Editors note: Today we have an update from our roving correspondent MaryKate. This post features some new friends she made on her Alaska visit back in September – enjoy!
I wrote a post awhile back about my Labor Day trip to Alaska and the majestic Orcas we observed in Seward with Seward Ocean Excursions. But there was so much amazing wildlife on the other stops of our trip that it deserves another post.
After Seward, we drove three hours down to Homer. I was excited to visit Homer since I’ve only been there once, and it was so foggy that I didn’t really get to “see” Homer. This time though, our weather was simply beautiful!
iPhone Panoramic View from our Rental (Homer Spit is in the distance to the left)
While in Homer, we ferried from Homer down to Seldovia on a 7 hour Seldovia Wildlife Tour aboard Rainbow Tours. While it was towards the end of the tourist season in Seldovia, it was worth the trip just for the wildlife and views from the ferry, and there were plenty of photography opportunities.
Sea Otter in Kelp
My favorite photo from the trip was this Sea Otter in Kelp. Sea otters sometimes wrap themselves in kelp like this to anchor themselves and relax a little. While sea otters are very common in Alaska, and friendly enough that they make great photography subjects, I thought that the composition of this shot made for an especially interesting photo. If you click-through to the Flickr album, you can see the progression of the sea otter unwinding himself from the kelp to swim away.
Sea Otter Floating Away
When we were almost back to Homer, we saw a raft of otters. I’d seen several of these on our trip, but all were too far away to photograph, so I was glad to catch these guys.
Raft of Otters
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and you otter make some photos!
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands. I had time last Wednesday, so I packed my camera gear and set out at “o-dark-thirty” to give my shutter finger some exercise.
My first stop was Rotary Park, on the Indian River in Melbourne. It’s small, but I like it because it’s open before dawn and the cochina rock formations near the shore by the pavilion can add interest in the foreground. Nature cooperated and painted in a superb sky.
Next, I headed over to Viera Wetlands. There were quite a few things to see and photograph.
Green Heron still life
Sora with a snail snack
Grackle in good light
Dragonfly in flight
The roads through the wetlands have been closed for a while because of all the rain we’ve had here in Central Florida. They’re open now, but in rough shape – lots of potholes to dodge as you drive through.
Speaking of all the rain we’ve had, I checked on the Lake Jesop Wilderness Area sunflowers again yesterday, and they’re very, very sparse this year. There are a few clumps of flowers on higher ground, but the grand fields of blooms are missing. The water’s still high and large areas are still flooded. Maybe next year.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
The last time I wrote about covered bridges was way back in August of 2007 when we visited Indiana (The Covered Bridge Capital of the World). I find them interesting, so maybe it’s time for another article!
When we were in Bethlehem, PA, we had some extra time and Lynn found a web page describing a tour of covered bridges in the area (Lehigh Valley Covered Bridge Tour). We printed out their PDF brochure (from this link) and set off one morning to explore.
We ran into trouble right away trying to navigate to Bogert’s Bridge using a street address. We ended up pulling over while Lynn figured out the lat/long location for each one. Using those proved much easier and we didn’t have any further nav issues. If you go, here are the numbers we used.
Covered Bridges of Lehigh Valley Pensylvania
The early morning weather was nice with blue skies and some puffy clouds. But the sky got grayer the farther we went.
Covered Bridges in Florida? I got curious about covered bridges in our state and did some web research. www.dalejtravis.com has a huge amount of info on covered bridges (and round barns too) including state by state listings. His page for Florida lists many covered bridges. Unfortunately, the structures here in Florida are decorative and / or modern – there aren’t any “authentic” / historical covered bridges listed in our state. You’ll just have to travel elsewhere if you want to see some. Pennsylvania and Indiana would be good places to start!
Guitars are another long-time fascination of mine. It began when my folks got a piano and my sister started lessons. I must have been jealous because Mom and Dad bought me a Harmony Guitar (but no lessons!). I learned a lot with it and kept it for over 30 years. I finally sold it at a garage sale sometime in the late 90s – wish I hadn’t.
When people ask, I usually say that I “play at” guitar. I think the small amount of natural talent I have comes to me from my Mom’s side of the family. Her father played in a band on the radio in the 1930s.
Granddad Harrison’s Band, about 1939. He’s the one in the middle with the fiddle.
Anyway, Martins are a sort of ‘holy grail’ for guitar players and I wanted to visit. Since we were already in Pennsylvania, I talked Lynn into stopping by the C. F. Martin & Co. Factory in Nazareth. They have a wonderful behind the scenes tour and I signed us both up.
Ed, outside the Martin Guitar Factory. Lynn said I looked like a kid in a candy store!
We got there a little early and spent some time in their museum. It’s interesting to see guitars that many of my favorite musicians played. Martin started in 1833 and their collection of memorabilia and more than 200 instruments show off the history and timeline of the company.
The factory tour itself was wonderful and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide (Ben) was the retired plant manager. He certainly knew a great deal about how they’re built.
Panorama from a walkway overlooking the factory
The first thing I noticed walking in to the factory was the delightful aroma. I won’t soon forget the smells of all the wood being worked.
I built a guitar (from a kit) once, so I’m familiar with how they go together. But seeing the factory in action, with its blend of hands-on craftsmanship and modern machinery / robots was spellbinding.
Robot Neck Carving
Using machines on some pieces (e.g. necks) increases the accuracy and precision of the parts and fit. And they can apply finish and polish without exposing humans to the fumes and dust.
Robot Body Polishing
There’s still a lot of hands on work, especially in their custom and Retro Series guitars.
Hand carving top braces
Custom back and fretboards
Almost done – these are waiting to be strung up and tested
They’re very photo friendly on the tour. They don’t want you making any video, but photography is fine, except for a couple of locations (they’ll let you know). The light is pretty good inside. I used ISO 400, f/1.8 – f/2.8, and my shutter speeds varied from 1/13 sec. to 1/200 sec. You’ll need to be careful if something’s in motion, but otherwise image stabilization should take care of the slower shutter speeds in dimmer light.
The 1833 shop is next to the museum and sells Martin branded items. And their “Guitar Maker’s Connection” is located in the old Martin Factor a little bit away from the main site. The behind the scenes tour is $25, requires a reservation and begins at 9:30. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere nearby. Check Martin’s site for more details.
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.
The sky wasn’t very promising on our way over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week. There were no clouds and we didn’t think the morning color would be any good. Since it didn’t seem like we had a lot to lose, we decided to try a new sunrise spot: Loughman Lake, on the south side of SR 46 just west of Mims.
Misty Palms. Olympus High Res mode, converted to B&W. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200 mm eq. (cropped to ~250mm eq.). 6:16 am.
We were right – at first. There was hardly any color and I ended up converting this first image to black and white. But there was some photogenic fog and around 15 minutes later, the color arrived along with a few clouds on the horizon.
Misty Dawn. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/6 sec. @ f/6.3, 150 mm eq. 6:28 am
The images in this post are in time order and I’ve added exposure, focal length, and timing info for you. It turns out that I made all of these with a relatively long lens – unusual for my landscape photography. I’m sure that there are some great wide-angle compositions there, but the shorter focal length photos I made that day aren’t as interesting to me as these. I’m glad I brought the very versatile Olympus 12-100 f/4 zoom.
Morning Glory. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/80 sec. @ f/8, 200mm eq. 6:37 am
Here’s one more image. I like the Great Blue Heron “statue” out in the water.
Misty morning marsh. Olympus High Res mode. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200mm eq. 6:45 am
Loughman Lake turns out to be a good place to stop on the way over to MINWR. But make sure you bring a longer lens!
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!
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!
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!