Tag Archives: BPWD

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.

Life gives you photos … and photos give you life

After getting back from an exotic, far away spot (Death Valley), I returned to a nearby, familiar Florida locale yesterday.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, but there are 57 posts where I write about it here on the blog.  Make that 58 now.

Another Merritt Island MorningAnother 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 FeatherNot 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 SailboatSunken 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.

You can view many more Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge photos in this album on Flickr.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Photographing Florida Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo hints:

  • Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
  • The storms are big.  As you can see from the captions, many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography, although some situations (like the last image) benefit from a longer focal length.
  • You can shoot from your car in many cases or just dodge the showers.  Do bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover  your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
  • Be careful with your exposures.  If you have clear sky behind the clouds you can easily blow out highlights in the image which will be tough to fix in post.
  • When processing your photos, try using some mid-range contrast / clarity to bring out details in the clouds.  Don’t go too far though or your results will look unrealistic.
  • Find yourself some good foreground locations so you’ll be ready to head out when the weather gets interesting.
  • And be careful – don’t get struck by lightning or ruin your equipment!

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

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island and Viera Wetlands

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Viera Wetlands are two of my favorite places to photograph and I had time to visit both last week.  They’re each wonderful and seem similar, yet they can be very different.  When I was at MINWR, it was very quiet with few birds or other wildlife around.  July isn’t the best time for birds in Central Florida, so I wasn’t expecting much.

Blackpoint dawnBlack Point dawn – I’ve seen this area along Black Point Wildlife Drive in MINWR full of birds. Not last week.

On the other hand, Viera Wetlands was full of activity.  Right away, we saw a couple of Osprey fishing:

Osprey with catchOsprey with catch at Viera – always fun to see and a thrill to get a good, in focus photo

And as we walked around we saw Sand Hill Cranes, a Caracara, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swamp Chickens (Common Gallinules), a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Least Bitterns, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and Green Herons.

Green HeronGreen Heron at Viera – posing nicely in very good light

My friend Kevin M. was with me, and he saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  We also spotted a family of four otters crossing the road, and multiple Alligators.

Why did we see so much more at Viera than Merritt Island?  Was it the weather (don’t think it was much different)?  Time of day (we were there a bit later)?  Water type (fresh vs. brackish)?  Vegetation?  Kevin’s luck?

I really don’t know.  I’m just grateful I went to both places and got to see so much.  The moral of the story:  If one of your local photo spots is quiet, try a different one.  You never know what you’ll see.

I have more photos from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge collected in this set on Flickr.  And more from Viera Wetlands in this set.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A few minutes with a Reddish Egret

Reddish Egrets aren’t as common in Florida as some of our other wading birds.  I seem to see them fairly reliably over on Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  They’re handsome birds and they also have some interesting behaviors.  They  dance along in shallow water and wave / flap their wings while they’re fishing.  I made a video this morning as I watched one catch minnows in the canal along the drive.

Reddish Egret fishing for minnows (~40 seconds)

Perhaps you noticed the splash at the beginning and the brief shadow on the right after the egret catches the minnow.  I was trying to figure out what those were and stayed a little longer.  Here’s a “big reveal” still shot that I managed to get.

Redish Egret and large fishRedish Egret and large fish

That fish is about as large as the bird. It seemed to follow the egret around – maybe it was trying to steal the minnows that the bird scared up?  Anyway, it was a very interesting time  with the Egret – and the fish!

I never really know what I’ll see when I head out and look around.  That’s one big reason it’s so much fun.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – 1/31/15

Kevin M. organized a quick trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last weekend and invited me to go with him and Kevin K.  We started at Space View Park, where we watched a lovely sunrise.

Dawn from Space View Park Dawn from Space View Park

Next we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive where there were lots of birds, some wild hogs, some alligators, and lots of  photographers!   Two different ponds had concentrations of fish attracting swarms of birds (mostly Snowy Egrets).  They were flying low over the water and snatching their meals “to – go”.  This one seemed full – it stood watching the action.

Fluffy Egret Fluffy Egret

The Great Horned Owl  nest was empty this time.  We scanned the surrounding trees trying to spot the owls (like Jim Boland did on his visit) but we weren’t able to find them.

At least three Painted Buntings were hanging around near the feeder at the visitor’s center.  The light’s usually difficult there for me, but this time I managed to get a good photo of this colorful bird.  It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild.  Now’s the best time – they migrate through here in the winter.

In the bushes 

In the bushes – Painted Bunting

MINWR is a wonderful place and there’s almost always something there worth seeing.  Check it out for yourself!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – 1/7/2015

My friend Tom M. wanted to go out photographing last week.  And I was ready – I hadn’t clicked the shutter since last year! When he mentioned that he wasn’t very familiar with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I jumped at the chance to show him around.

Our first stop was along the causeway to watch the gulls and Black Skimmers that often gather there.

Black SkimmerBlack Skimmer – Along the causeway headed into the Refuge

Then we drove through Gator Creek Road and Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Roseate SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill (BPWD)- This bird was foraging near the shore and ignored me as I crouched down and framed my shot. When it heard the shutter clicking, it stopped and stared right at me for a few seconds and then continued feeding.

River Otter
River Otter (BPWD) – I stopped the car when I spotted two Otters in the water next to the road. They swam by and kept going as we got out to try to make a photo. We followed for a bit – but they were going quicker than our fast walk. One of them surprised me when it crossed the road and of course I was too slow to get a good photo of that. This is the best image I managed.

We also stopped by the Bairs Cove Boat ramp at Haulover Canal to visit the manatees there and then drove by the Great Horned Owl nest (near 402 and SR 3).  Our last stop was the visitor center to see if the painted buntings were around ( no, but they had been).

Great Horned Owl on nestGreat Horned Owl on nest – The platform and nest have been there for a long time. My first sighting was 3 years ago.

Whether you’re familiar with the area or not, this would be a very good half day route to see the highlights at MINWR.  And this is a wonderful time to go – there’s a lot of birds and other wildlife around, and the weather’s great.  Maybe I’ll see you over there!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Birds Abound at Black Point

I spent last Wednesday morning at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I enjoyed seeing what’s going on over there.

As usual, I arrived early for a sunrise photo.  I’ve photographed from this spot on Gator Creek Road several times, but I’ve never noticed flowers blooming there before.  I think they make a nice foreground accent.

Another day beginsAnother day begins

After the sun was up, I drove around both Black Point Wildlife Drive and Gator Creek Road.  There were a tremendous number of birds around – the winter visitors are here in force!

You can get an idea of which species to expect at MINWR (and when) over at this page on ebird.  Here are the ones I recognized on my visit:  Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Pie-billed Grebe, Wood Stork, Double Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Willet, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Loggerhead Shrike, and Savannah Sparrow.  I’m sure a more experienced birder would have recognized even more.  I also saw an Alligator or two and a River Otter.

And my online blogging friend Jim Boland also spotted a Red-headed Duck there recently.

This bird was posing on a mound of seaweed next to the causeway.  I was able to crouch down and make some eye level photos with a nice out of focus background.

Black-bellied Plover Black-bellied Plover

And this Willet was hunting in the surf, also along the causeway.  The sun was coming over my shoulder and the small waves rolling in made the blue sky reflections contrast nicely with the sandy bottom showing through the water.

WilletWillet

And here’s a bonus sunrise photo – made with my long lens.  I like the group of birds flying in front of the sun in the distance.

Merritt Island MorningMerritt Island Morning – The sun rises next to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

What a nice visit to one of our Central Florida Photo Op treasures!  If you haven’t been over there recently, now is a great time of year to check it out.  You can see other photographs from MINWR in this set on Flickr, and from BPWD in this set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Modern Monochrome Homework

You may have noticed that I like Black and White photography.  It’s how I started out, way back when (with Tri-X film, developed in a make-shift darkroom).  So I’ve done it for a while, but I’m mostly self-taught.  I’ve studied many books and looked at a lot of online info, but I felt it would be good to take a course and expose myself to techniques and ideas I haven’t discovered on my own – to see how others are doing it.

I signed up for “Modern Monochrome” at the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park, Florida.  The course promises to cover “the aesthetic qualities of black-and-white photography, seeing in black and white, RGB conversion methods, tonal relationships, luminosity versus luminance, and demonstrations in Photoshop and Lightroom.”

I was a little worried at the first session.  There were a couple of people who didn’t appear to meet the prerequisites and it seemed like we’d struggle trying to bring them up to speed.  But they ended up dropping out and the remaining students all easily kept up with the agenda.

Next week is our last class and we owe the instructor ten B&W images.  I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the ones I’m going to turn in.

Wild OrchidsWild Orchids – at Fort Christmas

High Key GrebeHigh Key Grebe – along Black Point Wildlife Drive

Gloomy dawnGloomy dawn – Blue Cypress Lake

Misty MarshMisty Marsh – Orlando Wetlands Park

The instructor’s going to critique our work and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

This course has definitely lived up to my expectations.  I learned several techniques in Photoshop – some that I’d heard about and never tried, and others that were completely new to me.  I also enjoyed discussing printing techniques and I intend to apply these more in the future.  I haven’t been printing my photographs as much recently as I should.  The course was also a great incentive to think about and practice photography and especially B&W processing.

You can see some other photographs I made for the course in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – take a photography course – and go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Seasonal Reminders

We’re finally getting cooler weather here in Central Florida.  In addition to making it even more pleasant outside, the fall and winter months bring some changes to our area photo opportunities.

Orlando Wetlands Park is one of my favorite places.  But if you haven’t been there this year, you’ve missed your chance. It closes on November 15 and doesn’t re-open until January 31st.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker at Orlando Wetlands – not a great photo, but it’s my first one of this bird.  ISO 800, 1/800 sec, f/8, 600 mm

And Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) is also a favorite.  When I went over last week, Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed.  The web page says “until mid November”, so it should hopefully be back open soon.  Fortunately there are many places to photograph in MINWR – even with BPWD closed, it’s still worth a visit.

Black and White Osprey

Black and White Osprey on Gator Creek Road in MINWR.  ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, f/8, 500 mm

Brown Pelican in Flight
Brown Pelican in Flight along Haulover Canal in MINWR.  ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, f/8, 600 mm

Our avian winter visitors are starting to arrive too.  ebird.org has a wonderful website where you can explore birding hotspots all over the world to see what species to expect by month.  Here’s the listings for MINWR.  The number of species ramps way up starting in November.

It’s prime time for getting out into nature and seeing what’s there!  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.