Category Archives: Merritt Island NWR

Photography Surprises

sur·prise:
noun: an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing
verb: cause (someone) to feel mild astonishment or shock
synonyms: astonishment, amazement, incredulity, wonder

One reason I like photography is because it often pleasantly surprises me. If you do a search on this blog (https://edrosack.com/?s=surprise). you’ll find I’ve used the word many times. Today I have a couple more examples, so lets discuss photo surprises again.

Jumping fish sunriseJumping fish sunrise

The title of this one gives away the surprise. Of course, it’s not unusual for fish to jump out of the water. I was set up for landscape photography, not wildlife or action and I didn’t notice the fish that morning so I hadn’t tried to time my shutter to include it. When I started processing the photo on my computer I was amazed that my camera recorded the fish (a mullet?) mid jump. I think it adds interest to the photo. A small wonder, but a good one. Here’s a closer look.

Mid-jump Mullet

This second image is a different kind of surprise.

First Light on Wetland WildflowersFirst Light on Wetland Wildflowers

I was on Black Point Wildlife Drive and saw that beautiful light on the clouds. When I got out of the car to make a photo, I noticed those nearby wildflowers and wanted to include them – it was a difficult task. The exposure for the flowers would be very different from the sky. And getting everything in focus in one frame would also be hard. I decided to make three vertical frames (adjusting focus and exposure in each one) and then try blending them together into a single panorama image when I got home.

I wasn’t hopeful.  On top of capture issues, I knew the blending would be hard too. The flowers were very close and would change perspective against the open marsh when the camera moved. And any motion from wind would cause ghosting or other issues. I made the frames anyway – it was worth a try. I didn’t think it would turn out this well – an unexpected success!

You can click on the first and last photos to view larger versions on Flickr.

Changing the subject, Tropical Storm Isaias is heading toward Central Florida. Our skies are blue and cloud free right now. Later today it’s expected to be a lot closer and we might get some strong weather beginning this afternoon. Lynn and I have done our hurricane prep and are hoping it stays out to sea and doesn’t get too bad.  We also hope all of you anywhere near the projected path are prepared too.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some surprising photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 7/16/20

Here are a few photos from a short trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week.  I spent most of my time on Black Point Wildlife Drive.  This first one is a six frame, handheld, infrared,  black & white panorama looking along the road near the entrance just after dawn.

What's around the bend?What’s around the bend?

I heard these Common Nighthawks before I spotted them. Several were calling and flying  near the road about half way around the drive. They’re very fast flyers, erratic and hard to track.  They spend summers in Florida but this is the first time I’ve been able to photograph them – although I’ve heard them and seen them briefly before (over at Lake Louisa).

A nice surpriseA nice surprise

Gators are frequent down here and I don’t often stop to photograph them anymore.  I thought it was worth a snap this time since it was posing nicely and looking at me like I’d make a tasty meal.

Ominous Ominous

Speaking of tasty meals, just up the road from the Alligator, I spotted two of these rabbits foraging in the grass.  I stayed in my car and this one was very cooperative.  But they should really be cautious around that gator!

Enjoying a snackEnjoying a snack – A Marsh Rabbit chowing down on some greens

I had this Osprey perfectly framed – before it took off.  Turns out I was a little too close, which doesn’t happen very often in wildlife photography (at least for me).  Even though I clipped the wings, I still like the image, so I’m including it.

Launch!Launch!

This time of year is very hot and things to see and photograph can be a little sparse.  It’s probably not a popular time to visit BPWD.  I only saw two other people on the drive while I was there.  But I’m glad I I decided to go over.  Even if I hadn’t see anything, a little time out there in nature is a welcome distraction from ‘doomscrolling’ the pandemic.

A few updates – if you go, make sure to check on things before you leave:

  • They’re collecting fees again on BPWD.  
  • Traffic was single lane and slow around some construction on the A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway leading into the refuge.
  • Haulover Bridge on Kennedy Parkway was closed.

Black Point is a marvelous place.  I’ve had many wonderful visits there since I first discovered it (~2007).  It’s just the thing to cure a case of Slow Photography. You can read some other posts about it at this link: https://edrosack.com/?s=bpwd.  And you can look at other photos from there in this Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black and White

Ages ago when I was young and starting out with photography, I used black and white almost exclusively. It was an economic choice, not esthetic. I could buy black and white film cheaply in bulk and do my own processing, which reduced cost substantially.

In today’s digital world I still photograph in black and white, but not exclusively and it’s not an economic choice anymore. Almost every modern digital camera has a black and white mode. And since I shoot in RAW format, I can experiment and choose what my final output will look like long after I press the shutter. There are many reasons to shoot black and white, but here are a couple you may want to think about:

1. Emphasize / reveal different things about a subject
Black (and white) Bird
Black (and white) Bird

The Lightroom B&W panel has sliders for 8 different colors. Converting from RAW can provide a lot more control than choosing the default B&W mode in your camera. When processing this photo, I used this to bring out detail and texture in the Osprey’s feathers, brighten its eye, and darken the sky background.

Osprey B&W mix

Here’s a before and after that compares the color and black and white versions. Which do you like?

Osprey before and after
2. Control harsh light and colors

I like both wildlife and landscape photography. Light is best for landscapes during the golden hours around sunrise and sunset and can be very harsh in the middle of the day. Black and white can help you control this and make a good photo even when the light is harsh. I mostly use my infrared converted camera in black and white mode for this, but a regular camera can also work. Here’s an example of some harsh mid-morning light that I think works well in IR/B&W:

A lonely place
A lonely place

You can see more of my B&W photos in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157625316775091

If you’re looking for an interesting pandemic project, take a look at your image catalog and try converting some to B&W. You might discover many reasons for black and white photography!

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some (B&W) photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 17 June 2020

I wish I knew how to predict what sunrise will be like. But I don’t, so I just show up and see how it’ll turn out. Here’s the first photo I made last Wednesday:

The water is wideThe water is wide

And this next photo is from nearly an hour later. The color and clouds were going strong the whole time!

Rays and reflectionRays and reflection

That daybreak was remarkable. I’ve been out photographing some mornings where the colors only pop for a few moments. And I’ve been out other times where they don’t really pop at all. If any of you know how to predict this kind of thing, I really want to hear from you. If you too want to know, don’t ask me!

Well, our summer season has already arrived here in Central Florida. It’s hot and I was chased by many mosquitoes (and chewed on by a few) as I photographed the sun coming up. I think our recent afternoon thunderstorms have made the bugs worse.

And the birds seem to have moved on, or at least they’re hiding in the places I normally visit. There weren’t many to see along Gator Creek Road or Black Point Wildlife Drive. I did stop by the Green Heron nests that I bypassed on my last visit (https://edrosack.com/2020/05/17/minwr-11-may-2020/). I didn’t see any nesting activity, but this cooperative young one was still hanging around.

YoungsterYoungster – This juvenile Green Heron has fledged and is out in the world fending for itself

And here’s one final image – a panorama of some trees that I thought were interesting in infrared.

Pines and palmettosPines and palmettos

Changing the subject again – I hope all Dads out there are having a wonderful Fathers Day! Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!

“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.” Lydia M. Child

I miss you Dad. I hope we made you as proud as our families make us.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 11 May 2020

Like most of you, it’s been two months since I’ve been any distance from home.  I’ve kept making photos on walks in our neighborhood, in our yard, or along the way on necessary trips around town. But I’ve been itching to go out on a photo specific excursion and now our stay at home orders have been relaxed here in Florida.  So last Monday I drove over on a solo trip to check out Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite nature locations.

I made two circuits around Black Point Wildlife Drive.  I looked for sunrise spots and landscapes on the first pass. I might’ve seen a more colorful dawn than this one, but not recently.  And the calm winds made for a lovely reflection.

Tranquil bayTranquil bay – Along Black Point Wildlife Drive, about 15 minutes before sunrise.

On the second pass I scouted for wildlife / birds.  I didn’t see a tremendous number, but there were enough to make it interesting.

A little spottyA little spotty: Spotted Sandpiper and reflection.  I was happy to find this one since I seldom see them.

There was a feeding frenzy in one of the canals along Black Point.  Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons and Ibis were feeding on plentiful minnows.  The location was really nice  since it was next to a path where I could walk out to get a better angle on the action. Often when I find these, they’re far away or hidden behind mangroves and hard to photograph.

Got one!Got one!  A Snowy Egret catches a minnow.

If you click on any of these photos, you’ll be able to see a larger image on  Flickr.  You can then click again to enlarge it even more.  Look at the Snowy Egret’s beak to see the minnow it caught in that splash.

Green Heron fly byGreen Heron fly by

Speaking of Green Herons, there were three cars pulled over when I went around the corner at the rest stop on BPWD.  People were out and gathered by the canal photographing something I couldn’t see back in the mangroves.  In “olden” times, you could find a lot of interesting things by stopping next to other photographers.  You still can I suppose, but  now days I’m a little pandemic paranoid and getting too close to people can make me nervous. I passed up this stop and kept going – I learned later that they were looking at Green Heron nests.  I have to say though that MINWR seems about as safe as you can get.  It’s not hard to maintain social distancing by staying in your car and choosing  where to get out.

The next image is from a little later on Gator Creek Road.  At the time, I just liked the scene / composition with two birds on one rock.  I didn’t realize what I had until I got home and looked at it on the computer.

Sharin' StoneSharin’ Stone – Hopefully, I identified these correctly: A Semipalmated Plover on the left and a Semipalmated Sandpiper on the right. If so, it’s my first photo of both species. Two life birds in one image!

Which reminds me that I’ve wanted to mention an app.  It’s called Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Labs and it’s very good at identifying birds using photos.  It seems to be very accurate and complete.  And it’s free!  It called out the species in this photo for me (but I did ask my friend Kevin M’s. opinion too).

I saw other things on this trip too.  Alligators (of course), an opposum, Black Neck Stilts, Roseate Spoonbills and more.  One thing I didn’t see: the rock stacks on Gator Creek Road are gone – yay!

MINWR was a very good choice for my first post lockdown photo trip.  I was tired when I got back, but I felt rejuvenated.  I’m very lucky that I can find many of my favorite photo subjects so close to home.  And last Monday at least, they weren’t collecting fees on BPWD.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Hang in there, stay safe, and take care of each other.  And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunrise Reflections and Fishing Ospreys

With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it?  But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.

Gator Creek MirrorGator Creek Mirror

I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive.  When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left.  I’m very glad I did.

As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance.  I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket.  I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise.  They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.

Osprey catch sequence 1Osprey catch sequence 1

They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek.  I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing.  They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting  toward the water.

Osprey catch sequence 2Osprey catch sequence 2

The splash was huge and things were happening very fast.  It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.

Osprey catch sequence 3Osprey catch sequence 3

That looks like a Spotted-seatrout to me (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/drums/spotted-seatrout/). Those are great eating.  We used to fish for them in Mosquito Lagoon when we lived in Port Orange

I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch.  It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild.  My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens.  Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!

You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.  You can also visit these related Flick albums:

On a side note:  I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites.  Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.

I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Isolation

Anyone can snap a photo.  As photographers, we choose subjects and then compose frames around them so a viewer’s eyes are drawn to what we want them to see.  One thing to think about when we’re out with our cameras is how to isolate the subjects in our images.

Scan the scene when shooting – look for distracting elements and get rid of them.  How?  Sometimes you can’t, but here are some suggestions.

Viewpoint:  Shift a few feet one way or another to hide things.  There’s a much less attractive mailbox just out of the frame below on the left.

A Mailbox on Joe Overstreet RoadA Mailbox on Joe Overstreet Road

Magnification:  We never have enough zoom, do we?  Use what you do have to get close and separate subjects from clutter.  You can also crop later on the computer, but you’ll risk losing some image quality / resolution.

A good morning for a songA good morning for a song – singing Eastern Meadowlark. Joe Overstreet Road

Light:  Sometimes the light is just right to make your subject stand out from the background – take advantage of it!  This can be modified a bit in post processing too.

Shy birdShy bird – A Roseate Spoonbill in the light. Black Point Wildlife Drive

Depth of Field (DOF):  In addition to getting as close as you can and using a long focal length, shooting with a wide open aperture creates a shallower DOF and blurs the background behind your subject.  You may need to shift your position a bit to insure that the entire subject (e.g. both the insect and the bird) are in the plane of focus.

Butcher BirdButcher Bird – Loggerhead Shrikes often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or barbed wire.  Joe Overstreet Road

Color:  Catching your subject against a contrasting color can help it stand out.  These American White Pelicans with their yellow beaks were very nice to pose for me in the blue water.

American White PelicansAmerican White Pelicans. Black Point Wildlife Drive

So that’s a few ideas. If you think about this when you’re out, your photos will improve. Do you have any other suggestions?  Feel free to add them in the comments.

And speaking of isolation, Lynn and I are both generally in good health (thankfully!).  But the CDC says we’re at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus due to our ages.  We’re going to follow their recommendations and stay up to date on developments.

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Leave no trace

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”  — Si’ahl (Seattle), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes

Beginning with my very first adventures out in nature, I’ve always been taught to leave no trace.  And so I was startled and then a little sad when I saw these along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about a week ago.

Rock stacksRock stacks

I’ve seen rock stacks (or rock cairns) before, just not in MINWR.  I guess I also noticed that stacking rocks (and posting photos of them on social media) has become a thing.  People shouldn’t do this anywhere, and when they start doing it in one of my favorite places, it’s time to speak up.

I looked through my image archives for another photo from near the same spot and found this one from back in 2013 that I never processed or posted before. It’s looking in a different direction, and it shows rocks where they should be.  It’s worth a click to view a larger version.

Gator Creek panoGator Creek pano

There are of course, legitimate reasons for building rock cairns and different National Parks have different rules. See this NPS page: https://www.nps.gov/articles/rockcairns.htm.  However, it’s always wrong to tamper, add to, or build unauthorized cairns in national parks.

I couldn’t find anywhere on-line that specifically says rock stacking is prohibited at MINWR.  Even if it’s not against the rules – it’s still ethically, morally, and environmentally wrong.  And it’s rude and selfish.  Don’t do it.

Always follow the Leave No Trace guidelines when you’re out enjoying nature. Always.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  — Aldo Leopold, American ecologist and environmentalist

Sorry for the rant today.  The longer I thought about this, the more it bothered me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, but don’t stack any rocks!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 12/26/19

Twas the morning after Christmas*

Twas the morning after Christmas, as I left the house – I tried to be quiet and not wake my spouse.

I drove to the refuge through the long winter’s night. To get there and catch the first morning light.

On the pier by the causeway, it was all blue and gold. Lovely start to the day with colors so bold.

Dawn by the causeway and the pierDawn by the causeway and the pier

To Black Point next – a wonderful place.  Drive slow or you’ll miss things with too fast a pace.

Dawn on Black Point Wildlife DriveDawn on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!

Male Belted KingfisherMale Belted Kingfisher

A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.

Female Hooded Merganser wing flapFemale Hooded Merganser wing flap

An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.

Eye of the gatorEye of the gator

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  A pretty pink spoonbill wading quite near.

SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill

Other birds to the refuge, they also came.  It’s wonderful to see them and call them by name.

Now Ospreys, Shovelers, Pelicans and all,

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

White Pelican PodWhite Pelican Pod

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat Blue Heron portrait

Now Terns, teals, willets, eagles and more, so many birds along the shore.

Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall – stay for a while, don’t fly away all!

As I left the refuge and it left my sight, I thought “HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Merritt Island morningMerritt Island morning

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful holiday season.  Cherish your time with friends and family and don’t forget to make some photos with them!

And have a very Happy New year too!!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Look in the mirror

Generally (and especially in Florida) clouds are good for landscape photos.  And when  water is part of your composition (like it often is here), wind can add interesting motion effects to longer exposures. If you can’t use those two elements in your images, can you still make landscapes?  Of course, but you may need to use mirrors!

Mangrove Mirror 1Mangrove Mirror 1.  Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.

Our winter weather fronts bring cooler temperatures and often very clear skies to Central Florida.  And winds can be especially calm in the early morning.  When I run into situations like this, I don’t put my camera away.  Instead I watch for mangrove trees and other reflections.

Mangrove Mirror 2Mangrove Mirror 2.  Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.

Compositions that minimize the sky and maximize the patterns their branches and roots make in the glassy water appeal to me.

Mangrove Mirror 3Mangrove Mirror 3

How do you approach landscape photography at daybreak, when the wind is dead calm and the clouds are few and far away?

You can view many more of my Florida Landscape images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157646280743144.  And please click on the photos in these blog posts to view them in higher resolution on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, and don’t forget to look in the mirror!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved