Just a short post this week to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.
Santa passing through Ponce Inlet
I’m not planning to publish next weekend, so I’ll go ahead and wish you a prosperous and healthy new year now too!
Thank you so much for following my blog again this year. Please be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you’re lucky enough to be be with family – enjoy your precious time together! See you soon in 2022!
I met Tom M. at Ponce Inlet last Friday at dawn. We arrived at 6 am when the park opened and were the first ones in. We didn’t see anyone else for about 30 minutes. I was surprised by how few people were there. I guess it helps to go during the week instead of on weekends.
I thought I’d share three photos along with some details on how I made them.
The moon was full on Friday for the second time in July and was just setting as we got out on the jetty. I found this vantage point to highlight the “Blue Moon” over the water along the rocks. This is a two exposure composite that I blended manually using layers and masks in Photoshop. I exposed the top part for the moon (ISO 50, f/11, 1.6 sec.) and the bottom part for the water (ISO 50, f/11, 5 sec.). I used my Nikon 24 – 120mm f/4 lens at 120mm – it’s very versatile for these kinds of outings.
Blue Moon descends
I liked the way the area just north of the jetty looked, with the sun and clouds above the water and rocks. I made a few exposures, and then waited for the sun to rise a bit more so it would be behind the clouds and the light would be less harsh. I saw a pelican flying by and managed to catch it just about under the sun (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.). I thought it would look better with silky smooth water, so I made one more exposure using an 8 2/3 stop Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 8 sec.). This image was also blended manually using layers in Photoshop. I did have some issues with color balance. The ND filter added a yellowish tint to the bottom that the top didn’t have. So I adjusted it to match as closely as I could before blending.
Ponce Sunrise – Early morning, just north of the jetty at Ponce Inlet.
For comparison, here is one of the photos I made about 5 minutes earlier when the sun was lower. This is a single exposure (50 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.). I made a burst of several and picked one that best showed the sun highlighting the spray on top of the breaking wave. I like the framing on this one better too as I can see the sun reflecting off the jetty wall. The colors are more orange since there’s more of the sun showing through the clouds.
Ponce Sunrise too – Same place as the previous photo, and a few minutes earlier.
I’m not sure which one of these sunrise images I like best. I’m leaning toward the second one. Too bad the Pelican wasn’t in place when the wave broke! Which one do you like? Have you tried any techniques like this?
On a side note, I used my Nikon D800 camera that I’ve had for more than three years to make these. A couple of weeks ago, Nikon sent me an email and offered to clean and inspect it and fix anything they found wrong – for free! I took advantage of the offer, got it back, and was anxious to test it out. It seems to work fine and it’s nice to know it’s still in good shape. Thanks Nikon!
Tom M. suggested we meet at Ponce Inlet for sunrise a week ago. I readily agreed, since the last time I was there was August 2010. We met at the park entrance just after it opened and were set up well before sunrise. Here’s one of my first photos. It was very nice of them to put up red and green buoy lights for Christmas. 🙂
Sunrise at the inlet – I thought the Christmas colored buoy lights added a nice holiday touch
I’m always amazed by how much light can change over a short time. Here’s an example.
Daybreak departure – A fishing boat heads out to sea at sunrise
The physical distance between these first two photos was only a few paces, but the time change made a huge difference. The first was at 6:32am, f/8, 30 seconds, and ISO 125. The second was at 7:22am, f/16, 1/60 seconds, and ISO 100. The amount and quality of light shifted dramatically over 50 minutes (and the sun rays came in for a short time too).
Moral of the story: If you’re going to get up for a sunrise photo, you may as well get going a bit early – so you can see and photograph the entire show. I try to arrive at least 30 minutes before sunrise.
I’d been watching large numbers of mostly resting Pelicans, Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers down on the beach. After sunrise, I moved off the jetty and photographed them for a few minutes. I was able to get close to this one without disturbing it, and I thought the low, warm light and the shadow behind the bird made an interesting scene.
Caspian Tern and shadow – The bird wasn’t really alone, there were many others close by
When we visited Bulow Plantation several weeks ago, Tom and I were a little disappointed in the light. Rain and clouds that day made photography a challenge. Since it was early when we finished at Ponce Inlet, and the weather was so much better – we decided to go back to Bulow. The light had changed a lot here too. But over a few weeks instead of 50 minutes.
Bulow Plantation Ruins – I merged three images with focus stack in Photoshop to increase depth of field. The light this time was much better than our last visit. And our cameras didn’t get wet!
So that was a very fine, final photo op for 2013. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
And since this is my last post of the year, Happy New Year! See you again in 2014!
Post-processing skills as well as taste develop over time. New tools come out or get updated. Reviewing your image library for things you may want to change is a good idea. Just don’t spend too much time on post processing – leave enough to go out and make new images too!
This is one of my favorite photographs and one that I’ve even sold, but re-looking at it I saw several things I thought I could make a little better. Here’s the updated version after all my re-edits (which are described below):
After: Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, Final Edit
I started over from the RAW file (you do save your RAW files, don’t you?) and re-did the basic adjustments in Lightroom (color balance, initial exposure adjustments). Then I moved into Photoshop and cleaned up distracting elements (tire tracks, poles, the tip of the cloud just right of the lighthouse, …). I then added a duplicate layer and ran that through Topaz Adjust using the “Spicify” preset to bring up structure, detail, and color saturation. I don’t usually like applying this filter all over an image at 100%, so once back in Photoshop I added a hide all layer mask and partially painted in the effect, using a higher opacity brush for the sky to let more of the filter show and a lower one for the rocks and ocean to mute the filter effect. I then took the result back to Lightroom for final tweaks to color balance, sharpening and a crop to remove part of the sky. I thought that the colors of the sky and rocks were still a little off, so as one last tweak I added graduated filters to help adjust their tints.
For reference purposes, here’s the old edit of this photo:
Note: you can click the two versions above to go to my Flickr account, where you can view larger versions.
And also for reference, I uploaded the original RAW file (with default development settings in Lightroom) below.
Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird, RAW Capture
Would I go to this much effort for every image? No. But sometimes a photo really appeals to me and I want to get the absolute best I can from it. It helps that I enjoy working in Photoshop and learning about new techniques.
So what do you think? Quite a few changes, some more subtle than others – but overall I like the new version better.
Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting light from the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined on your computer screen in all it’s glory. This imaginary trip can be made real for you too if you venture over to Ponce Inlet, Florida and have a bit of luck, like we did.
Once again my friends, the Photography Interest Group braved many hazards to bring you extraordinary photographic insight into another wonderful place for outstanding Central Florida Photo Ops. Three of us wanted to do something a little different from our normal photo excursions. We’ve been talking about night-time / low light photography so we decided to visit Ponce Inlet last Thursday night to try out some techniques. It was also an interesting day from an astronomical perspective, since there was a conjunction of Mars, Venus, Saturn and the Moon in the western sky after sunset, as well as the annual Perseid meteor shower to observe later in the evening. We planned this as a “scouting trip”, since we’d never been there (photographically at least), and our expectations for “wall hanger” images were pretty low. We figured we’d scout the place and come back another time armed with knowledge and hoping for good results.
The weather report wasn’t very good. Earlier in the week, heavy cloud cover and rain were predicted, and it was cloudy and rainy earlier that day. But by the time we arrived at Ponce inlet the clouds had parted and we were left with beautiful (but very hot) conditions.
We stopped first at the jetty and I made several photos including the one above and this one of a fisherman below the conjunction.
Ponce Inlet at dusk, fishing under the Moon and Venus – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70mm lens @ 32mm, 13 second exposure @ f/22, ISO 200)
Next, we ventured over to the lighthouse looking to pair it with the conjunction. We had a bit of trouble finding the right place to park. This photo is from the parking lot on the south side of the lighthouse. We didn’t get there in time, but it’s possible that the view would have been better from the lot on the north side – something to try next trip. I made this two shot panorama with a 70 – 200mm lens. You could use a wider angle lens as well.
When we finished at the light house, there was time for a “Slurpee break” to cool off before moving down the beach. We found a good off beach parking area not far from the lighthouse and stopped to look for debris from comet Swift-Tuttle’s tail. Within the first few minutes (before our camera gear was set up), “Grasshopper” saw a large fireball meteor. But that was the only large one that night. Here’s a photo of “Donuts” and “Grasshopper” making star / meteor photos.
Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 4 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on Donuts’ white shirt with Liveview)
For the set up at this place, I combined my old 50mm f/1.8 lens with the high ISO capabilities of the Nikon D-700. I wanted to make my exposures short so that the stars didn’t trail. I shot in manual exposure mode and checked the results to make sure I was getting what I wanted. There were some high clouds and haze and coupled with the light pollution in the area that made exposure tricky. It was too easy to overexpose the haze / glare, leading to an incandescent glow that hid the stars and meteors. I also used manual focus. I started by using Liveview enlarged around what I wanted to focus on. But with the 50mm lens, it was just as simple to use the infinity mark on the scale. I did manage to catch a couple of meteors, and here is one photo I made.
Long, dim, green Perseid meteor – (Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm lens, 3 second exposure @ f/1.8, ISO 1600, manual focus on infinity mark)
All in all, this was a very fine expedition and we all had a lot of fun. It exceeded expectations and you should try it sometime!
If you do want to try this, make sure you have both wide-angle and telephoto lenses and a sturdy tripod with a cable release. You can also read my post on night time photography for some hints on technique.