Category Archives: Orlando Wetlands

Orlando Wetlands and B&W Conversion Software

Here are three photos I made at Orlando Wetlands Park last Thursday morning.

Waiting for sunrise at Lake Searcy
Waiting for sunrise at Lake Searcy

My favorite program for converting images to black and white is the Nik Silver Efex Pro plug-in.  I wanted to try a new one called “Tonality” by Macphun software.  I processed these next two photos in both programs so I could compare results.

Cypress and calm water
Cypress and calm water

Clear and very calm
Clear and very calm

Tonality is an exceptionally complete B&W conversion program with lots of presets and sliders to play with.  It also has some built-in capabilities you might not expect such as layers, gradients, and selective edits.  These come in handy when you want to combine several conversions without going through layers in Photoshop.  Silver Efex Pro’s control points provide some of the same selective edit capability, but for me, the Tonality controls are more flexible.  Tonality also has lens blur and glow simulations  and the ability to blend in texture patterns.  Lots of presets, options, and control!

I noticed that the clarity control in Tonality sometimes resulted in halos that I has to tone down.  But I found that overall I preferred the Tonality result over the Silver Efex version for these two photos.  I don’t know if this will hold up long-term, since I’m pretty sure you can achieve very similar results with either one.  I’m going to keep playing with it and see.

By the way, Tonality is Mac only, Silver Efex runs on both Mac and PC.   There are free trial versions you can download, so check them out yourself and see what you think.

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

Orlando Wetlands Park, 16 August 2014

After the trip to Maine, I was looking forward to getting back out and photographing here in Florida.  So it was up early (not as early as Cadillac Mountain!) and out the door to meet Tom M. at Orlando Wetlands before dawn last Saturday.

Nature foiled our sunrise plans and instead served up some semisolid, soupy fog for our photo enjoyment.

Foggy morning 1
Misty morning 1

And we did enjoy it.  It was interesting looking for compositions in the mist and trying to find foreground objects to add some definition to the photos.  I like the one above but after looking at it on the computer, I wish I’d moved a bit to separate the near and far grass on the left.  I didn’t see the overlap when I made the photo.

It took a while for the sun to burn through the fog.  That gave us time to try several different places.  I thought the south shore of Lake Searcy and the southwest corner of cell 16A were very photogenic.  I especially liked the light on the close leaves in this scene.

Foggy morning 2
Misty morning 2

Discovering beauty in unexpected places or situations is one of the addictive things about photography.  Sunrises shouldn’t all be super saturated.

New subject:  The Lake Jesup flowers will begin blooming at the end of September.  Here’s a link to my post about last year’s flowers, with much more info on them.  Make your plans now!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Whether the Weather

I usually always leave early on photo expeditions so I can get somewhere in time to catch sunrise.  I have many sunrise photos collected in this set on Flickr.  

Lately, sunrise and I haven’t been getting along.  I show up faithfully, but sunrise doesn’t.  It’ll send its friend fog instead.  Or it’ll come dressed in plain, clear sky attire instead of its fancy, colorful cloud costume.  Or I’ll get frustrated and sleep in, and sunrise puts on a show without me.  I don’t think it likes me anymore.

Marina reflections
Marina reflections – Fog at the Titusville Marina. Panorama, looking east, just before sunrise.

Rock n dawn
Rock n dawn – clear skies at daybreak.  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Orlando Wetlands Park
Orlando Wetlands Pano – I slept in on this morning and showed up at the park after sunrise when this front was coming through.  I bet it was really nice before I got there.

Well, seriously – I am a bit frustrated that I haven’t captured a good sunrise in a while.   But I know the weather and my luck will change eventually.  And I enjoy getting out and seeing different things even when the sunrise isn’t at its prettiest.

There are a few things I do to try to maximize my chances with the weather.  Persistence is probably the best solution.  The more I go out photographing, the better my chances are of catching a good scene.  And software can help.  My main weather site is Weather Underground.  I usually look at their hourly forecast with precipitation probabilities and cloud cover predictions.  On my phone, I use Mycast and Dark Sky.  Mycast has pretty good forecasts and I can look at IR clouds on its Map tab to see cloud cover even when it’s dark.  The Dark Sky app has excellent short-term predictions – especially about rain.  I also sometimes use Clear Sky Chart.  It’s mainly an astronomy site, but does offer very good cloud cover predictions.

So yes, my relationship with sunrise photography hasn’t been the greatest lately.  But I’m working on it.  I’m sure we’ll eventually get back together.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being outdoors and seeing whatever develops.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Central Florida Summer Sights

One of the great things about photography is that it gets you up and out there. You may not see anything if you go – but if you don’t go you definitely won’t ever see anything.  Here are a few photos of what I saw around Central Florida this week.

I made this first one about a half hour before dawn along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The low tide had uncovered these rocks, so I used my ultra wide-angle, rectilinear lens and lowered my tripod to emphasize them.  This is a single exposure, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I also tried out the new Topaz Clarity filter.  It seems to do a good job enhancing contrast without introducing halos.

Quiet morning
Quiet morning

The word “parhelion” comes from the Greek for “beside the sun”.  They’re also called sundogs and are always 22 degrees away from and at the same elevation as the sun.  They’re most visible when the sun is low and the sky is darker – dawn or dusk.  I like to watch for them and I thought it was nice of this kayaker to pose with one for me.  I was lucky that I’d already shifted to my long lens to make bird photos.  I needed the reach for this composition.

Early start
Early start – Kayak fisherman paddling underneath a sundog.

There were several dolphins also fishing in this area.  I could see the fish jumping and the dolphins seemed to catch a lot of them.

Fishing Dolphin
Fishing Dolphin

I stopped by Orlando Wetlands Park briefly and it was very scenic despite the cloud cover.  I liked the pathways the birds made through the vegetation in this scene.

Morning marsh
Morning marsh – A cloudy morning in Orlando Wetlands, just after dawn

This time of year, there’s not as much bird activity as in the spring.  Orlando Wetlands was pretty quiet and so was MINWR.  But there are still some regulars around and it’s nice to watch their antics.

Killdeer nest on the ground.  When a predator gets close, they pretend to have a broken wing and try to draw the predator away from the nest.  I watched this one perform and when it finished it turned around to peek back at me and check if it was working.  It did – I didn’t bother its nest.

Killdeer checks me out
Killdeer checks me out

I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the remains of this dock on the right side of the causeway leading into MINWR – but I never noticed it before.  When I was leaving the other day, I finally saw it.  It was a quick thing, almost subconscious.  I actually drove on by before I processed what I saw and turned around.  I’m very glad I stopped – it doesn’t look like it will last much longer.  By the  time I made this photo, the light was pretty bright.  I used a neutral density filter to slow down my shutter speed and tried several focal lengths / compositions.  I like this one the best.  A B&W conversion using Nik Silver Effects seemed to fit the scene.  In the future, I need to be more observant.  What else is out there I’ve missed?

Old dock
Old dock

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  And you can see more from Merritt Island in this set on Flickr, and from Orlando Wetlands in this set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – get up, get out there, be observant, and make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando Wetlands Park – February 7, 2013

Orlando Wetlands Park is closed from November 15th through January 31st each year.  Now that it’s open again, Keith H., Tom M. and I went by this week to see how things are at one of our favorite locations.

Sunrise was nice, although I was late getting there and missed some pre-dawn color.  Note to self:  Always arrive at least a half hour before sunrise.

Lake Searcy Sunrise
Lake Searcy Sunrise 1 – Lake Searcy is on the right as you walk in from the parking area.  It’s scenic and usually very calm, with lots of cypress and palms.   I liked the way the sun glow came around the palm trees.

Since I had my IR camera with me and the clouds were so awesome, I made this panorama to get as wide a capture as possible.

Lake Searcy Sunrise
Lake Searcy Sunrise 2 – This is a Black and White, Infrared, Panorama.  Sometimes IR can really bring out the detail in clouds.

We saw many of the normal birds including Coots, Snowy and Great Egrets, Little Blue and Great Blue Herons, Blue-winged Teals, Anhingas, Red-shouldered Hawks, and others.  I also saw what I’m pretty sure were several Common or Wilson’s Snipes, although these birds are extremely wary and fly off at the first sign you’re looking at them (worse even than Belted Kingfishers!) so I didn’t get a positive ID.  There’s been two Vermillion Flycatchers reported again this year on the far end of the park and one seems to come closer than usual.  If you haven’t seen this bird, it’s worth a visit all by itself.

We also saw either a small bobcat or large house cat on the walk in, but it was too dim to be sure.

You can also see more photos from OWP in this set on Flickr.  And I have many older posts about this place  – you can look through them from this link.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Moody dawn at Orlando Wetlands

I got up early and went to Orlando Wetlands Park last Friday.  This time I walked west from the parking area along the berm parallel to Wheeler road.

Even when the sunrise isn’t very colorful, it’s still nice to get out and see it.  It’s also more of a challenge to photograph.

Swampy sunrise
Swampy sunrise

This stand of dead trees in cell 2 drew my attention.  They looked spooky, and I used the infrared camera to help bring this out.

Swampy dawn
Haunted Marsh at dawn

You can see more photos of Orlando Wetlands in this set on Flickr.

Note to email subscribers:  I’ve had trouble with the widget that emails blog entries as they’re posted.  I’m debugging it, but in the mean time you may have missed a post or two.  Please visit the blog to catch up.

Note to all readers:  My main computer is suffering and I’m taking it in for service.  So my photo processing and blog entries will impaired for a bit.  Thanks for your patience.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

"How do you get your sky to look like that?" and "Do we still need HDR?"

A couple of people asked me interesting questions recently.  I don’t have final answers but I do have opinions.  And sometimes opinions are more interesting than answers.  Or at least more fun.

1. How do you get your skies to look like that?

Sky, clouds, star, calm
Sky, clouds, star, calm, reflections – Orlando Wetlands Park at dawn.

Short answer:  “It depends.”

Longer answer:  There is no concise response to this.  First of all, it depends on the sky.  You have to have something to start with.  Second it depends on your tastes as an artist.

I own and use a variety of software.

What I use depends on the subject, composition and capture technique.  Since the sun was in this scene, I captured it as a 7 shot bracket.  In Lightroom, I set the camera profile to neutral, color balance to daylight,  enabled lens corrections, and copied those settings to all 7 photos.  Then I exported to Nik HDR Efex 2, chose a pre-set, and tweaked it to more or less match how I remembered the scene.  I brought the result into Photoshop CS6  and used Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to neutralize the whites and add detail, followed by Topaz Star Effects on the sun. I usually apply these in layers or as smart objects in Photoshop so I can vary the transparency and control the strength of each one, or even brush it out on parts of the image. I then finished in Lightroom with some exposure, sharpening, and Hue / Saturation / Luminosity tweaks to get this result.

So basically I try things and adjust to taste.  There’s more than one way to do this.  That’s part of the fun.  You’ll have to build up some experience with the capabilities of each piece of your software so you can adjust to your tastes.

2. With the new capabilities available in cameras and raw conversion software, do we still need to use High Dynamic Range imaging techniques?

Sunrise flowers
Sunrise flowers – Orlando Wetlands Park at dawn.

Short answer: “Not as much.”

Longer answer:  Read on.

DxOMark says that the Nikon D800 has a dynamic range of 14.4 Evs. This is under laboratory conditions using their measurement techniques. Can you achieve this in real world? No, but using a camera like this really does give you tremendous dynamic range.

The latest versions of Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera Raw software provide enormous adjustment ranges for exposure, highlight and shadow recovery, even for older cameras. This improves your ability to get more out of your RAW images. By the way, you might want to re-process some of your favorites to see how much better they can look.  You have been capturing in RAW format and saving your originals, haven’t you?

Other techniques such as graduated neutral density filters or fill flash can cut the dynamic range the camera sees – although depending on the scene, their use can be problematic.  In this photo the horizon isn’t flat, and I didn’t want to overwhelm the morning light on the flower with flash.

My opinion: In some situations, we don’t need to use HDR anymore.  I may have been able to get this output with one  exposure, but it’s probably on the edge of what’s possible with just a single image. I chose to shoot a 5 image bracket and I’m glad I did. The bright sky combined with the lighting on the flower (with part in shade) made me very glad I had the bracket. Could I have come close with a single image? Maybe. Was it easier with a 5 shot bracket? Oh yeah.

For now, I’ll continue to bracket when I see a broad dynamic range / high contrast scene. Better safe than sorry. And I’m also going to save my RAW files – who knows what software advances are coming next?  Now, where can I get a bigger hard disk?

What do you think?  How do you get your sky to look the way it does?  Do you shoot HDR?

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Persistence – Orlando Wetlands Park, 7/13/12

In last week’s post, I described a trip to Orlando Wetlands Park and talked about making do in the face of bad luck.  I grumbled about a locked gate and the plain sunrise.  Well –  Friday the 13th came with a bit more dawn photo fortune.

I went back out yesterday morning to try again and persistence paid off.  Not only was the gate open when I arrived a little after 6am, but the sky was shaping up nicely.

Lake Searcy before dawn (IR false color, panorama)
Lake Searcy before dawn (infrared false color, panorama)

I made this first image just a few minutes before dawn.  It’s a handheld 6 shot panorama using my IR modified Olympus E-PL1 that I stitched together in Photoshop.  When I do this, I always try to hold my camera in portrait orientation.  That gives me a lot more pixels in the resulting composite (30+ megapixels in this case).

I stayed around for a while and really enjoyed watching the sunrise develop.   The image below is from about a 1/2 hour later.  This time I didn’t use the IR camera since I wanted a different look.

Lake Searcy sunrise (Orlando Wetlands Park, Christmas, Florida)
Lake Searcy sunrise – This was about a half hour after the previous photo.

I like them both, and comparing them with the ones I made last week – I think they’re better.  It’s nice when the sky cooperates!

We can use this to emphasize a photo lesson I’ve mentioned before.  We can’t all live in Yellowstone or Yosemite.  But we all live somewhere and there are pretty places where we live.  Get to know your area and be persistent.  Re-visit locations at different times, on different days, in different seasons, and in different weather.  You’ll get some photos that a visitor will have to be very, very lucky to get.  As Stephen  Stills said:  “Love the one you’re with“.

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Make do – Orlando Wetlands Park, 7 July, 2012

I talked Keith H. into meeting me at Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday for some dawn photography.  We planned to arrive early so we could get to a good place and set up before the sun rose.  Plans don’t always go the way you want.

I’ve been to OWP many times before.  Their posted hours are “sunrise to sunset”  and although they do try to close the gate right at sunset, it’s always been open when I arrive before dawn.  When we got there yesterday around 6am, it was still locked.  I don’t know if this is a new thing or the ranger just over slept.  We waited a while, but finally decided to make a few photos in the pasture on the opposite side of the road.  I found this old campfire circle.  I was hoping for a bit more sky color, but it never really developed.  I still like the image and the cows were interesting (and interested).

Curious cows and old camp fire
Curious cows and old camp fire: I don’t think these cows had ever seen a photographer before. They watched very carefully as I made this photo in the pasture across from the entrance to Orlando Wetlands Park.

By the way, if you’re new to Florida, you have to be careful about where you step when you’re exploring a pasture.  I’m not talking about just cow patties.  We also have fire ants and walking through one of their mounds could result in some nasty bites.  Please be careful.

When we finished in the pasture, the OWP gate was open and we went in so I could show Keith the area they cleared out last winter (were we originally planned to go).  This post has a photo of roughly the same area as it used to look.  There’s fewer reeds and less growth near shore and they’ve removed a lot of clutter from the center – leaving some nicely isolated cypress trees.  He and I agree that it’s more photogenic now.  If I can only get there on a morning with a nice sky…

Early morning reflections
Early morning reflections: This area would be even prettier with a nice sunrise behind it.

Early morning reflections (IR B&W)
Early morning reflections 2:  This is an infra-red, B&W image made a few feet to the right of the previous one.

We wanted to get home before it got too hot and this time of year isn’t the best for birds, so we didn’t stay for any bird photography.  But we did see a few, including Little Blue and Great Blue Herons and heard a Barred Owl calling.  I’m sure there were more around, if we’d put in a little effort.

With all the rain lately, bugs are pretty bad.  This is what Lynn calls “Spray, shoot, run” – when the mosquitoes are so bad that it’s hard to stay out long enough to make a photo.

So yesterday, our plans quickly went awry.  We were challenged by a locked gate, a mediocre sky, and blood sucking and ferocious biting insects.  But we still came home with a few photos.  The moral of the story?  Plans are only plans.  When they don’t work out, do like the US Marines:  Improvise, adapt, and overcome.  Find a different photo.  Make do.

You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr.  You can also see more OWP photos here on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Central Florida Bird update

The spring migration has made the last few weeks an intense time for birding in Central Florida.  There was a fall out in Fort Desoto in late April where my friend Kevin M.  sighted 110 different bird species in one day!  As those migrants moved on, other locations have also seen a few visitors, especially smaller birds.

The activity at Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Orlando Wetlands Park, and Viera Wetlands is slowing down now from the peak nesting and breeding season.  Most of the young ones are hatched, grown, and fledged, although you can still find some amazing sights such as a White Eyed Vireo nest next to the boardwalk at the MINWR visitors center.

At BPWD the water is quite low.  We found some concentrations of birds in a few of the areas that did have water including Redish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, etc.  There are also some juvenile Green Herons in the bushes by the rest rooms.  But the ducks seem to be mostly gone – even the moorhens and coots.  And we haven’t seen any Kingfishers lately either. We did see an Eastern Kingbird on BPWD, and a Northern Parula and Grey Catbird at the visitor center.

Wading Roseate Spoonbill
Wading Roseate Spoonbill – feeding at BPWD

Orlando Wetlands is quiet too – both people and birds.  I was the only visitor when I went by last Thursday morning.  I saw a solitary Swallow-tail Kite fly by briefly (too fast to get a photo).  And there were plenty of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, some hawks, limpkins, herons and egrets – but again the most of the ducks seem have gone elsewhere.

Mom and kid Limpkin on a sunrise stroll
Mom and kid Limpkin on a sunrise stroll

At Viera Wetlands we saw a few of the usual birds and there are still some GBH juveniles on nests.  Terns and Ospreys were putting on a fishing demonstration.  It’s fun to watch this behavior and it’s a good situation for Birds in Flight practice.

Blue Heron Portrait
Blue Heron Portrait

And even if the birding is slowing down, you can always find some landscape photo ops around the area.

Drippy
Drippy: I was scouting for new sunrise locations and got to the Cocoa Beach pier a bit late. I decided to make a photo anyway… Next time I’ll be there before dawn.

If you click on any of the photos, they’ll open in Flickr, where you can see larger versions.  You can also see some of my previous photos from:

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.