I like the view at this place on the back portion of Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve photographed it several times, but this image is my favorite from that spot so far.
Pond, grass, tree-line, and clouds
The small pools of water aren’t always there next to the road, but on that day this one was reflecting some of our gorgeous Florida clouds and adding interest in the foreground. The grassy wetland, tree line, and distant clouds complete the image for me. I used my IR modified Olympus E-M5 II in high resolution mode and made two frames that I stitched together into a vertical 1×1 panorama.
You’ve seen this next image before. It’s the last one in this post, and it’s from about 20 feet away and two minutes later on the same day.
Black Point vista
When I was going through photos after that trip, I liked ‘Black Point vista‘ so much that I didn’t even process the other one. Now, I still like it, but I’m very glad I came back and re-looked at ‘Pond, grass, tree-line, and clouds‘. I feel it’s a stronger image. What do you think?
Things change so it’s worth re-visiting places. While you’re there, it’s worth moving yourself and your camera around and trying several compositions. And when you get home, it’s worth taking a second look at all your images so you don’t miss a good one!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please stay safe out there and take care of each other. And if you’re in the USA and haven’t yet voted, please do so. Then you can make some photos.
As I was starting home from Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge yesterday morning, I decided to make one last stop along the causeway. Looking around, I noticed something in the distance rolling around in the water. I couldn’t tell what it was and I wasn’t carrying the long lens, so I walked over to the car to get it. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got back but it wasn’t. This is the first image I made:
What it that?
I still couldn’t see it really well in the view finder. I thought it might be a manatee’s head or maybe even part of a dolphin. Then I saw this:
Cormorant vs. fish
So now I knew what it was! The bird struggled for several minutes trying to swallow that huge fish. It would hold it under water for a while (changing its grip?) before bringing it back up in the air. It eventually got it arranged just right and managed to get it all down. This was the fish’s final view of things – Circle of Life.
Eye to eye
The weather on this trip was somewhat unusual. I almost always go over there in the mornings. One reason why is that it hardly ever rains early in the day. Most of our rain comes down in afternoon thunderstorms. But this time there was a big downpour as I drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive and even a rainbow!
Overall, birds are still a bit scarce out there. I did see some of our usual ones including Pie Billed Grebes, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Ospreys, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Common Gallinules, American Coots, a few gulls and terns, Anhingas, and (of course) Cormorants. And Jim Boland reports that there are two Bald Eagles hanging out near stop 11 on BPWD although I wasn’t looking for them and didn’t spot them. I also saw a few fast, un-identified tiny birds (UTBs?), a Belted Kingfisher, and some Blue-winged Teals – so maybe more winter visitors will arrive soon.
I’ll leave you with one more photo from the trip. I stitched this together from 21 frames made with my IR modified camera. I’m not sure who / what left that vehicle track there – maybe rangers doing some maintenance? Seems like a great place to get stuck. Anyway I think this gives you an idea of the landscape in the area.
Black Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you all are staying safe, and taking care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you don’t recognize something, keep watching – you might get a photo out of it!
Well once again, I didn’t “get out and make some new photos” last week. But I do have some new ones to show you that I made right here at home.
These Florida clouds! We’ve had some especially awesome afternoon storms lately. This is an infrared image I made from our front lawn when Lynn told me she’d spotted some Mammatus clouds. And yes, it did start raining.
Cloudy with a chance of rain
We’ve seen hummingbirds here several times, but they seem very shy and hard to photograph. Even when I have a camera ready they skedaddle as soon as I open the patio door. We were eating lunch when Lynn called out this one, and I was able to get the camera and make some images from inside through a window before it left.
Yard bird 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
It’s been a tough time for lizards. Last week I told you about that Red-shouldered Hawk grabbing one off the screen. This week, we had a Bluejay hunting lizards in the back yard too. It was hard focusing on it through the tree leaves and by the time I made this image, that poor lizard was about gone.
Yard bird 2: Bluejay and the circle of life
So that’s how my photographic week went. I’m going to try even harder to “get out and make some new photos” next week. We’ll see.
Thanks to Lynn for once again being such an awesome spotter! I would’ve missed all three of these photos if she hadn’t pointed them out for me. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on in our yard than I ever see. Maybe I should pay more attention!
And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos, even if they’re just in your yard!
Here are a few photos from a short trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week. I spent most of my time on Black Point Wildlife Drive. This first one is a six frame, handheld, infrared, black & white panorama looking along the road near the entrance just after dawn.
What’s around the bend?
I heard these Common Nighthawks before I spotted them. Several were calling and flying near the road about half way around the drive. They’re very fast flyers, erratic and hard to track. They spend summers in Florida but this is the first time I’ve been able to photograph them – although I’ve heard them and seen them briefly before (over at Lake Louisa).
A nice surprise
Gators are frequent down here and I don’t often stop to photograph them anymore. I thought it was worth a snap this time since it was posing nicely and looking at me like I’d make a tasty meal.
Speaking of tasty meals, just up the road from the Alligator, I spotted two of these rabbits foraging in the grass. I stayed in my car and this one was very cooperative. But they should really be cautious around that gator!
Enjoying a snack – A Marsh Rabbit chowing down on some greens
I had this Osprey perfectly framed – before it took off. Turns out I was a little too close, which doesn’t happen very often in wildlife photography (at least for me). Even though I clipped the wings, I still like the image, so I’m including it.
This time of year is very hot and things to see and photograph can be a little sparse. It’s probably not a popular time to visit BPWD. I only saw two other people on the drive while I was there. But I’m glad I I decided to go over. Even if I hadn’t see anything, a little time out there in nature is a welcome distraction from ‘doomscrolling’ the pandemic.
A few updates – if you go, make sure to check on things before you leave:
They’re collecting fees again on BPWD.
Traffic was single lane and slow around some construction on the A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway leading into the refuge.
Ages ago when I was young and starting out with photography, I used black and white almost exclusively. It was an economic choice, not esthetic. I could buy black and white film cheaply in bulk and do my own processing, which reduced cost substantially.
In today’s digital world I still photograph in black and white, but not exclusively and it’s not an economic choice anymore. Almost every modern digital camera has a black and white mode. And since I shoot in RAW format, I can experiment and choose what my final output will look like long after I press the shutter. There are many reasons to shoot black and white, but here are a couple you may want to think about:
1. Emphasize / reveal different things about a subject
The Lightroom B&W panel has sliders for 8 different colors. Converting from RAW can provide a lot more control than choosing the default B&W mode in your camera. When processing this photo, I used this to bring out detail and texture in the Osprey’s feathers, brighten its eye, and darken the sky background.
Here’s a before and after that compares the color and black and white versions. Which do you like?
2. Control harsh light and colors
I like both wildlife and landscape photography. Light is best for landscapes during the golden hours around sunrise and sunset and can be very harsh in the middle of the day. Black and white can help you control this and make a good photo even when the light is harsh. I mostly use my infrared converted camera in black and white mode for this, but a regular camera can also work. Here’s an example of some harsh mid-morning light that I think works well in IR/B&W:
I wish I knew how to predict what sunrise will be like. But I don’t, so I just show up and see how it’ll turn out. Here’s the first photo I made last Wednesday:
The water is wide
And this next photo is from nearly an hour later. The color and clouds were going strong the whole time!
Rays and reflection
That daybreak was remarkable. I’ve been out photographing some mornings where the colors only pop for a few moments. And I’ve been out other times where they don’t really pop at all. If any of you know how to predict this kind of thing, I really want to hear from you. If you too want to know, don’t ask me!
Well, our summer season has already arrived here in Central Florida. It’s hot and I was chased by many mosquitoes (and chewed on by a few) as I photographed the sun coming up. I think our recent afternoon thunderstorms have made the bugs worse.
And the birds seem to have moved on, or at least they’re hiding in the places I normally visit. There weren’t many to see along Gator Creek Road or Black Point Wildlife Drive. I did stop by the Green Heron nests that I bypassed on my last visit (https://edrosack.com/2020/05/17/minwr-11-may-2020/). I didn’t see any nesting activity, but this cooperative young one was still hanging around.
Youngster – This juvenile Green Heron has fledged and is out in the world fending for itself
And here’s one final image – a panorama of some trees that I thought were interesting in infrared.
Pines and palmettos
Changing the subject again – I hope all Dads out there are having a wonderful Fathers Day! Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.” Lydia M. Child
I miss you Dad. I hope we made you as proud as our families make us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
Anyone can snap a photo. As photographers, we choose subjects and then compose frames around them so a viewer’s eyes are drawn to what we want them to see. One thing to think about when we’re out with our cameras is how to isolate the subjects in our images.
Scan the scene when shooting – look for distracting elements and get rid of them. How? Sometimes you can’t, but here are some suggestions.
Viewpoint: Shift a few feet one way or another to hide things. There’s a much less attractive mailbox just out of the frame below on the left.
A Mailbox on Joe Overstreet Road
Magnification: We never have enough zoom, do we? Use what you do have to get close and separate subjects from clutter. You can also crop later on the computer, but you’ll risk losing some image quality / resolution.
A good morning for a song – singing Eastern Meadowlark. Joe Overstreet Road
Light: Sometimes the light is just right to make your subject stand out from the background – take advantage of it! This can be modified a bit in post processing too.
Shy bird – A Roseate Spoonbill in the light. Black Point Wildlife Drive
Depth of Field (DOF): In addition to getting as close as you can and using a long focal length, shooting with a wide open aperture creates a shallower DOF and blurs the background behind your subject. You may need to shift your position a bit to insure that the entire subject (e.g. both the insect and the bird) are in the plane of focus.
Butcher Bird – Loggerhead Shrikes often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or barbed wire. Joe Overstreet Road
Color: Catching your subject against a contrasting color can help it stand out. These American White Pelicans with their yellow beaks were very nice to pose for me in the blue water.
American White Pelicans. Black Point Wildlife Drive
So that’s a few ideas. If you think about this when you’re out, your photos will improve. Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to add them in the comments.
And speaking of isolation, Lynn and I are both generally in good health (thankfully!). But the CDC says we’re at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus due to our ages. We’re going to follow their recommendations and stay up to date on developments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out, stay safe – and make some photos!
“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!” — Si’ahl (Seattle), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes
Beginning with my very first adventures out in nature, I’ve always been taught to leave no trace. And so I was startled and then a little sad when I saw these along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about a week ago.
I’ve seen rock stacks (or rock cairns) before, just not in MINWR. I guess I also noticed that stacking rocks (and posting photos of them on social media) has become a thing. People shouldn’t do this anywhere, and when they start doing it in one of my favorite places, it’s time to speak up.
I looked through my image archives for another photo from near the same spot and found this one from back in 2013 that I never processed or posted before. It’s looking in a different direction, and it shows rocks where they should be. It’s worth a click to view a larger version.
Gator Creek pano
There are of course, legitimate reasons for building rock cairns and different National Parks have different rules. See this NPS page: https://www.nps.gov/articles/rockcairns.htm. However, it’s always wrong to tamper, add to, or build unauthorized cairns in national parks.
I couldn’t find anywhere on-line that specifically says rock stacking is prohibited at MINWR. Even if it’s not against the rules – it’s still ethically, morally, and environmentally wrong. And it’s rude and selfish. Don’t do it.
Big Cypress National Preserve is a 729,000 acre swamp in South Florida adjacent to Everglades National Park. It was originally going to be part of that, but instead was established as a national preserve in 1974.
I’ve wanted to visit for years and finally went down a couple of weeks ago. I stayed at the bungalow Clyde Butcher rents behind his Big Cypress Gallery along Tamiami Trail. This is a “first impressions” blog post, not a guide. I don’t know the area well enough to give you a comprehensive review.
Butcher’s Pond. Next to Clyde Butcher’s gallery on Tamiami Trail
The bungalow was very nice and provided a good base for exploration. I do wish there was cell service or that they provided an internet connection – although I guess you could argue that being cut off is part of the swamp experience!
Big Cypress is huge and there are a lot of places to check out. And even more places if you include Everglades National Park. For me, the southern portion of the Everglades was just too far away from where I stayed so I concentrated on nearby spots including Kirby Storter Park, Fakahatchee Strand, Loop Road, Shark Valley, and a few others. There was a lot I didn’t get to – I need to go back!
Pre-dawn stars and clouds, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
Kirby Storter was only a few minutes away and I hoped to take advantage of dark skies and catch site of the Milky Way from there. I did manage to glimpse it but clouds rolled in towards dawn and I had to make do with a starry pre-dawn photo instead. I can tell you that I felt very alone out there in the middle of the swamp at 5am. It was dark (no moon) and hard to see very far – kinda spooky. But I also felt pretty safe because every time I moved a bit, the crickets went silent. I figured they’d warn me if anything large got close!
Cypress swamp, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
There’s a lovely, short hike along a boardwalk that leads back into the swamp next to some flowing water and ends at a large gator hole.
Red-shouldered Hawk Pair. Fakahatchee Strand State Park
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park was close too. It’s the largest state park in Florida and Janes Memorial Scenic Drive is an eleven mile dirt road leading from the visitor center back into the swamp. There’s only about six miles open right now due to damage from Hurricane Irma. You can drive this yourself like I did, or take a guided tram ride.
I was busy trying to make landscape photos when a lady hawk (the one on the left) started calling in the tree next to me. I thought she was yelling at me for being too close, but it turned out she was calling for her mate. He flew in and they had a “conjugal visit” while I rushed back to the car to get my longer lens. I missed the action, but did get a nice family photo of the pair afterward.
Fakahatchee Strand 4, color
There are a great many views of this lovely swamp along the scenic drive. It took me a long time to go out six miles and back because I stopped so often to photograph.
Loop Road Cypress and Sawgrass
Loop Road is another scenic area. Both ends connect to Tamiami Trail and I explored those, but didn’t travel the whole twenty six mile route. Next time!
On my visit, I mainly focused on landscape images although I did see and photograph some wildlife – mainly in Shark Valley. There were alligators, turtles, and a lot of birds – most were the same ones we see up here in Central Florida although I did sight a yellow crowned night Heron which isn’t very common in my usual spots. There were also a lot of small birds / warblers that I should have spent some time photographing / identifying.
This was a good time of year to visit. It’s considered the “dry season” and in additon to the comfortable temperatures, I got zero bug bites even though I didn’t use any bug spray the whole time.
You could spend a lifetime exploring there. I stayed for three nights and was very tired when I got home but only touched the surface. Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp, a swamp buggy tour, a swamp walk, an airboat ride, the Indian reservations and many others. Things to look forward to!
Cypress and air plants, IR B&W
Location scouting is a huge part of good landscape photography. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of scouting in advance. You know that an area is special when you can come back from your first visit with photos you really like. Big Cypress is extra special – a Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!
We should all be grateful that we’ve preserved places like Big Cypress and the Everglades and that we’re working to restore them to their natural state.
If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you might be familiar with “new gear jinx”. It seems whenever we get new photo equipment, the weather turns bad for a while so we can’t use it.
The day was dreary and the light was dim. Lots of clouds, some fog and haze, and rain later in the morning.
Kevin M. and I both wanted to try out some new gear and in spite of the poor weather we’ve had lately, decided to defy the jinx and venture out to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive on Friday morning. I’m very glad we did. Here’s some of what we saw.
Fulvous Whistling-duck. There were quite a few. I’d never seen one before, so this was a great addition to my life-list. Thanks Kevin!
Common Yellowthroat. I posted a photo of one a few weeks ago, but this bird is much more colorful.
American Bittern – in their classic frozen statue pose. It eventually realized we could see it anyway and left. By then, I wasn’t paying attention and missed the flight shot.
Eastern Phoebe. This must be a young one – it hasn’t learned to hide from photographers behind twigs and branches yet.
Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight. We saw 4 or 5 of these on Friday. They’ve been on Black Point Wildlife Drive too and seem more common than usual this year.
There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of birds on the water – I haven’t seen that many in a long while. Lots of coots, but also Redheads, Northern Shovelers, Blue-wing Teals, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks too – among others. We also saw a few alligators, all the other usual wading / water birds along with an occasional Belted Kingfisher, one young Bald Eagle, Red-winged Blackbirds, many Red-shoulder Hawks, and even one fast flying snipe.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive undoubtedly lives up to its name. If you’re planning to go, it’s usually open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. That poor light on Friday was a good test of our new gear but I ended up with a lot of photos I like. I think we broke the jinx!