I seem to have a preference for wide views. Hence my attraction to stitched multi-frame panorama images. They’re a great way to extend the field of view of lenses you have with you.
Keith H. and I walked around downtown Orlando for a few hours one day last week. I made a lot of photos, and after getting home and reviewing them, my favorites all turned out to be stitched panoramas. I guess I just enjoy being able to see the whole scene. Here are three examples:
Back alley break – A woman takes a work break on the back stairs. 4 frame panorama
Also, I hardly ever make selfies, but on this walk I ended up with two that I like – although they aren’t typical of the genre.
A window selfie – Looking south across Church Street from the 4th floor of the Plaza parking garage. That’s my reflection in the glass towards the middle bottom. Infra Red, Black & White, 4 frame panorama. (Click for a larger view on Flickr)
And this next one isn’t a Black & White photo – the sidewalk and wall were that color.
Cracks me up – A shadow selfie. 3 frame panorama.
You might find you like stitching panoramas too. I’ve written about them before. This article has a detailed workflow example and there are some more ideas in this post. Composition can be difficult since you can’t see the final image through your viewfinder as you capture it. Try to cover a larger area than you think you’ll need so you can crop into the assembled image to fine tune the composition. And watch out for long lines and patterns of lines. Look for any errors / mismatched lines between frames after you stitch them together and clean them up with the clone tool.
Besides downtown itself, there are several areas in Orlando with interesting photo ops: the Plaza Theatre, Leu Gardens, Lake Eola, Meade Gardens, and Greenwood Cemetery. I’ve collected photos from all of them in this set on Flickr.
My favorite program for converting images to black and white is the Nik Silver Efex Pro plug-in. I wanted to try a new one called “Tonality” by Macphun software. I processed these next two photos in both programs so I could compare results.
Cypress and calm water
Clear and very calm
Tonality is an exceptionally complete B&W conversion program with lots of presets and sliders to play with. It also has some built-in capabilities you might not expect such as layers, gradients, and selective edits. These come in handy when you want to combine several conversions without going through layers in Photoshop. Silver Efex Pro’s control points provide some of the same selective edit capability, but for me, the Tonality controls are more flexible. Tonality also has lens blur and glow simulations and the ability to blend in texture patterns. Lots of presets, options, and control!
I noticed that the clarity control in Tonality sometimes resulted in halos that I has to tone down. But I found that overall I preferred the Tonality result over the Silver Efex version for these two photos. I don’t know if this will hold up long-term, since I’m pretty sure you can achieve very similar results with either one. I’m going to keep playing with it and see.
By the way, Tonality is Mac only, Silver Efex runs on both Mac and PC. There are free trial versions you can download, so check them out yourself and see what you think.
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.
We’re blessed in Florida with wildlife we can easily photograph. Alligators are common, and many kinds of birds too. But how many photos do you need of a Great Blue Heron, or an Alligator basking in the sun? If you live here for a while you may get jaded with our common animals. So much so that you don’t even bother taking a photo of one when you see it. “Familiarity breeds contempt” and it’s a real risk in photography – one you must not fall into!
I have plenty of Anhinga photos but I was still excited to make this recent one.
Wet wings and itchy back – An Anhinga dries its wings and preens its back at Viera Wetlands
This isn’t close enough for a “record” shot of the bird. The Anhinga’s just one element of the composition. But I like the light, the reflections, and how the bird’s pose echoes the tree’s shape. If I had glanced at this and only seen the bird, I’d have missed the photo-op. To be a better photographer, you have to really observe things you glance at all the time. Watch for good light and backgrounds. Keep an eye out for unusual behavior, poses, or patterns. And of course pay attention to new life birds or rare animals to help keep things interesting. Avoid the familiarity trap.
Here comes the sun – Sunrays shining through offshore clouds mirrored on calm inshore water. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
I’ve been adding Lat/Lon location info to my photos for several years. It’s helpful to others to see where I made each one. And I like to look back and see the info too. If you click on a photo in the blog that I’ve geo-tagged, it’ll display on Flickr with a map showing the location below the photo.
I use Lightroom’s Map module for this. If I know where I was I can easily drag the photos to that place on the map. For unfamiliar places, I try to remember to make at least one iPhone photo so I can copy its GPS info to the other photos I make there. That’s what I did on my recent trip to Acadia National Park and it worked well. But I want something a bit less manual.
It would be nice if all cameras did this automagically like the iPhone does. The only other one I have with GPS capability is an Olympus TG-2 underwater camera that I use when kayaking. Nikon makes an add-on GPS, but it only works with Nikon, you’d have to remember it, not lose it, and it plugs into the remote release socket – so it’s a pain when you’re shooting from a tripod.
I’ve experimented before with using my phone to record GPS tracks. On our trip to Alaska in 2009, I used an app and later synced the tracks to photos back on my computer. That was a pain too (the app and software weren’t very reliable). But it seems I wasn’t paying attention to Lightroom updates since then. I completely missed that it now has the capability to sync a captured GPX format track to photos in your library.
Lightroom Map Module: The track interface is hidden in a pull down menu at the bottom of the screen.
Using the interface at the bottom of the Map Module (shown above), you can load a track and use it to auto-tag the location of photos in a folder. And it works very well!
So how exactly do you do this? There are three steps:
Before you leave, make sure you set the time in your cameras correctly. The time stamp is used to sync the position from the GPS track to each photo.
Use your GPS unit or an app on your phone to record a track of your movements. There are several iPhone apps that will capture the track info. I tried GeoTagr ($4.99 in the app store) and it worked well. Motion-X GPS (no longer in the app store?) also works. When I got back home, I emailed myself the .gpx file with the track information. One warning: sometimes these location recording apps can be power hungry. You might want to check to make sure you don’t run down your battery doing this.
Move the .gpx track file to the folder on your computer with your photos. Then load it into Lightroom and apply it to the photos. Easy-peasy! It all just works!
Two more geo-tagged photos from a quick trip to Merritt Island early last Thursday:
Nearby Mangroves and distant storm. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. GPS: 28°38’8″ N 80°46’33” W
Morning by the causeway. Parrish Park. GPS: 28°37’21” N 80°47’45” W
I like this method and I’ll probably use it in the future. It’s much less fussy than what I tried several years ago. Now all I have to do is remember to start the app at the beginning of a photo-op. I wish I’d worked this out before my trip to Maine. It was an effort to figure out where each of those photos were made.
By the way, MINWR was still quiet last week – not much wildlife or birds about. I did see a group of White Pelicans there. Usually, they don’t show up until November. I’m not sure what that means, but they were fun to watch.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And geo-tag them!
After the trip to Maine, I was looking forward to getting back out and photographing here in Florida. So it was up early (not as early as Cadillac Mountain!) and out the door to meet Tom M. at Orlando Wetlands before dawn last Saturday.
Nature foiled our sunrise plans and instead served up some semisolid, soupy fog for our photo enjoyment.
Misty morning 1
And we did enjoy it. It was interesting looking for compositions in the mist and trying to find foreground objects to add some definition to the photos. I like the one above but after looking at it on the computer, I wish I’d moved a bit to separate the near and far grass on the left. I didn’t see the overlap when I made the photo.
It took a while for the sun to burn through the fog. That gave us time to try several different places. I thought the south shore of Lake Searcy and the southwest corner of cell 16A were very photogenic. I especially liked the light on the close leaves in this scene.
Misty morning 2
Discovering beauty in unexpected places or situations is one of the addictive things about photography. Sunrises shouldn’t all be super saturated.
Tranquility at Bubble Pond. This is a two frame, hand merged image. ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 sec, 16mm, using a polarizing filter.
Apparently, my web server glitched and didn’t send emails to the subscriber list when I posted the new entry about Acadia National Park earlier today (Sunday, 17 August, 2014). If you’d like to read it, please go to this address in your web browser: https://edrosack.com/2014/08/17/acadia-national-park-maine/
Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations. So let’s get that out-of-the-way now: That won’t happen at Acadia National Park. It’s an utterly awesome place. If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond. I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left. ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.
This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park. I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years. But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.
I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time. My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it. When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise. I spent almost 6 full days there. I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon. Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning. It’s brimming with photo ops: rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more. It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.
Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area. And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season. This map shows where I made my photos.
You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it. Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car. I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads. I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!
I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different. Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance. A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).
I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook. The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.
Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there. We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves. Just make sure you’re careful. The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.
Schoodic Point Waves. I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed. Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.
Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there. Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it. And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path. This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).
We saw wildlife too. On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching. It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us. We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds: Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls. And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify. Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear. But sadly, no moose.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing. We watched a group of three feeding together. As the boat idled they often came close. Researchers keep track of the whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs. The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.
After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M. She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine. She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective. And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert. What wonderful hosts!
There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide, Instead, here are some of the references I used. I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):
The Bar Harbor Whale Watching Puffin / Whale tour posts photos taken on their tours on their Flickr stream.
Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:
I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear. We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions. I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters. Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while. Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat! There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds. But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat. You can get some good photos even with a phone.
Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go. And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip. You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed. Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
It’s crowded in July and August. Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center. But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
The weather varied too. There was some fog / mist and drizzle. I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks. Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility. But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour. So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
Finally, enjoy yourself. Relax – don’t get overwhelmed. Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain. ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted. I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home. But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.
I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.
A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father: “Taking pictures with really big cameras.”
Girl: “Do we have one?”
Dad: “No, but Mommy wants one.”
Girl: “Why don’t they use their phones?”
Dad: no answer
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!
I spent several exciting days in Maine last week exploring Acadia National Park and some of the surrounding area. Mary Kate went on business up there and invited me to tag along and sight see. Thanks again, Mary Kate!
I’m still going through all of my images from the trip, so I can’t really write an article about it yet. I’ll work on it over the next week or so and add photos to my Maine / Acadia album on Flickr as I finish them. You can take a look there for a preview of what’s coming. For now, here are a couple quick photos.
Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the highest point on the east coast of the US, and going up to the summit to see “the country’s first sunrise” is popular. When MK, her coworker Ryan, and I got there at about 4:45am, the parking lot was already filling up. This was the view about a half hour before sunrise. If you look at the larger version on Flickr, you can see the lights in Bar Harbor on the near shore.
It turns out that the first sun light hits the US on Cadillac Mountain only in the fall and winter. So we really didn’t see the “first light” – but even so it was a pretty sunrise.
Please be sure to check back for the rest of the story on this absolutely fabulous place. It’s a landscape photographer’s dream and there’s wildlife around there too!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May. This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park. Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong. But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm
Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides. The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone. It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.
Info for Photographers
There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water. You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in. I used the launch close to the headwaters. It’s a short paddle to the main spring. It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!
In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me! One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring. Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs. Take a look – they like it as much as I do!
If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion. You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.
Airboat ride on the Silver river
Tripod/Monopod: I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.
Lenses: Bring what you can carry. I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them. If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.
Best time to visit: It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly. If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable. I went during the week. Weekends will be crowded.
There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida. For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species. There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs. And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays). Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer. You’ll have to call the park for details.