Deborah Sandidge and Jason Odell led a sunset photo walk around Lake Eola in downtown Orland on Friday evening. I’ve followed their work online and wanted to meet them, so I signed up. Conditions weren’t the best for sunset photography, but I still had a good time. I used a neutral density filter to make several long exposure photos and I thought I’d walk you through my process. First of all, here’s the final version:
Lake Eola – Orlando, Florida. Long exposure, cloudy, sunset. You can click on this image to see a larger version on Flickr.
And here’s the initial version of this photo:
f/8, 25 seconds; after initial adjustments in Lightroom.
Here are the steps I went through to get to the final version: First, I corrected the distortion to make the buildings vertical in Lightroom. Then I edited it in Photoshop. I used content aware fill to finish the vertical distortion fix, then added a layer and masked out noise from darker areas. Finally, I ran the single image through Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 to enhance color, contrast and details. Back in Light room again, I finalized exposure, contrast and white balance and applied sharpening and a small amount of vignette. I like how it came out.
For comparison purposes, here’s a 1/20 second exposure of the same scene.
f/8, 1/20th second; Same initial adjustments as the version above.
Looking at the long exposure version, the main differences I see are: the smooth sheen on the water surface, the much more prominent tree shadow in the lower right, and the radial motion blurring in the clouds. The tree shadow surprised me the most. In the short exposure version, the water ripples break up the shadow. They don’t in the long exposure version, which makes the shadow much more interesting.
There are lot of upsides to long exposure photography and a few downsides. For instance, since the wind was blowing so hard on Friday, some of the smaller tree branches are a little blurry. Also, when you use very dense neutral density filters, your camera probably won’t auto expose or auto focus correctly, so you’ll have to take care of those things on your own. And some of these filters can also add a color cast to your photos, so you may need to be careful with your color balance. But all in all, it’s a great technique to have in your bag of tricks. Have you tried it yet? Why not?
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!
Mike, Sara, and Mary joined Lynn and I for Christmas this year. When we’re together we often visit a theme park, but since we liked our last cruise so much, we decided to take a holiday cruise instead. We booked on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and departed from Port Canaveral for Nassau and Coco Cay on Friday, Dec. 21st.
Port Canaveral is about an hour east of Orlando on the 528 Beachline. We found parking right at the pier and the embarkation wasn’t too bad, although there was a line getting through security.
Overall the Monarch of the Seas was very enjoyable. The food was good (the Strawberry Pavlova dessert was a BIG hit!), and so was the service. Our staterooms were in different parts of the ship this time, which made coordination a little more difficult – but we worked it out. Once nice thing about sailing at this time of year is that the ship was fully decked out for the holidays – Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and other seasonal touches.
Ship’s decorations in the main atrium
We departed Port Canaveral late in the afternoon. The weather was nice for the whole cruise and although Friday’s sunset wasn’t that great Saturday’s sunrise made up for it:
Pre-dawn clouds in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida
We arrived in Nassau Saturday afternoon and spent time shopping. Then Mike and Sara found us a great place to sample the local food (the Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant) where we enjoyed their Conch Fritters. After that, we all boarded a catamaran for a sunset tour of the harbor. The low light combined with a moving boat made for a challenging photo-op, but I did get a few nice images. One of the highlights was seeing Oprah Winfrey’s pair of side by side mansions (with a huge matching yacht). I guess she uses the second mansion for guests – quite impressive.
Nassau harbor at night from the sunset cruise catamaran. I thought the red and green running lights were an unexpected seasonal bonus!
From Nassau, we sailed to the Berry Islands where Royal Caribbean has exclusive use of Coco Cay (also known as Little Stirrup Cay). They’ve set the place up for cruise passengers to enjoy beach time, snorkeling, shopping at a straw market, parasailing, wave runners, an aqua park, kayaking, hammocks, and of course – food. We had kayak reservations for first thing in the morning. The wind was really blowing and even though we were a bit worried about it we went anyway. It was a workout, but worth it in the end. We paddled about a mile to a sand bar off of Big Stirrup Cay, where I made this photo:
A starfish in the ocean near a sand bar at Big Stirrup Cay. We haven’t been able to ID this one – our guide told us it isn’t common.
Later, back on Coco Cay we relaxed, shopped, and yes, ate too much. Mike and Sara also went snorkeling and saw fish, Sting Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and coral.
Sara and Mike enjoy the view from our Coco Cay cabana
It was a wonderful way to spend time with our family. Except for the wind, the weather was great and not at all typical of the season in most of the country. Poor Mike and Sara had to return home to winter storms and snow. I imagine it was a bit of a change!
You can click any of the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr and I’ve posted several more from our cruise in this set.
This is my last post of 2012. I’ll be back next year and I hope you will too. May you, your family, and your friends all have a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, get cruising and make some photos!
Happy Holidays! Once again the season has snuck up on us. I hope that all of you, your families, and your friends have a joyful and happy season!
Photographer Jim Goldstein has an annual tradition of organizing a “best photos of the year” listing. I’m very glad he started this, since it’s a good reminder for each of us to take time to review results and contemplate how to improve our photography. And also to put together an annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.
2012 was another good year for me photographically. The 2012 folder on my hard drive takes up about 284 GB of space – almost double 2011. There are 80 folders, and each one represents a separate “photo-op”, with a total of over 6200 photos, so it does look like I’m trying! I had a lot of opportunity to make good images this year, and I’m pleased with the results I achieved. But it doesn’t seem like my ability and skills have grown as much this year as in the past. Perhaps I’ve plateaued. Maybe I don’t know what I don’t know about getting better. Maybe I’m just getting more picky and critical. Regardless, I think I need to make a stronger effort in 2013.
I’m still using the following system to rate my photos. The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2012.
1 star – The photo is interesting (174)
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (396)
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (68)
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
5 stars – My favorite photo ever (still none, I’m not finished making photos yet!)
The rest of the photos don’t have stars and are seconds or not so good versions. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. This system seems to work for me and I’ve reviewed my 2012 photos and selected my favorites. This is a hard process for any photographer. It’s difficult to separate my opinion about a photograph from any emotional connections that I might have with the scene or situation. But making this effort is important and part of the learning process. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t claim to be objective about my photography. These photos are the ones that I like best, so feel free to disagree – but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.
You can click on each of these to go to Flickr and see a larger version. Or you can click on this link to go to the complete set on Flickr.
I have 1 miscellaneous subject, 1 mammal, 1 bird, 3 people photos, 7 landscapes, 3 sunrises, 0 sunsets, 6 color, 4 Black and White, and 4 Infra-Red photos. Definitely a trend away from wildlife and toward landscapes and infra-red. Here we go…
My number 1 favorite photo of 2012:
Many cypress trees, Blue Cypress Lake, near Vero Beach, Florida, June.
I have a thing for Cypress trees anyway and when I made my first and only visit to Blue Cypress Lake this year, the natural beauty of this place overwhelmed me. I’m planning to return early next year when I can also see many nesting Ospreys and other birds. See this post for more info.
My number 2 favorite photo of 2012:
Pre-dawn Jetty, Jetty Park, Cocoa, Florida, October.
When I saw this scene, I really liked the way the light on the walk drew my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon. So I straddled the rail with my tripod and made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 3 favorite photo of 2012:
Keb’ Mo’ in concert, Plaza Theatre, Orlando, Florida, February.
I like The Plaza and they often bring in acts that I like too. We were lucky to get seats up front and when the spotlights lit up the smoke, I made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 4 favorite photo of 2012:
Water Dragon Sunrise, on board the Carnival Paridise in the Gulf of Mexico, April.
I stalked this sunrise for about 45 minutes before this scene developed. I’m happy I waited for it – sometimes patience pays off! See this post for more info.
My number 5 favorite photo of 2012:
Submarine sunrise: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaving Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn, October.
This was a bonus photo when the sub turned south after leaving the inlet and posed for us under the rising sun. See this post for more info.
My number 6 favorite photo of 2012:
Cocoa Sunrise, North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida, August.
This is an infra-red, fish-eye photo (an “IRFE”). It’s a really good combination to shake up your photography and inspire some creativity.
My number 7 favorite photo of 2012:
Play time at Union Station, Cincinnati, Ohio, December 2011
This photo missed the deadline for last year’s favorites – so I included it here. 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. See this post for more info.
My number 8 favorite photo of 2012:
Cruising White Pelican, Black Point Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida, December.
White Pelicans are winter migrants to our area, so we don’t get to see them very often. This one cruised right in and posed in the middle of my viewfinder. I couldn’t have arranged it better! See this post for more info.
My number 9 favorite photo of 2012:
On the beach, Venice Beach, Florida, September.
We were wandering around exploring the area near the Venice Pier. Since it was close to mid-day, I didn’t expect the light to be good, but I took my IR camera in case something came up. I think the IR characteristics add a lot of interest to the photo. And it makes a great example of how “playing around” can lead to good things. See this post for more info.
My number 10 favorite photo of 2012:
Late night?, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, May.
This photo was difficult to make since the lighting was challenging and I had to photograph the Gorilla through glass. But it’s a great pose and expression and I was able to clean the image up considerably in post processing. He looks like I’ve felt a few times. See this post for more info.
And here is one last photo that I care a lot about:
The “Senator” – a 3500 year old Bald Cypress tree, Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida.
I made this image in September of 2011, so it doesn’t officially qualify for a 2012 favorite. The reason I put it in this post is because in January of 2012, the tree caught fire, burned and collapsed. The fire was at first thought to have been caused by lightning, but later was determined to have been started by a woman inside the hollow tree so she could see the illegal drugs she was using. Now no one else will ever make a photo of this, so it became a lot more important to me in 2012. What a crazy, sad event. For more info see this post and this post.
If you’d like to see my favorite photos from earlier years, you can click on these links: 2009, 2010, and 2011.
I think I’ve confessed here before that I’m just a beginning birder. I enjoy identifying the birds I see, although sometimes it’s tough for me to figure out ones that I don’t see very often. Gulls and Terns seem especially hard.
Anyway, I photographed this bird last weekend at MINWR and it took me a while to sit down and research what it is. I was pretty sure it’s a Tern, but didn’t know which one. The red / orange legs were a big clue, although the lack of a black head cap and the dark bill initially confused me. It turns out (Terns out?) that Forster’s Terns lose their black cap in the winter and their bills turn from orange to grey / black. Mystery solved!
They’re here in Florida only in the winter months – we saw a group of them along BPWD. They were flying above the water and then plunging in to feed on fish.
In looking back through the rest of my photos from last weekend, the trip was quite productive. I’ve a number of images that I’m pleased with. Here’s a couple more:
VAB sunrise. Merritt Island, Florida. A four image panorama at 150mm: not my normal landscape focal length
As usual, we looked for a sunrise photo first. We found this old house behind the Brevard Community College and the sky cooperated.
Old house and sunrise
It was really hard to decide on the highlight of this trip. Before I left yesterday morning, I Googled MINWR, and saw a report of “a Great Horned Owl on a nest on the left near 402 and SR 3”. Sure enough, we drove right up to it and it was there waiting there for us! The internet is really handy, isn’t it?
Great Horned Owl on nest
The second contender for highlight of the day was a Clapper Rail. I’d seen reports of these too, but I’d never seen one before and didn’t know what to look for. We parked at the first parking area on Black Point Wildlife Drive and were exploring when we met a tourist from Brazil. He pointed out the bird for us, but it was back in the shadows and with the glare from the sun it took me a while to see it even with him pointing right at it! Fortunately, it moved a bit and I was able to get a photo. We eventually saw three in this area and one more at the second parking area.
These Clapper Rails are hard to see…
There were more people / cars on BPWLD yesterday than I’ve ever seen before. A couple of times there were real traffic jams! There were also more birds than I’ve seen there in a long time – maybe ever. We saw Ospreys, Clapper Rails, Pintail Ducks, Coots, Moorhens, White Pelicans, Mottled Ducks, Green Wing Teals, Belted Kingfishers, Anhingas, Cormorants, Green Herons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Reddish Egrets, Little Blue Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Savannah Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Tricolored Herons, Woodstorks, Roseate Spoonbills, a Great Horned Owl, Painted Buntings, various gulls, Red-winged Blackbirds, and others.
After BPWLD, we drove by the owl again and it was still there. Then we went by the visitor center to check on the Painted Buntings. There were at least two of them at the feeder. After that we had to return home – a couple of us had things to do in the normal world. 🙁
Happy New Year! Back to basics with my first post of 2012: A photo-op review.
When I was in the Navy, I was stationed at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral for a while – so I’m familiar with the port and Jetty Park. But I’d never really investigated it as a photo-op. I had some time last week, and decided to visit.
Jetty Park is located on the south side of Port Canaveral in Brevard County. Depending on where you leave from, it’s a little over an hour from Orlando, basically a straight line along the Beachline Expressway (528 toll road). In addition to the jetty and 1200 foot fishing pier, there’s also a 120+ site campground and beach (with lifeguard) at the park.
Info for Photographers
The rocks, pier and seaside vegetation can provide some interesting foreground for sunrise landscapes.
The sun rises every morning…But no one know what it will look like. This was the view before dawn from the beach at Jetty Park.
You can also see a variety of shore birds. I saw Brown Pelicans, Northern Gannets, Ruddy Turnstones, Royal Terns, various Seagulls and others that I haven’t identified yet.
A place like this is also great for practicing your BIF (birds in flight) techniques. Pelicans make especially good subjects, since they tend to glide in a predictable straight line, but other birds are also flying in and around (see the last photo, below).
No restrictions, so bring yours and use it.
This will depend on your subject. I used my tripod mounted Nikon 16 – 35mm f/4 VR Wide angle for landscapes and sunrise. When the light got a little better, I switched to hand holding my Sigma 150 – 500mm f/6.3 for birds. You can get up close to some of the birds, so a shorter telephoto might come in handy too. For example, this Brown Pelican wouldn’t fit in the field of view at 500mm. Since the bird was so still, I made a multi-shot panorama. I like to use this technique when I can since the result can be a higher resolution image (this one is 18.5 Megapixels, un-cropped).
Best time to visit:
Day visitor hours are 7am to dusk. Take this into account if you’re planning to make some sunrise photos. I didn’t and the morning I went, sunrise was at 7:15. I arrived about 6:45 and the gate was still closed, so I drove around a bit to see if there was somewhere else to make a sunrise photo (I didn’t find one). When I returned at about 6:55 they were unlocking it. I had less time than I wanted to find a good spot and setup, but I did manage to get some photos I like.
Winter is probably a good time of year to go. It’ll be less crowded (with people) and more crowded (with birds). Many of the birds could be winter visitors too.
Northern Gannet in flight: This Pelagic species is a winter migrant to the waters off of the Florida coast.
There’s a $10 per day usage / parking fee.
The morning I was there I saw a young man land a large fish from the end of the pier. This might be a good place to combine your interest in fishing, camping and the beach with a photo side excursion.
There’s a lot of shipping activity at the port. Cruise ships and fishing boats enter and leave regularly. I think you can still occasionally see a submarine that’s visiting too.
Jetty park is close to both Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you have time for a little longer trip, you could combine a visit here with a second stop at one of those places. The morning I went, I also stopped by Viera to see what was going on there.
I added a few birds to my life list and a few photos I really like to my archives. You can too. Check out the other photos I made there in this set on Flickr. Let me know how your visit to the park goes.
I had a rare mid-week day off last Wednesday and decided to spend the morning making photographs.
First up was a site I’ve driven by many times and always said “That looks like a great place for a photo”. It’s the boat ramp off of Highway 50 where it crosses the St. Johns river. I was there before dawn and had a good time watching the sun come up and the clouds evolve. And yes, it is a good place for a photo.
Dawn on the St. Johns River at the Highway 50 boat ramp
Next, I drove over to Viera Wetlands. I haven’t been there recently and wanted to see what’s going on.
Palms, clouds, and marsh at Viera Wetlands
There are a lot of the usual birds around: Herons, Egrets, Ibis, Anhingas, Coots, Grebes, Limpkins, Ospreys, Cormorants, a Caracarra, a Hawk, Gulls, etc. I also saw a lot of winter visitors there, including Kingfishers, Mergansers, Caspian Terns, Tree Swallows, and Northern Shovelers. By the way, another good place to find out what’s going on is the Viera Wetlands group on Flickr. I usually check it before I go so I’ll know what to watch for when I get there. Other folks are seeing Northern Harriers, Loggerhead Shrikes, Horned Grebes, American Kestrels, and many more.
Caracara with prey
The Great Blue Herons are all busy courting and building nests. This is a wonderful time to get some action shots, especially of these birds in flight. If you watch one of the couples for a while, you’ll likely see the male leave repeatedly to gather nesting material. They tend to leave and return from the same direction and this gives you a big advantage when setting up to take flight photos.
Great Blue Heron pair
You can see other photos I’ve made at Viera Wetlands in this set on Flickr. If you get some spare time over the holiday break, this would a good place to spend it.
I started coming down with a cold yesterday and today it’s worse. I don’t have much energy for photography or anything else. Lynn did manage to drag me out to lunch with my sister and brother in law who were visiting this weekend.
We stopped by Central Winds Park on the way home and wandered down to the Lake Jesup shoreline. I was happy that there was a good variety of Florida things to see. In the ten minutes we spent down there, we saw two wild alligators and several kinds of birds, including a Great Blue Heron, Little Egret, Ibis, and an Osprey flying away with a fish in his claw.
Here’s one photo I made with my Canon S90.
Also under the weather: Lake Jesup Cyprus Tree and clouds