Category Archives: Orlando

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Two birds, a selfie, and the blog

I met Tom M., and Lee A. at Gatorland again last Thursday.  During breeding season I like to go at least once a month to keep up with the activity there.  It’s a very nice experience over time to  see different species nesting, eggs hatching, and young birds growing and fledging.  It was our coldest morning of the season so far, with temperatures a few degrees below freezing.  I know all of you that are suffering in colder climates are thinking that’s not cold – but down here we think it’s pretty chilly.

Anyway, the Great Egrets are wearing their fancy plumes and colors and looking for mates. One of the advantages of the photographer’s early entry program at Gatorland is that the light can be very nice in the morning.  It certainly was on this bird and it was displaying a bit too. I waited for the right moment, and made this image.

Displaying Egret Displaying Egret

A while ago, one of my friends on Flickr asked me about this photo of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Here’s the question and my answer:

Vicki:  “I was wondering about the heron you posted. It has only one leg. Was it missing a leg or is it the way they hold them? I spotted one near me last week and when I got the photos on the computer, I discovered it was only using one leg…even after it moved around in the tree. So I was wondering if you know if it is a normal pose for them to do that.”

Ed:  “I can’t be 100% sure since I didn’t see this heron’s other leg, but it is a typical pose to tuck one leg up against their body.”

In this new image, also of a Black Crowned Night Heron, you can see the other leg, since it’s not quite hidden in the feathers.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile

This last photo is my latest selfie.  For several years I’ve been looking for situations like this where the geometry is right to see my reflection in the Alligator’s eye and get close enough to photograph it.  This one is a tight crop, but I think it’s my best so far!

Gator eye selfie (crop) Gator eye selfie – Not photoshop – that’s the actual reflection in its eye of me standing on the boardwalk.

 And now about the blog.  I’ve been a bit aggravated for some time with the performance of my hosting service – the load times seemed slow and  I’ve also had intermittent, unexplained  outages  So finally last week I decide to move to a managed WordPress hosting service.  It seems to be working very well so far.  This is my first post on the new system and I hope that everything works well – including the email subscription function.  I’m only telling you this in case you notice any issues.  If so, please let me know so I can work on them.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Photographer's Pass

During bird nesting season (February – mid June in Central Florida), Gatorland’s Photographer’s Pass program allows early entry to the park at 7:30 am Thursday – Sunday and lets you stay until dusk on Saturday.  It’s great if you want to photograph wild birds in good light outside of normal business hours when there’s not many tourists around.   You can find out a lot more detail on their website at this link.

This season started last Thursday and I met Tom M., Zvia S., and Lee A. there.  It’s early in the year so there’s not too much nesting activity yet, but there’s plenty to photograph.  We saw many Great Egrets in breeding colors and plumage, and a few have started building nests.  We also saw Anhingas, Cormorants, Black Vultures, and some Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, and Great Blue Herons.  I even sighted a Belted Kingfisher and a Black-crowned Night Heron.

The boardwalk along the breeding marsh offers close up looks at wild birds that are used to photographers and cameras.

Anhinga portrait

Anhinga portrait – These birds are very pretty in the right light

Gatorland is also a great place to practice flight photography.  The birds often fly over the boardwalk, many times along the same routes.  With a little study, you can anticipate their path and get some good shots.

Great Blue Heron in flight Great Blue Heron in flight

And of course, there are lots of alligators to photograph too.

Sunbathing gatorSunbathing gargantuan gator – I was about 15 feet away with my long lens zoomed out and had to make a 3 frame panorama to fit it all in.

We had a great time at Gatorland.  If you want to get some really good photos of typical Florida wading birds, this is a wonderful place to do it.  You can view many other Gatorland photos in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope I’ll see you at Gatorland one morning making photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Orlando – Downtown in the Dark

People probably don’t think of Orlando as a metropolis or street photography mecca like New York or Chicago, but it does have a photogenic downtown.  I wrote about a daytime stroll there in this post back in October of last year.  I suspected that it might be even more photogenic at night.  Last Wednesday evening I went back with Keith H. and Tom M.

The new Dr. P. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts was finished after our last trip and I was looking forward to seeing it at night.  It’s an impressive building and the architecture and lighting make it an attractive photo subject.  Here are two views of the main entrance:

Dr. Phillips Center 1 Dr. Phillips Center 1 – The new performing arts center in downtown Orlando

Dr. Phillips Center 2 Dr. Phillips Center 2

City hall is just west of the Performing Arts Center.  This view is looking up at the front doors from the base of the steps:

Orlando City Hall Orlando City Hall

Church Street Station is even further west and a bit north.  This sidewalk next to the SunRail tracks passing through caught my eye:

Down by the tracks Down by the tracks – Near Church Street Station

You can see other photos from this trip and many more from downtown Orlando in this set on Flickr.  I’m sure you can find many images of your own when you wander around downtown.

If you go:

  • Street parking is hard to find.  There are convenient parking garages – we used the one on South Orange Avenue at the Plaza Cinema Cafe.  I’d like to find a garage with access to the roof and a good panoramic view.  If you find one, please let me know!
  • The area by the Dr. Phillips Center / City Hall is well-lit and photogenic.  Lake Eola is also very popular with photographers.
  • There are a lot of people around early in the evening so the areas seem relatively safe, but be careful.
  • A wide-angle lens and tripod will help your architectural photos.  A high ISO capability and bright lens would be good if you want to try hand-held street photos.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

James Taylor at the Amway

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
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.

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

Downtown Orlando

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
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 selfie
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
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.

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

RIP Tim Hauser

Sad news:  Tim Hauser, who founded the Manhattan Transfer in the early ’70s, passed away Thursday. He was 72.

Lynn and I are long time fans of the group’s unique music. We enjoyed seeing them perform live early this year.

Manhattan Transfer at the Plaza in Orlando, Florida - 1/24/14
Tim Hauser, Janis Seigel, Margaret Dorn, Alan Paul
Manhattan Transfer at the Plaza in Orlando, Florida – 1/24/14

If you have an opportunity to see an artist you enjoy – go do it.  You don’t know if you’ll get another chance.

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Wild Orchids and more at Fort Christmas

I follow Florida Hikes and they tweeted about wild orchids blooming at Fort Christmas,

Fort Christmas Historical Park is east of Orlando close to Orlando Wetlands Park.  I’ve written about it before:

I hadn’t ever seen Orchids in the wild and I hadn’t been out there since 2012, so this was a big enough motivation to make me want to visit again.  I ended up exploring with Tom M. on a morning last week.

Once we knew what to look for, the orchids weren’t hard to find.  There were a lot of them higher up in the large live oak trees.  The strong back light, wind, and distance made them hard to photograph well, but with a longer lens, a flash, and some careful camera positioning I managed to isolate these blooms against a dark background.  I like the colors and background, which remind me of an oriental flower painting.

Wild Orchids
Wild Orchids – Up in the live oak trees. Two frames, with flash, different focus points, hand merged in Photoshop.  I believe these are Florida Butterfly Orchids (Encyclia tampensis).

Sunflowers were also blooming in one of the small gardens on the site.

Sunflower bloom
Sunflower bloom – In the garden. Single frame, ambient light.

We also spent some time looking around inside the buildings.  You’re free to enter most of them as long as you’re careful.  And since we were there on a mid-week morning, there weren’t many other folks around.  Until two busses of summer camp kids showed up around 10:30.

In the bedroom
In the bedroom – Single 1/2 second exposure at f/8 for depth of field. I didn’t have a tripod, so I rested the camera on the window sill

Antique fixtures and appliances fill the rooms.  These and the wood and fabric textures make for some very photogenic settings – perfect material for a bit of nostalgic, B&W processing.

In the kitchen 1
In the kitchen – I was able to hand hold this one when I opened the aperture to f/2.8. The depth of field is acceptable since there’s nothing too close to the viewpoint.

Here are some photo hints for you:

  • For the orchids, you’ll probably want a longer zoom lens, a flash, a tripod and remote release.
  • Some of the flowers and other items would make good macro subjects.
  • For photos of the building and room interiors, I found a wide-angle lens very useful.  A tripod might be handy for this too, but I was able to brace my camera and / or use the pop up flash to eliminate camera shake / blur.

I’ve posted other photos from Fort Christmas in this set on Flickr.  It’s a wonderful year round photo-op.  And the blooming orchids in the summertime are a nice bonus.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland, 7 June 2014

If you’ve meant to go to Gatorland in Orlando, Florida to see the wild birds that nest in the rookery there, you’ve just about missed your chance for this year.

I went by last Saturday with Mahesh S. and Greg N. to see what was going on (and to renew my annual photographer’s pass). There were still one or two Great Egret nests with chicks, but the other young birds have hatched, grown, fledged, and moved out. Nesting activity will start-up again in mid to late February next year.  After this weekend, you’ll also have to visit during regular hours since the early entry program ends on June 15th.  In the mean time, Gatorland’s still a great place to get close access to a number of Florida bird species.

Great Egret ABOAS*
Great Egret ABOAS*

And of course, it’s always a great place to see Alligators.

Like an iceberg
Like an iceberg – There’s more under the surface than you can normally see from above.

And there are occasionally some nice avian visitors too.

Soaring Swallow-tailed Kite
Soaring Swallow-tailed Kite

I’ve posted a great many photos from Gatorland in this set on Flickr and you can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about Gatorland at this link.  The St. Augustine Alligator Farm posted a very handy bird nesting season reference guide here and you can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at this link 

I’ve also uploaded a short bonus video of bellowing alligators at the park.  They were feeling feisty and declaring their gator dominance.

Turn up the volume and make sure you have your sub-woofer on too!

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*ABOAS = Another bird on a stick 🙂

Riding the Rails – Orlando's New SunRail Commuter Train

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
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.

Northbound Sunrail
Northbound

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
Seaboard Coast Line – Amtrak Station

Lucy Bleuz and the Jazzy Dog
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?

You can see these and a few more photos from this trip in this set on Flickr.

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

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.