Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown. We also invited Kevin K. to go along.
Sunrise by the causeway
We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps. A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary. But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.
As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:
“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”
So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point). We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.
Note: Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.
Some of what we saw: a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.
The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images. The light was dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away. We even came up on a feeding frenzy. But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through. Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:
The sun broke through one other time before we left:
Sunbeams in the swamp
All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition. So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Once in a while, conditions are just right. Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed. When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you – count your blessings!
Great Egret in flight
This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18). I lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive. It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these. I’ve written about them before (see this post from December of 2012). Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:
The birds all compete for food. Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers. Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond. Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images. After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc. And conditions change rapidly. Set up your camera in advance and be nimble. I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed. It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high. You’ll need 1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments. I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
Your “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to. But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like. Practice when you can and you’ll get better.
Landing Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one. But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either. I’m still practicing!
It’s not all about birds in flight. Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.
On the banks of the pond. I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.
That was a wonderful morning. I’m glad I was able to see all the action. Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:
Dawn at the dock on the Indian River. Olympus Hi-Res mode.
Florida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive. Monochrome infrared.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I realized I hadn’t been to Viera Wetlands since last year, so I went over yesterday morning with Kevin K.
We spent a few minutes with The Photographer’s Ephemeris and found a promising sunrise stop along the way. It’s just north of the first bridge into Cocoa on SR 520. If you don’t have a copy of this software, you should get it. It’s available (for free!) for the Mac, PC, and Linux as well as (paid versions) for Android and iOS. The iPad version is especially helpful. If you have a cell phone signal, you can use it wherever you are to visualize the natural lighting. It shows the sun and moon overlaid on a Google Map for the place and time you enter. Highly recommended.
The sunrise was pretty and there was even a nice bird posing at the end of an old dock for us.
Old pier at sunrise: North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida.
When we got to Viera Wetlands, there was more going on than I thought there would be. We saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, both White and Glossy Ibis, Moorhens, Coots, Limpkins, and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, among others. There were even some Roseate Spoonbills there – the first time I’ve ever seen them at Viera Wetlands. A few Moorhen chicks, surprised me too – I didn’t realize they hatched this time of year.
Moorhen and chick near Ibis: “Kid – I told you not to hang out with those Ibis birds. They’re nothing but trouble”.
You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my Viera Wetlands photos here on Flickr. For a slightly different perspective, you can also look at Kevin’s photos in his set on Flickr.
Ansel Adams said that the “negative is the score, and the print is the performance”. In modern terms, the RAW file is the negative and the processed jpg / print is the performance. Ansel was famous for re-printing his photos to try to get the best possible image from his negatives. Some of his later prints are thought to be better than earlier ones as he experimented and gained knowledge about how to “perform” the print.
All photographers should take this to heart and not be satisfied with previous processed versions of their photos. I like to look through my Lightroom catalog sometimes for images that may merit some re-work.
This morning I reprocessed a photo that I made last October at Viera Wetlands. Below is a series of images that show you a progression from the original images to the final result. Look in the captions for details on what I did, and scroll to the bottom of the post to see the most recent version. You can also click on these to see larger versions.
This is the first image I made (RAW, unprocessed). It’s focused on the tree and the two birds are also in sharp focus. Because of depth of field, the moon is out of focus. The color balance could be better.
This is the second image I made to solve the problem with the moon focus.
Step 3: And this was the processed version I posted to Flickr last October. I masked in the in-focus moon, did some sharpening and noise reduction, but didn’t spend too much time on it. It’s since gotten a lot of views, but re-looking at it now, I’m not happy with several things in the photo (e.g. color balance, noise reduction, masking) and this morning I decided to go back and reprocess it from the original RAW files.
And this is the new version that I posted to Flickr this morning. In Photoshop, I was much more careful masking in the in-focus moon. I then created a meticulous selection of the blue sky so I could use it in the follow on steps. Then I applied noise reduction just to the blue sky and sharpening just to the birds, moon, and tree. I also used the Topaz Adjust filter just on the birds, moon and tree. Finally, back in Lightroom I adjusted the white balance off of a sample on the Ibis. I like the vertical crop better as well as the color balance, sharpness, etc.
Lynn and I went out to Viera Wetlands this morning to survey the wildlife that’s around and so I could get a little more field testing in on the Nikon D7000. Once again, this great birding spot didn’t disappoint us and although the activity and number of birds were down a bit from their peak during the nesting season, we found plenty to see and photograph.
I’m shooting the D7000 in RAW & fine jpg mode, but using only using the jpg files until later when RAW is supported by ACR and Nikon CaptureNX2. So far, it’s definitely living up to my expectations. The combination of more pixels and improved sensitivity is a great for bird photography. Here’s one shot I did early in the morning, before the almost full moon set:
Great Egret, Ibis, and Moon, Nikon D7000, ISO 100
On this photo, I cheated a bit. The depth of field on the Sigma 150 – 500 @ 500mm and f/7.1 is too shallow to hold the moon in focus along with the tree and birds. So I made a second exposure focused on the moon and masked it in using Photoshop.
I set up the camera in auto-ISO mode and let it respond to the varying lighting conditions so that I could see how it performed over a range of ISO sensitivities. At ISOs up to 1000, there is very little noise. I need to do some comparisons with RAW files, but so far, it looks to me like the ISO performance of the D7000 is at least a 1/2 stop better than the D90. Here is one example from today at ISO 900:
A pair of Limpkins share a snail snack, Nikon D7000, ISO 900 (Try repeating that caption 3 times fast!)
Here is another, un-cropped photo of a Great Blue Heron:
Great Blue Heron keeps watch, ISO 280
One of the comments on these photos today on Flickr was “You’re lucky to be in an area with amazing wildlife.” I couldn’t agree more. And that’s just one of the many ways that I am so very lucky.
You can click on the photos above to view them on Flickr. I’ve also uploaded several more in this D7000 set on Flickr (sorry, no longer available). Many of them are in high-resolution so that you can better judge the image / camera quality. You can also view more photos I’ve made at Viera Wetlands here in this set.
So we’re going to try something a little different. This will be a variation on the game “Where’s Waldo”, except you have to guess where I was last Saturday, based on the photos below. And you have to find me in at least one photo. We’ll use my Twitter handle and call it “Where’s EdRo?”. All of these photos were made in the same general area. To play fair, you aren’t allowed to scroll down too far before you guess. Forensic investigation of EXIF data is possible, but also against the rules. There’s no prize, but if enough people demand it, I can see about having something for the next time we play.
The point of the game is to remind you that you need to look around and find the non-obvious photos wherever you are. Go ahead and get the “trophy shots” (photos that everyone takes at a popular spot), but don’t forget to share your unique vision, perspective, and outlook with others.
Want to play? Here goes…
Clue #1: An interesting wall.
Clue #2: Nice light on an Ibis.
Clue #3: Flowers, leaves, sky.
Have you guessed where I was yet? If not, here’s some more clues:
Clue #4: Blue wall, red windows.
Clue #5: River landing and flowers.
Do you have it yet? If not, here’s a couple more.
Clue 6: Surprise and delight.
One last clue:
Clue 7: Rhino profile
If you haven’t guessed yet, then go to this set of mine on Flickr for additional clues. I’ve added a total of 21 photos there. Some are obvious and some are not. Hopefully they all let you see this place through my eyes.
Thanks for playing my little game. Now, go out there and look past the obvious shots.
OK, so maybe you don’t look at the top of my blog very often, where it says “Central Florida Photo Ops – What & Where they are, and tips on how to photograph them”. That’s the main purpose here – to let others know about all the great places to make photographs in the Central Florida area. So I feel like I owe an apology to all my loyal readers and the wildlife / nature / bird photographers that have visited my blog in the past without finding any mention of the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, also known as Viera Wetlands. I’m sorry and I’ll try to do better – but I do have a day job! And there are so many fabulous places to photograph around here!
Note: you can click on any of these photos to go to my Flickr photo stream and view a larger version (click on the magnifying glass icon at the top). There’s also links at the end of this entry to the my entire set, my slide show version of the photos, and some links to other photos of Viera Wetlands.
Our Phototgraphy Interest Group traveled to Viera Wetlands yesterday. Located at the west end of Wickham Road, in Melbourne, Florida (behind the water treatment plant), the Viera Wetlands offers birders and photographers a close encounter with many species from the comfort of their automobiles. Since cars are such a good blind to photograph from, you can often get quite close to the wildlife without disturbing them. I’ve only been there one time (so far!), but if my visit with the Photography Interest Group yesterday was any indication, this is a very nice place to watch and photograph birds. I should have checked it out ages ago.
Un-cropped photo of Great Blue Heron. I did get out of the car for this one!
Info for Photographers
Photo hints: You can get photos of many of the species right from your car. The dirt roads are fairly narrow – so if you do exit your vehicle to get a “down low” perspective, or whenever you stop to get a shot – be courteous and make sure you pull over as far as possible to one side.
The roads are one way. The perimeter road runs counter clockwise and so most of the photo ops will be on the driver’s side, although the roads through the center of the Wetlands do have some scenery and birds out of the passenger side.
Tripod/Monopod : Definitely allowed – you can bring all the gear that will fit in your car. You may also want to bring a bean bag so you can rest your camera on your car’s window sill.
Lenses: Some of the birds get quite close to the side of the road. I probably don’t have to tell you that for birds, longer lenses are better. But you can get by with a not so long lens here. I used my 70 – 300 on my D90 (1.5 crop factor = 450mm equivalent). I also got some good frames with my 70 – 200 on the full frame D700.
Best time to visit : Now is a great time. There’s lots of activity and the weather is what Florida is famous for. Many of the birds are getting their breeding plumage. In general, early February through June (nesting season) should continue to be a good time to go. Go early in the day when the light is good and the animals are active.
Breeding colors are starting to show in this Glossy Ibis.
Other : Normal hours are Monday through Sunday, Sunrise to Sunset. The dirt roads through the wetlands are sometimes closed due to heavy rains. If this is the case, you can still walk in. You can also call ahead to make sure the roads are open (see below).
The photos I’ve posted here are just a few of the ones we made on Saturday, and this was just some of what there is to see. This is a place worth going to multiple times. Check out the links below for more images of different species. You could also visit the Photography Interest Group on Flickr to see the photos that the others made yesterday.
Also, there’s a group on Flickr that appears to be pretty active and has many photos and discussions about Viera Wetlands. If you’re interested, you may want to visit there to learn more and even join. Here’s the link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1224030@N24/
The Photography Interest Group visited Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday and had another nice trip. There was lots to see and the weather was pleasant. We came across this very pretty bird with iridescent feathers and we’re wondering whether it’s a Glossy Ibis or a White-faced Ibis. My vote is that it’s a Glossy because of the dark eyes. A White-faced Ibis should have some red in the eyes. Does anybody reading this know for sure?