Category Archives: INSIDE FLORIDA

Out of practice

It doesn’t take very long to forget about some things. Good habits lapse and bad ones take over quickly.

I hadn’t been out photographing in about three weeks and was anxious to go last week. So I got up early Wednesday morning and headed over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – one of my favorite spots. Although I managed to come back with some photos I like, all did not go well. Turns out I was out of practice and there were several issues that made me miss shots. So today, I have a few reminders of things not to do. Maybe my mistakes will help someone else.

Morning glow Morning glow – from Gator Creek Road

  • I didn’t check the MINWR website before I went. If I had, I would have seen: “The Black Point Wildlife drive will be closed for two weeks for annual maintenance beginning 8/19/21.” Luckily, there are plenty of spots to explore in the refuge, so this wasn’t a critical error. But somewhere else, it could have been. Check the website!
Silhouettes Silhouettes

  • I hadn’t reset my camera / lens. My long zoom has a focus limiter switch. You can choose the full range of focus (2.4m – infinity) or limit it to one of two ranges. I usually keep it set to the 10m – infinity selection which speeds up focus response for birds in flight. I’d used it at home though for a close up (2.4m – 10m) and put it back in the case without reseting it. Then when I pulled it out at MINWR to photograph a distant bird, it wouldn’t focus. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve made this mistake before, and it didn’t take long to correct. But it was confusing and I did miss a shot. Reset your camera and lens to defaults when you put them away.
Bird Buddies Bird Buddies

  • A lot of the time, I have my camera in my lap so it’s ready to use on short notice. But at one point while driving down Biolab Road, I’d put it in the open case on the seat next to me. Of course, a huge gator picked that time to stroll across the road in front of me. I probably wouldn’t have made the shot even if I’d been ready, but I would’ve had a better chance if the camera had been closer. Keep your camera ready at all times.
  • I’m really upset at myself about this last one. At some point during the trip I’d set my aperture to a small f-stop to increase my depth of field. And I forgot to change it back to wide open (the default – see above!!!). This slowed my shutter speeds and ruined a few photos due to motion blur that I wish I’d gotten. I usually don’t check my photos all the time, but the instant feedback you can get with digital cameras is wonderful – if you use it. Inspect what you’ve captured every once in a while so you can catch problems.
Morning meal Morning meal. A 1/125s shutter speed was fine for a still subject.

Header image: Looking west from Biolab Road, Infrared, B&W. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

These mistakes are embarrassing – I hope I don’t repeat them the next time I’m out. And I hope they help you too!

“That is what you should not do. So let that be a lesson to you.”

Berenstain Bears: THE BIKE LESSON

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, avoid some mistakes and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Working a scene

Sometimes when I’m out photographing at dawn, I’ll see someone stop, hop out of their car, make a single photo, then get back in and leave. Will they get a good image? Maybe. But they’d have a better chance if they could invest some time trying different compositions and settings to see what works best.

Brewing storm Brewing Storm: 6:24 am, 20 mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, Blended exposures (2.5 and 0.8s)

On a recent morning at dawn, I photographed a photogenic thunderstorm from the St. Johns River boat ramp on SR 50 for about an hour. As the light changed, I tried different lenses and techniques and I’m pretty happy with the images I came home with.

Sunrise through a thunderhead Sunrise through a thunderhead: 6:52 am, 39 mm, ISO 100, f/11, Blended exposures (1/125 – 1/30s)

I thought you’d like to see these examples from that morning. In each caption, I’ve listed the time I made the photo and the settings I used. Maybe you can take away some ideas for your next dawn photo excursion. If you have any questions or want more details about what I did, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

A storm across the river A storm across the river: 7:24 am, 160mm, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/320s exposure, 5 frame panorama

Header image: Thunderhead and mist over the marsh: 6:39 am, 105 mm, ISO 100, f/8, Blended exposures (1/4 – 1/60s). Full image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51378599007/in/dateposted-public/

The light and colors varied tremendously while I was there. I enjoyed watching them evolve and using different settings / focal lengths to capture the changes and include or isolate parts of the scene.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, work a scene!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Bird Sound Wizardry

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

The wizards at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have cast some potent spells with the latest update to their free Merlin Bird ID app.

I’ve had it on my iPhone for ages (it’s also available for Android). But I got used to the iBird app (http://ibird.com) and I normally open it for help with bird identification – so Merlin’s been sitting around idle. It wasn’t until last week that I heard about the new sound ID feature they added in June.

Sound ID records bird songs around you, analyzes them, and suggests IDs for what’s singing. You can compare the recording to other songs and calls for confirmation. It’s also a great way to learn bird calls. Hearing some, and then having the app tell you what they are in real time is great re-enforcement and helps you remember what you’ve heard. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I updated the app and tried it out yesterday on a trip over to MINWR. I simply held it out, watched the waveforms record and the results as they came up magically on my screen. Here’s a screenshot:

I used it several times and it found Black-necked Stilts, Red-winged Blackbirds, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Eastern Kingbirds, Ospreys, and Mourning Doves. Most of them before I ever saw the birds. When the Eastern Kingbird ID popped up, I started looking for them and spotted this one perched briefly on a distant branch:

Eastern Kingbird Eastern Kingbird

Since it told me Stilts and Yellowlegs were around, I could keep an eye out for them too.

Black-necked Stilt Black-necked Stilt

Greater Yellowlegs Greater Yellowlegs

I was surprised by how sensitive the recordings are. It heard most all the calls that I did, and it seems accurate, at least in this short test.

There are 458 birds in the Sound ID list and more are promised. Cornell Labs has done some fine work with this. I think it’ll be very helpful to me in the future. If you’re at all interested in birds or birding, it belongs on your phone too! Did I mention that it’s free?

Header image: A pair of bunnies I also photographed yesterday. No, Merlin didn’t pull them out of a hat. That would’ve been very advanced technology! Full image at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51363803209/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid cases in Florida are still at an all time high. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, photograph (and ID) some birds!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

More landscapes

A short post today with more images from my last trip to MINWR.

Dawn over the anchorage Dawn over the anchorage

I suppose we all occasionally struggle with photography – finding something to point our cameras at can be difficult. Other times, it seems easy and images almost make themselves. My last trip to MINWR was like that – I came home with more than a normal number of landscapes I really like.

Across the marsh Across the marsh

I felt like I was really in the “zone”. Every composition I tried looked good to me. And they still looked good when I got home.

Wide Water Wide Water

Anyway, here they are.

Fun fact: These were made with three different cameras: A Sony full frame, an Olympus Micro Four Thirds, and an iPhone. Can you tell which is which? If you’re interested in the answers, you can click on these to see larger versions (and EXIF data).

Header image: Another view of the marina. Larger version: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51349701361/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid cases in Florida are at an all time high. Be careful out there and please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – July 21, 2021

Our weather’s been seasonably hot and humid here in Central Florida. We’re very definitely in the dog days of summer. According to Wikipedia, they’re called that because historically they’re associated with the summer-time rise of Sirius (Canis Major – the “Dog Star”) in the night sky.

Anyway, mid-summer isn’t the best time for birds / wildlife but I really wanted to do a bit of photography. So I packed some camera gear and headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at zero dark thirty last Wednesday to see what I could see.

There was a nice view near the entrance to the refuge about 25 minutes before sunrise:

Titusville Marina at dawn Titusville Marina at dawn

I drove around Gator Creek Road next although there was little activity and I didn’t make any photos.

Black Point Wildlife Drive was a different story. There were a few of our regular resident birds:

Reddish Egret Reddish Egret

Watching Watching Osprey

And I lucked into a feeding frenzy where Herons and Egrets were “fly fishing” for minows in a small pool of water.

The light was harsh, but it was a great place to practice birds-in-flight photography. They move fast and erratically chasing the fish. Looking through the camera with my right eye while watching the wider scene with my left helped me anticipate the action before I could see it through the lens.

Fly fishing 2 Fly fishing 2

According to the iBird app on my phone, Northern Flickers are here year round, but I don’t spot them very often. When I do they’re usually skittish – this one was no exception. But it decided to fly ahead of me along the road and I followed along slowly at a distance. It finally stopped for a few seconds on the side of a palm tree in some pretty good light and I was able to jump out of the car and make this image.

Northern Flicker Northern Flicker

While I was over there, I went by Veterans Memorial Park to check on the repairs they’ve been doing. The area’s been closed since way back in September 2017 due to damage from Hurricane Irma. It took a while, but now it’s open again and back on my list of favorite sunrise spots!

Sunrise at Veterans Memorial Park Sunrise at Veterans Memorial Park

I like going to MINWR in the dog days of summer when it’s quiet. It may not be the greatest time for wildlife, but there’s still plenty to see and photograph. As a bonus there are usually fewer people there too. I had Black Point all to myself for most of my drive – a very special privilege and well worth getting up early for.

Header image: A Snowy Egret, also “fly fishing”. Larger version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51327744874/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Covid is surging out there again. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Developing Clouds

I was on my way home through some rain one day last week when the sky started to look very interesting. I stopped by the house, picked up a camera (I know – I should have had it with me!) and headed up toward Lake Jesup to make a few photos. I’m glad I did – the clouds got even more dramatic!

Squall Line Squall Line

They were developing quickly. These photos were all made within about 40 minutes.

On the way On the way

The clouds varied in different spots and directions. I stopped several times to make photos.

Weather across the water Weather across the water

This last photo is of some mammatus clouds. If you click on it to view a larger version on Flickr, you can see an airliner flying just below the clouds. I hope passengers were getting a good view and the ride wasn’t too bumpy.

Into the Mammatus Sky Into the Mammatus Sky

The last time I wrote specifically about photographing Florida weather was in 2015: (https://edrosack.com/2015/10/17/photographing-florida-weather/). I think the weather photo hints from that post are still relevant:

  • Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
  • The storms are big.  Many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography. The photos in this post were made with a 20mm lens. Some situations (like this thunderstorm) benefit from a longer focal length.
  • You can shoot from inside your car in many cases or just dodge the showers.  Bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover  your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
  • Be careful with exposure.  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 in advance 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!

Clouds and weather are often threatening and dangerous. But sometimes they’re interesting and beautiful. Be careful, and if they develop, make some photos.

You can browse more weather related posts on the blog at this link: https://edrosack.com/?s=weather. If you click on the photos above, you can see larger versions on Flickr. I’ve also collected other Florida Cloud and Storm photos that you can browse in this set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can, make some photos!

Header image: Clouds over the hill. Larger version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51310975255/in/dateposted-public/

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few more Lake Apopka photos

I brought many images back from our drive around Lake Apopka – too many for a single blog post. So here are some others that I like.

Launch! Launch! (Green Heron)

Gazing Gator Gazing Gator

Perching Dragon Perching Dragon (Orange Meadowhawk)

Blackbird on a bulrush Blackbird on a bulrush (Red-winged Blackbird)

Bird on a branch Bird on a branch (Green Heron)

Header image: Looking east over the marsh near the Lake Apopka pump house.


Updates:

  • Tropical Storm Elsa passed by to our west, but I haven’t heard of any significant problems from it in our area. I hope the rest of you were as lucky as we were.
  • Our “Who are you lookin’ at” print arrived last week and it looks as good as I expected it would. I have another image in mind for a print – I hope I’ll get another coupon soon!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka, 26 June 2021

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go on a photo excursion yesterday and of course I agreed. Since I hadn’t been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive since before the pandemic, we ventured out there. It was a really good choice.

Two birds I don’t see very often were quite common: Black-necked Stilts and Least Bitterns. The Stilts were all along the drive. At first, they were way out in the water or flying in the distance. Eventually we found some much closer – and even had to wait for them to get out of the road!

Black-necked Stilt Black-necked Stilt

There were some cute young ones toddling around too.

Black-necked Stilt Babies Black-necked Stilt Babies

The Least Bitterns were taking cover in the reeds and occasionally flying from one hiding spot to another.

In the reeds A Least Bittern in the reeds

There were lots of other birds too. These nesting Anhingas were a treat. I don’t think I’ve seen them nesting since I visited the Everglades.

When is lunch, Mom? Nesting Anhingas: When is lunch, Mom?

Kevin pointed out this next bird for me – one I’d never photographed before.

Great Crested Flycatcher Great Crested Flycatcher

The LAWD Gate doesn’t open until 7am so we usually can’t get any blue hour or sunrise photos. But I always like to make a photo of the pump house. I hadn’t tried this perspective yet and I think it looks good in B&W with those clouds in the background.

Lake Apopka Pumphouse Exterior Lake Apopka Pumphouse

We also saw Turtles, Alligators, a Marsh Rabbit, lots of dragonflies, a Blue Grosbeak (way, way far away!), a Downy Woodpecker, a Black-crowned Night Heron, Bank Swallows, Common Gallinules, Purple Gallinules (and babies), Ospreys, Red-winged Blackbirds, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and many lovely flowers too. And I’m sure there were other things I’ve forgotten to mention or overlooked.

Every time I visit LAWD, I’m reminded what a wonderful nature spot it is and how I need to go there more often. I’ll try! You can see more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175

Header image: A Black-necked Stilt in flight

Way back in 2009, a group of friends at work were all interested in photography and getting out into nature here in Central Florida. We started a “club” we called the Photography Interest Group. We’d go out together, make photos, and share info on cameras, techniques, locations, etc. Over the years, people drifted away: lost interest, moved, etc. Kevin and I are the last two active members. He’s going to move away soon. We’ll keep in touch of course and may even be able to go out photographing together at times. But it seems like the Photography Interest Group has faded away. It was good while it lasted! I’ll miss you Kevin!

The Photography Interest Group on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/groups/1304505@N22/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Cherish your family and friends. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you still can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Marvelous Morning After All

Have you ever had one of those photography outings? The kind where you’re not sure any of the photos will be worth the effort? Where it feels like you’re just going through the motions?

 Hindsight: Perception of the significance and nature of events after they have occurred.

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/hindsight

I hadn’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge since March. The weather forecast when I got up at zero-dark-thirty last Thursday wasn’t good: Overcast, hot, and probably buggy because of the rain we’ve had recently. I went anyway and on the drive over, the clouds were pretty thick. I stopped at a favorite spot and made a few photos. The light was mostly dull, but there was a minute or so when the clouds lit up.

A nice morning after all A marvelous morning after all: Gator Creek Road panorama

There wasn’t much wildlife along Gator Creek Road, but the sun was back-lighting some flowers along the water. I tried a few photos, hoping to catch the early morning colors in the background. The shadows of the stamen and stigma on the flower petal were a nice bonus!

Wild flower 1 Wild flower 1: Morning-Glory(?)

The hot summer months aren’t the best time to see wildlife here in Central Florida and I didn’t spot much on Black Point Wildlife Drive, either. But I made a few photos of our colorful residents. The clouds made for diffuse light and soft shadows, although to get a good exposure, my ISO settings were running between 3200 and 6400. A little noise / grain in an image is better than no image, right?

Green Heron Green Heron

Blue Heron Blue Heron

There were lovely patches of wild flowers on Black Point too:

Wild flower 2 Wild Flower 2

I normally see several Manatees at the Bairs Cove boat ramp. On Thursday I only got a brief glimpse of a single one. There’ve been reports of a lot of Manatee deaths this year. I wonder if that’s why. Anyway, while looking for them I found this place by the canal that I’d never noticed before. I liked the viewpoint.

By the boat ramp By the boat ramp

Driving home Thursday morning my thoughts were mixed. I’d enjoyed getting out and seeing the refuge again, but I wasn’t sure I’d gotten any good photos. Most of what I remembered seeing in the view finder didn’t seem that great. When I started looking at them on the computer, I was happy with how they turned out. There’s something about the light that morning that appeals to me.

So:

  • You can’t know how a photo trip will turn out before you go. You can’t even be sure how much you’ll like the photos before you go through them.
  • If it feels like you’re just going through the motions, go ahead and do your best. You might be surprised by the results.
  • Hindsight could be another name for photography. Your photos let you perceive the significance and nature of a trip after it’s over.
  • In hindsight, my morning was marvelous after all.

Header image: A panorama of the wetland across the road from the Black Point exit.

By the way, Happy Father’s Day to all Dad’s out there! Many thanks for everything you do to make the world a better place.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Banded Ruddy Turnstone update

You may remember this post from a couple of months ago where I wrote about sighting a banded Ruddy Turnstone by the boat ramp at Parish Park in Titusville: https://edrosack.com/2021/03/28/three-birds/.

I don’t have a new photo of our banded bird to share with you, but I will include this one from 2012.

A flying flock of Ruddy Turnstones and their reflections Ruddy Turnstones and reflections

Last week, the North American Bird Banding Program run by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service sent me an email. They included a very nice certificate of appreciation with information about the bird we reported:

Ruddy Turnstone sighting certificate

Some other interesting facts from their email:

  • Birds have been banded in North America since 1904
  • About 60 million birds in hundreds of species have been banded
  • About 4 million bands have been recovered / reported
  • Data from the bands is used to monitor populations, set hunting regulations, restore endangered species, study effects of environmental contaminants, and address issues such as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations.
  • Members of the public reporting band sighting and recovery is critical for all of these uses.

Some photographers might be disappointed with an image that includes an “unnatural” band. But I was excited to sight and photograph a band (twice!), report it, and get back some information on that specific bird. The people running these programs are doing important work. We should all help them out.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And please report bird bands you see at www.reportband.gov!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved