I wish I knew how to predict what sunrise will be like. But I don’t, so I just show up and see how it’ll turn out. Here’s the first photo I made last Wednesday:
The water is wide
And this next photo is from nearly an hour later. The color and clouds were going strong the whole time!
Rays and reflection
That daybreak was remarkable. I’ve been out photographing some mornings where the colors only pop for a few moments. And I’ve been out other times where they don’t really pop at all. If any of you know how to predict this kind of thing, I really want to hear from you. If you too want to know, don’t ask me!
Well, our summer season has already arrived here in Central Florida. It’s hot and I was chased by many mosquitoes (and chewed on by a few) as I photographed the sun coming up. I think our recent afternoon thunderstorms have made the bugs worse.
And the birds seem to have moved on, or at least they’re hiding in the places I normally visit. There weren’t many to see along Gator Creek Road or Black Point Wildlife Drive. I did stop by the Green Heron nests that I bypassed on my last visit (https://edrosack.com/2020/05/17/minwr-11-may-2020/). I didn’t see any nesting activity, but this cooperative young one was still hanging around.
Youngster – This juvenile Green Heron has fledged and is out in the world fending for itself
And here’s one final image – a panorama of some trees that I thought were interesting in infrared.
Pines and palmettos
Changing the subject again – I hope all Dads out there are having a wonderful Fathers Day! Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.” Lydia M. Child
I miss you Dad. I hope we made you as proud as our families make us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it? But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.
Gator Creek Mirror
I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive. When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left. I’m very glad I did.
As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance. I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket. I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise. They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.
Osprey catch sequence 1
They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek. I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing. They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting toward the water.
Osprey catch sequence 2
The splash was huge and things were happening very fast. It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.
I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch. It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild. My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens. Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!
You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr. You can also visit these related Flick albums:
On a side note: I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites. Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.
I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!
Big Cypress National Preserve is a 729,000 acre swamp in South Florida adjacent to Everglades National Park. It was originally going to be part of that, but instead was established as a national preserve in 1974.
I’ve wanted to visit for years and finally went down a couple of weeks ago. I stayed at the bungalow Clyde Butcher rents behind his Big Cypress Gallery along Tamiami Trail. This is a “first impressions” blog post, not a guide. I don’t know the area well enough to give you a comprehensive review.
Butcher’s Pond. Next to Clyde Butcher’s gallery on Tamiami Trail
The bungalow was very nice and provided a good base for exploration. I do wish there was cell service or that they provided an internet connection – although I guess you could argue that being cut off is part of the swamp experience!
Big Cypress is huge and there are a lot of places to check out. And even more places if you include Everglades National Park. For me, the southern portion of the Everglades was just too far away from where I stayed so I concentrated on nearby spots including Kirby Storter Park, Fakahatchee Strand, Loop Road, Shark Valley, and a few others. There was a lot I didn’t get to – I need to go back!
Pre-dawn stars and clouds, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
Kirby Storter was only a few minutes away and I hoped to take advantage of dark skies and catch site of the Milky Way from there. I did manage to glimpse it but clouds rolled in towards dawn and I had to make do with a starry pre-dawn photo instead. I can tell you that I felt very alone out there in the middle of the swamp at 5am. It was dark (no moon) and hard to see very far – kinda spooky. But I also felt pretty safe because every time I moved a bit, the crickets went silent. I figured they’d warn me if anything large got close!
Cypress swamp, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
There’s a lovely, short hike along a boardwalk that leads back into the swamp next to some flowing water and ends at a large gator hole.
Red-shouldered Hawk Pair. Fakahatchee Strand State Park
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park was close too. It’s the largest state park in Florida and Janes Memorial Scenic Drive is an eleven mile dirt road leading from the visitor center back into the swamp. There’s only about six miles open right now due to damage from Hurricane Irma. You can drive this yourself like I did, or take a guided tram ride.
I was busy trying to make landscape photos when a lady hawk (the one on the left) started calling in the tree next to me. I thought she was yelling at me for being too close, but it turned out she was calling for her mate. He flew in and they had a “conjugal visit” while I rushed back to the car to get my longer lens. I missed the action, but did get a nice family photo of the pair afterward.
Fakahatchee Strand 4, color
There are a great many views of this lovely swamp along the scenic drive. It took me a long time to go out six miles and back because I stopped so often to photograph.
Loop Road Cypress and Sawgrass
Loop Road is another scenic area. Both ends connect to Tamiami Trail and I explored those, but didn’t travel the whole twenty six mile route. Next time!
On my visit, I mainly focused on landscape images although I did see and photograph some wildlife – mainly in Shark Valley. There were alligators, turtles, and a lot of birds – most were the same ones we see up here in Central Florida although I did sight a yellow crowned night Heron which isn’t very common in my usual spots. There were also a lot of small birds / warblers that I should have spent some time photographing / identifying.
This was a good time of year to visit. It’s considered the “dry season” and in additon to the comfortable temperatures, I got zero bug bites even though I didn’t use any bug spray the whole time.
You could spend a lifetime exploring there. I stayed for three nights and was very tired when I got home but only touched the surface. Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp, a swamp buggy tour, a swamp walk, an airboat ride, the Indian reservations and many others. Things to look forward to!
Cypress and air plants, IR B&W
Location scouting is a huge part of good landscape photography. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of scouting in advance. You know that an area is special when you can come back from your first visit with photos you really like. Big Cypress is extra special – a Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!
We should all be grateful that we’ve preserved places like Big Cypress and the Everglades and that we’re working to restore them to their natural state.
I’ve just about finished going through the photos from my trip to South Florida. I ended up with many images I like – way too many for a single post. Today, I’d like to complete what I started in the Wild Baby Gators! blog with a few more photos from the Shark Valley area of the Everglades. Next week I’ll finish my trip report with images from other parts of Big Cypress.
In a couple of spots along the north side of Tamiami Trail a few miles east of the entrance to Shark Valley visitor center, you can cross over the canal and drive along the dirt road on top of the berm. From there you can get a good look at the “River of grass”, stretching farther than you can see.
River of grass – looking north
I tried to stop by Shark Valley on my first afternoon in the area. But the parking lot was full and there was a line of cars waiting to get in, so I turned around and explored elsewhere. At 8:30 the next morning I was first in line waiting for the park to open. I bought a ticket for one of their two hour tram rides and was on the first one to leave. If you go, arrive early to make sure you can get in. I think taking the first tram ride of the day is a good idea too. Wildlife should be more active / visible and the light is better for photography.
Crowded airspace – Glossy Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill in flight. This was close to a small pond where a bird feeding frenzy was in progress.
There was a lot to see on the ride and the tour guide was excellent. He knew where to spot things and passed along a great deal of info to everyone. The tram stops for about 20 minutes at the 65 foot observation tower. There’s a wonderful view there too. If you zoom into this next photo, you can see two large alligators floating in the pond.
River of grass 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley
There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.
Happy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine
And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.
Lunch time – Great Blue Heron with a Florida Gar
We also spotted Cormorants, Anhingas, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Wood Storks, Red-shouldered hawks, a Purple Gallinule, and other birds. We didn’t see any pythons, but you can tell they’re out there because many of the smaller mammals have disappeared – eaten by these large snakes.
To summarize: Shark Valley is definitely a Central Florida Photo Ops “Must do” location and I’m going to visit again.
Over the holidays, Mike asked if I wanted to ride with him (and Avon) on his drive from Wisconsin to Florida and back. Of course I said yes! It was a good opportunity to spend some time together and I haven’t been on a road trip like this in a long while.
This post includes some photos from along the way and a few comments about the trip. It’s a little off topic from Central Florida Photo Ops’s stated purpose. I hope you don’t mind.
It’s quite a drive! It took us three days, although you can make it in two if you push hard enough.
Three Amigos. Here we are mid drive on the way back up – it was chilly at times! Avon is a good traveler. The only times he got even a little bothered was when Mike left him with me for a few minutes and was out of sight, or if the hotel we were in had other dogs that night.
Food on the trip was varied and tasty. This Vietnamese place was across from our hotel in Indianapolis. Good food, quick!
We were usually on the road early and some of the sunrises were pretty. This one is leaving Indianapolis, south bound.
This semi up ahead of us was moving around 70 mph – backwards!
When you get near Chattanooga, there are many “See Rock City” signs. No, we didn’t go by and see it.
Heading south out of Atlanta, the clouds were pretty thick
The last time I drove I-75 through South Georgia, I remember seeing a giant peanut on the side of the road. We couldn’t find it this time – even though the map said it was still there!
There are a lot of “World Famous Ruby Falls” signs too. This one may need a little maintenance.
We went north on a slightly different route and it was a little more scenic, especially through the mountains.
Another Mountain View
Passing wind: According to Wikipedia, the Meadow Lakes wind farm along I-65 in Indiana has 414 turbines and produces 801 megawatts of power.
We lucked out on the weather. There were clouds and some rain on the way down, but it wasn’t too cold. On our way north there was a snow storm coming, but it didn’t hit until we were almost to Mike’s house. The next morning, the park near his place was a very un-Florida looking landscape!
A path through the snowy woods
After I got back home, I was struck by the contrast between winter in Wisconsin and Florida. Our weather is very different!
Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Osceola County
Family time during the holidays is wonderful. Our home seems so very quiet and empty after everyone leaves. But it’s also wonderful to look forward to the next visit!
Thanks for the invite, Mike – I really enjoyed the ride!
And thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – on a road trip!
The last time I visited Viera Wetlands was in March of 2019, so I’ve been wanting to go back. Each time I checked the road conditions hotline, it said they’re closed to vehicles. But the message hasn’t been updated since mid-November and I suspected (hoped?) it wasn’t accurate. This week I decided to go down anyway.
I started the morning with a pretty sunrise at the River Lakes Conservation Area Boat Ramp where the St. Johns crosses SR 520.
A very calm morning
Then I headed down to Viera. The hotline is correct – the wetlands roads are closed to vehicles and there’s some repair work going on. I haven’t found any info posted about when they expect to allow cars again. Anyway, I took off on foot with my camera and had a nice walk around the east half of the park closest to the parking area. Here are some of the things I saw.
“Who are you lookin’ at?” (3). These early morning deer were very alert and very suspicious of me and my long lens. I saw about a dozen of them and there were probably more. I liked the light on this group and how they were all staring right at me.
Redwing Blackbird launch. I managed to catch it just as it as it took off.
Cormorant in flight – There were a great many there that morning.
Sunning Anhinga. There were a large number of anhingas too, and this lady was enjoying the early morning light.
I heard lots of Sandhill Cranes but only saw them in the distance and there was one Spoonbill that was too far away for a photo, I didn’t see anything rare or exotic on my walk, but there were plenty of smaller birds, water birds, vultures and alligators. And I enjoyed my time out in nature and got some steps too!
Twas the morning after Christmas, as I left the house – I tried to be quiet and not wake my spouse.
I drove to the refuge through the long winter’s night. To get there and catch the first morning light.
On the pier by the causeway, it was all blue and gold. Lovely start to the day with colors so bold.
Dawn by the causeway and the pier
To Black Point next – a wonderful place. Drive slow or you’ll miss things with too fast a pace.
Dawn on Black Point Wildlife Drive
Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!
Male Belted Kingfisher
A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.
Female Hooded Merganser wing flap
An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.
Eye of the gator
And what to my wondering eyes should appear? A pretty pink spoonbill wading quite near.
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,
White Pelican Pod
Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.
Great Egret in flight
Great Blue Heron portrait
Now Terns, teals, willets, eagles and more, so many birds along the shore.
Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall – stay for a while, don’t fly away all!
As I left the refuge and it left my sight, I thought “HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”
Merritt Island morning
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful holiday season. Cherish your time with friends and family and don’t forget to make some photos with them!
If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you might be familiar with “new gear jinx”. It seems whenever we get new photo equipment, the weather turns bad for a while so we can’t use it.
The day was dreary and the light was dim. Lots of clouds, some fog and haze, and rain later in the morning.
Kevin M. and I both wanted to try out some new gear and in spite of the poor weather we’ve had lately, decided to defy the jinx and venture out to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive on Friday morning. I’m very glad we did. Here’s some of what we saw.
Fulvous Whistling-duck. There were quite a few. I’d never seen one before, so this was a great addition to my life-list. Thanks Kevin!
Common Yellowthroat. I posted a photo of one a few weeks ago, but this bird is much more colorful.
American Bittern – in their classic frozen statue pose. It eventually realized we could see it anyway and left. By then, I wasn’t paying attention and missed the flight shot.
Eastern Phoebe. This must be a young one – it hasn’t learned to hide from photographers behind twigs and branches yet.
Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight. We saw 4 or 5 of these on Friday. They’ve been on Black Point Wildlife Drive too and seem more common than usual this year.
There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of birds on the water – I haven’t seen that many in a long while. Lots of coots, but also Redheads, Northern Shovelers, Blue-wing Teals, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks too – among others. We also saw a few alligators, all the other usual wading / water birds along with an occasional Belted Kingfisher, one young Bald Eagle, Red-winged Blackbirds, many Red-shoulder Hawks, and even one fast flying snipe.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive undoubtedly lives up to its name. If you’re planning to go, it’s usually open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. That poor light on Friday was a good test of our new gear but I ended up with a lot of photos I like. I think we broke the jinx!
Photography and image processing software innovation continues at a staggering pace. It’s hard to keep up! Companies are coming out with new versions and even completely new programs to compete with the Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom standards. And Adobe is fighting back with new updates to keep their customers happy.
Bubble Pond, Acadia National Park (2). 16×9 crop from a 7 frame IR panorama, processed in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz Sharpen AI
This is almost all good for photographers. Competition results in new innovations that genuinely help us with our images. If you save your RAW source files, you can reprocess a photo and often get improved results. What’s not to like?
A small, quiet spot in the forest. Along Great Head Trail, returning from Sand Beach. Single frame, processed in Lightroom, Photoshop, Luminar, and Topaz Sharpen AI
There are a couple of downsides I can think of. First, we usually have to pay for the changes. If you use Adobe’s products, their subscription model makes sure you have the latest. Some other companies are moving to subscriptions too, but many are still charging by the upgrade. Either way, it takes money to keep up. You also have to invest your time. Just knowing what software is coming out takes effort. And having the software doesn’t do a lot of good unless you understand the new features and when / how to use them. You have to spend time learning the new software. Time that you could use making photos with your camera ends up being spent in front of your computer.
Bubble Pond, Acadia National Park (1). A second 16×9 crop from the same 7 frame IR panorama, processed in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz Sharpen AI.
So is it worth it? I think so. If you want to make the best images you possibly can, then you can’t afford to ignore progress. But of course, it depends on you, your needs, and your available resources. And it depends on what’s changing in the software too.
Anyway, a large number of recent product releases made me think about this again. I decided to update one that I often use (Luminar) and skip a version of another (DxO Optics Pro). After downloading the software, I dug out some photos from the archive so I could play around and learn about the new things. A friend’s recent visit to Acadia made me re-look at my images from there. These three photos haven’t been on the blog before and result from processing old images in new software. Better? Probably. Revolutionary? Probably not. Worth the time and money? I think so. Your mileage may vary.
And don’t get me started about camera upgrades. That’s a completely different story!
By the way, Happy Thanksgiving – enjoy spending time with friends and family next week!
In the USA, the second full week of October each year is National Wildlife Refuge Week. I visited my local refuge last Thursday to help celebrate.
I decided to go straight to Black Point Wildlife Drive to photograph sunrise. The gate was still closed when I arrived, so I set up by the sign at the entrance and made the image above. The wind was blowing and I like the surreal appearance of the clouds, moonlight, and stars visible in the full res version.
This was the view a little later from the parking area at the southwest corner of the drive:
And here’s a monochrome infrared photo along the western side of Black Point. I like the low sun angle and clouds.
Out early on a straight road
You might be able to tell from these three photos that I was the first and only one on Black Point Wildlife Drive that morning – which led to the next situation. I stopped at the rest area and got out to scout around. There’s a small observation deck there at the start of Cruickshank trail and as I was just coming off the path to go up the short boardwalk, I heard a noise and then saw a very healthy looking Bobcat jump over the rail and disappear into the vegetation. Even though I had my camera in my hands, set up and ready – I was way too slow to get a photo.
I’ve come across Bobcats several times in the wild. Usually when they see me, they fade away quickly and it’s hard to get a photo. This time was unusual – I wasn’t trying to be super quiet, I can only guess it was catnapping and didn’t notice me at first, or it was hoping I wouldn’t come its way so it could stay comfortable.
I’m sorry I didn’t get the photo for you on Thursday and I know you’re disappointed. So here’s a previously un-published one from March 2017 from very near the same area. It’s typical of the brief and poor look I normally get of Bobcats:
Feral pigs in MINWR aren’t as shy as Bobcats. They typically go about their business when I see them. This one stared me down and when it was sure I was going to stay put, continued across the road – hackles raised. It too quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.
Young wild boar
One more picture to close this out – from the boat launch area at Parrish Park:
#53 – A banded Ruddy Turnstone
I had an exciting day at Merritt Island. Although the winter birds aren’t back in force yet, The Ruddy Turnstones and skittish Belted Kingfishers I saw are migrants – a good sign.