Category Archives: Cocoa Beach Pier

Bracketing vs. Graduated ND Filters

I’d long ago answered this question, but a comment from Frank B. about this image caused me to reconsider some things.

Cocoa Beach Pier before dawnCocoa Beach Pier before dawn

Fair warning:  This post is a little deep into the weeds.  Feel free to look at the photo and move on if it isn’t your thing.  But I think it’s an appropriate subject, since part of the blog’s purpose is “… and how to photograph them.”

What are we talking about?

Bracketing means taking multiple photos of a scene, each with different camera settings (see this Wikipedia entry).  In this case, I made three photos at different exposures so I could capture the entire dynamic range from super dark under the pier to super bright above the clouds.  Making just a single exposure would’ve risked losing detail in the shadows or highlights (or both).

You can also use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND) – an optical filter you add in front of your lens to reduce light in the bright part of the frame (see this Wikipedia entry).  Typically they have a 2 or 3 stop reduction that transitions into clear.

I’d long ago experimented with GNDs and decided not to use them.  I can  mostly reproduce their effect in static scenes by bracketing and then blending the resulting frames in post-processing.  For landscape images bracketing is an easier solution in the field and gives me more control and a better final result.  You can read about one example of my technique in this post (from back in 2011).

But then … Frank left a comment:

… amazing how the clouds remain sharp compared to the water given the time of exposure

And my reply:

Frank, this is a 3 frame, hi-res exposure bracket hand blended in Photoshop. The bottom portion was at f/5 for 25 seconds. The top was at f/5 for 3.2 seconds. So that and distance is why the clouds are sharp compared to the water.

The way I made this image resulted in a huge difference in shutter speed between the water at the bottom and the clouds at the top.  And using the Olympus Hi-Res mode exaggerated the shutter speed differences since it combines 8 separate captures to create each hi-res output file.

If I’d used a GND the shutter speed would be constant throughout the frame and the blur in the clouds would’ve matched the blur in the water.  In this particular case,  bracketing exposure by varying aperture instead of shutter speed would also make the motion blur consistent.  I’ve never done that since it seemed like it would lead to other issues (inconsistent focus / depth of field).  It’s something to think about and maybe try in the future for a setting where consistent motion blur is important.

Thanks for the question Frank!  Photography is fascinating.  There is so much to think about and still left to learn.

And thanks to everyone else for stopping by and reading my blog (especially if you read all the way through!). Now – go make some photos!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Banishing Broken Links

This post is about blogging, not photography.  So feel free to move on if this doesn’t interest you.  But before you do, here’s an unrelated photo to try to make your visit here worthwhile:

Sunrise SurferSunrise Surfer – An early morning image, from October 2018, near the Cocoa Beach Pier (click for a larger version).

My blog has been up since May of 2007 and I’ve written almost 600 posts through the years.  A few weeks ago, I read an article about broken links and how Google crawls the web and downgrades a site’s search ranking if it finds broken / dead links on web pages.

I knew this, but hadn’t been actively addressing issues.  I’m not a commercial site, and search ranking doesn’t affect any bottom line for me, but – well, we don’t want to be left out of Google do we?

Anyway, I’ve had a plugin loaded on my site called “Broken Link Checker” for a long time.  I was having some server performance issues a while back and deactivated it.  I decided to turn it back on and see what it found.  It was disturbing!

  • > 5100 links total
  • 186 broken or dead links
  • > 900 redirects
  • And a few warnings

I’ve been going through and fixing these.  Here’s what I’ve done:

  • If the site I referenced changed and I can find the new page, I updated it.
  • If I can’t find a new page, in some cases I substituted a different source such as Wikipedia.  (By the way, Wikipedia is amazingly good at keeping their links up – none of my broken links were to them.)  If I couldn’t find a new page to link to (seems to be a common issue for newspaper articles) I removed the link and marked it as “no longer available”.
  • On some problems, I just removed the link if it didn’t really need to be there.
  • How embarrassing!  Some of the broken links were to my own pages!  These had to do with re-organizing categories and tags.  So I went through and fixed these too.
  • I looked at redirects and they don’t seem to be real issues, so I left them alone.

As of this morning (finally!) all of my broken links are gone.

In the future, I’m going to modify my link philosophy:

  • I’m not going to be as eager to insert links.  Web search is pretty good these days and you can highlight and right-click to get info on anything I write about.  And It’ll be current too!
  • I’ll favor using Wikipedia when it makes sense.  There’s less chance those links will break.
  • I haven’t noticed any performance issues with the Broken Links Checker this time.  So I’ll leave it on
  • Broken Links Checker will email me when it finds problems and I’ll fix them as they come up, instead of ignoring them for too long.

Onward to search results dominance!

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunrise and Terns

Tom M. and I went over to Cocoa Beach last week. Jim B. told us about some Least Terns nesting on a hotel rooftop there, and we wanted to take a look.

I got up at o-dark-thirty and met Tom to drive over.  Our reward was a gorgeous morning!

Seeing the sun rise above the sea soothed her soulSeeing the sun rise above the sea soothed her soul

I don’t know the woman in this photo.  She was enjoying the sunrise too, and I was grateful for her contribution to my composition.

When the sunrise show was over, we headed south on SR A1A to find the Terns.  They were right where Jim said they would be.  We knew we were in the right place when we noticed all the guano in the parking lot and on the cars.

The birds were flying off the roof in small groups with an occasional eruption of what seemed like the entire colony.  At times there must’ve been over a hundred in the air.

Least Tern in flightLeast Tern in flight

They’re small (8 or 9 inches long) and fast and erratic flyers.  To get a photo, you’ll need a long lens, good technique, and / or persistence and some good luck.  I used my Nikon D-800 with the Tamron 150 – 600mm lens.  Even with such a long lens, I had to crop these two  images pretty heavily.  The main issues I had were trying to follow the birds in such a magnified field of view – and hoping that the focus on my camera could keep up.

Getting consistent results is difficult.  I took many photos and got few keepers. Tracking something so small, fast, and erratic with a long telephoto lens takes some practice!

Least Tern in flight with minnowLeast Tern in flight with minnow

Cocoa and the surrounding area is a very photogenic place.  You can see other photos I’ve made  there in this set on Flickr.  And you can also read Jim’s blog post about the Terns at this link:  http://jbophoto.com/least-terns-2/ (sorry – no longer available).  Thanks Jim!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Explore and discover – then react

Some photographers plan their photo ops in detail.  In many cases that’s a good approach. Portrait and wedding photography are genres that need advanced planning.  And if you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, planning is prudent.  Other genres are more reactive (e.g. photo journalism).

I try to do research and planning if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been, but I don’t plan most of my photography.  Especially if I’ve been to a place before, my approach is to explore and discover, and then react to what I find.  Often, I end up with photos that I never imagine when I start out.  Which is loads of fun!

A few weeks ago, I went over to the Sanford Marina to make sunrise photos.  I arrived early and discovered very calm conditions in the harbor.  I reacted with this photo.  It’s nothing like the sunrise I originally went looking for.

Still water, sailboats, and starsStill water, sailboats, and stars – Very early and very calm at the Sanford marina

Last week, I took a ride here in Central Florida along Maytown Road between Osteen and Oak Hill.  It goes through some very undeveloped areas and ends at Seminole Rest, a small park in the Canaveral National Seashore.  In this case, I hadn’t really planned for any photos.  I was just driving to see what’s there.  I was glad to discover this gnarled old tree, although I wish I’d found a little better light to go with it.

Weathered TreeWeathered Tree – Seminole Rest, Canaveral National Seashore in Oak Hill, Florida

This last photo is from back in 2013.  It sat in my archives until this week when I discovered it again and processed it.  It took a while for me to complete my reaction to the scene.

Sun and shadowsSun and shadows – Long exposure under the pier at Cocoa Beach

The photo and video in last week’s post also resulted from the “explore, discover, react” approach.

So what’s the moral of this story?  I suppose it’s this:  If you approach photography like I do, you’d better be ready to react to a scene when you see it.  Know your equipment so you can capture what you need when you discover something.  Even in the dark or in rapidly changing situations.  Know your software capabilities too, so you understand what you need to capture.  Be ready for the opportunities that you find, and the ones that find you.


On a different subject, I realized after I published last week’s blog that embedded video isn’t included in the email.  The Jetpack plugin software that I use doesn’t even put in a link to it.  So if you read the blog only via email and wondered what the video was about, you can click here to view it on YouTube.   And you can always click on the title of the post inside the email to view it on the web.  Sorry for any confusion.


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Fishing up a storm

I was at the Cocoa Beach Pier last Thursday morning with Tom M.  People were fishing in the surf and the Snook were running.  We watched two large ones caught in just a few minutes and someone told us they’d caught eight so far.  It was easy to see that the fishermen were having a great time.  Their concentration when casting and excitement when they hooked one was obvious.

A little later,  this gentleman wandered over.  I only had to move a little to place him in the middle of the reflection from the clouds and sunrise.

Fishing up a storm
Fishing up a storm 

I had a good time photographing that morning, but it seemed like the fishing was much more enjoyable.  Maybe I should bring fishing gear when I go out with a camera.

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

Cocoa – March 20, 2014

Keith H. mentioned that he’d like to visit the Cocoa Pier.  I hadn’t been in a while and when I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris, it looked like the sun would rise lined up pretty well with the Pier this week, so we decided to go over.  We arrived early hoping for some star photo ops, but thick clouds and lights on the beach limited star visibility.  I did manage to capture a planet in this frame:

Venus rising past the pier
Venus rising past the pier – The clouds parted for a few moments before dawn

It’s pretty crowded underneath this pier, so the sun alignment wasn’t as big a deal as I hoped.  I caught a glimpse of it through the pilings and clouds just after dawn – here’s what it looked like:

Sunrise under the pier
Sunrise under the pier – The ship visible in the upper left was a bonus.

On the drive back, we stopped to photograph the new Port Canaveral Exploration Tower:

Port Canaveral Exploratio Center
Port Canaveral Exploration Tower – The new building is quite eye-catching! It wasn’t there the last time I drove by.

 A quick, but fun photo excursion.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Partial Solar Eclipse at Sunrise

I hadn’t been paying enough attention to astronomy news. Luckily my loyal Sherpa was (thank you Lynn!), and she mentioned that a partial solar eclipse would  be visible along the US east coast at sunrise on November 3rd.  So I took off for Cocoa Beach where I knew I could get a clear view of the horizon.  This was the scene a little before sunrise.

Mai Tiki Bar
Mai Tiki – before sunrise

Normally clouds are a great thing for sunrise photos.  In this case, though, the eclipse would last only a few minutes, so I worried that the band of clouds low on the horizon would block the view.  But the sun and moon finally did break through so we could watch the last part of the event.

Partial eclipse of the sun

Partial Eclipse of the Sun – As seen from the base of the Cocoa Beach Pier

I wanted to clearly show the sun’s disc so I used my “bird” lens for this photo zoomed in to 400mm.  I was happy that these three people were watching from the end of the pier so I could place  them in the frame.  The sun was extremely bright and I was careful not to burn anything in my camera (or my eyes!).  It was tough to compose since I kept my lens pointed away from the sun most of the time and only glanced briefly through the viewfinder to make images.

I like the way this one turned out.  It was definitely a unique sunrise and well worth the drive over.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The sun, the sea, the gull, and me

Kevin M. saw online posts reporting recent sightings of Razorbills and Common Eiders at Sebastian Inlet.  So we decided to twitch down there to see if we could see them.  Along the way, we stopped by the Cocoa Beach Pier for Sunrise.  Photographers are always looking for interesting foreground for our landscape photos.  This time, an obliging gull sat still for me very close to my tripod and added some interest.

The sun, the sea, the gull, and me
The sun, the sea, the gull, and me – The Cocoa Beach Pier at sunrise – My closeness didn’t concern the Ring Billed Gull in the foreground.

After the sun rose, we headed on down A1A and got to Sebastian Inlet around 8:30.  It was my first visit to this state park and all the activity impressed me .  In addition to the birders and photographers, there were many campers, fishermen, boaters, and people just out enjoying a very nice day.  We searched up and down the park for a couple of hours, and talked to the rangers and several other birders but had no luck finding a Razorbill.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, word spread that the Common Eider had been sighted, so we all hurried over to the place marked by a pod of photographers and spotted this bird:

Common Eider
Common Eider – iBird says these don’t get much south of New England, so they are rare in Florida. My second life bird of 2013.

I did make a few more photos that morning.  Here’s an IR of the beach, sand and glare:

The beach
The beach

And here’s a Magnificent Frigatebird.  These tend to soar far overhead and off shore.  This one was a bit closer and lower and this is my best photo of one so far.  There were 9 or more in the area that morning.

A Magnificent Frigatebird glides overhead
A Magnificent Frigatebird glides overhead – I don’t often see these on the east coast of Florida. There were several at Sebastian Inlet this weekend.

We didn’t find the Razorbill, but we saw plenty.  I’m always amazed by what you can see out in nature if you go look.  Give it a try!  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

 

Cocoa Sunrise

Keith H. wanted to try out his 10 stop neutral density filter, so we rode over to Cocoa Beach to make some sunrise photos. It was very clear when we left around 5:30 am, but by the time we parked next to the pier, a few clouds had appeared to make the sunrise more interesting.

Atlantic sunrise
Atlantic sunrise.

A neutral density (ND) filter reduces the amount of light entering your camera.  This gives you greater flexibility to adjust aperture and exposure.  They’re often used to show motion blur with a slow shutter speed, or reduce the depth of field with a wide aperture.  Ideally, ND filters are color neutral – although both Keith and I noticed some color shifts with ours.  I was using two stacked 3 stop NDs and this set up worked pretty well to slow the shutter speed and blur the water, especially before sunrise.  Keith’s 10 stop was a bit too much before dawn, but would be great after sun rise.  Overall, we spent an hour or so working the scene and both came away with photos we like.

That's pretty, lets make a photo
A bird flies above a couple making a photograph by a woman walking through the sun.

You can see more photos of Cocoa Beach in this set on Flickr.

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Using aperture brackets to overcome blur and diffraction

I finally made it over to Cocoa Beach in time for sunrise yesterday morning:

Sunrise by the Cocoa Beach Pier

Sunrise by the Cocoa Beach Pier

In this photo, I wanted to use a long shutter speed to blur the water and show wave motion.  I set the slowest ISO my camera supports (50), added a 3 stop neutral density filter, and used an aperture of f/22 which gave me a shutter speed of 2 seconds.  I would have liked even longer, but this was as slow as I could get it under these conditions.  I think the water came out pretty well.

As I made the exposure, I worried about two things:  1) Such a tiny aperture would lead to diffraction and blurring of small details and 2) Such a long shutter speed would add motion blur where I didn’t want any (boats and people).  So how could I overcome this?

I was shooting in aperture priority mode and my camera was locked down on a tripod.  So I made a second exposure at f/4 and let the camera set a shutter speed of 1/15 second.  Normally when you bracket, you’re trying to change the exposure (or sometimes white balance or focus).  This time, I was trying to bracket the aperture / shutter speed I was using, but keep the exposure constant. Having a second exposure let me load both images as layers in Photoshop.  Then I used a layer mask to show the first exposure for the water in the lower part, and the second exposure for the upper area including the boat and pier.  This let me have motion blur where I wanted it and still keep sharpness in areas where I wanted that.  I think the technique worked pretty well.  What do you think?  Have you ever tried this?

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

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.