It’s getting to be that time of year again – when the Marl Bed Flats part of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area along HW 417 north of Lake Jesup usually fills up with wild swamp sunflowers. It’s a late September / early October event and lasts for a couple of weeks. Lynn and I drove by yesterday to scout the area.
Swamp Sunflowers (from 2012)
The good news is that we already saw a few sunflowers blooming. The bad news is that we also saw a lot of standing water, especially near the lake. Flooding or standing water in the flower fields usually means fewer flowers.
“The Lake Jesup Wilderness Area is currently closed due to high water levels …”
It seems we’ll have to wait until next year to photograph these flowers. Sorry about that.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe! Take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families! And if you can, make some photos – although probably not Lake Jesup sunflower photos this year.
I hiked out into the Marl Bed Flats part of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area yesterday morning (10/4/19) to visit the swamp sunflower fields that grow wild along HW 417 north of Lake Jesup for a few weeks this time of year.
Swamp Sunflower panorama
I left a little late because I don’t really like to go out there in the dark. I’ve never had any issues though, so just be careful if you do go before or after it’s light (official hours are “Dawn to Dusk”). There were two cars already there when I arrived and the gate into the larger parking area was closed. Parking could be tight at the end of the road – hopefully there will be plenty of room if you visit. I met one of the other photographers on my way in.
We haven’t had much rain recently, so both the red and yellow trails are dry and clear until you get out to the flowers. The flowers are in great shape although they didn’t seem as dense as I’ve seen them in other years – they may still be filling in. The ground in the fields is damp in spots but not very muddy in the areas I went through. I didn’t have any problems with bugs but I used insect spray before hand.
Right now is a great time for a visit and I think the flowers will last for at least another week or so. You’ll get a little exercise and you’ll witness a wonderful Florida nature spectacle! Take water, bug spray, etc. and watch out for snakes and other wild animals. It is a wilderness area!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I’ve been photographing the swamp sunflowers in the Marlbed Flats / Lake Jesup Conservation area since at least 2006. Last year, the fields by HW 417 next to Lake Jesup were flooded and the Swamp Sunflower season was disappointing. But I’ve driven by there a couple of times in the last week or so and it looks like we’ll have a a lot of flowers this year. Blooms are already visible from the road.
Lake Jesup Wildernes Area – Swamp Sunflowers. This is a fisheye photo from 2012. I think I’ll take that lens out there with me again.
It might be a bit early for a visit right now. I’m guessing they’ll peak around the first or second week of October. If you do go, be careful. Take water, bug spray, etc. and watch out for snakes and other wild animals. It is a wilderness area!
Have you heard about Adobe’s recent update to Lightroom? It has a new feature called “Enhance Details”. Adobe says it:
“approaches demosaicing in a new way to better resolve fine details and fix issues like false colors and zippering. Enhance Details uses machine learning—an extensively trained convolutional neural network (CNN)—to provide state-of-the-art quality for the images that really matter.”
You can read an explanation of what they’ve done on their blog at this link: https://theblog.adobe.com/enhance-details/. It sounds like a another fascinating advance in computational photography. It’s also a great example of why you should shoot in Raw mode and save your original files – so you can take advantage of future software updates. Of course I had to try this out!
Wildflower and bug – processed in Lightroom with Enhanced Details (click for a larger view)
I chose this flower growing in Central Winds Park, near Lake Jesup as my subject. By the way, this is the same spot and subject as this 2015 blog post. There’s a lot of detail in the flower and insect and I was curious about how it would look using the new processing.
I ran Enhance Details on the Raw file. At first, I couldn’t really see any improvement. So I opened the original and enhanced images in layers in Photoshop. I set the layer mode to Difference and then used a levels adjustment to highlight changes.
Using this method at 300% magnification to guide me to where the changes were, I could then see them clearly. The enhanced image was indeed more detailed than the original. But (for this example anyway) they’re extremely subtle! Too subtle to show up in a blog resolution image without a difference map.
Adobe claims a 30% increase in image quality. I’m not sure how they derived this number, but from the examples I’ve seen the results are much more subtle than that.
It works better on some subject than others, e.g. night photos of cities with lights, or images with artifacts. Improvements are much harder to see on other subjects such as my flower.
I didn’t see (and haven’t heard of) anyplace where it made an image worse.
You pay a penalty in workflow, time, and disk storage when using this. It shouldn’t be your default processing.
Consider it for portfolio images, or photos that you’re printing in a large format. Don’t bother with it for images shared to the web or ones that you’re printing small. Keep your Raw files and you can always go back later and run them through.
If you use Fuji cameras, try it on their X-Trans Raw files.
We’ll hear more soon as the photo community explores this and we see results.
In the future this or something like it will probably become the default demosaicing approach. Adobe should be commended and I hope they keep developing it
That was fun! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I drove past the area yesterday. There’s a lot of standing water visible from 417. We saw a few flowers along the road, but none out in the fields.
When I got home, I checked their website. It says: “LAKE JESUP WILDERNESS AREA IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO HIGH WATER LEVELS. THE PROPERTY WILL RE-OPEN ONCE WATER LEVELS ALLOW.”
In previous years with this much standing water, the sunflowers didn’t bloom. So for now, I’m predicting a poor sunflower season. Yogi’s right, though – I’ll check again and if anything changes, I’ll update you.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I were driving back from dinner one day last week. The sky was beautiful and I liked the way the clouds and color looked so I pulled out my iPhone and made this photo as we went across the 417 bridge over Lake Jesup.
Sunset over Lake Jesup
This isn’t an earth shattering photo by any means, but there are things about it that are interesting. I used the Lightroom mobile app on my phone to capture it in RAW mode. Then I edited it (using the same app) and posted it from the car before we exited 417 a few minutes later. When I got home, the image (captured version and edits) was already on my desktop computer. What a frictionless experience.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do the same with our stand alone cameras?
Camera manufacturers are moving in this direction, but their progress seems slow. You can connect many cameras (e.g. Olympus, Sony, Fuji, etc.) with an app on your phone and then process and post from the phone. But it’s sometimes clumsy and not as well-integrated. Phone manufacturers are moving toward higher quality mobile photography at a faster rate. The 12 megapixel, RAW capture, stabilized images output from the iPhone approach (or exceed) the sensor image quality of some older DSLRs. And RAW processing / editing on phones is really coming along.
Do you think the mobile capabilities of stand alone cameras will catch up with phones before the image quality of phones is more than good enough? The question may already be decided.
Hmm – two blog posts in a row with nothing but iPhone photos. What’s the world coming to?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Florida has wonderful weather photography opportunities. They’re not often the kind that you see from tornado alley out west. But the clouds here are awesome too.
Lynn and I traveled recently (New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia). I realized when going through those photos that they lacked dramatic skies like we often see here in Central Florida. Maybe our timing was just bad. Anyway, it inspired me to put together this post with some examples of our weather along with a few hints.
We’d had several days of rain last August and even though afternoon light isn’t usually the best for photography, I decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and see if I could capture some of the weather drama. This one is from the south-east side of the causeway. There was a slight drizzle where I was standing and rain drops ruined several frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.
Storm Ahead (stitched panorama, nine frames at 24mm focal length).
This next photo is from September of 2012, also at Black Point Wildlife Drive. These clouds actually stopped me in my tracks and made me shift out of bird photography mode to make this B&W, IR image. You can see a color version of this here.
A little stormy (stitched panorama, three frames at 24mm eq. focal length).
These next two have been on the blog before, but they also illustrate my point: Clouds and storms in Central Florida are photogenic!
Stormy Shore: Storm clouds blow through north of our hotel on Casey Key, Florida. June 15, 2015 (stitched panorama, eight frames at 24mm eq. focal length).
Lakes Jesup Wildflowers and Rainstorm (105mm eq. focal length).
We don’t have mountains here in Central Florida. And we don’t have very good waterfalls either. But our clouds are just as good as anywhere else. How are they where you are?
Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
The storms are big. As you can see from the captions, many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography, although some situations (like the last image) benefit from a longer focal length.
You can shoot from your car in many cases or just dodge the showers. Do bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
Be careful with your exposures. If you have clear sky behind the clouds you can easily blow out highlights in the image which will be tough to fix in post.
When processing your photos, try using some mid-range contrast / clarity to bring out details in the clouds. Don’t go too far though or your results will look unrealistic.
Find yourself some good foreground locations so you’ll be ready to head out when the weather gets interesting.
And be careful – don’t get struck by lightning or ruin your equipment!
The flowers are just about in peak bloom. If you want to hike out there, you’d better make plans quickly. The blooms only last a couple of weeks, so by next weekend, they’ll be fading.
The flowers are beautiful, but the bugs are swarming. I didn’t make any photos of the insects, but I did bring home souvenir mosquito bites. Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and use insect spray too. It’s also wet. I didn’t get far from the forest edge – but the water was already several inches deep. Waterproof boots are a great idea.
Lake Jesup Sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats
There are other things to see out there too. It’s a good local birding spot with at least two Bald Eagle nests reported.
When you go, please be careful. Don’t stop on the side of 417 – it’s dangerous! It’s a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers. And it’s still hot – wear a hat and bring water with you.
The Lake Jesup Wilderness area really is wild – I’ve seen bobcats and worried about wild hogs. I haven’t seen any snakes, but I’ll bet they’re around. And Lake Jesup has one of the densest populations of alligators in Florida. So enjoy, but be careful!
You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr. I also have more info on the area collected in these older articles:
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 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 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 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!