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!
When you’re out, don’t get too locked in on your subject. Make sure you’re always aware of other things around you. They might be photogenic too!
The dawn was dressed in pale pastels along the Indian River
I already had my sunrise images on my memory card and thought I was good to go – just waiting for a friend to finish up. But then I looked across the calm water and noticed a boat anchored near the far shore. The sky colors were unusual and lovely. I set my tripod up again and made this photo. It’s a good reminder: We have to keep looking in all directions and not put the camera away until we’re leaving a place. Beauty is all around us. Let’s pay attention!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy. Some things didn’t fare too well:
Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway
I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way. Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.
I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal. It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife. I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.
They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now. I need to go back there and kayak again. It is going to cool off soon I hope!
There were a few shore birds along the causeway. I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Black Point and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage. I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage: https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811
For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title. I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist. I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
It was a good thing that I got there well before dawn, because the place I had in mind for a sunrise photo didn’t turn out (construction and street lights). On the way over I noticed a massive thunderhead that looked like it would add some interest to my photos. Unfortunately, it also added a lot of rain to the area, so I spent some time wandering around looking for a new place and making a few uninspired photos during gaps in the downpour.
Almost made it… A sunken sailboat near the Titusville Municipal MarinaI
I ended up at the Titusville Municipal Marina. There always seems to be a sunken boat or two there. I think this one is recent, but it’s hard to be sure. By this time, the rain was slacking off, so I parked and hurried over to where I could get a good angle on the colors in what was left of the rain clouds. The light was pretty and I used the boat and the rocks on shore to add foreground layers to my composition.
I made many exposures, framing the boat in different ways. The color built and I like the last set of frames best. For this image I made seven exposures from the tripod. Four were for the sky / clouds, pointed up slightly and bracketing exposure to make sure I captured the entire dynamic range. I pointed three down slightly for the boat and water, to make sure I had everything in focus. One of these three was through a neutral density filter so I could get a long shutter speed and smooth the water surface. At home, I ended up using six of the frames, combining some in Lightroom’s merge function, and blending the rest manually in Photoshop. Finally, I used Nik Color Effects Pro to tune the colors and Topaz Clarity to increase mid-range contrast to get what you see above.
After sunrise, I headed over to Black Point Wildlife Drive for a look around. It’s been closed while they worked on the road. It’s open again, in great shape, and ready for all the fall visitors. There’s not much bird activity yet, but I did find this nicely posing Tri-colored Heron.
Reflections – Tri-colored Heron, Black Point Wildlife Drive
This image is less complicated. It’s just two frames, hand-held. One’s focused on the bird’s eye and the other on its reflection in the water. I merged them in Lightroom via the Photo Merge – Panorama function, and finished this one too with tweaks to color, contrast, and cropping in Photoshop.
Should you try these techniques? I can’t decide for you. For me, it’s more work, but it gives me much more control over the final result. If you do decide to try them and have any questions about how to do this kind of thing, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.
Thanks again to Mary Kate for writing last week’s post. I apologize for the lack of images in that email. I need to figure out how to get the server to send the photos when they’re not referenced from Flickr. If you didn’t get a chance to see her photos, please click through and visit the blog.
Our visit to the Panama Canal and passage through the Gatun Locks was the main feature of our recent cruise. As an engineer, I’ve long been intrigued by the canal and it lived up to my expectations. It’s amazing that something built over 100 years ago in such difficult conditions is still operating and remains an import part of global commerce.
The ship’s Captain planned well. We arrived near the entrance just in time to view the day’s sunrise.
Panamanian Sunrise – a pilot-boat paces us as we head toward the canal entrance
The crew opened up normally closed areas at the bow for viewing and many folks crowded there to watch the activity.
Entering the Panama Canal
At the evening meal the night before we arrived, Nino (the maître d’) promised us the “best seat in the house” if we came to breakfast at 7:30 that morning. We thought we had a nice view up on the bow, but decided to follow his recommendation and go down to breakfast. It was surprising how few people were in the dining room. He fulfilled his promise and we sat at a table at the very stern of the ship right next to the large windows on deck 2 – and it did have the best view!! Watching the locks filling and the canal walls go by from that vantage point was captivating. It took longer than normal for us to finish our meal!
In the Panama Canal Gatun Locks – view from the Main dining room on deck 2
The MS Zuiderdam is 106 feet wide and the canal is only 110 feet, so there’s very little clearance.
View from our balcony on the 6th deck – 2 foot clearance!
The operation, control, and precision while in the canal is very skilful. The photo above shows the 2 foot clearance between the ship and the canal. One of the “mules” (center left) is helping to position us and move us safely through.
Once past the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake so people taking excursions could disembark. Then we sailed back out through the canal and tied up for a port visit in Colon Harbor, where the excursions re-joined us that night.
Colon Harbor at night
Colon wasn’t our favorite stop, although I was able to buy a genuine Panama Hat there. Interesting fact: Panama Hats are made in Ecuador!
I’ve posted a short video that we made in the canal here on YouTube. It shows our entrance followed by a time-lapse as we descend into the Gatun Locks on our return. Take a look if you get a chance.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Another Merritt Island Morning – I combined multiple frames to get everything in focus and well exposed. Blended manually in Photoshop.
Why do I like going there so much? Even after so many visits, it’s impossible to see everything it has to offer. I appreciate getting to know a place and watching it change over time. I enjoy seeing the same locations in different light or weather, with different birds around.
Not Birds of a Feather – An interesting group of at least four species
I do know that every time I visit, I see something beautiful – either something new, or something commonplace, but in a new light.
“We do these things not to escape life, but rather so life does not escape us.” From a favorite t-shirt
And yes, sometimes I get back and the photos I made aren’t very good. But I still have a wonderful day. Much better than the owner of this boat had.
Sunken Sailboat – On this one, I also combined multiple frames to ensure everything was sharp and to emphasize the smooth water.
Henri Cartier Bresson said that “You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” And I think my t-shirt is right too. Going after photos will give you life.
Florida is blessed with a terrific State Park system. According to Wikipedia, we have 161 locations in our state.
Lynn found a new one (to us, at least) online and mentioned how nice the cabins looked. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is up in the panhandle, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on one side, and St. Joseph Bay on the other. They only have eight cabins and are usually fully booked – but cabin #4 was available for a single day, so we decided to drive up and see what it’s like. Although it was a brief trip, it was a wonderful opportunity to explore a part of Florida that we don’t often get to.
On the way, we stopped in Perry, Florida for some great seafood and then went by the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge where I made a few photos. I’d love to visit there more extensively. I wish we lived closer.
Marsh land – View from the observation tower next to the St. Marks Lighthouse. IR, B&W, panorama
It’s no wonder that the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park cabins are usually booked. They’re fairly new, well-kept, fully furnished and ideally located – especially if you like the sun and water. It’s one of the top rated beaches in the US and swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, fishing, hiking, and even scalloping are all very close by.
Blazing Clouds – the morning, bay side view from cabin #4
We took a late afternoon walk along the bay shore. The photographic glory was somewhat dampened by aggressive horse flies — we should have used insect repellent! But I thought the clouds and driftwood were remarkably attractive. This is the last of five photos I made on the walk. You can see the complete sequence in this album on Flickr.
St. Joseph Bay stroll (5 of 5). IR, B&W, panorama
Alas, we had to leave after a single night – much too short a stay to do the area justice. Maybe another time we can get a longer reservation.
On the drive back, we stopped for coffee in Apalachicola and stumbled on this. I love old boats and this one is about as rundown as I’ve ever seen. Another place that needs a longer look.
Welcome to the Venezellos. Panorama
If you get a chance, I highly recommend you check out the area. Seafood, sun, sights, water – what more could you ask for? Oh yes – perhaps a vacancy or two.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Some photographers plan their photo ops in detail. In many cases that’s a good approach. Portrait and wedding photography are genres that need advanced planning. And if you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, planning is prudent. Other genres are more reactive (e.g. photo journalism).
I try to do research and planning if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been, but I don’t plan most of my photography. Especially if I’ve been to a place before, my approach is to explore and discover, and then react to what I find. Often, I end up with photos that I never imagine when I start out. Which is loads of fun!
A few weeks ago, I went over to the Sanford Marina to make sunrise photos. I arrived early and discovered very calm conditions in the harbor. I reacted with this photo. It’s nothing like the sunrise I originally went looking for.
Still water, sailboats, and stars – Very early and very calm at the Sanford marina
Last week, I took a ride here in Central Florida along Maytown Road between Osteen and Oak Hill. It goes through some very undeveloped areas and ends at Seminole Rest, a small park in the Canaveral National Seashore. In this case, I hadn’t really planned for any photos. I was just driving to see what’s there. I was glad to discover this gnarled old tree, although I wish I’d found a little better light to go with it.
Weathered Tree – Seminole Rest, Canaveral National Seashore in Oak Hill, Florida
This last photo is from back in 2013. It sat in my archives until this week when I discovered it again and processed it. It took a while for me to complete my reaction to the scene.
Sun and shadows – Long exposure under the pier at Cocoa Beach
The photo and video in last week’s post also resulted from the “explore, discover, react” approach.
So what’s the moral of this story? I suppose it’s this: If you approach photography like I do, you’d better be ready to react to a scene when you see it. Know your equipment so you can capture what you need when you discover something. Even in the dark or in rapidly changing situations. Know your software capabilities too, so you understand what you need to capture. Be ready for the opportunities that you find, and the ones that find you.
On a different subject, I realized after I published last week’s blog that embedded video isn’t included in the email. The Jetpack plugin software that I use doesn’t even put in a link to it. So if you read the blog only via email and wondered what the video was about, you can click here to view it on YouTube. And you can always click on the title of the post inside the email to view it on the web. Sorry for any confusion.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go exploring – and make some photos!
Let’s go fishing! Two fishermen head out before dawn.
I’ve made this kind of photo before – you can see some examples in this set on Flickr. I think this one turned out better than my earlier tries. I used a different approach and because it’s been a while since I’ve written a “behind the scenes / how-to post”, I thought I’d fill you in on how I made this.
The boat ramp at this little park where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River is pretty busy around dawn. It seems to be a popular place for fishermen to put in. I waited several times while they cleared my frame and the water calmed down before I could make my next exposure. So I decided to make an image that included a boat.
It’s a challenging shot. I wanted to capture the intense sunrise colors so I had to be careful not to over expose and blow out the sky. I also wanted some detail in the boat, so I needed to over expose there a bit, but still minimize motion blur. At sunrise, I normally use a low ISO for the best quality image, and a small aperture for good depth of field. This results in a long shutter speed, which is bad for photographing moving boats. And if I want to bracket and use multiple frame HDR to capture the huge contrast range in the scene – that’s even worse for moving boat photography. So how did I make this image? Glad you asked!
The secret is to carefully capture two frames and blend them together by hand. The first frame is exposed for the boat: I used a high ISO and a wide open aperture to get my shutter speed as fast as possible, and I overexposed slightly to capture a little shadow detail in the boat and in the vegetation on the shore. With my camera set and on a tripod, I composed and waited for the next boat to get to the right point in the frame. Here’s that RAW file:
The second frame was my main exposure and I wanted it to be the best quality possible. I also wanted to slightly under expose to capture color and detail in the sky. I waited until the boat was gone and the water was calm again and then made this exposure:
When I got home, I preprocessed the two raw files using identical color balance and paying careful attention to noise reduction (especially on the higher ISO frame with the boat). I’ve used DxO Optics Pro lately when I want the best RAW conversion. It does a wonderful job on both lens corrections and noise reduction for supported equipment. After a few tweaks to exposure in each file, I brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.
The next thing to deal with was the boat. Even though I’d pushed my shutter speed as high as I thought I could, 1/20 second still left a little motion blur visible. The “Filters / Sharpen / Smart Sharpen” command in Photoshop has a “Remove Motion Blur” option and I’ve found that it works well in situations like this where the direction of motion is known. I used it selectively on a duplicate layer to enhance detail in the boat. Here are before and after crops at 200%. I think it’s a nice improvement:
Next I used layer masks to blend the multiple frames together. I worked carefully around the boat and painted it into the main / second frame. I like a little detail in my shadows instead of a straight silhouette. Since I’d slightly overexposed the first frame (and was careful with noise reduction) I painted some of that into the vegetation. Here’s the first merged result:
The only filter I used on this was Topaz Clarity – I like the way it increases mid-tone contrast without adding halos.
After selective sharpening on a separate layer, I returned to Lightroom for final adjustments (black and white points, vignette, etc) to get the first image in this post.
I struggled some with the cropping. I tried a 16×9 aspect ratio, but because I wanted to keep all the sky, I thought the horizon ended up too close to the center. I decided to keep the original composition since the dark water at the bottom holds my eye in the frame. I might play with it some more.
I like how it turned out and I hope you do too. I also hope the info helps with your photography. If you have any questions on details or other photography related things, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May. This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park. Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong. But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm
Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides. The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone. It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.
Info for Photographers
There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water. You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in. I used the launch close to the headwaters. It’s a short paddle to the main spring. It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!
In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me! One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring. Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs. Take a look – they like it as much as I do!
If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion. You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.
Airboat ride on the Silver river
Tripod/Monopod: I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.
Lenses: Bring what you can carry. I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them. If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.
Best time to visit: It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly. If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable. I went during the week. Weekends will be crowded.
There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida. For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species. There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs. And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays). Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer. You’ll have to call the park for details.