Two Merritt Island Moments

I got up early Thursday morning and checked the weather.  The maps (both Radar and IR clouds) were clear. This isn’t a strong sign for a good sunrise, but I was itching to photograph something and I was already packed, so I went on over to MINWR to check activity there. My first stop was East Gator Creek Road – one of my favorite sunrise locations.  The sky was mostly clear about 45 minutes before dawn and with plenty of stars out, it was beautiful.

The stars above
The stars above: Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, before dawn.

The bugs were bad and it was hot and humid too but I stayed for over an hour and enjoyed watching the sky change over time.  I only saw two other people:  Someone in a pickup truck looking for a spot to fish and a jogger.  Neither slowed down – I hope they appreciated the sky too.  In spite of the earlier weather map, clouds developed on the horizon and with no wind, the reflections were lovely.

Clouds and reflections at dawn
Clouds and reflections at dawn: Along on Gator Creek Road

After Gator Creek, I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive but found it closed due to heavy rain.  I didn’t think to check for news / closures before I went.

Since I couldn’t explore Black Point, I stopped briefly at Bio Lab Road, Scrub Ridge Trail, and Haulover canal.  The Haulover canal bridge was still closed, although it was supposed to re-open on 9/13.  I watched two Manatees near the Bairs Cove Boat Ramp for a few minutes.  They seem to like this place – I think I’ve seen them every time I’ve been by.

eBird has a handy new Hotspot Explorer site that shows birding hotspots all over the world.  It lists species seen and how many were reported at each spot by month.  Here’s the specific page for MINWR. September is normally the slowest month and I didn’t see anything to contradict this when I was there.  Activity should ramp up beginning in October.

So … a pleasant trip.  I came back with two captured moments.  I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t gone, and I couldn’t have shared them either.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved

7 thoughts on “Two Merritt Island Moments

    1. Hi Jim,

      I was trying to minimize star trails on this image. I used a 16mm focal length on a full frame camera and exposed at ISO 800 and f/4.0 for 20 seconds. Even at 20 seconds the stars are starting to elongate. I think next time I might try an even higher ISO to shorten the shutter speed.


  1. Lovely blog – felt like being on the trip, plus two great shots, and plenty of interesting detail and links.

    Thought-provoking answer to Jim, too. I’d wrongly assumed that, even on a wide-angle lens, it takes a smaller aperture to get good depth of field. I shall experiment now wider open, which should help with the noise I get at higher ISOs. So thank you!

    1. Hello Rhona,

      Thanks for reading!

      Wide angle lenses do have a lot of depth of field. Even so, I rarely use f/4 for landscapes. It worked pretty well in this case since I was mainly interested in the far horizon and stars, and the foreground is pretty dark.

      As far as noise goes, I’m not sure if you’re using “long exposure noise reduction” (this is the Nikon name, is it called the same thing on Canon cameras?). Many people turn this off, since it doubles exposure time. I leave it on – I think it helps quite a bit and I’m willing to put up with the extra time for each shot. I also usually try to use base ISO although when this makes the shutter to go longer than 30 seconds, I have to use my cable release and manual / bulb mode.

      All these complications make photography interesting!


  2. Thanks for that, Ed. I don’t remember ever hearing about ‘long exposure noise reduction’ or Canon’s equivalent, so I’m pretty certainly not using it! We’re off for a break and I shall take my camera manual as holiday reading so I can gen up on it, and any other features I really ought to explore! ATB, Rhona

  3. Wowza! I am enjoying reading about your photography and bird experiences here. I just moved here with high expectations for getting some fine shots like you have. Thank you for sharing a few locations. I’m really wanting to find a few active eagle nest…I’ve heard there is one in Greenwood Park and in New Smyrna…but haven’t seen an eagle yet….

    1. Hi Dorothy, welcome!

      There is usually an eagle nest inside Greenwood cemetery. I don’t know exactly when they start nesting, but I think it should be soon. Greenwood is an interesting place. We’ve also seen wood ducks, owls, and even a coyote in there.

      Eagles in Florida are actually fairly common. I’ve seen them at Orlando Wetlands, Merritt Island, Viera Wetlands, and even my neighborhood!


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