I’ve seen interesting photos recently that some of my local Flickr friends made in the Black Bear Wilderness Area. So last Wednesday, I drove over to Sanford, Florida and took a hike to explore part of it. Here are a few photos I made.
A fern near the start of the trail – these were everywhere and very green.
BBWA is a 7.1 mile nature trail through a 1,650 acre preserve along historic levees through the St. Johns River floodplain. I thought the entire route would be a bit much for me, so I only hiked about 4 miles total, out and then back – starting counter-clockwise to reach the river. I used my IR camera on the way out, and my ‘normal’ camera coming back.
Along the St. Johns River, near boardwalk 3. IR monochrome
There are signs posted warning you to be prepared. The route runs through remote areas with some challenging terrain (slopes, tree roots, fallen trees, etc). I didn’t think the part I explored was that rough, but be careful if you go – carry water, bug spray, etc. And check the weather – a rain storm while you’re out there could make the trail very slippery.
From a bridge overlooking a canal around mile mark 1
Bald Cypress trees and swamps around them are some of my favorite subjects. You’ll find them in large numbers at BBWA.
Among the knees – near mile marker 1.5. IR monochrome
Inside the cypress Swamp – Near mile marker 0.5
In addition to these landscapes, I also saw a gator or two, and quite a few birds including herons, egrets, limpkins, osprey, and some unidentified smaller birds back in the bushes. And no, I didn’t spot any black bears. Shucks.
There were about 15 other people on the trail that morning, which seems like a lot to me for the middle of the week. I guess the word is getting out about beautiful views along this amazing trail through wild Florida. I wish I’d heard about it sooner!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with KM and KK last Friday.
We stopped by the boat ramp at the St. Johns River on US 50 for sunrise. There weren’t many clouds, so my hopes for color weren’t too high. But there was a nice pop as the sun came over the horizon and I zoomed in to capture this moment:
St. Johns Sunrise – a peaceful pasture
I had my infrared modified camera in the car. When I saw these fishermen leaving, I pulled it out and hurried over to make an image. Despite rushing, I like the way it turned out. The clarity that IR brings to this image is nice, and the wake and boat reflection are pretty too. I’m glad I had the camera all setup to go before I grabbed it!
Early departure – Monochrome, infrared
KM is an ace at spotting birds and he called out this Merganser. When I got home, I thought at first it might be a Common Merganser – which I’ve never seen before. But it turns out their range doesn’t include Florida. So this was a Red-breasted – which I have seen, although infrequently.
There are a large number of Northern Shovelers around Black Point Wildlife drive. Of course they were mostly far away and when they were close, they seemed to always face in the wrong direction. But patience paid off when this male eventually swam slowly in front of us in good light and dragged his very handsome reflection with him.
Male Northern Shoveler
Thistle plants are also all over on Black Point – this one came with a Bee on it. I made a four image panorama to record the whole subject with higher magnification and resolution. Sometimes I run into issues stitching these together. But this one turned out well:
Thistle and Bee
KK called out this Snipe in the mangroves along the canal and we of course stopped to photograph it. The light was poor, with the sun behind it. When I first looked at my photo on the computer, it was very washed out. I added some dehaze in Lightroom and was pleased with the result.
Smaller birds were flitting around near the rest stop on Black Point. I usually find these hard to photograph. The light is bad way back in the reeds and they move quickly. It’s tough to focus on them through all the obstructions. I was shooting toward the sun for this image too and it didn’t look good at first on my computer. Thankfully it’s in focus and there’s a lot of latitude for processing with a RAW format file. I used local adjustments with the radial filter in Lightroom to boost the exposure and visible detail on the bird.
When we left on this trip, I had no idea what we’d see and photograph. There are no guarantees. I’ve learned though, that Mother Nature usually rewards us when we pay attention to her – in this case with a nice sunrise and several birds that I rarely see. And a little post processing rewarded me with improved photos.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!). So I was eager to photograph something this week. My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.
Whoops. I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running. I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and no water in the corner cell, I turned around. Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.
Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.
After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. There are a lot of winter migrants here now. The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex. In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID. I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there. I heard later they found it again on Saturday.
Hooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area
Pair of porkers. Part of larger family just inside BPWD.
Spoonbill and reflection. This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama. That really helps with details!
Weathered Red Cedar. I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!
So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well. Those engines I heard were pumps. I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14. And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16. I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down. Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go. Even if you’ve been there many times!
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!