Clouds, Mountains, Desert. Near San Augustin Peak, NM. 7 frame panorama.
I find western landscapes extremely appealing. Maybe it’s just that they’re so different from Florida. When I saw these mountains, I made MK pull over so I could make this image.
Volcano Cinder Cone. IR, B&W, 3 frame panorama
This is a view of one of the three Volcanoes visible from the Volcano Day Use Area in Petroglyph National Monument, a little west of Albuquerque. When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped a lens cap somewhere along the path. I did go back and look for it and of course, couldn’t find it. Does that happen to you too?
Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget. So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).
The Air Force Memorial. (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.). I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens. It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.
The Potomac River at Great Falls. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom). Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.
Ceiling in the Library of Congress. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL). Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress. I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view.
The Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.). I really like the way the IR camera rendered this, especially the bronze contrasting with the foliage. There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC. You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.
Washington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec). There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial. I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view. I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry. I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess! After we left this time, we heard reports that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…).
I grew up near Washington DC, and I’ve made many trips (both business and pleasure) to the area since then. So I feel somewhat qualified to offer ideas on photo opportunities in our nation’s capital.
My most recent visit was last week. Lynn and I went to Williamsburg, VA to see Caroline (our niece & god-daughter) graduate from high school. We decided to go early so we could spend a few days as tourists in downtown DC.
“Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue” – I was very happy when I saw how the light was falling as we arrived at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus!
I probably don’t have to tell you that DC is a rich photo environment. Monuments, memorials, museums, history, art, architecture, gardens, government, and more are everywhere. But how do you get interesting photos, ones different from everyone else’s? Here are some suggestions.
Try using an Infra-Red modified camera. I really like the way mine renders buildings against foliage and the sky.
Smithsonian Castle – Infrared, Black and White
Take an evening guided tour: Lynn signed us up with the Bi-Partisan Tour Company for their “Epic Evening Tour” (thanks Lynn!), and we both really enjoyed it. They took us around to great locations and allowed us to see them in a different light (dusk, blue hour, and night). I think it added interest to my photos.
If you do take a tour, stay alert in the bus and watch for good vantage points as you ride. I spotted the Washington Monument behind the Jefferson Memorial and rushed back to make this shot when we parked while everyone else went into the building itself.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk – with the Washington Monument in the background
It’s almost always crowded. You can try going in early on a Sunday morning, but if you’re there with everyone else you’ll have to use the people in your photos or find vantage points / ways to minimize them in your photos. I don’t know how many were at the Wall when we were there – it was elbow to elbow and had to be thousands.
Crowds at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963. Ghostly figures move around the base of this long exposure photograph of the Martin Luther King Memorial at blue hour, with the Washington Monument in the background.
If you go at night, be sure to take your tripod. It can be a pain, but my night tour images wouldn’t be nearly as good if I hadn’t taken mine.
Some other hints:
Contact your senators or congress person to arrange a tour of the capital (you’ll need to start months in advance). If that doesn’t work out, there are commercial ones available that will still get you a guided tour inside.
Take wide or ultra-wide angle lenses. Building interiors don’t fit in the frame with a standard zoom.
Before you go, practice making stitched panoramas. You can use this technique in place of an ultra wide lens.
Stay in a hotel as close to the National Mall as you can. Parking is scarce and expensive. You’ll be walking or catching rides to get where you want to go. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and use your light weight photo gear.
If you’re from Florida, you’ll appreciate the price of admission. All of the museums and monuments are free. Museum hours are usually 10am – 5:30pm. Lines were typically short, but some will require reservations (check first). You can visit monuments 24/7, but rangers are only available 9:30am to 10pm.
You might have cooler weather in May or early June. It’s not as pleasant to walk around later in the summer with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can spend many days (or weeks!) exploring DC. But if you run out of things there, Photo ops abound in the surrounding area. Two that I’d highly recommend are the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just south of Dulles, and Great Falls Park about 30 minutes NW of DC.
I’m collecting Washington DC photos in this album on Flickr, and I’ll add to it as I finish processing images from this trip. Please check it out!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go to Washington DC and make some photos!
May 12, 2017 update: We’re far behind on rainfall here in Central Florida, so the water level in many lakes is very low. It’s a good idea to call Middleton’s Fish camp (800-258-5002) and check on conditions at Blue Cypress Lake and whether rental boats / tours are available before you go down.
Lone cypress at dawn (IR, B&W, panorama).
The trees at Blue Cypress Lake are simply gorgeous. Their shapes remind me of Bonsai, although I think instead Bonsai should remind me of these trees. The ones here are all completely natural, formed by nature into elegant sculptures. I love the way my infrared camera renders them. The bright needles and clouds against the darker sky and water is very appealing.
Lynn and I spent last Thursday night near Vero Beach and met Kevin K. at Middleton’s Fish Camp just before sunrise on Friday. Middleton’s is the only camp and the only development at all on Blue cypress Lake. The rest of the lake and shore is completely pristine and undisturbed – very rare in our state. It’s also quiet. And peaceful. And just stunning.
This place really is Florida unspoiled, and a photographic “target rich environment”. We went on one of their pontoon boat tours at first light and Don (our guide) was knowledgable and skilled at navigating in and among the trees near the shore. He mentioned that this lake and the surrounding swamp form the headwaters of the St. Johns River, which flows north to the ocean in Jacksonville – something I didn’t know.
Lone cypress and Osprey (IR, B&W, panorama).
Blue Cypress Lake is also home to a large colony of Osprey. There are 200+ breeding pairs with eggs, hatchlings, and some almost fledged juveniles in nests in the Cypress trees. The birds fish in the surrounding swamp and carry their catch back for the young. Many of these Osprey are migratory and leave for South America after raising their young – something else I didn’t realize.
Jeanne Middleton told me that prime nesting time starts around 10 April so we hit it just about right. I made a lot of photos of the Osprey last Friday too. I’ll finish processing them and post them soon.
Springtime color – Flowers in a courtyard in St. Augustine, Florida
Lynn mentioned she’d like to spend a night or two in St. Augustine and I readily agreed. It’s one of my favorite, must do photo ops. She made reservations at a Bed and Breakfast (http://www.44spanishstreetinn.com) just behind the Columbia Restaurant and we headed up there last weekend.
I’d been feeling a little sick, although not bad enough to cancel the trip. I was looking forward to going back to Marineland Beach (earlier posts here and here) and perhaps the Alligator Farm (many posts here).
We arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and checked in. It was a lovely place and extremely convenient. Strolling around town before dinner, I warmed up my camera with a few photos including the one above.
I woke up feeling worse on Sunday morning and decided to sleep in. We were staying one more night and I figured I could always do sunrise the next morning. After a wonderful french toast breakfast and some cold medicine, we set out to explore on the Old Town Trolley. We’d never done that before and I was glad we did this time. Riding the entire route, we got to locations we hadn’t seen on previous trips. It was also very nice to just sit there and still be able to make some images. My energy was very low and I was indisposed to walking around.
I had a small camera bag with me, and shot mostly with my infrared camera. I like the way it rendered the old buildings. It was out and ready when I noticed this fellow riding in front of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.
Infrared bicycle pirate – commuting to work?
I tried searching for ‘infrared bicycle pirate’ photos on both Google and Flickr and didn’t find any. Apparently they’re a very rare genre. Perhaps I should specialize.
Monday morning came with my symptoms getting worse and once again I couldn’t get up for sunrise or even make it to the Alligator Farm. I guess that means we’ll have to schedule another trip. I’m feeling a better as I write this and hope I won’t have to go to the doctor tomorrow.
I’m happy I made a few images I like. If you’re sick (indisposed) fight your lack of desire (indisposition) to make photos. You can look at other photos from St. Augustine in this folder on Flickr.
Happy Easter and thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – don’t be or get indisposed – go make some photos!
I had a strong urge to photograph, and at the last-minute decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge before dawn last Friday. My first stop was at a spot Kevin M.Tom M. (3/25/17 correction – I misremembered, sorry. Tom told me about this place, not Kevin.) had mentioned – underneath the east side of the A. Max Brewer Causeway that leads into the refuge.
We’ve had cooler weather here and very clear skies, so I wasn’t expecting much color at sunrise. But this is what greeted me at dawn:
This image is a two frame panorama I made with the Olympus E-M1 II camera in high res mode. Lightroom’s been updated for the camera, and I’m impressed with how it handles these files. And the more I use the new camera the better I like it, especially how it minimizes motion artifacts in high res mode.
I next took a turn around Black Point Wildlife Drive. The water on the first half is as low as I’ve ever seen it – gone in many places.
Cracked. Infrared, B&W
It was exciting to spot a Bobcat. It was stalking slowly through the grass, but I only managed a single (poor) frame before it disappeared. I wish it had lingered for a few minutes so I could get a better shot. I’m guessing it might be a long time before I get another chance for a Bobcat photo as good as the one in this post from 2011.
On the back half of Black Point there was a lot more water and a lot more of the regular birds.
I also took a turn around Gator Creek Road and saw an Osprey close up with an awesome fish. But it grabbed the fish and flew off with it before I could get a photo. Seems like I need to practice my quick reaction shots!
I’ve haven’t been out photographing for a while, so when Kevin M. invited me to ride along with him yesterday I was eager to go. It was one of those beautiful Florida winter mornings – clear, bright, a little windy, and perfect shirtsleeve temperatures.
Three Lakes WMA is a quiet area with dirt roads through varied habitats including pine forests, grass fields, and some hardwood stands with streams and lakes. There were several RVs and campers parked near the entrance, but they were sleeping in and we had the place mostly to ourselves at first.
A road less traveled – Infrared, black and white, panorama
Whenever we stopped the car to scout for wildlife, it was so quiet, all we heard were birds and the breeze blowing through pine needles. What a peaceful, non-urban setting!
I’ve been by the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area three or four times looking for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that nest there (read about previous trips here and here). And yesterday, I finally saw one. Kevin knew exactly what to look for and spotted this one (that I missed) on my side of the car – thanks Kevin!
It really helps to go out with someone familiar with the place and the species you’re looking for. Kevin mentioned that he’d been through with our local Audubon group and they pointed out many areas and what to watch for in each.
I have seen Bobwhites before, but this one running across the road was cute!
And I’ve seen Eastern Bluebirds before, but didn’t have a good a photo of one.
We also saw a raccoon, a couple of deer, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Meadowlarks, Eagles, Swallow-tailed Kites, Snail Kites, Hawks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and many other birds. It was quite a trip!
The Airstream Ranch that was along I-4 in Central Florida is gone now. It was demolished on February 9th, 2017 to make way for a new RV dealership.
I’ll miss seeing our own “trailer henge” when I drive down I-4. This is a good reminder to always have your camera with you and make the photo when you see it. You might not get a second chance!
If you’re interested, here’s a Tampa Bay Times article about the demolition: http://www.tbo.com/news/iconic-airstream-ranch-display-demolished-to-make-room-for-new-airstream-dealership-20170209/(sorry, no longer available)
It was the first Friday the 13th of the new year, but our luck wasn’t completely bad. The day started early with some challenging light and fog at sunrise. I’m glad I brought my IR modified camera and used it to cut through the limited visibility. I did get one or two pleasing photos, including this one. But it’s a B&W sunrise! What’s up with that?
The boardwalk by the boat ramp in the fog – at SR 520 and the St. Johns River
Kevin led us right to the Smooth-billed Ani (thanks Kevin!). The light was still poor and we ended up coming back later for a better look / image. These aren’t normally found this far north in Florida and they’re unusual looking with a very large beak – fun to see. People have also reported a close relative (Groove-billed Ani) on Apopka Wildlife Drive.
We saw Scaups, Mottled Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Limpkins, White Pelicans, a Wilsons Snipe, a Great Horned Owl, Coots, Moorehens, Roseate Spoonbills, and Osprey among other things.
Hooded Merganser pair
Mom and juvenile Limpkin about to enjoy escargot
The light was spotty all morning with periods of rain. There were a couple of images I tried that didn’t work out. I’m going back soon to try again. NOTE: Their website says that Viera Wetlands is closed January 16 – 20. Plan accordingly.
Based on this post and my previous one, I think you can see that the bird activity has picked up here in Central Florida. It’s time to get out and enjoy our natural wonders.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Editors note: Although I’m feeling much better, I’m still going to take a sick day. I’ll repeat this post from September 2014. If you haven’t read it before, I think it’s still very relevant and worth a look. If you have – then I apologize for the repeat.
If you use raw format in your photography, they look different from jpg photos. Raw format is just the data read directly off of the sensor with no processing by the camera. Depending on how you configure your camera and software, raw image contrast and sharpening can be very low, white balance may not be optimized, and exposure is often set for capture / low noise instead of display / print.. This can make it tough to judge raw photos and decide which ones merit further processing.
When I returned from Maine and reviewed my photos, I bypassed some. When I finished working on the ones I’d identified as “selects”, I went back and re-looked at those I’d set aside. Some of them deserved attention.
A calm morning on Bubble Pond
It’s not just raw images that can be difficult to evaluate. Infrared photos usually need processing to optimize too.
Bass Harbor Light
And multi image panoramas make seeing composition and field of view a challenge before the individual frames are stitched together.
Behind Sand Beach
I can’t tell you how to rate your images and select your best. But what I can tell you is to be very careful not to discard something before you’re very sure that it’s not worth pursuing. Give your photos a second chance. Learn your software so you know how far you can go with adjustments. And as with any thing worth pursuing, practice will make you better.