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!
Greetings from Central Florida – the place of plentiful photo ops! I think this morning I’ll just post a few photos and comments. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest.
I found a new sunrise spot: Rotary Park At Suntree. It’s on the way to Viera Wetlands in Rockledge, Florida next to the Indian River. I like the look of coquina (very “Florida-ish”) and I wanted to see how the rocks would look at dawn. The shore line is positioned a bit awkwardly, but I think I’ll go back! An interesting point: Flickr will display a map of photos around a location. It can be a good tool for research before you go somewhere. But when I looked a Rotary Park, the coquina rocks didn’t show up in other folks photos. Hmm – maybe I’m alone in my admiration of coquina.
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers are common in Central Florida in the winter. I happened to search for them on the web yesterday and discovered that they’ll probably be split into four different species. The variety we see on the East Coast of the US are Myrtle Warblers. I guess I should pay more attention to bird taxonomy.
Taxonomy is hard though. Even though I’d seen this bird before, I couldn’t remember what it was. I use iBird on my phone and the search function sometimes isn’t very helpful. It didn’t list Phoebe as a possibility even though I entered location, size, etc. Fortunately, I have a friend that can help (thanks Kevin M!!!)
“Stay off my berry bush!”
Sometimes you take the photo anyway. Grackles are very common around here and I don’t often bother to photograph them. But this one was in good light and was squawking at me as I went by. I enjoyed imagining what he was saying!
Last time we went to Viera Wetlands we saw a Sandhill Crane couple that looked like they were building a nest. I checked that area again yesterday and didn’t see any sign of them. Since I didn’t see a nest there, I’m not sure now what they were doing – courtship behavior?
That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Brown Pelicans were very numerous. They look pretty now in their breeding colors. There’s a small island they use for a rookery and roost near the tour start and you get good views of them.
Landing at the Pelican Rookery
This tour is offered once a day at 1:30pm. We arrived about 1pm at the Marine Discovery Center, picked up our tickets and headed over to the dock.
The 40 passenger boat is covered so you can stay out of the sun if you want. We had nice weather although it was a bit windy and a little chilly too. We were glad to have the sun and our jackets (I know, Florida people, right?). There’s ample room on board, especially since it was only about half full. The bench seats are comfortable and we had a lot of room to move around for the best views.
I was expecting to see porpoise (dolphin) – they’re quite common in the Indian River. This is a typical view:
But we were in for quite a treat. On the way back to the dock, this group of four or five put on an exciting show for us right next to the boat. I wasn’t expecting to see them breech like this up close.
Of course, I wasn’t well prepared and it was over very quickly. I ended up just watching them and trying to shoot blindly without bringing the camera up to aim. This isn’t a really great photo, but I’m lucky I got it.
Our guide pointed out a wide variety of other wildlife: Ospreys, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green herons; Great Egrets, Cormorants, Anhingas, Black Vultures, gulls, terns, and more.
Osprey with fish
The mid afternoon light was harsh – not the best for landscape photos. But an infrared camera can tame contrast, so I used mine for an image or two. Here’s one from the trip – I like the look of the weathered tree along the shore.
Weathered wood – A gnarly old tree along the Indian River
The Marine Discovery Center offers several boat, kayak. and walking tours. They also have an indoor exploration area with exhibits, aquariums, and more. Plan to go next time you’re in New Smyrna Beach. Call before you visit, since they sometimes cancel due to weather. I hope the dolphins will be as playful for you as they were for us!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday. I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M. We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends. Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show. I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.
On the beach
There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.
Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things. We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes. Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in. They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.
American Bittern in the grass
A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted. It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around. It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away. This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes. They’re small and usually skittish. And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph. Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.
Wilson’s Snipe in the grass
Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter. If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them. You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away. This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave. But I was over conservative with my zoom and left too much room in the frame. I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one. But I’ll have to keep trying.
Belted Kingfisher in flight
We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks. And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here. Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there. Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.
So it was a marvelous morning. Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends. Much better than sleeping in!
Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr. And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
You probably missed my post yesterday, where I wrote about both Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and my struggle to get the blog back up and running. That was because the connection between my blog and the Jetpack plugin that manages emailing each post to all my subscribers broke during the move.
I’m happy to report that the awesome Jetpack tech support folks (thanks James!!!) have fixed the issue and all future posts should go out normally. If you’d like to see yesterday’s, please visit the site or click the link above.
First an announcement: If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.
And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status / news following the Merritt Island photo update.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning. I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island. We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.
Pre-dawn at the marina – Titusville. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway. From there you can shoot through the bridge toward sunrise. I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.
Dawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive. There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice. I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.
Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows
Hooded Merganser (female)
We also saw (among others): American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more. We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.
Enough of the pleasant content. Now on to the agonizing stuff.
Blog status / news
It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ. Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.
There’s good and bad news. Good news: The blog is mostly back up. And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him. Bad news: He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.
I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up . My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive. And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.
I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans. Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.
It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan. The rest of the process wasn’t as easy. Here are some of the issues I ran into:
Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me. They didn’t. I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect. A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy. I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account. I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers. This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration). The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability. This was easy and I now have an https connection. My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them. But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation. I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin. It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing this. Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default. I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them. In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once. Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it. Whew! It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over. In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages. I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work. Please check them out if you get a chance!
And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months! This stuff is just too hard!
The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was unable to use Jetpack’s subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request. Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed. If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe. Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.
Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!