Kevin McKinney wanted to go by Shingle Creek for a sunrise photo and I’ve wanted to do that too. We went last Saturday – and found out that park doesn’t open until 8am. A little late for sunrise. 🙁
Fortunately we got there early enough for our backup plan to work and we ended up in Kissimmee along the Lake Tohopekaliga shoreline. They have a park there too – and it was open. 🙂
Lake Toho light at dawn
There’s a little lighthouse at the end of the jetty and the protected water makes for some nice reflections.
We saw a few birds hunting the shoreline close by that turned out to be Snail Kites. I’ve only ever seen these before at Viera Wetlands and didn’t get a very good photo. This one perched nicely for a minute or so before flying off.
And this Osprey flew by with its morning meal. I like sushi too, so I went ahead and make a photo of it.
Another Osprey with a “take-out” breakfast
A pleasant morning after all and I’m glad the backup plan worked.
Reminder – it’s that time of year again: The Lake Jesup flowers are getting ready to bloom. I got an email last week from my on-line friend Jeff Stammer. He’s already been out to Marlbed Flats to check on the flowers. He says that while it isn’t as wet as last year, it is quite grown up with tall plants and there aren’t as many cow or horse paths as there have been in the past. So the hiking may be tougher than usual. I skipped going last year and regretted it. I’m going to try hard to get out there this year. When we drove by Friday evening we could already see some yellow color. I think they’ll start to really peak in a week or two.
Maybe I’ll see you there!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Mary and I took our kayaks to Shingle Creek last week. I wanted to post a few photos to show you again how pretty this area can be.
Winds are usually calm early in the morning – leading to scenes like this.
It was a calm morning, but the current was strong – probably because of all the rain we’ve had recently. Shingle Creek gets narrow in spots. If you go kayaking, watch for it and turn around before I did so it doesn’t knock you up against the cypress tree knees!
The reflections weren’t as pristine after Mary paddled through them – but the sunbeams made up for it.
Dad photographing Shingle Creek (photo by MaryKate)
I’m still building my kayaking skills and I’m not yet confident enough to take non-waterproof gear out with me. I made the top two photos using the GoPro camera you can see mounted on the bow of the kayak in this image. I set it to make a shot every few seconds and compose by positioning / pointing the kayak and selecting from the results. It’s a bit hit or miss, but I usually manage to get some I like.
The GoPro is super small, comes with a waterproof case and has a fixed, very wide-angle lens. I like all its built-in capability but it does have a couple of limitations. There’s no viewfinder, although there’s a model with wi-fi and an iPhone app that lets you control it and see the output. I don’t use my iPhone on the kayak, since I don’t want to drop it in the water either. Also, like most small sensor cameras, the dynamic range is limited (compared to larger sensors and shooting in RAW format) – so highlights have a tendency to overexpose. But if you work within its capabilities you can capture great images. You can also try the old Black and White trick to hide any blown highlights.
re·flec·ting (verb): 1) to be reflected or mirrored; 2) to think, ponder, or meditate
head-wa-ters (noun): the upper tributaries of a river.
Clouds and Cypress Reflect from Shingle Creek – It’s hard to believe this urban creek just south of Orlando is the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades
If you look out the window as you fly over Florida, you’ll see much of the land is undeveloped. As you near Orlando though, you’ll see a great deal of housing, roads, city buildings, and theme parks. Central Florida can be a very urban place – it’s encouraging that even in the midst of all the development, there are a great many areas where you can experience nature, wildlife, and beautiful landscapes. Many places I visit are fairly well-known. But I had never heard of Shingle Creek before reading Wild Florida Waters, by Doug Alderson – a book about exploring Florida via kayak and canoe.
Driving through Kissimmee, Florida in the middle of airports, fast food, shopping malls, housing developments, and theme parks, you might not even notice this waterway – but you really should look for it. The first pioneer settlement in the Central Florida area was along this creek. Settlers cut down old growth cypress to use for shingles, hence the name. Shingle Creek is also generally considered to be the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades. The creek begins in a swamp very close to I-Drive where thousands of tourists visit the convention center and theme parks and go shopping every day. It flows into Lake Toho in Kissimmee, then into the Kissimmee River system and on through south Florida to the Everglades.
I see different numbers for the size of Shingle Creek Regional Park. One source says that it’s about 456 acres, another says that over 1000 acres have been purchased. Either way, it’s large and the landscapes are beautiful. There are trails to hike and bike and if you have a canoe or kayak you can venture into some very thick cypress swamps south of the Steffee Landing park entrance. You can see alligators, otters, water moccasins, ospreys, hawks, woodpeckers, limpkins, herons, egrets, and even bald eagles. It’s truly a wonderful oasis in the middle of urban Central Florida. I’m grateful we’re preserving it and I’m going back soon to explore more of it.
Apple snail eggs – These snails deposit their eggs just above the water line. Seeing them is a good sign of healthy water. The snails feed on an algae that grows on eel grass which helps filter and clean the water. Eel grass doesn’t grow well in cloudy polluted waters, so you won’t find Apple snails there. You won’t find Limpkins or Snail Kites there either because Apple Snails are a main part of their diet.
More reflections – Shingle Creek south of Steffee Landing
You can enter the park from two locations. Use these addresses to search for it in Google Maps (just searching for “Shingle Creek Park” didn’t work too well for me): 4266 W. Vine Street, Kissimmee, FL 34741 -or- 2491 Babb Road, Kissimmee, FL 34746
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, step away from the pavement and go make some photos
I visited Osceola Stadium last Friday with Tom and Vince to watch the Houston Astros play the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training baseball game.
Houston won 3 – 2. Jose Altuve played well, going 2-for-3 and scoring two of Houston’s three runs. If you like baseball and are anywhere near Florida in the spring time, it’s a great opportunity to see and photograph many spring training baseball photo ops.
Houston’s Jose Altuve (#27) is safe as he slides into 2nd base against St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (#13)
Spring training in Florida starts in late February and lasts through March. Fifteen major league teams play in the “Grapefruit League” at 14 locations over a wide area of the state. Here’s a link to the list of teams and stadiums on Wikipedia. This should stay up to date as venues change in the future.
Info for Photographers
Sports photography is a lot of fun. Results depend on your photography equipment and skills, but also on your knowledge of the game. The better you understand the game, the more you can anticipate where the action will be. If you’re not a baseball expert, it helps to go with a friend who is.
You won’t get professional quality photos from the stands because 1) You’ll be in the stands, not on the field. and 2) They won’t let you bring large lenses into the stadium. But you can get some nice images. Here are some hints to help.
Houstons’s Brandon Barnes (#2) connects
At spring training games, you can often get good seats near the action for a more reasonable price than during the regular season. We sat close to the field near 1st base and had great views of the batter and base runners.
You should always keep both eyes open when photographing. This is even more important in baseball. Foul balls often come into the stands and if you see it, you’ll be better able to catch it (or duck). With practice, you can also keep your camera aimed through the viewfinder, and at the same time watch what’s going on with your other eye. This will let you anticipate the action so you can press the shutter at the right time. Make sure your camera is in continuos high speed mode, start shooting before you think you need to and keep the shutter pressed until you’re sure the action is over. Be careful about reviewing your photos on the back of your camera – you could miss a great play, or you could get hit by a foul ball!
Shutter speed and frame rate: A baseball ball moves at 90-100 mph when pitched and may be even faster when hit. This can mean up to 14 or 15 feet of travel between frames even if you can shoot at 10 frames per second. If you’re zoomed in tight on the action, you may not ever see the ball in the frame. Keep your frame rate as high as possible and zoom out a bit – then crop some in post. Similarly, you’ll need a shutter speed faster than 1/1000 sec. to get a somewhat sharp image of the ball, since it can travel a couple of inches in that time. Up your ISO to get the speed you need – faster is better. I shot between 400 and 800 ISO on a bright, sunny day.
Lenses: They’ll look at your camera equipment when you enter and generally only allow smaller lenses. They don’t want you scooping the pro photographers down on the field. So you’ll have to leave your 300mm f/2.8 at home. This is a good place to use a micro 4/3 camera if you have one along with a 300mm zoom lens. You won’t be able to throw the background out of focus like the pros do, but the setup will give you enough reach. If you’re using a DSLR, you can usually get in with a 70-300mm zoom.
Best time to visit: Late February through March.
Baseball has long periods of not much happening interspersed with seconds of intense activity. Anticipate and be ready. You might get more keepers if you pick the kind of shot you want next, based on what’s going on in the game. Pre-focus on the spot where you think the action is going to happen and wait for it. For instance, I concentrated on batters until I got a couple of photos I liked, then I shifted to base running to catch some action there, and so on.
This is Florida – the sun can be very intense even in the spring, so bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Enjoy yourself and the game.
Houston’s Justin Maxwell (#44) snags a fly ball
If you like baseball, Florida in the springtime is the place to be. Even if you’re not that big a baseball fan, photographing a game can be challenging and fun.
You can click the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr. There’s a link to more photos in the table below.