Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired. Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too. It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together. Much too long!
We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise. Riding together is great for catching up with friends!
Dawn on the Indian River
Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped. Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.
We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.
We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones. This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;
And so was this Tri-colored Heron:
… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):
We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point. The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road. I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.
And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.
One more (small, kind of sad) story. We saw two pigs at Black Point. The second was along the canal near the exit. I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed. I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo. It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor. I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I found this scene while driving down Biolab Road along the Indian River in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago. The composition with three posts and a full complement of Cormorants caught my attention. I really liked the graphical layout. But…
I was shooting into the sun and the light was incredibly bright and harsh. I struggled with the image and processed it two or three times without coming up with anything that I was happy with.
Then I vaguely recalled this photo that I made 10 years ago.
I dug it out of my Lightroom archives and remembered how much I liked the image. It’s from about the same location and in very similar conditions. I used it to guide my post processing decisions and the result is the the image at the top.
I guess the moral of this story is that you can find inspiration from many places – even from your younger self. Which seems like a very good thing.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
This morning, we’re waiting to see what Hurricane Irma is going to do and it looks like it might pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. It’s hard to imagine the damage that could result.
Lynn and I returned from the Florida Keys a week ago. We spent a couple of days in Key West and then were lucky enough to stay in one of the 6 cabins at Bahia Honda State Park for 3 more days. They’re built on stilts but even so are only about 10 -15 feet above the ocean. And we felt them swaying at times while we were there – even in good weather.
The cabins are on the right side of the overseas highway as you head down to the keys. They’re furnished with everything you need for a great Florida vacation. And the location on a beautiful lagoon is wonderful. These next three photos were all made on the patio, just a few steps from the cabin door:
Loggerhead Sea Turtle – The ranger told us that turtles, dolphin, and tarpon like the lagoon because it’s so quiet and protected. We’d see one or more of Loggerheads from the cabin porch almost every time we stepped out to look. We also saw Tarpon rolling on the surface a few times and maybe a dolphin or two.
Sunset Fishing – You can fish in the lagoon by the cabins, but other water activity isn’t allowed. We often saw campers fishing there.
Another view from the cabin porch. The skies at Bahia Honda are some of the darkest in Florida. Lynn and I got up at about 1:30am on our first night. The moon had set and we had a stunning view of this part of the Milky Way, right from the patio. And the bugs weren’t biting too much!
The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is about 8 miles southwest of Bahia Honda and snorkeling trips leave for the reef twice a day. It was a relaxing swim – the water temperature was in the high 80’s, which can cause storms to strengthen.
Looe Key Sergeant majors and others – The visibility wasn’t very good the day were were there, but the number of fish we saw was still impressive.
There are also 72 campsites in the Park. Many of them are in awesome locations too.
Between the bridges – This is at sunset, between the old abandoned bridge on the left and the new one on the right. You can see some of the lovely Bahia Honda campsites on the left side of the frame.
Lynn and I thought of this visit to Bahia Honda as a “scouting trip”. Based on what we saw, we definitely want to go back.
To everyone in Irma’s path and to everyone impacted by Harvey: We’re thinking of you.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – stay safe in the storm!
One of the first birds we watched was a Redish Egret fishing close to shore. It’s great fun to see these birds dance and pounce.
Reddish Egret and Minnow
I had the Olympus E-M1 Mark II with me and practiced with the “Pro Capture” mode (I brought the right lens this time). This really helps you catch a decisive moment – it’s almost cheating. You’d better have a large card in your camera and time to go through all the images, though. I used low-speed and still had way too many frames. Here’s one example:
Wood Stork and Minnow
There were a huge number of White Pelicans and they treated us to “air ballet shows” all morning.
Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swimming in the canal near the road. These were about two feet long.
And there were more gators visible than usual. They look well fed – perhaps they’ve been after those large fish. These monsters stay so still that you can take your time and make a stitched panorama of them. Unless they’re chasing you 🙂
We also spotted Belted Kingfishers, a Bald Eagle, Osprey, several varieties of duck, a wild pig, and many other interesting things.
I was at the Cocoa Beach Pier last Thursday morning with Tom M. People were fishing in the surf and the Snook were running. We watched two large ones caught in just a few minutes and someone told us they’d caught eight so far. It was easy to see that the fishermen were having a great time. Their concentration when casting and excitement when they hooked one was obvious.
A little later, this gentleman wandered over. I only had to move a little to place him in the middle of the reflection from the clouds and sunrise.
Fishing up a storm
I had a good time photographing that morning, but it seemed like the fishing was much more enjoyable. Maybe I should bring fishing gear when I go out with a camera.
Let’s go fishing! Two fishermen head out before dawn.
I’ve made this kind of photo before – you can see some examples in this set on Flickr. I think this one turned out better than my earlier tries. I used a different approach and because it’s been a while since I’ve written a “behind the scenes / how-to post”, I thought I’d fill you in on how I made this.
The boat ramp at this little park where SR 520 crosses the St. Johns River is pretty busy around dawn. It seems to be a popular place for fishermen to put in. I waited several times while they cleared my frame and the water calmed down before I could make my next exposure. So I decided to make an image that included a boat.
It’s a challenging shot. I wanted to capture the intense sunrise colors so I had to be careful not to over expose and blow out the sky. I also wanted some detail in the boat, so I needed to over expose there a bit, but still minimize motion blur. At sunrise, I normally use a low ISO for the best quality image, and a small aperture for good depth of field. This results in a long shutter speed, which is bad for photographing moving boats. And if I want to bracket and use multiple frame HDR to capture the huge contrast range in the scene – that’s even worse for moving boat photography. So how did I make this image? Glad you asked!
The secret is to carefully capture two frames and blend them together by hand. The first frame is exposed for the boat: I used a high ISO and a wide open aperture to get my shutter speed as fast as possible, and I overexposed slightly to capture a little shadow detail in the boat and in the vegetation on the shore. With my camera set and on a tripod, I composed and waited for the next boat to get to the right point in the frame. Here’s that RAW file:
The second frame was my main exposure and I wanted it to be the best quality possible. I also wanted to slightly under expose to capture color and detail in the sky. I waited until the boat was gone and the water was calm again and then made this exposure:
When I got home, I preprocessed the two raw files using identical color balance and paying careful attention to noise reduction (especially on the higher ISO frame with the boat). I’ve used DxO Optics Pro lately when I want the best RAW conversion. It does a wonderful job on both lens corrections and noise reduction for supported equipment. After a few tweaks to exposure in each file, I brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.
The next thing to deal with was the boat. Even though I’d pushed my shutter speed as high as I thought I could, 1/20 second still left a little motion blur visible. The “Filters / Sharpen / Smart Sharpen” command in Photoshop has a “Remove Motion Blur” option and I’ve found that it works well in situations like this where the direction of motion is known. I used it selectively on a duplicate layer to enhance detail in the boat. Here are before and after crops at 200%. I think it’s a nice improvement:
Next I used layer masks to blend the multiple frames together. I worked carefully around the boat and painted it into the main / second frame. I like a little detail in my shadows instead of a straight silhouette. Since I’d slightly overexposed the first frame (and was careful with noise reduction) I painted some of that into the vegetation. Here’s the first merged result:
The only filter I used on this was Topaz Clarity – I like the way it increases mid-tone contrast without adding halos.
After selective sharpening on a separate layer, I returned to Lightroom for final adjustments (black and white points, vignette, etc) to get the first image in this post.
I struggled some with the cropping. I tried a 16×9 aspect ratio, but because I wanted to keep all the sky, I thought the horizon ended up too close to the center. I decided to keep the original composition since the dark water at the bottom holds my eye in the frame. I might play with it some more.
I like how it turned out and I hope you do too. I also hope the info helps with your photography. If you have any questions on details or other photography related things, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I stopped by C. S. Lee Park on SR 46 in Geneva yesterday morning with Kevin, Kevin and Lutfi to photograph the sunrise. There weren’t a lot of clouds but it was still pretty – and some obliging fishermen were kind enough to point their wake into the scene for us.
Hurry, the fish are biting! C. S. Lee Park, Geneva, Florida
We were on our way over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin M. uses the Audubon Birds of North America app, which has links to bird sightings on eBird. With this, you can search for nearby birds, activity at birding hotspots, and even see reports of recent notable and rare bird sightings. Using the app, he discovered that Wilson’s Pharalopes were on Bio-lab road last week, so we decided to try to spot them.
The Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is a small wading bird and the largest of the phalaropes. Normally it breeds on the North American prairies and in the western US. It is migratory, but according to iBird, isn’t often found in Florida, so this was a rare chance to see it.
Wilson’s Phalarope pair. Bio-lab Road, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
It was fun to see another Wilson bird yesterday: the Wilson’s Plover . These are also waders and breed on both US coasts from the equator northwards. Its common range does include Florida.
Wilson’s Plover. Bio-lab Road, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
I’d seen a Wilson’s Snipe before and now with these sightings I started wondering who this Wilson fellow was. Alexander Wilson was a Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator. He’s regarded as the greatest American ornithologist prior to Audubon. Several birds are named after him, including the three I already mentioned and the Wilson’s Storm-petrel, and Wilson’s Warbler. The warbler genus Wilsonia was also named for him. In 1802 Wilson decided to publish a book illustrating all the North American birds. The result was the nine-volume American Ornithology, with 268 species of birds, 26 of which hadn’t been described.
On our trip, we also saw Alligators, Belted Kingfishers, Green Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and many kinds of gulls and shore birds on Bio-lab Road. We drove through Black Point Wildlife Drive too, but there wasn’t as much going on there.
So this trip provided an incentive to clear out some of my birding ignorance and now I know a bit about another great American ornithologist. You can see more MINWR photos here and here, and birds photos here and here. And I have a some more Florida landscape / sunrise photos here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
At 310 miles, the St. Johns is the longest river in Florida. It’s one of the few rivers in the US that flow from south to north. Near Orlando it forms the dividing line between Seminole and Volusia counties, and it’s a favorite destination for fishermen, boaters, and folks on jet skis. It should be a favorite destination for photographers, too.
Vince invited Tom and I out on his boat for a photo expedition a while back. We finally took him up on his offer a couple of weeks ago. We were up early, put in near the I-4 bridge right around dawn, and motored north.
There’s a rule of thumb about sunrise and sunset. The rule of thumb is that there’s no rule of thumb telling you when the good colors / conditions will occur. You have to hang around and keep making photographs until you’re sure the show is over. The next photo is a good example of this rule (or is it a lack of rules?):
The St. Johns River near Blue Springs
When we first got out on the river around sunrise (~7am), there was some color in the sky, but nothing spectacular. About an hour later the conditions were quite different and much more photogenic.
This image is a 5 frame panorama that I merged in Photoshop. I made the exposures hand-held from a moving boat, so they weren’t aligned all that well. In post, I first ran all 5 RAW frames through Lightroom and adjusted several parameters identically, including color balance, lens profile, and camera profile. Then I moved to Photoshop to do the merge. After that, I worked on it a little more to take a small curve out of the shoreline, and then used Topaz Denoise 5 to selectively reduce the residual noise that you could see in the full res version. The last step was to add a duplicate layer and run it through Topaz Adjust 4. Back in Photoshop, I modified the transparency of the resulting layer and the strength of the Topaz filter. I also selectively erased portions of the Topaz layer until I liked the result.
Info for Photographers
Photo hints: We saw many kinds of birds and several alligators. But the wild life doesn’t like power boats very much. We had a hard time getting close to any of the birds, and alligators would see or hear us coming and submerge long before we got close to them. If you have time, you might try coasting in from a longer distance – but that could take a while and we didn’t try it so I can’t tell you whether it will help. You can also look for alligators on docks. They don’t seem to be as skittish when they’re out sunning themselves. In fact, they seem quite friendly.
Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!
Tripod/Monopod: They won’t do you much good on a moving boat, so save yourself some trouble and don’t bring them unless you’re going ashore.
Lenses: The boat motion will also make hand holding a long lens difficult, so don’t bother bringing really long glass either. Instead, carry your wide angle lens and maybe a short telephoto or zoom.
Best time to visit: Early in the morning on a calm day before the other boats show up. The water should be calm, undisturbed, and very scenic. And you can get some photography in before it gets too hot.
Other: There are several places to stop and eat along the river. If you want to grab lunch ashore, do some research first. Also, if you don’t have a friend with a boat, don’t let that stop you. Nearly every marina we passed had pontoon and house boats for rent.
By the way, if you’re visiting Florida you may not know that it’s probably not a very good idea to swim in the river. The alligator in the photo above was about 5 feet long. It (along with some much larger relatives) lives in the river. We also occasionally have people infected with water-borne diseases (such as amoebic meningoencephalitis), although that usually occurs in lake water.
We had a great time and were very grateful to Vince for taking us out. I got a photo or two that I really like.
Lynn and I have been visiting Casey Key on the Gulf coast of Florida for many years and last weekend Mary joined us for another very pleasant stay over Labor Day.
Casey Key is a barrier island created by the intracoastal waterway and is south of Sarasota and just north of Venice. It lies partially in the city of Nokomis, Florida and is an easy drive that’s about 2 hours from Orlando via I-4 and I-75.
It’s a very wealthy community with very little commercial development and consists mostly of high end homes. There are a few small beach hotels near the southern end. We stayed at the Gulf Sands Beach Resort, which is an older place located right on the beach.
Info for Photographers
Casey Key is very scenic and would be a good place to hold a workshop on sunset photography. The three nights we were there, they ranged from very nice to spectacular. Here is one photo I made with some fairly prominent sun dogs visible.
Photo hints: We don’t normally go to the Gulf coast for surfing since the water is usually calm and clear. In the past I’ve seen it as clear as a swimming pool, so it’s often a wonderful place for snorkeling. Anticipating this, I brought my Canon G9 and underwater housing. But I didn’t get to use them much this time because the waves were pretty high (for the Gulf) and the water was murky. I think it’s still stirred up from recent tropical storms passing through.
Casey Key itself has the best view to the west so get ready for some very nice sunset photos. The scenery to the east consists mostly of housing. You may get some color in the morning clouds to the west if you watch for it. You might also want to try a sunrise photo from the jetty area.
For sunsets, set up early and stay late since the color often changes after the sun goes down. This is easy to do if you have a place right on the beach. You may also want to go back out later for some night shots. The night sky to the west will be fairly dark and allow you to get some stars in your exposure. Vary your foreground, the height of your camera, and your lens field of view to create some different looks.
You’ll also see a variety of birds. We saw pelicans, gulls, Great Blue Herons, and several other species during our visit.
Bird watching me – a seagull at Casey Key
Tripod/Monopod: You can get by without a tripod, but having one will give you much more flexibility. I tried some High Dynamic Range photography and was glad I had my tripod.
Lenses: You’ll appreciate a wide angle lens for sunset and landscape photos. My most used lens was the 16-35mm wide angle. You might also want to bring a longer lens too for the birds on the beach and nearby.
Best time to visit: Anytime (when the tropical outlook is calm).
If you like to fish, you can do so from the beach and also from the north jetty which is a very short drive to the south end of the key. I once caught a very nice snook from this jetty, but had to let it go because the season ended the day before.
Three Fishermen: A Great Blue Heron stalks two humans, waiting for a handout.
There are many shells on the beach at Casey Key, so walking can be a bit rough for a city tenderfoot. You might want to bring something to walk in. And you definitely should walk the beach. You’ll find many pretty shells as well as sharks teeth there.
Here are some other things that are close to Casey Key. If you can stay a bit longer, you might want to check them out:
Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida is a private resort with beautiful clear water. Take your snorkel and underwater camera.
The Venice Rookery is a few miles south. This is a small island in a small pond and hosts many species during nesting season. If you’re there in the spring, be sure to stop by.
First, I want to wish all readers of this humble photo blog a very
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Second, this year your devoted author has decided to join the growing tradition where photo blogs post a collection of their favorite photos from the year.
To accomplish this, I’ve gone through the photos I made in 2009 and used Lightroom to rate them from 0 through 5 stars. The rating system I’ve adopted is as follows:
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 ) a given 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’ll keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. Since adopting this rating system, I’ve tried to use it consistently. Before this I would rate images, but the meaning of the ratings would vary. As far as what they mean now, it’s all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve chosen.
I was really blessed in 2009 with a huge number of photo opportunities. On my hard drive in my 2009 folder, I have about 16,000 images, taking up 164GB of space (I shoot mostly in RAW). Of these:
3804 of the images have been cataloged in Lightroom. Many of the remainder are source images for multi-shot panoramas or HDRs, or high rate bursts that I selected from.
1084 are rated 1 star or higher
692 are 2 star or higher
75 are 3 star or higher
1 is 4 star, and
None are 5 star (I’m not done taking photos yet!)
Of the 692 that are 2 star or higher, I’ve selected 44 (mostly 3 star) images to include in a gallery of my favorite 2009 photos. You’ve seen many of these photos in this blog, already. But where it made sense, I re-processed them to try and improve them. Here are the top ten. You can click on each of these to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version.
My #10 favorite photo is: Great Blue Heron in flight. This heron didn’t like me aiming my camera at it. It’s making a lot of noise as it leaves the area. I was able to pan with its motion to get a sharp shot.
My #9 favorite photo is: Ketchikan harbor. The trawler Isis, a house in the background, and the parked float plane are very representative of Alaska.
My #7 favorite photo is: Glacier Bay Sunrise, A dawn panorama heading in to Glacier Bay National Park.
My #6 favorite photo is: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in flight. We saw this unusual and photogenic duck at Orlando Wetlands Park.
My #5 favorite photo is: Lake Lily Park tree and bird at dawn. Sometimes you go out specifically to photograph. Other times you go out just carrying your camera. It’s exciting to me when I find a photo like this one while I’m just out carrying my camera. The light on this Cyprus tree caught my eye as we walked around the Lily Lake one Saturday morning looking at their flea market. The bird in the middle distance was a bonus.
My #4 favorite photo is: Black Point Wildlife Drive: Wide angle, winter dawn. On this particular morning, it was hard coming up with any good photo inspiration for the sunrise. There were no clouds, not much color in the sky, not a lot of interesting landscape detail, no cooperating wildlife, the wind was blowing pretty hard, etc. This palm tree had an interesting vine growing in it that was pointing back toward the road, so I made it the subject of the picture and violated all the composition rules by putting it way off too one side. To me, the road leading past the tree could represent the last part of the long journey of exploration and learning that led to being able to make this photo in this place at this time. The road is empty because each person’s journey is unique. Oh, and BPWD just happens to be a one way road – toward the photographer. The somewhat surreal colors come from a program called “Photomatix” that will “tone map” multiple, bracketed exposures. Anyway, I liked it too.
My #3 favorite photo is: Gorilla watching people, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney’s Wild Kingdom.
My #2 favorite photo is: Breaching humpback, off shore from Juneau, Alaska. In the full res version, the two white dots in tree to the upper left behind the whale are bald eagles.
And … my #1 favorite photo of the year is: Ship, water, glacier, rock. A multiple shot panorama showing Johns Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park from the cruise ship MS Westerdam. The full res version of this photo is 7747 x 4716 pixels = 36.5 megapixels.
I’ve posted a gallery of all 44 images on my website at www.edrosack.com/BO09. I’ve also uploaded them to this Flickr set, and you can click this link to watch a slide show at Flickr. When you watch the show, you might want to click the “show info” link.