You might not consider Nassau a “Central Florida Photo Op”, but I do. It’s one of many places that are very accessible via cruise ports in our area. We left from Fort Lauderdale, but Tampa, Port Canaveral, Miami and other places offer cruises to many destinations. If you haven’t tried one, check it out.
We’ve been to Nassau several times and wouldn’t normally think of it as our favorite port. But this time we had a wonderful visit and got to see (and taste) a lot of new things. Highly recommended! I’ve embedded links to most of the places above. Please click on them for more info. And you can see more Bahamas images in this folder on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
There’s a new feature in the latest Creative Cloud versions of Lightroom and Camera Raw, and if you stitch together multi-frame panoramas like I tend to, then you should take a close look at it.
It shows up as a new slider called “Boundary Warp” in the “Merge to Panorama” dialog and it’s designed to help fix the empty areas along the edges of some stitched panoramas. You can see an example in the first image below.
An easy way to fix this is to crop out the empty portions of the frame, like this:
But that throws away pixels that you may want to keep. You can also try to fill in the empty areas with content aware fill or the clone stamp, but that often leaves some anomalies that take time to clean up.
Using the new function is easy. It keeps all the pixels in the image and warps the edges to fill in empty areas.
I like the way it works. It’s better than cropping or trying to fill in missing portions with the clone stamp. Try it – I think you’ll like it too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos and warp some boundaries!
Vivian Maier was an enigmatic nanny and an extremely prolific street photographer who passed away in 2009. She’s the subject of the film Finding Vivian Maier. Lynn, Mary and I saw it when it played recently in Orlando. I enjoyed the movie and recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re interested in photography.
If you haven’t followed her story, you can easily catch up by googling her name or clicking on her website (first link above). It’s worth your time.
What I find fascinating is that while she made over 100,000 photographs, she was completely unknown before they were discovered in an abandoned storage locker in 2007. And her photos are very good. She captured street scenes in Chicago and other places that show us what life was like. She was obviously passionate about photography. But – she apparently had no interest in sharing her work. There were even 2000 rolls of film that she never developed.
Brooks Jenson (publisher of Lenswork Magazine) has a podcast that I listen to. His latest one is a little over 7 minutes long, and in it he talks about why we photographers are so passionate about what we do. For him, photography is a way to explore life. I like that idea. It seems Vivian Maier was exploring life around her with her photography too. He goes on to say that there are two sides to photography: The observation / capture side, and the publication / sharing side. Brooks says you can’t have one without the other. I think that’s right for most people. They want to share something they’ve seen with others. Something that they see differently or that others may pass by.
Street photography isn’t my forte, but I suppose we need at least one photo for this post. Vivian Maier would sometimes include herself in her photos. So here’s my attempt.
Waiting at the corner of Venice and Nokomis – I was playing with my camera while the ladies shopped. Vivian Meir’s version of this would be in Black and White, and probably use a vertical 4×5 format. It also might include a reflection of her, not me.
I find Vivian Maier’s story compelling. She did the observation / capture side of photography without the publication / sharing side. Until recently her photography was incomplete since no one had seen it. After she’s gone, her work is finally being shared and we’re seeing some of what she observed.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – and share them!
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.
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 ($1.99 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!
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.
Maitland is a particularly photogenic city in the greater Orlando metro area. I’ve found several locations there with good photo ops – my most recent visit was to the Maitland Art Center with Keith H.
Way out: A gate in the wall at the Maitland Art Center (Infrared, Black and White)
The Maitland Art Center used to be known as The Research Studio and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the few examples in our area of Mayan Revival architecture, which can make for some intriguing details to photograph. The grounds are a popular place for weddings. You may run into one on weekends that will keep you out of one or more of the venues.
Mayan Revival carved door – I wonder if this is where Indiana Jones keeps his stuff?
And the park at Lake Lilly is also photogenic. Try some sunrise or sunset photos there, or walk through the farmers market on Saturdays for some local interest / people photos. Be careful the ducks don’t peck on your lens!
Wide angle, backlit, ducklings at Lake Lilly – looking for a handout
And the Fort Maitland boat ramp at 900 South Orlando Ave. would be a great place to launch your kayak!
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I like panoramic photos. We’ve all been to many places where the view is so grand it doesn’t fit into a single frame. Sometimes you can’t capture what your eyes see with one camera exposure. So I started stitching panoramas together. My first few were way back in the film era (1999 or 2000). When I started using digital cameras, panoramas became easier and I’ve made many more since then. They help me avoid “tunnel vision” and show more of a scene. They’re also an excellent way to capture an image with a huge number of pixels – which allows for very large prints.
May 2007: View of San Francisco from Twin Peaks (6389 x 3110 pixels)
I’ve learned quite a bit about how to make panos, and in August of this year, I shared info on how I usually process them. That was a description of the detailed workflow I use to make the best quality image I can. It can be time consuming and requires care in capture as well as post processing. But if you put in the effort, the results are very good – and the files are much bigger than from a single frame. Here’s a recent example:
But it turns out that my way isn’t the only way to make panos. There’s a much easier way to make them – here’s an example:
October 2013: Underneath the bridge over the St. John’s River by the old bridge and railroad trestle (7908 x 2692 pixels)
I made this pano with my phone. It’s not as large (2692 pixels on the short side compared to 4706), but you probably couldn’t tell much of a difference in quality unless you pixel peep. Using my phone is easier and if something is easier, people will do more of it – and more panos means better memories.
iPhones have had a built-in panorama mode for a while, and the latest versions bring a lot of processing power into it. The iPhone 5S does automagic adjustment of exposure across the frame, and stitches the results together in real-time as you sweep your phone. The results are fairly large files, and the quality is surprisingly good.
Here’s one more recent iPhone panorama example and proof of the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you:
November 2013: Interior panorama of the Roman Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre) – Photo by MK Rosack (used with permission)
Lets compare making panoramas on a phone with a multi-photo approach. I’ll use the iPhone 5S for this – your phone may be different.
Very high – you always have it with you
Low – You need to plan for it and carry your gear
High – End result available very quickly. And can post right from the phone.
Low – Need to get home and run your software
Low – Done by the camera; Can adjust jpg result
High – Adjustments can be made throughout each processing step
Low – Done by the camera; Some amount of touch up may be needed
May be High, depending on software and source images
No – jpg only
Medium – Short dimension a max of 2448 pixels
High – DSLRs typically higher resolution than iPhone and you can make multiple rows if desired
So, should you use your phone for panoramas? Yes!
Should you always use your phone for panoramas? Not quite yet.
Phones are getting better all the time. And they’re getting better faster than cameras are getting better. Sooner or later, most people won’t want or need a dedicated camera. Right now I think phones are “good enough” in many cases, especially if you think about the trade-off between output quality and ease of use. For panoramas, the ease of use and convenience allows many people to make photos they otherwise wouldn’t. In my case, if I don’t have any other camera with me, I’m sure going to use my phone. But if I want the best quality image possible, I’ll still use my stand alone cameras when possible. Check again in a few years – the answers may be different.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some panoramas! And don’t forget your phone!
Topaz released a new plug-in recently, called ReStyle. You can download any of their products for a free thirty-day trial, so I thought I’d give it a go. This isn’t a full review or tutorial (I haven’t used it long enough for either of those). But I have used it a bit so I’ll try to introduce you to some possibilities with three examples I’ve played with. If you want to see the “before” versions, I’ve included them towards the end of the post.
I had trouble with the white balance in this photo of Marineland beach at dawn. I could have separately adjusted the color balance on the sky and ground using layer masks in Photoshop or gradients in Lightroom. Instead, it was easy to pick out this version from the grid displayed inside ReStyle. It’s interesting how remapping changed the color in the beach and rocks differently from the sky.
Down on the beach at dawn (afterTopaz ReStyle).
ReStyle maps color and tone statistics from a selected style to a target image. It seems like Photoshop’s “Image/Adjustments/Match Color” command. When you do this in Photoshop, you have to supply an image with the colors you’re trying to match. ReSyle comes with over 1000 presets and provides control / adjustment of the results that aren’t easily available in Photoshop. There are so many presets that they’re overwhelming, but ReStyle breaks them down into collections (e.g. “Landscape”), and you can mark your favorites. You can show a collection or your favorites as a grid applied to your photo, which makes choosing one very simple. You can also search for similar styles by color or by name. Within each style, you can further adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of the five colors in each style, as well as the opacity, original image “Texture” strength, and others variables. It also includes mask / selections controls to apply the effects selectively. There’s a lot more info available in the manual at this link.
In this photo of some struggling trees on a small rocky island near Haulover Canal, I wanted a more dramatic color palette. Once again, it was easy to pick out this version from a grid of possibilities.
Survivors (after Topaz ReStyle)
For this infra-red photo of sea oats on the beach that I made in Fred Howard Park near Tampa , I wanted a different look from a typical IR false color image. I like this color mapping I found in ReStyle .
Sea oats – False color infra-red (After Topaz ReStyle)
There are so many presets, options and adjustments that ReStyle can be a little overwhelming. It’s not hard to use, but it is hard to grasp all the possibilities and decide what to do. It’ll take a bit more time for me to get comfortable with it, so I’ll have to play with it some more.
For comparison purposes, here are versions of the photos before I applied Topaz ReStyle:
Before: Down on the beach at dawn.
Before: Sea oats – False color infra-red processing.
Summary: Do you have to use plug-ins? Of course not, but they’re useful and save time. And ReStyle seems to offer something I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’ll definitely make your images look different. Are they better? I think ReStyle improved these three images, but only you can decide for your photos. Will this fix all of your problems and should you use it on every photo? Definitely not – I’m new to the tool, but on several photos I tried, I couldn’t get anything that I thought looked good. But it does look like something that’ll be good to have in your bag of tricks.
Off topic public service announcement: I’m always telling you to get out and enjoy nature. I also need to remind you to protect yourself from the sun. I had two skin cancers removed last week. I’m fine – but it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through. And it can be much, much worse than mine were. So when you’re out in the sun enjoying nature, please protect yourself. Use sunscreen, wear a hat and long sleeves, stay in the shade as much as possible, etc. The sun is brutal, especially in Florida. And no one wants to suffer the consequences of too much exposure ten or twenty years down the road.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And use sunscreen!
Space Shuttle Atlantis side view panorama – It’s displayed as if in orbit, with the cargo doors open, a satellite in the bay and the robot arm deployed.
In short, this new exhibit is outstanding. At the entrance to the building, there’s a full size model of the solid rocket boosters and fuel tank assembly. You enter and walk up a ramp to a room with a movie about the history of the shuttle program. Then you move into a second room with another movie about the launches before you finally enter the exhibit hall itself. The Atlantis is suspended as though it’s in orbit and you’re free to walk all around it and explore on several levels. In places you’re almost within arms reach – close enough to see a lot of detail including re-entry marks on the tiles. The hall also has many other exhibits including satellites, a transport van, space suit, a space station mock-up your kids can run through, and a group of simulators you can try including several where you attempt to land (OK if you must know, I crashed my simulated shuttle – but not too hard).
Space Shuttle Atlantis – front view
To put this into perspective, I went back through my photo archives to see if I had any previous photos of Atlantis and found several. Here are two – you can see they’re not as close up as the new ones are:
Atlantis on the pad in October 2009 before the STS 129 mission – This is as close as I got to a shuttle while they were operational.
Atlantis launch on STS 117 in June of 2007, just after SRB separation (made from Orlando, ~50 miles away)
And finally, here’s one last photo from my trip this week. It shows the Astronaut’s Memorial. In the background on the left you can see the Solid Rocket Booster assembly that stands in front of the building housing the Atlantis.
Astronaut’s Memorial – also known as the Space Mirror Memorial. The Atlantis Experience entrance is behind and on the left.
Photo hints: The light inside the exhibit hall is mixed so be careful with your white balance or shoot in RAW so you can adjust it in post processing. The lighting is also a bit dim. I shot at ISOs between 800 and 1600 with an aperture of f/4 and a shutter speed between 1/15 and 1/60 sec. I didn’t use a tripod, but I did have vibration reduction / optical stabilization. Atlantis is large – a wide-angle lens will help you fit all of it in the frame. I used a 24 – 120mm zoom lens and it worked well for most photos. I did have to make a multi shot panorama for the horizontal view above.
I’ve posted other Kennedy Space Center photos in this set on Flickr. Also, I’ve licensed the first photo above as Creative Commons. It’s free for non-commercial, no derivative use as long as you provide attribution. If you’d like to see / download a high-resolution version (~80MP), click it to go to Flickr. Then click on the “…” symbol at the bottom right of the photo and select “View all sizes”.
Living in Central Florida for so long, I feel a personal connection to the space program and I was extremely impressed with the Atlantis Exhibit. This vehicle flew 33 separate missions between October 1985 and July 2011 covering hundreds of orbits and over 126 million miles. It’s awesome to see something like this up close and I’m very grateful it’s nearby. But at the same time, it makes me a little sad. The shuttle program was wonderful, but it’s over now. With all the other competing priorities, will we ever have an ambitious space program again? I hope so.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!