Category Archives: MINWR

Trouble in post-process land

I found this scene while driving down Biolab Road along the Indian River in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago.  The composition with three posts and a full complement of Cormorants caught my attention.  I really liked the graphical layout. But…

Three CormorantsThree Cormorants

I was shooting into the sun and the light was incredibly bright and harsh.  I struggled with the image and processed it two or three times without coming up with anything that I was happy with.

Then I vaguely recalled this photo that I made 10 years ago.

FishingFishing

I dug it out of my Lightroom archives and remembered how much I liked the image. It’s from about the same location and in very similar conditions. I used it to guide my post processing decisions and the result is the the image at the top.

I guess the moral of this story is that you can find inspiration from many places – even from your younger self.  Which seems like a very good thing.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Another Central Florida Morning

I decided to wander over towards Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Friday.  My shutter finger was itching and I had to get a camera out and scratch it.  I was running a little late and wouldn’t have made it to the coast for sunrise, so I stopped at C S Lee Park on the St. Johns River on my way.  Nature provided quite a show.

Another Central Florida MorningAnother Central Florida Morning

I don’t know what this effect is called –  when the sun just kisses the cloud bottoms and leaves  higher clouds darker and less colorful.  I don’t see it often enough.  Maybe that’s because it only lasts for such a short time.  According to my EXIF data, I made this image in the middle of a 2-3 minute window and the colorful streaks were much less prominent just before and after.  Whenever I do see this, I’m happy to make a photo!

The Jolly Gator Fish Camp Bar & Grill is next to the park, right across a shallow water filled area from where I made the sunrise photo.  I liked the reflection and symmetry and made this image before I moved on.  I’ve never actually been inside this place.  Maybe I’ll talk Lynn into going there for lunch with me.

Jolly Gator Fish Camp & GrillJolly Gator Fish Camp & Grill

MINWR has a web page you can check for road closures.  Currently, it won’t do you much good –  info on Gator Creek, Biolab, and Black Point is all out of date.  Last Friday, Gator Creek and Biolab Roads were open.  They’ve been re-surfaced and are in good shape.  And Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed due to the amount of rain we’ve had recently.  I hope they keep the road closures page more current.  I sent them a note.

I didn’t have much luck with birds or wildlife on this trip.  So I’ll leave you with two more scenic photos.

Lone Pine and Clouds at DawnLone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (color version)

This tree is along the left side of the road leading into the Bairs Cove boat ramp.  The combination of early morning light, a lone pine tree, and the clouds in the background stopped me in my tracks.  I made this image and the last one out my car window.  Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  With these two photos, you can see how the infra-red sensor renders light compared to an unmodified camera.

Lone Pine and Clouds at DawnLone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (IR, B&W version)

I’ve collected other photos from the St. Johns River in this album on Flickr and from Merritt Island in this one.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – May 8, 2018

Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday.  The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph.  Here are some images from the trip that I like.

Hunter's DanceHunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh

These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish.  It seems to work for them!

Morning minnow mealMorning minnow meal

Green Herons use a different technique.  This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.

Stalking in the MangrovesStalking in the Mangroves

And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.

Great Egret LaunchGreat Egret Launch

This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  My Black Point photos are collected in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437.  And you can read more blog posts about Black Point at this link:  https://edrosack.com/tag/bpwd/.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

Once in a while, conditions are just right.  Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed.  When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you –  count your blessings!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • The birds all compete for food.  Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
  • Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers.  Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
  • They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond.  Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
  • When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images.  After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
  • As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
  • You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc.  And conditions change rapidly.  Set up your camera in advance and be nimble.  I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed.  It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high.  You’ll need  1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
  • A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments.  I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
  • Your  “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to.  But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like.  Practice when you can and you’ll get better.

Landing IbisLanding Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one.  But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either.  I’m still practicing!

It’s not all about birds in flight.  Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.

On the banks of the pondOn the banks of the pond.  I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.

That was a wonderful morning.  I’m glad I was able to see all the action.  Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:

Dawn at the dock on the Indian RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island & Blog Status

First an announcement:  If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.

And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status  / news following the Merritt Island photo update.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning.  I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island.   We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.

Pre-dawn at the marina - TitusvillePre-dawn at the marina – Titusville.  Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama

Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway.  From there you can  shoot through the bridge toward sunrise.  I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.

Dawn through the bridgeDawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama

After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.  There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice.  I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.

Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallowsRoseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows

Hooded Merganser (female)Hooded Merganser (female)

We also saw (among others):  American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more.  We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.

Enough of the pleasant content.  Now on to the agonizing stuff.

Blog status  / news

It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ.  Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.

There’s good and bad news.  Good news:  The blog is mostly back up.  And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him.  Bad news:  He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.

I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up .  My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees  and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive.  And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.

I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans.  Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.

It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan.  The rest of the process wasn’t as easy.  Here are some of the issues I ran into:

  • Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me.  They didn’t.  I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect.  A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
  • Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy.  I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account.  I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
  • Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers.  This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration).  The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
  • Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability.  This was easy and I now have an https connection.  My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them.  But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
  • I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation.  I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin.  It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing  this.  Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default.  I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
  • Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them.  In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once.  Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it.  Whew!  It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
  • Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin  to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over.  In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages.  I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work.  Please check them out if you get a chance!
  • And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months!  This stuff is just too hard!
  • The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was  unable to use Jetpack’s  subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request.  Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed.  If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe.  Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.

Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Look, all around you!

When you’re out, don’t get too locked in on your subject.  Make sure you’re always aware of other things around you.  They might be photogenic too!

The dawn was dressed in pale pastelsThe dawn was dressed in pale pastels along the Indian River

I already had my sunrise images on my memory card and thought I was good to go –  just waiting for a friend to finish up.  But then I looked across the calm water and noticed a boat anchored near the far shore.  The sky colors were unusual and lovely.  I set my tripod up again and made this photo.  It’s a good reminder:  We have to keep looking in all directions and not put the camera away until we’re leaving a place.  Beauty is all around us.  Let’s pay attention!

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – 18 Nov 2017

Kevin M., Kevin K., and I went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning. We stopped by the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise photos.

Heading outHeading out

Then we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The water there is very high and although wildlife numbers might be a bit below average, there’s great variety with both  normal residents and winter visitors present.

A ternery panoramaA ternery pano – Caspian Terns and a Sandpiper in a four frame panorama

We saw Green, Blue, Great Blue,  and Tri-colored Herons, Reddish, Snowy, and Great Egrets, a Roseate Spoonbill, Sandpipers, Caspian Terns, Belted Kingfishers, Blue Wing Teals, Coots,  Ospreys, a Bald Eagle, Savannah Sparrows,  White Pelicans, Gulls, Vultures, an Alligator, and probably others I missed.  A person we talked to at the rest stop had just seen a bittern.

Reddish EgretReddish Egret

My friend Jim Boland reported seeing a Red Headed Duck, Northern Pintails, Blue Winged Teal, American Wigeons, and Northern Shovelers on BPWD in his newsletter* last Monday.  We didn’t see that many – I suspect they were out there, just hidden.  We heard hunters making a lot of noise throughout the morning and I bet the ducks are skittish.

If you’ve held off visiting MINWR or BPWD because you were uneasy about hurricane damage and lack of wildlife – stop worrying.  The place is rapidly getting back to normal and there’s every reason to get out there and witness some of Central Florida’s beauty.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

*By the way: If you want to subscribe to Jim’s newsletter, send him an email at jasboland01@gmail.com

Black Point Wildlife Drive is open again!

Yay! Jim Boland’s newsletter let us know that they’ve reopened Black Point so when Tom M. asked if I wanted to go out photographing I suggested we head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We met early Friday morning and drove over on State Road 50.

St. Johns River at dawnSt. Johns River at dawn

Our first stop was at the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. It’s a pretty place at dawn and the view was different this time since the water is several feet higher than I’ve ever seen it. Lots of rain here recently.

Once at the refuge, we headed straight to Black Point. The water there is a little higher than I’ve ever seen it too. The road surface was in great shape – I didn’t see any damage remaining from the hurricane.

Spiders and webs were very common. This one had set up in some great early morning light.

Banana SpiderBanana Spider – A little early for Halloween!

Some of our winter migrants are starting to show up and our regular birds were around, but not in great numbers. Belted Kingfishers teased us, and there were a few Savannah Sparrows foraging near the road.

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow

We didn’t see too many ducks. I’m not sure if they just haven’t come down yet, or if they’re somewhere else.

We thought we spotted another Kingfisher over the canal on the right by the paved section near the exit. It was about the right size and seemed to fly like a Kingfisher. But then it landed in a tree and started acting like a Woodpecker – perched on the side of the main trunk and hopping around. I was pretty far away but took several photos anyway. When I got home and looked closely I didn’t recognize the bird. Kevin M. helped me ID it as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (another new life bird for me!). Unfortunately, the photos aren’t very good so I haven’t posted them. Maybe next time I can catch it closer in better light. It seems like I’m always saying that!

One more thing: We met a woman at the rest area on the drive who’d just seen a Bobcat. She was patiently waiting to see if she could get a better photo. We left before we found out if she was successful. I’ve seen a Bobcat out there before, but it was further along, not near the Rest Area. If you go, keep your eyes open!

I have many more Black Point photos in this folder on Flickr. I’m glad it didn’t suffer too much damage from Hurricane Irma and it’s open again.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

One and Two and One, Two, Three

Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday.  I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy.  Some things didn’t fare too well:

Wreck at Markers 1 and 2Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway 

I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way.  Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.

I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal.  It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife.  I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.

One PelicanOne Pelican

Two ManateesTwo Manatees

Three DolphinsThree Dolphins

They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now.  I need to go back there and kayak again.  It is going to cool off soon I hope!

There were a few shore birds along the causeway.  I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Black Point and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage.  I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage:  https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811

For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title.  I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist.  I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Three things

Three more or less unrelated things to discuss today…

1. Image Stabilization

I’ve used Olympus micro four thirds cameras for a while and I’ve watched their capabilities get better and better.  Their latest image stabilization is truly amazing – Olympus claims five to six stops.  This means that if you can normally shoot at 1/100 second handheld without inducing camera shake blur, then with IS, you may be able to shoot at 1/3 to 1/2 second.  Truly a huge difference, as long as subject motion blur is not a problem.

Rapidan RiverRapidan River – This is the view just behind President Herbert Hoover’s cabin at the Rapidan camp retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains.

The settings on this photo are: focal length equivalent of 28mm, ISO 64, f/8, at 0.5 seconds, handheld.  Using the (1/focal length) rule of thumb, I should have exposed this at 1/30 sec to prevent camera shake.  But I wanted to use a slower shutter speed to blur the moving water.  With IS turned on in camera, I could hand hold at a half second and still keep all the non-moving rocks, etc. completely sharp in the frame.  And I like the way the water looks.

It’s a nice option to have if you don’t bring your tripod.

2. Workflow Experiments

I recently bought an SSD (solid state device) disk.  The main advantage of these is that they’re faster than spinning hard drives.  I wanted to speed up my photo processing workflow.  So I moved my 2017 image file directory and my Lightroom catalog to this drive and sure enough, Lightroom does seem faster.

But then it occurred to me that when I travel, I can  take the SSD with me on the road and use it with my laptop.  All I have to do is add a folder for the images from the trip.  When I get home I can just move it back to my desktop computer and any work that I’ve done on the road will come across with the SSD.  I won’t have to export / import, etc.  This should definitely save time when I get back.

There are some things to be careful of.  I’m backing up the SSD drive using Apple’s Time Machine in case there are any glitches with the SSD.  And I’ve had to re-arrange the image folders across the different disks and tell Lightroom where everything is.  I also need to make sure that preferences and presets are all accounted for.

After a week or so, it all seems to work ok.  I’ll let you know if I discover any other gotchas.  If you have questions about this setup, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer.

3.  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge update

You may remember this blog post from March:  http://edrosack.com/2017/03/19/morning-glory/.  I posted a photo then of cracked mud on the bottom of a dried out pool.

I haven’t been back recently, and when my friend Howard T. wanted to try out a new camera, we decided to see what’s going on over there.  I’m happy to report that the water is back to normal (or even a bit high).  I can’t really recommend it for wildlife photography yet – the birds and animals still seem to mostly be elsewhere.  Maybe they’ll read this blog and return when they find out conditions have improved.

Black Point Wildlife Drive – The drought has eased – there was a lot of water there last week.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved