Tag Archives: Cormorant

My Favorite Photos of 2010

I hope that all of you and your families and friends are having a joyful and happy holiday season!

The weather has been pretty gloomy here this weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to go out and make any new photos. I thought it would be a good time to jump the gun and put together my second annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.

One again, I’ve gone through the photos I made in the last 12 months. I use Lightroom to rate them from 0 through 5 stars. My rating system definitions are:

  • 1 star – The photo is interesting
  • 2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others
  • 3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot
  • 4 stars – My favorite photo of a year
  • 5 stars – My favorite photo (ever)

Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. I’ve used this system consistently, and it seems to work for me. Of course, this is all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve chosen.

Again in 2010, I was really blessed with a huge number of photo opportunities. On my hard drive in my 2010 folder, I have about 11,700 files (not all are photos), taking up 145GB of space. Of these:

  • 5997 of the 2010 images have been cataloged in Lightroom. Many of the rest are source images for multi-shot panoramas or HDRs, or high rate bursts that I selected from.
  • 1139 are rated 1 star or higher
  • 639 are 2 star or higher
  • 88 are 3 star or higher
  • 1 is 4 star, and
  • None are 5 star (I’m still not done taking photos yet!)

Of the 88 that are 3 star or higher, I’ve selected 10 images to include in a gallery of my favorite 2010 photos. You can click on each of these to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version. One interesting difference from my 2009  Favorite Photos post is that all the ones this year were made in the Central Florida area.

So, here we go…

My #10 favorite 2010 photo is: Waving Gator. Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving! No, I didn’t Photoshop the wave. The gator really did it all by itself. I have witnesses.

Momma gator guarding nest and 4 (blurry) babies

My #9 favorite 2010 photo is: Roadside Flowers. Wildflower photography is a little different in Central Florida than some other areas of the country. Some might say it’s more challenging here, and I doubt anyone comes to Central Florida specifically to photograph wildflowers. None the less, wildflower photo ops are around here too if you keep your eyes open. These are along the Florida Turnpike. I saw them while driving home from Gainesville, Florida and just had to stop and photograph them.

Roadside flowers (IMG_0713)

My #8 favorite 2010 photo is: Cattle Egret in Flight. For once, I was ready when this bird flew close by. Right lens, correct camera settings, and paying attention. I could almost feel my camera nail the shot. I wish I felt like that more often.

Cattle Egret in flight

My #7 favorite 2010 photo is: One Second Koi or “One second, Koi” or “One second Koi?” I don’t usually make this sort of photo. On this occasion, I decided to experiment and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

One Second Koi

My #6 favorite 2010 photo is: Sunrise, fog, palms, pond. This scene is close to the north-west shore of Lake Jessup. On this particular morning, the mist in the distance and the clouds on the horizon shaping the sunlight drew my attention.

Sunrise, fog, palms, pond

My #5 favorite 2010 photo is: Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands. We were at Orlando Wetlands Park back in late September before dawn. It was raining very softly, but not enough to discourage us from hiking out to Lake Searcy and capturing this scene. I like the light hitting the flowers on the left, the rain cloud in the distance, and the dawn colors in the sky.

Burning waters @ Orlando Wetlands

My #4 favorite 2010 photo is: Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

We have a local camera club and three of us decided to go over to the beach to try to photograph the Perseid meteor shower. My two friends went out on the beach while I stayed up on the boardwalk. At one point I looked down and could barely make out this scene in the dark. I like the way the camera’s LCD is lit up and draws the viewer’s eye to the two photographers. I also like how the three strangers (who were watching for meteors) look like they’re watching my friends.

I was using ISO 1600 and my “nifty 50” 50mm lens at f/1.8 to keep exposures as short as possible (I was trying to prevent the stars from trailing), and I had focused manually at infinity. All I had to do was switch on live-view, re-compose, and zoom in on my friend’s white shirt to manually re-focus. Fortunately no one moved very much during the 4 second exposure. It’s really amazing how modern cameras can capture scenes that are barely visible to our eyes! And yes, we did get a few meteor photos. (Grasshopper and Donuts are nicknames for the two photographers in the scene).

Grasshopper and Donuts perform photo-magic on the beach under the stars for an audience of three.

My #3 favorite 2010 photo is: Cyprus tree and knees. I wanted to try the Nikon D7000 on some landscape photos, but didn’t really have time to go anywhere special. This tree is very close to my home – along the shore of Lake Jessup in Central Winds Park. Cypress trees make very good photo subjects since they can provide both near and middle distance content for a scene.

Cyprus tree and knees

My #2 favorite 2010 photo is: Cormorant at the Circle Bar B. These birds have been posing for me lately. I think it’s amazing how pretty they look in the right light.

Cormorant

And … my #1 favorite photo of the year 2010 is: Ponce Inlet light, sunset, bird. Imagine if you will, a perfect dusk scene with sunset colors drifting up from beyond the horizon. In the distance is a photogenic lighthouse that’s illuminated just enough to make it stand out against the bright sky. Beneath your feet, slow-moving Atlantic Ocean surf rolls up on rocks. You spot a bird in the surf and hope it will be still while your shutter remains open for the seconds necessary to record the image as your mind’s eye sees it – tack sharp from foreground rocks all the way to the distant lighthouse, with silky smooth water reflecting the dusk sky. Imagine coming home and seeing the image that you imagined right there on your computer screen in all it’s glory. That’s what happened to me last August.

Ponce Inlet lighthouse, sunset, bird

I’ve uploaded these photos to this Flickr set, and you can click this link to watch a slide show. When you watch the show, you might want to click the “show info” link.

Thanks for looking.

All content ©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Circle B Bar Reserve – Lakeland, Florida

Intro / Description

This nature wonderland in Lakeland, Florida is named after a cattle ranch that used to exist on the property. It was purchased by Polk County and the SW Florida Water Management District in late 2000. The area is 1,267 acres total and starting in 2005, 400 acres have undergone a marsh reclamation to recreate a natural habitat and food source for many kinds of resident and migrating birds and wildlife. The Circle B is also home to the Polk County Nature Discovery Center.

Lake Hancock - western shore

The western shore of Lake Hancock (from the Alligator Alley trail)

Circle B has a tremendous variety and number of birds. Alligators also inhabit Lake Hancock and can be seen from the trails in several places. There are a variety of different areas on the property including Oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lake shore.

The Circle B has over 7 miles of marked trails for walking or biking. If you go, make sure you see at least the Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run trails. We hiked these as well as the Shady Oak, Windmill Whisper and portions of Wading Bird Way and Eagle Roost trails when we were there for a total hike of more than 5 miles.

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

In our one visit we saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Ibises, Cattle Egrets, Ospreys, Red Shoulder Hawks, Cormorants, Anhingas, Limpkins, Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, a very brave rabbit and some other things as well. One local photographer we spoke with told us about a Barred Owl in the area as well as some otters, but we never saw them. Next time!

Cormorant

Cormorant – These birds have been posing for me lately.

In addition to the wildlife, the scenery is quite beautiful and different from our normal areas near the coast. There were many types of trees and flowers, including this sunflower variety that was very abundant all over the property.

Marsh flower close up - sunflower?

These sunflowers (?) were all over the Circle B Bar Reserve – very pretty. I wonder if they bloom all the time or if we just happened to be there when they’re in season?

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

I’ve only been to the Circle B once, and need to go several more times to get an idea of how consistent the photo ops there are. If you have the kind of experience we did, you’ll have lots of opportunity for photos of still as well as in-flight birds. If you’re quiet as you walk, you can avoid scaring off the nearby birds and get some better shots. They are somewhat used to people here, but not overly tolerant. Make sure you look all around as you hike (especially up) and take an occasional glance behind to see if you’ve missed anything.

In addition to my photo set from the Circle B, visit the Circle B bar group on Flickr to see what others are photographing there and to read up on discussions about the reserve.

Tripod/Monopod:

Allowed, of course. Tripods would be very handy for landscape photos or (with a gimbal head) for birds. You’ll have to decide how much gear you’re willing to carry on your hike. Since this was a scouting trip, we traveled light and I wished several times that I’d brought my tripod.

Lenses:

Telephoto for birds / wildlife and and wide-angle for landscapes. You’ll need a good range of lenses to cover everything here, but you’ll be able to get some good photos no matter which lens you have with you.

Best time to visit:

As for any place when looking for birds and wildlife, early in the day (or late) is best. I’m not yet sure what times of year are the best here, but mid to late November is definitely worth a visit.

Other:

You’ll be walking a good bit. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring some water with you.

Summary

You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr, where you can also see a larger version.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625343566505/
Website: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/circlebbarreserve.html
Address / Phone: 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540)

Lakeland, FL 33803

(View in Google maps)

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Another CFl Photo Op must do!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Sunrise, Otter, Eagle, Cormorants, Raccoon – a nice morning at Viera Wetlands

I’m coming down with another cold and wasn’t very enthusiastic about going to Viera Wetlands yesterday. Actually, “not very enthusiastic” is a big understatement. I almost didn’t get out of bed – but now I’m glad I did.

We had to leave at “O dark thirty” to get to the west side of the wetlands just before sunrise. I wanted to try the D7000 out on landscapes and it performed very well. The image below is a single exposure of the sunrise. I don’t care too much for silhouettes – I like to have some detail and color in the shadows. For this one, I exposed at -2 EV to prevent blowing out the sky and then brought up the shadows in post processing. The D7000 recorded a very broad dynamic range and has remarkably little noise in the shadows at base ISO, even when under exposed. This real world example, along with the the results from the recent DxOMark test of the D7000 indicate it’s going to be a very fine landscape camera. The only problem is that I don’t have a very wide lens for it.

Sunrise at Viera WetlandsSunrise at Viera Wetlands, D7000, ISO 100, 1/100 sec. @ f/11, 16 mm

As we were photographing the sunrise, an otter swam by right in front of us just past those reeds (about 8 – 10 feet away). That’s the closest one’s ever come to me in the wild. Of course, I didn’t have the right camera set up so I didn’t get a photo. I think the otter knew that, and swam by just to tease us. We saw it a couple more times but could never get a shot off. Those things are quick. And black. And hard to photograph.

After the sun was up, we drove around the wetlands and came up on this:

Bald EagleBald Eagle on dead tree, D7000, ISO 320, 1/500sec. @ f/8, 500 mm

This eagle was just surveying the area. I did get a few images when it flew off, but none blog worthy. I need more Birds in Flight practice, especially at 500mm!

The sun was up, but still low in the sky as we saw some cormorants sitting on a viewing platform. The light was hitting this one just right to show off the detail in his dark feathers.

CormorantCormorant, D7000, ISO 220, 1/500 sec. @ f/8, 500 mm

Here’s one more photo I want to show you. This little fellow was digging around in the reeds along with several birds. I’m not sure what they were after, but it might have been snails – we saw a lot of them yesterday. This image is a good example of the D7000 at ISO 1600. Very usable with minimal noise.

Rocky RacoonRocky Raccoon, D7000, ISO 1600, 1/500sec. @ f/9, 500 mm

Today I feel a bit worse, so I’m glad I went out yesterday. Hopefully I’ll start feeling better tomorrow.

Note: you can click on any of these to go to Flickr where you can see a larger version. You can see more of my Viera Wetlands photos in this set.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Three Topic Post

I’m going to depart from my usual practice of one subject per post and include three different ones in today’s entry.

  1. Photos and information on a visit to Gatorland, yesterday.
  2. An update on this blog after three years of publication
  3. A political comment

Feel free to read the portion you’re interested in, or indulge me and look at all three.

1. Gatorland May Day Update

If you haven’t yet visited Gatorland this year, now is still a great time.  Yesterday morning, I decided to drive down there to see how the rookery is progressing through nesting season.  We’ve  had a cold winter in Florida and as a result, the birds are about a month behind the normal schedule. The last time I visited (in March), it was mostly the great egrets building nests, courting, and sitting on eggs. Yesterday the Great Egrets were still very active (many with large chicks), but there are also Cattle Egrets, Tri-Colored Herons, Anhingas, and Cormorants all very actively fulfilling the purpose of life.

By the way, have you looked lately at the Gatorland blog that Mike Godwin writes ?  He’s posted a report on the current nesting activity (sorry – no longer available), with a lot of detail and photos.  There’s also an active Gatorland Flickr group and looking at the photos posted there on any given day can give you a real good idea of what’s going on.

Here’s some of what I saw yesterday:

Pair of Great Egret chicks in nest
Pair of Great Egret chicks in nest: You can get an idea of how far along the Great Egrets are by the size of this cute pair.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret: This one was hiding in the brush, but still posing.  The Cattle Egrets seem to be just getting started with a lot of nest-building going on.

Mother Cormorant with just hatched chicks

Mother Cormorant with just hatched chicks:  Not a great photo, but you can see the chicks beside the very protective mother.  Their eyes were not yet open and there was another un-hatched egg in the nest, so they had to be only hours old.

Common Moorhen Chick
Common Moorhen Chick: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a moorhen chick before, but I have to admit I haven’t been paying that much attention to this species.  They’re very common in the area.

Wood Storks and chicks on nests
Wood Storks and chicks on nests: Mike Godwin is a great host at Gatorland.  He made sure we knew where these nests were so we could photograph them.  There were two right next to each other and they were very crowded and active.

You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr.  You can also take a look at my Gatorland set on Flickr for some other photos from yesterday (the last nine in the set) as well as from previous visits.

2. Happy Birthday, Blog!

My first post was on the 4th of May, 2007, so it will be three years old on Tuesday.  Not a long time in absolute terms, but more than a lifetime for some in “internet years”.

The blog has morphed a bit since then.  Originally it was just a place to share my photos, photo experiences, and talk about photo related ideas. I still do that, but I’ve added a theme around all of this:  I try to find interesting places around here to make photographs and then post blog entries including links to information about the places as well as some hints on what’s there and how to photograph it.  My hope is that this will be interesting to photo enthusiasts visiting the area as well as people who live here.  I know I’ve looked for similar blogs when I travel.

With this one, there are a total of 89 posts so far which is an average of about two per month, although lately I’ve been doing pretty well keeping up with my goal of one post each week.  Of these, 45 are tagged “CFL Photo ops”, about photo opportunities in the area.

As near as I can tell from my server logs (and disregarding spam and robots), I seem to modestly successful – at least some people are reading what I write. If I’m interpreting the CyStats log correctly, I have over 100 RSS subscribers, and about 10 – 30 visitors on average each day. They are from multiple countries, which is really nice.  The most visitors I’ve had in a single day was close to 200 early this year after Jim Goldstein posted his “best photos of 2009” entry on his blog.  Thanks, Jim!  The most viewed page is the main page, with the My Favorite Photos of 2009 post coming in second.

The most used browser, by a slim margin is Internet Explorer (~51%), followed by Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, etc.  Many people still use IE version 6.0.  If that’s you – update!  Modern browsers are much more capable and secure.

Recent, frequent external search terms include things like: “focus bracketing”, “gatorland photographers”, “central florida photos”, “orlando bird photography”, “alligator farm orlando”, “orlando photo ops”, “photographing birds in central flordia”, “good area to photograph fl”, “central florida places to photo”, “wildflower photography in florida”, “photographing birds in central florida”, “photographing wildlife in central florida”, and “ed rosack”.  I’m pleased that people are finding my blog with those search terms.

Of course, I’m my most loyal reader. I’ve enjoy writing it, but I also really enjoy going back and reading it and looking at the photos. I guess it really is a blog in the sense of a personal journal.

And what’s up with all the weird spam comments?  Do they really think I’ll let those through?  Would anybody?  Why do they keep sending them?

I don’t really have any plans to change the blog going forward.  However, I’d really like to figure out how to encourage more genuine comment and interaction.  And, I’m always open to your ideas and suggestions.  Especially for places around here to visit!

3. Warning – Politics Ahead

Caution – I apologize, but this paragraph is political.  It does relate to photography and nature in general.  Read at your own risk.

As I wrote down the words in topic one above about witnessing nature in all its glory, I couldn’t help but think a great deal about the gulf coast shoreline and what is beginning to happen there to countless birds, their chicks, and other wildlife from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  The impact on people who are continuing to recover from hurricane Katrina will be an additional nightmare still to come.  And the news this morning reports that it will eventually reach the east coast of Florida too as the Gulf Stream current spreads the spill.

The scope of this disaster is unprecedented – and it was a remote possibility.  We can’t jump to conclusions yet, but complacency and the bottom line during the design of this oil drilling rig sure do seem to be causing great damage.  I wonder how many of the decisions that were made in the design were probably financial in nature and not based on the worst case outcome, which by the way is occurring?  The platform was either not designed or not built to preclude or handle it.

I also wonder if there are engineering memos or PowerPoint slides somewhere warning of this type of consequence if the design went forward as planned?  I wonder how many fail safes in the well shut off valve didn’t fail safe and instead just failed due to shoddy workmanship or poor design?  I wonder how the engineers that designed, built, and tested the equipment on that well feel today?  I wonder how their management can sleep at night?  I wonder how long British Petroleum will take to bring the well leak under control?  And I wonder how they will ever undo the damage they’ve done.

So far there are no answers, only questions.  And thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico every hour of every day.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.