Tag Archives: BPWD

Black Point Wildlife Drive is open again!

Yay! Jim Boland’s newsletter let us know that they’ve reopened Black Point so when Tom M. asked if I wanted to go out photographing I suggested we head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We met early Friday morning and drove over on State Road 50.

St. Johns River at dawnSt. Johns River at dawn

Our first stop was at the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. It’s a pretty place at dawn and the view was different this time since the water is several feet higher than I’ve ever seen it. Lots of rain here recently.

Once at the refuge, we headed straight to Black Point. The water there is a little higher than I’ve ever seen it too. The road surface was in great shape – I didn’t see any damage remaining from the hurricane.

Spiders and webs were very common. This one had set up in some great early morning light.

Banana SpiderBanana Spider – A little early for Halloween!

Some of our winter migrants are starting to show up and our regular birds were around, but not in great numbers. Belted Kingfishers teased us, and there were a few Savannah Sparrows foraging near the road.

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow

We didn’t see too many ducks. I’m not sure if they just haven’t come down yet, or if they’re somewhere else.

We thought we spotted another Kingfisher over the canal on the right by the paved section near the exit. It was about the right size and seemed to fly like a Kingfisher. But then it landed in a tree and started acting like a Woodpecker – perched on the side of the main trunk and hopping around. I was pretty far away but took several photos anyway. When I got home and looked closely I didn’t recognize the bird. Kevin M. helped me ID it as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (another new life bird for me!). Unfortunately, the photos aren’t very good so I haven’t posted them. Maybe next time I can catch it closer in better light. It seems like I’m always saying that!

One more thing: We met a woman at the rest area on the drive who’d just seen a Bobcat. She was patiently waiting to see if she could get a better photo. We left before we found out if she was successful. I’ve seen a Bobcat out there before, but it was further along, not near the Rest Area. If you go, keep your eyes open!

I have many more Black Point photos in this folder on Flickr. I’m glad it didn’t suffer too much damage from Hurricane Irma and it’s open again.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Three things

Three more or less unrelated things to discuss today…

1. Image Stabilization

I’ve used Olympus micro four thirds cameras for a while and I’ve watched their capabilities get better and better.  Their latest image stabilization is truly amazing – Olympus claims five to six stops.  This means that if you can normally shoot at 1/100 second handheld without inducing camera shake blur, then with IS, you may be able to shoot at 1/3 to 1/2 second.  Truly a huge difference, as long as subject motion blur is not a problem.

Rapidan RiverRapidan River – This is the view just behind President Herbert Hoover’s cabin at the Rapidan camp retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains.

The settings on this photo are: focal length equivalent of 28mm, ISO 64, f/8, at 0.5 seconds, handheld.  Using the (1/focal length) rule of thumb, I should have exposed this at 1/30 sec to prevent camera shake.  But I wanted to use a slower shutter speed to blur the moving water.  With IS turned on in camera, I could hand hold at a half second and still keep all the non-moving rocks, etc. completely sharp in the frame.  And I like the way the water looks.

It’s a nice option to have if you don’t bring your tripod.

2. Workflow Experiments

I recently bought an SSD (solid state device) disk.  The main advantage of these is that they’re faster than spinning hard drives.  I wanted to speed up my photo processing workflow.  So I moved my 2017 image file directory and my Lightroom catalog to this drive and sure enough, Lightroom does seem faster.

But then it occurred to me that when I travel, I can  take the SSD with me on the road and use it with my laptop.  All I have to do is add a folder for the images from the trip.  When I get home I can just move it back to my desktop computer and any work that I’ve done on the road will come across with the SSD.  I won’t have to export / import, etc.  This should definitely save time when I get back.

There are some things to be careful of.  I’m backing up the SSD drive using Apple’s Time Machine in case there are any glitches with the SSD.  And I’ve had to re-arrange the image folders across the different disks and tell Lightroom where everything is.  I also need to make sure that preferences and presets are all accounted for.

After a week or so, it all seems to work ok.  I’ll let you know if I discover any other gotchas.  If you have questions about this setup, leave a comment and I’ll try to answer.

3.  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge update

You may remember this blog post from March:  http://edrosack.com/2017/03/19/morning-glory/.  I posted a photo then of cracked mud on the bottom of a dried out pool.

I haven’t been back recently, and when my friend Howard T. wanted to try out a new camera, we decided to see what’s going on over there.  I’m happy to report that the water is back to normal (or even a bit high).  I can’t really recommend it for wildlife photography yet – the birds and animals still seem to mostly be elsewhere.  Maybe they’ll read this blog and return when they find out conditions have improved.

Black Point Wildlife Drive – The drought has eased – there was a lot of water there last week.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Morning Glory

I had a strong urge to photograph, and at the last-minute decided  to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge before dawn last Friday.  My first stop was at a spot Kevin M. Tom M. (3/25/17 correction – I misremembered, sorry.  Tom told me about this place, not Kevin.) had mentioned – underneath the east side of the A. Max Brewer Causeway that leads into the refuge.

We’ve had cooler weather here and very clear skies, so I wasn’t expecting much color at sunrise.  But this is what greeted me at dawn:

Morning gloryMorning glory

This image is a two frame panorama I made with the Olympus E-M1 II camera in high res mode.  Lightroom’s been updated for the camera, and I’m impressed with how it handles these files.   And the more I use the new camera the better I like it, especially how it minimizes motion artifacts in high res mode.

I next took a turn around Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The water on the first half is as low as I’ve ever seen it – gone in many places.

Cracked Cracked.  Infrared, B&W

It was exciting to spot a Bobcat.  It was stalking slowly through the grass, but I only managed a single (poor) frame before it disappeared.  I wish it had lingered for a few minutes so I could get a better shot.  I’m guessing it might be a long time before I get another chance for a Bobcat photo as good as the one in this post from 2011.

Bobcat Bobcat

On the back half of Black Point there was a lot more water and a lot more of the regular birds.

Little BlueLittle Blue

I also took a turn around Gator Creek Road and saw an Osprey close up with an awesome fish.  But it grabbed the fish and flew off with it before I could get a photo.  Seems like I need to practice my quick reaction shots!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 1/6/17

I was planning to post more photos from our recent cruise this weekend.  But after visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Friday with Kevin K. and Tom M.  from the Photography Interest Group, I changed my mind.  There’s a great deal of activity there and it’s well worth a blog post (and a visit!).

One of the first birds we watched was a Redish Egret fishing close to shore.  It’s great fun to see these birds dance and pounce.

Reddish Egret and MinnowReddish Egret and Minnow

I had the Olympus E-M1 Mark II with me and practiced with the “Pro Capture” mode (I brought the right lens this time).  This really helps you catch a decisive moment – it’s almost cheating.  You’d better have a large card in your camera and time to go through all the images, though.  I used low-speed and still had way too many frames.  Here’s one example:

Wood Stork and MinnowWood Stork and Minnow

There were a huge number of White Pelicans and they treated us to “air ballet shows” all morning.

Synchronized FlyingSynchronized Flying

We saw several huge fish in the canal along the drive.  Possibly the same kind as in this post from last year.

Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swiming in the canal alongside the road. These were about two feet long.Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swimming in the canal near the road. These were about two feet long.

And there were more gators visible than usual.  They look well fed – perhaps they’ve been after those large fish.  These monsters stay so still that you can take your time and make a stitched panorama of them. Unless they’re chasing you 🙂

Gator panoramaGator panorama

We also spotted Belted Kingfishers, a Bald Eagle, Osprey, several varieties of duck, a wild pig, and many other interesting things.

You can look at my other photos from MINWR in this album on Flickr.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. There’s a lot going on over there – go see for yourself!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

The last late sunrise…

For a while anyway.  Many photographers would agree that daylight savings time and “fall back” make it harder to get up for sunrise.  Photography Interest Group members Kevin K., Kevin M., Tom M., and I met at 6am last Friday for a photo expedition over to Merritt Island.  It was the last time we’ll be able to set the alarm that late until next year.  Despite sleeping in, we arrived well before dawn.  This was the scene at the boat ramp at the Titusville Municipal Marina.

Blue hour at the marinaBlue hour at the marina

There weren’t a lot of clouds, so my expectations for color were low but we did see a bit as the sun started to rise.

Calm morningCalm morning

And as usual, after it was light we went looking for wildlife on Black Point Wildlife Drive.   There are some winter visitors showing up there now.  We saw warblers, wrens, and Kingfishers.  But the ducks, Avocets and others are still missing.  They’ll show up before long.

Marsh Wren (?)Marsh Wren (?) – At least I hope it’s a Marsh Wren – that would be a life bird!
At the rest area on Black Point Wildlife Drive, MINWR

So once again it was a good trip to one of my favorite places.

I’m going to miss sleeping later on photography mornings.  By the way: New research says turning back the clock is not just bad for photographers.  It impacts mental health too:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/05/turning-back-the-clock-1-hour-takes-a-serious-toll-on-your-mental-health/

A couple other updates:

My friend Jim B. has heard that Biolab road in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is closed due to hurricane damage.  No reports on when it will open again.

The Cat and Turtle blog has a report on winter birds returning to Orlando Wetlands Park.  Check it out:  http://www.blog.catandturtle.net/2016/11/04/winter-birds-returning-orlando-wetlands-park/

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Two Merritt Island Photos

Both of these images are from a short trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge  yesterday morning.  I thought I’d tell you a bit about how I made them.

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...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.

ReflectionsReflections – 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.


Reminder: The flowers are coming!  The annual Florida Sunflower bloom should start by the end of September, and only lasts for a couple of weeks – be ready!.  In Central Florida, you can see them at Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation area. See here for more info.


You can see many more of my photos from MINWR in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Went for a drive last night

I haven’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while (the last time was back in May!) and I miss the place.  So I left around 6pm yesterday and headed over.

Along Gator Creek RoadAlong Gator Creek Road

It was raining at our house in Winter Springs.  Over on the coast, it was dry, but threatening.  The clouds were just awesome – I even spotted some that looked like Mammatus clouds.

Next time I’ll leave a bit earlier – the light was a little dim for bird photography but  I did see a few.    I’m usually there in the morning and they behave differently in the evening.  It was interesting to watch them going home in formation to roost for the night and to spot groups perched in trees and lined up along power lines.

After a turn around Gator Creek Road and then Black Point Wildlife Drive I stopped at Parrish Park to watch the sun set.

The sun setting over the Indian RiverThe sun sets over the Indian River – There were a lot of people enjoying the end of the day at Parrish Park on the Max Brewer Causeway.

It was very busy – the parking lot was full of cars and people were boating, sunbathing, picnicking, fishing, and watching nature’s show.  I was content to make a few photos and head home.

It was a pleasant drive.

You can click on these photos to see larger versions, and I have many more MINWR images in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Early Friday at MINWR

I don’t have much to say this morning, so the photos will have to do most of the talking.  I started  yesterday along the Indian River at Space View Park.

Watching the morning sunWatching the morning sun.  This is a two frame, blended exposure.  I made the bottom half  exposed for the water with a Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed to 20 seconds at ISO 100 and f/11.  I made the top part with the filter off, exposed for the sunrise at ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 second.  I was very happy to see the Osprey fly through the frame with a fish as I clicked the shutter.  I blended them together in Photoshop with a layer mask.

I planned to drive around on Gator Creek Road next, but it was closed – so I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron
Juvenile Little Blue Heron.  There were several around, so they must be nesting nearby.  I’ve seen Green Herons breeding there, but not Little Blue Herons.

A Mottled Duck
A Mottled Duck.  I don’t spot these too often.  When I looked it up, I learned (or maybe re-learned) some things.  Mottled Ducks are related to both Black Ducks and Mallards, and are the only duck adapted to breeding in southern marshes.  The Florida population is a subspecies and the male has lost its distinctive plumage so that the both sexes are colored alike.

You can click on these photos to see larger versions, and I have many more MINWR images in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – March 30, 2016

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week with Tom M. Here are a few of the things we saw on this trip.

St. Johns Sunrise - silver lining and sun raysSt. Johns Sunrise – silver lining and sun rays:  This is a long exposure (10 second) image I made at the boat ramp on the St. Johns where it meets HW 50.  The water is higher than I’ve seen it there before 

Pollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple ThistlePollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple Thistle:  These thistles are blooming all over Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The pollen on this bee may be an indication of why we’re having such severe allergy problems here in Central Florida.

Spoonbill in the reedsSpoonbill in the reeds:  There were many other birds around too.

Life and death in the Florida wildLife and death in the Florida wild: The bird (a female Red-breasted Merganser) was looking for fish along a small grass island in the distance. I glanced over when I heard some splashing but couldn’t see anything at first. Then I noticed this alligator with the bird. The struggle was hard to watch, but mercifully brief.

On a related subject, you may have seen news about the recent fish kills we’ve had in the Indian River Lagoon.  These are occurring just south of MINWR, nearer Melbourne, Florida.  As we were driving around the refuge, I was struck by how natural it looked and by the absence of any dead fish. I’m very thankful that the Refuge has preserved this natural area for us to enjoy.

I worry about the areas where fertilizer runoff and septic tank leakage can lead to pollution, brown tide, lack of oxygen and dead fish and animals.  I hope that we can figure out solutions so that people living near our natural resources don’t damage them.

OK, sorry for the commentary.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Foggy morning start

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; …”
― John Muir

The first part of my visit to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Tuesday (2/2/16) was about as foggy as I’ve ever seen.  So much so that I was happy to follow a large truck along SR 46 on the way over – better than feeling my way through the low visibility on my own.

For some reason, I’d taken a macro lens with me and I was happy to use it on the following image:

Nature's necklaceNature’s necklace – Foggy mornings dew along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  This is a 5 frame, hand-held focus stack.

One of my on-line friends (Dorothy) asked me on Flickr how I got the reflections in the dew drops.  They were really a gift from nature.  I could see lots of dew covered webs from the car, and I watched for one where I could frame the drops standing out against a clear background.  When I found this particular one, I had to figure out how to best image them.  One part of it was making sure the sensor plane was as close to  parallel with the lines of drops as possible.  I stopped down to f/8 for increased depth of field.  Then I focused on the front string and made a high-speed sequence while I rocked slowly forward.  This captured about 17 frames with different parts of the scene in focus.  Back at my computer, I picked 5 of the frames and made a focus stack to get as much as possible in sharp focus.  The last steps were to do some selective contrast / sharpening on just the drops.  I like the way it turned out.

As I explored further on Black Point Wildlife Drive, I saw something for the first time – a fogbow:

Fogbow and birds in the misty morning marshFogbow and birds in the misty morning marsh.  This is a two frame panorama (and exposure bracket) that I blended manually in Photoshop.  See this post for an explanation of my  technique.

Fogbows are mostly colorless because the water drops in fog are so small that diffraction smears the colors. Physics in action!

Eventually, the fog cleared and I was able to get some good light on a few birds.

SpoonieSpoonbill along Black Point Wildlife Drive

Double Gull stare-downDouble Gull stare-down – along the causeway into MINWR

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  And you can view an album of my MINWR photos here and some other fog / mist photos in this album.

I’ll leave you with another John Muir quote:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

That perfectly expresses my feelings after I got home last Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go ‘walk with nature’ and make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.