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!
We had a hard time deciding where to go – storm damage and other circumstances are limiting our choices. Many places that we like in Central Florida are closed (Viera Wetlands, Lake Apopka, Mead Gardens, many parts of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Jetty Park, etc.). We ended up deciding between Circle B Bar in Lakeland and Orlando Wetlands (both are open). I hadn’t been to either for a while and Orlando Wetlands is closer, so…
With the sun up and the clouds gone, we walked for a while before it got too hot. This colorful bird caught my eye. I didn’t realize it was a new life bird until I got home.
Some other things we saw: a Raccoon, a Peregrine Falcon, Red Shoulder Hawks, Black Belllied Whistling Ducks, a Juvenile Blue Heron and other wading birds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Painted Bunting, Red Eyed and White Eyed Vireos, House and Carolina wrens, Palm Warblers, and a Chicken (the Ranger said its name is Chuck).
It’s been a while since our last trip to Wisconsin to see Mike and Sara (April of 2015!), so Lynn and I were excited to spend a week with them at the beginning of August. We were also quite happy to finally get to meet Avon – who is (probably) a mountain cur that they adopted from a rescue society. He’s a real sweet dog!
I didn’t realize how big of a crop Sunflowers are in Wisconsin. And fortunately for us, the beginning of August is peak bloom time. In fact, Bergsbaken Farms near Cecil Wisconsin was having a Sunflower Fest while we were there so we stopped by.
Riding in the rain through the sunflower fields
Even though it was a bit rainy that day, there was still a large crowd and we enjoyed seeing the seemingly endless fields of flowers. We also saw a few strange creatures:
Strange creature seen in Wisconsin field
There were several of these tall, happy looking beings along one of the paths through the field. Authorities didn’t respond to questions on where they came from or why they wore sunglasses in the rain. One of my Flickr friends commented: “A nice guy no doubt, but a little seedy, wouldn’t you agree?” Yes, I do agree!
Clouds, Mountains, Desert. Near San Augustin Peak, NM. 7 frame panorama.
I find western landscapes extremely appealing. Maybe it’s just that they’re so different from Florida. When I saw these mountains, I made MK pull over so I could make this image.
Volcano Cinder Cone. IR, B&W, 3 frame panorama
This is a view of one of the three Volcanoes visible from the Volcano Day Use Area in Petroglyph National Monument, a little west of Albuquerque. When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped a lens cap somewhere along the path. I did go back and look for it and of course, couldn’t find it. Does that happen to you too?
MK and I went out to New Mexico for a short visit over the July 4th holiday. I’d been there several times on business travel but never got to see much of the state. This trip fixed that!
One place we very much enjoyed was the Acoma Pueblo (also known as Sky City). It’s a lovely spiritual site, and provides a glimpse into what Native American life was like as long ago as the 13th century. The Pueblo is about 60 miles west of Albuquerque – it’s a lovely drive. Mesa Encantada – Along Route 23 just east of Acoma Pueblo (visible in the distance on the right). According to Acoma Pueblo oral history, it was their first home before they moved to the current location.
If you enter “Acoma Village” in your GPS, it will try to lead you up on the mesa, which you can’t get to unless you’re on a tour. Search for the visitor center instead!
Looking up – This B&W IR view of Acoma Pueblo is from about 360 feet below, just across the highway from their visitors center
At the visitors center you can learn about the culture and history of the area. Their tour includes a bus ride to the top of the mesa and a guided walk around the pueblo. Also included in the tour price is a “photo permit” for one camera. You’ll have to buy more permits if you want to use multiple cameras. I decided to just bring my Olympus Pen F with the 24-200 mm equivalent lens and it worked for most situations on the mesa. I used the extra space in my camera bags for two bottles of water. Nice to have while walking around in the hot sun!
The horno is a traditional outdoor, wood fired oven. People were selling bread made in these ovens in the pueblo.
Homes, horno and wood fuel
Even though there’s no electricity or running water up there, many of the homes on the mesa are still lived in. I liked how occasional colorful paint accents contrasted with the tan walls.
Door and windows – One of the homes on the mesa
Our guide told us that the Acoma adopted Catholicism from missionaries in the 1500s but they still practice their own spiritual traditions too. Although they’re very private about this, outsiders can attend celebrations during the Feast of St. Stephen(September) and at Christmas.
Kiva – The Acoma concealed their traditional worship places inside homes and entered via a ladder through the smoke-hole in the roof.
As you’d expect, the views from the mesa are spectacular and the visibility is awesome.
View north toward Mount Taylor (on the horizon, about 40 miles away). Ponderosa Pine used to build the mission was hand carried from Mount Taylor and up to the mesa.
Photography isn’t allowed in the cemetery (to the left of the mission) or inside the church itself. This spot is about the best vantage point I could find.
San Estevan del Rey Mission Church – Built between 1629 and 1641. According to Acoma oral tradition, their people were forced by Friar Juan Ramirez to build the mission.
For those of you that are wondering why I haven’t posted any bird or wildlife photos in a while, please be patient. We did some birding while we were in New Mexico and I’m planning to blog about that next.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget. So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).
The Air Force Memorial. (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.). I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens. It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.
The Potomac River at Great Falls. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom). Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.
Ceiling in the Library of Congress. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL). Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress. I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view.
The Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.). I really like the way the IR camera rendered this, especially the bronze contrasting with the foliage. There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC. You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.
Washington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec). There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial. I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view. I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry. I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess! After we left this time, we heard reports that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…).
May 12, 2017 update: We’re far behind on rainfall here in Central Florida, so the water level in many lakes is very low. It’s a good idea to call Middleton’s Fish camp (800-258-5002) and check on conditions at Blue Cypress Lake and whether rental boats / tours are available before you go down.
Lone cypress at dawn (IR, B&W, panorama).
The trees at Blue Cypress Lake are simply gorgeous. Their shapes remind me of Bonsai, although I think instead Bonsai should remind me of these trees. The ones here are all completely natural, formed by nature into elegant sculptures. I love the way my infrared camera renders them. The bright needles and clouds against the darker sky and water is very appealing.
Lynn and I spent last Thursday night near Vero Beach and met Kevin K. at Middleton’s Fish Camp just before sunrise on Friday. Middleton’s is the only camp and the only development at all on Blue cypress Lake. The rest of the lake and shore is completely pristine and undisturbed – very rare in our state. It’s also quiet. And peaceful. And just stunning.
This place really is Florida unspoiled, and a photographic “target rich environment”. We went on one of their pontoon boat tours at first light and Don (our guide) was knowledgable and skilled at navigating in and among the trees near the shore. He mentioned that this lake and the surrounding swamp form the headwaters of the St. Johns River, which flows north to the ocean in Jacksonville – something I didn’t know.
Lone cypress and Osprey (IR, B&W, panorama).
Blue Cypress Lake is also home to a large colony of Osprey. There are 200+ breeding pairs with eggs, hatchlings, and some almost fledged juveniles in nests in the Cypress trees. The birds fish in the surrounding swamp and carry their catch back for the young. Many of these Osprey are migratory and leave for South America after raising their young – something else I didn’t realize.
Jeanne Middleton told me that prime nesting time starts around 10 April so we hit it just about right. I made a lot of photos of the Osprey last Friday too. I’ll finish processing them and post them soon.
I had a strong urge to photograph, and at the last-minute decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge before dawn last Friday. My first stop was at a spot Kevin M.Tom M. (3/25/17 correction – I misremembered, sorry. Tom told me about this place, not Kevin.) had mentioned – underneath the east side of the A. Max Brewer Causeway that leads into the refuge.
We’ve had cooler weather here and very clear skies, so I wasn’t expecting much color at sunrise. But this is what greeted me at dawn:
This image is a two frame panorama I made with the Olympus E-M1 II camera in high res mode. Lightroom’s been updated for the camera, and I’m impressed with how it handles these files. And the more I use the new camera the better I like it, especially how it minimizes motion artifacts in high res mode.
I next took a turn around Black Point Wildlife Drive. The water on the first half is as low as I’ve ever seen it – gone in many places.
Cracked. Infrared, B&W
It was exciting to spot a Bobcat. It was stalking slowly through the grass, but I only managed a single (poor) frame before it disappeared. I wish it had lingered for a few minutes so I could get a better shot. I’m guessing it might be a long time before I get another chance for a Bobcat photo as good as the one in this post from 2011.
On the back half of Black Point there was a lot more water and a lot more of the regular birds.
I also took a turn around Gator Creek Road and saw an Osprey close up with an awesome fish. But it grabbed the fish and flew off with it before I could get a photo. Seems like I need to practice my quick reaction shots!
I’ve haven’t been out photographing for a while, so when Kevin M. invited me to ride along with him yesterday I was eager to go. It was one of those beautiful Florida winter mornings – clear, bright, a little windy, and perfect shirtsleeve temperatures.
Three Lakes WMA is a quiet area with dirt roads through varied habitats including pine forests, grass fields, and some hardwood stands with streams and lakes. There were several RVs and campers parked near the entrance, but they were sleeping in and we had the place mostly to ourselves at first.
A road less traveled – Infrared, black and white, panorama
Whenever we stopped the car to scout for wildlife, it was so quiet, all we heard were birds and the breeze blowing through pine needles. What a peaceful, non-urban setting!
I’ve been by the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area three or four times looking for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that nest there (read about previous trips here and here). And yesterday, I finally saw one. Kevin knew exactly what to look for and spotted this one (that I missed) on my side of the car – thanks Kevin!
It really helps to go out with someone familiar with the place and the species you’re looking for. Kevin mentioned that he’d been through with our local Audubon group and they pointed out many areas and what to watch for in each.
I have seen Bobwhites before, but this one running across the road was cute!
And I’ve seen Eastern Bluebirds before, but didn’t have a good a photo of one.
We also saw a raccoon, a couple of deer, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Meadowlarks, Eagles, Swallow-tailed Kites, Snail Kites, Hawks, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and many other birds. It was quite a trip!
I went for another walk last week at Orlando Wetlands Park with Tom M. It was a pretty morning and in addition to the normal bird suspects, we also saw Soras, Purple Gallinules, and heard reports of Bald Eagles and many Black Crowned Night Herons.
“Compositing is the combining of visual elements from separate sources into single images, often to create the illusion that all those elements are parts of the same scene.”
Multiple exposures are a subset of compositing, and are much easier to produce in today’s world of digital photography. In addition to creating an illusion, they can be used to show things that are difficult for a camera to capture in a single frame and better show reality. Examples are panoramas, focus stacking, HDR, etc.
There’s a lovely Pink Trumpet tree on the west side of the main path into the park. It’s in bloom and that morning the moon was setting behind the tree. This snap from my iPhone shows how the tree looked against the sky and moon.
I wanted to isolate one bloom with the moon and clouds behind it, but the depth of field with my telephoto lens was too shallow to show both in the same frame. So I made two, with one focused on the flower and the second on the clouds / moon. Then in Photoshop it was relatively easy to combine the two frames to show what I wanted.
Moon, clouds, and flower
Here’s a second example:
Ibis flight sequence
This one is from a sequence of a single White Ibis flying by in a little under 2 seconds. I brought all 25 frames into Photoshop on separate layers and aligned them. Then I used the focus select function to mask the birds from each layer into a single composite. I ended up having to omit every other frame to avoid overlapping birds.
If you’re willing to dive into Photoshop or any other image editing software that offers layers and masking, you can do the same sort of work. Think about techniques like these when you’re out photographing. If you capture the source frames you need when you’re out, then when you get back to your computer you can use them to solve problems and enhance your creativity.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some multiple exposure photos!