There were butterflies everywhere, probably because wildflowers were everywhere. We had a marvelous little meadow under the balcony behind our room. It was fun and relaxing to sit there and watch all the activity.
Bees and birds were busy too.
Wildflower and Bee B&W
We stood in line for the dining room at the lodge one night and the woman in front of us was carrying a large DSLR camera and lens. She lived close by and had come up to photograph butterflies in Big Meadows. I said we were enjoying them too, and then we started talking about birds. I was all excited about the Indigo Buntings and American Goldfinches we’d sighted, since we don’t often see them in Florida. She didn’t seem to care about such common birds – and was much more interested in getting to Florida to see some Spoonbills. To each their own!
Eastern Towhee (life bird!) – Thanks Kevin McKinney for the bird ID help!
And one more image to wrap up. I made all the photos in this post with a micro four-thirds camera and 100 – 400 mm lens (200 – 800 mm equivalent). I found it very useful for close up photography and even though I had a macro lens with me, I never used it.
You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and more photos from Shenandoah in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
For the past week or so, my photographic pursuits seem to be in slow motion. Creating photos is difficult. Friction and frustration are up and harmony and flow are down.
What’s going on? Glad you asked. 1. I’m having problems finding things to photograph. 2. I’m also having problems with the software I use to process photos. 3. And I’m having problems with my blog. Hmm.
1. The Images
I was a little busy this week (with #2 and #3) so it left me less time to photograph. But I did go out on Saturday with Kevin M. He needed a park pass and suggested we drive over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to pick one up at the Visitor’s Center. Of course, I talked him into leaving early for sunrise and we went by Gator Creek just before dawn. This is a nice enough image, but leaves me wanting better. The sky’s a little bland and I couldn’t find a nicer foreground. And the no-see-ums were fierce!
Another Gator Creek morning – a 4 frame panorama, ISO 100, f/11 at 2 seconds
We also drove around Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, but honestly, there aren’t many birds or animals there now. We saw very few of the regular birds and a wild pig, but most of the wildlife seems to be somewhere else. Summer slow down indeed. When we swung by the Visitors center there wasn’t much bird activity there either. I carried my infrared camera and experimented with IR insects. I like this one – but it also leaves me wanting.
An infrared butterfly
I guess the moral of this part of the story is that making good photos isn’t easy and some photo ops aren’t as good as others. Don’t let all the good ones you see on the web convince you otherwise. Keep looking and shooting. And don’t go just looking for photos – you should also go for the experience. Enjoy being out and don’t make it all about the image. And in Florida, in the summer, before dawn – bring insect repellent to cut your hostile friction with the bugs.
2. The Software
I’ve had issues for some time using the “Edit in Photoshop” command in Lightroom. Photoshop would open, but sometimes the file itself would never show up. If I tried to open the file directly from inside Photoshop, it worked every time. With the latest updates to both programs the problem got much worse. Every time I tried to open a RAW file in Photoshop from Lightroom, it wouldn’t work.
After several searches on Google, I found others are having this problem too. But there wasn’t any clear-cut solution, so I called Adobe. They told me to uninstall both programs and reinstall, but make sure to reinstall Photoshop first. This is a pain since I have to also reinstall all the plug-ins and presets I use too. I did get through it and it’s now working better, although it’s still happened a few times since. Frustrating friction.
3. The Blog
If you follow this blog via email or Twitter, you probably didn’t see last week’s post – a shame – I thought it was pretty good!
For some reason, the server isn’t sending email or Twitter notifications when a new post goes up. I’ve tweaked some settings and hope it’s corrected now. If not, I’ll have to keep troubleshooting. Curious, conflicting friction.
Next, along Gator Creek Road we found a group of preening Roseate Spoonbills. I liked the contrast between their pink and the blue sky reflected in the water.
Later at the Visitor Center, we found a great many butterflies. They seem to like these Buttonbrush plants.
And Green Herons were common too, especially at the rest area on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive where we saw several nests and juveniles. This one (also at the Visitors Center) drew my eye as it posed against the silver-like water while it waited to strike an unwary fish.
Green Heron in a silver pond
With the hot weather starting to arrive, there’s not as much activity at Merritt Island as there sometimes is. But there’s still a lot to see and photograph.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I’m extremely fortunate to live near the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the more I learn about it, the bigger and better it seems. I’ve been going to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive for several years, but only recently started exploring other locations in the Refuge. If you only have a short time to visit, Blackpoint is a great place to see – but there’s so much more. If you have time, visit East Gator Creek Road, Shiloh Marsh Road, Bio-Lab Road, Scrub Ridge Trail and other areas. Look here for maps of these and other MINWR trails.
Kevin M., Lutfi and I were in place on East Gator Creek Road this morning in time for sunrise. It was my first time at this spot and I was very happy with the views. Highly recommended for sunrise shots!
Merritt Island Sunrise
Next, we drove up to Shiloh Marsh Road. We were able to drive in only a short distance from either end before the way was blocked by chains – I think for duck hunting season. If you decide to drive this road, check to make sure it’s open and make sure your vehicle has plenty of ground clearance. There are some grand canyon sized potholes out there.
After Shiloh, we drove Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. This road was resurfaced this year and is in very good shape. Not too many potholes here.
Little Green Heron in flight; I made this photo very close to the same spot a few weeks ago – is this the same bird?
Finally, we headed over to the MINWR Visitor Center to see if the Painted Buntings had arrived for the winter. But it was closed too – we’re not sure why.
Today was a wonderful day for wildlife and nature watching. We saw Spoonbills, Ospreys, Redish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Little Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Tri-Color Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Crabs, a deer, flowers, Bald Eagles, Ibis, European Sparrows, Cormorants, Anhingas, Cardinals and butterflys among other things.
Butterfly and flower
For more info on MINWR, this search will bring up other things I’ve written about it. And you can view some other photos I’ve made at the Refuge on Flickr here, and here.
Lukas Nursery is a family owned business in Oviedo, Florida. You can find all sorts of plants and garden supplies in their well stocked nursery and they also have a small Butterfly Encounter where three of us from the Photography Interest Group went exploring last Saturday.
We were there when they opened at 9am so we could try to avoid the mid-day heat. Inside the Butterfly Encounter, they have a nice gift shop where you pay your $5 entrance fee. When you enter the butterfly area itself, there are a great many beautiful flowers and at least three types of small, colorful birds – but unfortunately there weren’t very many butterflies visible on the day we were there. I’ve been once or twice in the past when they were more plentiful. I wonder if this is a seasonal thing or we just caught them in between re-supplies? We did have fun stalking the butterflies we found and angling for good photos.
Info for Photographers
Photo hints: This is a good place to practice using your flash. I tried both the pop-up flash on my camera and an off camera flash triggered by the pop-up. With flash, you should be able to use a small aperture to increase your depth of field. If you want to experiment further, you can shoot in manual mode using a shutter speed within your camera’s flash sync range. Then vary the flash output and your shutter speed / aperture to control the ratio of foreground and background lighting to isolate your subjects.
Tripod/Monopod: Not prohibited, but there isn’t much room inside for a tripod so you should be polite and bring a monopod at the very most. In the confined spaces and with my subjects moving around, I left both my tripod and monopod home and hand held all my photos.
Lenses: A longer macro lens will be helpful. I had some success with my 105mm macro on a crop sensor body. You may also want to bring one of your longer zoom lenses to get close to butterflies that perch up high in the vines.
Best time to visit: Avoid the summer – it gets very hot inside. Think about calling ahead to check on the the butterfly population.
Other: Don’t forget to look for flower and bird photos too!
The Photography Interest Group visited Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday and had another nice trip. There was lots to see and the weather was pleasant. We came across this very pretty bird with iridescent feathers and we’re wondering whether it’s a Glossy Ibis or a White-faced Ibis. My vote is that it’s a Glossy because of the dark eyes. A White-faced Ibis should have some red in the eyes. Does anybody reading this know for sure?
I was out this morning with a couple of people from the Photography Interest Group. We planned to explore a part of Orlando Wetlands Park that we’d never been to. If you look on a Google map of the park, you can see a finger of land that sticks out into the lake on the east side.
On the map, you can also see two paths that lead there. Our plan was to work our way over and along the finger into the lake to make some photographs from the new location. Here’s a photo I made from the fork in the path at the beginning of our explorations.
You can’t tell where a path ends from the beginning – Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 @ 24mm, f/8.0, five exposures: 1/15 sec – 1/250 sec, Photomatix. Edited with the Topaz Adjust filter to bring out more detail in the clouds and to make the foreground slightly brighter.
We walked down this open and inviting path for a while until we were suddenly blocked by a solid mass of bushes and underbrush. I really wonder why this is here if it leads nowhere. Maybe it has been open in the past.
We trudged back out the way we came, and went up our normal route a little farther to the next path leading east. This time, we managed to follow it for quite a ways – before it suddenly went under water. So, we then backtracked again and circled around the lake clockwise for while, but we just couldn’t find anything interesting to photograph. At this point, we were hot, tired and getting frustrated at our inability to get to where we wanted to go and the lack of photographic targets. We started heading back to the car. And that’s when we began to notice interesting things. Here’s a photo of a butterfly hiding in the damp grass:
Butterfly, flowers, dew – Nikon D90 @ ISO 200, Nikon 70 – 300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/320 sec. Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.
And here’s a photo I made of a hunting Little Blue Heron.
A Little Blue Heron catches a worm. (Is that an alligator to the left?) – Nikon D90, ISO 200, Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, f/8.0, 1/250.
So, even though our explorations this morning didn’t succeed, we did end up getting some nice photos. And we didn’t get them until we forgot about exploring and headed back toward the car. The moral of this story is the title of the post.
Have you had a similar experience? Post a comment about it.
I’ve been wanting to visit the landscape photography exhibit at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art . I decided to go up yesterday, since it will only be there through the end of August. I very much enjoyed the photographs, which included several by Ansel Adams.
The Florida Museum of Natural History is right next door to the Harn Museum, and they have an excellent butterfly exhibit, called the Butterfly Rainforest .
Although I didn’t write about it at the time, I was there once before in 2007 with my daughter Mary, and I’ve wanted to document it as a Central Florida Photo Op ever since.
The Museum is located on the University of Florida Campus in Gainesville, just off of I-75. For visitors to Florida, it might make a very nice 2 or 3 hour stop along the way to Orlando or Tampa. For Orlando area residents, it’s about a 2 hour drive.
The web sites above have directions and entry fee information. You should consider the weather before you go. When I went on June 20th, it was very, very hot and humid and this might be easier to put up with in the cooler times of the year.
There’s also quite a lot of pretty tropical and sub-tropical flowers to take photos of, which supply nectar to feed the butterflies.
And there are several smaller birds that are flying free within the exhibit.
So, as you can see – this is a target rich environment for the photo sharp shooter!
Tripod/Monopod : They have a pretty strict policy on what you can bring in. Tripods and monopods are not allowed. The pathways are narrow and restricted. You also have to check strollers and bags (including camera bags) so plan ahead. I brought a single camera on a strap, a filter case in one pocket and a flash in my other pocket.
Lenses : Without a tripod or monopod, vibration reduction is pretty important. Since you’re restricted to the paths and you can’t bring a camera bag in to switch lenses, a zoom lens is a necessity. Maybe you could wear a photo vest with some lenses in it (although I don’t know if they’d let you bring it in).
I used my 70 – 300 VR zoom on my Nikon D700 and also used a close up filter at times. This seemed to work out pretty well.
Other : Some of the butterflies will be still for you and some won’t. Most don’t seem to mind the people. In fact some of them will land on you!
My SB-600 flash came in handy at times to fill in shadows. The light was variable. There’s a lot of shadows from vegetation and the cloud cover can also make a big difference in a small amount of time.
The Butterfly Rainforest has a lot of photos waiting to be made. The conditions are a bit challenging, especially in the summer. But if you can put up with the heat or go by in the cooler part of the year and deal with the lighting conditions, then this is a good place to visit.