I hadn’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while and decided to head over last Monday. On the way in I stopped by the pier on the west side of the A. Max Brewer Memorial Bridge. When photographing a sunrise (or anything else!) I try to stay aware of things in other directions. Looking north just before sunrise, this sail boat caught my eye. I like the subject, colors and reflections:
A pretty place to anchor
Winter is such a wonderful time to visit MINWR. The variety of “snow birds” you could spot is amazing. Here are a few I found.
I haven’t seen a Snipe in a long time – the sun’s glare hid it pretty well, but the long beak gave it away:
These enormous waterbirds hang around all over Central Florida in the winter, but it’s still nice to see them. Every one I spotted was either far away or horribly back lit.
High Key White Pelican
Northern Shovelers show up each winter:
Her and Him
Northern Pintails show up too, although I don’t run across them as often:
Him and Her
And Willets and Lesser Yellowlegs are fairly common, although it’s unusual to see a choreographed pair and their reflections:
Definitely worth a visit – I’m glad I went! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, visit a wildlife refuge!
The city of Orlando is adding a boardwalk, equestrian trail, and visitor center at Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP). The new 2200 foot board walk across Lake Searcy opened recently, and the Visitor Center looks like it’s almost finished. I’ve wanted to get back out there and see the changes and when Mahesh suggested a trip, I readily agreed. I met him and Lutfi there last Friday. The boardwalk provides some lovely new perspectives and viewpoints of the wetlands. Here’s a nice one, looking east past a cypress dome.
Green Herons are fun to photograph. I like the geometric patterns in their feathers.
Wood Storks are fun to spot too, especially in good light.
A couple of Storks
That eBird bar chart shows that Spoonbills are observed there all year, and I see many photos online of juveniles from OWP. I haven’t seen any nests yet, but Jim Boland has spotted some – they seem to have established a thriving colony! We saw twenty to thirty of these charismatic, rose-colored birds on Friday morning and if you’d like to see them in the wild, this is a great place to go look.
Backlit Spoonbilll in flight
I first saw (and heard) Whistling Ducks at Orlando Wetlands and they’re a reliable find there.
Seven Whistlers and a Blue-wing(?)
We saw plenty of Alligators although I didn’t make any photos of them. And mammals are around too. We saw tracks (Racoons?) and I’ve seen Otters, a Bobcat, and Deer in the past.
My good friend Kevin M. was in town a week ago and wanted to visit LAWLD. We also invited Lutfi and the three of us met and drove up together.
It’s about the same distance for me as Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and has a wide variety of birds to see (especially at this time of year). It’s one of my favorite places but I struggle to make landscape photos there. I think this is mostly because I like the light before sunrise and the gate doesn’t open until 7am. Anyway, I did make this one shortly after we arrived. It’s two RAW iPhone frames, stitched together and processed in Lightroom / Photoshop. I like the color contrast of the winter Cypress trees against the blue sky and water.
Small birds were plentiful near the entrance. Here are a couple I was able to make reasonable photos of:
Swamp Sparrow on the rocks
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – more orange / blue contrast
And here are two more that we spotted near the Pump House:
Raising offspring is hard for most every species. Seeing these birds cooperate to bring new life into the world is spellbinding and makes for a great photo op. I think my favorite photo of the trip is this gentle, back-lit handoff:
Great Blue Herons nesting – handoff
There’s almost always other action on LAWLD too. The Anhingas are adept anglers and with a little luck you can freeze action like this:
LAWLD is the only place I’ve ever seen Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, so I was happy to spot them this time too.
Fulvous Whistling-Duck Trio
We also saw: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a Painted Bunting, a Common Yellow-throat, Black-crowned Night Herons, Northern Harriers, a Red-shoulder Hawk, Tree Swallows, and many of our more common birds.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a wonderful 2023! Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!
I spent a few moments before sunrise last Thursday morning at Scobie Park (just south of Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville), watching the pre-dawn clouds reflecting in the calm Indian River water. Oh, and I had a camera with me too – I made 6 frames to stitch together into this image:
The day begins
After that I wandered over to Black Point Wildlife Drive and one of the first things I saw was this:
These “feeding frenzies” don’t happen all the time, but when they do they can be great photo fun.
At first glance, they look like a photographer’s dream – all those birds in a confined area – taking off, landing, chasing minnows and each other, just waiting for you to snap the shutter.
It turns out it’s not so easy. They’re crowded together against a cluttered background. They move quickly, change directions unexpectedly, and in general make it hard to pick a subject and compose deliberately – especially if you’re looking through your viewfinder with a long lens on your camera. I often keep the camera away from my eyes so I can see what’s going on. Then I can sometimes anticipate the action and make a photo when they all decide to move at once:
I also like to study the scene for a while and try different vantage points and lenses. I chose a spot where the wind was at my back and most of the birds were taking off and landing toward me. It helps to keep looking around so you can spot them as they’re coming in. I noticed this spoonbill a long way out. Since I knew where it was headed I could track it as it approached and make several frames when it landed. This side lit one is my favorite:
There were lots of Roseate Spoonbills around. The header image at the top of the post on the web is another one I like from the trip. That pair was wading in a less busy part of the drive.
I also had some good luck with this female Belted Kingfisher. She ignored me and kept gazing out over the water as I crept closer. I stayed in the car, moved slowly and tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t bother her. Most of the time, they leave as soon as you point a camera at them, but she wasn’t concerned at all. This is one of the closest photos I’ve made of one (the EXIF data says I was about 19 meters away). She’s very pretty and quite regal, I think.
An Unusually Calm Kingfisher
It was a short visit, but a wonderful one. This is an excellent time of year to visit the refuge, get out in the midst of nature, and enjoy some of the things you can see there.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a joyful holiday season with your family and friends. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!
Jim Boland sent out his latest email newsletter last Thursday and it made me want to visit the refuge again. The last time I’d been was a while ago and before Hurricane Ian. I charged up my batteries and left early on Friday morning to explore.
There are still some road closures over there (see this link for the latest official status: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/merritt-island), but the good news is that Black Point Wildlife Drive and West Gator Creek Road – spots I usually visit – are open.
I arrived well before sunrise and stopped by the Titusville Municipal marina. The weather forecast had me expecting very few clouds and I had a longer lens mounted to try and frame some details on the boats. When I saw this low cloud drifting in, I didn’t think I’d have time to swap lenses, so I pulled out my phone. Current phone cameras are just amazing! (Click on this one to see a higher res version on Flickr.)
A cloud drifts by above the marina before dawn. iPhone wide camera, handheld, 24mm eq., f/1.8, 1/5 sec, ISO 8000. RAW capture, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.
I saw the same things that Jim reported including Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret, Blue-winged Teal, and Black-crowned Night-herons. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out this Redish Egret is the exact same bird he saw. It was especially entertaining: busy showing off its fishing prowess and ignoring photographers interested in making photos.
I enjoyed seeing all the Goldenrod in bloom. This one was in nice light:
Goldenrod in golden light.
And I couldn’t resist making a photo of this people watching gator. The header image is a crop from the center of the photo.
Craggy face critter.
Our other common birds were out and about. I spotted a few warblers too, although the only one I was able to ID was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was a great trip – thanks for motivating me Jim!
I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
It’s been a little over a month since my last post. I enjoyed writing this one after such a long break.
I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge toward the end of August. I wasn’t expecting to see much, but I wanted to get out and photograph something. I’m glad I did, because the sunrise was one of the best I’ve ever watched.
That photo’s from Veterans Memorial Park on the west side of the Indian River looking east toward MINWR and Kennedy Space Center. I was concentrating on the sunrise when I noticed several other folks had shown up. One was Pat H., who I’ve known for a while. I’m glad I ran into her since she was there to photograph the Artemis 1 SLS rocket on the pad at launch complex 39B. At the time, the planned launch was a couple days later. After we talked, I went and got my long lens to make a close up photo of it (the header image). You can see a higher res version on Flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/52311586034/in/dateposted-public/. I’d hoped to include a photo of the launch in today’s post too, but it’s been postponed. Hydrogen is tricky stuff!
After that I went through Gator Creek Road, Black Point Wildlife Drive, and also stopped by the Bairs Cove boat ramp. This kayaker had gotten up very early to go fishing. I didn’t see him catch anything while I was there though.
A fine morning for fishing
I was happy to find this pretty, young Roseate Spoonbill and its reflection at one of the first corners on Gator Creek.
Other birds were a bit scarce, but this Loggerhead Shrike flew right in front of my car and landed in a mangrove. I quickly rolled down the passenger window and pointed my lens at it. Auto focus is amazing now days. My camera locked on the bird in the middle of all those branches at the first shutter press (no – that doesn’t happen all the time!)
A Bird in the Bush (is worth two in the hand?)
I also saw some gators and a raccoon on Black Point, and 5 or more manatees at Bairs Cove – but didn’t get good photos of any of them.
Changing the subject, I was browsing my archives one day and found this image I’d never processed. It’s from one of my previous cameras (an IR converted Olympus E-PL5). I ran it through Lightroom’s enhance detail and the Topaz Sharpen AI plug in and it came out with an amazing amount of detail. I like the subject rendering and the background separation too.
In other news, we’d planned some travel but that got postponed while we dealt with a broken central air conditioner here in hot, humid Florida. Supply chain issues mean it takes a very long time to get a replacement compressor (and other parts). Hopefully that’s behind us now (I hope Murphy doesn’t read this). As a side note, I didn’t realize Portable ACs work as well as they do!
Sorry to ramble on for so long. I suspect that my posts will be longer since they’re less frequent now. I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
I’ve been thinking about this blog and what it should be like going forward. I haven’t reached any conclusions about revising the purpose or content, but I am going to revise the schedule.
What’s around the bend?
Over 15+ years, I’ve written 758 posts: an average of over fifty a year. In recent years, I’ve been publishing every Sunday and I’m finding that pace harder to sustain. Coming up with something worthwhile each week is a challenge, especially since I’ve been photographing less than I used to. I guess I’m suffering a bit from writer’s / photographer’s block.
So I’m going to shift to an irregular schedule and publish when inspired. Instead of searching for something every week that I hope will interest all of you and me too, I’m going to update the blog when I have something to share. My goal will be once per month, but I’m not going to force it.
I’m very grateful for all of you that subscribe and for everyone’s visits, views, comments, and likes – thanks! Remember to stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if / when you can, make some photos!
I have a lot of (too many?) images in my Lightroom Catalog. I like to look through them sometimes. It brings back memories of people and places I haven’t seen for a while. It’s easy to lose track of time doing this. And if I run across a promising image that I’ve never processed or published before, I can end up spending even more time “stuck in the archives”.
There’s a bit of water / mud in the riverbed, left over from a rain storm several days earlier. And there’s a group of hikers on a ridge on the right hand side. If you’re viewing this on the web, you’ll be able to see the header image, which is a small crop showing the hikers.
Late afternoon at Zabriskie Point (75mm, f/8 @ 1/80s, ISO 100).
When I went through my photos after the trip, I passed over this one. The sun’s position just out of the frame on the top made the light very harsh. The RAW image was washed out, the riverbed was over exposed, and the terrain was a bit underexposed. There were also a few ugly lens flare spots through the middle of the frame. I can see why I didn’t bother with it back then.
Anyway, I decided to try and process it and spent some time applying various quantities of modern software magic to it. I like the result and I think it was worth getting stuck in the archives for this photo. I’m really glad I saved the file!
My weather app said the wind was 2 mph – about as calm as it gets. Very good for low light photography. Not so good for keeping biting insects away, but artists have to suffer, right?
Paddle wheel and yachts. I Like the juxtaposition of the aft end of the St. Johns Rivership Company’s Barbara Lee with the modern yachts. (34mm, f/11 at 15s, ISO 100)
If the wind’s smearing your subjects, you can try making an extra frame at a higher ISO value to increase your shutter speed. Then you can blend the water and sky from your long exposure frame with the faster shutter speed frame to reduce bluring. But it’s not ideal: the higher ISO may reduce image quality and blending can be tricky with moving subjects. I’m glad I didn’t have to do that for these – things were stock-still!
Peaceful Harbor (24mm, f/5.6 @ 25s, ISO 100).
By the way, I was going to call this “Minimal Motion Marina Morning” but that seemed like too much alliteration, even for me.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a motionless photo!
Since I hadn’t gone through my photos from that morning in Sanford, Florida, I used an iPhone image I like from under the bridge at Wayside Park for last week’s blog post. I’ve processed the others now and have several more that I’m partial to.
For comparison purposes, here’s another photo I made in almost the exact same spot back in 2013. There have been a few changes in the vegetation and the bridge structure. (And the photographer too!)
The old bridge over the St. John’s River (October 2013)
And finally, when I thought I was finished at this place, I walked to the end of the bridge to look around. For some reason I didn’t do that in 2013. I’m glad I did this time, because the scene was pretty pleasant!
A quiet morning on the St. Johns river. Looking South East toward Lake Monroe
For those of you viewing this on the web, the header image is a small portion enlarged so you can see the person fishing on the dock. They didn’t catch anything while I watched, but I’m guessing they still enjoyed the morning as much as I did!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you think you’re done, walk a little farther – you might be pleasantly surprised and make a nice photo!