The sky wasn’t very promising on our way over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week. There were no clouds and we didn’t think the morning color would be any good. Since it didn’t seem like we had a lot to lose, we decided to try a new sunrise spot: Loughman Lake, on the south side of SR 46 just west of Mims.
Misty Palms. Olympus High Res mode, converted to B&W. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200 mm eq. (cropped to ~250mm eq.). 6:16 am.
We were right – at first. There was hardly any color and I ended up converting this first image to black and white. But there was some photogenic fog and around 15 minutes later, the color arrived along with a few clouds on the horizon.
Misty Dawn. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/6 sec. @ f/6.3, 150 mm eq. 6:28 am
The images in this post are in time order and I’ve added exposure, focal length, and timing info for you. It turns out that I made all of these with a relatively long lens – unusual for my landscape photography. I’m sure that there are some great wide-angle compositions there, but the shorter focal length photos I made that day aren’t as interesting to me as these. I’m glad I brought the very versatile Olympus 12-100 f/4 zoom.
Morning Glory. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/80 sec. @ f/8, 200mm eq. 6:37 am
Here’s one more image. I like the Great Blue Heron “statue” out in the water.
Misty morning marsh. Olympus High Res mode. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200mm eq. 6:45 am
Loughman Lake turns out to be a good place to stop on the way over to MINWR. But make sure you bring a longer lens!
Sometimes you can get amazing photos of wild birds inside Florida cities. Winter Park (and other places too) put up nest boxes around town to attract birds. Ospreys typically use them in the spring to raise their young.
Urban Ospreys 3
I met Kathy B. (www.flickr.com/photos/kbargar/) through the Orlando Camera Club and we’ve run across each other on photo shoots. I saw her photos of this nest on Flickr and when I commented on how nice they were she was kind enough to share the location with me.
Urban Ospreys 1 – The young one’s stretching it’s wings. Mom looks a little wary – like she’s making sure she doesn’t get knocked out of the nest!
If you’re close enough to zoom in and fill the frame, and you can pick a vantage point that has foliage in the background – you can get some swell, natural looking photos of wild birds. There’s no way to tell from these first two that the nest is located downtown. Here’s a wider shot: The nest is on top of a utility pole and 40 – 50 feet away from the upper floor of a very convenient parking garage.
When I first arrived, the chick was asleep and hidden, so I went to the other side of the garage and made this photo while I waited for it to wake up.
The track through Winter Park
And this crow was checking me out while I waited too. I think it was expecting a handout.
Anyway, I’m glad this didn’t turn into another “empty nest syndrome” like our expedition a couple of weeks ago. And by the way, Tom M. checked and the eagles were back in that nest the week after we went, so they must have just been away while we were there.
I really like my close up photos. I think they’re the best ones I’ve gotten of nesting Ospreys.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now – go make some photos!
I spotted this large fish (~2 1/2 feet long) resting near the shore. My long lens was stowed in my backpack and I knew it wouldn’t stay there long, so I quickly made a photo with my IR camera. If you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can better see the small minnows swimming nearby.
Dragonflies are out and about. This is the first time I’ve noticed them this year.
And finally, here’s a photo of my walking companion. This bird joined me for a bit on my stroll around the park.
The park offers free Tram Tours on weekends – check their site for details. I much prefer to walk so I can pause and photograph any time I want and get a little exercise too.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now – go make some photos!
Kevin K., Tom M. and I met at the Sanford Marina on Friday before dawn. The plan was to make a few sunrise photos and then go photograph a nearby eagle’s nest.
I like this long exposure:
Blue hour at the marina. Olympus Hi-res mode, 13s, f/5.6, ISO 250, @ 24mm eq. focal length (no tripod).
Confession time again. Since I didn’t need a tripod at Mead Gardens last week, I’d removed the L-plate on my E-M1 MII camera before that trip. Unfortunately, I forgot to re-attach it. So I had to improvise and try some different techniques on this trip. The image above was made with my camera resting on the dock.
This next image was made handheld. By opening my aperture and upping the ISO, I got my shutter speed up to 1.3 seconds. And the image stabilization in the camera was good enough for a tack sharp photo with those settings. Going by the old 1/focal length rule, I should have shot this at 1/24th second. The IS gave me about 5 stops of stabilization!
Half Staff at dawn. The flags at Sanford’s Veterans Memorial Park were at Half staff in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Two frame vertical panorama, 1.3s, f/4.0, ISO 400, @ 24mm eq. focal length (hand held).
I made this last image with my IR camera – this time from a tripod since I did have the L-bracket on this body.
So what’s the title of this post all about? Well, we wanted to photograph a pair of eagles nesting on the railroad bridge that crosses the St. Johns river by Sanford. It looked like we could get an eye level view from the road nearby. But when we got over there we found the nest, but there were no eagles in sight. I’m not sure if they were just away for a bit or if they’ve abandoned the nest. Anyway, we couldn’t spot them. I might try driving by again next week and if I do, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! But check your gear before you leave, improvise if you have to, and when you’re photographically frustrated, try again another day!
This is a long article about Infrared (IR) image processing. If you don’t process IR photos, feel free to just look at the photos! And please take a look at the new Infrared Gallery I added under the Galleries / Portfolio menu at the top.
You probably know I like IR photography. I’ve written about it before (click here to review my posts) and I often include IR photos in this blog. Here’s a recent example:
Circle B Bar Infrared 1 (four frame vertical panorama)
Infrared’s an interesting medium.
IR captures invisible light: a portion of the spectrum that’s different from what your eyes can see.
The spectral response makes blue sky look dark and foliage bright. This reverses a normal daylight scene’s brightness values. It helps tame contrast and allows you to shoot even when the sun is high in the sky.
Since your eyes can’t see infrared, your interpretation of the alternate reality is up to you. You can process IR in Monochrome or as a false color image.
IR can sometimes capture details that aren’t seen with visible light.
If you use a modified digital camera, you may see improved detail in your photos. The conversion process removes the IR blocking / anti-aliasing filter. In many digital cameras this slightly blurs the image during capture to lessen Moire and other aliasing artifacts.
I’m not really qualified to discuss shooting IR film – I’ve only done it a few times. But I will say that modifying a mirrorless digital camera is a great way to approach infrared. The mirrorless design eliminates any issues with IR focus. The camera’s built-in exposure meter works well and values are close to the normal visible light ones, so you can hand hold in daylight conditions.
Circle B Bar Infrared 3 (three frame vertical panorama)
Eight Cedar Waxwings – I forgot to bring the spare battery for my main camera and ran out of charge. So I switched my long lens to my IR modified body and kept shooting.
So what’s the point of this post? I’ve struggled lately with how I process my IR images. The work flow I’ve used seems to result in too much contrast / clarity. I just felt that the results looked a bit “digital”. So I’ve searched for new methods and I’ve found one that I like. I’ve used it on all these photos and I feel that they look much more “organic” and much less “digital”. What do you think?
Five nest Cypress (five frame vertical panorama)
Here is my updated workflow:
Capture the RAW images with a modified micro 4/3 mirrorless camera. Aperture priority, mostly handheld (although I do occasionally use a tripod).
Import into Lightroom to save the master files. Then decide which ones are worth processing and discard the seconds / rejects.
Batch process the “selects” through DxO Optics Pro to take advantage of its noise and camera / lens module processing. This step returns copies back to Lightroom in Adobe DNG RAW format.
In Lightroom, apply a custom camera profile to optimize the white balance (see this article for how to create one). And if it’s a multi-frame image, stitch it together with Lightroom’s merge to panorama function.
Sometimes, you can use Lightroom’s B&W conversion and finish an image. But I’ll open ones I really like in Photoshop.
There, straighten and crop, use the content aware fill, and clone if needed.
Finally, it’s back to Lightroom for any final adjustments (tone curve, sharpening, vignette, grain, etc.).
Circle B Bar Infrared 6 (five frame horizontal panorama)
Could I achieve this look some other way? Maybe even with a lot fewer steps? Yes, I’m sure it could be done.
Circle B Bar Infrared 2 (three frame horizontal panorama)
Just a few years ago, we only had Adobe Photoshop and then Lightroom to process RAW images. One of the great things about photography and image processing today is that there are so many ways to do things. That’s also bad, because it takes a lot of effort to study all the options and find out which ones work best. It seems like each program has strengths and weaknesses.
Software is changing every day, but I don’t know if there will ever be a single image processing program that does every thing I want. For now, I’m happy with the results I’m getting using this somewhat complex workflow. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for new or simpler ways to do things.
It’s also a popular place – there’s a lot to see and a lot of people looking. Kevin M. and I went over last Saturday and here are some highlights from our visit.
Great Horned Owl parent and chick
There’s been a Great Horned Owl nest along the entrance road for several years. It’s marked off with tape and signs and there’s usually a crowd observing so you can’t miss it. The image above is a composite. They didn’t both look toward me at the same time, so I combined two exposures in Photoshop. The chick seems pretty large. I’m guessing it must be several weeks old. They grow fast – go over soon if you want to see it before it fledges.
This hawk startled several birds (and me) when it launched towards a coot on the surface of the canal by Marsh Rabbit Run. It missed and then stayed in this tree for a bit before moving on. I almost didn’t make the photo, since at first glance, it looked like a Red-shoulder Hawk to me. But luckily someone nearby said “That’s a nice Cooper’s”, which is a new life bird for me. It’s young so the colors aren’t typical for an adult, but the eyes give it away.
I also tried one of the features in the new firmware for the Olympus E-M1 MII camera: Pro Capture (hi) mode with the PL 100 – 400 lens. I wanted to catch the bird as it launched off the branch. It didn’t quite work because hi speed Pro Capture freezes focus after the first shot. It took off at an angle toward the camera and the bird isn’t sharp in the frame. Oh well, another thing to add to my ‘try again’ list.
Pig and People
This wild pig was foraging along the Heron Hideout path. It’s pretty small, seemed very calm and used to all the curious people, and minded its own business. But I’d still be cautious around it.
Gray Catbird – infrared, monochrome
I forgot the spare battery for my main camera back in the car and of course it died on our hike just after the hawk photo. But I also had my IR camera with me with plenty of battery left. So I switched my long lens over to it and kept shooting. We spotted this Gray Catbird in the bushes, and I like the way the bird stands out from the vegetation in IR converted to B&W.
Cedar Waxwing @ Circle B (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)
We found a flock of Cedar Waxwings in the branches above the path – but my photos of them are in infrared too. Unlike me, Kevin was prepared and he was kind enough to let me use one of his from the day for this post.
Since it’s a long drive, we got lazy and slept in – so no sunrise images. I did make some infrared landscapes there and I’m planning to use them in a future post, so check back for that. Maybe I’ll include the IR Waxwings too.
We usually walk down Alligator Alley but it’s closed. The gators are apparently active in that area although we didn’t spot any. We did spot Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, a Barred Owl, Blue Wing Teals, Double Crested Cormorants, Anhingas, American Coots and chicks, a Purple Gallinule, the usual Herons and Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Warblers, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, turtles, and more. Like I said – a lot to see!
I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.
Orlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W. I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.
Space View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then. Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.
Red-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017. Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!
A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then. I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird. Blended in Photoshop
Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr. And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! I will too!
Once in a while, conditions are just right. Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed. When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you – count your blessings!
Great Egret in flight
This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18). I lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive. It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these. I’ve written about them before (see this post from December of 2012). Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:
The birds all compete for food. Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers. Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond. Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images. After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc. And conditions change rapidly. Set up your camera in advance and be nimble. I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed. It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high. You’ll need 1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments. I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
Your “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to. But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like. Practice when you can and you’ll get better.
Landing Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one. But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either. I’m still practicing!
It’s not all about birds in flight. Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.
On the banks of the pond. I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.
That was a wonderful morning. I’m glad I was able to see all the action. Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:
Dawn at the dock on the Indian River. Olympus Hi-Res mode.
Florida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive. Monochrome infrared.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Brown Pelicans were very numerous. They look pretty now in their breeding colors. There’s a small island they use for a rookery and roost near the tour start and you get good views of them.
Landing at the Pelican Rookery
This tour is offered once a day at 1:30pm. We arrived about 1pm at the Marine Discovery Center, picked up our tickets and headed over to the dock.
The 40 passenger boat is covered so you can stay out of the sun if you want. We had nice weather although it was a bit windy and a little chilly too. We were glad to have the sun and our jackets (I know, Florida people, right?). There’s ample room on board, especially since it was only about half full. The bench seats are comfortable and we had a lot of room to move around for the best views.
I was expecting to see porpoise (dolphin) – they’re quite common in the Indian River. This is a typical view:
But we were in for quite a treat. On the way back to the dock, this group of four or five put on an exciting show for us right next to the boat. I wasn’t expecting to see them breech like this up close.
Of course, I wasn’t well prepared and it was over very quickly. I ended up just watching them and trying to shoot blindly without bringing the camera up to aim. This isn’t a really great photo, but I’m lucky I got it.
Our guide pointed out a wide variety of other wildlife: Ospreys, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green herons; Great Egrets, Cormorants, Anhingas, Black Vultures, gulls, terns, and more.
Osprey with fish
The mid afternoon light was harsh – not the best for landscape photos. But an infrared camera can tame contrast, so I used mine for an image or two. Here’s one from the trip – I like the look of the weathered tree along the shore.
Weathered wood – A gnarly old tree along the Indian River
The Marine Discovery Center offers several boat, kayak. and walking tours. They also have an indoor exploration area with exhibits, aquariums, and more. Plan to go next time you’re in New Smyrna Beach. Call before you visit, since they sometimes cancel due to weather. I hope the dolphins will be as playful for you as they were for us!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
First an announcement: If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.
And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status / news following the Merritt Island photo update.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning. I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island. We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.
Pre-dawn at the marina – Titusville. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway. From there you can shoot through the bridge toward sunrise. I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.
Dawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive. There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice. I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.
Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows
Hooded Merganser (female)
We also saw (among others): American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more. We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.
Enough of the pleasant content. Now on to the agonizing stuff.
Blog status / news
It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ. Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.
There’s good and bad news. Good news: The blog is mostly back up. And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him. Bad news: He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.
I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up . My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive. And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.
I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans. Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.
It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan. The rest of the process wasn’t as easy. Here are some of the issues I ran into:
Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me. They didn’t. I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect. A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy. I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account. I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers. This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration). The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability. This was easy and I now have an https connection. My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them. But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation. I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin. It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing this. Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default. I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them. In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once. Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it. Whew! It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over. In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages. I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work. Please check them out if you get a chance!
And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months! This stuff is just too hard!
The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was unable to use Jetpack’s subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request. Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed. If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe. Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.
Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!