Lynn and I went out to the Fort Christmas Historical Park this morning and met Nancy T. there for the 39th annual “Cracker Christmas“. There are craft vendors and historical demonstrations and it’s a great way to revisit some of our Florida history and maybe find a few unique gifts for friends and relatives.
The Union School – Originally established in 1906, it was expanded in the 1920s and used until 1969.
I was glad to go since I was hoping to make some photos for a blog post. I haven’t done any photography all week until today. Which is why this post is a bit late.
Victrola and RCA Victor record
One of the small buildings at Fort Christmas has a nice display of Victrolas and Edison phonograph machines. They have recordings too and it was a treat to listen to one of their wax cylinders from the late 1800s or early 1900s.
There was live music too:
Skeeter Creek band
Other things I enjoyed seeing were the tractor displays:
And even the old furniture, some of which was very ornate.
Dragonfly and flowers chair
There was plenty to eat, too – although we left before lunchtime.
This post is a first for me. All of the photos are from my iPhone (in JPG mode no less!) with a bit of Lightroom magic added. I also carried my micro 4/3 cameras, but for some reason ended up not using them. Curious.
Fort Christmas is holding its annual “Cracker Christmas” event this weekend (5 and 6 December). There’s a lot to do there today and tomorrow with pioneer homes, museums, live music, demonstrations, a civil war camp, crafts for sale, and plenty of food to eat.
There are also a few photo ops.
Skeeter Creek Band
Civil War Re-enactor
If you haven’t been, I recommend it. You should plan to get there early, since the traffic builds up as the day goes on.
You can read more about Fort Christmas on the blog here. And you can look at more photos from there in this album on Flickr.
You may have noticed that I like Black and White photography. It’s how I started out, way back when (with Tri-X film, developed in a make-shift darkroom). So I’ve done it for a while, but I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve studied many books and looked at a lot of online info, but I felt it would be good to take a course and expose myself to techniques and ideas I haven’t discovered on my own – to see how others are doing it.
I signed up for “Modern Monochrome” at the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park, Florida. The course promises to cover “the aesthetic qualities of black-and-white photography, seeing in black and white, RGB conversion methods, tonal relationships, luminosity versus luminance, and demonstrations in Photoshop and Lightroom.”
I was a little worried at the first session. There were a couple of people who didn’t appear to meet the prerequisites and it seemed like we’d struggle trying to bring them up to speed. But they ended up dropping out and the remaining students all easily kept up with the agenda.
Next week is our last class and we owe the instructor ten B&W images. I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the ones I’m going to turn in.
Wild Orchids – at Fort Christmas
High Key Grebe – along Black Point Wildlife Drive
Gloomy dawn – Blue Cypress Lake
Misty Marsh – Orlando Wetlands Park
The instructor’s going to critique our work and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
This course has definitely lived up to my expectations. I learned several techniques in Photoshop – some that I’d heard about and never tried, and others that were completely new to me. I also enjoyed discussing printing techniques and I intend to apply these more in the future. I haven’t been printing my photographs as much recently as I should. The course was also a great incentive to think about and practice photography and especially B&W processing.
Cobbler’s bench – That shoe needs a little work, probably more than just a new Safeheel.
You can find out more about still life in this Wikipedia article. Normally, one of the creative aspects of still life is choosing and arranging the subject matter. That’s already done for you in the Fort Christmas exhibits. You’ll have to be content with using your point of view, focal length, and lighting to create pleasing compositions.
A zoom lens with a wide to normal range is very useful. Many times you’ll be limited in where you can place your tripod, so the zoom will come in handy. My 24-120mm f/4 lens worked well.
The lighting here is a challenge:
It’s dim inside the rooms, so bring your tripod. And bring along a flash or two to give you some flexibility to add to the ambient illumination.
In addition to being dim, the lighting will also be mixed. There are incandescent bulbs in the rooms and sunlight coming in through the doors and windows. If you use a flash, you’ll add a third variable. You can try to gel your flash, or use the flashes to overcome one or more of the other light sources. Or you can do as I did and deal with it in post processing by using selective color balance to address any local color casts. (For more on how I do this, see this post.)
You’ll also need to watch out for dynamic range. The doors and windows will be very bright compared to the room interiors and it’s often difficult to eliminate them from compositions. I bracketed my exposures and hand merged the appropriate ones to address this. You can also try using HDR software.
I used some different post processing techniques to emphasize the subject colors and the lighting and I like the way they turned out. Still Life Photography at Fort Christmas is a fun and challenging photo-op. If you haven’t been, give it a try. You can see other photos I’ve made at Fort Christmas in this set on Flickr.
I hadn’t ever seen Orchids in the wild and I hadn’t been out there since 2012, so this was a big enough motivation to make me want to visit again. I ended up exploring with Tom M. on a morning last week.
Once we knew what to look for, the orchids weren’t hard to find. There were a lot of them higher up in the large live oak trees. The strong back light, wind, and distance made them hard to photograph well, but with a longer lens, a flash, and some careful camera positioning I managed to isolate these blooms against a dark background. I like the colors and background, which remind me of an oriental flower painting.
Wild Orchids – Up in the live oak trees. Two frames, with flash, different focus points, hand merged in Photoshop. I believe these are Florida Butterfly Orchids (Encyclia tampensis).
Sunflowers were also blooming in one of the small gardens on the site.
Sunflower bloom – In the garden. Single frame, ambient light.
We also spent some time looking around inside the buildings. You’re free to enter most of them as long as you’re careful. And since we were there on a mid-week morning, there weren’t many other folks around. Until two busses of summer camp kids showed up around 10:30.
In the bedroom – Single 1/2 second exposure at f/8 for depth of field. I didn’t have a tripod, so I rested the camera on the window sill
Antique fixtures and appliances fill the rooms. These and the wood and fabric textures make for some very photogenic settings – perfect material for a bit of nostalgic, B&W processing.
In the kitchen – I was able to hand hold this one when I opened the aperture to f/2.8. The depth of field is acceptable since there’s nothing too close to the viewpoint.
Here are some photo hints for you:
For the orchids, you’ll probably want a longer zoom lens, a flash, a tripod and remote release.
Some of the flowers and other items would make good macro subjects.
For photos of the building and room interiors, I found a wide-angle lens very useful. A tripod might be handy for this too, but I was able to brace my camera and / or use the pop up flash to eliminate camera shake / blur.
I’ve posted other photos from Fort Christmas in this set on Flickr. It’s a wonderful year round photo-op. And the blooming orchids in the summertime are a nice bonus.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Sorry this week’s post is a little late – we were pretty busy all weekend. So just a short entry this morning. Yesterday I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with Lynn, Mary, and Mary’s friend Monette. Lots and lots of birds (a story for another day).
On the way home, we stopped by the Fort Christmas Historical Park in Christmas, Florida. They were having their 35th annual “Cracker Christmas” event. Along with tours of the permanent structures at the park, there were demonstrations of early settler life in Florida and many booths selling crafts. There were also some Civil War reenactments going on. When I saw this group posing in front of an old view camera, I just had to make a photo.
Civil War group portrait: A group of Civil War reenactors pose in front of a view camera during the 2012 annual “Cracker Christmas” event at the Fort Christmas Historical Park and Museum.
It was quite crowded, but definitely worth the time to stop by. To satisfy your photographic curiosity, here’s the “before” version of this photo:
Civil War group portrait: Straight out of the camera, before a few tweaks in Lightroom and Photoshop
I cloned out some distractions, leveled and cropped, tweaked the color, contrast, sharpening, and then converted to a sepia toned B&W. I like the “after” version better. How about you?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn wanted to take Christmas cards to the Christmas, Florida post office to be postmarked. So we drove over there this morning and dropped them off.
On the way back, we stopped for a few minutes at the Fort Christmas Historical Park. Here’s a few of the photos I made while we were there. We’ll have to re-visit this place when we have more time. There’s definitely some interesting photo opportunities lurking about, and I’ll report on them once I have a chance to explore.
The laundry area on the porch
A shed out behind an old cabin. Animal hides hanging on the walls.
A bedroom in one of the cabins.
I also took this photo of Crepe Myrtle berries and leaves this morning before we left. There’s so little fall color in Florida, that this caught our eyes.