Generally (and especially in Florida) clouds are good for landscape photos. And when water is part of your composition (like it often is here), wind can add interesting motion effects to longer exposures. If you can’t use those two elements in your images, can you still make landscapes? Of course, but you may need to use mirrors!
Mangrove Mirror 1. Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.
Our winter weather fronts bring cooler temperatures and often very clear skies to Central Florida. And winds can be especially calm in the early morning. When I run into situations like this, I don’t put my camera away. Instead I watch for mangrove trees and other reflections.
Mangrove Mirror 2. Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.
Compositions that minimize the sky and maximize the patterns their branches and roots make in the glassy water appeal to me.
Mangrove Mirror 3
How do you approach landscape photography at daybreak, when the wind is dead calm and the clouds are few and far away?
I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Sunday with Kevin M. If you’ve been waiting for our winter visitor bird friends to show up – they’re here!
We first stopped by the Titusville marina for a few blue hour / sunrise photos. In the original color version of this one, the orange reflections in the water from the streetlights along the shore didn’t mix well with the blue water and sky in the distance. A B&W conversion eliminated that problem and I like the result.
Marina at dawn
Kingfishers were abundant and even a bit cooperative. This one rested on a dead tree for me.
Other winter birds we saw: American Avocets, Blue-winged Teals, Northern Flickers, Northern Shovelers, a Northern Harrier, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers. The ducks weren’t plentiful yet, but I’m sure more are on the way!
Our year round birds competed for attention by posing in very nice light.
Reddish Egret in warm morning light
Egret and reflection
Heron in flight
And we also managed to find a Florida Scrub Jay along the entrance road to Canaveral National Seashore for Kevin’s list this year. So once again a wonderful visit to MINWR. You should go!
Howell Branch creek starts at Lake Maitland and flows into Lake Waumpi. From there it’s called Howell Creek as it goes through Lake Howell and then wanders east and north to empty into Lake Jessup. It passes within a half mile of our home in Winter Springs.
I’ve driven by this spot below in Maitland many times, but didn’t realize it’s on the same waterway:
Howell Creek – Where it crosses Lake Howell Road. A small dam there creates a lovely little waterfall / rapid. I’ve driven by it for years and finally made a photo.
I never stopped before because there’s no obvious parking nearby. But Lynn volunteered to drive me over, drop me off (and come back and pick me up too!). So off we went…
My plan was to make a few images from down near the water with a wide angle lens, maybe up close to the dam. But several “No Trespassing” signs scuttled that. I stayed up on the bridge by the road and made my images from there. I’m glad I brought my 24 – 200 mm (eq.) lens too – the reach came in handy!
Several people walked by while I was there and mentioned how pretty the view is. They talked about wading birds and the otter family they see there. I didn’t see any otters, but a Great Egret eventually wandered into my frame. I was lucky it stayed still while I made a long exposure to blur the water. When Lynn saw the photo, she thought it needed a dark colored bird – I should’ve waited for an anhinga!
Wind caused some blurring in the leaves and Spanish moss. I was also worried the vibration caused by trucks on the road behind me would shake my tripod and blur things. I made several frames just in case and this one came out pretty well.
Research indicates there was a water powered mill located just up stream from this dam in the mid 1800s. And I found an old article in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that the first dam in this spot was built around 1900. One story says residents blew up the dam during a hurricane and replaced it later. Apparently, a more durable one was built in the 1950s and was replaced by the current dam in 1979 when Orange County widened Howell Branch Road.
It doesn’t seem like I’ve used other photos of Howell Creek in the blog before, so I’ll end this post with two older images from closer to our home in Winter Springs.
Howell Creek infra red (October 2013)
Howell Creek bed and reflections (October 2013)
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – stop somewhere you’ve been passing by and make some photos!
It’s getting to be that time of year down here in Central Florida: Hot, muggy, and buggy, with many of the birds hiding or gone.
None the less, Kevin K. and I went over to Merritt Island last week to see what’s going on. Our first stop was along the Indian River at the Titusville Marina. Clouds on the horizon helped the sun add some color to the morning.
Dawn, down on the river
On Black Point Wildlife Drive, our most interesting find was this Stilt wading through calm water and good light. I like this close up, but I wish I’d also made a frame including the whole reflection.
As we left, this healthy looking animal was calmly marching across the black top. There were no cars coming from either direction, so we could stop and give him the right of way. And make a photo too!
Why did the gator cross the road? It didn’t say, but the grass is green on the other side!
There are still some interesting birds at MINWR. For instance, Pat H. found a Clapper Rail on BPWD a couple weeks ago. But it seems like most of our winter visitors have moved on. Maybe we need to move on too and look for photo ops in other spots until it starts cooling off again.
You can click on these images to view a larger version on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go 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!
I decided to wander over towards Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Friday. My shutter finger was itching and I had to get a camera out and scratch it. I was running a little late and wouldn’t have made it to the coast for sunrise, so I stopped at C S Lee Park on the St. Johns River on my way. Nature provided quite a show.
Another Central Florida Morning
I don’t know what this effect is called – when the sun just kisses the cloud bottoms and leaves higher clouds darker and less colorful. I don’t see it often enough. Maybe that’s because it only lasts for such a short time. According to my EXIF data, I made this image in the middle of a 2-3 minute window and the colorful streaks were much less prominent just before and after. Whenever I do see this, I’m happy to make a photo!
The Jolly Gator Fish Camp Bar & Grill is next to the park, right across a shallow water filled area from where I made the sunrise photo. I liked the reflection and symmetry and made this image before I moved on. I’ve never actually been inside this place. Maybe I’ll talk Lynn into going there for lunch with me.
Jolly Gator Fish Camp & Grill
MINWR has a web page you can check for road closures. Currently, it won’t do you much good – info on Gator Creek, Biolab, and Black Point is all out of date. Last Friday, Gator Creek and Biolab Roads were open. They’ve been re-surfaced and are in good shape. And Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed due to the amount of rain we’ve had recently. I hope they keep the road closures page more current. I sent them a note.
I didn’t have much luck with birds or wildlife on this trip. So I’ll leave you with two more scenic photos.
Lone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (color version)
This tree is along the left side of the road leading into the Bairs Cove boat ramp. The combination of early morning light, a lone pine tree, and the clouds in the background stopped me in my tracks. I made this image and the last one out my car window. Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of traffic. With these two photos, you can see how the infra-red sensor renders light compared to an unmodified camera.
Editors note: Today we have another wonderful post from our roving correspondent MaryKate. Her report includes beautifully surreal landscape images as well as excellent wildlife watching tips and photographs. It’s well worth clicking the link at the end to view the rest of her photos. Enjoy!
In late September, I had the pleasure of visiting Monette and Jesse in Anchorage, AK for Emergency Birthday Six (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure). It was the second-to-last weekend of the tourist season, so we were excited to find a company still doing day cruises: Phillips Cruises & Tours 26 Glacier Cruise out of Whittier, Alaska.
To get from Anchorage to Whittier (population 214 people), we drove along the Seward Highway, one of my absolute favorite views ever. We saw two Beluga Whales fishing along the shore at Beluga Point – and reported them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project! I’ve looked for the Belugas every time I drive along this beautiful road, and this was my first time finally seeing them (unfortunately the only picture I have is the memory in my mind). From Beluga Point, give yourself plenty of time to get through the 2.5 mile Whittier Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America!
View from Seward Highway
The 26 Glacier Cruise, as promised, delivered many stunning glacier views. Due to weather, we took an alternate route that the on-board Park Ranger told us he had only done several times in his career and got up close to some amazing glaciers.
View from Glacier Cruise
While the first few hours of the cruise was mostly scenic views, we began to see much more wildlife towards the end of the cruise including Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and this Seal floating by on an iceberg.
Along for the Ride
But my breath was taken away in the last 30 minutes, when we were on our way back to shore, and the captain spotted a pair of Orca Whales! It’s always magical seeing these friends in the wild.
Male and Female Orca Whale Couple
I can’t wait to go visit Monette and Jesse again – in addition to being great friends, they live in an absolutely beautiful state, and I always enjoy exploring Alaska with them!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. More photos can be found in the album here. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!
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.
We spent a few days last week at Lake Louisa State Park. We stayed in one of their very nice 2 bedroom cabins with our friends Nancy and Howard T. The cabins are up high with a fabulous views of Dixie Lake, one of the three main lakes in the park. The photos in this blog post are all of this lake.
We were eating dinner on Tuesday evening when this started to develop. I quickly grabbed my camera, excused myself, and rushed to photograph this superb sunset.
View from the shore of Dixie Lake at dusk
We also enjoyed riding our bicycles – the hills are a change from the flatlands where we live. Returning from a ride on Monday, Howard noticed this Sundog – one of the most colorful I’ve seen.
The cabins are just a short walk from the lake shore. The reflections and reeds made a pretty scene even in the middle of the day.
View from the shore of Dixie Lake
Across the lake from the cabins, the park has kayaks for rent. Wednesday morning we started there and paddled all the way ’round. It was windy and got stronger as we went, but we planned well and travelled clockwise which helped a bunch. The eastern shore sheltered us from the strongest winds and on the last bit along the western shore, the wind moved us along at a good clip. I like the many interesting trees and stumps we saw on the way.
Wildlife was scarce on this visit. We did see a gopher tortoise on the way in and a few birds including (what I think was) a Common Nighthawk, a hawk or two, ducks going after fish and some others. I didn’t spot any deer, turkey, or even alligators but I’m sure they’re there.
Lake Louisa is close to Orlando and a wonderful place to relax and get away from it all. I highly recommend going if you get the chance! You can see other posts I’ve written about it here on the blog. And I’ve collected an album of Lake Louisa photos here on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
It was a good thing that I got there well before dawn, because the place I had in mind for a sunrise photo didn’t turn out (construction and street lights). On the way over I noticed a massive thunderhead that looked like it would add some interest to my photos. Unfortunately, it also added a lot of rain to the area, so I spent some time wandering around looking for a new place and making a few uninspired photos during gaps in the downpour.
Almost made it… A sunken sailboat near the Titusville Municipal MarinaI
I ended up at the Titusville Municipal Marina. There always seems to be a sunken boat or two there. I think this one is recent, but it’s hard to be sure. By this time, the rain was slacking off, so I parked and hurried over to where I could get a good angle on the colors in what was left of the rain clouds. The light was pretty and I used the boat and the rocks on shore to add foreground layers to my composition.
I made many exposures, framing the boat in different ways. The color built and I like the last set of frames best. For this image I made seven exposures from the tripod. Four were for the sky / clouds, pointed up slightly and bracketing exposure to make sure I captured the entire dynamic range. I pointed three down slightly for the boat and water, to make sure I had everything in focus. One of these three was through a neutral density filter so I could get a long shutter speed and smooth the water surface. At home, I ended up using six of the frames, combining some in Lightroom’s merge function, and blending the rest manually in Photoshop. Finally, I used Nik Color Effects Pro to tune the colors and Topaz Clarity to increase mid-range contrast to get what you see above.
After sunrise, I headed over to Black Point Wildlife Drive for a look around. It’s been closed while they worked on the road. It’s open again, in great shape, and ready for all the fall visitors. There’s not much bird activity yet, but I did find this nicely posing Tri-colored Heron.
Reflections – Tri-colored Heron, Black Point Wildlife Drive
This image is less complicated. It’s just two frames, hand-held. One’s focused on the bird’s eye and the other on its reflection in the water. I merged them in Lightroom via the Photo Merge – Panorama function, and finished this one too with tweaks to color, contrast, and cropping in Photoshop.
Should you try these techniques? I can’t decide for you. For me, it’s more work, but it gives me much more control over the final result. If you do decide to try them and have any questions about how to do this kind of thing, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.
Thanks again to Mary Kate for writing last week’s post. I apologize for the lack of images in that email. I need to figure out how to get the server to send the photos when they’re not referenced from Flickr. If you didn’t get a chance to see her photos, please click through and visit the blog.