It seems like ages since I’ve been out amongst our natural Florida wonders. So I was eager to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week for a look ’round. I stopped first by the Indian River before dawn. The geometry of the pier, bridge and sun rays teamed up to form nice leading lines toward the pending sunrise.
A peaceful morning on the pier by the bridge – Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier by the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Florida
East Gator Creek road was closed, so I drove up to Haulover Canal and the Mantee Observation Point – of course there were no manatees visible there! Then I circled back to Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Standing bird – Tri-colored Heron on a bush. It was so still that I had time to zoom in and make a three frame vertical panorama.
We’ve had lots of rain lately and there was plenty of water at Black Point. I saw fish schooling in several spots, although for some reason the birds weren’t interested. I think the highlight of the trip for me was watching two Reddish Egrets dancing over the water.
Running bird – a prancing Reddish Egret seems to walk on water
There were just a couple other people on the drive and I only saw them briefly. It’s a special privilege to have a place like this mostly to yourself – even at this time of the year when it’s so hot and the wildlife is a bit sparse.
Flying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water
What a delightful morning! I have many more MINWR photos here. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go enjoy nature – it’s good for you!
You may have seen the tragic news last week about a US Navy F18 crash in Death Valley. The jet was flying through Rainbow Canyon next to Father Crawley Point when it hit, killing the pilot and injuring seven bystanders.
I feel a connection to this. One reason is because of my own Navy service. During NROTC training, I was assigned to an attack squadron aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. I saw firsthand how professional, dedicated and skilled Navy aircrews are. My heart goes out to the pilot’s family.
I also feel connected because I’ve visited that exact spot. Back in 2015, Tom M. and I drove up to Father Crowley Point during a trip to Death Valley and made a few photos. At the time, we weren’t aware of the background of this place and just planned to make landscape photos. But then we heard the jets overhead.
US Navy F-18 exiting “Star Wars Canyon” in Death Valley at Father Crowley Overlook, October 2015
Air Force and Navy pilots have trained there since the 1930s and it’s become a hotspot for military aircraft photographers and enthusiasts (see this article in the LA times). Rainbow Canyon has a couple of nicknames: “Star Wars Canyon” and the “Jedi Transition”. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see and photograph military aircraft below you as they fly by (here’s another good article on Arstechnica).
Tom and I were getting ready to move on when we heard another jet approaching and getting much louder. I managed to switch to continuous mode and follow with my camera as it roared through the canyon right next to us. The photo above is a 9 frame sequence merged into a single image to show the progression as it leaves the canyon. I’d only ever processed a single frame of it before (here on Flickr). Although this set of frames is from a more recent (and capable) camera, I went through processing steps similar to those I described here: Reprocessing-a-mt-evans-elk-herd-panorama. I merged it manually this time to make sure all images of the aircraft were preserved in the final version.
I’m glad bystanders’ injuries weren’t too serious. I feel very sad for the young pilot and his family. And I’m grateful that we have people that volunteer to serve and protect us, even at such great risk to themselves.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go thank someone in the military for their service.
At that time, I was using a Nikon D80 camera and made this photo with an entry level 70-300 telephoto lens. I remember wanting to capture as much detail as possible, so instead of making one exposure of the whole herd, I zoomed in as far as I could and made four different frames at 300mm (450mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/100 sec, and iso 100. I ran across these images in my photo archive recently and wanted to see if I could reprocess the RAW files for a better result. I thought you might be interested in my work flow – not so you can reproduce my results, but to give you some ideas on how to process your own images.
Here is one of the original RAW files SOOC (straight out of camera). The white balance and exposure aren’t optimum and sharpness isn’t very good either – maybe due to poor lens stabilization and optical performance (and maybe due to my poor technique).
Here are the steps I went through to reprocess this:
Used DxO Photo Lab software to convert from RAW to .tiff and take advantage of the built in Prime Noise reduction algorithm. I like that this software applies camera and lens specific corrections to all images. It also returns the results to Lightroom still in RAW / DNG format.
Made basic adjustments (exposure, white balance) in Lightroom, and copied to all four frames.
Opened as layers in PhotoShop.
Stitched the frames into a panorama: Edit -> Auto-align Layers; Edit -> Auto-blend Layers. At this point, it looked like this:
When I made the original frames, I didn’t cover enough ground for a rectangular composition. To fix this, I used PhotoShop’s excellent Content Aware Fill on the missing corners.
Select the blank areas with the Magic Wand tool. Expand the selection (~3 pixels). Edit -> Content Aware Fill
use the clone tool to eliminate any obvious fill anomalies.
And then I worked on sharpness. Here is a 300% look at the area near the Bull Elk:
Not very sharp. So I:
Duplicated the layer and applied the Topaz Sharpen AI filter. I used the Stabilize method with a Remove Blur value of 0.70. Here’s the much improved result:
Topaz Sharpen AI can work wonders on this kind of problem, but it does take a lot of CPU power. Depending on your hardware, you might have to be (very) patient.
The final step in Photoshop was to use Topaz Clarity for some added midrange contrast. I applied the Nature -> Fur and Feathers II preset.
Back in LightRoom: I cropped to a 2:3 format; tweaked White Balance and exposure again; boosted texture and shadows on the Elk with a circular adjustment and range mask; Reduced green and yellow saturation; Used a -12 highlight priority vignette and added grain at 15.
And this is the new version I just posted to Flickr.
Mt. Evans Elk herd (2019 version) – Near mile marker 8. Quite a harem! There are about 60 elk in this image: A single bull, ~10 young ones, and the rest female.
It took me about 30 minutes to do this. Was it worth the effort? I can’t answer for you. I think it looks much better and I’m glad I saved those RAW files! As long as i can re-start from the original sensor data, I can leverage newer software and get better results. I know a lot of folks don’t enjoy computer work, but I do – so to me it’s worth it.
Click on any of these to see larger versions. I have other Mt. Evans (and Colorado) photos in this album on Flickr. And if you have any questions on this, I’ll be happy to try and answer them. Just ask in a comment below.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make (or reprocess) some photos!
MaryKate had the day off last Thursday for Independence Day and invited me to walk around Lake Dixie and Lake Cherokee with her. I was glad to go – I’d been by before, but only inside a car and unable to take a close look. We also wanted to check on how the cygnets she wrote about on Fathers Day are doing.
Lake Cherokee is the smaller of the two and both are lovely. For a location in downtown Orlando they have a lot of wildlife. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this since they’re very close to Greenwood Park and Cemetery, where there’s also a lot of wildlife.
One of the first things we encountered was this Heron. I thought at first it was a Green Heron, but got some help with the ID on Flickr. It was small and still – and I glanced right past it without any recognition. I’m glad MaryKate commented on it so I could make a photo! Least Bitterns are supposed to be common in this type of environment, but I don’t see them much. I think because they’re so good at hiding!
Hunting Heron (Least Bittern)
Next we came up to this Mallard posing for me in the grass in front of some yellow flowers.
And there were several Wood Ducks. I’ve seen them before at Greenwood and Mead Gardens, but hadn’t paid attention to their non breeding colors. This young one is interesting and I’m looking forward to spring time when their plumage starts changing.
Juvenile Wood Duck
Here’s a bird that I’d never seen before or even heard of.
Swan Geese are native to the Far East and have also been domesticated. There were two, this one and another that was all white. It’s likely they escaped or were released from captivity since they don’t occur naturally in the US.
This Mottled Duck was resting in a notch about seven feet above ground. It watched us as I made the photo, but didn’t seem nervous. The tree was right next to the sidewalk and it must be used to people nearby.
Unfortunately, there’s some bad news about the Lake Cherokee Mute Swan family. There were initially three babies, but only one’s been seen lately.
From across the lake, MaryKate and I spotted two adults but no babies. We worried they’d lost the last cygnet too. But when we got closer, we saw what was going on – Mom was riding the baby on her back!
Mute Swan Mom carrying baby
We also saw Limpkins, Common Gallinules, Great Egrets, a second Mute Swan family (with four large juveniles!), Anhingas, and several turtles. What a wonderful walk and what an unexpected abundance of things to experience and photograph! Thanks for inviting me, MaryKate!
You can click on each of these images to view a larger version on Flickr. And if you’re interested, I’ve started collecting my photos from here in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I spent a couple of days in St. Augustine, Florida last week. It’s been two years since I last wrote about it (in this post), but it’s still a photo rich environment. Here’s a sample of the images I made there this time.
Columbia Restaurant interior. We usually stop by this place for the food, but the inside is lovely too!
Memorial Presbyterian Church Dome. We rode the Old Town Trolley around again and got off at this stop to see this beautiful church. Henry Flagler built it in the 1890s as a memorial to his wife.
>Santa Maria Restaurant Ruins. Our trolley guide told us it has too much hurricane damage to repair. It’s going to be demolished soon and replaced with a new restaurant
Flower Box. I like to watch for interesting doors and windows when I walk through town. This is one example.
Golden mooring morning. Lynn used some points to help us splurge on a waterfront room. I made this from our balcony.
Refreshments – Make the photo, then drink the subject. It’s important to get the sequence correct!
I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while. This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level. There weren’t many clouds. I used a low camera position for this photo to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.
Gator Creek Morning.
Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp. Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been. Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo. I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting . But since I was there, I got out of the car. I counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock. It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall. I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/). When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.
Manatee head shot
I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees. I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.
By the Indian River
Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too. I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish. This heron had just launched from the left.
Tricolored Heron in flight
I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light. I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.
I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me: a Whimbrel.
Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!). So I was eager to photograph something this week. My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.
Whoops. I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running. I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and no water in the corner cell, I turned around. Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.
Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.
After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. There are a lot of winter migrants here now. The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex. In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID. I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there. I heard later they found it again on Saturday.
Hooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area
Pair of porkers. Part of larger family just inside BPWD.
Spoonbill and reflection. This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama. That really helps with details!
Weathered Red Cedar. I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!
So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well. Those engines I heard were pumps. I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14. And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16. I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down. Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go. Even if you’ve been there many times!
MK and I decided to drive over to Flagler Beach last Sunday. Several whales have been seen recently – one the week before from the pier. We knew the chance we’d spot one was very small, but it’s a pretty place for sunrise and the restaurant on the pier serves a decent breakfast!
Quilted surf sunrise
We set off at “o-dark-thirty” and arrived before dawn. I spent some time making photos on the beach and when it was light enough, we went up on the pier to scout.
We ate breakfast and then drove to a couple more spots on the beach. We knew before we left that day that our chances of seeing whales were slim. But we all know our chances are zero if we never look. And although we came up empty, it sure was a nice morning and worth the drive.
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!