We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday. I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M. We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends. Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show. I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.
On the beach
There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.
Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things. We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes. Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in. They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.
American Bittern in the grass
A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted. It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around. It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away. This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes. They’re small and usually skittish. And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph. Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.
Wilson’s Snipe in the grass
Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter. If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them. You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away. This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave. But I was over conservative with my zoom and left too much room in the frame. I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one. But I’ll have to keep trying.
Belted Kingfisher in flight
We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks. And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here. Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there. Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.
So it was a marvelous morning. Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends. Much better than sleeping in!
Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr. And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
First an announcement: If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.
And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status / news following the Merritt Island photo update.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning. I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island. We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.
Pre-dawn at the marina – Titusville. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway. From there you can shoot through the bridge toward sunrise. I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.
Dawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama
After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive. There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice. I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.
Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows
Hooded Merganser (female)
We also saw (among others): American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more. We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.
Enough of the pleasant content. Now on to the agonizing stuff.
Blog status / news
It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ. Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.
There’s good and bad news. Good news: The blog is mostly back up. And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him. Bad news: He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.
I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up . My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive. And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.
I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans. Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.
It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan. The rest of the process wasn’t as easy. Here are some of the issues I ran into:
Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me. They didn’t. I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect. A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy. I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account. I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers. This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration). The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability. This was easy and I now have an https connection. My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them. But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation. I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin. It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing this. Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default. I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them. In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once. Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it. Whew! It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over. In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages. I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work. Please check them out if you get a chance!
And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months! This stuff is just too hard!
The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was unable to use Jetpack’s subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request. Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed. If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe. Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.
Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!
Last Sunday (12/31) marked the end of the Buccaneers football season. They went 5 and 11 but finished with a bang by scoring a touchdown in the last 15 seconds to defeat the New Orleans Saints 31-24! I was lucky enough to attend courtesy of my son, Mike.
Pre-game Stadium Panorama (iPhone
The start of the game was really nice. There were fireworks and an Air Force flyover, and the group that sang the National Anthem was extremely good.
Pre-game F-15 formation flyover
They introduced the pilots from the four planes later in the game.
Air Force F-15 Pilots from the pre-game flyover
We had a wonderful view of the action from Mike’s seats on the second level towards the North end zone.
Winston handing off to Barber
Bucs score (just barely)!
The Buccaneers pirate ship lets loose with a broadside!
National Football League rules allows cameras if the longest dimension is 12 inched or less, but they’re very strict about bags. So I brought my Olympus EM-1 Mark II with a 75-300mm lens on a sling strap, with a spare battery in my pocket. Since Micro 4/3 has a 2x crop factor, this gave me an effective focal length of 600mm – pretty good in such a small package!
I used the camera in Olympus Pro Capture mode which let me select frames with peak action – ideal for this kind of photo-op. Although the camera can shoot at 60 frames per second (!) I limited it to 10. This cut down on the number I had to review and I think it was more than enough.
The game started at 4:30, and light quickly became a problem. I shot wide open and had to balance ISO and shutter speed. The 75-300mm is a fine lens, but it’s a dim f/6.7 at the long end. I was getting about 1/500th second at ISO 1600. I got some usable frames with this though I really wanted an even faster shutter speed. As the sun set I kept raising the ISO and eventually ran out of light at ISO 6400 when my shutter speed dropped below 1/400. I usually don’t use such a high ISO setting, but I think the camera did well with it this time.
The city looked pretty at sunset from the second deck.
Stadium Sunset (iPhone, 3 frame panorama)
It was great going to the game with Mike and we enjoyed seeing the Bucs win.
Many thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
The Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant inside De Leon Springs State Park has become one of our favorite breakfast spots. Something about their batter recipe cooked on a griddle right at your table, and served hot and fresh makes the pancakes taste so much better.
Our family met there on Christmas Eve and really enjoyed the food and each other’s company! After, we strolled around a bit and I made this photo – looking toward the lake from the spring outflow. The morning was a bit gloomy, but I still like how this infrared image turned out.
Christmas Eve Morning at Spring Garden Lake
If you’ve never been there, go! It gets pretty crowded, so check the hours and arrive early so you don’t have to wait. You might find a few photo ops too!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go eat some pancakes, and make some photos!
You might not consider Nassau a “Central Florida Photo Op”, but I do. It’s one of many places that are very accessible via cruise ports in our area. We left from Fort Lauderdale, but Tampa, Port Canaveral, Miami and other places offer cruises to many destinations. If you haven’t tried one, check it out.
We’ve been to Nassau several times and wouldn’t normally think of it as our favorite port. But this time we had a wonderful visit and got to see (and taste) a lot of new things. Highly recommended! I’ve embedded links to most of the places above. Please click on them for more info. And you can see more Bahamas images in this folder on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
When you’re out, don’t get too locked in on your subject. Make sure you’re always aware of other things around you. They might be photogenic too!
The dawn was dressed in pale pastels along the Indian River
I already had my sunrise images on my memory card and thought I was good to go – just waiting for a friend to finish up. But then I looked across the calm water and noticed a boat anchored near the far shore. The sky colors were unusual and lovely. I set my tripod up again and made this photo. It’s a good reminder: We have to keep looking in all directions and not put the camera away until we’re leaving a place. Beauty is all around us. Let’s pay attention!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
As an Electrical Engineer and a long time photographer, I’ve been interested in computational photography for a while. You can read some of my earlier posts on the subject at this link. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
I’d change this slightly from”instead of” to “instead of or in addition to”, but that’s a small quibble.
Moore’s law keeps driving the computing capabilities in phones and cameras ever higher and it’s fascinating to see what companies do with the extra potential.
Towalga River below High Falls, Georgia. Composite – iPhone default live view and Long Exposure, merged in Photoshop
I made the image above on our recent trip using an iPhone 8+ and Apple’s “Live Photo” mode. After I made the photo, I edited it on the phone and enabled the “Long Exposure” effect. The Long Exposure effect of blurring the moving water is computed from ~3 seconds worth of frames that Live Photo captures. This is Apple’s web page explaining the feature. Here’s what it looked like before I changed the mode – it’s not nearly as photogenic:
Default iPhone live view
Until iOS 11 added this feature, I wasn’t too interested in Live Photos. Now, I’m watching for places to use it. You can get a better image with your high-end camera and traditional optical techniques, but this is easier and a lot of fun to play with.
Here are some hints:
Pick a suitable subject: moving water, traffic on a road, blurring people in a crowd, etc.
Motion blur with a traditional optical approach requires a slow shutter speed – either low light or using filters. Since computational methods works by processing multiple frames, you can use it in bright light without filters.
Apple says it works on their newer phones (6+ and later). You’ll need to have iOS 11 (or later) installed.
The Long Exposure effect has to align Individual frames and then crop where there’s no overlap so you’ll lose pixels around the edges. Ideally, use a tripod – but that sort of defeats the idea of pulling your phone out of your pocket, doesn’t it? Just hold the phone as steady as you can to minimize cropping.
Make several exposures and pick the best one later.
Long Exposure resolution seems to be lower than default iPhone photos. This isn’t a huge problem for the moving parts of the frame – they’re supposed to be blurry. For the static portions, you can load both versions into layers in Photoshop and use masking to paint in higher resolution where you want it. I did this for the first photo above.
You can set a Long Exposure photo as your wallpaper. You’ll see the static Long Exposure version until you press on it from the lock screen. Then it changes to show the three-second animation – cool!
I hope Apple enhances this in future updates. It’d be good to have some control over the blur effect. 3 seconds is nice, but some subjects will look better with less (or more?).
iOS 11 includes other updated computation photo capabilities (e.g. portrait lighting) – but that’s a subject for another day.
Photography’s changing fast – it’s a wonderful time to be a photographer, isn’t it? In today’s digital world, many advances are likely to be computational and not optical. Keep up – don’t be left behind!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some photos!
Then we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive. The water there is very high and although wildlife numbers might be a bit below average, there’s great variety with both normal residents and winter visitors present.
A ternery pano – Caspian Terns and a Sandpiper in a four frame panorama
We saw Green, Blue, Great Blue, and Tri-colored Herons, Reddish, Snowy, and Great Egrets, a Roseate Spoonbill, Sandpipers, Caspian Terns, Belted Kingfishers, Blue Wing Teals, Coots, Ospreys, a Bald Eagle, Savannah Sparrows, White Pelicans, Gulls, Vultures, an Alligator, and probably others I missed. A person we talked to at the rest stop had just seen a bittern.
My friend Jim Boland reported seeing a Red Headed Duck, Northern Pintails, Blue Winged Teal, American Wigeons, and Northern Shovelers on BPWD in his newsletter* last Monday. We didn’t see that many – I suspect they were out there, just hidden. We heard hunters making a lot of noise throughout the morning and I bet the ducks are skittish.
If you’ve held off visiting MINWR or BPWD because you were uneasy about hurricane damage and lack of wildlife – stop worrying. The place is rapidly getting back to normal and there’s every reason to get out there and witness some of Central Florida’s beauty.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Editors note: Today we have another wonderful post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. Her report includes beautifully surreal landscape images as well as excellent wildlife watching tips and photographs. It’s well worth clicking the link at the end to view the rest of her photos. Enjoy!
In late September, I had the pleasure of visiting Monette and Jesse in Anchorage, AK for Emergency Birthday Six (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure). It was the second-to-last weekend of the tourist season, so we were excited to find a company still doing day cruises: Phillips Cruises & Tours 26 Glacier Cruise out of Whittier, Alaska.
To get from Anchorage to Whittier (population 214 people), we drove along the Seward Highway, one of my absolute favorite views ever. We saw two Beluga Whales fishing along the shore at Beluga Point – and reported them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project! I’ve looked for the Belugas every time I drive along this beautiful road, and this was my first time finally seeing them (unfortunately the only picture I have is the memory in my mind). From Beluga Point, give yourself plenty of time to get through the 2.5 mile Whittier Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America!
View from Seward Highway
The 26 Glacier Cruise, as promised, delivered many stunning glacier views. Due to weather, we took an alternate route that the on-board Park Ranger told us he had only done several times in his career and got up close to some amazing glaciers.
View from Glacier Cruise
While the first few hours of the cruise was mostly scenic views, we began to see much more wildlife towards the end of the cruise including Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and this Seal floating by on an iceberg.
Along for the Ride
But my breath was taken away in the last 30 minutes, when we were on our way back to shore, and the captain spotted a pair of Orca Whales! It’s always magical seeing these friends in the wild.
Male and Female Orca Whale Couple
I can’t wait to go visit Monette and Jesse again – in addition to being great friends, they live in an absolutely beautiful state, and I always enjoy exploring Alaska with them!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. More photos can be found in the album here. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!
Our first stop was at the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. It’s a pretty place at dawn and the view was different this time since the water is several feet higher than I’ve ever seen it. Lots of rain here recently.
Once at the refuge, we headed straight to Black Point. The water there is a little higher than I’ve ever seen it too. The road surface was in great shape – I didn’t see any damage remaining from the hurricane.
Spiders and webs were very common. This one had set up in some great early morning light.
Banana Spider – A little early for Halloween!
Some of our winter migrants are starting to show up and our regular birds were around, but not in great numbers. Belted Kingfishers teased us, and there were a few Savannah Sparrows foraging near the road.
We didn’t see too many ducks. I’m not sure if they just haven’t come down yet, or if they’re somewhere else.
We thought we spotted another Kingfisher over the canal on the right by the paved section near the exit. It was about the right size and seemed to fly like a Kingfisher. But then it landed in a tree and started acting like a Woodpecker – perched on the side of the main trunk and hopping around. I was pretty far away but took several photos anyway. When I got home and looked closely I didn’t recognize the bird. Kevin M. helped me ID it as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (another new life bird for me!). Unfortunately, the photos aren’t very good so I haven’t posted them. Maybe next time I can catch it closer in better light. It seems like I’m always saying that!
One more thing: We met a woman at the rest area on the drive who’d just seen a Bobcat. She was patiently waiting to see if she could get a better photo. We left before we found out if she was successful. I’ve seen a Bobcat out there before, but it was further along, not near the Rest Area. If you go, keep your eyes open!