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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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!
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*
And of course, it’s always a great place to see Alligators.
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.
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?
Maitland is a particularly photogenic city in the greater Orlando metro area. I’ve found several locations there with good photo ops – my most recent visit was to the Maitland Art Center with Keith H.
Way out: A gate in the wall at the Maitland Art Center (Infrared, Black and White)
The Maitland Art Center used to be known as The Research Studio and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the few examples in our area of Mayan Revival architecture, which can make for some intriguing details to photograph. The grounds are a popular place for weddings. You may run into one on weekends that will keep you out of one or more of the venues.
Mayan Revival carved door – I wonder if this is where Indiana Jones keeps his stuff?
Other museums in this location in addition to the Art Center are: the Telephone Museum; the William H. Waterhouse House Museum; and the Carpentry Shop Museum. If you’re visiting, check the websites linked here – the hours and fees vary.
Info for Photographers
My approach was to wander and photograph whatever caught my eye. I found the Art and History Museum productive for IR / B&W photography.
Tripod/Monopod: Allowed and helpful.
Lenses: You’ll probably use wide and normal lenses the most. I didn’t feel any need for a telephoto lens. A polarizing filter might be helpful to block reflections in glass.
They’re all in the garden at the party
Best time to visit: Year round, early or late in the day for the best light. Avoid weekends if possible so you don’t run into any weddings.
And the park at Lake Lilly is also photogenic. Try some sunrise or sunset photos there, or walk through the farmers market on Saturdays for some local interest / people photos. Be careful the ducks don’t peck on your lens!
Wide angle, backlit, ducklings at Lake Lilly – looking for a handout
And the Fort Maitland boat ramp at 900 South Orlando Ave. would be a great place to launch your kayak!
“The Senator” is the nickname of what was a 3500 year old Cypress Tree in Big Tree Park in Longwood Florida. Sadly, it burned down in January of 2012 when a drug addict lit a fire in the hollow at the base of the tree because “it was dark and she wanted light to see the drugs she was using.”. The culprit confessed and is expected to be sentenced shortly to either probation or a few months in prison.
I’ve written several blog articles about this and I hope you’ll forgive me for writing one more:
The latest chapter in this story is even more personal and began in December of last year when someone posted a comment on this photo of the Senator on Flickr asking if I’d be willing to sell a copy of the image. Tony Seifred and I exchanged a few emails, and to make a long story short we also ended up exchanging gifts. I gave Tony copies of two photographs of the Senator and he gave me a piece of the tree itself! I’ll let Tony tell his side of the story:
“Back when the tree burned, NPR covered the story the following morning. Within an hour I was cold calling county personnel and getting passed from one person to another. I was trying to encourage them to make offerings to school systems for educational purposes.
After many months I received an email that the decision had been made to take applications for remains. I contacted my local schools and museum trying to get them to apply. I even provided the applications. No one applied.
So I decided to try on my own. Eventually I did receive a piece of the outer part of the tree, but pick-up had to be in person. The story after that is long and convoluted but eventually did find someone there to accept payment to collect and ship the piece. Upon arrival the box was open and the piece had clearly been out.
Despite the rather expensive UPS store packing. Some pieces were broken off and still inside the wrapping. I am gifting you the largest of those pieces.”
Kudos to Tony for pursuing this and making it happen. I had the piece mounted together with the photo I made before it burned. Here’s how it looks:
This means a great deal to me and I’ll treasure it as a reminder of visits to the Senator before the tragedy. I’m exceptionally grateful to Tony for his generosity in sharing with me.
Short post this week: my son Mike is visiting and I didn’t have time for a photo expedition.
He wanted to go to the University of Central Florida football game last night. Since it was a 7pm kick-off, I checked the open seats on the east side and there were still some available up in the nosebleed section. We enjoyed the first quarter while I waited to see if the Florida sky would do it’s thing. It cooperated – here’s my version of a sports photograph:
Football foreground: The sun set early on the visiting Akron Zips in the UCF football opening home game.
The Akron team was overmatched. We had a good time watching UCF win – the final score was 38 – 7.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go sneak in a sunset photo!
One of the great things about photography is that it gets you up and out there. You may not see anything if you go – but if you don’t go you definitely won’t ever see anything. Here are a few photos of what I saw around Central Florida this week.
I made this first one about a half hour before dawn along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The low tide had uncovered these rocks, so I used my ultra wide-angle, rectilinear lens and lowered my tripod to emphasize them. This is a single exposure, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I also tried out the new Topaz Clarity filter. It seems to do a good job enhancing contrast without introducing halos.
The word “parhelion” comes from the Greek for “beside the sun”. They’re also called sundogs and are always 22 degrees away from and at the same elevation as the sun. They’re most visible when the sun is low and the sky is darker – dawn or dusk. I like to watch for them and I thought it was nice of this kayaker to pose with one for me. I was lucky that I’d already shifted to my long lens to make bird photos. I needed the reach for this composition.
Early start – Kayak fisherman paddling underneath a sundog.
There were several dolphins also fishing in this area. I could see the fish jumping and the dolphins seemed to catch a lot of them.
I stopped by Orlando Wetlands Park briefly and it was very scenic despite the cloud cover. I liked the pathways the birds made through the vegetation in this scene.
Morning marsh – A cloudy morning in Orlando Wetlands, just after dawn
This time of year, there’s not as much bird activity as in the spring. Orlando Wetlands was pretty quiet and so was MINWR. But there are still some regulars around and it’s nice to watch their antics.
Killdeer nest on the ground. When a predator gets close, they pretend to have a broken wing and try to draw the predator away from the nest. I watched this one perform and when it finished it turned around to peek back at me and check if it was working. It did – I didn’t bother its nest.
Killdeer checks me out
I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the remains of this dock on the right side of the causeway leading into MINWR – but I never noticed it before. When I was leaving the other day, I finally saw it. It was a quick thing, almost subconscious. I actually drove on by before I processed what I saw and turned around. I’m very glad I stopped – it doesn’t look like it will last much longer. By the time I made this photo, the light was pretty bright. I used a neutral density filter to slow down my shutter speed and tried several focal lengths / compositions. I like this one the best. A B&W conversion using Nik Silver Effects seemed to fit the scene. In the future, I need to be more observant. What else is out there I’ve missed?
Keith H. and I took advantage of our annual photo passes and stopped by Gatorland yesterday morning. If you’ve planned to see the wild bird rookery there, don’t wait too long. There’s a lot going on now and it won’t last forever.
Cattle Egrets and Cormorants are still incubating eggs and should start hatching soon. Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Woodstorks have hatched and you can get great photos of parenting activity including feeding, nest maintenance, displays, and flight to / from nests. All of the birds are in peak breeding colors.
Tri-colored Heron in flight
Gatorland is a great place to practice flight photography. Observe the bird behavior for a while, pick a likely place with a good background (hopefully in the shade) and wait. Opportunities will occur!
Most of the Cattle Egrets were back in the bushes, in bad light and obscured by twigs. Be observant and patient you’ll find one out in the open and maybe even in front of a dark background.
Here’s a couple more photos from yesterday:
Anhinga in flight – they’re very different (and attractive) in breeding season.
Double Crested Cormorant – very pretty eyes if you can catch them in the right light
We also saw several other birds types including a Swallow-tailed Kite.
If you go during the week, take advantage of the early entry option. We got there at 7:30 and there were only a few other photographers there. As we were leaving about 10:15, there was a huge line waiting to get in. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to photograph in the early morning light and when it’s peaceful.
Another reason to visit Gatorland is to see the new Panther Springs exhibit. These animals are very impressive – I didn’t realize how large they are. These two are a brother and sister pair that were raised in captivity and so can’t be released back to the wild. The Florida Panther population is estimated at only 100 – 160 in south-west Florida. Well worth seeing.
You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Gatorland from this link. And this set on Flickr has many other photos I’ve made there
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
You may remember my posts about “The Senator”, a 3500 year old Cypress tree in Big Tree Park in Longwood, Florida (Big Tree Park – Home of the Senator, and “The Senator” is destroyed by fire). The destruction of the tree in January of last year was an awful event. The park closed after the fire but it’s open again now and the story has taken a fascinating twist – so I went by to check it out.
The Senator in September of 2011 – just a few months before the fire
The Senator in March of 2013 – the charred base of the original tree is all that’s left.
In 1997 a branch fell from the Senator after a storm.
A Miami science teacher happened to be there and happened to know about a North Florida tree farmer who was creating a cypress grove cloned from trees from all over the country.
The science teacher gave the branch to the farmer who used it to create ten cloned trees.
Seven of them survived (an unusually high percentage).
Fifteen years later, in January of 2012, the Senator burned.
A forestry specialist at the University of Florida heard about the fire and recalled the cloning project.
Seminole County officials then worked to move one of the clones to Big Tree Park.
The identical clone (appropriately named “The Phoenix”) was transplanted to Big Tree Park and dedicated on March 2nd, 2013. It’s doing well and is already more than 50 feet tall!
The Phoenix rises: An identical clone of the 3500 year old “Senator” cypress tree was started in 1997. Already 50+ feet tall, it was transplanted into Big Tree Park in 2012
There are some other changes, including a refurbished boardwalk, new signs with information about the park and trees, and new fencing (to keep drug addled arsonists out).
It’s horrible that this ancient tree burned, but it’s amazing that a clone existed. I wonder if people will visit “The Phoenix” far in the future and think about the 21st century, just like I sometimes think about the time 3500 years ago when The Senator first grew.