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!
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.