I hadn’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while and decided to head over last Monday. On the way in I stopped by the pier on the west side of the A. Max Brewer Memorial Bridge. When photographing a sunrise (or anything else!) I try to stay aware of things in other directions. Looking north just before sunrise, this sail boat caught my eye. I like the subject, colors and reflections:
A pretty place to anchor
Winter is such a wonderful time to visit MINWR. The variety of “snow birds” you could spot is amazing. Here are a few I found.
I haven’t seen a Snipe in a long time – the sun’s glare hid it pretty well, but the long beak gave it away:
These enormous waterbirds hang around all over Central Florida in the winter, but it’s still nice to see them. Every one I spotted was either far away or horribly back lit.
High Key White Pelican
Northern Shovelers show up each winter:
Her and Him
Northern Pintails show up too, although I don’t run across them as often:
>Him and Her
And Willets and Lesser Yellowlegs are fairly common, although it’s unusual to see a choreographed pair and their reflections:
Definitely worth a visit – I’m glad I went! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, visit a wildlife refuge!
I spent a few moments before sunrise last Thursday morning at Scobie Park (just south of Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville), watching the pre-dawn clouds reflecting in the calm Indian River water. Oh, and I had a camera with me too – I made 6 frames to stitch together into this image:
The day begins
After that I wandered over to Black Point Wildlife Drive and one of the first things I saw was this:
These “feeding frenzies” don’t happen all the time, but when they do they can be great photo fun.
At first glance, they look like a photographer’s dream – all those birds in a confined area – taking off, landing, chasing minnows and each other, just waiting for you to snap the shutter.
It turns out it’s not so easy. They’re crowded together against a cluttered background. They move quickly, change directions unexpectedly, and in general make it hard to pick a subject and compose deliberately – especially if you’re looking through your viewfinder with a long lens on your camera. I often keep the camera away from my eyes so I can see what’s going on. Then I can sometimes anticipate the action and make a photo when they all decide to move at once:
I also like to study the scene for a while and try different vantage points and lenses. I chose a spot where the wind was at my back and most of the birds were taking off and landing toward me. It helps to keep looking around so you can spot them as they’re coming in. I noticed this spoonbill a long way out. Since I knew where it was headed I could track it as it approached and make several frames when it landed. This side lit one is my favorite:
There were lots of Roseate Spoonbills around. The header image at the top of the post on the web is another one I like from the trip. That pair was wading in a less busy part of the drive.
I also had some good luck with this female Belted Kingfisher. She ignored me and kept gazing out over the water as I crept closer. I stayed in the car, moved slowly and tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t bother her. Most of the time, they leave as soon as you point a camera at them, but she wasn’t concerned at all. This is one of the closest photos I’ve made of one (the EXIF data says I was about 19 meters away). She’s very pretty and quite regal, I think.
An Unusually Calm Kingfisher
It was a short visit, but a wonderful one. This is an excellent time of year to visit the refuge, get out in the midst of nature, and enjoy some of the things you can see there.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a joyful holiday season with your family and friends. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!
Jim Boland sent out his latest email newsletter last Thursday and it made me want to visit the refuge again. The last time I’d been was a while ago and before Hurricane Ian. I charged up my batteries and left early on Friday morning to explore.
There are still some road closures over there (see this link for the latest official status: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/merritt-island), but the good news is that Black Point Wildlife Drive and West Gator Creek Road – spots I usually visit – are open.
I arrived well before sunrise and stopped by the Titusville Municipal marina. The weather forecast had me expecting very few clouds and I had a longer lens mounted to try and frame some details on the boats. When I saw this low cloud drifting in, I didn’t think I’d have time to swap lenses, so I pulled out my phone. Current phone cameras are just amazing! (Click on this one to see a higher res version on Flickr.)
A cloud drifts by above the marina before dawn. iPhone wide camera, handheld, 24mm eq., f/1.8, 1/5 sec, ISO 8000. RAW capture, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.
I saw the same things that Jim reported including Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret, Blue-winged Teal, and Black-crowned Night-herons. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out this Redish Egret is the exact same bird he saw. It was especially entertaining: busy showing off its fishing prowess and ignoring photographers interested in making photos.
I enjoyed seeing all the Goldenrod in bloom. This one was in nice light:
Goldenrod in golden light.
And I couldn’t resist making a photo of this people watching gator. The header image is a crop from the center of the photo.
Craggy face critter.
Our other common birds were out and about. I spotted a few warblers too, although the only one I was able to ID was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was a great trip – thanks for motivating me Jim!
I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
It’s been a little over a month since my last post. I enjoyed writing this one after such a long break.
I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge toward the end of August. I wasn’t expecting to see much, but I wanted to get out and photograph something. I’m glad I did, because the sunrise was one of the best I’ve ever watched.
That photo’s from Veterans Memorial Park on the west side of the Indian River looking east toward MINWR and Kennedy Space Center. I was concentrating on the sunrise when I noticed several other folks had shown up. One was Pat H., who I’ve known for a while. I’m glad I ran into her since she was there to photograph the Artemis 1 SLS rocket on the pad at launch complex 39B. At the time, the planned launch was a couple days later. After we talked, I went and got my long lens to make a close up photo of it (the header image). You can see a higher res version on Flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/52311586034/in/dateposted-public/. I’d hoped to include a photo of the launch in today’s post too, but it’s been postponed. Hydrogen is tricky stuff!
After that I went through Gator Creek Road, Black Point Wildlife Drive, and also stopped by the Bairs Cove boat ramp. This kayaker had gotten up very early to go fishing. I didn’t see him catch anything while I was there though.
A fine morning for fishing
I was happy to find this pretty, young Roseate Spoonbill and its reflection at one of the first corners on Gator Creek.
Other birds were a bit scarce, but this Loggerhead Shrike flew right in front of my car and landed in a mangrove. I quickly rolled down the passenger window and pointed my lens at it. Auto focus is amazing now days. My camera locked on the bird in the middle of all those branches at the first shutter press (no – that doesn’t happen all the time!)
A Bird in the Bush (is worth two in the hand?)
I also saw some gators and a raccoon on Black Point, and 5 or more manatees at Bairs Cove – but didn’t get good photos of any of them.
Changing the subject, I was browsing my archives one day and found this image I’d never processed. It’s from one of my previous cameras (an IR converted Olympus E-PL5). I ran it through Lightroom’s enhance detail and the Topaz Sharpen AI plug in and it came out with an amazing amount of detail. I like the subject rendering and the background separation too.
In other news, we’d planned some travel but that got postponed while we dealt with a broken central air conditioner here in hot, humid Florida. Supply chain issues mean it takes a very long time to get a replacement compressor (and other parts). Hopefully that’s behind us now (I hope Murphy doesn’t read this). As a side note, I didn’t realize Portable ACs work as well as they do!
Sorry to ramble on for so long. I suspect that my posts will be longer since they’re less frequent now. I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
Our weather’s been interesting – lots of rain and warmer than expected. Between that and other obligations, I’ve had a hard time practicing photography. Checking the forecast late on Thursday night, Friday looked like it would be halfway decent so I jumped at the chance to head out.
There were a few rain drops falling at first and it was overcast. But that made for some dramatic clouds when I stopped by the marina.
Impressive clouds over the marina
Later on it turned into a pretty nice day. I spent some time around Parrish Park watching all the shorebirds.
I like photos like this next one. Getting a flock of birds close by with a fast enough shutter speed and in focus isn’t easy though. This time most of the birds listened to me when I asked them to all fly by at the same distance!
A “grain” of Sanderlings
I drove slowly along the shore and stayed in the car trying not spook the birds. I spotted several different ones and worked to isolate each one in the frame:
MINWR was quieter than last time I was there. But shore birds were out over there too.
I was sitting at this next spot when MaryKate called. The Killdeer were so loud she heard them through the phone and asked about them.
Thistles are blooming on Black Point. They’re attractive photo subjects if you catch a colorful one in good light. A bee or butterfly helps too.
There were other birds and wildlife around: the regular wading birds (herons and egrets), Alligators, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teals, Caspian Terns, Black Skimmers, and I’m sure others that I missed. I also spotted a different looking hawk that the Merlin Bird ID app thinks is a Swainson’s Hawk (I’m not convinced).
Anyway, it was a wonderful visit and a very nice distraction from current events.
You can click on these photos to view larger versions on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, practice some photography.
I’ve seen a lot of them and you probably have too. Much of the time now, I glance their way and don’t make a photo. But every once in a while I’ll I come across a common bird in an uncommon situation or setting. It reminds me that I do need to pay attention – and make occasional photos of these very pretty, common birds.
This egret was calmly perched on a branch in still water. I was attracted to its pose, the light, and the mirror-like reflection. I made two frames for a vertical panorama so I could zoom in and capture as much detail as possible. Later on my computer I stitched them together into the image you see here. The header image is a crop from a B&W version of the same image.
Common birds can make splendid photo subjects. Don’t pass up the opportunities.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are very welcome and a big motivator for me. Be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
I really enjoyed my first visit of the year to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago. Here are some more of those photos that haven’t been on the blog before.
The view that morning looking south east from under the Max Brewer Memorial Causeway bridge was lovely. I made several frames – the one below is my favorite. The header image is part of a similar one from five minutes later .
Three boats on the river
The low, warm, side light on this group of American White Pelicans made them even more attractive when I found them moments after sunrise.
A small pod of pelicans
It’s always nice to encounter Roseate Spoonbills and they were in several spots along Black Point Wildlife Drive. This one flew almost directly over me.
Flight of the Spoonbill
Cinnamon Teals are a rarity in Central Florida. This one seems to winter every year in MINWR. I found it again in the same spot along the Wild Birds Unlimited Trail that begins at stop 4 on the BPWD. It likes to hang out there with the other ducks. The birds were so harshly back lit that I had trouble seeing colors to ID it. I’m pretty amazed at how well this photo turned out.
I got a fairly good view of this Kingfisher and he stayed still for a moment while I made a photo:
Male Belted Kingfisher
The ranger says the duck population is down this year, and it does look like they’re less numerous. But I did see a good variety including Blue-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, Mottled Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, and maybe a few Lesser Scaups. And all of our common birds were around too. Definately well worth a visit.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are very welcome and a big motivator for me. Be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
I was in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday morning and made a number of photos I really like. Today I’ll share 10 that show some of what you can see there at this time of year.
Handsome Hoodie: I spent several minutes watching this Hooded Merganser before he finally turned toward the light. It was worth the wait.
Posing Palm Warbler: iBird says these forage on the ground for insects, but I don’t think I’ve seen them do it before – especially close by, out in the open, and in nice light.
In the Magrove roots: I like this environmental portrait. I haven’t seen a Common Yellowthroat scrambling around like this before either.
Preening Roseate Spoonbill: They were in several spots around Black Point Wildlife Drive. This was the closest and the best photo I made of one. I like the coy over-the-shoulder look.
Reddish Egret and reflection: I spotted 3 or 4 of these always pretty birds too.
Green Heron: It was hiding in the bushes when I first walked by. When I came back it was sitting still, out in the open.
Killdeer and reflection
Osprey and catch: The birds were enjoying a fishing feast alongside Catfish Creek Road.
American Kestrel: I almost drove by this tiny falcon, but saw something out of the corner of my eye to the left on the paved exit road at Black Point Wildlife Drive. The light was harsh and it didn’t turn around while I was there. I like the photo anyway.
Wading Willet: I’m glad to see them back in Central Florida.
Others I spotted: Belted Kingfishers, Greater Yellowlegs, Brown Pelicans, Anhigas, Double-crested Cormorants, a Northern Harrier, many Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teals, Alligators, Sanderlings, Caspian Terns, Savanah Sparrows, Wood Storks, the regular herons and egrets and more.
By the way #1: Jim Boland has seen and photographed the Cinnamon Teal again this year – so if you go, look for it along the Wildbirds Unlimited Trail south of the parking area on the south west corner of BPWD. I looked on Thursday, but didn’t spot it. I guess it’s my “nemesis bird” once again.
By the way #2: It was nice to run into Pat H. out there. I haven’t seen her for quite a while. She’s a wonderful photographer – check out her Flickr stream if you get a chance.
In spite of that darn Cinnamon Teal, MINWR is still a wonderful area. So many photos from a single trip! No wonder it’s is one of my favorite places, especially at this time of year. It’s beautiful and the variety of birds and wildlife you can see is amazing.
Back in October, Adobe changed the way masking works in Lightroom and Camera RAW. I was a little irritated at first. The new interface was unfamiliar and I didn’t know how to do things I was used to doing with the old version (the radial and gradient tools). How dare they “move my cheese“?
Anyway – I’ve been using it since, have figured it out, and now like it much better than the older approach. The AI based capabilities (select sky and subject) are awesome and work pretty well. And the re-organized interface combines all of the masking capability into one place with very helpful ways to combine selections.
Instead, I’ll show you an example of how I processed an image using the tools. This one is from Merritt Island and it’s been sitting un-processed in my archives since 2016. Once I started working on it, I wondered why I’d left it sitting there for so long! This is the finished version:
Another morning in the marsh
And now, here are the four different masks I used in the final stage of processing:
Here’s a before / after slider that shows the effects of the mask adjustments.
So that’s my example. If (like me) you were a little put off by these changes, I’d encourage you to have another look. It’s worth the effort to master them. The control we have with digital capture and processing is just amazing when you think about how hard this would be to dodge and burn using film in an actual darkroom.
Our weather here in Central Florida is finally starting to cool off a bit. I could definitely feel a difference when I set out for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Monday. And the high temperature reached just 81ºF later that day. Our forecast for next weekend predicts highs in the mid 70s – the beginning of a very nice time of year!
Anyway, I came home with a number of photos I really like. This week I’m going to go way over my usual photo quota and share many of them. First, a couple of landscapes
Beneath the bridge at daybreak: This is along side the A. Max Brewer Causeway, looking east into the refuge, about a half hour before sunrise.
Around the shore: Pretty light and calm water along Gator Creek Road, about 15 minutes before sunrise
Next, some visitors. As pleasant as the cooler temperatures are, they also mean it’s time to start looking for some of our winter bird friends and I spotted several on my trip.
Palm Warbler. They can be a little jumpy and hard to photograph. But this one sat still for a moment on an interesting and close perch, in nice light, with a good background. Doesn’t happen very often for me – I’m glad it was briefly cooperative.
Adopt an Area: This Eastern Phoebe has adopted the refuge for a while.
Blue Wing Teal: A few ducks have started to show up too.
Of course we also have many of our normal residents around.
Bottlenose Dolphin: The Dolphins and the Brown Pelicans were chasing plentiful fish in Haulover Canal
The header image is a of a Brown Pelican that just caught a fish in the canal. It’s not that good of a photo, but I kept it because it shows an interesting moment in nature’s circle of life.
Posing Anhiga: Anhigas are very common here but still well worth photographing when they pose against such a nice background in morning light.
Dragonfly: These can be skittish too, but if you see one in pretty light, be patient and still. Often they’ll return to the same perch and you can squeeze your shutter button.
I saw other birds on this trip, including Great Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, White and Glossy Ibis, Ospreys, Belted Kingfishers (sorry couldn’t get a photo), Pied-billed Grebes, Mourning and Common Ground Doves, and others I’m forgetting. I also used the Merlin bird app a couple of times to listen to bird calls. It ID’d a Black Scoter. Those have been spotted before at MINWR, but I wasn’t able to find it to confirm.
Changing the subject#2 : Halloween is next weekend so here’s one more photo from last Monday that fits with the holiday:
Web and Mangrove
Okay – I think that’s a long enough post for today! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, get out and see some nature. And make some photos!