Category Archives: Must do list

Pioneer Settlement at Barberville

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts in Barberville, Florida was founded in 1976. Lynn and I first went there when our kids were little – sometime in the 1980s. It’s grown a lot since then and the non-profit organization that runs it has kept it up and added many more buildings and displays than I remember.

Three of us from the retired chapter of the Photography Interest Group went over on November 19th.  The centerpiece of the campus is the original Barberville High School.

The Schoolroom
The Schoolroom – This is in the Barberville Central High School, built in 1909.  It was added to the National Register for Historic Places in 2002.  The window light and the wooden floors and desks were lovely the morning we were there.

The photos in this post are from just four of the buildings / displays that you can tour.  There are 22 in all.  I have photos of several more that I haven’t processed yet.  As I finish them, I’ll add them to this Barberville set on Flickr.

The store below was originally at the turpentine operation in Bakersburg, Florida.  It was moved to Barberville in 1984.

The H. L. Wynn Country Store
The H. L. Wynn Country Store – Get your insurance and your livestock feed, all in one place!

The only building at Barberville that isn’t from Florida is the log cabin.  It was built by Mr. Jim Lewis in 1875 in southern Georgia, and moved to Barberville in 1992.

Log Cabin Porch
Log Cabin Porch – complete with laundry!

The blacksmith’s shop was built in 1987.  The Florida Artist Blacksmith Association uses it for their monthly meetings and to work on their projects.

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade – I love the huge bellows and the overwhelming number of tools available.

Check out the Pioneer Village web site for much more information.  They have many special events scheduled including their upcoming annual “Florida Christmas remembered”.  I think it’s worth another visit back to see the decorations.

Barberville is only about an hour from Orlando – right where SR 40 crosses US 17.  It’s well worth the trip.  If you have kids, they’ll like the exhibits, demonstrations, and animals.  Adults will enjoy seeing how Floridians used to live.  And as a photographer, it’s another “target rich environment”.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.   So let’s get that out-of-the-way now:  That won’t happen at Acadia National Park.  It’s an utterly awesome place.   If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.

Jordan Pond and "The Bubbles"
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond.  I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left.  ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.

This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park.  I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years.  But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.

I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time.  My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it.  When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise.  I spent almost 6 full days there.  I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon.  Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning.  It’s brimming with photo ops:  rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more.  It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.

Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area.  And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season.  This map shows where I made my photos.

Acadia National Park Photo Locations

You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it.  Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car.  I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads.  I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!

I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different.  Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.

Looking west from Otter Creek Drive
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance.    A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook.  The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.

Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there.  We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves.  Just make sure you’re careful.  The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.

Schoodic Point Waves
Schoodic Point Waves.  I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed.  Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.

Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there.  Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it.  And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!

Paper Birch and sedge grass forest
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path.    This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

We saw wildlife too.  On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching.  It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us.  We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds:  Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls.  And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify.  Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear.  But sadly, no moose.

Two Humpback whales show their tails after surfacing.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing.  We watched a group of three feeding together.  As the boat idled they often came close.  Researchers keep track of the  whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs.  The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.

After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M.  She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine.  She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective.  And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert.  What wonderful hosts!

There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide,  Instead, here are some of the references I used.  I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):

If you search the web, you’ll find a great many Acadia sites.  Here are a couple I looked at:

And you can also find out a lot on Flickr:

Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:

  • I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear.  We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions.  I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters.  Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
  • I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while.  Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
  • Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat!  There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds.  But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
  • Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat.  You can get some good photos even with a phone.
  • Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go.  And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip.  You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
  • Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed.  Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
  • It’s crowded in July and August.  Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center.  But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
  • The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
  • I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
  • The weather varied too.  There was some fog / mist and drizzle.  I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks.  Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility.  But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour.  So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself.  Relax – don’t get overwhelmed.  Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.

Bar Harbor Blue
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain.   ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm

 I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted.   I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home.  But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.

I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.

A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father:  “Taking pictures with really big cameras.
Girl:  “Do we have one?
Dad:  “No, but Mommy wants one.
Girl:  “Why don’t they use their phones?
Dad:  no answer

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

First Light

I spent several exciting days in Maine last week exploring Acadia National Park and some of the surrounding area.  Mary Kate went on business up there and invited me to tag along and sight see.  Thanks again, Mary Kate!

I’m still going through all of my images from the trip, so I can’t really write an article about it yet.  I’ll work on it over the next week or so and add photos to my Maine / Acadia album on Flickr as I finish them.  You can take a look there for a preview of what’s coming.  For now, here are a couple quick photos.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the highest point on the east coast of the US, and going up to the summit to see “the country’s first sunrise” is popular.  When MK, her coworker Ryan, and I got there at about 4:45am, the parking lot was already filling up.  This was the view about a half hour before sunrise.  If you look at the larger version on Flickr, you can see the lights in Bar Harbor on the near shore.

First light - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
First Light

It turns out that the first sun light hits the US on Cadillac Mountain only in the fall and winter. So we really didn’t see the “first light” – but even so it was a pretty sunrise.

Sunrise panorama - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
Sunrise panorama

Please be sure to check back for the rest of the story on this absolutely fabulous place.  It’s a landscape photographer’s dream and there’s wildlife around there too!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Silver Springs State Park

Intro / Description

I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May.  This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park.  Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong.  But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.

Silver Springs headwaters, view 2
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm

Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides.  The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone.  It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water.  You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in.  I used the launch close to the headwaters.  It’s a short paddle to the main spring.  It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!

In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me!  One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring.   Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.

A view from my kayak
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs.  Take a look – they like it as much as I do!

If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion.  You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Tripod/Monopod:  I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would.  It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.

Lenses:  Bring what you can carry.  I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them.  If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.

Best time to visit:  It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly.  If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable.  I went during the week.  Weekends will be crowded.

Other:

There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida.  For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.   I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species.  There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs.  And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys  descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.

Typical Turtle
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays).  Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer.  You’ll have to call the park for details.

Cracker cabin
Cracker cabin

Finally, 60 campsites are available along with 10 very nice, two bedroom cabins.  I’d recommend staying for one or two nights so you have some time to explore.  There are also several other great areas nearby including the Ocala National ForestRainbow Springs State ParkJuniper Springs Recreation Area, and Salt Springs Recreation Area.

Summary

Click on any of these photos to go to Flickr where you can see larger versions.  My Silver Springs album on Flickr includes these and a few other  photos.

Silver Springs State Park is a wonderful place to visit and an especially wonderful place to paddle!

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157644924434114
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/default.cfm/explore.html 
Address / Phone: 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34470(352) 236-7148
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

P.S. – In the good news department, it looks like those of you that subscribe to the blog via email are getting the updates.  If you’re having any issues, please let me know.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Riding the Rails – Orlando's New SunRail Commuter Train

There are a lot of posts on here about nature / wildlife / landscape photography in our area.  But the blog isn’t only about those subjects – it’s about Central Florida Photo Ops in general.  So this week we have something a little different…

Central Florida’s new commuter rail system opened on May 1.  The first phase of SunRail is 32 miles long and connects DeBary to Sand Lake Road, with 12 intermediate stations.   The fares have been free for the first two weeks while they work the kinks out of the system.  And I had some free time – so it was a perfect chance to check it out.

Trains run every 1/2 hour during the morning and evening rush hours and every two hours in the middle of the day.  Getting there early gave me more opportunities to get on and off the train and explore nearby locations.  And sometimes the light is really pretty in the morning too!

A beautiful morning to catch the train
A beautiful morning to catch the train – at the Maitland SunRail platform

The trains are new, clean, modern, air-conditioned, and the morning I rode they were all on time.  They’ve been crowded with many folks riding for free to scope out the system.  But by the time I boarded last Wednesday the crush had thinned out – I had no problem getting seats all morning.

Northbound Sunrail
Northbound

There are plenty of scenic locations within walking distance of the SunRail stations.   Exploring them all would take longer than a morning so I only stopped at three: Orlando Health, Winter Park, and Maitland.  Finding subjects to point my camera at was easy. Here are two examples:

Seaboard Coast Line - Amtrak
Seaboard Coast Line – Amtrak Station

Lucy Bleuz and the Jazzy Dog
Lucy Bleuz and the Jazzy Dog –  they look like good places to eat

I didn’t try photographing from inside the train – motion and glare would make it tough.  But there are some interesting sights between stops.  If you want to try this, the east side of the car in the afternoon might have the best shots and light.

Initially, SunRail isn’t operating on weekends – so you’ll need to get around another way on Saturday / Sunday.  But if you have time during the week, it’s an enjoyable experience.  And did I mention there are photo ops?

You can see these and a few more photos from this trip in this set on Flickr.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Louisa State Park

Update (5/30/14):  See this related post on 5 Mile Road.

Intro / Description

Lynn, Mary, and I spent the first weekend in May at Lake Louisa State Park (LLSP).  It’s located just southwest of Orlando in Clermont, Florida.   LLSP is 4500 acres of rolling hills including six lakes with 105 acres of shoreline.  There’s a range of camping options and 20 very nice, two bedroom, furnished cabins that you can stay in.  Activities include fishing, canoeing and kayaking, biking, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding.

This is another case of me wondering why it took so long to visit somewhere.  My friend Kevin M has mentioned it several times, but I never seemed to get over there – until now.  It’s truly scenic and I’ve included more images than normal in this post – I apologize if it loads slowly.

Info for Photographers

There’s a lot to photograph there and the variety of landscapes is greater than many places in the area.  Hills are rare around here, but this park has them, some over 100 feet high. I made this photo on the hillside above the road by the cabin where we stayed.

Wildflowers and dewey grass at dawn
 Wildflowers and dewey grass at dawn

May 5-11 is national wildflower week and LLSP was doing its part.  Several wildflowers were blooming, including Prickly-pear Cactus, Passion Flowers, Lantana, and others.  I think we were lucky to see such a variety in bloom.  The Passion Flower blooms are supposed to last for only one day.

All of the lakes in the park are great habitats for Cypress Trees and Spanish Moss – very scenic and a classic Florida landscape look.

Lake Dixie shore
Lake Dixie shore – From the fishing dock in the campground on the south side of the lake

The Cypress tree trunks can also be very interesting.

Nature's sculpture
Nature’s sculpture – The older, weathered cypress tree shapes can be very unusual

There’s a variety of wildlife at LLSP, although not as much as some other locations in Central Florida.  For instance, eBird lists 112 species at LLSP vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  We spotted nesting Ospreys (with chicks / juveniles), Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Wild Turkeys, Nighthawks, a Swallow-tailed Kite, wading birds, vultures, Gopher Tortoises, Alligators, Deer, Crayfish,  grackles and a few other species.

Osprey returning to nest
An Osprey returning to her nest to check on her chick

Photo hints:

Most state parks in Florida seem to open at 8am, which makes early morning photography a challenge.  Since we were staying there, we could photograph whenever we wanted.  This one is on the western shore of Lake Louisa.

Cypress dawn

Cypress dawn – by Lake Louisa.

Tripod/Monopod:  Yes – take yours and use it when needed.

Lenses:  There are so many photo ops here that you could probably make use of every one of your lenses.  Macro for flowers, wide-angle for landscapes, long telephoto for wildlife, etc.  You’ll have to decide how much to carry and what to concentrate on.

Best time to visit:  Any time, but of course winter months will be cooler.  Late April and early May will be better for wildflowers and nesting Ospreys too.  We often heard Ospreys calling.  It was fun to watch the parents bringing food back to their very demanding offspring!

Other:

There’s a nice beach and picnic area on Lake Louisa.  If you swim there be careful though, there’s no life guard and there are alligators.

The park also is a popular place to bicycle, so bring yours if you have room.

The Florida Rambler website has a nice writeup on Lake Louisa and the cabins there.

The kayak launch at Lake Dixie across from the cabins is an easy put in.  The one at Lake Louisa requires a long carry, so bring a friend or a kayak trolley if you plan to paddle there.  You can also put in at the Crooked River Preserve just to the north of Lake Louisa and paddle down to the lake.

I didn’t get a chance (yet) to hike the many trails in the park.  There are 9 main ones ranging from 1/2 to 5.5 miles and some of these lead to smaller lakes which might be very scenic.

The Citrus Tower is close to the park.  It was built as a tribute to the citrus industry in the area.   There’s a great view from 226 feet up, but a lot fewer orange trees visible now than there were in 1956 when it opened.

Cloudy in Clermont
Cloudy in Clermont – View from the top of the Citrus Tower, looking south along HW27.

There are also many restaurants within a short drive from the park if you don’t want to cook in your cabin.

Summary

Lake Louisa State Park is a relaxing and scenic destination.  It seems a world away from busy downtown Orlando.   It’s perfect for a weekend get away.  If you haven’t been there yet, you should go.  I’m very glad we did.

Be sure to visit my Lake Louisa set on Flickr to see these and more photos.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  Lake Louisa set on Flickr.
Website:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa/
Address / Phone: 7305 U.S. Highway 27 Clermont, Florida 34714
(352) 394-3969
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: A CFL Photo Op must do!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Blue Spring State Park

Intro / Description

There’s been a lot of news here recently about all the Manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida – so I decided to go over and look for myself.

Many Manatees Around 20 Manatees in this one photo – There were more than 200 there on the day I went and the count’s been over 330 on some recent days.

Louis Thursby bought Blue Spring in 1856 and ran a steamboat landing.  The steamboats shipped people and goods up and down the St. Johns River and stopped at the landing until the 1880s.  The area became pretty run down until the state purchased the land in the 1960s and established the park.

There’s lots to do:  Plenty of picnic areas;  Hiking and nature trails; Cabins and a campground for overnight stays; Canoes and kayaks to rent;  And you can even take a River Boat tour right from the park. We’ve been several times in the past but I hadn’t visited in years.  It brought back very fond memories of tubing down the run from the spring and of our kids shivering in the 72 degree water, but enjoying it so much they refused to get out.  When I used to scuba dive (a very long time ago), I dove to the bottom of the spring.  In retrospect, that was at least a little reckless – people have died in there.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

You can’t go in the water when the Manatees are there.  But a lengthy boardwalk running from the St. Johns up to the spring  provides many vantage points for photos.  The Manatees are all along the run, but many congregate in the swimming area where you can get very close.

You must bring your Polarizer to cut the reflections so you can better see the manatees under the surface.  Remember this will block a couple stops of light.  And since the water is in shade in many places you may be a little starved for light.  A camera / lens with vibration reduction / optical stabilization and good output at higher ISOs (~640) will come in handy.

Take a breath

Take a breath – A manatee surfaces at Blue Springs State Park

Tripod/Monopod: They’re allowed, but crowds could make tripods a problem.  I left mine at home.

Lenses:

I used a 24 – 120 f/4 lens and was happy with it.  I really didn’t want to switch lenses (and polarizers) so the focal length range on this came in handy.  At times I wished for a little more reach but I could usually find another Manatee closer to me.  I also wished for a wider aperture (f/2.8?), but the stabilization made this lens my best choice.

Best time to visit: Visit during a wintertime cold snap for the best chance of seeing Manatees.  They can draw a crowd and the park is closed early to new arrivals if it fills up.  Go on a weekday or get there very early on a weekend to make sure you get in. For other activities, you’ll  have to work around their schedule – all water activities are prohibited when there’s a Manatee in the water.  For swimming, tubing, snorkeling / diving,  and kayaking in the spring run go when they aren’t there (March 15th – November 15th). Other: Manatees are the main attraction in the winter, but there are other animals there too.  I’ve seen Alligators, wild pigs, and common Florida birds  (e.g. Herons, Egrets, Anhingas, Limpkins, Wood Storks, Red Shouldered Hawks, and Vultures).  Other folks have reported some not so common Florida Birds like Florida Scrub Jays and Barred Owls, – so keep your eyes open! And there’s a three-story home built built by the original owners that’s worth a visit.

The Louis P. Thursby House The Louis P. Thursby House was built in 1872 at Blue Springs State Park

Summary

Manatees are on the endangered species list.  Blue Spring provides a unique opportunity to see these large animals up close.  If you’ve thought about going to Blue Spring, now’s the time.  If you haven’t thought about going to Blue Spring, now’s the time! You can find out a lot about Manatees at the Save the Manatee Club  website, including updated reports on conditions and counts at Blue Spring on this web page.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  Blue Spring on Flickr
Website:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/
Address / Phone: 2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, Florida 32763
(386) 775-3663
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: A Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos! ©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Marineland Beach

Intro / Description

Historically, coquina’s been used as a building material.  The Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine and Bulow Plantation in Flagler Beach are made of it.  But today I think the best use of coquina is for photography – it makes a great foreground in landscape photos!

Marineland Beach morning 3
Marineland Beach morning – A colorful, brisk daybreak on the rocks (48mm, ISO 50, f/16, 3 seconds)

Several locations on the Atlantic coast of Florida have deposits of coquina rocks exposed on the beach.   Three that I know of are:

I’ve mentioned Blowing Rocks Preserve before and I haven’t been to Washington Oaks in a long while, so this post is about Marineland Beach.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

This is a terrific sunrise site.  There’s public parking right on the beach and the area isn’t closed at night, so you can arrive as early as you want to.  If you do arrive before dawn, be careful – the footing on or close to the rocks is tricky in the dark.  A misstep can result in broken camera equipment or broken photographers.

Bring a flashlight (or use your cell phone).  Just be mindful of any other photographers nearby – you don’t want to spoil their images with your lights.  And know how to use your camera in the dark so you don’t have to fumble with the flashlight – it will save you time and aggravation.

Bring a cable or remote release to help avoid camera shake.  I usually use manual focus, at least until it’s bright enough for my camera’s autofocus to work.  Many cameras will have a “live view” mode that lets you enlarge around the moon or a distant light so that you can carefully focus on infinity.  If you don’t have live view, try using the markings on your lens.  Just set it to the infinity mark and back off a little.  How much?  Experiment before hand.  If you’re stopped down to f/8 or smaller, depth of field should help.

Before dawn and sunrise are very good times to shoot in RAW format.  RAW will give you extra dynamic range to help control contrast in post processing.  Also, learn about “long exposure noise reduction” and consider turning it on.  For exposures over a second or so, it does well removing noise in camera (at the cost of some extra time after you make the image).

Tripod/Monopod:

Yes – you must bring yours! You can even put your camera on it when you’re not using it for a walking stick!  And make sure you always know where it is in the dark so you don’t knock it over.

Marineland Beach morning 2
KM on the rocks, working the scene (120mm, ISO 100, f/8, .4 seconds)

Lenses:

You can use a variety of lenses.  I’ve added the focal length to the captions for the three photos in this article.  Don’t change lenses on the beach.  It’s often windy and you don’t want salt spray or sand inside your camera.  Choose a versatile zoom lens and leave it on, or retreat to your car to swap to a different one.

Coquina rock sunrise
Coquina rock sunrise (14mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/8th sec)

Best time to visit:

Sunrise occurs later in the winter and gives you more time to get to this beach.  And check for high tide – it’s best for good water action near the rocks.

Other:

Wear good shoes.  Flip flops could be a problem for your toes on the rocks in the dark.

Make sure you keep an eye on the waves.  Every so often, a larger one will come along.

Summary

Marineland Beach is a wonderful place for landscape and sunrise photos.  You can see larger versions of the photos above if you click on them.  And this set on Flickr has several more photos I made there.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  Marineland Beach on Flickr
Website:  None
Address / Phone:
Just south of Marineland at
9600 N Oceanshore Blvd
St Augustine, FL 32080
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A must do sunrise spot!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Kayaking at Haulover Canal

If you search the web for “Haulover Canal” you’ll get many hits on fishing and kayaking there.  I haven’t tried the fishing, so I can’t really comment on that, but I see people (and dolphins!) fishing there all the time so it’s probably pretty good.  I have kayaked there many times and it’s a wonderful place to paddle and to photograph too.

Haulover Canal is in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and it’s part of the Intracoastal Waterway.  It connects Mosquito Lagoon with the Indian River.  You can launch your Kayak at the Bairs Cove boat ramp on the south side of the canal, but we use a better spot on the north-west end of the canal.  Heading north along the Courtenay Parkway, take the first left after the bridge and follow the dirt road to the end where there’s a sandy bottom put in.  There’s a fee to launch from Bairs Cove, but not from the north side.

From the put in, you can paddle west and circle around Mullet Head Island where there are usually quite a few birds. We’ve seen Redish Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, etc. there. It is a protected nesting area, though – so you’re not allowed to get too close.

Handsome Pelican
Handsome Pelican:  From my kayak, near Mullet Head Island (Olympus EM5)

We usually paddle east along the canal and stop back in Bairs Cove, where we’ve seen manatees every time we’ve been.  They’re very docile and sometimes friendly.  You’re not allowed to harass / approach them, but if you sit quietly in your kayak, sometimes they’ll harass you!

Manatee checking out Mary's kayak
Manatee checks out Mary’s kayak (Olympus EM5)

You can paddle further east and go under the bridge to a manatee observation deck along the north shore.  However, I’ve never once seen manatees there.  Do you think the manatees enjoy the joke?

We frequently see Bottlenose Dolphins too and they’re often feeding.  This one was near the launch point and made a fuss chasing fish before swimming off.

Mike & Sara watch a dolphin from their kayak
Mike & Sara watch a dolphin from their kayak (Olympus TG-2)

There are even a few landscape opportunities, although I haven’t made it over for sunrise or sunset yet.  This group of struggling trees caught my eye.

Survivors
Survivors : On the west side of Haulover Canal. (Olympus TG-2)

You’ll need to watch for boat traffic, but since it’s a no wake zone, it’s fairly safe for kayaks.  If you haven’t kayaked before and want to have a little support when you make this trip,  A Day Away Kayak Tours is close by and very helpful.  They’ll take you on a guided tour or rent you a kayak so you can go on your own, too.

All the photos in this post were made on kayak trips using a variety of cameras.  I now have enough experience with our boats that I’m confident in the water and not afraid of tipping, but splashes from paddles and waves are still a worry where camera gear is concerned.  A dose of saltwater is not too healthy for most normal cameras.  So I’ve been using an Olympus TG-2 and a GoPro Hero3 (both waterproof) on these trips.

G0030066Photographing birds near Mullet Head Island (GoPro and EM5)

It’s great not having to worry about water damage, but I do miss some of the higher end photo capabilities (e.g. RAW format, interchangeable and long lenses, etc.). So I’ve taken the higher end gear out once or twice.  In the photo above I really photo-geeked and used the GoPro to make a photo of myself making a photo with the Olympus EM5.

Here’s some additional info on Kayaking at Haulover Canal from a couple other sites:

And you can find out more about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in these posts.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The flowers are coming! The flowers are coming!

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) start blooming at the end of September in our area.  One of the largest concentrations is in the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where the blooms stretch as far as you can see.

Lake Jesup Wildflowers
Swamp Sunflowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area

This is a truly unique photo-op and worth checking out.  See these links for more info:

You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr.  And here’s an article about the flowers in this month’s Orlando Magazine – featuring my photo!

When you go, please be careful.  Stopping on the side of 417 can be dangerous.  And the Lake Jessup Wilderness area is wild.  It’s also a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers.  Bring water and use sun screen and bug spray.  Long pants and waterproof hiking boots are a good idea too.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some flower photos – maybe I’ll see you out there!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved