I made this image a couple weeks ago during our stay at Lake Louisa State park. I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got my camera and went outside. It was a long time before dawn and “flashlight so you don’t trip” dark. Of course, normally you should use your base ISO for landscape photos. And you should stop your lens down to increase depth of field and get everything in focus (and for image quality). But there was so little light I had to use ISO 1600 and expose with my lens wide open for 25 seconds to get anything to show up.
73 seconds, before dawn
Anyway, once I had a workable exposure, I lined up my composition as best I could, manually focussed on the dim things I could see, and made four frames – hoping I’d have what I needed to stitch a panorama.
I used my normal workflow, careful to control noise in the RAW file processing. And there were some stitching anomalies in the water that I had to remove, but I really like the finished image. I hope you do too. You can see a larger version on Flickr if you click on it.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you wake up too early – make some landscape photos in the dark!
And Happy Mothers Day to every Mom out there! The world owes you so much!
Bear Creek Nature Trail is a small park in Winter Springs, Florida. There’s a path that winds along next to the water and it has some very pleasant scenery for such an urban location. Lynn and I have been visiting for many years – I think I first mentioned it on the blog in 2008. I decided to go by last week and try to improve my panorama techniques.
In the quiet forest 3: Nine frame panorama, 14011×7881
I’ve written about stitched panoramas many times so you might know that I like to make them. They’re a great way to get a wider field of view and to capture more detail too. See this post for an example of my workflow up to this point.
I knew I’d been taking a few shortcuts and ignoring some things. I’ve had wonderful results, but at times the post processing was more difficult than it needed to be. Two specific problem areas were sloppy leveling and parallax.
If your camera isn’t level you’ll have to level the image in post, which can require cropping in and wasting pixels. It can also introduce stitching errors at the seams between frames. A panoramic head is one solution for this. It’s mounted on top of your ball head and lets you level your camera using its built in level indicator and the ball head controls instead of using the tripod legs. This works well, and it can be left on your main tripod all the time.
Parallax results when close and distant objects in your scene don’t align the same across multiple frames. A nodal slide can remove / reduce parallax errors.
In the quiet forest 2: Six frame panorama, 12502×6251
I think my first attempt with these worked out well. It’s a bit more effort to set up before your capture, but it can eliminate fixing some problems later in software. I realize this may be more than you wanted to know about panoramas, but if you’ve tried them and have issues stitching, then here are a couple of links that go into more detail. I think they’ll help – they helped me.
In the quiet forest 1: Six frame panorama, 7743×6104
Oh, about the otters: Lynn and I saw a couple of them at this park way back in 2009. Since then I’ve looked for them every time I go, but haven’t seen them again. I managed to get a photo of one of them swimming away from us as soon as we saw it. I’ll post it now even though it’s not the best image.
As I was leaving the park this time, I said hi to a Winter Springs Park Ranger. They said they’re there often and I asked if they ever see any river otters. They haven’t but have seen tracks. I guess I’ll have to keep watching for them.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can – make some panoramas and watch out for otters!
Sometimes you want to get closer / zoom in with your lens to show as much detail as possible but if you do, you can’t fit everything in your frame. When I’m in that situation I try to expand the frame by making a stitched panorama. It’s a common approach for landscape images – but it can also work for wildlife and I don’t see that mentioned very often elsewhere. Here’s a recent example I assembled from two photos:
And here’s one more made from three photos:
A Partial Pod of Pelicans. (Click to see larger on Flickr. Click again to zoom in)
I’ve written about this before, so I won’t repeat myself. If you’re interested in my approach, see these two posts:
And there’s much more info on the web waiting for your DuckDuckGo or Google search.
There is an added complication to watch out for when stitching wildlife panoramas: the animals may move between frames. For that reason, I shoot as quickly as possible. I try stitching the frames together automatically and look for any anomalies along seams. If I find some, then I assemble the panorama manually in photoshop and mask out the issues.
‘Twas the night after Christmas and I sat at my desk,
trying to decide which photos were best.
To the refuge I’d been three times in December.
I was writing a blog post to help me remember.
All of these pictures I selected with care.
In hopes that they’d make you feel like you’re there.
This light on the Fish Camp made me pause for a bit.
When the pandemic’s over, we’ll stop in and sit.
Early morning at the Fish Camp Bar & Grill. On SR 46 at the St. Johns River.
Going into the refuge the river’s reflection,
painted this scene approaching perfection.
Clouds on the Indian River. Just south of Veterans Memorial Park.
Kingfishers on Black Point are loud and brash.
But I managed to catch one, heading off in a flash.
Male Belted Kingfisher in flight
A Common Yellowthroat posed in the brush.
Then he flew away in a very big rush.
Male Common Yellowthroat
Storks in formation soared by above,
A wonderful subject to make photos of.
Three Wood Storks in flight
And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A pretty pink spoonbill, preening quite near.
Preening Roseate Spoonbill
Other birds to the refuge, they also came.
It’s wonderful to see them and call them by name.
Now Ospreys, Shovelers, Pelicans and all,
Northern Shoveler drake
Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls,
Now woodpeckers, cardinals, eagles, owls and more,
So many birds along the shore!
Red-bellied Woodpecker. “I know I saw a bug in there…”
Male Cardinal in the Mangroves
Nesting Great Horned Owl
Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall,
stay for a while, don’t dash away all!
Ibises and Spoonbills
Ibises and Egrets
And I exclaimed as I turned out the light:
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”
Calm Harbor – Titusville Marina
Note: I ended up visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge three times this month and I had so many unused images from these trips that I decided to re-do a post from December 2019 with updated words to fit the new photos. MINWR is a truly wonderful place – especially at this time of year. I’m very grateful that I live close by!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope this holiday season brings each and every one of you and your loved ones peace and joy. I know the pandemic has been extra challenging and not being with family is especially hard at Christmas time. Stay safe and take care of each other so we can all enjoy the better times that are on the way for 2021!
This is my last post of 2020, but I’ll be back next Sunday with another one. Until then, have a happy and safe New Year!
I think MINWR lives up to these definitions and I’m grateful that it’s close by and has stayed open. Even as the pandemic here in the USA continues to worsen, a visit there seems very safe to me. Lots of fresh air, with just a few socially distanced people. And interesting landscapes and wildlife to see and photograph – and divert me from the 24/7 news cycle.
Anyway, our weather has been a bit strange here in Central Florida. We’ve had lots of rain showers and strong winds too, so I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like. My weather app said there’d be some clouds (good for sunrise photos!) so I got up at zero dark thirty and headed over to the St. Johns River boat ramp on HW 50.
A windy morning on the St. Johns River
The air here is still on most mornings. But in this photo you can see nearby grass blowing and the water motion smoothed out from my 3s shutter speed. As I was photographing, an owl swooped in and landed about ten feet away. It only stayed for a few seconds as it looked me over. It was very dark, I was a bit startled, and I didn’t have the right lens on – so I didn’t even try to make a photo. But it was a very cool moment.
When I got to MINWR I made a pass around Black Point Wildlife Drive. Maybe it was too early, but I didn’t see much. Then I went over to drive through Gator Creek Road and it was roped off – I’m not sure why. This page says Catfish Creek and Peacocks Pocket are closed due to hurricane damage, but doesn’t mention Gator Creek Road. Maybe it was because of a rocket launch – we’ve had quite a few recently.
The wildlife photography part of my trip wasn’t going very well. Before I headed home, I decided to go through Black Point one more time and I’m very glad I did. The second pass was much better!
There are more winter birds showing up now than last time I was there. Kingfisher’s are notoriously flighty, but for some reason this one sat still for me – of course I wish it’d been closer!
Northern Flickers are always a treat. I wasn’t sure that’s what this was until I got home. It was severely back lit and I couldn’t see any detail until I looked at it on the computer (with the shadows slider cranked up).
There were several of this next one flying around over the marsh. I was pretty sure they were Northern Harriers – the white rump is distinctive. I don’t see these very often and I enjoyed reading about them when I looked them up again. They hunt with both hearing and sight and have evolved stiff feathers around their ears to help direct the sound. They also have soft feathers elsewhere to reduce their flight noise – leading to their nickname “Gray Ghost”. You can read more at this link: https://www.audubon.org/news/northern-harrier.
Gray Ghost (Northern Harrier)
Here’s one last photo. Reddish Egrets are one of my favorite birds and I usually spot one or two along Black Point. I’m including it because this is the first time I’ve seen one perched up on a branch – they must do this all the time, right? This photo is worth a click to view on Flickr. You should be able to zoom in there with additional clicks to see a lot of up close detail. This post is getting too long or I’d tell you how I made this 40 MP image with my 24 MP camera. Maybe next time.
I saw a pair of Bald Eagles, Yellow-rumped Warblers (also winter visitors), a few (far away) Roseate Soonbills, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black and Turkey Vultures, many Ospreys, gulls and terns, and others too, although I’m sure I missed many. I also saw what might have been a vole scurry across the road. Lucky for it one of those Harriers wasn’t close by.
A good trip. I guess I’m glad Gator Creek Road was closed and I had to make a second pass on Black Point!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. If you have a National Wildlife Refuge near you, consider exploring it – in a safe, socially distanced way. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.
The master copy of the image below is made from multiple frames that I stitched together into a panorama. It ended up being ~196 megapixels. I used a 70mm lens, so the equivalent focal length is about 35mm. Looking at it another way, the tree line along the horizon is probably a couple of miles in length.
A calm, cloudy morn
Especially at this time of year, if you can zoom in to almost any image like this you’ll see dragonflies moving around or perched on leaves. Look closely at this crop from near the center of the first image and you can just make out two of them resting on reeds.
The next photo is a single frame I made a few minutes earlier with another camera / lens at ~1400mm eq. focal length.
Four-Spotted Pennant (?)
So in terms of lens magnification, it’s about a 40x zoom. In terms of distance shown, it’s a few inches vs. a couple of miles or ~20,000 times smaller. Either way, quite a change in scale and two unique ways to show the environment and inhabitants.
As I was starting home from Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge yesterday morning, I decided to make one last stop along the causeway. Looking around, I noticed something in the distance rolling around in the water. I couldn’t tell what it was and I wasn’t carrying the long lens, so I walked over to the car to get it. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got back but it wasn’t. This is the first image I made:
What it that?
I still couldn’t see it really well in the view finder. I thought it might be a manatee’s head or maybe even part of a dolphin. Then I saw this:
Cormorant vs. fish
So now I knew what it was! The bird struggled for several minutes trying to swallow that huge fish. It would hold it under water for a while (changing its grip?) before bringing it back up in the air. It eventually got it arranged just right and managed to get it all down. This was the fish’s final view of things – Circle of Life.
Eye to eye
The weather on this trip was somewhat unusual. I almost always go over there in the mornings. One reason why is that it hardly ever rains early in the day. Most of our rain comes down in afternoon thunderstorms. But this time there was a big downpour as I drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive and even a rainbow!
Overall, birds are still a bit scarce out there. I did see some of our usual ones including Pie Billed Grebes, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Ospreys, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Common Gallinules, American Coots, a few gulls and terns, Anhingas, and (of course) Cormorants. And Jim Boland reports that there are two Bald Eagles hanging out near stop 11 on BPWD although I wasn’t looking for them and didn’t spot them. I also saw a few fast, un-identified tiny birds (UTBs?), a Belted Kingfisher, and some Blue-winged Teals – so maybe more winter visitors will arrive soon.
I’ll leave you with one more photo from the trip. I stitched this together from 21 frames made with my IR modified camera. I’m not sure who / what left that vehicle track there – maybe rangers doing some maintenance? Seems like a great place to get stuck. Anyway I think this gives you an idea of the landscape in the area.
Black Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you all are staying safe, and taking care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you don’t recognize something, keep watching – you might get a photo out of it!
I haven’t mentioned the Photography Interest Group in a long time. There hasn’t been much activity, and to be honest the expeditions have always been few and a little haphazard. But anyway Kevin K. organized an early morning photo excursion last Friday and we managed to gather five of us in one place.
We met in downtown Sanford, Florida at the Monroe Harbour Marina for a socially distanced photo walk. Kevin M., Mahesh S. and Lutfi S. joined us too. Here are a few of my photos from that morning.
I arrived a bit early and made this image while waiting for the others. Once I got home, I was curious about the very bright star above the moon and discovered it was the planet Mars.
Moon, Mars, and stars: before dawn at the marina
When everyone was there, we wandered around the area. Calm water and colorful skies made for a nice dawn image looking eastward through the moorings.
Zooming in searching for details, I discovered a Halloween themed sailboat:
Masks, no handshakes (or even elbow bumps), and 6 foot distances made it seem a little strange. But ignoring that, it was almost like old times – seeing friends, catching up on each other’s lives, and making a few photos too. Definitely good for the soul.
On the way home, I drove by Marl Bed Flats again and the standing water there still looks pretty widespread. So no changes in this year’s sunflower forecast – sorry.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos – with your socially distanced friends!
Sometimes, I try to be clever and people ignore me – which may be a good thing.
I noticed a Bottlenose Dolphin making a fuss hunting for fish – big splashes and noise. I was too slow to catch that ruckus, but a few minutes later I made this photo as it swam through calm water in front of colorful early morning reflections on Gator Creek and left interesting patterns in its wake.
A wake at dawn
I posted it to Flickr and expected people to moan about the pun in the title, but crickets about that. Maybe it would have worked better as “Awake at dawn”. Dunno. I suppose I should leave the comedy to professionals. At least I didn’t get a bunch of nasty comments about it!
Here are two more images from that trip. This one is nearby, about 15 minutes earlier.
Restful rays, distant clouds, and a calm creek
And this one is two hours later, along Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Clouds over the marsh
My drive to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was rewarding once again and well worth the time. No wonder it’s a favorite place for me!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are staying safe – take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos, and even some bad puns!
Well once again, I didn’t “get out and make some new photos” last week. But I do have some new ones to show you that I made right here at home.
These Florida clouds! We’ve had some especially awesome afternoon storms lately. This is an infrared image I made from our front lawn when Lynn told me she’d spotted some Mammatus clouds. And yes, it did start raining.
Cloudy with a chance of rain
We’ve seen hummingbirds here several times, but they seem very shy and hard to photograph. Even when I have a camera ready they skedaddle as soon as I open the patio door. We were eating lunch when Lynn called out this one, and I was able to get the camera and make some images from inside through a window before it left.
Yard bird 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
It’s been a tough time for lizards. Last week I told you about that Red-shouldered Hawk grabbing one off the screen. This week, we had a Bluejay hunting lizards in the back yard too. It was hard focusing on it through the tree leaves and by the time I made this image, that poor lizard was about gone.
Yard bird 2: Bluejay and the circle of life
So that’s how my photographic week went. I’m going to try even harder to “get out and make some new photos” next week. We’ll see.
Thanks to Lynn for once again being such an awesome spotter! I would’ve missed all three of these photos if she hadn’t pointed them out for me. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on in our yard than I ever see. Maybe I should pay more attention!
And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos, even if they’re just in your yard!