Category Archives: Places

Beauty and Bugs in the Soggy Swamp: Sunflowers, 2015

I don’t know how long the Sunflowers have staged their fall nature extravaganza along the north side of Lake Jesup near Sanford Florida. I’ve been photographing them since 2006, and my first post about them was in October 2007 – a few months after I began the blog.

I didn’t make it last year and just had to see them this time, so off I went yesterday morning (October 9) to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation area.

Lake Jesup SunflowersLooking up

The flowers are just about in peak bloom.  If you want to hike out there, you’d better make plans quickly.  The blooms only last a couple of weeks, so by next weekend, they’ll be fading.

Lake Jesup SunflowersMonochrome flowers

The flowers are beautiful, but the bugs are swarming.  I didn’t make any photos of the insects, but I did bring home souvenir mosquito bites.  Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and use insect spray too.  It’s also wet.  I didn’t get far from the forest edge – but the water was already several inches deep.  Waterproof boots are a great idea.

Lake Jesup SunflowersLake Jesup Sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats

There are other things to see out there too.  It’s a good local birding spot with at least two Bald Eagle nests reported.

When you go, please be careful.  Don’t stop on the side of 417 – it’s dangerous!  It’s a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers.  And it’s still hot – wear a hat and bring water with you.

The Lake Jesup Wilderness area really is wild – I’ve seen bobcats and worried about wild hogs.  I haven’t seen any snakes, but I’ll bet they’re around.  And Lake Jesup has one of the densest populations of alligators in Florida.  So enjoy, but be careful!

You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr.  I also have more info on the area collected in these older articles:

And here are some more Florida Sunflower links you might find interesting:

For reference, here’s a Lightroom map of the area with the locations of photos I’ve made out there.  The streets leading in are also shown, so you can see how to get there (click for a larger version).

Marl Bed Flats area on the north shore of Lake Jesup
Marl Bed Flats area on the north shore of Lake Jesup

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Winter Park at Night

Greetings, wonderful readers!  Things are a bit busy here at the Central Florida Photo Ops HQ this weekend, so I’ll leave you with a quick post and some photos from a stroll down Park Avenue through Winter Park last Wednesday evening.

A quiet night "on the avenue"A quiet night “on the avenue”

A path into darknessA path into darkness

Blue Hour MotionBlue Hour Motion – A train passing behind one of the fountains in Winter Park, Florida

I made these a little after sunset during “blue hour” – I like the look of the light.  You can see a few other photos I’ve made in Winter Park in this album on Flickr.


Sunflower update:  The flowers are in bloom and are peaking.  If you want to see them this year, you should probably do so in the next week.  Here’s a report from Jeff Stamer’s blog on his trip out there last week.

I haven’t made it yet this year, but plan to do so next week.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Apopka Two-fer

Kevin K., Kevin M., and I went round the Wildlife Drive on the Lake Apopka North Shore yesterday.  This 11 mile long section of dirt roads opened to the public earlier this year and provides access to a large part of the restoration area near the lake.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive EntranceLake Apopka Wildlife Drive Entrance.

This was mostly a scouting trip as Kevin K. and I had never been, and since it’s the middle of the summer we didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife.  But similar to Viera Wetlands, there was lot going on.  We saw many of the usual Florida birds and even some unusual ones like Least Bitterns.  About half way through, we stopped behind another car observing a tree full of birds that turned out to be swallows.

My experience with swallows is that they’re very erratic flyers and seldom sit still – which makes them hard to photograph or even identify.  But these were happily perched in the tree and later on power lines.  This allowed us to get some good photos and recognize several species.  Two (Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow) were lifers for me.  I even got both of them in the same frame – how cool is that?!!

Bank Swallow and Barn SwallowBank Swallow and Barn Swallow

There was a reported sighting of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow at this same place shortly before we got there, but we didn’t see it.  We did see a Purple Martin, which was also cool, although not a life bird.

Lake Apopka was polluted for many years but it seems like the restoration efforts are paying off.  This osprey for example, looks like it’s living large.

Osprey with catfishOsprey and catfish

The wildlife drive doesn’t open until sunrise, so we got there too late for a morning landscape, but we did stop by Lake Monroe in Sanford on the way.  Here’s one image I made there.

Marina at dawnMarina at dawn

Judging by this trip, I’ll be returning often, especially after it cools off and migration starts.  For more info on this place, visit Scott Simmons’ post on his blog.  You can see Kevin Ms photos in this album on Flickr, and Kevin K’s in this album.  I only have a couple in my album so far, but I’ll be adding more.

Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area:  another great Central Florida Photo Op!  Go!  See!  Enjoy!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Very good, but a bit sad – revisiting The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey

I hadn’t been by the  Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, Florida in a long time.  So when Tom M. mentioned he wanted to go, I was happy to meet him and Keith H. there one morning last week.

Irked Eagle
Irked Eagle – This is Frederick, one of the permanent residents. A staff member brought him out for us.  In this photo, he’s yelling at a different staff member that walked by. Maybe he was expecting a handout?

Birds of Prey is a wonderful place but leaves me with mixed emotions.  On the good side, there are many more Raptors now than there used to be. The estimated population of Bald Eagles in Florida has grown from 88 active nests in 1973 to  1,457 nests now.  But on the sad side, there are also many more people and automobiles.  This leads to increased encounters between people, their cars, and birds – and sadly, means that many more birds are getting injured today.

Swallow-tailed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite

Wonderful places like Birds of Prey take in injured raptors, treat them, and (if they’re well enough) release them back into the wild.  They’re able to release just over 40% of their raptor patients.  But it’s sad that some birds are too injured to be released.

Great Horned Owl
This Great Horned Owl looks a bit sleepy.  It must be a night owl.

The injured birds are well cared for. Some are placed in zoos or other facilities that are knowledgable and able to provide for them.  Others stay at Birds of Prey.  They make exceptional  ambassadors and help teach people about these awesome creatures.  All three raptors pictured in this post are permanent residents at the center.  It’s great that they’re such good photo subjects.  But it’s sad that they’ll never make it back into the wild.

There’s another place like this in Apopka, Florida – The Avian Reconditioning Center.  I haven’t been there yet, but I’m sure they’re just as dedicated to helping injured birds.  And I’m sure there are places like this all over.  You’ll be sad if you never visit one.  In addition to the photo-op, your entrance fees help pay for care for the injured birds.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go visit a bird rehab facility.  And make some photos too!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Downtown Orlando

I seem to have a preference for wide views.  Hence my attraction to stitched multi-frame panorama images.  They’re a great way to extend the field of view of lenses you have with you.

Keith H. and I walked around downtown Orlando for a few hours one day last week.  I made a lot of photos, and after getting home and reviewing them, my favorites all turned out to be stitched panoramas.  I guess I just enjoy being able to see the whole scene.  Here are three examples:

Back alley break
Back alley break – A woman takes a work break on the back stairs. 4 frame panorama

Also, I hardly ever make selfies, but on this walk I ended up with two that I like – although they aren’t typical of the genre.

A selfie
A window selfie – Looking south across Church Street from the 4th floor of the Plaza parking garage. That’s my reflection in the glass towards the middle bottom. Infra Red, Black & White, 4 frame panorama.  (Click for a larger view on Flickr)

And this next one isn’t a Black & White photo – the sidewalk and wall were that color.

Cracks me up
Cracks me up – A shadow selfie. 3 frame panorama.

You might find you like stitching panoramas too.  I’ve written about them before.  This article has a detailed workflow example and there are some more ideas in this post.  Composition can be difficult since you can’t see the final image through your viewfinder as you capture it.  Try to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need so you can crop into the assembled image to fine tune the composition.  And watch out for long lines and patterns of lines.   Look for any errors / mismatched lines between frames after you stitch them together and clean them up with the clone tool.

Besides downtown itself, there are several areas in Orlando with interesting photo ops: the Plaza Theatre, Leu Gardens, Lake Eola, Meade Gardens, and Greenwood Cemetery.  I’ve collected photos from all of them in this set on Flickr.

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

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 1-12-14

Kevin M, Robert WTom M, Lutfi E, and I met at Parish Park in Titusville last weekend for a photo excursion.  We got there well before sunrise and had time for a few night photos.

Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park
Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park – Looking SW, before dawn.

When we’d all arrived, we carpooled over to East Gator Creek Road for sunrise.  Since it was so clear before dawn, I didn’t think it would be very good.  But once again, Mother Nature surprised me, and a set of clouds moved in to add interest and color to the sky.

Passing storm
Passing storm

After daybreak, we drove on around East Gator Creek Road and then Black Point Wildlife Drive looking for birds.  We didn’t have to look too hard – they’re out force!

We saw many species and huge numbers of some of them.  White Pelicans were especially plentiful, both foraging in the water and soaring above us.  There were other huge formations of ducks flying over, but they were too high for me to ID.  One smaller flock flew very low right down the road.  I didn’t see them coming and the noise when they passed startled me.

We also saw Ring billed Gulls, a Bonaparte’s Gull, a some Forster’s Terns, Least Terns, a Black Skimmer, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Blue winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Red Breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Pied billed Greebes, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandpipers, Killdeer, Roseate Spoonbills, a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Loggerhead Shrikes, Savanah Sparrows, Red winged Blackbirds, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, Reddish Egrets, a White Morph Redish Egret, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and maybe a few others.

Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike
Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike

Highlights also included a very cooperative Shrike that sat still while we all made way too many photos of it, a bald eagle that flew right overhead, and two life birds for me (the Bonaparte’s Gull and Greater Yellowlegs).  It’s definitely birding season at MINWR!

As a side note:  I got an email from a Flickr contact that’s going to be in the area for a couple of days.  They wanted some hints on how to see everything while they’re here, especially Gatorland, Viera Wetlands, and Merritt Island.  I did pass along some hints.  But then I had to tell them that’s a lot to see in 2 days!  The good news is that you’re almost certain to see some good things in those places.  The bad news is that you can’t possibly see everything in that short a time – it’s just too large an area and the weather / wildlife might not cooperate. The key is to relax, enjoy being there and be ready with your camera for whatever comes your way.  I hope I’m not misleading people into thinking that they can photograph all the things they see here on the blog on their first time out.  It takes persistence and even some luck.

Anyway, if you’ve wanted to go to MINWR, now’s the time.  You can see other posts I’ve written about MINWR here and you can see larger versions of the photos above and others from Merritt Island in this set on Flickr.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

Tom M. and I went over to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park in Flagler Beach, Florida.  The buildings there were built out of the local coquina rock starting in 1821.  It was thriving in 1831 when John James Audubon visited.   It’s been abandoned since the Second Seminole War and was burned by Seminole Indians in 1836.  The walls and chimneys of the sugar mill on the site remain standing today and are listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Bulow Plantation Ruins
Bulow Plantation Ruins

The park has a hiking trail, a boat ramp, screened picnic pavilion, and a park interpretive center with original artifacts and exhibits.  The boat ramp is on Bulow Creek, which is a designated Florida State Canoe Trail.  It’s open 9 – 5, Thursday through Monday, and there’s a $4 / car entry fee.

Bulow Plantation Ruins
Bulow Plantation Ruins (665nm Infrared, toned B&W)

We didn’t expect such bad weather – it was quite different on the coast.  The rain and clouds made the light rather poor.  I think we’ll need to go back for better photos.

The dirt road leading out of Bulow Creek Plantation.
The view down the dirt road leading out of Bulow Creek Plantation (665nm false color Infrared)

This is a fascinating place where you can look back into Florida history.  It’s well worth a visit.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Hillsborough River State Park

For some reason, I’d never noticed Hillsborough River State Park until fellow Photography Interest Group member JT Smith asked me about it – thanks JT!  There are a lot of photos of the park on Flickr, many of them quite nice.  So I decided to go over on a scouting trip.  Flickr’s a great place to research new locations and I spent a while going through their search results as well as Google maps before my trip.

Dark river in the deep woods
Dark river in the deep woods.  A Hoya 8 2/3 stop neutral density filter let me stretch my exposure time to 25 seconds at f/8 and ISO 100 to smooth the water surface.

The park is about 20 miles north-east of Tampa and an hour and 40 minutes west of where I live.  Not too long a trip.  With all the rain we’ve had recently,  added water’s made the current look pretty fast through the rapids.  My kayak would get a few scrapes paddling through this.

Hillsborough River rapids
Hillsborough River rapids.  I’m a sucker for Cypress Knees and it was a treat to find some by the rapids to use as foreground.  Since the wind was blowing a bit, I made two exposures.  A slow one (30 seconds with the ND filter), and another not so slow one (no filter, 1/13th second).  To eliminate the blurred leaves, I combined them in Photoshop using layers and masking the first for the water and second for the foliage.

I want to see what this looks like when we haven’t had so much rain.  I think a few more exposed rocks would be nice.  Here’s one last image from the trip:

Hillsborough River

Hillsborough River.  This is an Infrared, false color, three exposure panorama.  This place is near the kayak put-in.

I’m going to make a return trip and bring my kayak.  I think I’ll paddle the parts in the first and third photos and not the second.

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

And if you know of a good photo photo-op in Central Florida – please let me know.  I love to explore new places.

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Crystal River, Weeki Wachee, Micanopy, and Cross Creek

We’ve kayaked at Crystal River before but wanted to explore the area a little more.  So Lynn and I decided to take advantage of our long weekend and went back last Saturday.  It was a very beautiful trip – relaxing, great scenery, and good weather too.  We reserved two kayaks for 8:30am from the Crystal River Kayak Company and were on the water before most of the crowd got there.

Lynn gets pretty far ahead
The canals in the area can be pretty. Sometimes it takes a while to position my kayak for a photo and Lynn gets pretty far ahead.

In the winter months, manatees are all over this area although we didn’t see any on this trip.  It’s warmed up so much they’ve moved on.  If you’re planning to kayak here, it’s best to go early in the day.  We drove by later and the water was very crowded – not at all like what we experienced the first thing in the morning.

The hotel where we stayed was right on the water, so I was hoping for a good sunrise or sunset view, but was disappointed.  There weren’t any good sight lines east or west and even though we drove around a bit looking, we couldn’t find a spot close by.  I’ll have to do more research before our next trip.

So … on to Plan B.  The deck next to hotel pool was right on the river, next to dive shop and restaurant / bar.  For some reason, the evenings were crowded and noisy, but before dawn there was no one around!  So I got up early on both mornings and wandered down to the water.  It was extremely calm both days with a full moon.  Perfect conditions for some pre-dawn, long exposures.  I made several images and I like this one best:

Calm harbor

One view from the water by our hotel.  I wanted to show the sailboats and reflections against the sky.  It was about 30 minutes before dawn, and so dark that it took me a few tries to frame the image the way I wanted.  The sky colors were a bonus – I couldn’t see them at the time.  I was lucky the water was calm and the boats didn’t move during the 6 second exposure.

In addition to the kayaking and relaxing, we also had several good meals and especially liked Charlie’s Fish House.  There’s lots to do in the area too.  We enjoyed stops at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on the way over, and Micanopy and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park on the way back.

the Weeki Wachee live Mermaid show

Weeki Wachee mermaid.  

Weeki Wachee State Park has a live mermaid show, a glass bottom boat ride, a water park and canoe / kayak rentals.  It was crowded when we stopped.  We saw the mermaid show, but the line for the boat ride was over an hour long.

At the corner of Cholakka Blvd. and Seminary Avenue
At the corner of Cholakka Blvd. and Seminary Avenue, Micanopy, Florida.

Micanopy is a good place to look for antiques and photograph historic buildings in an “old Florida” setting.

The farmhouse at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in
The farmhouse at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek, Florida. She wrote her books on the screened porch.

We had a great trip, but it was too short.  There’s way more to see and do in this area and it won’t all fit into a single weekend.  We might have to schedule another visit soon.  You can see a few more photos from Crystal River in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Central Florida Zoo (Sanford)

I hadn’t been to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, Florida since early 2007 and Tom M. had some new gear he wanted to try – so we decided to visit  this week.    Here’s a few photos I made along with some photo hints.

River Otter

The River Otter exhibit was fun.  If you’re patient and the otter’s in the mood, you can make a nice image of it swimming.  Up your ISO to get a fast shutter speed and get close to the glass to block reflections.  Then press the button right  before “the moment”.

One of our Photography Interest Group members, Jeff S. has a write-up about the zoo on his blog:   http://www.firefallphotography.com/central-florida-zoo/.  There’s some good info and photos there – well worth a read.

Macaw
Macaw – Many zoos have these very photogenic birds around.  They’re good posers!

Photography at this zoo can be challenging.  Many of the animals are behind glass or wire mesh fences, and far away or in bad light.   You’ll need to look for situations where you have a clear view of the animals and if you’re patient they’ll often come closer.  You can also try the standard techniques i.e. Use wide open apertures to blur the fencing;  Hold your lens close to the glass or use your hands to block reflections; etc.

Snake eyes
Snake eyes – Albino Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.  The “herpetarium” is dark.  I didn’t bring a flash, but If I had, I might have tried using it (held out to the side to avoid reflections).  The snakes don’t normally move fast – in this case I braced my camera so I could use a slow shutter speed (I also didn’t bring a tripod).

Busy Bee
Busy Bee – There are a lot of pretty plantings and flowers at the zoo. I made this photo in the Butterfly Garden area.

And one last photo – we went by the marina in Sanford before going to breakfast and then the zoo.  It’s a nice place for sunrise.

I'm glad I got up early
I’m glad we got up early

As usual, you can click on these photos to go to Flickr, where you can see larger versions.  You can also see a few more photos from the Central Florida Zoo in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.