Black Point Wildlife Drive seemed quiet when I was there a week ago, but Lake Apopka is active. We saw lots of people and lots of birds. I don’t catch Black-crowned Night Herons that often, but we spotted several including this young one fishing in a canal.
Black-crowned Night Heron
A little later we spotted another that’d just caught a catfish.
Black-crowned Night Heron and Catfish
This looks like a Sailfin Catfish. I hadn’t heard about these, but Kevin M. filled me in. They’re a type of suckermouth (or armored) catfish and a non-native, invasive species in Florida. Originally from Venezuela and Colombia, they’re popular in aquariums. Most likely they escaped from tropical fish farms and / or were released here by people.
Now they’re abundant and widespread throughout Florida and bad for our ecosystem. They dig burrows that cause erosion. Because of their tough, armored skin and sharp spines, they can choke birds that eat them. There were a lot of them in the canals next to the roads. The St. John’s River Water Management District has an undesirable fish harvest each year that gets some of them out of the water.
In addition to the Night Heron, we also saw a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret with one. I hope they didn’t choke.
I don’t see many Purple Gallinules either, and I didn’t realize this was a young one until Kevin M. ID’d it for us. Thanks, Kevin!
Purple Gallinule juvenile
We saw several other types of birds, dragonflies, butterflies, flowers, and the usual alligators too. Lake Apopka is well worth a visit, even in the hot summer.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Okay, I know the name of the blog is “Central Florida Photo Ops” and I usually write about landscape and wildlife photography. But Old Car City (http://oldcarcityusa.com/) is a very cool place and I have a scouting report and some photos to show you!
Old Car City calls itself a “Photographer’s Paradise”, and the “worlds largest known classic car junkyard”. It’s hard to disagree. It began as a general store in 1931 in White, Georgia. Over the years it evolved into a forested refuge for 4000+ cars, most more than 35 years old. Located about an hour from downtown Atlanta, it covers 34 acres with 6 1/2 miles of trails to explore.
The cars stay where they were originally placed. Some are piled high. Others rest alone or lined up. Many are overgrown with vines and some even have trees growing right through them. Admission is $25 (only $15 if you don’t photograph). We spent 3 – 4 hours there and I was exhausted before the photo ops were.
Impala convertible – and tree
Walking through can be surreal – especially in infra-red.
Old Car City IR Pano
Photography here can be challenging in several ways. I carried my tripod all around the place and the local cat kept showing up and rubbing up against it – not helpful!
Junkyard cat and matching VW van. It followed us around and liked to rub up against tripods. Not good, cat!
This isn’t a traditional salvage yard – no parts are sold. It’s more of a museum, although there’s no effort to preserve exhibits. The cars were saved from the crushing machine, but not from nature.
You can find much more than just old cars and car parts. There are school buses, and tractors, antique toys, wagons, bicycles, and more. I even read there’s a Cartersville Grand Theater marquis, but I didn’t see it on my visit.
Doll and chair – You can find more than old cars at Old Car City. This was right next to the path – yet it looks like no one’s disturbed it in years.
Safety: You’ll have to sign in when you pay admission, but there’s no lengthy rights waiver and a lawyer doesn’t follow you around. The place could be dangerous though – there’s broken glass, rusty metal and some sharp edges. Just be careful, not stupid. Heed the warning signs, stay on cleared paths and off / out of the cars and you should be fine. Oh, and some insect repellent might come in handy.
Don’t open hoods doors
My tripod was helpful mostly for Olympus hi-res images – but if you’re not making those I think you can get by without one. I used focal lengths from fish eye up to about 200mm equivalent and I’d say your wider lenses would be the most useful.
The number of photo ops in this place is huge. If you go, my best advice is to do a little research before hand and plan out a strategy or two. Get some larger framed intro shots, but think about concentrating on one or a few categories: hood ornaments, door handles, dashboards, interiors, decay, rust, textures, vegetation on vehicles, etc., etc. The possibilities are huge.
I decided to wander over towards Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Friday. My shutter finger was itching and I had to get a camera out and scratch it. I was running a little late and wouldn’t have made it to the coast for sunrise, so I stopped at C S Lee Park on the St. Johns River on my way. Nature provided quite a show.
Another Central Florida Morning
I don’t know what this effect is called – when the sun just kisses the cloud bottoms and leaves higher clouds darker and less colorful. I don’t see it often enough. Maybe that’s because it only lasts for such a short time. According to my EXIF data, I made this image in the middle of a 2-3 minute window and the colorful streaks were much less prominent just before and after. Whenever I do see this, I’m happy to make a photo!
The Jolly Gator Fish Camp Bar & Grill is next to the park, right across a shallow water filled area from where I made the sunrise photo. I liked the reflection and symmetry and made this image before I moved on. I’ve never actually been inside this place. Maybe I’ll talk Lynn into going there for lunch with me.
Jolly Gator Fish Camp & Grill
MINWR has a web page you can check for road closures. Currently, it won’t do you much good – info on Gator Creek, Biolab, and Black Point is all out of date. Last Friday, Gator Creek and Biolab Roads were open. They’ve been re-surfaced and are in good shape. And Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed due to the amount of rain we’ve had recently. I hope they keep the road closures page more current. I sent them a note.
I didn’t have much luck with birds or wildlife on this trip. So I’ll leave you with two more scenic photos.
Lone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (color version)
This tree is along the left side of the road leading into the Bairs Cove boat ramp. The combination of early morning light, a lone pine tree, and the clouds in the background stopped me in my tracks. I made this image and the last one out my car window. Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of traffic. With these two photos, you can see how the infra-red sensor renders light compared to an unmodified camera.
So when I heard their announcement about a photo workshop in Atlanta I was eager to go – and It wasn’t too hard to talk Lynn into getting this for my birthday! They coordinate using the Mirrorless Adventures page on Meetup.com so sign up was an easy process. If my post gets you interested, you can find out about their future workshops there.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis Interior 2
Our HQ was the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta and it’s an awesome photo-op itself – lots of interesting architecture, angles, and patterns to fill your memory card. And if you get tired of the photo ops there, you can take a break at one of their restaurants or bars!
We met on Friday evening and then left for the Jackson Street bridge for some sunset and light trail photography. It’s a popular spot. There were lots of folks making photos and it’s easy to see why – the skyline view is awesome! Here’s one of mine:
A little after sunset.
I made this image with the Olympus “Live Composite” mode. I’ve used this once before, but it was great to get in some guided practice and I’ll be using it more in the future.
Other stops on the workshop were at Old Car City (http://oldcarcityusa.com/), Amicalola Falls (http://www.amicalolafallslodge.com), and Oakland Cemetery (https://www.oaklandcemetery.com). The workshop was last weekend and I came home with hundreds of photos. I’ve been going through them every day since then – but I’m not finished processing yet. So today I’ll just include a few from Atlanta and maybe do another post later about the other locations.
Watching sunrise. We stopped near this park while we waited for the cemetery gates to open
Oakland cemetery was founded in 1850 and many of Atlanta’s prominent citizens are buried there. It has a great deal of sculpture, architecture, and gardens to draw your eye. And an interesting sign across the street!
Six Feet Under BarAtlanta Skyline from Oakland Cemetery
I’ve always liked Atlanta. My mother’s family lived in the area (in Cedartown) so we visited often when I was growing up. I also went to college there (Go Tech!) and that’s where I met Lynn. It was great to visit for a long weekend, and the drive from Central Florida isn’t too bad.
A photo workshop can be a big boost to your image making. You might;
Learn or improve your skills: I refreshed and practiced “Live Composite” mode and will likely use it more often now.
Go places you wouldn’t normally see. I’ve been to Atlanta many times, but the only place from this workshop that I’d seen before was Amicalola Falls (mentioned in this post). Trying new things is good for your soul!
Meet new people. Hanging around with other folks passionate about photography is fun! They don’t even get bored when you talk about lenses, cameras, technique, processing, etc.!
See different approaches / techniques. On the last day, we spent a few hours processing images and each of us picked out several images to show the group and talk about. I was floored by the variety and ideas that everyone shared. It’s amazing how people can go to the same place and come back with such different photographs.
I really enjoyed this workshop – it was a pleasure to meet so many new photo friends! I thought the locations we went to were terrific and Mike and Jamie were extremely knowledgable, friendly, and always willing to help anyone with questions. They created a wonderful atmosphere for us to learn and make beautiful photographs. And I liked the van they used for transport – it was a real pleasure to just climb in and have someone else drive us around to all these spots. Well done Mike and Jamie!!!
Sometimes you can get amazing photos of wild birds inside Florida cities. Winter Park (and other places too) put up nest boxes around town to attract birds. Ospreys typically use them in the spring to raise their young.
Urban Ospreys 3
I met Kathy B. (www.flickr.com/photos/kbargar/) through the Orlando Camera Club and we’ve run across each other on photo shoots. I saw her photos of this nest on Flickr and when I commented on how nice they were she was kind enough to share the location with me.
Urban Ospreys 1 – The young one’s stretching it’s wings. Mom looks a little wary – like she’s making sure she doesn’t get knocked out of the nest!
If you’re close enough to zoom in and fill the frame, and you can pick a vantage point that has foliage in the background – you can get some swell, natural looking photos of wild birds. There’s no way to tell from these first two that the nest is located downtown. Here’s a wider shot: The nest is on top of a utility pole and 40 – 50 feet away from the upper floor of a very convenient parking garage.
When I first arrived, the chick was asleep and hidden, so I went to the other side of the garage and made this photo while I waited for it to wake up.
The track through Winter Park
And this crow was checking me out while I waited too. I think it was expecting a handout.
Anyway, I’m glad this didn’t turn into another “empty nest syndrome” like our expedition a couple of weeks ago. And by the way, Tom M. checked and the eagles were back in that nest the week after we went, so they must have just been away while we were there.
I really like my close up photos. I think they’re the best ones I’ve gotten of nesting Ospreys.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now – go make some photos!
I spotted this large fish (~2 1/2 feet long) resting near the shore. My long lens was stowed in my backpack and I knew it wouldn’t stay there long, so I quickly made a photo with my IR camera. If you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can better see the small minnows swimming nearby.
Dragonflies are out and about. This is the first time I’ve noticed them this year.
And finally, here’s a photo of my walking companion. This bird joined me for a bit on my stroll around the park.
The park offers free Tram Tours on weekends – check their site for details. I much prefer to walk so I can pause and photograph any time I want and get a little exercise too.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now – go make some photos!
Kevin K., Tom M. and I met at the Sanford Marina on Friday before dawn. The plan was to make a few sunrise photos and then go photograph a nearby eagle’s nest.
I like this long exposure:
Blue hour at the marina. Olympus Hi-res mode, 13s, f/5.6, ISO 250, @ 24mm eq. focal length (no tripod).
Confession time again. Since I didn’t need a tripod at Mead Gardens last week, I’d removed the L-plate on my E-M1 MII camera before that trip. Unfortunately, I forgot to re-attach it. So I had to improvise and try some different techniques on this trip. The image above was made with my camera resting on the dock.
This next image was made handheld. By opening my aperture and upping the ISO, I got my shutter speed up to 1.3 seconds. And the image stabilization in the camera was good enough for a tack sharp photo with those settings. Going by the old 1/focal length rule, I should have shot this at 1/24th second. The IS gave me about 5 stops of stabilization!
Half Staff at dawn. The flags at Sanford’s Veterans Memorial Park were at Half staff in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Two frame vertical panorama, 1.3s, f/4.0, ISO 400, @ 24mm eq. focal length (hand held).
I made this last image with my IR camera – this time from a tripod since I did have the L-bracket on this body.
So what’s the title of this post all about? Well, we wanted to photograph a pair of eagles nesting on the railroad bridge that crosses the St. Johns river by Sanford. It looked like we could get an eye level view from the road nearby. But when we got over there we found the nest, but there were no eagles in sight. I’m not sure if they were just away for a bit or if they’ve abandoned the nest. Anyway, we couldn’t spot them. I might try driving by again next week and if I do, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! But check your gear before you leave, improvise if you have to, and when you’re photographically frustrated, try again another day!
This is a long article about Infrared (IR) image processing. If you don’t process IR photos, feel free to just look at the photos! And please take a look at the new Infrared Gallery I added under the Galleries / Portfolio menu at the top.
You probably know I like IR photography. I’ve written about it before (click here to review my posts) and I often include IR photos in this blog. Here’s a recent example:
Circle B Bar Infrared 1 (four frame vertical panorama)
Infrared’s an interesting medium.
IR captures invisible light: a portion of the spectrum that’s different from what your eyes can see.
The spectral response makes blue sky look dark and foliage bright. This reverses a normal daylight scene’s brightness values. It helps tame contrast and allows you to shoot even when the sun is high in the sky.
Since your eyes can’t see infrared, your interpretation of the alternate reality is up to you. You can process IR in Monochrome or as a false color image.
IR can sometimes capture details that aren’t seen with visible light.
If you use a modified digital camera, you may see improved detail in your photos. The conversion process removes the IR blocking / anti-aliasing filter. In many digital cameras this slightly blurs the image during capture to lessen Moire and other aliasing artifacts.
I’m not really qualified to discuss shooting IR film – I’ve only done it a few times. But I will say that modifying a mirrorless digital camera is a great way to approach infrared. The mirrorless design eliminates any issues with IR focus. The camera’s built-in exposure meter works well and values are close to the normal visible light ones, so you can hand hold in daylight conditions.
Circle B Bar Infrared 3 (three frame vertical panorama)
Eight Cedar Waxwings – I forgot to bring the spare battery for my main camera and ran out of charge. So I switched my long lens to my IR modified body and kept shooting.
So what’s the point of this post? I’ve been struggling lately with how I process my IR images. The work flow I’ve been using seems to result in too much contrast / clarity. I just felt that the results looked a bit “digital”. So I’ve been searching for new methods and I’ve found one that I like. I’ve used it on all these photos and I feel that they look much more “organic” and much less “digital”. What do you think?
Five nest Cypress (five frame vertical panorama)
Here is my updated workflow:
Capture the RAW images with a modified micro 4/3 mirrorless camera. Aperture priority, mostly handheld (although I do occasionally use a tripod).
Import into Lightroom to save the master files. Then decide which ones are worth processing and discard the seconds / rejects.
Batch process the “selects” through DxO Optics Pro to take advantage of its noise and camera / lens module processing. This step returns copies back to Lightroom in Adobe DNG RAW format.
In Lightroom, apply a custom camera profile to optimize the white balance (see this article for how to create one). And if it’s a multi-frame image, stitch it together with Lightroom’s merge to panorama function.
Sometimes, you can use Lightroom’s B&W conversion and finish an image. But I’ll open ones I really like in Photoshop.
There, straighten and crop, use the content aware fill, and clone if needed.
Finally, it’s back to Lightroom for any final adjustments (tone curve, sharpening, vignette, grain, etc.).
Circle B Bar Infrared 6 (five frame horizontal panorama)
Could I achieve this look some other way? Maybe even with a lot fewer steps? Yes, I’m sure it could be done.
Circle B Bar Infrared 2 (three frame horizontal panorama)
Just a few years ago, we only had Adobe Photoshop and then Lightroom to process RAW images. One of the great things about photography and image processing today is that there are so many ways to do things. That’s also bad, because it takes a lot of effort to study all the options and find out which ones work best. It seems like each program has strengths and weaknesses.
Software is changing every day, but I don’t know if there will ever be a single image processing program that does every thing I want. For now, I’m happy with the results I’m getting using this somewhat complex workflow. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for new or simpler ways to do things.
It’s also a popular place – there’s a lot to see and a lot of people looking. Kevin M. and I went over last Saturday and here are some highlights from our visit.
Great Horned Owl parent and chick
There’s been a Great Horned Owl nest along the entrance road for several years. It’s marked off with tape and signs and there’s usually a crowd observing so you can’t miss it. The image above is a composite. They didn’t both look toward me at the same time, so I combined two exposures in Photoshop. The chick seems pretty large. I’m guessing it must be several weeks old. They grow fast – go over soon if you want to see it before it fledges.
This hawk startled several birds (and me) when it launched towards a coot on the surface of the canal by Marsh Rabbit Run. It missed and then stayed in this tree for a bit before moving on. I almost didn’t make the photo, since at first glance, it looked like a Red-shoulder Hawk to me. But luckily someone nearby said “That’s a nice Cooper’s”, which is a new life bird for me. It’s young so the colors aren’t typical for an adult, but the eyes give it away.
I also tried one of the features in the new firmware for the Olympus E-M1 MII camera: Pro Capture (hi) mode with the PL 100 – 400 lens. I wanted to catch the bird as it launched off the branch. It didn’t quite work because hi speed Pro Capture freezes focus after the first shot. It took off at an angle toward the camera and the bird isn’t sharp in the frame. Oh well, another thing to add to my ‘try again’ list.
Pig and People
This wild pig was foraging along the Heron Hideout path. It’s pretty small, seemed very calm and used to all the curious people, and minded its own business. But I’d still be cautious around it.
Gray Catbird – infrared, monochrome
I forgot the spare battery for my main camera back in the car and of course it died on our hike just after the hawk photo. But I also had my IR camera with me with plenty of battery left. So I switched my long lens over to it and kept shooting. We spotted this Gray Catbird in the bushes, and I like the way the bird stands out from the vegetation in IR converted to B&W.
Cedar Waxwing @ Circle B (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)
We found a flock of Cedar Waxwings in the branches above the path – but my photos of them are in infrared too. Unlike me, Kevin was prepared and he was kind enough to let me use one of his from the day for this post.
Since it’s a long drive, we got lazy and slept in – so no sunrise images. I did make some infrared landscapes there and I’m planning to use them in a future post, so check back for that. Maybe I’ll include the IR Waxwings too.
We usually walk down Alligator Alley but it’s closed. The gators are apparently active in that area although we didn’t spot any. We did spot Painted Buntings, Indigo Buntings, a Barred Owl, Blue Wing Teals, Double Crested Cormorants, Anhingas, American Coots and chicks, a Purple Gallinule, the usual Herons and Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Warblers, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, turtles, and more. Like I said – a lot to see!
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!
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!