Lynn and I went to see James Taylor last Tuesday. He played at the arena downtown and the place was packed. I guess there’s still a lot of us old timers that like his music (and can still hear). He played a lot of his hits and a few newer songs too.
James Taylor and his All Star Band – In concert at the Amway in Orlando, Florida. November 18th, 2014. (ISO 800, f2.8 @ 1/80 sec., 70mm eq.)
Like any large sports type arena, the acoustics and sound mix weren’t the best, and the prices for this type of entertainment (along with parking and popcorn) are very high. But it was a very good show and we both enjoyed ourselves.
Photographically, this is a very tough assignment. Unless you have a stage or press pass, your camera gear and access will be limited. For these events, the Amway has a very restrictive camera policy: Your camera has to “fit in your pocket”. Even though we had good seats, we were still pretty far from the stage. My Sony point-and-shoot camera does fit in my pocket and I thought the photo above was worth keeping. But I still wish the lens was longer than 24-70mm equivalent.
Back when I was in the Navy, I had to go to sea for months at a time and leave Lynn behind in Charleston, South Carolina. We missed each other terribly. One of my favorite songs from then was James Taylor’s “Carolina in my mind”. It was wonderful to hear him play it live – with Lynn in the seat right beside me.
I seem to have a preference for wide views. Hence my attraction to stitched multi-frame panorama images. They’re a great way to extend the field of view of lenses you have with you.
Keith H. and I walked around downtown Orlando for a few hours one day last week. I made a lot of photos, and after getting home and reviewing them, my favorites all turned out to be stitched panoramas. I guess I just enjoy being able to see the whole scene. Here are three examples:
Back alley break – A woman takes a work break on the back stairs. 4 frame panorama
Also, I hardly ever make selfies, but on this walk I ended up with two that I like – although they aren’t typical of the genre.
A window selfie – Looking south across Church Street from the 4th floor of the Plaza parking garage. That’s my reflection in the glass towards the middle bottom. Infra Red, Black & White, 4 frame panorama. (Click for a larger view on Flickr)
And this next one isn’t a Black & White photo – the sidewalk and wall were that color.
Cracks me up – A shadow selfie. 3 frame panorama.
You might find you like stitching panoramas too. I’ve written about them before. This article has a detailed workflow example and there are some more ideas in this post. Composition can be difficult since you can’t see the final image through your viewfinder as you capture it. Try to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need so you can crop into the assembled image to fine tune the composition. And watch out for long lines and patterns of lines. Look for any errors / mismatched lines between frames after you stitch them together and clean them up with the clone tool.
Besides downtown itself, there are several areas in Orlando with interesting photo ops: the Plaza Theatre, Leu Gardens, Lake Eola, Meade Gardens, and Greenwood Cemetery. I’ve collected photos from all of them in this set on Flickr.
There are a lot of posts on here about nature / wildlife / landscape photography in our area. But the blog isn’t only about those subjects – it’s about Central Florida Photo Ops in general. So this week we have something a little different…
Central Florida’s new commuter rail system opened on May 1. The first phase of SunRail is 32 miles long and connects DeBary to Sand Lake Road, with 12 intermediate stations. The fares have been free for the first two weeks while they work the kinks out of the system. And I had some free time – so it was a perfect chance to check it out.
Trains run every 1/2 hour during the morning and evening rush hours and every two hours in the middle of the day. Getting there early gave me more opportunities to get on and off the train and explore nearby locations. And sometimes the light is really pretty in the morning too!
A beautiful morning to catch the train – at the Maitland SunRail platform
The trains are new, clean, modern, air-conditioned, and the morning I rode they were all on time. They’ve been crowded with many folks riding for free to scope out the system. But by the time I boarded last Wednesday the crush had thinned out – I had no problem getting seats all morning.
There are plenty of scenic locations within walking distance of the SunRail stations. Exploring them all would take longer than a morning so I only stopped at three: Orlando Health, Winter Park, and Maitland. Finding subjects to point my camera at was easy. Here are two examples:
Seaboard Coast Line – Amtrak Station
Lucy Bleuz and the Jazzy Dog – they look like good places to eat
I didn’t try photographing from inside the train – motion and glare would make it tough. But there are some interesting sights between stops. If you want to try this, the east side of the car in the afternoon might have the best shots and light.
Initially, SunRail isn’t operating on weekends – so you’ll need to get around another way on Saturday / Sunday. But if you have time during the week, it’s an enjoyable experience. And did I mention there are photo ops?
Keb Mo (Kevin Moore) made a return visit to the Plaza Theatre in downtown Orlando last night. This time he left the band home and performed solo.
The man has a lot of talent. I enjoyed this show every bit as much as his last one here. He sang and played four different instruments – including three guitars and a harmonica. The place was full of his fans and they obviously enjoyed the show too. He interacted quite a bit with the audience and most of the songs he played were based on requests. There was even one funny part where he played a montage of several cover tunes while waiting for an audience member to return – since she had requested the next song.
Once again Lynn and I had excellent seats (this time on the left) and I was able to get a couple nice photos of him.
I highly recommend both Keb Mo’s music and the Plaza. If you get a chance, check ’em out.
Deborah Sandidge and Jason Odell led a sunset photo walk around Lake Eola in downtown Orland on Friday evening. I’ve followed their work online and wanted to meet them, so I signed up. Conditions weren’t the best for sunset photography, but I still had a good time. I used a neutral density filter to make several long exposure photos and I thought I’d walk you through my process. First of all, here’s the final version:
Lake Eola – Orlando, Florida. Long exposure, cloudy, sunset. You can click on this image to see a larger version on Flickr.
And here’s the initial version of this photo:
f/8, 25 seconds; after initial adjustments in Lightroom.
Here are the steps I went through to get to the final version: First, I corrected the distortion to make the buildings vertical in Lightroom. Then I edited it in Photoshop. I used content aware fill to finish the vertical distortion fix, then added a layer and masked out noise from darker areas. Finally, I ran the single image through Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 to enhance color, contrast and details. Back in Light room again, I finalized exposure, contrast and white balance and applied sharpening and a small amount of vignette. I like how it came out.
For comparison purposes, here’s a 1/20 second exposure of the same scene.
f/8, 1/20th second; Same initial adjustments as the version above.
Looking at the long exposure version, the main differences I see are: the smooth sheen on the water surface, the much more prominent tree shadow in the lower right, and the radial motion blurring in the clouds. The tree shadow surprised me the most. In the short exposure version, the water ripples break up the shadow. They don’t in the long exposure version, which makes the shadow much more interesting.
There are lot of upsides to long exposure photography and a few downsides. For instance, since the wind was blowing so hard on Friday, some of the smaller tree branches are a little blurry. Also, when you use very dense neutral density filters, your camera probably won’t auto expose or auto focus correctly, so you’ll have to take care of those things on your own. And some of these filters can also add a color cast to your photos, so you may need to be careful with your color balance. But all in all, it’s a great technique to have in your bag of tricks. Have you tried it yet? Why not?
I met Kevin M. at Mead Gardens Saturday morning for a quick stroll through this downtown Orlando park. Since the weather was cool and clear, we didn’t think the sunrise would be very good, so we slept in a bit. It was a relatively short trip, but very pleasant.
We sighted Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, an Eastern Phoebe, an American Goldfinch, American Robins and others. The smaller ones sure can be difficult to photograph – they’re in constant motion and when they’re still for a moment, it’s always behind a branch. Here’s one image I did manage to get:
Yellow-rumped Warbler – this one was out in the open and still for a moment.
We didn’t see any hummingbirds, although other people have recently sighted both Ruby-throated and Rufous varieties by the feeder.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Queen Extravaganza performed at Orlando’s Plaza Theater on Fathers Day to a sold out, enthusiastic crowd.
Queen Extravaganza at the Plaza: Yvan Pedneault, Francois-Olivier Doyon, Tyler Warren, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian
QE as we’ll call them, is a tribute band backed by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The show ‘celebrates the music and live experience of Queen’. They’re on their summer tour and stopped for one night in Orlando.
Brian Gresh solo
This very talented group of musicians put on a wonderful show and performed many of Queen’s greatest hits. I’m not a proper Queen super fan, but to my uninitiated ears, QE were really good. The very loud sound mix and very annoying lighting (which occasionally flashed strobes directly into the eyes of the audience) bothered me a bit. I suspect that the sound level and lights are purposeful and similar to a live Queen show, but I have to admit I never saw them live, so I don’t know.
Brandon Ethridge, Brian Gresh, Tristan Avakian, Francois-Olivier Doyon and Yvan Pedneault
The Plaza has been one of my favorite venues for concert photography. I think their policy used to be “no professional cameras”, but at this show their sign said “no interchangeable lens cameras” and “no flash or video”. They didn’t give me any hassle at all, but they were stopping people making videos with their phones. I’m not sure if this is a permanent change or was specific to this event. It would be a shame if it’s permanent. I really enjoy the acts at the Plaza, but one of the key draws for me is the opportunity to make some photos. If it becomes too hard to carry my camera in, I’ll probably go there less.
Do you enjoy gardening? Flower or landscape photography? Historical sites? Then Leu Gardens in downtown Orlando, is a place you should check out. It’s a 50 acre park on the grounds of the former home of Harry P. Leu, who donated the property to the city in 1961.
Hibiscus and sky
There are about 40 different plant collections in the park including aroids, azaleas, bamboo, bananas, bromeliads, camellias, citrus, conifers, crepe myrtles, conifers, cycads, ferns, flowering shrubs, flowering trees, gingers, heliconias, hibiscus and mallows,magnolias, ornamental grasses, palms,perennials, roses, trees, and vines. Many are labeled to help you figure out what you’re looking at. Various pieces of sculpture are also located around the garden as well as some interesting planters.
Pot Heads: Heads full of flowers: A Leu Gardens Planter
The gardens are arranged in sometimes geometrical layouts which can lead to interesting photos. These include the butterfly, kitchen, rose, and palm gardens along with many others. And don’t forget to see the fairly famous floral clock!
The Leu House Museum has been restored and is on the National Historical Register. It’s open for tours on the half hour starting at 10am (except in July when it’s closed for refurbishment).
Info for Photographers
Leu Gardens is very photo friendly. Photography and video is permitted for personal, non-commercial use, but commercial photography requires approval in advance.
The house at the end of the lane on one end of the gardens. False color IR photograph.
A leisurely stroll through the grounds is the best way to find photo opportunities and will take you an hour or two. Make sure you carry your gear with you. The parking lot is too far to go back to if you want to switch lenses or grab a flash. Speaking of flash – some of the flowers are located in very shaded areas. I found myself making photos with my camera in my right hand and a flash in my left to help light my subjects.
Busy Bee gathers pollen at Leu Gardens
Tripods are allowed and would be good for all the normal reasons. I didn’t bring one either time I visited. I know, I know – I should have, but I was just carrying too much already.
You’ll want to have your macro and wide-angle lenses with you. A longer macro will be most helpful. Not all the blooms and interesting plants are right next to the paths. And a longer distance to your subject will scare fewer insects away.
Best time to visit:
They’re open all year except Christmas day. Hours are 9am to 5pm. There are different plants blooming year round. Here’s a partial list by season (info from the Leu Gardens Map and Visitors Guide):
roses, hibiscus, day lilies, gardenias, trumpet trees, azaleas, citrus
roses, floss silk tree, cassia, hibiscus, ginger, helconia, bottlebrush tree
camellia, pink trumpet tree, azaleas, orchid tree
They occasionally host flower shows. If you can catch one of those, you’ll be in for some extra treats.
Leu Gardens can be a very popular place, especially on weekends and during wedding season. I visited once when two weddings were taking place and almost got knocked over by two photographers running backwards photographing a wedding party. The weddings can sometimes block off areas in the park too. Another time I visited was on a Friday morning and I had most of the place to myself. So I’d suggest you try to avoid the weekends and weddings if you can.
Adult admission is $7.00, children in grades K – 12 are $2.00. If you can visit on the first Monday of the month, admission is free.
I did see some birds there during my visit including Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Northern Mockingbirds, among others. And the birdsong adds a nice soundtrack to your stroll.
Please visit my Leu Gardens set on Flickr to see more examples of the photo ops you might find there. I’m sure if you go, you come up with many others. If you do, let me know about it.
The Black Swan is an interesting bird. Not only from an avian perspective, but also from a philosophy and ideas perspective. Wikipedia introduces the Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) as “a large water bird, a species of swan, which breeds mainly in the southeast and southwest regions of Australia.”
Black Swan at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando
Australia? Then what is a photo of a Black Swan doing on the Central Florida Photo Ops blog?
All known swans were white until Black Swans were discovered in Australia. People would never expect to find a black Swan (even in Orlando). So this bird is often used as a metaphor for an unexpected event.
If no one told, you’d never expect to find a Black Swan in Central Florida. But you can – at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando. So seeing a Black Swan there is a black swan event – highly unexpected. Or it was, until I just told you.
There are other Swan species there too. I saw Whooper Swans, Mute Swans, and Black Necked Swans last weekend.