Monthly Archives: July 2013

Merritt Island Sunrise

Just a quick post today. I haven’t done a sunrise in a while, so Kevin M. and I got up early this morning for a quick trip over to MINWR. The sky was very plain at first with some fog and very high humidity. But as dawn developed, a few clouds moved in and this was the scene right after sunrise. If you look at a larger version (click on it to go to Flickr), you can just see the alligator in the middle distance that swam into the sun reflections as I pressed the shutter.

An alligator wimming through sunrise at East Gator Creek Road
An alligator swimming through sunrise at East Gator Creek Road, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida.

After sunrise, we continued on Gator Creek Road and saw a few of the regular birds, but nothing too unusual. It was the same story on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. Things are a bit slow over there at this time of year.

I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Colorado: New vs. Familiar

I was in Colorado last week and had a chance to go sightseeing in the mountains near Denver.  Whenever I visit, I find it to be so scenic and photogenic that it overwhelms me.  It’s different from what I normally see at home here in Florida and I want to make photos of everything.

Valley of sunbeams and shadows

Valley of sunbeams and shadows – Don’t miss Mount Evans if you ever get to Denver in the summer time. This is a four image panorama from near the summit, about 13,500 feet.

I find when I get back from a trip like this and go through my images, most don’t have the impact that I felt at the time.  My “keeper” rate seems lower than from local trips.  Maybe this is because I’ve photographed in Florida so much that I don’t see as many new things when I go out – so I make fewer photos.  Luckily, I did end up with some that I really like from Colorado.

The Chapel on the Rock (Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel)

The Chapel on the Rock (Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) – This is in Allenspark, Colorado, south along Route 7 out of Estes Park on the grounds of the Saint Malo Retreat.  We didn’t know this was on our route. It’s wonderful to discover something unexpected like this while on a drive.  Another 4 image pano.

I guess we humans are hardwired to find new and unfamiliar things more interesting.  And familiarity can breed complacency.  Do people in Colorado get used to the mountains and sleep in some days instead of getting up and out to see and photograph them?  Like we sleep in here instead of getting up to go out into a world-class wildlife refuge like Merritt Island?

Bristlecone pine trees
Bristlecone pine trees – Some of the trees in the Mount Goliath Natural Area are over 1,600 years old. I used my IR modified Olympus E-PL1 for this photo. Yes, it’s one more 4 image pano.

Wildlife is different out there too.  Some non-Florida species I saw included six new life birds (Steller’s Jay, Gray Jay, Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie, Dark-eyed Junco, and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird) as well as plenty of Mountain Goats, Marmots and Chipmunks.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird – Behind my Sister’s house in Littleton, Colorado. These birds look very similar to the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we have in Florida, but the Broad-tailed doesn’t have a black chin. No, this is not a pano.

I wonder if Florida’s unique landscapes and wildlife are as interesting to people visiting here as Colorado’s are to me when I’m out there?

Here are two earlier posts about Mount Evans:  Mt. Evans and Mt. Evans Redux.  You can view other Mount Evans photos here on Flickr.  And this set on Flickr has more Denver area photos.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Return to Shingle Creek

Mary and I took our kayaks to Shingle Creek last week.  I wanted to post a few photos to show you again how pretty this area can be.

Shingle Creek reflections

Winds are usually calm early in the morning – leading to scenes like this.

It was a calm morning, but the current was strong – probably because of all the rain we’ve had recently.  Shingle Creek gets  narrow in spots.  If you go kayaking, watch for it and turn around before I did so it doesn’t knock you up against the cypress tree knees!

Paddling through Shingle Creek sunbeams and reflections

The reflections weren’t as pristine after Mary paddled through them – but the sunbeams made up for it.

Dad photographing Shingle Creek

Dad photographing Shingle Creek (photo by MaryKate)

I’m still building my kayaking skills and I’m not yet confident enough to take non-waterproof gear out with me.  I made the top two photos using the GoPro camera you can see mounted on the bow of the kayak in this image.  I set it to make a shot every few seconds and compose by positioning / pointing the kayak and selecting from the results.  It’s a bit hit or miss, but I usually manage to get some I like.

The GoPro is super small, comes with a waterproof case and has a fixed, very wide-angle lens.  I like all its built-in capability but it does have a couple of limitations.  There’s no viewfinder, although there’s a model with wi-fi and an iPhone app that lets you control it and see the output.  I don’t use my iPhone on the kayak, since I don’t want to drop it in the water either.  Also, like most small sensor cameras, the dynamic range is limited (compared to larger sensors and shooting in RAW format) – so highlights have a tendency to overexpose.  But if you work within its capabilities you can capture great images.  You can also try the old Black and White trick to hide any blown highlights.

Shingle Creek is wonderfully scenic. There’s not as much wildlife as we see at other sites, but there are plenty of birds, turtles, fish, and I’ve heard reports of alligators and otters.  If you want to see more, there are other  Shingle Creek photos in this setkayaking photos in this set and GoPro photos in this set on Flickr,

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit – Kennedy Space Center

At the end of the space shuttle program, four different locations received an orbiter from NASA:  Kennedy Space Center, the California Science Center, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC, and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York. KSC got the Atlantis, which was the last shuttle ever launched.  The Atlantis Shuttle Experience grand opening ceremony was on Saturday, June 29, 2013.  It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Visitor’s Center, so I decided to go over and see what it’s like.

Space Shuttle Atlantis panorama
Space Shuttle Atlantis side view panorama – It’s displayed as if in orbit, with the cargo doors open, a satellite in the bay and the robot arm deployed.

In short, this new exhibit is outstanding.  At the entrance to the building, there’s a full size model of the solid rocket boosters and fuel tank assembly.  You enter and walk up a ramp to a room with a movie about the history of the shuttle program.  Then you move into a second room with another movie about the launches before you finally enter the exhibit hall itself.  The Atlantis is suspended as though it’s in orbit and you’re free to walk all around it and explore on several levels.  In places you’re almost within arms reach – close enough to see a lot of detail including re-entry marks on the tiles.  The hall also has many other exhibits including satellites, a transport van, space suit, a space station mock-up your kids can run through, and a group of simulators you can try including several where you attempt to land (OK if you must know, I crashed my simulated shuttle – but not too hard).

Space Shuttle Atlantis - front view
Space Shuttle Atlantis – front view

To put this into perspective, I went back through my photo archives to see if I had any previous photos of Atlantis and found several.  Here are two – you can see they’re not as close up as the new ones are:

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the pad in October 2009 prior to the STS 129 mission
Atlantis on the pad in October 2009 before the STS 129 mission – This is as close as I got to a shuttle while they were operational.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on STS 117 in June of 2007
Atlantis launch on STS 117 in June of 2007, just after SRB separation (made from Orlando, ~50 miles away)

And finally, here’s one last photo from my trip this week.  It shows the Astronaut’s Memorial.  In the background on the left you can see the Solid Rocket Booster assembly that stands in front of the building housing the Atlantis.

Astronaut Memorial

Astronaut’s Memorial – also known as the Space Mirror Memorial.  The Atlantis Experience entrance is behind and on the left.

Photo hints:  The light inside the exhibit hall is mixed so be careful with your white balance or shoot in RAW so you can adjust it in post processing.  The lighting is also a bit dim.  I shot at ISOs between  800 and 1600 with an aperture of f/4 and a shutter speed between 1/15 and 1/60 sec.  I didn’t use a tripod, but I did have vibration reduction / optical stabilization.  Atlantis is large – a wide-angle lens will help you fit all of it in the frame.  I used a 24 – 120mm zoom lens and it worked well for most photos.  I did have to make a multi shot panorama for the horizontal view above.

Here’s a link to my previous post on Kennedy Space Center.  Here’s a link to the entry for the Atlantis on Wikipedia.  Boing Boing has a really good review of the exhibit at this link.  And here are some other links to news about the Atlantis Exhibit opening:

Florida Today

USA Today

Space.com

I’ve posted other Kennedy Space Center photos in this set on Flickr.  Also, I’ve licensed the first photo above as Creative Commons.  It’s free for non-commercial, no derivative use as long as you provide attribution.  If you’d like to see / download a high-resolution version (~80MP), click it to go to Flickr.  Then click on the “…” symbol at the bottom right of the photo and select “View all sizes”.

Living in Central Florida for so long, I feel a personal connection to the space program and I was extremely impressed with the Atlantis Exhibit.  This vehicle flew 33 separate missions between October 1985 and July 2011 covering hundreds of orbits and over 126 million miles.  It’s awesome to see something like this up close and I’m very grateful it’s nearby.  But at the same time, it makes me a little sad.  The shuttle program was wonderful, but it’s over now.   With all the other competing priorities, will we ever have an ambitious space program again?  I hope so.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved