The best colors at dawn are often before sunrise – sometimes well before. But a couple of minutes after sunrise last Wednesday, I was getting ready to move on when I noticed how colorful the horizon had become. So I decided to make one more photo. I was lucky I had my 24 – 200mm equivalent lens on and I zoomed all the way in. As the image flashed in my viewfinder, I saw a large bird close to the sun. When I recognized how many there were – all flying north (right to left), I made several more exposures.
By the way, this would have been a great time to switch to video, but I’m never able to think of that when I should.
Anyway, I ended up with 7 frames spread over 9 seconds. I brought them all into layers in Photoshop, aligned them, used curves to manually adjust each one so the exposures are the same and then blended birds from each frame into one composite image. I guess that’s cheating – but I think it’s a better representation of what I saw than any single frame I made.
I like images that reveal more the longer / closer you look at them. and this one does. Please click on it to see it larger.
We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday. I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M. We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends. Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show. I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.
On the beach
There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.
Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things. We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes. Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in. They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.
American Bittern in the grass
A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted. It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around. It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away. This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes. They’re small and usually skittish. And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph. Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.
Wilson’s Snipe in the grass
Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter. If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them. You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away. This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave. But I was over conservative with my zoom and left too much room in the frame. I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one. But I’ll have to keep trying.
Belted Kingfisher in flight
We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks. And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here. Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there. Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.
So it was a marvelous morning. Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends. Much better than sleeping in!
Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr. And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
First an announcement: If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.
And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status / news following the Merritt Island photo update.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning. I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island. We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.
Pre-dawn at the marina – Titusville. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway. From there you can shoot through the bridge toward sunrise. I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.
Dawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive. There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice. I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.
Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows
Hooded Merganser (female)
We also saw (among others): American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more. We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.
Enough of the pleasant content. Now on to the agonizing stuff.
Blog status / news
It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ. Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.
There’s good and bad news. Good news: The blog is mostly back up. And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him. Bad news: He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.
I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up . My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive. And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.
I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans. Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.
It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan. The rest of the process wasn’t as easy. Here are some of the issues I ran into:
Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me. They didn’t. I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect. A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy. I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account. I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers. This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration). The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability. This was easy and I now have an https connection. My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them. But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation. I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin. It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing this. Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default. I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them. In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once. Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it. Whew! It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over. In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages. I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work. Please check them out if you get a chance!
And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months! This stuff is just too hard!
The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was unable to use Jetpack’s subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request. Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed. If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe. Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.
Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!
Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy. Some things didn’t fare too well:
Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway
I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way. Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.
I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal. It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife. I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.
They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now. I need to go back there and kayak again. It is going to cool off soon I hope!
There were a few shore birds along the causeway. I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Black Point and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage. I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage: https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811
For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title. I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist. I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
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.
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.
Storm 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 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 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).
Lakes 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?
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!
On our trip last week, if I hadn’t noticed Kevin M. photographing this pool of water in the parking area, I doubt I’d have seen or photographed it.
Puddles at dawn
Kevin not only pointed out this scene, he also organized the trip. If he hadn’t, I might have been too lazy to get up – and I’d have missed a very lovely dawn. This was one time when photographing with a group was very helpful. I think going out by yourself is great, but going out with others is wonderful too.
Here’s one more image from that morning.
As you can see, I did enjoy that sunrise – thanks, Kevin!
And thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – with your friends!
I’ve written about Casey Key before. Lynn and I have been visiting this little island on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years. If you’d like to read other articles about it, click on the “Casey Key” link under the “Places / Categories” menu over on the right.
When we got home this week and I reviewed the photos I made there on this trip, I was struck by how much the clouds enhance the images.
This strong storm moved through one afternoon and dropped considerable hail and rain on the area. But we also got to see the awesome cloud front pass over the beach.
This next photo includes some lovely clouds too.
And finally, here’s one last photo combining the sky and wispy sunset clouds with a sun or beach totem – not something I see everyday.
I have more photos from Casey Key as well as larger versions of the ones above in this set on Flickr.
Clear skies are often boring. Clouds and storms add interest and drama, and enhance almost any photo. Add some clouds to your compositions.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go find some clouds – and make some photos!
Here are three photos from last week that I made in and around Central Florida. First up is the Cocoa Waterfront. I liked the early morning look of the clouds and water at River Front Park.
Calm morning on the riverfront. (Two frame vertical panorama, Infrared, B&W, 34mm eq. fl, 1/40 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200)
The morning light was also nice at Viera Wetlands, and this American Bittern posed for us in the reeds. I’ve been lucky enough to see them there several times over the years. I’m sure they’re in spots like Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge too, but I’ve never spotted one there.
American Bittern. (600mm, f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO 320)
Orlando Wetlands Park opened again February 1st. It’s one of my favorite places for sunrise. Our walk on Friday morning was brisk and breezy, but I like the wind’s effect on the water in this photo.
Wee hour winds whisk water and reeds in the wetlands. (Two frame vertical panorama; 120mm; I shot the bottom frame at f/22 and ISO 50 to extend the shutter speed to 8 seconds and maximize depth of field. I made the upper frame at f/8, .5 sec, ISO 100 to maximize sharpness)
So that’s some of what I photographed last week. What did you shoot? Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
So I went to two different places last week. Kevin M. took me to the Lake Apopka Restoration Area to look for the Groove Billed Ani that’s been hanging around. I’d never been there and was glad he invited me, not only for a chance at a life bird, but also to scout the area. I’ve also driven around Lake Lawsona in downtown Orlando and thought there might be some photos lurking there, but couldn’t find any place to park. Then I discovered that Mayor Carl T. Langford Park isn’t far away so I left my car there and walked over.
To make a long (and photographically humbling) story short, I photographed both places, but didn’t like any of the images enough to post. And we didn’t see the Ani either.
I did chase the light – I just didn’t catch it.
Since I’m a little stuck for material this week, I went back into my archives and found a four photo panorama that I’d never processed from a trip to Tampa in 2013. After stitching it together, I like the light in this image well enough.
Looking north toward Piney Point from Fred Howard Park in Tampa, August 2013
Like any creative activity, photography is difficult at times. I struggled last week, but I try not to get discouraged – this happens to everyone. I keep trying and enjoy the effort. As Florida Nature Photographer John Moran says in his book Journal of Light:
“Nature photography isn’t always about the picture, it’s about the experience of just being there, chasing the light, alive and awake and aware.”