I met Tom M. at Ponce Inlet last Friday at dawn. We arrived at 6 am when the park opened and were the first ones in. We didn’t see anyone else for about 30 minutes. I was surprised by how few people were there. I guess it helps to go during the week instead of on weekends.
I thought I’d share three photos along with some details on how I made them.
The moon was full on Friday for the second time in July and was just setting as we got out on the jetty. I found this vantage point to highlight the “Blue Moon” over the water along the rocks. This is a two exposure composite that I blended manually using layers and masks in Photoshop. I exposed the top part for the moon (ISO 50, f/11, 1.6 sec.) and the bottom part for the water (ISO 50, f/11, 5 sec.). I used my Nikon 24 – 120mm f/4 lens at 120mm – it’s very versatile for these kinds of outings.
Blue Moon descends
I liked the way the area just north of the jetty looked, with the sun and clouds above the water and rocks. I made a few exposures, and then waited for the sun to rise a bit more so it would be behind the clouds and the light would be less harsh. I saw a pelican flying by and managed to catch it just about under the sun (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.). I thought it would look better with silky smooth water, so I made one more exposure using an 8 2/3 stop Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed (52 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 8 sec.). This image was also blended manually using layers in Photoshop. I did have some issues with color balance. The ND filter added a yellowish tint to the bottom that the top didn’t have. So I adjusted it to match as closely as I could before blending.
Ponce Sunrise – Early morning, just north of the jetty at Ponce Inlet.
For comparison, here is one of the photos I made about 5 minutes earlier when the sun was lower. This is a single exposure (50 mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 sec.). I made a burst of several and picked one that best showed the sun highlighting the spray on top of the breaking wave. I like the framing on this one better too as I can see the sun reflecting off the jetty wall. The colors are more orange since there’s more of the sun showing through the clouds.
Ponce Sunrise too – Same place as the previous photo, and a few minutes earlier.
I’m not sure which one of these sunrise images I like best. I’m leaning toward the second one. Too bad the Pelican wasn’t in place when the wave broke! Which one do you like? Have you tried any techniques like this?
On a side note, I used my Nikon D800 camera that I’ve had for more than three years to make these. A couple of weeks ago, Nikon sent me an email and offered to clean and inspect it and fix anything they found wrong – for free! I took advantage of the offer, got it back, and was anxious to test it out. It seems to work fine and it’s nice to know it’s still in good shape. Thanks Nikon!
Happy Holidays! Once again the season has snuck up on us. I hope that all of you, your families, and your friends have a joyful and happy season!
Photographer Jim Goldstein has an annual tradition of organizing a “best photos of the year” listing. I’m very glad he started this, since it’s a good reminder for each of us to take time to review results and contemplate how to improve our photography. And also to put together an annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.
2012 was another good year for me photographically. The 2012 folder on my hard drive takes up about 284 GB of space – almost double 2011. There are 80 folders, and each one represents a separate “photo-op”, with a total of over 6200 photos, so it does look like I’m trying! I had a lot of opportunity to make good images this year, and I’m pleased with the results I achieved. But it doesn’t seem like my ability and skills have grown as much this year as in the past. Perhaps I’ve plateaued. Maybe I don’t know what I don’t know about getting better. Maybe I’m just getting more picky and critical. Regardless, I think I need to make a stronger effort in 2013.
I’m still using the following system to rate my photos. The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2012.
1 star – The photo is interesting (174)
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (396)
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (68)
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
5 stars – My favorite photo ever (still none, I’m not finished making photos yet!)
The rest of the photos don’t have stars and are seconds or not so good versions. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. This system seems to work for me and I’ve reviewed my 2012 photos and selected my favorites. This is a hard process for any photographer. It’s difficult to separate my opinion about a photograph from any emotional connections that I might have with the scene or situation. But making this effort is important and part of the learning process. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t claim to be objective about my photography. These photos are the ones that I like best, so feel free to disagree – but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.
You can click on each of these to go to Flickr and see a larger version. Or you can click on this link to go to the complete set on Flickr.
I have 1 miscellaneous subject, 1 mammal, 1 bird, 3 people photos, 7 landscapes, 3 sunrises, 0 sunsets, 6 color, 4 Black and White, and 4 Infra-Red photos. Definitely a trend away from wildlife and toward landscapes and infra-red. Here we go…
My number 1 favorite photo of 2012:
Many cypress trees, Blue Cypress Lake, near Vero Beach, Florida, June.
I have a thing for Cypress trees anyway and when I made my first and only visit to Blue Cypress Lake this year, the natural beauty of this place overwhelmed me. I’m planning to return early next year when I can also see many nesting Ospreys and other birds. See this post for more info.
My number 2 favorite photo of 2012:
Pre-dawn Jetty, Jetty Park, Cocoa, Florida, October.
When I saw this scene, I really liked the way the light on the walk drew my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon. So I straddled the rail with my tripod and made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 3 favorite photo of 2012:
Keb’ Mo’ in concert, Plaza Theatre, Orlando, Florida, February.
I like The Plaza and they often bring in acts that I like too. We were lucky to get seats up front and when the spotlights lit up the smoke, I made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 4 favorite photo of 2012:
Water Dragon Sunrise, on board the Carnival Paridise in the Gulf of Mexico, April.
I stalked this sunrise for about 45 minutes before this scene developed. I’m happy I waited for it – sometimes patience pays off! See this post for more info.
My number 5 favorite photo of 2012:
Submarine sunrise: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaving Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn, October.
This was a bonus photo when the sub turned south after leaving the inlet and posed for us under the rising sun. See this post for more info.
My number 6 favorite photo of 2012:
Cocoa Sunrise, North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida, August.
This is an infra-red, fish-eye photo (an “IRFE”). It’s a really good combination to shake up your photography and inspire some creativity.
My number 7 favorite photo of 2012:
Play time at Union Station, Cincinnati, Ohio, December 2011
This photo missed the deadline for last year’s favorites – so I included it here. I usually wait for people to clear out when I’m trying to make a photo. This time I went ahead and made it while these two girls played around the fountain. Since this is a stitched panorama, they show up multiple times, which I think adds to the image. See this post for more info.
My number 8 favorite photo of 2012:
Cruising White Pelican, Black Point Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida, December.
White Pelicans are winter migrants to our area, so we don’t get to see them very often. This one cruised right in and posed in the middle of my viewfinder. I couldn’t have arranged it better! See this post for more info.
My number 9 favorite photo of 2012:
On the beach, Venice Beach, Florida, September.
We were wandering around exploring the area near the Venice Pier. Since it was close to mid-day, I didn’t expect the light to be good, but I took my IR camera in case something came up. I think the IR characteristics add a lot of interest to the photo. And it makes a great example of how “playing around” can lead to good things. See this post for more info.
My number 10 favorite photo of 2012:
Late night?, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, May.
This photo was difficult to make since the lighting was challenging and I had to photograph the Gorilla through glass. But it’s a great pose and expression and I was able to clean the image up considerably in post processing. He looks like I’ve felt a few times. See this post for more info.
And here is one last photo that I care a lot about:
The “Senator” – a 3500 year old Bald Cypress tree, Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida.
I made this image in September of 2011, so it doesn’t officially qualify for a 2012 favorite. The reason I put it in this post is because in January of 2012, the tree caught fire, burned and collapsed. The fire was at first thought to have been caused by lightning, but later was determined to have been started by a woman inside the hollow tree so she could see the illegal drugs she was using. Now no one else will ever make a photo of this, so it became a lot more important to me in 2012. What a crazy, sad event. For more info see this post and this post.
If you’d like to see my favorite photos from earlier years, you can click on these links: 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The sky was pretty cloudy when I first went out, but by the time we arrived it was starting to clear up. There was still enough color left to get a few good photos. In this one, I like the way the light on the walk draws my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon.
A little later, I noticed this boat speeding around the inlet, sometimes with flashing lights and a siren and wondered what was going on.
The Coast Guard patrols: This small Coast Guard patrol boat was very active.
I should have realized what was happening before I saw this next boat coming out of the inlet:
On the way out: Close up of a ballistic missile submarine leaving Port Canaveral, Florida. The presence of bow planes instead of sail planes show that this is a British boat, the HMS Vigilant.
This was pretty exciting for me. Many years ago, after college, I was in the Navy and served aboard a sub like this one. Just before I got out, I was stationed at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral. After submarines go through refit, the Navy sends them down to NOTU for a missile test. They load a special dummy warhead missile and then test fire it down range from the Atlantic off the Cape. The tall mast behind the sail is added to transmit instrumentation data during launch while the sub is submerged.
We watched the boat turn south after leaving the inlet, and rushed to set up our cameras for a photo as it sailed under the sun.
Submarine sunrise: This is a unique Florida sunrise scene: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaves Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn.
We hung around for a while after this to photograph shorebirds including Brown Pelicans, Gulls, Black Skimmers, Terns, and others. But the highlight of the trip for me was the sub. As a former submariner, it brought back a lot of memories and I really enjoyed the show. Quite a bonus for getting up early!
10/31/12 update: The HMS Vigilant successfully launched a Trident II D5 missile on 23 October. Read more here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Like many people in the US, Lynn and I headed to the beach for Labor Day. We really like Casey Key on the Gulf Coast of Florida just north of Venice. Like always, it was very relaxing. We swam, shelled, ate, walked the beach, and got plenty of sun. I also had a little time for some photography.
The north jetty at the inlet in Casey Key Florida is full of people fishing and watching the sunset. I watched from the south jetty in Venice. The sail boat was a nice bonus.
Willet on the beach – This bird was very cooperative. When not fishing in the surf, it would occasionally come close.
On the beach – We were wandering around exploring the area near the Venice Pier. Since it was close to mid-day, I didn’t expect any good light but I took my IR camera in case something came up. I think the IR characteristics add a lot of interest to the photo.
Dawn yesterday was nothing to get up for – cloudy, dim, no color. But we were up and out, so I made a photograph anyway.
That taken care of, I switched cameras and used the Sigma 150-500mm to scout shorebirds. There were many Gulls (Laughing, Ring-Billed, Herring), Pelicans and Black Vultures, a few Royal Terns, Black Skimmers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Northern Mockingbirds, and Ospreys, and a Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret. I also saw a couple of Hawks and was puzzled by the look of this one that flew over the jetty and out into the inlet until I got home and did some research. I’ve never seen a Peregrine Falcon in the wild before yesterday!
Reddish Egret in the surf – quite a “do”
By the time we moved up the coast to MINWR, it was a bit brighter and the conditions were better for photography. We’d heard about a sighting of a Redhead duck and wanted to see if we could find it. We came across it about half way round the drive on the right hand side swimming with several other ducks. I think it’s amazing how a few bits of data over the internet can lead to sighting a semi-rare (for Florida) bird. With so much information available it’s a great time to enjoy this kind of thing.
Other birds we saw on BPWD: American Avocets, Common Snipe, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Robins, Roseate Spoonbills, Gulls, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Harrier, Northern Shovelers, Coots, Greebes, Green Wing Teals, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Great Egrets, and others.
Once again, a wonderful day outside in our natural Florida paradise.
We had another very nice photo outing last weekend. We stopped first at Jetty Park in Cocoa for sunrise and to check out the shore birds. It was quite cold (for Florida) – about 32 degrees F with a 15 – 20 mph wind – brisk! We saw Brown Pelicans, Northern Gannets, Ruddy Turnstones, Royal Terns, and several types of gulls.
Dawn at Jetty Park: There wasn’t a lot of color in the sky, but I still like how this turned out
Next we went by the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (East Gator Road, Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, Scrub Ridge Trail, and the visitor’s center). MINWR continues to have large numbers and many types of birds. We saw several unusual ones (a Sora, Clapper Rail, Eastern Meadowlark) and many of the regular visitors (Redwing Blackbirds, Norther Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Ring Neck Ducks, Blue Wing Teals, Redish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-color Herons, Little Blue Herons, Little Egrets, Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Coots, Morehens, etc.).
Male Northern Pintail
There were disappointments at a few of the normal spots: The Great Horned Owl wasn’t on its nest, the Painted Buntings weren’t at the Visitor Center, and there weren’t any Florida Scrub Jays on Scrub Ridge Trail. But there weren’t any mosquitoes there either!
Jetty Park and MINWR are fantastic places to visit and very active now. If you haven’t been recently, go! You can see more photos I’ve made at these places here, here, and here.