Next, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed up to MINWR for a quick pass through Black Point Wildlife Drive. Conditions in the refuge have been pretty quiet this summer and we wanted to see how the bird population is doing. There still aren’t a lot of birds around, but the variety is improving. We saw the usual wading birds, Redish Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Blue Wing Teals, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, a Sora, and a Merlin.
Jim Boland is also seeing quite a bit of bird activity in MINWR. He’s photographed a Peregrine Falcon, Merlins, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and even Snail Kites along Playalinda Beach Road in recent weeks.
The cooler weather that’s finally arrived in Central Florida makes being outside and photographing more pleasant. And it should bring even more bird species to our area to enjoy.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Some photographers plan their photo ops in detail. In many cases that’s a good approach. Portrait and wedding photography are genres that need advanced planning. And if you’re going on a once in a lifetime trip, planning is prudent. Other genres are more reactive (e.g. photo journalism).
I try to do research and planning if I’m going somewhere I haven’t been, but I don’t plan most of my photography. Especially if I’ve been to a place before, my approach is to explore and discover, and then react to what I find. Often, I end up with photos that I never imagine when I start out. Which is loads of fun!
A few weeks ago, I went over to the Sanford Marina to make sunrise photos. I arrived early and discovered very calm conditions in the harbor. I reacted with this photo. It’s nothing like the sunrise I originally went looking for.
Still water, sailboats, and stars – Very early and very calm at the Sanford marina
Last week, I took a ride here in Central Florida along Maytown Road between Osteen and Oak Hill. It goes through some very undeveloped areas and ends at Seminole Rest, a small park in the Canaveral National Seashore. In this case, I hadn’t really planned for any photos. I was just driving to see what’s there. I was glad to discover this gnarled old tree, although I wish I’d found a little better light to go with it.
Weathered Tree – Seminole Rest, Canaveral National Seashore in Oak Hill, Florida
This last photo is from back in 2013. It sat in my archives until this week when I discovered it again and processed it. It took a while for me to complete my reaction to the scene.
Sun and shadows – Long exposure under the pier at Cocoa Beach
The photo and video in last week’s post also resulted from the “explore, discover, react” approach.
So what’s the moral of this story? I suppose it’s this: If you approach photography like I do, you’d better be ready to react to a scene when you see it. Know your equipment so you can capture what you need when you discover something. Even in the dark or in rapidly changing situations. Know your software capabilities too, so you understand what you need to capture. Be ready for the opportunities that you find, and the ones that find you.
On a different subject, I realized after I published last week’s blog that embedded video isn’t included in the email. The Jetpack plugin software that I use doesn’t even put in a link to it. So if you read the blog only via email and wondered what the video was about, you can click here to view it on YouTube. And you can always click on the title of the post inside the email to view it on the web. Sorry for any confusion.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go exploring – and make some photos!
I was at the Cocoa Beach Pier last Thursday morning with Tom M. People were fishing in the surf and the Snook were running. We watched two large ones caught in just a few minutes and someone told us they’d caught eight so far. It was easy to see that the fishermen were having a great time. Their concentration when casting and excitement when they hooked one was obvious.
A little later, this gentleman wandered over. I only had to move a little to place him in the middle of the reflection from the clouds and sunrise.
Fishing up a storm
I had a good time photographing that morning, but it seemed like the fishing was much more enjoyable. Maybe I should bring fishing gear when I go out with a camera.
Keith H. mentioned that he’d like to visit the Cocoa Pier. I hadn’t been in a while and when I checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris, it looked like the sun would rise lined up pretty well with the Pier this week, so we decided to go over. We arrived early hoping for some star photo ops, but thick clouds and lights on the beach limited star visibility. I did manage to capture a planet in this frame:
Venus rising past the pier – The clouds parted for a few moments before dawn
It’s pretty crowded underneath this pier, so the sun alignment wasn’t as big a deal as I hoped. I caught a glimpse of it through the pilings and clouds just after dawn – here’s what it looked like:
Sunrise under the pier – The ship visible in the upper left was a bonus.
Lately, sunrise and I haven’t been getting along. I show up faithfully, but sunrise doesn’t. It’ll send its friend fog instead. Or it’ll come dressed in plain, clear sky attire instead of its fancy, colorful cloud costume. Or I’ll get frustrated and sleep in, and sunrise puts on a show without me. I don’t think it likes me anymore.
Marina reflections – Fog at the Titusville Marina. Panorama, looking east, just before sunrise.
Orlando Wetlands Pano – I slept in on this morning and showed up at the park after sunrise when this front was coming through. I bet it was really nice before I got there.
Well, seriously – I am a bit frustrated that I haven’t captured a good sunrise in a while. But I know the weather and my luck will change eventually. And I enjoy getting out and seeing different things even when the sunrise isn’t at its prettiest.
There are a few things I do to try to maximize my chances with the weather. Persistence is probably the best solution. The more I go out photographing, the better my chances are of catching a good scene. And software can help. My main weather site is Weather Underground. I usually look at their hourly forecast with precipitation probabilities and cloud cover predictions. On my phone, I use Mycast and Dark Sky. Mycast has pretty good forecasts and I can look at IR clouds on its Map tab to see cloud cover even when it’s dark. The Dark Sky app has excellent short-term predictions – especially about rain. I also sometimes use Clear Sky Chart. It’s mainly an astronomy site, but does offer very good cloud cover predictions.
So yes, my relationship with sunrise photography hasn’t been the greatest lately. But I’m working on it. I’m sure we’ll eventually get back together. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy being outdoors and seeing whatever develops.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I hadn’t been paying enough attention to astronomy news. Luckily my loyal Sherpa was (thank you Lynn!), and she mentioned that a partial solar eclipse would be visible along the US east coast at sunrise on November 3rd. So I took off for Cocoa Beach where I knew I could get a clear view of the horizon. This was the scene a little before sunrise.
Mai Tiki – before sunrise
Normally clouds are a great thing for sunrise photos. In this case, though, the eclipse would last only a few minutes, so I worried that the band of clouds low on the horizon would block the view. But the sun and moon finally did break through so we could watch the last part of the event.
Partial Eclipse of the Sun – As seen from the base of the Cocoa Beach Pier
I wanted to clearly show the sun’s disc so I used my “bird” lens for this photo zoomed in to 400mm. I was happy that these three people were watching from the end of the pier so I could place them in the frame. The sun was extremely bright and I was careful not to burn anything in my camera (or my eyes!). It was tough to compose since I kept my lens pointed away from the sun most of the time and only glanced briefly through the viewfinder to make images.
I like the way this one turned out. It was definitely a unique sunrise and well worth the drive over.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
A couple of weeks ago, I met photographer Larry Jordan at Gatorland and he mentioned wanting to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. He hadn’t been in long while, so I offered to go with him. It was a great excuse to get out and show off one of my favorite places and it didn’t disappoint. We met before dawn at Space View park for what turned into a pretty sunrise.
Dock at dawn
After sunup, we entered MINWR in search of wildlife, first to Gator Creek Road where we saw a few birds including black necked stilts. These unusual looking, pink legged birds are only in Florida for the summer breeding season and I’m glad they’re back already. Next we went to Black Point Wildlife Drive to see what was going on there. The initial portion was very quiet, but then the action ramped way up!
Four more black necked stilts were flying all around the first pond on the right. They were very active and noisy in what I think was courtship inspired chasing and calling to each other. We enjoyed watching and photographing them, but decided we’d better move on – we didn’t want to miss out on whatever else was going on. It turns out that was a very good idea.
At the next pond, the first thing I noticed was a flock of White Pelicans. They were pretty, but a bit far off for photos – and just swimming around out there feeding. Then we noticed the Black Skimmers.
I often see these birds along the north shore of the Bennet Causeway leading into MINWR. There, they usually huddle with the gulls and this makes for static looking photos. We didn’t see any there yesterday morning and we found out why at this place. It seems they were all over there and very active. I’ve never seen so much skimming. Long graceful glides over flat water with an uncluttered background, sometimes fairly close to shore. They use their longer, lower bills to slice through the surface searching for fish and write a sharp wake behind them. Wonderful to watch and with such good light, a near perfect opportunity for photographs.
Black Skimmer skimming
There were other birds in the pond feeding and flying around close to shore – great conditions for BIF (Birds-in-Flight) photography practice! Several Roseate Spoonbills flew in (toward the camera for a change!) and posed beautifully at nearly perfect angles. We also enjoyed watching a Redish Egret, a very pretty Tri-colored Heron in breeding colors, and many other birds feeding.
Roseate Spoonbill, landing
After the excitement at BPWD, I didn’t think it could get any better, but I was hoping to show Larry a Florida Scrub Jay since he hadn’t photographed one before. We drove to Scrub Ridge Trail, parked and walked north along the path where I’ve seen them, but they weren’t there. Feeling a little let down, we walked back to the parking area and a very pretty Scrub Jay was waiting there to welcome us. We each got several photos in different poses / locations.
Our last stop was the Visitor Center. I was hoping that the Painted Buntings would still be around, but they seem to have moved on.
By the way, the 50th anniversary of MINWR is coming up on August 28th. If someone ever asks you about benefits from the US space program, you can mention the establishment of this extraordinary refuge. See this article in Florida Today for more details.
I’ve rambled on for too long so here’s one more landscape from the morning to close this out:
Kevin M. saw online posts reporting recent sightings of Razorbills and Common Eiders at Sebastian Inlet. So we decided to twitch down there to see if we could see them. Along the way, we stopped by the Cocoa Beach Pier for Sunrise. Photographers are always looking for interesting foreground for our landscape photos. This time, an obliging gull sat still for me very close to my tripod and added some interest.
The sun, the sea, the gull, and me – The Cocoa Beach Pier at sunrise – My closeness didn’t concern the Ring Billed Gull in the foreground.
After the sun rose, we headed on down A1A and got to Sebastian Inlet around 8:30. It was my first visit to this state park and all the activity impressed me . In addition to the birders and photographers, there were many campers, fishermen, boaters, and people just out enjoying a very nice day. We searched up and down the park for a couple of hours, and talked to the rangers and several other birders but had no luck finding a Razorbill. Just as we were getting ready to leave, word spread that the Common Eider had been sighted, so we all hurried over to the place marked by a pod of photographers and spotted this bird:
Common Eider – iBird says these don’t get much south of New England, so they are rare in Florida. My second life bird of 2013.
I did make a few more photos that morning. Here’s an IR of the beach, sand and glare:
And here’s a Magnificent Frigatebird. These tend to soar far overhead and off shore. This one was a bit closer and lower and this is my best photo of one so far. There were 9 or more in the area that morning.
A Magnificent Frigatebird glides overhead – I don’t often see these on the east coast of Florida. There were several at Sebastian Inlet this weekend.
We didn’t find the Razorbill, but we saw plenty. I’m always amazed by what you can see out in nature if you go look. Give it a try! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Season’sGreetings! The holidays are here once again and many of you are traveling to visit family and friends. Please have a safe journey and enjoy the time with your loved ones.
Well, I think I now have another favorite photo-op! I’d heard many things about Fort De Soto and a couple of my friends had great experiences there, but it’s a ~2.5 hour drive from Winter Springs – so I’d never gone until last week.
Lynn, Mike, Sara, and Mary got me a wonderful birthday present this year – a 1 on 1 photo workshop with Jason Hahn of Outdoor Photo Workshops. I’d been waiting to use it until the weather cooled off a bit and I finally scheduled it for last week. Jason lives in the Tampa area and he’s an expert on Fort De Soto, so it seemed like a great opportunity for me to visit with a local guide and learn more about the place.
Since we were meeting at 6:45am for sunrise, I went over the night before to make sure I knew the way and to try to get a sunset shot. Before I left, I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris app on my phone to do a little virtual scouting and noticed that the setting sun would be in nearly perfect alignment with a section of beach near the Bay pier at De Soto. If you don’t have this app or another like it, get it. It’s extremely useful when planning photo-ops. This setting looked like it would be different from the sunrise and sunset geometry I usually get, so that’s where I ended up on Thursday evening. I was blessed with some very nice clouds and light, and the geometry led to this composition. What do you think?
The end of the day at Fort Desoto – Looking southwest toward Egmont Key from the base of the bay pier. The ferry that travels back and forth to the Key is on the left.
Fort De Soto park is south of St. Petersburg, Florida and is run by Pinellas county. It’s made up of a number of islands (keys) and the location and geography make it very unique, especially from a birding perspective. It lies along the migration routes and is a landing-place for birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico. If the conditions are favorable, a knowledgable birder can see over a hundred different species here in a single spring-time day. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the birding lists and plan to go back next April.
It’s also quite diverse from a landscape photography perspective. The Sunshine Skyway bridge can add to a scene, and the tides cover and uncover shoreline features that can vary the foreground interest in your photos. Storms also come through occasionally and these can cut new channels or shift sand to change the layout of the smaller islands. So it’s possible to see changes on both a daily and seasonal basis. When I arrived there Friday morning, the light wasn’t good for a typical sunrise shot, but I set up anyway and made this photo. I think the reflections from the bridge on the low clouds and water add a lot to the image.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay Florida, before dawn. From the East Beach turnaround at Fort De Soto
Jason showed me around, and was quite knowledgable about the site, the wildlife, and how to photograph all of it. He was also patient and easily dealt with my many questions. It was interesting to hear him talk about the behavior of the animals and how they interact with the terrain and tides and then explain how to use the knowledge to make better photos. It was a greatly enhanced scouting expedition and I only hope I can remember half the things he told me!
The wind was blowing at 10 miles an hour or more, so many of the normal birds were hunkered down out of sight, but we did see Laughing, and Herring Gulls (including one with its breakfast), an American Oystercatcher, a family of Raccoons, Common Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Ospreys, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons and maybe a few other species.
American Oystercatcher – a very cooperative bird. He strolled right by us, leaving a wake.
There was a pretty interesting scenario with the Herring Gull below. They catch crabs and then fly them up to 40 or 50 feet above rocks or hard sand before they drop them to crack the shells open. This particular gull was going to crack his crab, but another gull came close, so it flew off somewhere else to dine in private.
Herring Gull flies off with crab
On this trip, I met a fellow photographer for the first time, scouted a new place (which definitely made the “must do” list), learned lot in the process, and had a great time. A pretty fine photo-op, in spite of the clouds and wind.
As usual, you can see larger versions of these images on Flickr by clicking on them. And I have a couple more photos from Fort De Soto in this set.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
One thing that’s really wonderful about the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is that it’s such a large and varied area. Even if the main attractions (like Black Point Wildlife Drive) are slow, you can still find plenty to see and photograph in other areas. And the surroundings offer some very scenic Florida landscapes.
I visited once again Saturday morning with fellow Photography Interest Group member Kevin M. We stopped as we normally do at a likely spot on the way for a sunrise photo. This was the scene at Rotary Riverfront Park, just north of highway 50 on US 1. There’s a pier leading to a set of docks that offer many different compositions. It’s a beautiful place and although several people showed up to watch the sun rise, I was the first out on the pier – and felt a little bad when I disturbed a couple that had slept on one of the benches at the end.
Dawn in Titusville, Florida: There were several people enjoying the view from Rotary Riverfront Park, across from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). I tried my new Hoya ND400 neutral density filter and I like the way it works. If you haven’t used something similar, you should. It’s one way to make your photos stand out.
When we left and headed to Black Point, the clouds you see in the distance turned into rain, which fell off and on in spots for an hour or so. This made for “ISO 2000 light”, which means it was dim for good bird photography. It turns out that didn’t matter too much, since the birds were few and far between. We did see a few of the normal species: Anhingas, Belted Kingfishers, Cormorants, Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, Redish, Great and Snowy Egrets, Grebes, Moorhens, some unidentified ducks in the distance, and a few shore birds. The water there was very high – maybe the highest I’ve seen it. I wonder if this is related to the bird count or not?
After Black Point, we decided to try a new area and stopped by Hammock Trails. These take off in two directions from the parking area and wander through some hardwood trees as well as typical Florida pines and palms. We were hoping to see a few migrant Warblers, but had no luck. I’m not a very good birder – although I heard a few, I didn’t see a single one along these trails. I did come across this railroad track, which I thought made a good subject:
Leading to separation – Train tracks crossing Hammock Trail in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is a Black & White conversion of a bracketed, Infra Red, Panorama
Our last stop of the day was the Visitor Center. Since our annual pass is expiring, we wanted to renew. We arrived at about 9:30. They don’t open until 10, so we wandered around for a bit.
Carolina Wren – Sighted along the boardwalk at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
There wasn’t any activity at the bird feeder, but we could hear several birds on the boardwalk. We ended up seeing a Carolina Wren, a pair of Cardinals, a Black and White Warbler, and a Red Eyed Vireo, and I’m guessing there were others we didn’t see. The ranger mentioned White Eyed Vireos and we’ve seen them there in the past.
So we watched a nice sunrise, and even though the birds were scarce at a couple of areas, we ended up with some interesting avian sightings, and enjoyed being out. All in all, a very good morning.