I usually walk in my neighborhood several times a week. It’s a good way to get some exercise and say hello to folks. I did something different last Friday and drove over to Orlando Wetlands Park for my morning hike.
It was still dark when I arrived and I could hear owls and whistling ducks calling on the way out to Lake Searcy – one of my favorite landscape places. I didn’t like the view this time since the water was low and the appealing mirror like reflections were missing. I ended up moving to a new location for this:
Middle marsh mystery island
Morning color was disappointing, but I do like the image. After sunrise, I wandered around and made some bird photos. There were many Little Blue Herons:
Pretty little blue
And the Palm Warblers are here in force, bobbing their tails as they pose in the reeds:
And here’s one of the whistling ducks. I caught it mid-preen:
Just a quick and early post this week to make sure everyone knows about the Orlando Wetlands festival this Saturday (2/20/2016).
Smoke on the water – Morning mist on Lake Searcy at Orlando Wetlands Park
It starts at 9am and since attendance has grown so much, you’ll have to park this year at Fort Christmas and ride the free shuttles out to the Wetlands. Please look at their main page for info on the latest festival:
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!
You may have noticed that I like Black and White photography. It’s how I started out, way back when (with Tri-X film, developed in a make-shift darkroom). So I’ve done it for a while, but I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve studied many books and looked at a lot of online info, but I felt it would be good to take a course and expose myself to techniques and ideas I haven’t discovered on my own – to see how others are doing it.
I signed up for “Modern Monochrome” at the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park, Florida. The course promises to cover “the aesthetic qualities of black-and-white photography, seeing in black and white, RGB conversion methods, tonal relationships, luminosity versus luminance, and demonstrations in Photoshop and Lightroom.”
I was a little worried at the first session. There were a couple of people who didn’t appear to meet the prerequisites and it seemed like we’d struggle trying to bring them up to speed. But they ended up dropping out and the remaining students all easily kept up with the agenda.
Next week is our last class and we owe the instructor ten B&W images. I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the ones I’m going to turn in.
Wild Orchids – at Fort Christmas
High Key Grebe – along Black Point Wildlife Drive
Gloomy dawn – Blue Cypress Lake
Misty Marsh – Orlando Wetlands Park
The instructor’s going to critique our work and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
This course has definitely lived up to my expectations. I learned several techniques in Photoshop – some that I’d heard about and never tried, and others that were completely new to me. I also enjoyed discussing printing techniques and I intend to apply these more in the future. I haven’t been printing my photographs as much recently as I should. The course was also a great incentive to think about and practice photography and especially B&W processing.
We’re finally getting cooler weather here in Central Florida. In addition to making it even more pleasant outside, the fall and winter months bring some changes to our area photo opportunities.
Orlando Wetlands Park is one of my favorite places. But if you haven’t been there this year, you’ve missed your chance. It closes on November 15 and doesn’t re-open until January 31st.
Downy Woodpecker at Orlando Wetlands – not a great photo, but it’s my first one of this bird. ISO 800, 1/800 sec, f/8, 600 mm
And Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) is also a favorite. When I went over last week, Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed. The web page says “until mid November”, so it should hopefully be back open soon. Fortunately there are many places to photograph in MINWR – even with BPWD closed, it’s still worth a visit.
Black and White Osprey on Gator Creek Road in MINWR. ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, f/8, 500 mm
Brown Pelican in Flight along Haulover Canal in MINWR. ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, f/8, 600 mm
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – Fog at the Titusville Marina. Panorama, looking east, just before sunrise.
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!
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.
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 – 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.
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 – 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
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?
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 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 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.