Category Archives: Florida

Viera Wetlands 2-6-19

Here are some photos from a trip to Viera Wetlands last week.  There’s a lot to see there!

Dawn in the harborDawn in the harbor – A sunrise stop at the Cocoa Riverfront Park on the way to Viera

Sandhill Crane with egg in nestSandhill Crane and egg in nest – it’s fairly close to the berm.  I think I’ll go back in a week or so and see if it’s hatched.

Deer Deer – I’ve seen them several times hanging out at the east end of the park

Web Web – The spiders were busy and some of their work was catching the early morning sunlight

RobinAmerican Robin – Winter visitors / migrants are showing up in force

Ash-throated Flycatcher (?)Ash-throated Flycatcher(?) – I didn’t recognize this bird when I made the photo and I’m still not totally sure what it is.  A Great crested Flycatcher was seen at Viera Wetlands in January, but this one seems too small for that. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen there in previous years.

So I had a very nice visit to a wonderful place – if you’ve never been, now is a good time to go!

You can see all my posts about Viera Wetlands at this link:  https://edrosack.com/category/viera-wetlands/

And I have many more photos from Viera Wetlands in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157623223995224

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

First, check the web page!

I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!).  So I was eager to photograph something this week.  My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.

Whoops.  I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running.   I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and  no water in the corner cell, I turned around.   Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.

Early morning on the river shore 2Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.

After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There are a lot of winter migrants here now.  The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex.  In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID.  I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there.  I heard later they found it again on Saturday.

Hooded MergansersHooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area

Pair of porkersPair of porkers.  Part of larger family just inside BPWD.

Spoonbill and reflectionSpoonbill and reflection.  This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama.  That really helps with details!

Weathered Red CedarWeathered Red Cedar.  I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!

So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well.  Those engines I heard were pumps.  I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14.  And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16.  I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down.  Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go.  Even if you’ve been there many times!

Orlando Wetlands photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

More Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Flagler Beach Whale Quest

MK and I decided to drive over to Flagler Beach last Sunday.   Several whales have been seen recently – one the week before from the pier. We knew the chance we’d spot one was very small, but it’s a pretty place for sunrise and the restaurant on the pier serves a decent breakfast!

Quilted surf sunriseQuilted surf sunrise

We set off at “o-dark-thirty” and arrived before dawn.  I spent some time making photos on the beach and when it was light enough, we went up on the pier to scout.

Under the pierUnder the pier

North Atlantic Right Whales are among the most endangered whales in the world.  There are only about 450 left.  In addition to deaths from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement, their birth rate seems to be declining.  They migrate south from New England to the warm waters off Florida to mate and give birth.  Unfortunately, there were no new calves spotted last year during the whole 2017 – 2018 season.

Fishing trawler "Miss Hope" at daybreak near the pierFishing trawler “Miss Hope” at daybreak near the pier

So it was pretty exciting when the first calf was spotted this year:  https://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20181228/right-whale-watchers-rejoice-as-calf-spotted-off-jacksonville-coast!

Flying close to the sunFlying close to the sun

Humpback Whales are also seen off our coast.  They’re usually further out than the Right Whales, which seem to stick closer to shore.

We ate breakfast and then drove to a couple more spots on the beach.  We knew before we left that day that our chances of seeing whales were slim.  But we all know our chances are zero if we never look.  And although we came up empty, it sure was a nice morning and worth the drive.

Here’s more info on Florida whales:

I’ve collected more photos from Flagler Beach in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157675598379207

You can view whale photos I’ve made here:  https://www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=8231395%40N04&sort=date-taken-desc&text=whale&view_all=1

And MK has many whale images in her Flickr stream.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

In a Garden

Lynn added some Birds of Paradise plants to our front and back gardens a few years ago.  They’ve done well – we often have multiple flowers open at the same time.

I featured a portion of one blossom in this post from the summer of 2017.  It turns out that they bloom in the winter too!  Here are some more photos, this time  of the whole flower.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – side view, on black

The Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is also known at the Crane Flower because it resembles the head and beak of a colorful exotic bird.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – from above

They’re indigenous to South Africa and enjoy full sun and warm temperatures like we have here in Central Florida.

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise – side view, on white

In their natural habitat, they’re pollinated by Sunbirds, not insects.  The weight of the bird standing on the flower releases pollen onto the bird’s chest or feet, which is deposited on the next flower it visits.

They make lovely additions to our Florida garden, and lovely photography subjects too.  I made these images in the early morning before the light got harsh.  Lynn held black or white material behind them for me.  I like the one on black the best.  How about you?

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shutdown?

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown.  We also invited Kevin K. to go along.

Sunrise by the causewaySunrise by the causeway

We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps.  A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary.  But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.

As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:

“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”

So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point).  We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.

Note:  Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.

Some of what we saw:  a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.

Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron

The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images.  The light was  dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away.  We even came up on a feeding frenzy.  But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through.  Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:

Launching IbisLaunching Ibis

The sun broke through one other time before we left:

Sunbeams in the swampSunbeams in the swamp

All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition.  So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Computational Photography at KSC

You may know that I’m very interested in computational photography (image capture and processing techniques that use computer processing instead of / or in addition to optical processes). My last post on this was about a year ago (https://edrosack.com/2017/11/26/more-computational-photography/), and things are still changing very fast!

Lynn and I went over to Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago with MaryKate and our nephew Ted.  I thought I’d try out the new iPhone XS and use some of the resulting photos as examples to discuss updated capabilities.  So this post isn’t really about KSC – if you’re not interested in computational photography, feel free to just look at the photos or go on to something else.  Or if you’d like to see some other posts about KSC, please look at the links   on this search page:  https://edrosack.com/?s=Kennedy+space+center.

Mercury-Atlas rocketMercury-Atlas rocket: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962 when he launched in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft on an Atlas rocket.  Smart HDR  mode, ISO 25, f/1.8, 1/22000 sec

In this first photo, I deliberately shot into the sun.   I wanted to see how it handles very high contrast situations.  I have the camera’s “Smart HDR” mode enabled in settings and I used the Lightroom CC iPhone app to shoot in RAW mode.  The file it generates is a .dng file that includes the Smart HDR processing.  I waited for the photos to sync to my desktop computer and processed them there.  I think the colors and exposure in both the sky and shadows look excellent.  I’m amazed that even the writing on the capsule in the shadows looks good.

Here’s another example that shows the amount of flexibility and recoverable detail that’s present in these RAW files.  This next image is the default capture with no editing.  You can see that with even with Smart HDR on, the extreme contrast causes loss of detail in the highlights and shadows.

This next one is the same image after editing the RAW file – there’s much more of the scene visible in this version.  In situations such as this, the secret is to shoot and process RAW files!

Here’s what Apple says about Smart HDR:

Leveraging multiple technologies — like faster sensors, an enhanced ISP, and advanced algorithms — Smart HDR brings more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.” Apple

I’d say it does that!

I’d also like to comment on the enhanced bokeh effects (blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image) and adjustable depth of field.  DPReview has a good article comparing iPhone bokeh to a high end portrait lens.  You can read the article yourself, but the bottom line is it compares very favorably.  And these capabilities aren’t just for people portraits.  Some examples:

Atlantis shuttle rear viewAtlantis shuttle rear view.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

Shuttle robot arm close upShuttle robot arm close up.  iPhone XS rear camera, Portrait mode, ISO 640, f/2.4, 1/30 sec

In these images, I adjusted the simulated aperture after the images were taken to focus viewers’ eyes on the subjects.  It’s very easy to vary the amount of blur in the background to get the effect I wanted.  I’ve also used the “portrait mode” for actual portraits, and while it’s improved from earlier versions, you can still see issues if you look for them.  For example, the depth map and processing has occasional (but fewer?) problems with stray hair around faces (blurs them when they should be sharp).

I use an iPhone, but Android users also benefit from developments in computational photography.   For instance the Pixel 3 phone has a “Night Sight” feature that is reportedly amazing.  See this article for details:  https://www.engadget.com/2018/11/14/google-pixel-night-sight-launch-sample-photos-comparison/

I hope Apple can add a similar algorithm!

Should you give away your non-phone cameras?  No, not yet.  Phones are still at a disadvantage in some ways:  Lens selection and sensor size are two important ones.  And the interfaces on dedicated cameras are better and allow quicker control.  But in some (many?) cases, your phone is an excellent photo (and video!) tool.  And they’re going to get better.  Just make sure you’re up to date on how to use the latest functions.

You can read more about this at the Apple iPhone XS Camera specifications web page.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

St. Petersburg, Florida

Lynn and I recently spent a pleasant couple of days over in St. Petersburg.  Here are a few photos and some background info.

Dali Museum:

I’m a long time fan of  Clyde Butcher and wanted to visit his “Visions of Dali’s Spain” exhibit at the Salvador Dali Museum.  I enjoyed viewing his very large black and white prints up close and the juxtaposition with Dali’s work was fascinating.  If you can’t make it over there, you can view the photos, watch a video about it, and learn more at this link:  https://clydebutcher.com/pc/photographs/dalis-spain/.

Dali Museum InteriorSalvidor Dali Museum Interior

He used a digital camera for this project instead of his normal large format film approach, and I thought it was interesting that the results are so similar.  If he hadn’t explained this in the video, I wouldn’t have suspected he didn’t use film.

Chihuly Collection:

Lynn mentioned wanting to visit the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center.  I’d heard of Dale Chihuly and his blown glass art work before, but I’d only ever seen a piece or two in isolation.  This is a different and much better experience.

Float Boat, 2007Float Boat, 2007

The artwork itself is exquisite with amazing form and color.  Seeing it in this setting, where it’s been professionally arranged and lighted was amazing!

Ivory Basket with Oxblood Spots, 1977Ivory Basket with Oxblood Spots, 1977

Glasswork can be very difficult to photograph.  The illumination has to show the form without reflecting hotspots and obscuring details with shadows.  In all cases, this lighting was perfect and the shadows enhanced the view and revealed even more details.  I think photographers can learn quite a bit studying these displays.

Morean White Seaform Set, 2010Morean White Seaform Set, 2010

I really enjoyed seeing this. If you get a chance, go.

Waterfront:

I managed to get up for sunrise one morning while we were there.  I debated driving down to Fort Desoto, but ended up taking the easy way out and explored the nearby waterfront instead.

St. Petersburg North Yacht BasinSt. Petersburg North Yacht Basin

There’s construction in the area, so I picked viewpoints to hide that.  I liked the view above of the north basin at dawn.  And the mid-day reflections and clouds  in this next one caught my eye too.

St. Petersburg Central Yacht BasinSt. Petersburg Central Yacht Basin

It was a short, but lovely visit.  You can view more photos from our trip in this album on Flickr.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

What’s that in the back yard?

I was sitting in the family room on Friday afternoon when Lynn came in, saw these  birds behind our house, and asked me what they were.  If she hadn’t asked, I never would have noticed them.  Maybe my chair should face the window instead of the TV?

I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the window and screen and then went out on the other side of the house to get this unobstructed view.  I’m glad my birding lens was still mounted!

What're those birds in the back yard?Black-bellied whistling duck family.  There’s another adult and one more juvenile out of the frame to the right.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are common here in Central Florida year round, although I’ve never seen them in our neighborhood before.  They were previously known as the “Black-bellied Tree Duck”  since they’re often found roosting and nesting in trees.  They’re monogamous, which is unusual in ducks.  Also unusual is their high-pitched whistling call which you’ll remember the first time you hear it.

After adding a few minutes of excitement to our afternoon, this family strolled on down the street and disappeared.  I was glad they stopped by – maybe we’ll spot them again.

Thanks Lynn for asking about them and thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Reconnaissance

Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired.  Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too.  It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together.  Much too long!

We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise.  Riding together is great for catching up with friends!

Dawn on the Indian RiverDawn on the Indian River

Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped.   Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.

We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.

Early startEarly start on a calm, lovely morning

In general, summer isn’t the best time of year to bird in Central Florida – but there are exceptions to every rule-of-thumb.  For instance, Kathy B. found a Clapper Rail on Black Point at the end of June, and D. Cunningham enjoyed seeing the Swallow Tail Kites that visit us before heading to South America for the winter.

We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones.  This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;

Swamp ChickenCommon Gallinule

And so was this Tri-colored Heron:

Tri-color HeronTri-colored Heron

… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):

Green HeronGreen Heron

We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point.   The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road.  I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.

And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.

One more  (small, kind of sad) story.  We saw two pigs at Black Point.  The second was along the canal near the exit.  I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed.  I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo.   It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor.  I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Bird shots

When I go on a photo expedition I come home with many more images than I process, and I post even less.  So every once in a while I go through the photos in my Lightroom catalog and look for ones that I passed over, to see if my current self thinks they’re good enough to show or include in a blog post.

Caught in a sunbeamCaught in a sunbeam, Gatorland, May 2017

Anyway, I was doing this last week and ended up with the group of images in this post.  They made me  realize once again how wonderful Central Florida is for bird watching and bird photography.

Handsome Anhinga

Handsome Anhinga, Gatorland, May 2016

We have an enormous variety of avian wildlife here (iBird says 366 species in the state of Florida, Wikipedia says 524!).

SpoonbillSpoonbill, Black Point Wildlife Drive, January 2018

At some locations the larger birds are tolerant of people – especially if you stay in your car and / or take care not to stress them.  And nesting season provides opportunities that aren’t common elsewhere.

Hungry HeronsHungry Herons, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

I’ve added info to the captions on when and where I made these images so you can get an idea of what you’ll see.  The best time of year is probably January through May, but you can find  opportunities year round –  if you’re lucky and do your research.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved