When I left to meet Kevin K. and Tom M. for some photography before dawn last Monday, the sky was clear, the stars were shining and I didn’t think the sunrise would be very good. If I hadn’t been meeting friends, I might have gone back to bed! Looking at the photos in this post, it’s easy to see I was wrong – the sunrise was beautiful.
Observation 1: Go. You can’t always anticipate what you’ll see when you’re out photographing. But if you stay home, you know you won’t see anything.
Calm Blue Hour. 14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 10 sec., Hi-res mode.
We ended up at Cocoa Riverfront Park. The clouds were moving in and the light and colors changed as we watched. There were several interesting directions to point the camera.
Observation 2: Arrive early and stay for a while when photographing sunrise. Watch all directions. Bring several lenses to vary your exposure, composition, and perspective. Work the scene!
Fire in the sky. 70mm (equivalent), ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/50 sec., multi-frame stitched panorama
Observation 3: My conclusions from the earlier post are all still true – except for one. I’m happy to report that with the E-M1 Mark II camera, Olympus has made a great deal of progress with hi-res mode. I didn’t have to fix any motion anomalies in either of these photos. Well done Olympus.
Dew on the Boardwalk. 14mm (equivalent), ISO 64, f/5.6, 8 sec., Hi-res mode.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Early morning calm – Along the St. Johns River where it crosses HW 50
On the way, we stopped at a favorite sunrise spot and even though it’s been well photographed, managed to get images we liked.
At Viera, we drove around the main cells a couple of times and saw some interesting things. This Tricolored Heron had speared a large fish and was trying to swallow it. It couldn’t hold on and dropped it just after I made this photo.
Tri-Colored Heron, this one with breakfast.
We saw a few of the regular birds there, but the ducks and other winter migrants don’t seem to have arrived yet. On the way out, Kevin M. talked us into taking a quick spin around the Click Ponds and I’m glad he did. The water’s been low there for a while and the birds are having a feast. The shallow water concentrates the fish and makes them easy prey. Birds lined up and grabbed fish out of this small stream that flowed toward the low point in the pond.
Chow line – The water level in the Click Ponds at Viera Wetlands was very low yesterday.
Over in the corner was a very large mixed flock also enjoying the banquet. I spotted Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Glossy and White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Vultures, and a White Pelican in this one photo.
A large flock of feeding birds
So, it wasn’t a good day for fish, but the birds enjoyed it.
I have many posts about Viera Wetlands here on the blog that you can scroll through at this link, and many photos you can look through in this album on Flick.
Tom M. and I went over to Cocoa Beach last week. Jim B. told us about some Least Terns nesting on a hotel rooftop there, and we wanted to take a look.
I got up at o-dark-thirty and met Tom to drive over. Our reward was a gorgeous morning!
Seeing the sun rise above the sea soothed her soul
I don’t know the woman in this photo. She was enjoying the sunrise too, and I was grateful for her contribution to my composition.
When the sunrise show was over, we headed south on SR A1A to find the Terns. They were right where Jim said they would be. We knew we were in the right place when we noticed all the guano in the parking lot and on the cars.
The birds were flying off the roof in small groups with an occasional eruption of what seemed like the entire colony. At times there must’ve been over a hundred in the air.
Least Tern in flight
They’re small (8 or 9 inches long) and fast and erratic flyers. To get a photo, you’ll need a long lens, good technique, and / or persistence and some good luck. I used my Nikon D-800 with the Tamron 150 – 600mm lens. Even with such a long lens, I had to crop these two images pretty heavily. The main issues I had were trying to follow the birds in such a magnified field of view – and hoping that the focus on my camera could keep up.
Getting consistent results is difficult. I took many photos and got few keepers. Tracking something so small, fast, and erratic with a long telephoto lens takes some practice!
On our trip last week, if I hadn’t noticed Kevin M. photographing this pool of water in the parking area, I doubt I’d have seen or photographed it.
Puddles at dawn
Kevin not only pointed out this scene, he also organized the trip. If he hadn’t, I might have been too lazy to get up – and I’d have missed a very lovely dawn. This was one time when photographing with a group was very helpful. I think going out by yourself is great, but going out with others is wonderful too.
Here’s one more image from that morning.
As you can see, I did enjoy that sunrise – thanks, Kevin!
And thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – with your friends!
Here are three photos from last week that I made in and around Central Florida. First up is the Cocoa Waterfront. I liked the early morning look of the clouds and water at River Front Park.
Calm morning on the riverfront. (Two frame vertical panorama, Infrared, B&W, 34mm eq. fl, 1/40 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200)
The morning light was also nice at Viera Wetlands, and this American Bittern posed for us in the reeds. I’ve been lucky enough to see them there several times over the years. I’m sure they’re in spots like Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge too, but I’ve never spotted one there.
American Bittern. (600mm, f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO 320)
Orlando Wetlands Park opened again February 1st. It’s one of my favorite places for sunrise. Our walk on Friday morning was brisk and breezy, but I like the wind’s effect on the water in this photo.
Wee hour winds whisk water and reeds in the wetlands. (Two frame vertical panorama; 120mm; I shot the bottom frame at f/22 and ISO 50 to extend the shutter speed to 8 seconds and maximize depth of field. I made the upper frame at f/8, .5 sec, ISO 100 to maximize sharpness)
So that’s some of what I photographed last week. What did you shoot? Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I was at the Cocoa Beach Pier last Thursday morning with Tom M. People were fishing in the surf and the Snook were running. We watched two large ones caught in just a few minutes and someone told us they’d caught eight so far. It was easy to see that the fishermen were having a great time. Their concentration when casting and excitement when they hooked one was obvious.
A little later, this gentleman wandered over. I only had to move a little to place him in the middle of the reflection from the clouds and sunrise.
Fishing up a storm
I had a good time photographing that morning, but it seemed like the fishing was much more enjoyable. Maybe I should bring fishing gear when I go out with a camera.
Let’s go fishing! Two fishermen head out before dawn.
I’ve made this kind of photo before – you can see some examples in this set on Flickr. I think this one turned out better than my earlier tries. I used a different approach and because it’s been a while since I’ve written a “behind the scenes / how-to post”, I thought I’d fill you in on how I made this.
The boat ramp at this little park where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River is pretty busy around dawn. It seems to be a popular place for fishermen to put in. I waited several times while they cleared my frame and the water calmed down before I could make my next exposure. So I decided to make an image that included a boat.
It’s a challenging shot. I wanted to capture the intense sunrise colors so I had to be careful not to over expose and blow out the sky. I also wanted some detail in the boat, so I needed to over expose there a bit, but still minimize motion blur. At sunrise, I normally use a low ISO for the best quality image, and a small aperture for good depth of field. This results in a long shutter speed, which is bad for photographing moving boats. And if I want to bracket and use multiple frame HDR to capture the huge contrast range in the scene – that’s even worse for moving boat photography. So how did I make this image? Glad you asked!
The secret is to carefully capture two frames and blend them together by hand. The first frame is exposed for the boat: I used a high ISO and a wide open aperture to get my shutter speed as fast as possible, and I overexposed slightly to capture a little shadow detail in the boat and in the vegetation on the shore. With my camera set and on a tripod, I composed and waited for the next boat to get to the right point in the frame. Here’s that RAW file:
The second frame was my main exposure and I wanted it to be the best quality possible. I also wanted to slightly under expose to capture color and detail in the sky. I waited until the boat was gone and the water was calm again and then made this exposure:
When I got home, I preprocessed the two raw files using identical color balance and paying careful attention to noise reduction (especially on the higher ISO frame with the boat). I’ve used DxO Optics Pro lately when I want the best RAW conversion. It does a wonderful job on both lens corrections and noise reduction for supported equipment. After a few tweaks to exposure in each file, I brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.
The next thing to deal with was the boat. Even though I’d pushed my shutter speed as high as I thought I could, 1/20 second still left a little motion blur visible. The “Filters / Sharpen / Smart Sharpen” command in Photoshop has a “Remove Motion Blur” option and I’ve found that it works well in situations like this where the direction of motion is known. I used it selectively on a duplicate layer to enhance detail in the boat. Here are before and after crops at 200%. I think it’s a nice improvement:
Next I used layer masks to blend the multiple frames together. I worked carefully around the boat and painted it into the main / second frame. I like a little detail in my shadows instead of a straight silhouette. Since I’d slightly overexposed the first frame (and was careful with noise reduction) I painted some of that into the vegetation. Here’s the first merged result:
The only filter I used on this was Topaz Clarity – I like the way it increases mid-tone contrast without adding halos.
After selective sharpening on a separate layer, I returned to Lightroom for final adjustments (black and white points, vignette, etc) to get the first image in this post.
I struggled some with the cropping. I tried a 16×9 aspect ratio, but because I wanted to keep all the sky, I thought the horizon ended up too close to the center. I decided to keep the original composition since the dark water at the bottom holds my eye in the frame. I might play with it some more.
I like how it turned out and I hope you do too. I also hope the info helps with your photography. If you have any questions on details or other photography related things, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I went over to Viera Wetlands last Saturday. It’s best not to expect too much in the middle of summer in Florida, so my expectations were a little low.
First on the agenda was a stop where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River, near Cocoa, Florida. There’s a park on the north side of the road with a busy boat ramp and a boardwalk reaching a short distance out into the river. The sunrise was pretty – here’s one of the images I made:
Ultra-wide daybreak – Five frame panorama – The resulting horizontal field of view is about 130 degrees.
With the heavy rains we’ve had lately they closed the berms to cars, so we took off on a stroll around the cells closest to the entrance. There were more birds out and about than anticipated.
A very colorful Red bellied Woodpecker
In addition to woodpeckers, we saw and heard a lot of whistling ducks.
Perched Black Bellied Whistling Duck
We also saw many of the regular Florida avians (Tri-colored Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Anhingas, Moorhens, Coots, Black Vultures, etc.). Dragonflies and Alligators were also abundant.
I started with low photographic expectations and ended up coming home with several images I really like. I also got to spend a little time with friends. Once again I was pleasantly surprised by another wonderful Central Florida Photo Op!
Keith H. mentioned that he’d like to visit the Cocoa Pier. I hadn’t been in a while and when I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris, it looked like the sun would rise lined up pretty well with the Pier this week, so we decided to go over. We arrived early hoping for some star photo ops, but thick clouds and lights on the beach limited star visibility. I did manage to capture a planet in this frame:
Venus rising past the pier – The clouds parted for a few moments before dawn
It’s pretty crowded underneath this pier, so the sun alignment wasn’t as big a deal as I hoped. I caught a glimpse of it through the pilings and clouds just after dawn – here’s what it looked like:
Sunrise under the pier – The ship visible in the upper left was a bonus.
On the way, we stopped by Riverfront Park in Cocoa for a sunrise photo. Unfortunately, the sun didn’t cooperate – we didn’t even see it until about a half hour after sunrise! But I thought the fog, boats, and lights were photogenic. The water was very calm – leading to great reflections and very little motion blur even though this is a 13 second exposure due to the dim light.
Foggy morning harbor, Cocoa, Florida, Infrared
After sunrise, we met up with Kevin’s brother Keith. He’s getting into birding and had never been to Viera, so he wanted to join us. When we arrived, we found the road closed to cars because of all the rain we’ve had. We almost always drive and the slower pace and closer view was enjoyable for a change. Walking helped us see many of the warblers hiding in the bushes. I was able to isolate this pretty “butter butt” against a nice non-distracting background:
There were many warblers (mostly Palm Warblers) and Tree Swallows. And just so you know, I think Tree Swallows are one of the hardest birds to photograph. I hardly ever see them sitting still. And they’re so small and fast that photographing them in flight is a very low percentage shot – at least with my equipment. I’ll get a good photo of one someday.
Of course, we also saw many of the usual wading birds and the gators seemed more numerous than normal. I also got to meet one of my Flickr friends (New NewEnglander) who was visiting from up north.
We also drove through the Click Ponds and saw huge numbers of ducks (mostly Green and Blue Winged Teals) and shorebirds, and then headed down the dirt road toward Moccasin Island tract. I’ve been down there a few times before without seeing much. But this time was very interesting and proves that you need to visit someplace over and over to fully appreciate it. We saw what we think was a Merlin fly by, but weren’t quick enough to photograph it. We also spotted several American Kestrels – the first time I’ve seen them in the wild and a real highlight of the trip.
We saw one of the Kestrels engaged with another similar sized bird, but were too far away to make out what going on. It looked like they were actually grappling with each other. Both birds flew away before we got close. Other birds on the road included Sand Hill Cranes and Eastern Phoebes.