controversies.  But it seems well run now and the animals appear happy and well cared for.  They’re also participating in many conservation projects and have a manatee hospital where injured animals are treated and released.

Summary

As usual, you can click on these photos to go to Flickr, where you can see larger versions.  You can also see a few more photos from the Lowry Park Zoo in this set on Flickr.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157632970940629/with/8550695583/
Website:  http://www.lowryparkzoo.com
Address / Phone: 1101 West Sligh Avenue
Tampa, FL 33604-5958
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  Great for the kids, photo-ops for the grown ups

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Airstream Ranch

UPDATE (February 2017):  The Airstream Ranch that was along I-4 in Central Florida is gone now. It was demolished on February 9th, 2017 to make way for a new RV dealership.  A little more info is in this post:  http://edrosack.com/2017/02/26/goodbye-airstream-ranch/


I don’t remember when I first noticed the display of seven and a half upended 1957-1994 vintage Airstream travel trailers planted in a field on the south side of Interstate 4 east of Tampa, Florida (near exit 14).  I do remember thinking it begged to be photographed.

Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. thought so too, so we stopped on the way back from Tampa this week.

Airstream Ranch
Tom contemplates art: The south-east side of the “ranch”

Frank Bates created the Airstream Ranch in 2007, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Airstream (hence 7 1/2 trailers) and paying homage to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.  It’s been controversial and neighbors didn’t especially like it.  The dispute eventually ended up in court with Mr. Bates prevailing.  The court didn’t say it’s a work of art, but they did rule there’s no evidence it “created a nuisance, was a commercial sign or constituted an open storage of the vehicles.”

Airstream Ranch B&W
Airstream Ranch B&W

This turned out to be a difficult photographic assignment, especially since we were there in the middle of the day and the light was harsh.  How could we interpret someone else’s “art”?  How could we take something that’s been photographed so many times and do anything unique?  Who knows?  Who cares?  I do know I enjoyed stopping and finally getting to see this up close, instead of glancing at it from the highway as we zoomed by.

Airstream Ranch
Side view from the I-4 side

If you go, don’t stop on I-4 – it could be dangerous!  Instead take Exit 14 and go past the McDonalds, then take a right on US 92.  The next right is Castlewood Rd. and it winds around behind the field where you can park on the side and walk a short distance to the trailers.

Is this display artwork?  Junk? An advertisement?  A nuisance?   Me –  I think it’s outstanding in the field.  And great fun!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few photos from St. Augustine

I visited St. Augustine, Florida last week with fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. It’s a high density photo-op  environment and if you haven’t ever been there you really should go.  We only spent a few hours, but we saw interesting things to photograph almost everywhere we looked.  Here are a few examples:

Three trees, their  shadows, and the  Castillo de San Marco
Three trees, their shadows, and the Castillo de San Marcos

Bottoms up
Bottoms up – The St. Augustine Lighthouse staircase

Alcove in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
Alcove in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

Whistling waters
Whistling waters

I’ve written about this town several times before. You can browse through those posts by selecting the category from the pull down on the right (or click this link). And you can visit this set on Flickr to see other images from St. Augustine.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Keb Mo at the Plaza, February 28, 2013

Keb Mo (Kevin Moore) made a return visit to the Plaza Theatre in downtown Orlando last night.  This time he left the band home and performed solo.

Keb Mo at the Plaza Theatre, Februaey 28, 2013
Keb Mo

The man has a lot of talent.  I enjoyed this show every bit as much as his last one here.  He sang and played four different instruments – including three guitars and a harmonica.  The place was full of his fans and they obviously enjoyed the show too.  He interacted quite a bit with the audience and most of the songs he played were based on requests.  There was even one funny part where he played a montage of several cover tunes while waiting for an audience member to return – since she had requested the next song.

Once again Lynn and I had excellent seats (this time on the left) and I was able to get a couple nice photos of him.

Keb Mo at the Plaza Theatre, Februaey 28, 2013
Keb Mo

I highly recommend both Keb Mo’s music and the Plaza. If you get a chance, check ’em out.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos (and listen to some music)!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved