All posts by Ed Rosack

Circle B Bar Reserve – March 10, 2018

When I began writing this post, I looked at the Circle B Bar Reserve category on my blog (https://edrosack.com/category/circle-b-bar-reserve/).  To my surprise, once again it’s been about 2 years since my last visit!  Every time I’m there I think I should go more often.  This time I mean it – it’s a wonderful place!

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 chickGreat 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.

Cooper's HawkCooper’s Hawk

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 PeoplePig 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 CatbirdGray 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 BCedar 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!

You can view more Circle B Bar Reserve photos in my album on Flickr  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157625343566505) and in Kevin’s  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/44542650@N08/albums/72157666796492018).

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

©2018, Ed Rosack and Kevin McKinney. All rights reserved

Dancing Hawk

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:

Dancing HawkRed-shouldered Hawk

At first, the bird was sitting on top of a dead tree facing into the sun – very harsh light:

Back-lit bird (unprocessed jpg file)

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:

Dancing Hawk (unprocessed jpg)

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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Some Recent 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 WetlandsOrlando 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 ParkSpace 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 BlackbirdRed-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017.  Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!

A gull and the ocean, 1A 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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

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!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • 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 IbisLanding 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 pondOn 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 RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

When the Experience Exceeds the Photo-op

Lynn and I met Howard and Nancy T. at the Cape last Tuesday to watch the first launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launchFalcon 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 LaunchSpaceX 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 burnsSpaceX: !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.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy first launch - vapor trailPost launch vapor trail

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Rotary Park and Viera Wetlands

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.

Cochina dawnCoquina dawn

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) WarblerYellow-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.

 Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

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!"“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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Pretty Pelicans and Playful Porpoise

MK has been trying to get us to go on the Dolphin Discovery Tour Eco boat ride out of New Smyrna Beach.  We finally made time and Lynn and I went with her last Sunday.  Howard and Nancy T. joined us for a wonderful two-hour  tour and a nice dinner afterward.

Brown Pelican in Breeding ColorsBrown Pelican in Breeding Colors

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.

Pelican landing at RookeryLanding 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:

Four Dolphins, four vultures, a gull, a buoy, and two wrecks

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.

Four Close Dolphins

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 fishOsprey 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 woodWeathered 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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Marvelous Morning

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 beachOn 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 grassAmerican 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 grassWilson’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 flightBelted 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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Blog subscribers restored!

Good afternoon everyone!

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.

Thanks so much for following my blog.

Ed

Merritt Island & Blog Status

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 - TitusvillePre-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 bridgeDawn 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 shallowsRoseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows

Hooded Merganser (female)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!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved