Editors note: Today we have an update from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This post features some new friends she made on her Alaska visit back in September – enjoy!
I wrote a post awhile back about my Labor Day trip to Alaska and the majestic Orcas we observed in Seward with Seward Ocean Excursions. But there was so much amazing wildlife on the other stops of our trip that it deserves another post.
After Seward, we drove three hours down to Homer. I was excited to visit Homer since I’ve only been there once, and it was so foggy that I didn’t really get to “see” Homer. This time though, our weather was simply beautiful!
iPhone Panoramic View from our Rental (Homer Spit is in the distance to the left)
While in Homer, we ferried from Homer down to Seldovia on a 7 hour Seldovia Wildlife Tour aboard Rainbow Tours. While it was towards the end of the tourist season in Seldovia, it was worth the trip just for the wildlife and views from the ferry, and there were plenty of photography opportunities.
Sea Otter in Kelp
My favorite photo from the trip was this Sea Otter in Kelp. Sea otters sometimes wrap themselves in kelp like this to anchor themselves and relax a little. While sea otters are very common in Alaska, and friendly enough that they make great photography subjects, I thought that the composition of this shot made for an especially interesting photo. If you click-through to the Flickr album, you can see the progression of the sea otter unwinding himself from the kelp to swim away.
Sea Otter Floating Away
When we were almost back to Homer, we saw a raft of otters. I’d seen several of these on our trip, but all were too far away to photograph, so I was glad to catch these guys.
Raft of Otters
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and you otter make some photos!
The Orlando Balloon Glow was last weekend in Baldwin Park. Thanks Kevin M. for telling me about it! Lynn and I had never been to anything like this. It was fascinating to see the process – especially at dusk, and it made for a compelling photo op.
The action took place in a large field in Blue Jacket Park, which can accommodate a big crowd with good viewing for everyone. It started around sundown when air blowers began inflating the balloons. Scout the layout so you can catch some of the activity in good light or against the sunset.
Dusk inflation. iPhone XS back camera, 4.25mm, 1/200 sec @ f/1.8, ISO 32
Once they’re partially inflated, propane burners light up and provide heat needed to make the balloons float in the air.
Hot Air. Olympus E-M1 MII, 40mm, 1/10 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 500
The light is challenging. There’s very high contrast with bright flames against dark surroundings. You’ll need to balance aperture and shutter speed with ISO and image stabilization to eliminate motion blur and get sharp, well exposed images. I’ve added my setting info to these photos to give you an idea of how I shot them. These were all made hand-held. If you don’t have image stabilization, you’ll probably need a tripod.
The balloons strain against their tie downs and then rise into a blue hour sky.
Blue hour balloons. Olympus Pen F, 17mm, 1/3 sec @f/1.8, ISO 500
Once they’re ready, you can purchase tethered rides on some of the balloons. The event also features Orlando area food trucks, a retail village and activities for kids. We splurged for paid parking and were glad we did, since space was tight for all the cars.
And one warning: There were a lot of ant hills in the field, so be careful where you step – especially after dark. You may want to wear closed shoes instead of our typical Florida flip-flops. Just sayin’.
Pacific Whale Foundation is a 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt charitable organization dedicated to protecting our oceans through science and advocacy. MK and I both strongly believe it deserves our support. If you get a chance, please check out the auctions and consider bidding on these two prints to help out this worthy cause!
Lynn and I were able to visit Gettysburg for a short time on our way home from Pennsylvania last July. It was a bright and sunny day, but you can’t help but feel somber thinking about what occurred there. Over a brutal three-day battle, the two sides suffered more than 46,000 casualties and it’s said Gettysburg marked the turning point of the Civil War.
This field of battle is quiet now. Near the site of Lincoln’s address, Gettysburg National Military Park
Shortly after the battle, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. His closing words are especially appropriate on Veterans Day and every day:
"... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Every year in the United States, we pause on the 11th of November to honor the service and sacrifice of all men and women who answer the call. To our veterans and to those serving today – you have our deepest gratitude. We honor you for your service and sacrifices.
“Army of the Potomac, Second Corps, Artillery Brigade, Battery I First U.S. Artillery”
Especially in today’s world, those who choose to volunteer for the military endure long periods far from home and loved ones. They live in conditions without the comforts that we take for granted. They face danger and conquer fear to protect our freedom and way of life. In far too many cases, they give their all – sacrificing life and limb. We owe them.
He used a digital camera for this project instead of his normal large format film approach, and I thought it was interesting that the results are so similar. If he hadn’t explained this in the video, I wouldn’t have suspected he didn’t use film.
The artwork itself is exquisite with amazing form and color. Seeing it in this setting, where it’s been professionally arranged and lighted was amazing!
Ivory Basket with Oxblood Spots, 1977
Glasswork can be very difficult to photograph. The illumination has to show the form without reflecting hotspots and obscuring details with shadows. In all cases, this lighting was perfect and the shadows enhanced the view and revealed even more details. I think photographers can learn quite a bit studying these displays.
Morean White Seaform Set, 2010
I really enjoyed seeing this. If you get a chance, go.
I managed to get up for sunrise one morning while we were there. I debated driving down to Fort Desoto, but ended up taking the easy way out and explored the nearby waterfront instead.
St. Petersburg North Yacht Basin
There’s construction in the area, so I picked viewpoints to hide that. I liked the view above of the north basin at dawn. And the mid-day reflections and clouds in this next one caught my eye too.
Next, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed up to MINWR for a quick pass through Black Point Wildlife Drive. Conditions in the refuge have been pretty quiet this summer and we wanted to see how the bird population is doing. There still aren’t a lot of birds around, but the variety is improving. We saw the usual wading birds, Redish Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Blue Wing Teals, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, a Sora, and a Merlin.
Jim Boland is also seeing quite a bit of bird activity in MINWR. He’s photographed a Peregrine Falcon, Merlins, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and even Snail Kites along Playalinda Beach Road in recent weeks.
The cooler weather that’s finally arrived in Central Florida makes being outside and photographing more pleasant. And it should bring even more bird species to our area to enjoy.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I was sitting in the family room on Friday afternoon when Lynn came in, saw these birds behind our house, and asked me what they were. If she hadn’t asked, I never would have noticed them. Maybe my chair should face the window instead of the TV?
I quickly grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the window and screen and then went out on the other side of the house to get this unobstructed view. I’m glad my birding lens was still mounted!
Black-bellied whistling duck family. There’s another adult and one more juvenile out of the frame to the right.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are common here in Central Florida year round, although I’ve never seen them in our neighborhood before. They were previously known as the “Black-bellied Tree Duck” since they’re often found roosting and nesting in trees. They’re monogamous, which is unusual in ducks. Also unusual is their high-pitched whistling call which you’ll remember the first time you hear it.
After adding a few minutes of excitement to our afternoon, this family strolled on down the street and disappeared. I was glad they stopped by – maybe we’ll spot them again.
Thanks Lynn for asking about them and thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands. I had time last Wednesday, so I packed my camera gear and set out at “o-dark-thirty” to give my shutter finger some exercise.
My first stop was Rotary Park, on the Indian River in Melbourne. It’s small, but I like it because it’s open before dawn and the cochina rock formations near the shore by the pavilion can add interest in the foreground. Nature cooperated and painted in a superb sky.
Next, I headed over to Viera Wetlands. There were quite a few things to see and photograph.
Green Heron still life
Sora with a snail snack
Grackle in good light
Dragonfly in flight
The roads through the wetlands have been closed for a while because of all the rain we’ve had here in Central Florida. They’re open now, but in rough shape – lots of potholes to dodge as you drive through.
Speaking of all the rain we’ve had, I checked on the Lake Jesop Wilderness Area sunflowers again yesterday, and they’re very, very sparse this year. There are a few clumps of flowers on higher ground, but the grand fields of blooms are missing. The water’s still high and large areas are still flooded. Maybe next year.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Good morning! We were traveling last weekend and I started coming down with a cold on the flight back. So I haven’t been out much since and I don’t have any new material for you. Instead, I’ll repost this write-up from back in April, 2014 – it’s one of my favorites. And it reminds me I need to go back over there and see what’s changed! You can also look at this post for more info on the location: https://edrosack.com/2014/01/04/marineland-beach/
There were a few lights in the parking lot way back behind the sand dunes and the clouds were thick and low, making it so very dark on Marineland Beach south of St. Augustine, Florida that my first few exposures didn’t even register on the sensor. I kept raising exposure times and ISO until I was able to capture this:
99 seconds in the dark – ISO 400, 99 seconds @ f/8; Marineland Beach, about 45 minutes before sunrise.
It sure didn’t look this way to my eyes. I couldn’t see much at all and had to use my head lamp to compose and focus.
When I got home and processed the photos, they reminded me of some things that might be useful to others.
Pre-visualize before, during, and after you press the shutter
You should always try to pre-visualize the photo you’re making before you compose and shoot – and it’s a delightful feeling when the image turns out just like you imagined. But this is often harder than it sounds. Especially if you can’t see what you’re photographing. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your vision as you go. This is a wonderful advantage of digital cameras that we’d be foolish to ignore. Check your results on the LCD during the shoot and adapt as necessary. In this case, I knew exactly what I needed to change when I first looked at my (black) LCD. I needed more exposure!
Pre visualization is great, but there’s also nothing wrong with post visualization. What I mean is to try as many things as you can think of while you’re there and sort it out later when you get home. Try HDR, panoramas, high tripod, low tripod, and focus stacking. Use different focal lengths, shutter / aperture combinations, and positions / directions. Exploit changing weather / light as time goes on. Capture them all and give yourself a better chance to come out with something you like.
Shutter speed is a critical variable when photographing moving water. The 99 second exposure above gave me very smooth and milky looking water, nicely outlining the rocks. A 1/1000th second (or faster) exposure can freeze drops of water. In between, you can find other speeds that look very different from the extremes. Capture the scene with different shutter speeds when possible. In this 1 second exposure, I like the added interest from the flow patterns in the water.
Marineland Beach and coquina rocks – ISO 100, 1 second @ f/4 with 8 2/3 stop neutral density filter, ~30 minutes after sunrise.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and ghost removal
There are so many controls and sliders in HDR software that it’s hard to know which ones to change. Most HDR software has an option for removing “ghosts” (differences between multiple frames for anything moving in the image) and I think it’s a critical setting. HDR Efex allows me to select the baseline frame I want to use as well as the amount of ghost removal to apply. I like to experiment with these and select the combination that looks best. In the image below, there was only one setting that showed the breaking wave. And I think the wave definitely adds to the image.
Golden rocks and sand – 5 image bracket (-4 to +4 stops), almost an hour after sunrise.
Don’t leave too soon
I made these three images (and more!) over a period of 90 minutes. The changing light provided different looks and opportunities to photograph this place. It’s worth getting there early and staying for a while.
Don’t get overwhelmed
When you visit a beautiful place, especially for the first time – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and forget about everything except pressing the shutter button. It helps to visit multiple times. The first time, it’s hard to see all the possible compositions until you get over the novelty and excitement. When you can relax and enjoy the experience you can open your mind and get in the zone. Then you’ll make images you’ll be happy to share with others.