Some mornings, sunrise isn’t very special. Maybe nature’s tired and saves up energy for one of those truly spectacular dawns we get occasionally. What do I do when that happens? Just go ahead and make photos anyway – rehearsing is a good thing too.
Sunrise at the old bridge
This park is on the river side of 17-92, just past I-4, heading toward Debary. They’ve left part of the old bridge there and I thought there might be interesting compositions to work with at sunrise. I was hoping for clouds and color too, but it wasn’t meant to be. This is one frame I like, but I don’t love the sky.
Oh well – next time. Photography Philosophy: Practice and persistence will prevail!
Sunrise in B&W is a bit unusual, but I like the geometry in this one and to me it conveys some of what I was feeling. It’s very isolated under the bridge in the dark.
By the bridge at daybreak, alone, in black and white
This spot is on the south-east side of the A. Max Brewer Causeway that leads into MINWR. It’s a two frame panorama, made with the Olympus E-M1 MII in high res mode, stitched together in Photoshop and converted to B&W with the Macphun Tonality plug-in. Base exposure was four seconds at f/5.6, ISO 200, 12mm eq. focal length (2 frames).
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
It’s been a while since I’ve discussed any photo techniques, so I thought I’d share two hints that you might not have tried recently. I also wanted to let you know what’s going on at Gatorland now that breeding season is in full swing.
#1 – Focus stacking: I’ve written about this before. You can read the posts here:
Both of those were macro-photography related. But the technique can also be used for other situations such as landscapes.
Beneath the bridge, by the rocks – Parish Park in Titusville, about a half hour before sunrise
I was at Parish Park in Titusville one morning, looking for a new view point and discovered this area where I could place these rocks in the scene as a foreground for the bridge and far shore. My problem was that without a tilt-shift lens, using the Scheimpflug principle, it’s hard to get the entire composition in focus.
I decided to make three exposures, changing the focus point in each. In the first, I focused on the rocks in the foreground, in the second on the nearest portion of the bridge, and the last was on the far shore. At home, I did some initial processing (the same for all three) and brought them into Photoshop on separate layers. Then I aligned the layers and manually blended them together using masks. I could have used Photoshop’s focus stacking capability, but doing this myself with layers gave me more control. The resulting depth of field is just how I wanted it. What do you think?
#2 – Fill flash: I often carry my flash and use it to add fill light or catch lights in eyes. It helps and doesn’t seem to bother the animals. I’ve also used fill flash for sunrise or sunset portraits of people. It can do a good job of balancing the exposure of your subject against a bright background.
When I saw this Tri-colored Heron posing in the bush, I made a few photos. But then I thought about adding flash. When I got home, the photos with the flash looked much better. The bright, ambient sunrise was balanced with the fill flash on the nearby bird. There’s a better detail in the bird when I used the flash.
Early bird – Tri-colored Heron at dawn (ISO 800, f/5.0, 1/320 sec, on camera flash in auto slow sync mode, -1 stop flash exposure compensation).
If you try this, you’ll need to practice a bit before you use it in a pressure situation. Make sure you know how to adjust exposure compensation (on both the flash and the camera), shutter speed, and aperture to get the best results. And if your camera has it, try enabling high-speed sync. This lets you shoot with flash at higher shutter speeds without getting any black bands on your photos (at the expense of a lower light output).
I went by Gatorland again last week. The Great Egrets continue to breed and their hatched chicks are growing fast. There are Snowy Egrets and Cormorants on eggs now and I saw Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Wood Storks gathering nesting material although I didn’t spot their nest or eggs yet. A few cattle egrets have also arrived and are courting. And the gators are getting more active too.
Just before I left, I spotted this large turtle there – I’ve never seen one before. It looks quite intimidating and I wouldn’t want to be too close to it in the water.
Here comes the sun – Sunrays shining through offshore clouds mirrored on calm inshore water. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
I’ve been adding Lat/Lon location info to my photos for several years. It’s helpful to others to see where I made each one. And I like to look back and see the info too. If you click on a photo in the blog that I’ve geo-tagged, it’ll display on Flickr with a map showing the location below the photo.
I use Lightroom’s Map module for this. If I know where I was I can easily drag the photos to that place on the map. For unfamiliar places, I try to remember to make at least one iPhone photo so I can copy its GPS info to the other photos I make there. That’s what I did on my recent trip to Acadia National Park and it worked well. But I want something a bit less manual.
It would be nice if all cameras did this automagically like the iPhone does. The only other one I have with GPS capability is an Olympus TG-2 underwater camera that I use when kayaking. Nikon makes an add-on GPS, but it only works with Nikon, you’d have to remember it, not lose it, and it plugs into the remote release socket – so it’s a pain when you’re shooting from a tripod.
I’ve experimented before with using my phone to record GPS tracks. On our trip to Alaska in 2009, I used an app and later synced the tracks to photos back on my computer. That was a pain too (the app and software weren’t very reliable). But it seems I wasn’t paying attention to Lightroom updates since then. I completely missed that it now has the capability to sync a captured GPX format track to photos in your library.
Lightroom Map Module: The track interface is hidden in a pull down menu at the bottom of the screen.
Using the interface at the bottom of the Map Module (shown above), you can load a track and use it to auto-tag the location of photos in a folder. And it works very well!
So how exactly do you do this? There are three steps:
Before you leave, make sure you set the time in your cameras correctly. The time stamp is used to sync the position from the GPS track to each photo.
Use your GPS unit or an app on your phone to record a track of your movements. There are several iPhone apps that will capture the track info. I tried GeoTagr ($4.99 in the app store) and it worked well. Motion-X GPS ($1.99 in the app store) also works. When I got back home, I emailed myself the .gpx file with the track information. One warning: sometimes these location recording apps can be power hungry. You might want to check to make sure you don’t run down your battery doing this.
Move the .gpx track file to the folder on your computer with your photos. Then load it into Lightroom and apply it to the photos. Easy-peasy! It all just works!
Two more geo-tagged photos from a quick trip to Merritt Island early last Thursday:
Nearby Mangroves and distant storm. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
Morning by the causeway. Parrish Park. GPS: 28°37’21” N 80°47’45” W
I like this method and I’ll probably use it in the future. It’s much less fussy than what I tried several years ago. Now all I have to do is remember to start the app at the beginning of a photo-op. I wish I’d worked this out before my trip to Maine. It was an effort to figure out where each of those photos were made.
By the way, MINWR was still quiet last week – not much wildlife or birds about. I did see a group of White Pelicans there. Usually, they don’t show up until November. I’m not sure what that means, but they were fun to watch.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And geo-tag them!
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I like panoramic photos. We’ve all been to many places where the view is so grand it doesn’t fit into a single frame. Sometimes you can’t capture what your eyes see with one camera exposure. So I started stitching panoramas together. My first few were way back in the film era (1999 or 2000). When I started using digital cameras, panoramas became easier and I’ve made many more since then. They help me avoid “tunnel vision” and show more of a scene. They’re also an excellent way to capture an image with a huge number of pixels – which allows for very large prints.
May 2007: View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks (6389 x 3110 pixels)
I’ve learned quite a bit about how to make panos, and in August of this year, I shared info on how I usually process them. That was a description of the detailed workflow I use to make the best quality image I can. It can be time consuming and requires care in capture as well as post processing. But if you put in the effort, the results are very good – and the files are much bigger than from a single frame. Here’s a recent example:
But it turns out that my way isn’t the only way to make panos. There’s a much easier way to make them – here’s an example:
October 2013: Underneath the bridge over the St. John’s River by the old bridge and railroad trestle (7908 x 2692 pixels)
I made this pano with my phone. It’s not as large (2692 pixels on the short side compared to 4706), but you probably couldn’t tell much of a difference in quality unless you pixel peep. Using my phone is easier and if something is easier, people will do more of it – and more panos means better memories.
iPhones have had a built-in panorama mode for a while, and the latest versions bring a lot of processing power into it. The iPhone 5S does automagic adjustment of exposure across the frame, and stitches the results together in real-time as you sweep your phone. The results are fairly large files, and the quality is surprisingly good.
Here’s one more recent iPhone panorama example and proof of the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you:
November 2013: Interior panorama of the Roman Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre) – Photo by MK Rosack (used with permission)
Lets compare making panoramas on a phone with a multi-photo approach. I’ll use the iPhone 5S for this – your phone may be different.
Very high – you always have it with you
Low – You need to plan for it and carry your gear
High – End result available very quickly. And can post right from the phone.
Low – Need to get home and run your software
Low – Done by the camera; Can adjust jpg result
High – Adjustments can be made throughout each processing step
Low – Done by the camera; Some amount of touch up may be needed
May be High, depending on software and source images
No – jpg only
Medium – Short dimension a max of 2448 pixels
High – DSLRs typically higher resolution than iPhone and you can make multiple rows if desired
So, should you use your phone for panoramas? Yes!
Should you always use your phone for panoramas? Not quite yet.
Phones are getting better all the time. And they’re getting better faster than cameras are getting better. Sooner or later, most people won’t want or need a dedicated camera. Right now I think phones are “good enough” in many cases, especially if you think about the trade-off between output quality and ease of use. For panoramas, the ease of use and convenience allows many people to make photos they otherwise wouldn’t. In my case, if I don’t have any other camera with me, I’m sure going to use my phone. But if I want the best quality image possible, I’ll still use my stand alone cameras when possible. Check again in a few years – the answers may be different.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some panoramas! And don’t forget your phone!
Four of us from the Photography Interest Group went to Viera Wetlands last Saturday. On the way, we stopped by Riverfront Park on the Indian River at SR 520 in Cocoa for sunrise.
Old boat by a bridge
There weren’t many clouds, but with a longer lens than I normally use (120mm equivalent instead of an ultra wide-angle), I managed to place this boat in the frame against a background of clouds and the causeway bridge. The colors on the water are nice and I was happy with the result.
As we left, I saw what looked like a sunken boat out of the corner of my eye to the south of where we’d been photographing. Since the good light was fading, and everyone else was ready to leave for Viera, I didn’t get a chance to check it out at the time.
For some reason, sunken / abandoned boats really appeal to me as photographic subjects. Maybe it’s because I spent time in the Navy. They seem sad and make me wonder what happened and why. This one nagged at me, and I really wanted to explore it so I decided to drive back over on Wednesday to see what I’d missed. Many times the boat gets salvaged – so if you don’t photograph it when you find it, you may not get a second chance.
A dream, gone – in the harbor at dawn.
Luckily the boat was still right where I’d seen it. I found a spot where I could use the sailboat mast reflections to outline the sunken hull and place it between the blue and orange colors mirrored on the water. I like the first photo, but I think this second one is stronger.
If we’d taken the time to explore this on our first visit, would I have gotten as strong a photo? Did I get a better photo on my second trip because I was by myself? Is photography essentially a solo activity?
Cue the standard photography answer: “It depends.” I believe you need to be “in the zone” to make great photos. Distractions and / or fellow photographers can hinder concentration – or they can point you in the right direction. When you’re with a group you also have to compromise and go along – you can’t do everything you want and force everyone else to do it too. If you’re mainly a landscape photographer, going photographing with someone really into bird photography may not help your landscape images. Or it might – birds hang out in some beautiful places.
If you go with people more experienced / knowledgable than you are, you may learn a bit and make better images as a result. Or you may find out about new places that they know but you don’t. Or you might even open your eyes to a different way of seeing something. If you’ve ever been out photographing with a group, you know there will be many similar images. But there will also be some that look completely different even though two photographers stand right next to each other.
So to answer the question in the title of this post: Is photography a solo or a group activity? Yes. You’ll be a better photographer if you go photographing both by yourself and in groups. Mix it up and take advantage of both ways to enjoy and improve your photography.
By the way, we did make it to Viera Wetlands. We saw many of the usual animals in the main area including Hawks, Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Grebes, Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, etc. We saw a few more species in the Click Ponds: White Pelicans, Sandpipers, Roseate Spoonbills, and Woodstorks. A nice visit.
Sandpiper flock and reflections
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – alone and in a group!
Sunrise sure is happening really early again! We started out on the 520 Causeway near Port Canaveral – Kevin M. wanted to make a sunrise photo with a lit up cruise ship in the scene. Here’s how my version turned out:
Disney cruise ship at dawn – Port Canaveral, Florida
We also moved around looking for other compositions and I think each of us also made an image of this:
Beneath the Bridge – 520 Causeway looking east
After sunrise we moved down A1A to explore Lori Wilson Park and the boardwalk there. It’s very nice and located right on the beach. Migratory birds have been reported there, but we didn’t find any on Saturday.
Our last stop was Viera Wetlands. We wanted to check on it because we hadn’t been by since February. We saw a few of the common wading birds, some juvenile Anhingas, Ospreys, Coots, Glossy Ibis (that we hoped were White Faced Ibis – but weren’t), lots of Grackles, and a few other species. We also took a turn around the Click Ponds where we found a relatively uncommon Black Crowned Night Heron. Kevin M. managed a good photo when it came out of the reeds for a few seconds.
Black Crowned Night Heron (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)
This wasn’t our most productive or exciting trip ever, but we did have a good time. The activity was slow – I think we’re starting to get into the summer birding slow down here in Central Florida. We may need to look for a few different photo ops for the next few months.
You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Viera Wetlands from this link. And I’ve collected other photos from there in this set on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
The scene below is not the one I thought I would photograph when we returned to Space View Park in Titusville, Florida last week.
Looking north at the Max Brewer Causeway before dawn – This condo is right at the entrance to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I’d love to wake up there every morning!
You may remember this post from a few weeks ago. That was a very foggy day and there were no real sunrise photo opportunities. I wasn’t too happy with the landscape photos I made on that trip and wanted to try again. This time, when we arrived before dawn, the first thing I noticed was the lighting on the Max Brewer Causeway leading to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. When I walked over to get a better look and perhaps make a photo, the reflection of the building in the water caught my eye. I like how this turned out.
This photo illustrates why paying attention to the photographic application of three words could result in more photo ops for you:
Perseverance: Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition; Keep trying until you can fulfill your vision; Circumstances change and you may not get the photo you want on your first try (or your second …). This was our second visit to Space View Park recently. I still haven’t gotten a sunrise photo I’m truly happy with at this place. I guess I’ll have to go back again!
Providence: Having foresight; care or preparation in advance; Try to anticipate conditions so you’re ready to take advantage of them. Have the right equipment with you and know how to use it. I had my tripod, cable release, and wide-angle lens ready for this shot.
Perspicacity: The capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw sound conclusions; Be able to react when the situation you anticipated isn’t what happens. Have an open mind and look for images that you didn’t consider in your planning. I didn’t just concentrate on the sunrise to the east. I also looked around for other photogenic scenes.
After sunrise we also saw a common loon fishing very close to the docks.
Later on, we came across a couple of Belted Kingfishers that were more cooperative than usual.
Belted Kingfisher lady poses – These usually fly away from me as soon as I point a lens at them. This one was lazy or tired and sat still for a portrait.
Another fine day with a camera on Merritt Island!
If you think about the three words above, maybe they’ll help you come away with some photos you wouldn’t other wise get. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Season’sGreetings! The holidays are here once again and many of you are traveling to visit family and friends. Please have a safe journey and enjoy the time with your loved ones.
Well, I think I now have another favorite photo-op! I’d heard many things about Fort De Soto and a couple of my friends had great experiences there, but it’s a ~2.5 hour drive from Winter Springs – so I’d never gone until last week.
Lynn, Mike, Sara, and Mary got me a wonderful birthday present this year – a 1 on 1 photo workshop with Jason Hahn of Outdoor Photo Workshops. I’d been waiting to use it until the weather cooled off a bit and I finally scheduled it for last week. Jason lives in the Tampa area and he’s an expert on Fort De Soto, so it seemed like a great opportunity for me to visit with a local guide and learn more about the place.
Since we were meeting at 6:45am for sunrise, I went over the night before to make sure I knew the way and to try to get a sunset shot. Before I left, I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris app on my phone to do a little virtual scouting and noticed that the setting sun would be in nearly perfect alignment with a section of beach near the Bay pier at De Soto. If you don’t have this app or another like it, get it. It’s extremely useful when planning photo-ops. This setting looked like it would be different from the sunrise and sunset geometry I usually get, so that’s where I ended up on Thursday evening. I was blessed with some very nice clouds and light, and the geometry led to this composition. What do you think?
The end of the day at Fort Desoto – Looking southwest toward Egmont Key from the base of the bay pier. The ferry that travels back and forth to the Key is on the left.
Fort De Soto park is south of St. Petersburg, Florida and is run by Pinellas county. It’s made up of a number of islands (keys) and the location and geography make it very unique, especially from a birding perspective. It lies along the migration routes and is a landing-place for birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico. If the conditions are favorable, a knowledgable birder can see over a hundred different species here in a single spring-time day. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the birding lists and plan to go back next April.
It’s also quite diverse from a landscape photography perspective. The Sunshine Skyway bridge can add to a scene, and the tides cover and uncover shoreline features that can vary the foreground interest in your photos. Storms also come through occasionally and these can cut new channels or shift sand to change the layout of the smaller islands. So it’s possible to see changes on both a daily and seasonal basis. When I arrived there Friday morning, the light wasn’t good for a typical sunrise shot, but I set up anyway and made this photo. I think the reflections from the bridge on the low clouds and water add a lot to the image.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay Florida, before dawn. From the East Beach turnaround at Fort De Soto
Jason showed me around, and was quite knowledgable about the site, the wildlife, and how to photograph all of it. He was also patient and easily dealt with my many questions. It was interesting to hear him talk about the behavior of the animals and how they interact with the terrain and tides and then explain how to use the knowledge to make better photos. It was a greatly enhanced scouting expedition and I only hope I can remember half the things he told me!
The wind was blowing at 10 miles an hour or more, so many of the normal birds were hunkered down out of sight, but we did see Laughing, and Herring Gulls (including one with its breakfast), an American Oystercatcher, a family of Raccoons, Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Ospreys, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons and maybe a few other species.
American Oystercatcher – a very cooperative bird. He strolled right by us, leaving a wake.
There was a pretty interesting scenario with the Herring Gull below. They catch crabs and then fly them up to 40 or 50 feet above rocks or hard sand before they drop them to crack the shells open. This particular gull was going to crack his crab, but another gull came close, so it flew off somewhere else to dine in private.
Herring Gull flies off with crab
On this trip, I met a fellow photographer for the first time, scouted a new place (which definitely made the “must do” list), learned lot in the process, and had a great time. A pretty fine photo-op, in spite of the clouds and wind.
As usual, you can see larger versions of these images on Flickr by clicking on them. And I have a couple more photos from Fort De Soto in this set.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I had a wonderful visit with our daughter Mary at her place in Cincinnati over Christmas. Once again, she was the perfect hostess and kept us busy with all sorts of activities. We spent a lot of time eating, both at restaurants (Nada, Melt, Christmas brunch at the Hilton, Tom+Chee, Papa Johns pizza, Cracker Barrel) and cooking (crab cakes, Quiche, salmon, gingerbread, etc.) and too much time shopping (antique mall, after Christmas sales, outlet mall). In between we went to the Nutcracker, bought hats at Batsakes, visited the local wine shop and gave her new Nespresso machine a real work out. It was primo family time, but I did sneak in a little photography:
Play time at Union Station – Cincinnati, Ohio. I usually wait for people to clear out when I’m trying to make a photo. This time I went ahead and made it while these two girls played around the fountain. Since this is a stitched panorama, they show up multiple times, which I think adds to the image.
Cappuccino: We enjoyed using Mary’s new machine and overdosed on caffeine while we were there.
What a great visit! You can see more photos from our trip to Cincinnati in this set on Flickr. You can re-read my other posts mentioning Cincinnati here and here.