Although there’s no official definition, Wikipedia’s article about Central Florida (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Florida) says Jacksonville is outside the region. I also consider it to be outside the region – it’s such a long drive and I seldom go up there. But there are a great many photo ops around the city and it’s well worth exploring.
Our first stop (other than breakfast!) was at the Fort Caroline National Memorial, which was one of the first French settlements in America (around 1562). The rangers were setting up to serve National Park birthday cake when we were there. The rain started coming down pretty hard and I’m trying to control calories, so we moved on.
Fort Caroline rampart. Along the St. Johns river near Jacksonville, Florida.
I haven’t used my infrared camera for a while and brought it along this time. Most of the photos I liked best from this trip were IR. Kingsley Plantation is a well preserved / restored example of pre-Civil War Florida homesteads. Zephaniah Kingsley moved there in 1814. The site does a good job describing life during those times, including the use of slave labor to produce cotton, citrus, sugar cane, and corn. Tours inside the plantation house are by reservation only and were full so we’ll have to see that next time.
Kingsley Plantation – main house. 5 frame infrared panorama
A Kettle of vultures around Amelia Island Light. I combined birds from several infrared exposures to capture as many of the birds as possible in my image.
You get to Cumberland National Seashore via ferry from Saint Marys, Georgia. The ferry’s also by reservation and runs only twice a day, so if you want to spend time on Cumberland Island, plan in advance. I wandered down the street while MK and Lynn finished in the gift shop and found this interesting old building.
An old building in St. Marys, Georgia, across from the ferry dock. Single infrared exposure.
This was a long drive from Winter Springs, but well worth it. We have lots of ideas for where to go back and spend more time.
Lynn was out-of-town last week at the Pressing Iron & Trivet Collectors of America Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. I talked her into letting me out of my spousal support services subcontract, so I had a chance to sneak in a few days of photography while she was away. I spent the time in St. Augustine, Florida, which is “the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States”. I’ve written about it many times (see this link) and it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. Photo ops abound and include landscapes, architecture, street scenes, beaches, historic landmarks, wildlife, and much more. It’s hard to go anywhere in the area and not come back with a photo! Here are some of mine along with hints on how I made them.
There are some wonderful sunrise and sunset spots. Friends told me about Marineland Beach (thanks Kevin M. and JT) which is just a little south of St. Augustine. It’s now one of my new favorites. The coquina rocks there worked really well as foreground objects in my photos.
Long exposure sunrise – Marineland Beach, Florida
This is a single exposure, made through a Hoya ND400 filter right after sunrise. The waves were coming in around me, but I stood my tripod on one of the rocks to keep us dry. I used my lowest ISO setting (50) and even with the sun in the frame, the 8 2/3 stop ND filter gave me a 14 second exposure at f/8 . The long shutter speed makes the water surface contrast nicely with the rock texture.
One thing you’ll run into in Florida on summer mornings is condensation. It’s so humid that if you take your camera gear directly from your air-conditioned room or car out into the moist air, you can expect 15 to 30 minutes of fog before they clear. You can decrease this by not running your car’s AC on the way. You can also seal your camera and lens in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible until it warms up. And it’s a good idea to bring along a micro-fiber cloth to remove condensation if needed. The larger your camera / lens is, the longer it will take to warm up. This is one time that good glass works against you – at least until the temperature equalizes. One more point: try not to change lenses under these conditions. If water condenses on your sensor, it can be hard to remove and may cause dust to adhere to the surface.
The harbor and fort (Castillo de San Marcos) also provide interesting detail for sunrise or sunset and landscapes in general.
A calm morning in the St. Augustine harbor: Clouds to the north over the Castillo de San Marcos and the quarter Moon above the Bridge of Lions add interesting detail to this image.
This photo and the next were both multi-shot panoramas made with the techniques I described last week. Images like the harbor scene can be tough to blend due to smooth gradients in the sky and water. Be sure you check carefully and correct any glitches.
Another thing about summer in Florida: We have awesome afternoon thunderstorms. Clouds add a lot of drama to photos, but the storms were so bad on two of the days I was there that I couldn’t go out for sunset. Plan accordingly.
St. Augustine Sunset behind the Castillo de San Marcos
On this evening at the fort, there was a large thunder-storm to the west. The sky wasn’t colorful at all until the sun moved down below the thunder head, resulting in these shadows and rays. One big advantage of sunset photography vs. sunrise is that you can wait to see what develops. At sunrise, you need to be in place extremely early to see all the variations happen.
I had a great time walking around the fort at sunset with my large tripod and big DSLR camera. Most people were oblivious and walked right through my photos (I don’t blame them – I don’t own the place). I’d wait for a clear spot in the traffic and make another exposure. Other folks stood next to me since they thought wherever someone with a big camera is has to be a good spot. At one point, a tour guide in a pirate costume leading a group of 20 or so people saw me and stopped his group from walking in front of me until I finished my exposure. It turned out he’s a photographer too.
I wanted to try a night photo of the lighthouse. I also wanted to capture the look of the beam coming out of the light. This turned out to be a tough assignment. The contrast range is huge and there’s a lot of glare from the lights in the scene.
St. Augustine Light Station
I ended up merging two exposures. The first one was long (f/4 @ 3 seconds) at a low ISO (400) to decrease noise. The slow shutter blurred the light beam, so I made a second exposure (ISO 3200, f/4 @ 0.4 seconds) and this stopped the beam enough to highlight it. The second exposure had some noise, but was fine with a bit of post processing before I blended the two manually in Photoshop. I made this photo about an hour before sunrise. It was dark and there was no one around. One of my contacts on Flickr commented that spooky things happen in this area. I’m glad I didn’t notice any when I was there.
Tom M. met me up there on one of the days and we spent several hours just walking around. There were many interesting scenes, and I never saw any two doors alike.
Red door #33
We were walking down one street and saw someone in the distance photographing this house with his iPhone. He was really working it, making multiple photos / compositions and was still there when we arrived several minutes later. We waited for him to finish and when he looked up and noticed us he asked what kind of cameras we had. It turned out he’s a photographer too and was there on vacation, but forgot his Nikon D3S DSLR. He said using the iPhone was “very liberating”. Photo hint 101: If someone’s taking a picture, look at what he’s photographing – it might be interesting. Photo hint 102: Don’t forget your camera.
A little later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this waiter zipping through traffic on the way to work. On a skate board. I managed to make a quick photo.
Morning commute – very eco-friendly
We also noticed this person reading on the bench. I really liked the symmetry of the columns and how they led my eye towards the subject. Tom posted a different composition (sorry – no longer available) that I think is really good too.
By the way, if you have Lightroom 5, try out the “Upright” settings in the Lens Corrections panel on photos like the one above. It does a great job squaring things up.
Like I said, there’s a tremendous amount of photo-ops in the area. I didn’t make it by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm on this visit, but from March to June, it’s one of the best places in Florida to photograph a variety of wild birds nesting in the rookery there. I also didn’t get to Fort Matanzas. It’s a little south of the city and makes a nice side excursion. The Nombre de Dios Mission in the northern part of the city has a beautiful chapel and grounds as well as a view into the harbor. And I’m sure that there are a great many more photo ops that I still have to discover in this beautiful place.
You can see these photos larger if you click on them and I have many others from St. Augustine in this set on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
One of the Photography Interest Group members (Kevin M.) wanted to visit the Dry Tortugas during bird migration. I’d always wanted to see it too and I’d never been to the Everglades so I suggested we combine a trip. He organized an extended expedition and we set off last Saturday with Kevin K. in a packed Prius headed for Key Largo – our base of operations. Since there’s so much to cover, I’ll tell you about the Dry Tortugas in this post, and fill you in next time on the Everglades and a few other places we went.
The Dry Tortugas are a remote group of seven small islands / keys (named Garden, Loggerhead, Bush, Long, East, Hospital, and Middle) located about 70 miles west of Key West. These islands and the surrounding waters make up the 100 square mile Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s known for its isolation, clear waters, unique and migratory bird populations, shipwrecks, and Fort Jefferson.
Fort Jefferson Parade Grounds – Dry Tortugas National Park, Garden Key – I’m not sure which bird is in the center top. It looks like either the Perigrine Falcon or Cooper’s Hawk we saw earlier in the day. This is a 7 image, stitched pano (~50 megapixels). I uploaded a larger than normal version. If you want to see more detail, click on this image and then on Flickr select actions/view all sizes.
Fort Jefferson construction took place from 1846 to 1875. It’s the largest masonry structure in the western hemisphere but was never completed. Like many other forts, it became obsolete when rifled cannons were put into use. Photo ops lurk throughout – so be alert and explore!
Inside the Fort Jefferson walls – I’m happy that two people strolled into my composition. They couldn’t have positioned themselves any better. The fort housed prisoners in the Civil War era and these two and their appearance in this IR, B&W photo add to the ghostly feel of the fort.
There’s a lot of interesting background and history about this place. Dr. Samuel Mudd (convicted of conspiracy in the Lincoln assassination and later pardoned) was imprisoned here. There’s also an interesting novel I enjoyed reading in Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series that takes place here (Flashback). It covers a lot of historical background too.
Info for Photographers
The easiest way to get to the park is via the Yankee Freedom that departs Key West daily. They provide everything you’ll need for a day trip. If you’re more adventurous, you can charter a sea plane or an extended cruise on a smaller boat, or even take your own boat. If you don’t take the Yankee Freedom, just make sure you do your research and go prepared. The park is primitive and there are no supplies / food / water for visitors – so bring everything you might need. As of April 2013, the Yankee Freedom is only 6 months old and in great shape. A buffet breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and water / soft drinks / hot coffee all day are included in the fare. And you can return to the boat during the day to use the rest rooms or cool off in the air-conditioning. All three of us thought the ship and crew were excellent.
Brown Noddy in flight
The day we went, about 30 – 40% of the passengers were birders – some of them very experienced. Several bird species are found in the Dry Tortugas and nowhere else in North America. It’s also on the main fly way for birds migrating between Central America / Cuba and the rest of North America. In late April / early May, it’s a vital resting place for the birds. John James Audubon visited in May of 1832 and spent several days cataloging species. I’m certain we didn’t see as many as he did, but we did pretty well. Kevin M. and I each got several life birds. Here’s our list from the few hours we were there:
Masked Booby (nesting), Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Roseate Tern, Common Tern, Least Tern, Audubon Shearwater, Magnificent Frigate Bird, Northern Gannet,
You’ll be doing a lot of walking and climbing and there aren’t any lockers where you can leave excess gear (although the crew says they’ve never had a problem with lost / stolen equipment). Pack only what you can carry around all day.
Allowed and a good idea if you need it for your birding lens. Otherwise, just to lighten your load I wouldn’t recommend it. I was able to hand hold / brace my cameras and didn’t miss my tripod. You’ll want to plan differently if you’ll be there for sunrise, sunset or at night.
Unfortunately, if you’re going for both scenic landscapes and birds (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll need a variety of lenses. Long / bright for the birds and wide for the landscapes. There are also photo ops from the boat that will be quite challenging unless your camera body or lens has stabilization. You’ll pass about 100 yards from a colony of Masked Boobies on Hospital Key as you enter the park. Be ready for a unique and challenging chance to capture these birds on the nest with chicks. And if you miss the Brown Boobies while you’re at the fort, be sure to watch for them as you leave. They often hang out on Marker 3.
Best time to visit:
Late April / early May is the best time of year for birds, although it’s already getting hot by then. If you’re even a bit of a birder, it’s worth putting up with the heat.
Our trip over was on a fairly calm day. Even so, there was quite a bit of pitching and tossing. If you’re at all susceptible to seasickness, you should take something in advance. Also, be ready for weather at the park. A poncho and camera cover for rain, and sun block or long sleeves and a hat for the tropical sunshine. You won’t have problems with insects since there’s no standing fresh water on the islands.
Northern Gannet – Floating near the dock in the Dry Tortugas
Wow – what a fantastic trip! We had a wonderful time in this remote and fascinating place and it’s now a new favorite of mine. It takes some time and effort to get to, but there is so much to see and photograph – don’t miss it!
I have many entries in this blog about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and it is a great place for bird photography.
But you shouldn’t visit St. Augustine just to watch the birds – it has many other photogenic settings. In this post, I’ll show you a few that you should consider seeing. Make sure you click the links that I’ve inserted into the captions below for more information. You can also visit my St. Augustine set on Flickr to see these and other photos I’ve made there.
Interior of the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, Florida
In photography, wide angle lenses typically have a focal length that is much shorter than the diagonal dimension of the image sensor (or film). For a full frame 35mm digital camera, the diagonal measure of the sensor is about 50mm, and this is considered a “normal” focal length. Wide angle lenses have a focal length shorter than this (typically 12 – 35mm). It’s important to understand the characteristics of shorter focal length lenses so that you know how to use them in your photography.
Of course, wide angle lenses take in a wide field of view. They also have a larger depth of field when compared to normal or telephoto lenses. And they are also very good at helping you vary the perspective of your image. What’s perspective? It’s the relative scale of nearby and distant features. This is what I want to discuss today.
Take a look at the two photos below. Both have the same subject matter. They were both shot with similar focal lengths, but the perspective differs greatly. In the first photo, the nearest tree is only about 1/3 of the length of the fort in the distance. In the second, the same tree is almost as tall as the fort is long. This is a huge change in the relative size of the image elements.
How can you achieve a similar effect? Wide angle lenses exaggerate the size of things that are close, and make things farther away look smaller. The wider the lens, the greater this effect is. When you have a wide angle lens on your camera, you can move closer or farther away from things so that you can control the relative size of close image elements and those that are farther away.
I wasn’t happy with the composition of the first image. I made the second by moving in closer to the trees. Since they were nearby, and the fort was in the distance, the trees were enlarged much more than the fort. Simply adjusting where I placed the camera allowed me to vary the relative size of the trees and fort.
Castillo de San Marco at sunrise, 17mm focal length, f/4.0 @ 1/800 sec, ISO 200
Sunrise at Castillo de San Marcos #4, 16mm focal length, f/11 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 200
Now that you understand this basic principle of photography, you too can use it to control the relative size of the elements in your composition. I will leave a discussion of why wide angle lenses aren’t used for portrait photography very often as an exercise for the reader.
Once again we pause to reflect and thank all those that serve or have served our country and helped keep us free. Please know that we appreciate your service and can never thank you enough.
The Flag of the United States of America, flying at the Fort Matanzas National Monument, near St. Augustine, Florida.
Many in our family have served in the military.
Lynn’s Grandfather, Harold Christensen was a Navy pilot in the second World War. As an electrical engineer I enjoyed hearing him talk about working on the top secret team that developed radar for use on aircraft. Lynn’s father, Doug was also in the Navy. He was stationed in Pensacola after WW II. Both Lynn’s Grandfather and father been gone for some time. We miss them.
My Mother’s brother, uncle Jack was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He never said much about his time in the service and passed away a year or two ago. We miss him too.
My Dad and his brother were both young men during World War II and both were in the Army. My Dad started high school just as WW II broke out and he enlisted as soon as he could. After basic training in Florida and some additional training as an intelligence recon scout, he shipped out to Europe. By that time, the war had ended and he was stationed in Furth, Germany – just outside Nuremberg as part of the occupation. He was there during the time of the Nuremberg trials. Dad had several stories he used to tell about his time in the Army. Most were quite fun, although I never heard him talk about the trials. I’m not sure if all his experience was happy, but those were the only ones he shared with us. He passed away quite a while ago, and of course we’ll always remember him.
I didn’t know much about my uncle’s service until we visited him just after Christmas last year and I asked about it. Msgr. Edward V. Rosack (we called him Fr. Ed) also joined the Army Signal Corps after he graduated from high school during WW II. He was older than my father and served in the Pacific Theater of Operations for about two years. His tour of duty took him to the Hawaiian Islands, Marshall Islands, (Einewetok, Kwajalein, the Palau Island (Angaur), Mariana Island (Saipan), Ryukyu Island (Okinawa), Korea (In chon) and Yokohama, Japan. As a member of the 3922nd Signal Service Company of the 3117th Signal Service Battalion, his outfit was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with one bronze star (Angaur, Palau Islands). Watching Ken Burns “Pacific” mini-series recently brought home what a great sacrifice and profound experience it must have been for him and everyone else in those battles. I can only imagine the hardships and horror that he and others endured. I wonder if that is at least partly what drove him to become a man of peace for the rest of his life. Sadly, Fr. Ed passed away in March of this year, not long after we visited him. We’ll always remember him too.