The light was unusual about 15 minutes before sunrise . I don’t think I’ve encountered anything like it before.
Strange light at dawn by the dock (3)
There were only a few clouds near the horizon. The sky was much brighter than the river and things on it. So bright that I knew it would be hard to capture the dynamic range in the scene. I went ahead and started photographing anyway.
Strange light at dawn by the dock (1)
That light lasted about fifteen minutes. I tried single frames, bracketing, and hi / low panoramas to capture it. When I got home and looked at the files, nothing had recorded the whole dynamic range. In hindsight, maybe I could have done a little better by bracketing with a wider set of exposures, or using exposure compensation to lower the overall brightness of the brackets. But I didn’t think of doing that then. I hope I remember next time.
It seems that my frames wanted to be high key, so I processed them for detail in the foreground and let the sky blow out. In the end, I like how they look.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And make some photos – even in strange light.
One of the great things about photography is that it gets you up and out there. You may not see anything if you go – but if you don’t go you definitely won’t ever see anything. Here are a few photos of what I saw around Central Florida this week.
I made this first one about a half hour before dawn along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The low tide had uncovered these rocks, so I used my ultra wide-angle, rectilinear lens and lowered my tripod to emphasize them. This is a single exposure, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. I also tried out the new Topaz Clarity filter. It seems to do a good job enhancing contrast without introducing halos.
The word “parhelion” comes from the Greek for “beside the sun”. They’re also called sundogs and are always 22 degrees away from and at the same elevation as the sun. They’re most visible when the sun is low and the sky is darker – dawn or dusk. I like to watch for them and I thought it was nice of this kayaker to pose with one for me. I was lucky that I’d already shifted to my long lens to make bird photos. I needed the reach for this composition.
Early start – Kayak fisherman paddling underneath a sundog.
There were several dolphins also fishing in this area. I could see the fish jumping and the dolphins seemed to catch a lot of them.
I stopped by Orlando Wetlands Park briefly and it was very scenic despite the cloud cover. I liked the pathways the birds made through the vegetation in this scene.
Morning marsh – A cloudy morning in Orlando Wetlands, just after dawn
This time of year, there’s not as much bird activity as in the spring. Orlando Wetlands was pretty quiet and so was MINWR. But there are still some regulars around and it’s nice to watch their antics.
Killdeer nest on the ground. When a predator gets close, they pretend to have a broken wing and try to draw the predator away from the nest. I watched this one perform and when it finished it turned around to peek back at me and check if it was working. It did – I didn’t bother its nest.
Killdeer checks me out
I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the remains of this dock on the right side of the causeway leading into MINWR – but I never noticed it before. When I was leaving the other day, I finally saw it. It was a quick thing, almost subconscious. I actually drove on by before I processed what I saw and turned around. I’m very glad I stopped – it doesn’t look like it will last much longer. By the time I made this photo, the light was pretty bright. I used a neutral density filter to slow down my shutter speed and tried several focal lengths / compositions. I like this one the best. A B&W conversion using Nik Silver Effects seemed to fit the scene. In the future, I need to be more observant. What else is out there I’ve missed?
This is a truly great time of year to visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve gone over for the last two weekends. As I mentioned in my previous post, I took Lynn, Mary, and Monette there last Sunday – we had a great time and spotted lots of birds. I told Kevin M. about it and he insisted we go back yesterday with Kevin K.
Why is it so good over there now? I’m glad you asked! The number and types of birds in and around Black Point Wildlife Drive are probably the greatest I’ve ever seen. There are both regular species and winter visitors. Ducks are there in huge numbers, both in the water and flying overhead in vast formations close enough that the sound of their beating wings is quite loud. The larger wading and shorebirds are also there in force. On both days, there were feeding frenzies going on in ponds along BPWD. The water is full of minnows and the birds are feasting on them.
Black Point Wildlife Drive Feeding Frenzy Video
By the way, this situation is an ideal set up to practice your BIF (birds in flight) photography. Here’s a photo I made at this same pond, showing an egret with one of the minnows.
Snowy Egret with minnow
And here’s a close-up of the minnows in the water. No wonder the birds are going crazy!
The reason for the festive gathering (photo by Kevin McKinney)
On these two days, we saw close to 40 different types of wildlife. And I’m sure there were others I either didn’t see, didn’t recognize or forgot. Here’s a partial list:
Alligator, Cows, Deer, Manatee
Ducks: American Wigeon, Blue Wing Teals, Hooded Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler
Egrets: Cattle, Great, Reddish, and Snowy
Herons: Great Blue, Green, Little blue, and Tri-color
Ibis: Glossy, and White
Pie billed grebe
Red Bellied woodpecker
Ring billed Gull
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Cruising White Pelican – a winter migrant to our area
So two wonderful visits, although we did have some disappointments. We looked for Florida Scrub Jays and didn’t see them in the normal spot. And the sunrise photos on both days were a challenge. Here’s what it looked like yesterday:
One thing that’s really wonderful about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is that it’s such a large and varied area. Even if the main attractions (like Black Point Wildlife Drive) are slow, you can still find plenty to see and photograph in other areas. And the surroundings offer some very scenic Florida landscapes.
I visited once again Saturday morning with fellow Photography Interest Group member Kevin M. We stopped as we normally do at a likely spot on the way for a sunrise photo. This was the scene at Rotary Riverfront Park, just north of highway 50 on US 1. There’s a pier leading to a set of docks that offer many different compositions. It’s a beautiful place and although several people showed up to watch the sun rise, I was the first out on the pier – and felt a little bad when I disturbed a couple that had slept on one of the benches at the end.
Dawn in Titusville, Florida: There were several people enjoying the view from Rotary Riverfront Park, across from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). I tried my new Hoya ND400 neutral density filter and I like the way it works. If you haven’t used something similar, you should. It’s one way to make your photos stand out.
When we left and headed to Black Point, the clouds you see in the distance turned into rain, which fell off and on in spots for an hour or so. This made for “ISO 2000 light”, which means it was dim for good bird photography. It turns out that didn’t matter too much, since the birds were few and far between. We did see a few of the normal species: Anhingas, Belted Kingfishers, Cormorants, Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, Redish, Great and Snowy Egrets, Grebes, Moorhens, some unidentified ducks in the distance, and a few shore birds. The water there was very high – maybe the highest I’ve seen it. I wonder if this is related to the bird count or not?
After Black Point, we decided to try a new area and stopped by Hammock Trails. These take off in two directions from the parking area and wander through some hardwood trees as well as typical Florida pines and palms. We were hoping to see a few migrant Warblers, but had no luck. I’m not a very good birder – although I heard a few, I didn’t see a single one along these trails. I did come across this railroad track, which I thought made a good subject:
Leading to separation – Train tracks crossing Hammock Trail in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is a Black & White conversion of a bracketed, Infra Red, Panorama
Our last stop of the day was the Visitor Center. Since our annual pass is expiring, we wanted to renew. We arrived at about 9:30. They don’t open until 10, so we wandered around for a bit.
Carolina Wren – Sighted along the boardwalk at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
There wasn’t any activity at the bird feeder, but we could hear several birds on the boardwalk. We ended up seeing a Carolina Wren, a pair of Cardinals, a Black and White Warbler, and a Red Eyed Vireo, and I’m guessing there were others we didn’t see. The ranger mentioned White Eyed Vireos and we’ve seen them there in the past.
So we watched a nice sunrise, and even though the birds were scarce at a couple of areas, we ended up with some interesting avian sightings, and enjoyed being out. All in all, a very good morning.