Tag Archives: beach

Long Exposure with Variable Neutral Density Filters

A friend wants to make long exposure photos on an upcoming trip. I recommended using a Variable Neutral Density Filter (VND) and offered to let them try mine.  So  we headed over to the Cocoa Beach Pier last Friday to test them out on some ocean waves.

Cruising homeCruising home. VND, ƒ/11, 35 mm, 0.3sec, ISO 100

VNDs are made from two polarizing filters – one’s fixed and the other rotates. You use the rotating one to vary the amount of light that’s blocked (typically between 1 or 2 and 6 or 8 stops).  I like them because they give you precise and easy control over how much light hits your sensor.  If you reduce light on the sensor, you can use a slower shutter speed or a wider aperture for a given scene.  They’re good to have when you photograph waterfalls (slow shutter to blur / smooth water) or in bright light (to shoot with a wider aperture and blur backgrounds).

Here’s my approach for smoothing water:

  1. Mount the camera on a tripod and trigger it with a remote or the self timer.
  2. Set ISO (usually for best quality). Don’t use auto ISO.  We want the  camera to vary shutter speed instead of changing ISO when the VND rotates.
  3. I use Aperture Priority mode and select the F-stop (for depth of field, image quality etc.).
  4. Compose with the VND filter at its minimum value (brightest setting).
  5. In bright light, you can use auto focus.  In dim light, you may need to  manual focus so the camera’s auto focus doesn’t hunt when you  darken the VND.
  6. Now, slowly turn / darken the VND until your shutter speed reaches the value you want.  You’ll need to experiment to find what looks best to you, but for water try between .25 and 1 second.
  7. If you can’t get a slow enough shutter, you can close down your aperture, or lower your ISO.

Some things to watch out for:

  • Like much in photography (and life!), you can find very expensive VNDs and very cheap ones. I’ve had good luck with name brand ones in the middle price range.  Don’t buy the cheap ones!  They may not be optically flat or coated, and might introduce color shift problems.  You’ll probably pay more for thinner ones too, which will reduce chances of vignetting.
  • Definitely look for VNDs with coatings to help prevent reflections / flare.  You’re adding four more air/glass interfaces to the front of your lens and you can’t use a lens hood, so coatings will improve performance.
  • Since these filters can be expensive, I recommend buying only one, sized to fit the biggest diameter lens you’ll use it with.  I have a 77mm VND and step down rings to mount it on my smaller lenses.
  • Some VNDs can be rotated too far and will show an ugly cross-shaped anomaly.  If yours does this, watch for it and back off until it disappears.  Some are made with a stop so you can’t rotate them too far.
  • Check your results as you go.  It’s easy to over expose highlights in moving water, so you may need to dial in some negative exposure composition.  Also, if the light getting through is too dim, your camera’s meter may not work well.  In that case you’ll have to change to manual exposure and adjust accordingly.
  • Make several exposures at different shutter speeds so you’ll have distinct looks to choose from when you get home.

Golden beachGolden beach. VND, ƒ/8.0, 26 mm eq., 0.8sec, ISO 200

That’s it – simple, right?  Do you use VNDs?  If so, let me know where I can view your long exposure photos.  And if you have any hints of your own, please share in a comment for everyone.

You can click on these images to see a larger version on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Marvelous Morning

We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday.  I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M.  We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends.  Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show.  I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.

On the beachOn the beach

There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.

Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things.  We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes.  Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in.  They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.

American Bittern in the grassAmerican Bittern in the grass

A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted.  It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around.  It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away.  This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes.  They’re small and usually skittish.  And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph.  Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.

Wilson's Snipe in the grassWilson’s Snipe in the grass

Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter.  If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them.  You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away.  This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave.  But I was over conservative with my zoom  and left too much  room in the frame.  I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one.  But I’ll have to keep trying.

Belted Kingfisher in flightBelted Kingfisher in flight

We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks.  And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here.  Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there.  Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.

So it was a marvelous morning.  Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends.  Much better than sleeping in!

Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr.  And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lobster Roll Stroll

Mary Kate had a craving for Lobster Rolls last Saturday and her favorite place to get them is at Cafe Heavenly (http://www.cafeheavenly.com) in New Smyrna Beach.   Lynn and I like the place too, so we drove over with her.

After lunch the girls wanted to window shop.  Me – not so much.  We set a time to meet, I left them to it, and set out to walk up and down Flagler Avenue.  With my camera, of course.

Harley Ladies on Flagler Ave.Harley Ladies on Flagler Avenue.

 It’s an interesting place.  There are all sorts of people, shops, places to eat and drink, and even a few hotels and B&Bs.

No VacancyNo Vacancy – Fortunately we didn’t need a place to stay.

Our weather here in Central Florida is turning summer like.  After about 45 minutes I was getting hot and thirsty.  I saw this, and agreed completely:

Polly wants a cocktailPolly wants a cocktail – I was getting pretty thirsty.

Oh yeah, about that Lobster Roll – they are delicious!

Cafe Heavenly Lobster Roll
Cafe Heavenly Lobster Roll – photo by Lynn Rosack, used with permission.

I enjoyed the food and the stroll.  You can see a few more photos from the area in this album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Photographing Florida Weather

Florida has wonderful weather photography opportunities.  They’re not often the kind that you see from tornado alley out west.  But the clouds here are awesome too.

Lynn and I traveled recently (New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia).  I realized when going through those photos that they lacked dramatic skies like we often see here in Central Florida.  Maybe our timing was just bad.  Anyway, it inspired me to put together this post with some examples of our weather along with a few hints.

We’d had several days of rain last August and even though afternoon light isn’t usually the best for photography, I decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and see if I could capture some of the weather drama.  This one is from the south-east side of the causeway.  There was a slight drizzle where I was standing and rain drops ruined several frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.

Weather over the WaterWeather over the Water (24mm focal length)

And this one was that same day, looking south along the back side of  Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Storm AheadStorm Ahead (stitched panorama, nine frames at 24mm focal length).

This next photo is from September of 2012, also at Black Point Wildlife Drive.  These clouds actually stopped me in my tracks and made me shift out of bird photography mode to make this B&W, IR image.  You can see a color version of this here.

A little stormyA little stormy (stitched panorama, three frames at 24mm eq. focal length).

These next two have been on the blog before, but they also illustrate my point:  Clouds and storms in Central Florida are photogenic!

Stormy ShoreStormy Shore:  Storm clouds blow through north of our hotel on Casey Key, Florida.  June 15, 2015 (stitched panorama, eight frames at 24mm eq. focal length).

And this last photo is from way back in October 2007.  I put it in to honor our fading Lake Jesup sunflower season.

Lakes Jesup Wildflowers and RainstormLakes Jesup Wildflowers and Rainstorm (105mm eq. focal length).

We don’t have mountains here in Central Florida.  And we don’t have very good waterfalls either.  But our clouds are just as good as anywhere else.  How are they where you are?

Photo hints:

  • Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
  • The storms are big.  As you can see from the captions, many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography, although some situations (like the last image) benefit from a longer focal length.
  • You can shoot from your car in many cases or just dodge the showers.  Do bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover  your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
  • Be careful with your exposures.  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 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!

If you click on the photos above, you can see larger versions on Flickr and I also collected  other Florida Cloud and Storm photos that you can browse in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some cloudy photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Blue Moon and Sunrise at Ponce Inlet

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 decendsBlue 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 SunrisePonce 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
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!

You can see more images from Ponce Inlet in this set on Flickr.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And do it more often than “once in a blue moon”!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Casey Key Clouds

I’ve written about Casey Key before.  Lynn and I have been visiting this little island on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years.  If you’d like to read other articles about it, click on the “Casey Key” link under the “Places / Categories” menu over on the right.

When we got home this week and I reviewed the photos I made there on this trip, I was struck by how much the clouds enhance the images.

Stormy ShoreStormy Shore

This strong storm moved through one afternoon and dropped considerable hail and rain on the area.  But we also got to see the awesome cloud front pass over the beach.

This next photo includes some lovely clouds too.

Sunset BeachSunset Beach

And finally, here’s one last photo combining the sky and wispy sunset clouds with a sun or beach totem – not something I see everyday.

Sun totemSun totem

I have more photos from Casey Key as well as larger versions of the ones above in this set on Flickr.

Clear skies are often boring.  Clouds and storms add interest and drama, and enhance almost any photo.  Add some clouds to your compositions.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go find some clouds – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Chasing light

So I went to two different places last week.  Kevin M. took me to the Lake Apopka Restoration Area to look for the Groove Billed Ani that’s been hanging around.  I’d never been there and was glad he invited me, not only for a chance at a life bird, but also to scout the area.  I’ve also driven around Lake Lawsona in downtown Orlando and thought there might be some photos lurking there, but couldn’t find any place to park.  Then I discovered that Mayor Carl T. Langford Park isn’t far away so I left my car there and walked over.

To make a long (and photographically humbling) story short, I photographed both places, but didn’t like any of the images enough to post.  And we didn’t see the Ani either.

I did chase the light – I just didn’t catch it.

Since I’m a little stuck for material this week,  I went back into my archives and found a four photo panorama that I’d never processed from a trip to Tampa in 2013.  After stitching it together, I like the light in this image well enough.

Looking north toward Piney Point from Fred Howard Park in TampaLooking north toward Piney Point from Fred Howard Park in Tampa, August 2013

 Like any creative activity, photography is difficult at times.  I struggled last week, but I try not to get discouraged – this happens to everyone.  I keep trying and enjoy the effort.  As Florida Nature Photographer John Moran says in his book Journal of Light:

“Nature photography isn’t always about the picture, it’s about the experience of just being there, chasing the light, alive and awake and aware.”

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go chase the light!
©2013 and 2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Infrared updates

These two posts on infrared photography seem to get a lot of hits:

Since they’re from a while back, I thought I’d update you on a couple of things.

Ebbing tideEbbing tide – The outgoing current cuts a temporary channel through the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park).  IR, B&W.

I’d been using an Olympus E-PL1 camera, modified for IR by  http://www.lifepixel.com/ and I’ve been pleased with the output.  But it uses a first generation 12 MP, micro 4/3 sensor and requires care to minimize noise.  I also have an Olympus E-PL5 with a 16MP current generation sensor.  It has much better noise characteristics and additional resolution, so I decided to have it modified to upgrade my infrared capabilities.

I was very happy with the service from LifePixel, but this time, I chose Precision Camera to do the mod.  They also did a fine job, were very prompt and even a few dollars cheaper.

One change I made was to select a 665 nm filter instead of 720 nm.  What this does is pass a bit more of the visual spectrum along with the IR light.  This gives you more flexibility in post processing.  You can still process for the IR B&W look, but with the extra visible spectrum light, false color post processing is easier. 

At restAt rest – Driftwood on the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park).  IR, false color.

When I process RAW files from the E-PL1, I can easily adjust white balance in Lightroom.  With the 665 nm filter on the E-PL5, I couldn’t get to a neutral white balance until I created a custom camera calibration profile for it using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor.  You can read more about this here.

The Road Under the Red Cedar Tree
The Road Under the Red Cedar Tree (Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge).  IR, B&W.

I made the photos in this post with the newer camera.  There’s less noise, the 665nm filter is more flexible in post, and the extra pixels are nice to have.  I like how it’s working so far!

You can see larger versions of these and other examples of my infrared photography in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some IR photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Partial Solar Eclipse at Sunrise

I hadn’t been paying enough attention to astronomy news. Luckily my loyal Sherpa was (thank you Lynn!), and she mentioned that a partial solar eclipse would  be visible along the US east coast at sunrise on November 3rd.  So I took off for Cocoa Beach where I knew I could get a clear view of the horizon.  This was the scene a little before sunrise.

Mai Tiki Bar
Mai Tiki – before sunrise

Normally clouds are a great thing for sunrise photos.  In this case, though, the eclipse would last only a few minutes, so I worried that the band of clouds low on the horizon would block the view.  But the sun and moon finally did break through so we could watch the last part of the event.

Partial eclipse of the sun

Partial Eclipse of the Sun – As seen from the base of the Cocoa Beach Pier

I wanted to clearly show the sun’s disc so I used my “bird” lens for this photo zoomed in to 400mm.  I was happy that these three people were watching from the end of the pier so I could place  them in the frame.  The sun was extremely bright and I was careful not to burn anything in my camera (or my eyes!).  It was tough to compose since I kept my lens pointed away from the sun most of the time and only glanced briefly through the viewfinder to make images.

I like the way this one turned out.  It was definitely a unique sunrise and well worth the drive over.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Topaz ReStyle Mini Review

Topaz released a new plug-in recently, called ReStyle.  You can download any of their products for a free thirty-day trial, so I thought I’d give it a go.  This isn’t a full review or tutorial (I haven’t used it long enough for either of those).  But I have used it a bit so I’ll try to introduce you to some possibilities with three examples I’ve played with.  If you want to see the “before” versions, I’ve included them towards the end of the post.

I had trouble with the white balance in this photo of Marineland beach at dawn.  I could have separately adjusted the color balance on the sky and ground using layer masks in Photoshop or gradients in Lightroom.  Instead, it was easy to pick out this version from the grid displayed inside ReStyle.  It’s interesting how   remapping changed the color in the beach and rocks differently from the sky.

Down on the beach at dawn

Down on the beach at dawn (after Topaz ReStyle).

ReStyle maps color and tone statistics from a selected style to a target image.  It seems like Photoshop’s “Image/Adjustments/Match Color” command.  When you do this in Photoshop, you have to supply an image with the colors you’re trying to match.  ReSyle comes with over 1000 presets and provides control / adjustment of the results that aren’t easily available in Photoshop.   There are so many presets that they’re overwhelming, but ReStyle breaks them down into collections (e.g. “Landscape”), and you can mark your favorites.   You can show a collection or your favorites as a grid applied to your photo, which makes choosing one very simple.  You can also search for  similar styles by color or by name.  Within each style, you can further adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of the five colors in each style, as well as the opacity, original image “Texture” strength, and others variables.  It also includes mask / selections controls to apply the effects selectively.  There’s a lot more info available in the manual at this link.

In this photo of some struggling trees on a small rocky island near Haulover Canal, I wanted a more dramatic color palette.  Once again, it was easy to pick out this version from a grid of possibilities.

Survivors
Survivors (after Topaz ReStyle)

For this infra-red photo of sea oats on the beach that I made in Fred Howard Park near Tampa , I wanted a different look from a typical IR false color image.  I like this color mapping I found in ReStyle .
Sea oats

Sea oats – False color infra-red (After Topaz ReStyle)

There are so many presets, options and adjustments that ReStyle can be a little overwhelming.  It’s not hard to use, but it is hard to grasp all the possibilities and decide what to do.  It’ll take a bit more time for me to get comfortable with it, so I’ll have to play with it some more.

For comparison purposes, here are versions of the photos before I applied Topaz ReStyle:

__D8C4109_HDR_Ed-Rosack
Before:  Down on the beach at dawn.

_P8110813_Ed-Rosack

Before: Survivors

Sea oats

Before:  Sea oats – False color infra-red processing.

Summary:  Do you have to use plug-ins?  Of course not, but they’re useful and save time.  And ReStyle seems to offer something I haven’t seen elsewhere.  It’ll definitely make your images look different.  Are they better?  I think ReStyle improved these three images, but only you can decide for your photos.  Will this fix all of your problems and should you use it on every photo?    Definitely not  – I’m new to the tool, but on several photos I tried, I couldn’t get anything that I thought looked good.  But it does look like something that’ll be good to have in your bag of tricks.

Off topic public service announcement:  I’m always telling you to get out and enjoy nature.  I also need to remind you to protect yourself from the sun.  I had two skin cancers removed last week.  I’m fine – but it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through.  And it can be much, much worse than mine were.  So when you’re out in the sun enjoying nature, please protect yourself.  Use sunscreen, wear a hat and long sleeves, stay in the shade as much as possible, etc.  The sun is brutal, especially in Florida.  And no one wants to suffer the consequences of too much exposure ten or twenty years down the road.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And use sunscreen!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved