Kevin K., Tom M. and I met at the Sanford Marina on Friday before dawn. The plan was to make a few sunrise photos and then go photograph a nearby eagle’s nest.
I like this long exposure:
Blue hour at the marina. Olympus Hi-res mode, 13s, f/5.6, ISO 250, @ 24mm eq. focal length (no tripod).
Confession time again. Since I didn’t need a tripod at Mead Gardens last week, I’d removed the L-plate on my E-M1 MII camera before that trip. Unfortunately, I forgot to re-attach it. So I had to improvise and try some different techniques on this trip. The image above was made with my camera resting on the dock.
This next image was made handheld. By opening my aperture and upping the ISO, I got my shutter speed up to 1.3 seconds. And the image stabilization in the camera was good enough for a tack sharp photo with those settings. Going by the old 1/focal length rule, I should have shot this at 1/24th second. The IS gave me about 5 stops of stabilization!
Half Staff at dawn. The flags at Sanford’s Veterans Memorial Park were at Half staff in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Two frame vertical panorama, 1.3s, f/4.0, ISO 400, @ 24mm eq. focal length (hand held).
I made this last image with my IR camera – this time from a tripod since I did have the L-bracket on this body.
So what’s the title of this post all about? Well, we wanted to photograph a pair of eagles nesting on the railroad bridge that crosses the St. Johns river by Sanford. It looked like we could get an eye level view from the road nearby. But when we got over there we found the nest, but there were no eagles in sight. I’m not sure if they were just away for a bit or if they’ve abandoned the nest. Anyway, we couldn’t spot them. I might try driving by again next week and if I do, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! But check your gear before you leave, improvise if you have to, and when you’re photographically frustrated, try again another day!
This is a long article about Infrared (IR) image processing. If you don’t process IR photos, feel free to just look at the photos! And please take a look at the new Infrared Gallery I added under the Galleries / Portfolio menu at the top.
You probably know I like IR photography. I’ve written about it before (click here to review my posts) and I often include IR photos in this blog. Here’s a recent example:
Circle B Bar Infrared 1 (four frame vertical panorama)
Infrared’s an interesting medium.
IR captures invisible light: a portion of the spectrum 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. It helps tame contrast and allows you to shoot even when the sun is high in the sky.
Since your eyes can’t see infrared, your interpretation of the alternate reality is up to you. You can process IR in Monochrome or as a false color image.
IR can sometimes capture details that aren’t seen with visible light.
If you use a modified digital camera, you may see improved detail in your photos. The conversion process removes the IR blocking / anti-aliasing filter. In many digital cameras this slightly blurs the image during capture to lessen Moire and other aliasing artifacts.
I’m not really qualified to discuss shooting IR film – I’ve only done it a few times. But I will say that modifying a mirrorless digital camera is a great way to approach infrared. The mirrorless design eliminates any issues with IR focus. The camera’s built-in exposure meter works well and values are close to the normal visible light ones, so you can hand hold in daylight conditions.
Circle B Bar Infrared 3 (three frame vertical panorama)
Eight Cedar Waxwings – I forgot to bring the spare battery for my main camera and ran out of charge. So I switched my long lens to my IR modified body and kept shooting.
So what’s the point of this post? I’ve been struggling lately with how I process my IR images. The work flow I’ve been using seems to result in too much contrast / clarity. I just felt that the results looked a bit “digital”. So I’ve been searching for new methods and I’ve found one that I like. I’ve used it on all these photos and I feel that they look much more “organic” and much less “digital”. What do you think?
Five nest Cypress (five frame vertical panorama)
Here is my updated workflow:
Capture the RAW images with a modified micro 4/3 mirrorless camera. Aperture priority, mostly handheld (although I do occasionally use a tripod).
Import into Lightroom to save the master files. Then decide which ones are worth processing and discard the seconds / rejects.
Batch process the “selects” through DxO Optics Pro to take advantage of its noise and camera / lens module processing. This step returns copies back to Lightroom in Adobe DNG RAW format.
In Lightroom, apply a custom camera profile to optimize the white balance (see this article for how to create one). And if it’s a multi-frame image, stitch it together with Lightroom’s merge to panorama function.
Sometimes, you can use Lightroom’s B&W conversion and finish an image. But I’ll open ones I really like in Photoshop.
There, straighten and crop, use the content aware fill, and clone if needed.
Finally, it’s back to Lightroom for any final adjustments (tone curve, sharpening, vignette, grain, etc.).
Circle B Bar Infrared 6 (five frame horizontal panorama)
Could I achieve this look some other way? Maybe even with a lot fewer steps? Yes, I’m sure it could be done.
Circle B Bar Infrared 2 (three frame horizontal panorama)
Just a few years ago, we only had Adobe Photoshop and then Lightroom to process RAW images. One of the great things about photography and image processing today is that there are so many ways to do things. That’s also bad, because it takes a lot of effort to study all the options and find out which ones work best. It seems like each program has strengths and weaknesses.
Software is changing every day, but I don’t know if there will ever be a single image processing program that does every thing I want. For now, I’m happy with the results I’m getting using this somewhat complex workflow. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for new or simpler ways to do things.
I had the place to myself when I arrived that morning. It was fun to wander around and look for compositions even though the sunrise colors weren’t that good. I made this dawn landscape looking North over Lake Searcy. It was dead calm and the water was a perfect mirror.
This back-lit flock landing in the early light was lovely.
I don’t feature Coots in the blog very often, but I enjoyed watching this group. They often race across the surface of the water and squabble over who gets the best spots. These two seemed to be competing.
Front row seats at the Coot race
Spring is a great time of year to get out and explore nature in Central Florida. There’s a lot going on and the variety of birds is especially good. You can see all my posts about Orlando Wetlands at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/orlando-wetlands/
“There’s something on the side of that dead Palm tree.”
(Raising telephoto lens for a better look through the windshield.)
“It’s a Raccoon.”
(Checking camera settings, slightly panicked.)
“I’m getting out of the car!”
(Fumbles with seat belt and door handle)
“That’s a picture!”
(Making quite a few…)
“Oh look, it’s crawling inside!”
“Aww – you don’t see that every day!”
(Hoping the image is in focus and exposed correctly.)
Shy Raccoon disappears. Elapsed time: about 45 seconds.
No, you don’t see something like that every day. Even when you’re out looking and paying attention to what nature shows you, things like this are rare – and a treat! Coming across them is a strong motivator for me to go out as often as I can. How about you?
Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog. Now – go make some photos!
It’s also a popular place – there’s a lot to see and a lot of people looking. Kevin M. and I went over last Saturday and here are some highlights from our visit.
Great Horned Owl parent and chick
There’s been a Great Horned Owl nest along the entrance road for several years. It’s marked off with tape and signs and there’s usually a crowd observing so you can’t miss it. The image above is a composite. They didn’t both look toward me at the same time, so I combined two exposures in Photoshop. The chick seems pretty large. I’m guessing it must be several weeks old. They grow fast – go over soon if you want to see it before it fledges.
This hawk startled several birds (and me) when it launched towards a coot on the surface of the canal by Marsh Rabbit Run. It missed and then stayed in this tree for a bit before moving on. I almost didn’t make the photo, since at first glance, it looked like a Red-shoulder Hawk to me. But luckily someone nearby said “That’s a nice Cooper’s”, which is a new life bird for me. It’s young so the colors aren’t typical for an adult, but the eyes give it away.
I also tried one of the features in the new firmware for the Olympus E-M1 MII camera: Pro Capture (hi) mode with the PL 100 – 400 lens. I wanted to catch the bird as it launched off the branch. It didn’t quite work because hi speed Pro Capture freezes focus after the first shot. It took off at an angle toward the camera and the bird isn’t sharp in the frame. Oh well, another thing to add to my ‘try again’ list.
Pig and People
This wild pig was foraging along the Heron Hideout path. It’s pretty small, seemed very calm and used to all the curious people, and minded its own business. But I’d still be cautious around it.
Gray Catbird – infrared, monochrome
I forgot the spare battery for my main camera back in the car and of course it died on our hike just after the hawk photo. But I also had my IR camera with me with plenty of battery left. So I switched my long lens over to it and kept shooting. We spotted this Gray Catbird in the bushes, and I like the way the bird stands out from the vegetation in IR converted to B&W.
Cedar Waxwing @ Circle B (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)
We found a flock of Cedar Waxwings in the branches above the path – but my photos of them are in infrared too. Unlike me, Kevin was prepared and he was kind enough to let me use one of his from the day for this post.
Since it’s a long drive, we got lazy and slept in – so no sunrise images. I did make some infrared landscapes there and I’m planning to use them in a future post, so check back for that. Maybe I’ll include the IR Waxwings too.
We usually walk down Alligator Alley but it’s closed. The gators are apparently active in that area although we didn’t spot any. We did spot Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, a Barred Owl, Blue Wing Teals, Double Crested Cormorants, Anhingas, American Coots and chicks, a Purple Gallinule, the usual Herons and Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Warblers, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, turtles, and more. Like I said – a lot to see!
Lynn and I were away, visiting our first grandchild – what a wonderful experience that is!!!
Anyway, this blog is about nature photography and I haven’t been able to do much of that recently. So when we got home, I was eager to go back out and ended up at Orlando Wetlands Park last Thursday. I made several photos I like. This one is my favorite from the trip:
At first, the bird was sitting on top of a dead tree facing into the sun – very harsh light:
I have many better images of these hawks on my computer. I’m not even sure what made me raise my camera. Maybe my subconscious was getting ahead of me.
Luckily I did and when the hawk decided to turn around I was ready. I made a continuous series as it used its wings to balance and I really like the one at the top. The wings are nicely spread and one foot is raised as if it’s dancing.
I’m glad I was shooting in RAW mode – it allowed me to compensate for the harsh light in post processing. For reference, here is an unprocessed jpg version:
Processing included using DxO Photo Lab for basic exposure tuning and noise reduction and then tweaking tones, colors, and cropping in Lightroom.
A little luck, a few seconds, and some post-processing can make a huge difference, don’t you think? It helps to practice and know what’s possible in a situation like this. Try it – you might be surprised at the end result. And maybe your subconscious will start helping you too!
This is a very good time of year to visit Orlando Wetlands. I saw lots of Spoonbills, a couple of hawks, herons, egrets, ducks, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, Ibis, a deer, etc. And it’s cool and pleasant – great for a lovely walk. You can look at more images from there in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.
Orlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W. I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.
Space View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then. Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.
Red-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017. Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!
A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then. I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird. Blended in Photoshop
Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr. And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! I will too!
Once in a while, conditions are just right. Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed. When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you – count your blessings!
The birds all compete for food. Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers. Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond. Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images. After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc. And conditions change rapidly. Set up your camera in advance and be nimble. I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed. It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high. You’ll need 1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments. I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
Your “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to. But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like. Practice when you can and you’ll get better.
Landing Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one. But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either. I’m still practicing!
It’s not all about birds in flight. Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.
On the banks of the pond. I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.
That was a wonderful morning. I’m glad I was able to see all the action. Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:
Dawn at the dock on the Indian River. Olympus Hi-Res mode.
Florida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive. Monochrome infrared.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I met Howard and Nancy T. at the Cape last Tuesday to watch the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Falcon Heavy first launch – This is an Olympus Live Composite, multiple exposure image showing the ascent. From ~12 miles away (the “Close” viewing area off of Vectorspace Blvd near Kennedy Space Center). 40mm eq. Field of View.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 and it’s amazing to think about how far they’ve come in so short a time – all as a privately funded company. Their first launch to orbit was in 2008 and last week they launched an object into solar orbit with the Falcon Heavy, which is now the world’s most powerful launch system.
SpaceX 1st Falcon Heavy Launch – sending a red Tesla sports car past Mars! ~600mm eq. Field of View.
To me as an engineer, the capability to land and reuse boosters is even more impressive. Especially when you watch two boosters simultaneously landing back near the launch site!
SpaceX: !st Falcon Heavy Launch – two simultaneous booster braking burns. These two successfully landed back at the Cape. Unfortunately, the third booster crashed at sea. ~600mm eq. Field of View.
If you’re a space fan like I am, you’ve been following this story. But if not, here are a few pages around the web that you might find interesting:
It was truly a wonderful experience to watch this happen. It seems to me that Elon is well on the way to earning his place as another Edison.
As far as the photo-op went, it’s a tough assignment. We were about 12 miles away in the area NASA calls “Close”. This is much closer than our usual viewing area (our driveway – about 35 miles away), but still a bit distant. They also have “Closer” and “Closest” areas about 7.5 miles from the pad. VIPs and press were only 3 miles away. If you want truly great photographs, you’ll have to figure out how to get closer than we did.
Hey Elon – Central Florida Photo Ops needs a press pass!!!
It turns out this wasn’t really about the photo-op. It was about the experience of witnessing history with thousands of other space fans. And these photos will help me remember the thrill.
Post launch vapor trail
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go witness some history! And make some photos!