Keith H. wanted to try out his 10 stop neutral density filter, so we rode over to Cocoa Beach to make some sunrise photos. It was very clear when we left around 5:30 am, but by the time we parked next to the pier, a few clouds had appeared to make the sunrise more interesting.
A neutral density (ND) filter reduces the amount of light entering your camera. This gives you greater flexibility to adjust aperture and exposure. They’re often used to show motion blur with a slow shutter speed, or reduce the depth of field with a wide aperture. Ideally, ND filters are color neutral – although both Keith and I noticed some color shifts with ours. I was using two stacked 3 stop NDs and this set up worked pretty well to slow the shutter speed and blur the water, especially before sunrise. Keith’s 10 stop was a bit too much before dawn, but would be great after sun rise. Overall, we spent an hour or so working the scene and both came away with photos we like.
A bird flies above a couple making a photograph by a woman walking through the sun.
I stopped by C. S. Lee Park on SR 46 in Geneva yesterday morning with Kevin, Kevin and Lutfi to photograph the sunrise. There weren’t a lot of clouds but it was still pretty – and some obliging fishermen were kind enough to point their wake into the scene for us.
Hurry, the fish are biting! C. S. Lee Park, Geneva, Florida
We were on our way over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin M. uses the Audubon Birds of North America app, which has links to bird sightings on eBird. With this, you can search for nearby birds, activity at birding hotspots, and even see reports of recent notable and rare bird sightings. Using the app, he discovered that Wilson’s Pharalopes were on Bio-lab road last week, so we decided to try to spot them.
The Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) is a small wading bird and the largest of the phalaropes. Normally it breeds on the North American prairies and in the western US. It is migratory, but according to iBird, isn’t often found in Florida, so this was a rare chance to see it.
Wilson’s Phalarope pair. Bio-lab Road, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
It was fun to see another Wilson bird yesterday: the Wilson’s Plover . These are also waders and breed on both US coasts from the equator northwards. Its common range does include Florida.
Wilson’s Plover. Bio-lab Road, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
I’d seen a Wilson’s Snipe before and now with these sightings I started wondering who this Wilson fellow was. Alexander Wilson was a Scottish-American poet, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator. He’s regarded as the greatest American ornithologist prior to Audubon. Several birds are named after him, including the three I already mentioned and the Wilson’s Storm-petrel, and Wilson’s Warbler. The warbler genus Wilsonia was also named for him. In 1802 Wilson decided to publish a book illustrating all the North American birds. The result was the nine-volume American Ornithology, with 268 species of birds, 26 of which hadn’t been described.
On our trip, we also saw Alligators, Belted Kingfishers, Green Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and many kinds of gulls and shore birds on Bio-lab Road. We drove through Black Point Wildlife Drive too, but there wasn’t as much going on there.
So this trip provided an incentive to clear out some of my birding ignorance and now I know a bit about another great American ornithologist. You can see more MINWR photos here and here, and birds photos here and here. And I have a some more Florida landscape / sunrise photos here.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I realized I hadn’t been to Viera Wetlands since last year, so I went over yesterday morning with Kevin K.
We spent a few minutes with The Photographer’s Ephemeris and found a promising sunrise stop along the way. It’s just north of the first bridge into Cocoa on SR 520. If you don’t have a copy of this software, you should get it. It’s available (for free!) for the Mac, PC, and Linux as well as (paid versions) for Android and iOS. The iPad version is especially helpful. If you have a cell phone signal, you can use it wherever you are to visualize the natural lighting. It shows the sun and moon overlaid on a Google Map for the place and time you enter. Highly recommended.
The sunrise was pretty and there was even a nice bird posing at the end of an old dock for us.
Old pier at sunrise: North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida.
When we got to Viera Wetlands, there was more going on than I thought there would be. We saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, both White and Glossy Ibis, Moorhens, Coots, Limpkins, and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks, among others. There were even some Roseate Spoonbills there – the first time I’ve ever seen them at Viera Wetlands. A few Moorhen chicks, surprised me too – I didn’t realize they hatched this time of year.
Moorhen and chick near Ibis: “Kid – I told you not to hang out with those Ibis birds. They’re nothing but trouble”.
You can click on the images above to get to larger versions on Flickr. You can also see more of my Viera Wetlands photos here on Flickr. For a slightly different perspective, you can also look at Kevin’s photos in his set on Flickr.
I finally made it over to Cocoa Beach in time for sunrise yesterday morning:
Sunrise by the Cocoa Beach Pier
In this photo, I wanted to use a long shutter speed to blur the water and show wave motion. I set the slowest ISO my camera supports (50), added a 3 stop neutral density filter, and used an aperture of f/22 which gave me a shutter speed of 2 seconds. I would have liked even longer, but this was as slow as I could get it under these conditions. I think the water came out pretty well.
As I made the exposure, I worried about two things: 1) Such a tiny aperture would lead to diffraction and blurring of small details and 2) Such a long shutter speed would add motion blur where I didn’t want any (boats and people). So how could I overcome this?
I was shooting in aperture priority mode and my camera was locked down on a tripod. So I made a second exposure at f/4 and let the camera set a shutter speed of 1/15 second. Normally when you bracket, you’re trying to change the exposure (or sometimes white balance or focus). This time, I was trying to bracket the aperture / shutter speed I was using, but keep the exposure constant. Having a second exposure let me load both images as layers in Photoshop. Then I used a layer mask to show the first exposure for the water in the lower part, and the second exposure for the upper area including the boat and pier. This let me have motion blur where I wanted it and still keep sharpness in areas where I wanted that. I think the technique worked pretty well. What do you think? Have you ever tried this?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!