Springtime color – Flowers in a courtyard in St. Augustine, Florida
Lynn mentioned she’d like to spend a night or two in St. Augustine and I readily agreed. It’s one of my favorite, must do photo ops. She made reservations at a Bed and Breakfast (http://www.44spanishstreetinn.com) just behind the Columbia Restaurant and we headed up there last weekend.
I’d been feeling a little sick, although not bad enough to cancel the trip. I was looking forward to going back to Marineland Beach (earlier posts here and here) and perhaps the Alligator Farm (many posts here).
We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked in. It was a lovely place and extremely convenient. Strolling around town before dinner, I warmed up my camera with a few photos including the one above.
I woke up feeling worse on Sunday morning and decided to sleep in. We were staying one more night and I figured I could always do sunrise the next morning. After a wonderful french toast breakfast and some cold medicine, we set out to explore on the Old Town Trolley. We’d never done that before and I was glad we did this time. Riding the entire route, we got to locations we hadn’t seen on previous trips. It was also very nice to just sit there and still be able to make some images. My energy was very low and I was indisposed to walking around.
I had a small camera bag with me, and shot mostly with my infrared camera. I like the way it rendered the old buildings. It was out and ready when I noticed this fellow riding in front of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Infrared bicycle pirate – commuting to work?
I tried searching for ‘infrared bicycle pirate’ photos on both Google and Flickr and didn’t find any. Apparently they’re a very rare genre. Perhaps I should specialize.
Monday morning came with my symptoms getting worse and once again I couldn’t get up for sunrise or even make it to the Alligator Farm. I guess that means we’ll have to schedule another trip. I’m feeling a better as I write this and hope I won’t have to go to the doctor tomorrow.
I’m happy I made a few images I like. If you’re sick (indisposed) fight your lack of desire (indisposition) to make photos. You can look at other photos from St. Augustine in this folder on Flickr.
Happy Easter and thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – don’t be or get indisposed – go make some photos!
Sometimes after a photo shoot, I’ll skip over images if I’m short on time or something looks too hard to deal with. Other times, I may play with a photo for a while and then set it aside when I just can’t seem to get it right. When I learn a new technique or get a new software package or upgrade I try to go through my image library and pick out existing photos that could benefit from the new capability. And yes, I also notice images that no longer look as good to me as they did at first. Something I did a few years ago may have seemed great then – but tastes change.
I use Lightroom to catalog my photos and I have a keyword called “Process” with three sub-keywords “Color”, “pano”, and “other”. Using these, I mark photos I want to revisit and I’ve built up a collection of them for future processing. I had a little time this week to go through and pick three to work on:
Kelly Park Reflections: Merritt Island, Florida, February 19, 2013. The water was amazingly calm that morning and I like the reflections as well as the detail / lights on the horizon. I bypassed this image at first because of trouble with the white balance. This time through the result is much closer to the look I wanted.
The Main Sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica, Saint Augustine, Florida, February 28, 2013. Black and white infrared. I don’t remember why I didn’t finish this photo back in February. I like the light, detail, and tonality.
Three more cypress trees: Blue Cypress Lake, near Fellsmere, Florida, June 2, 2012. False color infrared. Since IR doesn’t capture color as your eye sees it, color conversions are very subjective. As I gain experience, my tastes are changing. This version is very different from how I processed other IR photos at the time.
So, some recommendations:
If you’re struggling with an image, don’t delete it. Mark it and move on. Come back and revisit it later.
Organize, document, and keyword your images so you can find hidden gems to re-process.
Review your photo library occasionally. Your photography skills and tools aren’t static. So your portfolio shouldn’t be static either. Revise older images and make them better. You might be surprised what comes out of your archives.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go revise some photos!
Lynn was out-of-town last week at the Pressing Iron & Trivet Collectors of America Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I talked her into letting me out of my spousal support services subcontract, so I had a chance to sneak in a few days of photography while she was away. I spent the time in St. Augustine, Florida, which is “the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States”. I’ve written about it many times (see this link) and it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. Photo ops abound and include landscapes, architecture, street scenes, beaches, historic landmarks, wildlife, and much more. It’s hard to go anywhere in the area and not come back with a photo! Here are some of mine along with hints on how I made them.
There are some wonderful sunrise and sunset spots. Friends told me about Marineland Beach (thanks Kevin M. and JT) which is just a little south of St. Augustine. It’s now one of my new favorites. The coquina rocks there worked really well as foreground objects in my photos.
Long exposure sunrise – Marineland Beach, Florida
This is a single exposure, made through a Hoya ND400 filter right after sunrise. The waves were coming in around me, but I stood my tripod on one of the rocks to keep us dry. I used my lowest ISO setting (50) and even with the sun in the frame, the 8 2/3 stop ND filter gave me a 14 second exposure at f/8 . The long shutter speed makes the water surface contrast nicely with the rock texture.
One thing you’ll run into in Florida on summer mornings is condensation. It’s so humid that if you take your camera gear directly from your air-conditioned room or car out into the moist air, you can expect 15 to 30 minutes of fog before they clear. You can decrease this by not running your car’s AC on the way. You can also seal your camera and lens in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible until it warms up. And it’s a good idea to bring along a micro-fiber cloth to remove condensation if needed. The larger your camera / lens is, the longer it will take to warm up. This is one time that good glass works against you – at least until the temperature equalizes. One more point: try not to change lenses under these conditions. If water condenses on your sensor, it can be hard to remove and may cause dust to adhere to the surface.
The harbor and fort (Castillo de San Marcos) also provide interesting detail for sunrise or sunset and landscapes in general.
A calm morning in the St. Augustine harbor: Clouds to the north over the Castillo de San Marcos and the quarter Moon above the Bridge of Lions add interesting detail to this image.
This photo and the next were both multi-shot panoramas made with the techniques I described last week. Images like the harbor scene can be tough to blend due to smooth gradients in the sky and water. Be sure you check carefully and correct any glitches.
Another thing about summer in Florida: We have awesome afternoon thunderstorms. Clouds add a lot of drama to photos, but the storms were so bad on two of the days I was there that I couldn’t go out for sunset. Plan accordingly.
St. Augustine Sunset behind the Castillo de San Marcos
On this evening at the fort, there was a large thunder-storm to the west. The sky wasn’t colorful at all until the sun moved down below the thunder head, resulting in these shadows and rays. One big advantage of sunset photography vs. sunrise is that you can wait to see what develops. At sunrise, you need to be in place extremely early to see all the variations happen.
I had a great time walking around the fort at sunset with my large tripod and big DSLR camera. Most people were oblivious and walked right through my photos (I don’t blame them – I don’t own the place). I’d wait for a clear spot in the traffic and make another exposure. Other folks stood next to me since they thought wherever someone with a big camera is has to be a good spot. At one point, a tour guide in a pirate costume leading a group of 20 or so people saw me and stopped his group from walking in front of me until I finished my exposure. It turned out he’s a photographer too.
I wanted to try a night photo of the lighthouse. I also wanted to capture the look of the beam coming out of the light. This turned out to be a tough assignment. The contrast range is huge and there’s a lot of glare from the lights in the scene.
St. Augustine Light Station
I ended up merging two exposures. The first one was long (f/4 @ 3 seconds) at a low ISO (400) to decrease noise. The slow shutter blurred the light beam, so I made a second exposure (ISO 3200, f/4 @ 0.4 seconds) and this stopped the beam enough to highlight it. The second exposure had some noise, but was fine with a bit of post processing before I blended the two manually in Photoshop. I made this photo about an hour before sunrise. It was dark and there was no one around. One of my contacts on Flickr commented that spooky things happen in this area. I’m glad I didn’t notice any when I was there.
Tom M. met me up there on one of the days and we spent several hours just walking around. There were many interesting scenes, and I never saw any two doors alike.
Red door #33
We were walking down one street and saw someone in the distance photographing this house with his iPhone. He was really working it, making multiple photos / compositions and was still there when we arrived several minutes later. We waited for him to finish and when he looked up and noticed us he asked what kind of cameras we had. It turned out he’s a photographer too and was there on vacation, but forgot his Nikon D3S DSLR. He said using the iPhone was “very liberating”. Photo hint 101: If someone’s taking a picture, look at what he’s photographing – it might be interesting. Photo hint 102: Don’t forget your camera.
A little later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this waiter zipping through traffic on the way to work. On a skate board. I managed to make a quick photo.
Morning commute – very eco-friendly
We also noticed this person reading on the bench. I really liked the symmetry of the columns and how they led my eye towards the subject. Tom posted a different composition that I think is really good too.
By the way, if you have Lightroom 5, try out the “Upright” settings in the Lens Corrections panel on photos like the one above. It does a great job squaring things up.
Like I said, there’s a tremendous amount of photo-ops in the area. I didn’t make it by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm on this visit, but from March to June, it’s one of the best places in Florida to photograph a variety of wild birds nesting in the rookery there. I also didn’t get to Fort Matanzas. It’s a little south of the city and makes a nice side excursion. The Nombre de Dios Mission in the northern part of the city has a beautiful chapel and grounds as well as a view into the harbor. And I’m sure that there are a great many more photo ops that I still have to discover in this beautiful place.
You can see these photos larger if you click on them and I have many others from St. Augustine in this set on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I visited St. Augustine, Florida last week with fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. It’s a high density photo-op environment and if you haven’t ever been there you really should go. We only spent a few hours, but we saw interesting things to photograph almost everywhere we looked. Here are a few examples:
Three trees, their shadows, and the Castillo de San Marcos
Bottoms up – The St. Augustine Lighthouse staircase
Alcove in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
I’ve written about this town several times before. You can browse through those posts by selecting the category from the pull down on the right (or click this link). And you can visit this set on Flickr to see other images from St. Augustine.
Lynn and I visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Bird Rookery this morning. Breeding season is in full swing and there are nests, eggs, and chicks of all varieties. This Native Swamp & Rookery blog post has the latest census for the rookery as of May 12th.
Here are three photos I made there this morning:
Little Blue Heron watching people
You can see many more photos that I’ve made in St. Augustine in this set on Flickr. By the way, I took a “new” camera and made some photos with it for a future blog post. It should be interesting if they turn out.
I visited the Rookery in St. Augustine for the first time this year with two other members of the Photography Interest Group. Things are really hopping!!!
Cattle Egret pair in breeding colors: These go from plain white to very colorful during breeding season. This pair was hiding back in the bushes and it was difficult to get a clean image, but they eventually moved a bit right before I made this photo.
We saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Woodstorks, Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, Tri-Color Herons, and of course – alligators. Some are just starting to build nests and breed. Others (the Great Egrets) already have good size chicks in the nest.
Great Egret and chicks
There are very few places that you can get this close to tolerant, wild birds. It’s wonderful for both experienced and beginner bird photographers. If you haven’t been by yet, now is the time.
Update (1/8/2012): Gatorland has re-instated their photo pass. See their blog post here.
Gatorland in Orlando announced on their Blog that they’re canceling the 2011 Photographers Pass Program. This is very unfortunate for bird photographers, since the early entry / stay late times are during the best light of the day and when there are no “civilian” crowds.
The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine has issued an announcement in response on their mailing list saying that they will continue their Photo Pass / early entry program.
This is a nice photo I made recently. I’d rate it a “2” meaning it’s good enough to show other people. But it’s not that good, and I keep thinking there was a better photo there and I just didn’t find it.
Crypts at dawn (click to view on Flickr)
I’ve been by this particular place several times. Each time I see it, I just know that there must be one or more great photographs lurking about. All I have to do is find them and push the shutter.
At many places it works out that way for me. I’m able to capture amazing images and come back with something special. Sometimes it doesn’t work. For some reason I can’t “find the photo”. I’m calling this “Location Block”. The location above has bothered me since I first saw it. I’ve tried several times and so far, I haven’t ever been really happy with any of the photos I’ve made there (including this one). Have you ever felt this way?
I’m still searching for a solution. Is it the time of day? Lighting? Clouds? Lens? Filters? Position? Random Luck? Am I mistaken in the first place and there really is no truly great photo there? I don’t know yet, but one of the very interesting things about photography is that there are rules of thumb and guide lines – but there’s no surefire formula. Sometimes you have to keep exploring. Each time you try something different you learn. And if you have to try a large number of things over a long time to get a great photo, it’s fun. You’ll learn a lot and when you finally do get the photo, the satisfaction will be immense.
I have many entries in this blog about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and it is a great place for bird photography.
But you shouldn’t visit St. Augustine just to watch the birds – it has many other photogenic settings. In this post, I’ll show you a few that you should consider seeing. Make sure you click the links that I’ve inserted into the captions below for more information. You can also visit my St. Augustine set on Flickr to see these and other photos I’ve made there.
Interior of the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida
In photography, wide angle lenses typically have a focal length that is much shorter than the diagonal dimension of the image sensor (or film). For a full frame 35mm digital camera, the diagonal measure of the sensor is about 50mm, and this is considered a “normal” focal length. Wide angle lenses have a focal length shorter than this (typically 12 – 35mm). It’s important to understand the characteristics of shorter focal length lenses so that you know how to use them in your photography.
Of course, wide angle lenses take in a wide field of view. They also have a larger depth of field when compared to normal or telephoto lenses. And they are also very good at helping you vary the perspective of your image. What’s perspective? It’s the relative scale of nearby and distant features. This is what I want to discuss today.
Take a look at the two photos below. Both have the same subject matter. They were both shot with similar focal lengths, but the perspective differs greatly. In the first photo, the nearest tree is only about 1/3 of the length of the fort in the distance. In the second, the same tree is almost as tall as the fort is long. This is a huge change in the relative size of the image elements.
How can you achieve a similar effect? Wide angle lenses exaggerate the size of things that are close, and make things farther away look smaller. The wider the lens, the greater this effect is. When you have a wide angle lens on your camera, you can move closer or farther away from things so that you can control the relative size of close image elements and those that are farther away.
I wasn’t happy with the composition of the first image. I made the second by moving in closer to the trees. Since they were nearby, and the fort was in the distance, the trees were enlarged much more than the fort. Simply adjusting where I placed the camera allowed me to vary the relative size of the trees and fort.
Castillo de San Marco at sunrise, 17mm focal length, f/4.0 @ 1/800 sec, ISO 200
Sunrise at Castillo de San Marcos #4, 16mm focal length, f/11 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 200
Now that you understand this basic principle of photography, you too can use it to control the relative size of the elements in your composition. I will leave a discussion of why wide angle lenses aren’t used for portrait photography very often as an exercise for the reader.