When I go on a photo expedition I come home with many more images than I process, and I post even less. So every once in a while I go through the photos in my Lightroom catalog and look for ones that I passed over, to see if my current self thinks they’re good enough to show or include in a blog post.
Caught in a sunbeam, Gatorland, May 2017
Anyway, I was doing this last week and ended up with the group of images in this post. They made me realize once again how wonderful Central Florida is for bird watching and bird photography.
Handsome Anhinga, Gatorland, May 2016
We have an enormous variety of avian wildlife here (iBird says 366 species in the state of Florida, Wikipedia says 524!).
Spoonbill, Black Point Wildlife Drive, January 2018
At some locations the larger birds are tolerant of people – especially if you stay in your car and / or take care not to stress them. And nesting season provides opportunities that aren’t common elsewhere.
Hungry Herons, Viera Wetlands, March 2018
I’ve added info to the captions on when and where I made these images so you can get an idea of what you’ll see. The best time of year is probably January through May, but you can find opportunities year round – if you’re lucky and do your research.
Belted Kingfisher, Viera Wetlands, March 2018
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.
Orlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W. I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.
Space View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then. Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.
Red-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017. Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!
A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then. I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird. Blended in Photoshop
Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr. And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! I will too!
“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; …”
― John Muir
The first part of my visit to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Tuesday (2/2/16) was about as foggy as I’ve ever seen. So much so that I was happy to follow a large truck along SR 46 on the way over – better than feeling my way through the low visibility on my own.
For some reason, I’d taken a macro lens with me and I was happy to use it on the following image:
Nature’s necklace – Foggy mornings dew along Black Point Wildlife Drive. This is a 5 frame, hand-held focus stack.
One of my on-line friends (Dorothy) asked me on Flickr how I got the reflections in the dew drops. They were really a gift from nature. I could see lots of dew covered webs from the car, and I watched for one where I could frame the drops standing out against a clear background. When I found this particular one, I had to figure out how to best image them. One part of it was making sure the sensor plane was as close to parallel with the lines of drops as possible. I stopped down to f/8 for increased depth of field. Then I focused on the front string and made a high-speed sequence while I rocked slowly forward. This captured about 17 frames with different parts of the scene in focus. Back at my computer, I picked 5 of the frames and made a focus stack to get as much as possible in sharp focus. The last steps were to do some selective contrast / sharpening on just the drops. I like the way it turned out.
As I explored further on Black Point Wildlife Drive, I saw something for the first time – a fogbow:
Season’sGreetings! The holidays are here once again and many of you are traveling to visit family and friends. Please have a safe journey and enjoy the time with your loved ones.
Well, I think I now have another favorite photo-op! I’d heard many things about Fort De Soto and a couple of my friends had great experiences there, but it’s a ~2.5 hour drive from Winter Springs – so I’d never gone until last week.
Lynn, Mike, Sara, and Mary got me a wonderful birthday present this year – a 1 on 1 photo workshop with Jason Hahn of Outdoor Photo Workshops. I’d been waiting to use it until the weather cooled off a bit and I finally scheduled it for last week. Jason lives in the Tampa area and he’s an expert on Fort De Soto, so it seemed like a great opportunity for me to visit with a local guide and learn more about the place.
Since we were meeting at 6:45am for sunrise, I went over the night before to make sure I knew the way and to try to get a sunset shot. Before I left, I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris app on my phone to do a little virtual scouting and noticed that the setting sun would be in nearly perfect alignment with a section of beach near the Bay pier at De Soto. If you don’t have this app or another like it, get it. It’s extremely useful when planning photo-ops. This setting looked like it would be different from the sunrise and sunset geometry I usually get, so that’s where I ended up on Thursday evening. I was blessed with some very nice clouds and light, and the geometry led to this composition. What do you think?
The end of the day at Fort Desoto – Looking southwest toward Egmont Key from the base of the bay pier. The ferry that travels back and forth to the Key is on the left.
Fort De Soto park is south of St. Petersburg, Florida and is run by Pinellas county. It’s made up of a number of islands (keys) and the location and geography make it very unique, especially from a birding perspective. It lies along the migration routes and is a landing-place for birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico. If the conditions are favorable, a knowledgable birder can see over a hundred different species here in a single spring-time day. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the birding lists and plan to go back next April.
It’s also quite diverse from a landscape photography perspective. The Sunshine Skyway bridge can add to a scene, and the tides cover and uncover shoreline features that can vary the foreground interest in your photos. Storms also come through occasionally and these can cut new channels or shift sand to change the layout of the smaller islands. So it’s possible to see changes on both a daily and seasonal basis. When I arrived there Friday morning, the light wasn’t good for a typical sunrise shot, but I set up anyway and made this photo. I think the reflections from the bridge on the low clouds and water add a lot to the image.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay Florida, before dawn. From the East Beach turnaround at Fort De Soto
Jason showed me around, and was quite knowledgable about the site, the wildlife, and how to photograph all of it. He was also patient and easily dealt with my many questions. It was interesting to hear him talk about the behavior of the animals and how they interact with the terrain and tides and then explain how to use the knowledge to make better photos. It was a greatly enhanced scouting expedition and I only hope I can remember half the things he told me!
The wind was blowing at 10 miles an hour or more, so many of the normal birds were hunkered down out of sight, but we did see Laughing, and Herring Gulls (including one with its breakfast), an American Oystercatcher, a family of Raccoons, Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Ospreys, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons and maybe a few other species.
American Oystercatcher – a very cooperative bird. He strolled right by us, leaving a wake.
There was a pretty interesting scenario with the Herring Gull below. They catch crabs and then fly them up to 40 or 50 feet above rocks or hard sand before they drop them to crack the shells open. This particular gull was going to crack his crab, but another gull came close, so it flew off somewhere else to dine in private.
Herring Gull flies off with crab
On this trip, I met a fellow photographer for the first time, scouted a new place (which definitely made the “must do” list), learned lot in the process, and had a great time. A pretty fine photo-op, in spite of the clouds and wind.
As usual, you can see larger versions of these images on Flickr by clicking on them. And I have a couple more photos from Fort De Soto in this set.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Do you ever just go wandering around, exploring new areas? Not to make photos, but hoping in the back of your mind that a good photo might show up in front of your lens? Sometimes I do. And sometimes it happens.
One day back in July of 2007, I drove over to Sanford, Florida and stopped by the boat ramp. As I watched the sun rise, I kept my eye on some seagulls flying around over the water. When the sun went into those clouds and the very pretty rays showed up – I framed my shot and started walking over toward the gulls, shooting in continuous mode. I was hoping for something exactly like this, and when I got home I was happy with how it turned out.
So, I’m just wondering. Would you ever drive to a boat ramp at sunrise for a photo-op? Maybe, maybe not. When you’re just out wandering around with your camera, your expectations are different. The photo pressure’s off. It’s OK to go home without a 4 or 5 star image. But the opportunities for photos may be a lot more varied than if you set off with a specific photo goal in mind. And if you do come home with a nice photo or two it’s a bonus.
So, just go wandering. And keep your eyes and mind open to the beautiful nature show happening all around you. And take a camera.
P.S. We drove by the Lake Jesup wildflower fields this morning and they’re just about all gone. If you didn’t make a photo there this year, you’ll have to wait until late next September for your chance.
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.