Category Archives: INSIDE FLORIDA

Sunrise lost?

I might see one or two people fishing whenever I pull into Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge before dawn. It’s rare to see another photographer there for sunrise, although later in the day on Black Point Wildlife Drive there are often plenty of folks taking photos. On this morning someone else was already out there when I pulled into this spot. They had their camera / tripod set up over on the right (out of the frame in this image). I parked a bit away to give them some space and not interfere with their photography.

Mangroves at dawn Mangroves at dawn

As I set up and starting making images, they headed over with their tripod and camera. I didn’t pay a lot of attention, since I was busy trying to decide on compositions and wanted to capture the light on the clouds before it changed. I figured they just wanted to try a different viewpoint.

They stopped when they got to where I was and started talking about all sorts of things: music, musicians, photographing concerts, what camera I was using, where they lived, where they photographed, etc., etc. I was busy and concentrating on my photography, so a lot of my replies were monosyllabic. As time went on, I continued photographing and they continued talking. I hope I didn’t seem too rude. At one point I even mentioned how much I liked the cloud formations, but they never did make a photo.

There are all sorts of people, and we all have different priorities, but I still don’t understand. This person was motivated to get up very early, pack all their gear and head out for a morning of photography. But then didn’t make photos of a wonderful scene taking place all around us. Maybe they’d already got a lot of great photos before I arrived. But if it was me, I’d have kept shooting.

Anyway, here are some other photos I’ve made on Gator Creek Road: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157720027085338


Changing the subject: Go take a look at Wally Jones’s blog post about this year’s sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats. He was out there on October 12th and got some really nice photos!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you’re already out there, please go ahead and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunflower Status – Oct 2, 2021

Lynn drove me over the Lake Jesup bridge yesterday so I could scout the Swamp Sunflower fields to the east of HW 417 in the Marl Bed Flats area north of the lake. It’s not very safe to park on the side of 417 – this was the best photo I got with my iPhone from the passenger seat of our moving car:

Lake Jesup Swamp Sunflower Field. iPhone photo, made on 10/3/2021

You can see that the annual Swamp Sunflower bloom has started here in Central Florida and it looks like it’ll be a good year for the flowers. These are about 2-3 feet tall – they’ll reach up to 6 feet or more later, so I’m guessing they might peak in the next week or two.

Here’s a better photo of one from 2013:

Water drops and insects on a Swamp Sunflower Water drops and insects on a Swamp Sunflower. October 2, 2013

It’s been a little wet this summer, and they’ve closed this area in the past due to high water. So I searched on-line for any info on whether it’s open. Marl Bed Flats is part of the Lake Jesup Conservation area and I couldn’t find any mention of closures on their web page. I did see this on the Lake Jesup Wilderness area page (which is a short distance away from Marl Bed Flats on the west side of 417):

“The Lake Jesup Wilderness Area is currently closed due to wet season conditions.”

https://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/locations/Lake-Jesup-Wilderness-Area.stml

I’ve enjoyed photographing these flowers since 2006, but I probably can’t visit this year. Since I can’t give you a better report, you’ll have to venture out there on your own. If you do go or find a better status, please leave a comment here so others will see the info.

I’ll leave you with one more close up. I like the water drop in this image from 2010:

Water drop on a Swamp Sunflower Water drop on a Swamp Sunflower. October 10,2010

If you’re interested, I have more photos from this lovely field of wildflowers in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622430520287

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

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Planning or Luck?

Ansel Adams is known for his pre-visualization approach to photography.

“The term [pre]visualization refers to the entire emotional-mental process of creating a photograph”

“It’s not what you see, it’s what you want me to see”

Ansel Adams

Having deliberate control of all parts of the photo capture and printing processes allowed him to create wonderful images. We can’t be Ansel Adams, but we can continue learning so that we gain as much control as possible in our own photography.

Embrace your craft.  Study it.  Understand it.  Practice it.  Select a subject. Compose and expose. Process and print. Use all your skills to control the light you capture. It’s a life long activity that you’ll never completely master.

But sometimes the subject and light find you. When this happens, be ready. If you are, you can use all of your acquired skills to make a photo showing what you want people to see. Ansel also said:

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter”

Ansel Adams

A while back over in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I saw this scene developing and really liked the way the sun was shining through the backlit clouds. I quickly searched for some foreground and found a pool of water reflecting the sky. I made a set of four frames that I could stitch into a vertical panorama.

Wetland Weather Wetland Weather

Later on the computer, I had to solve issues with stitching, exposure, and focus but luckily I knew what to try and had the tools to do so. Of course, it’s not Ansel Adams level photography – but I’m very pleased with the result.

What kind of photographer are you? Do you pre-plan / visualize all of your photos? Or do you wander around and photograph what nature presents? Which approach gives you the best results? Which gives you the most pleasure:  A carefully controlled composition that comes out exactly like your vision?  Or a serendipitous image that came out well when you tried something new?

Luck is good.  Preparation is good.  Being prepared when you get lucky is better.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Louis Pasteur

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, be ready – and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

SpaceX Inspiration4 Launch

SpaceX lit up the sky with the launch of the Inspiration4 mission Wednesday evening (9/15/21): the first all civilian mission to orbit. We had a spectacular view of the launch from our front yard in Winter Springs, Florida (about 45 miles from the launch pad)!

We have some tall trees to the east that block our view for the first minute or so, but we soon saw the rocket exhaust through and then above the branches. These first two photos are before the 1st stage separated:

SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch (1)

If you click on the one above, the larger version on Flickr shows the space craft at the top. It’s a bit soft, but I think it was going through some haze / atmospheric distortion at the time. I’d set my focus on the moon before launch and I think it was good, since details in the later photos are clear.

SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch (2)

These last two photos are after 1st stage separation. The Dragon crew capsule is on the left (still on the Falcon 2nd stage). The 1st stage is on the right, with puffs of vapor from attitude control thrusters around it.

SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch (3)

Lynn and I have lived in Central Florida for a while and we’ve watched many launches. Neither of us remember seeing one like this. Watching the thrusters fire several times and seeing the exhaust expand was really interesting. I think there was just enough remaining sunlight about 1/2 hour after sunset to light up the exhaust so we could see it.

I like this last photo best. The shape of the thruster vapor adds to the image and there are a few stars visible in the background that add context too. (You’ll probably need to look at the larger version on Flickr to see the stars.)

SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch (5)

Night launches are spectacular and it’s a privilege to live close enough to the Cape to see them. This one was especially photogenic. On Saturday evening as I finished writing this, the Inspiration4 capsule splashed down successfully off the coast near the Cape Kennedy Space Center.

If you want to try making photos like this, you’ll need a long lens (or a closer spot!). My lens is stabilized, which helps. I shoot in manual mode (focus and exposure). Set your focus to infinity beforehand. My exposures were at ISO 6400, f/9 at 1/80 sec. Try something similar, check your results, and adjust if needed.

You can see all my launch blog posts at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/rocket-launch/. And you can view some of my other launch and space related photos in this album on Flickr.

Header image: One more view: SpaceX Inpiration4 Civilian Crew Launch (4).

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka, 9/3/2021

I had a wonderful trip up to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive a week ago. It was a Saturday with a lot of people around, but it was gorgeous and there were more than enough things to see for everyone.

Most folks took Welland Rd. away from the pump house, so I chose to leave there on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. I’m glad I did – I didn’t see anyone else on that part of the drive. LAWD’s a special place and even more so when you’re out there by yourself.

Along the north shore Along the north shore

I think this spot near the shore looks good in black and white. I like the trees, clouds, reflections, and Cormorants roosting in the branches. Here’s a closer look at one of the birds:

Cormorant Cormorant

Bald Eagles are always awesome. This one seemed to enjoy the view as much as I did.

Bald Eagle Bald Eagle

A little further along, a hawk flew by screaming at me for daring to point my camera in its direction.

Red-shouldered Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk

When I first got there, a large alligator was floating close to the main road and seemed to be staring right at me. Watching it made me feel less like a photographer and more like a gator snack. I’ve never actually seen them show any aggression toward humans, and I was a good distance from it. But I was glad to be in the car.

Predator Predator

Great Blue Herons are supreme predators too. I’ve spotted several recently with huge fish. This one was in nice morning light.

Morning Catch Morning Catch

It was a fine outing. I came home with memories, photos, and a good dose of Central Florida’s beautiful nature elixer. You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr. And I have many more of my Lake Apopka images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175

Header image: The View from Lust Road, near the entrance to LAWLD. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Out of practice

It doesn’t take very long to forget about some things. Good habits lapse and bad ones take over quickly.

I hadn’t been out photographing in about three weeks and was anxious to go last week. So I got up early Wednesday morning and headed over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – one of my favorite spots. Although I managed to come back with some photos I like, all did not go well. Turns out I was out of practice and there were several issues that made me miss shots. So today, I have a few reminders of things not to do. Maybe my mistakes will help someone else.

Morning glow Morning glow – from Gator Creek Road

  • I didn’t check the MINWR website before I went. If I had, I would have seen: “The Black Point Wildlife drive will be closed for two weeks for annual maintenance beginning 8/19/21.” Luckily, there are plenty of spots to explore in the refuge, so this wasn’t a critical error. But somewhere else, it could have been. Check the website!
Silhouettes Silhouettes

  • I hadn’t reset my camera / lens. My long zoom has a focus limiter switch. You can choose the full range of focus (2.4m – infinity) or limit it to one of two ranges. I usually keep it set to the 10m – infinity selection which speeds up focus response for birds in flight. I’d used it at home though for a close up (2.4m – 10m) and put it back in the case without reseting it. Then when I pulled it out at MINWR to photograph a distant bird, it wouldn’t focus. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve made this mistake before, and it didn’t take long to correct. But it was confusing and I did miss a shot. Reset your camera and lens to defaults when you put them away.
Bird Buddies Bird Buddies

  • A lot of the time, I have my camera in my lap so it’s ready to use on short notice. But at one point while driving down Biolab Road, I’d put it in the open case on the seat next to me. Of course, a huge gator picked that time to stroll across the road in front of me. I probably wouldn’t have made the shot even if I’d been ready, but I would’ve had a better chance if the camera had been closer. Keep your camera ready at all times.
  • I’m really upset at myself about this last one. At some point during the trip I’d set my aperture to a small f-stop to increase my depth of field. And I forgot to change it back to wide open (the default – see above!!!). This slowed my shutter speeds and ruined a few photos due to motion blur that I wish I’d gotten. I usually don’t check my photos all the time, but the instant feedback you can get with digital cameras is wonderful – if you use it. Inspect what you’ve captured every once in a while so you can catch problems.
Morning meal Morning meal. A 1/125s shutter speed was fine for a still subject.

Header image: Looking west from Biolab Road, Infrared, B&W. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

These mistakes are embarrassing – I hope I don’t repeat them the next time I’m out. And I hope they help you too!

“That is what you should not do. So let that be a lesson to you.”

Berenstain Bears: THE BIKE LESSON

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, avoid some mistakes and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Working a scene

Sometimes when I’m out photographing at dawn, I’ll see someone stop, hop out of their car, make a single photo, then get back in and leave. Will they get a good image? Maybe. But they’d have a better chance if they could invest some time trying different compositions and settings to see what works best.

Brewing storm Brewing Storm: 6:24 am, 20 mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, Blended exposures (2.5 and 0.8s)

On a recent morning at dawn, I photographed a photogenic thunderstorm from the St. Johns River boat ramp on SR 50 for about an hour. As the light changed, I tried different lenses and techniques and I’m pretty happy with the images I came home with.

Sunrise through a thunderhead Sunrise through a thunderhead: 6:52 am, 39 mm, ISO 100, f/11, Blended exposures (1/125 – 1/30s)

I thought you’d like to see these examples from that morning. In each caption, I’ve listed the time I made the photo and the settings I used. Maybe you can take away some ideas for your next dawn photo excursion. If you have any questions or want more details about what I did, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

A storm across the river A storm across the river: 7:24 am, 160mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/320s exposure, 5 frame panorama

Header image: Thunderhead and mist over the marsh: 6:39 am, 105 mm, ISO 100, f/8, Blended exposures (1/4 – 1/60s). Full image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51378599007/in/dateposted-public/

The light and colors varied tremendously while I was there. I enjoyed watching them evolve and using different settings / focal lengths to capture the changes and include or isolate parts of the scene.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, work a scene!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Bird Sound Wizardry

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

The wizards at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have cast some potent spells with the latest update to their free Merlin Bird ID app.

I’ve had it on my iPhone for ages (it’s also available for Android). But I got used to the iBird app (http://ibird.com) and I normally open it for help with bird identification – so Merlin’s been sitting around idle. It wasn’t until last week that I heard about the new sound ID feature they added in June.

Sound ID records bird songs around you, analyzes them, and suggests IDs for what’s singing. You can compare the recording to other songs and calls for confirmation. It’s also a great way to learn bird calls. Hearing some, and then having the app tell you what they are in real time is great re-enforcement and helps you remember what you’ve heard. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I updated the app and tried it out yesterday on a trip over to MINWR. I simply held it out, watched the waveforms record and the results as they came up magically on my screen. Here’s a screenshot:

I used it several times and it found Black-necked Stilts, Red-winged Blackbirds, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Eastern Kingbirds, Ospreys, and Mourning Doves. Most of them before I ever saw the birds. When the Eastern Kingbird ID popped up, I started looking for them and spotted this one perched briefly on a distant branch:

Eastern Kingbird Eastern Kingbird

Since it told me Stilts and Yellowlegs were around, I could keep an eye out for them too.

Black-necked Stilt Black-necked Stilt

Greater Yellowlegs Greater Yellowlegs

I was surprised by how sensitive the recordings are. It heard most all the calls that I did, and it seems accurate, at least in this short test.

There are 458 birds in the Sound ID list and more are promised. Cornell Labs has done some fine work with this. I think it’ll be very helpful to me in the future. If you’re at all interested in birds or birding, it belongs on your phone too! Did I mention that it’s free?

Header image: A pair of bunnies I also photographed yesterday. No, Merlin didn’t pull them out of a hat. That would’ve been very advanced technology! Full image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51363803209/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid cases in Florida are still at an all time high. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, photograph (and ID) some birds!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

More landscapes

A short post today with more images from my last trip to MINWR.

Dawn over the anchorage Dawn over the anchorage

I suppose we all occasionally struggle with photography – finding something to point our cameras at can be difficult. Other times, it seems easy and images almost make themselves. My last trip to MINWR was like that – I came home with more than a normal number of landscapes I really like.

Across the marsh Across the marsh

I felt like I was really in the “zone”. Every composition I tried looked good to me. And they still looked good when I got home.

Wide Water Wide Water

Anyway, here they are.

Fun fact: These were made with three different cameras: A Sony full frame, an Olympus Micro Four Thirds, and an iPhone. Can you tell which is which? If you’re interested in the answers, you can click on these to see larger versions (and EXIF data).

Header image: Another view of the marina. Larger version: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51349701361/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid cases in Florida are at an all time high. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – July 21, 2021

Our weather’s been seasonably hot and humid here in Central Florida. We’re very definitely in the dog days of summer. According to Wikipedia, they’re called that because historically they’re associated with the summer-time rise of Sirius (Canis Major – the “Dog Star”) in the night sky.

Anyway, mid-summer isn’t the best time for birds / wildlife but I really wanted to do a bit of photography. So I packed some camera gear and headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at zero dark thirty last Wednesday to see what I could see.

There was a nice view near the entrance to the refuge about 25 minutes before sunrise:

Titusville Marina at dawn Titusville Marina at dawn

I drove around Gator Creek Road next although there was little activity and I didn’t make any photos.

Black Point Wildlife Drive was a different story. There were a few of our regular resident birds:

Reddish Egret Reddish Egret

Watching Watching Osprey

And I lucked into a feeding frenzy where Herons and Egrets were “fly fishing” for minows in a small pool of water.

The light was harsh, but it was a great place to practice birds-in-flight photography. They move fast and erratically chasing the fish. Looking through the camera with my right eye while watching the wider scene with my left helped me anticipate the action before I could see it through the lens.

Fly fishing 2 Fly fishing 2

According to the iBird app on my phone, Northern Flickers are here year round, but I don’t spot them very often. When I do they’re usually skittish – this one was no exception. But it decided to fly ahead of me along the road and I followed along slowly at a distance. It finally stopped for a few seconds on the side of a palm tree in some pretty good light and I was able to jump out of the car and make this image.

Northern Flicker Northern Flicker

While I was over there, I went by Veterans Memorial Park to check on the repairs they’ve been doing. The area’s been closed since way back in September 2017 due to damage from Hurricane Irma. It took a while, but now it’s open again and back on my list of favorite sunrise spots!

Sunrise at Veterans Memorial Park Sunrise at Veterans Memorial Park

I like going to MINWR in the dog days of summer when it’s quiet. It may not be the greatest time for wildlife, but there’s still plenty to see and photograph. As a bonus there are usually fewer people there too. I had Black Point all to myself for most of my drive – a very special privilege and well worth getting up early for.

Header image: A Snowy Egret, also “fly fishing”. Larger version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51327744874/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid is surging out there again. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved