Tag Archives: reviews

Cruise Ship Photography Ops

Intro / Description

Cruising is a great way to vacation and Florida is a great departure point.  There are several ports where you can board a ship, leave your everyday concerns behind, and set sail for exotic destinations.  Tampa, Miami, Palm Beach, Port Everglades, and Port Canaveral all offer cruises – both seasonal and some that go farther. We recently cruised out of Tampa on the Carnival Paradise sailing to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and back.

The party starts
The party starts –  The Carnival Paradise departing Tampa.

Cruising provides a large choice of activities:  Spend time with friends and family, relax, sample gourmet level food, party, attend shows and other entertainment, lose money at the casino, etc.  Ports of call along the way let you to see the sights and sample what life is like in other cultures.  You can sign up for excursions to do things you may not get a chance to do everyday.  And even if your trip isn’t photography centric, you can sneak in some non-interference photography ops.

The snorkel yacht - Lynn's getting ready to jump in
A snorkeling excursion off of Grand Cayman – Lynn’s getting ready to jump in.

Your preferences will help you select which cruise to go on. For ours, we were limited to a small selection since we wanted to leave from Tampa on a specific date.

Info for Photographers

There are some cruises that cater to photographers and some destinations that are more photogenic than others.  Why you are going, where you are going, and what you expect to see will decide what equipment you should bring.  Since our cruise was a family get together, I brought a much lighter gear bag than on our Alaskan cruise in 2009.  We went snorkeling in Grand Cayman, so I took my old Canon G9 (which still works remarkably well) and the underwater housing I have for it.  I also wanted to take my IR modified camera to use at the Mayan ruins in Cozumel.  Your trip and interests will be different so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

The San Gervasio Arch Structure
The San Gervasio Arch Structure on Cozumel. This Mayan ruin dates from 1000 to 1600 AD.

Photo hints:

Spend some time enjoying sunrise and sunset.  Relax, get a cup of coffee or a drink and sit and watch.  It’s hard to tell what will develop, especially when there are clouds around.  Do some research before you go.  Flickr is a great place to search for the places you’re going to see what others have posted.

If you’re on a family trip, you’ll want to document all the fun and together times.  Be careful not to spend too much time away from your family making photographs.

One good idea is to combine everyone’s photos into a common pool and share them so that everyone has images of everything that happens.  You’ll be glad you did.

Another thing to think about is creating a photo book from your images.  Make several copies and share them with your travel companions.  They’ll make good reading several years in the future and will remind you of the good times.

Always keep a camera with you and when you’re wandering around the ship, keep an eye out for interesting art work or interesting people.

A cruise is also a good time to practice some food photography.  Take your camera to dinner and see if you can create some drool worthy images.

Tripod/Monopod:  The ship’s motion will make long exposures from the deck problematic.  A Gorillapod or something similar would be handy for HDR or long exposure photography inside the ship.  You might also want to use it for some time-lapse photography from a railing on deck.  This can be interesting as you cruise along a shoreline or enter / leave a port.

Lenses:  This depends on your destination / interests.  Bring a versatile zoom or a small assortment of lenses.  On a family cruise, you don’t want to be lugging a huge camera bag around all the time.  If you’re going to Alaska or some other once in a lifetime destination, you’ll want to take your full kit.

Best time to visit:  Do some research on your departure port and destinations.  April is a great time for the route we took.  It’s before hurricane season and the weather is warm, but not too warm yet.  If you’re into birding, April is a big time in the Caribbean for migration.  I only did some incidental birding, but I did get three life birds in Cozumel.  The Mayan ruins at San Gervasio are out in the middle of the jungle, so there are birds around.  I saw a Black-and-white Warbler, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and several others I couldn’t get a photo of or ID.  I also saw this one circling the ship when we returned:

A Magnificent Frigatebird
A Magnificent Frigatebird


I’ve posted three sets of photos from this cruise on Flickr.  If you look through them, you can get an idea of the things you’ll see on a similar cruise.

For descriptions of a different type of cruise experience, you can go back and read my three posts about our Alaska cruise here, here, and here.


You’ll have a great time!

My Gallery / Flickr photo set:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/collections/72157629896267577/
Website:  Various – search out the cruise line / travel sites for the departure port you select
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  This is a Central Florida Photo Op MUST DO!


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, get cruising and make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral

Intro / Description

Happy New Year!  Back to basics with my first post of 2012:  A photo-op review.

When I was in the Navy, I was stationed at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral for a while – so I’m familiar with the port and Jetty Park.  But I’d never really investigated it as a photo-op.  I had some time last week, and decided to visit.

Jetty Park is located on the south side of Port Canaveral in Brevard County.  Depending on where you leave from, it’s a little over an hour from Orlando, basically a straight line along the Beachline Expressway (528 toll road).  In addition to the jetty and 1200 foot fishing pier, there’s also a 120+ site campground and beach (with lifeguard) at the park.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

The rocks, pier and seaside vegetation can provide some interesting foreground for sunrise landscapes.

The sun rises every morning...The sun rises every morning…But no one know what it will look like. This was the view before dawn from the beach at Jetty Park.

You can also see a variety of shore birds.  I saw Brown Pelicans, Northern Gannets, Ruddy Turnstones, Royal Terns, various Seagulls and others that I haven’t identified yet.

A place like this is also great for practicing your BIF (birds in flight) techniques.  Pelicans make especially good subjects, since they tend to glide in a predictable straight line, but other birds are also flying in and around (see the last photo, below).


No restrictions, so bring yours and use it.


This will depend on your subject.  I used my tripod mounted Nikon 16 – 35mm f/4 VR Wide angle for landscapes and sunrise.  When the light got a little better, I switched to hand holding my Sigma 150 – 500mm f/6.3 for birds.  You can get up close to some of the birds, so a shorter telephoto might come in handy too.  For example, this Brown Pelican wouldn’t fit in the field of view at 500mm.  Since the bird was so still, I made a multi-shot panorama.  I like to use this technique when I can since the result can be a  higher resolution image (this one is 18.5 Megapixels, un-cropped).

Posing Pelican Pano

Best time to visit:

Day visitor hours are 7am to dusk.  Take this into account if you’re planning to make some sunrise photos.  I didn’t and the morning I went, sunrise was at 7:15.  I arrived about 6:45 and the gate was still closed, so I drove around a bit to see if there was somewhere else to make a sunrise photo (I didn’t find one).  When I returned at about 6:55 they were unlocking it.  I had less time than I wanted to find a good spot and setup, but I did manage to get some photos I like.

Winter is probably a good time of year to go.  It’ll be less crowded (with people) and more crowded (with birds).  Many of the birds could be winter visitors too.

Northern Gannet in Flight

Northern Gannet in flight:  This Pelagic species is a winter migrant to the waters off of the Florida coast.


There’s a $10 per day usage / parking fee.

The morning I was there I saw a young man land a large fish from the end of the pier.  This might be a good place to combine your interest in fishing, camping and the beach with a photo side excursion.

There’s a lot of shipping activity at the port.  Cruise ships and fishing boats enter and leave regularly.  I think you can still occasionally see a submarine that’s visiting too.

Jetty park is close to both Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  If you have time for a little longer trip, you could combine a visit here with a second stop at one of those places.  The morning I went, I also stopped by Viera to see what was going on there.


I added a few birds to my life list and a few photos I really like to my archives.  You can too. Check out the other photos I made there in this set on Flickr.  Let me know how your visit to the park goes.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157628638922015/with/6606239041/
Their Website:  http://www.portcanaveral.com/recreation/beaches.php
Address / Phone: 9035 Campground Cir, Cape Canaveral, FLView in Google Maps
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A sunrise and shorebird showplace!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

The year in review: My favorite 2011 Photos

I hope that all of you, your families, and your friends have a joyful and happy holiday season!

Photographer Jim Goldstein has an annual tradition of organizing a “best photos of the year” listing.   So it’s a good time to put together my own third annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.  You can revisit 2009 here, and 2010 here.

Again in 2011, I’ve been blessed with a huge amount of photo opportunities. The 2011 folder on my hard drive takes up about 178 GB of space. Wow – good thing storage is so cheap now days!  I’m still using the following system to rate my photos.  The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2011 .

  • 1 star   – The photo is interesting (262)
  • 2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (400)
  • 3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (81)
  • 4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
  • 5 stars – My favorite photo ever (none, I’m not done making photos yet!)

Photos without stars are seconds or not so good versions of other photos. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. I’ve been using this system consistently, and it seems to work for me. I’ve reviewed my 2011 photos and selected what I think are my best.  Of course, this is all subjective and my opinion only. Feel free to disagree, but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.

You can click on each of these to go to Flickr and see a larger version.  Or you can click this link to go to the set on Flickr.

Here we go.  I have 3 mammals, 3 birds, 2 landscapes, and 3 miscellaneous subjects …

Bobcat in Tree, Circle B Bar Reserve
November:  Bobcat in Tree, Circle B Bar Reserve. I’ve seen Bobcats in the wild before, but I’ve never been able to take a good photo of one. We saw this one resting up on a branch and it posed for a while. In this image, I think it was trying to figure out how to get through the crowd of humans at the base of the tree. More info: https://edrosack.com/2011/11/24/landscapes-and-bobcat-at-the-circle-b-bar-reserve/

Baby mountain goat
July: Baby mountain goat, Mt. Evans summit, Colorado. There were several families of mountain goats on the way up and at the summit. This little one posed for me so I could frame him against the out of focus mountains in the background. It’s amazing to watch them scramble from rock to rock and never slip. More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/07/10/mount-evans-redux/

Young deer at Viera Wetlands
September: Young deer at Viera Wetlands. View large and check out the eyebrows and whiskers! More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/09/04/late-afternoon-at-viera-wetlands/

Barred Owl watches photographers
January: Barred Owl watches photographers. More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/01/30/catching-up/

Eastern Meadowlark
December: Eastern Meadowlark, Blackpoint Wild Life Drive. More info: https://edrosack.com/2011/12/17/merritt-island-scouting-report-saturday-december-10/

Florida Scrub Jay watches us
June: Florida Scrub Jay watches us.  One or two birds in this Scrub Jay family were real posers. And one of those was a “dive bomber”. It flew at our heads a few times trying to discourage us. More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/06/19/a-summertime-visit-to-minwr-blackpoint-and-scrub-ridge-trail/

Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve
November: Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve. More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/11/24/landscapes-and-bobcat-at-the-circle-b-bar-reserve/

It was a little cloudy this morning
December: It was a little cloudy this morning. Blackpoint Wild Life Drive. I’ve enjoyed playing with an Infrared modified Olympus EPL-1 camera.  More info: https://edrosack.com/2011/12/17/merritt-island-scouting-report-saturday-december-10/

Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery
March: Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery. I’d never been to Arlington before this trip. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me. More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/03/19/washington-dc/

Flavia, in color
December: Flavia, in color. American Photo Model Shoot, Orlando, 12/3/11.  My first time photographing models was a real learning experience.  More info:  https://edrosack.com/2011/12/09/orlando-american-photo-model-shoot-workshop-december-2011/

My Grandfather's Pocket Watch
June: My Grandfather’s Pocket-watch. After the Orlando Watch Company repaired it, it’s working fine.  This is a 1921 Elgin pocket-watch, marked Wadsworth Referee 20 year 5069868.  More info: https://edrosack.com/2011/06/25/grandfathers-pocket-watch/


I hope you’ve had a great photo 2011 too.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some more photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando American Photo Model Shoot Workshop, December 2011

Intro / Description

Well this is a bit different from what I normally photograph and post about.  But to keep learning, it’s good to occasionally stretch your skills, move outside your comfort zone, and try something you haven’t done before.  And as your intrepid Central Florida Photo Ops reporter, I have an obligation to report on more than just the landscape and wildlife opportunities in the Central Florida Area.  Right?

Flavia, in color

So last Saturday, I found myself at the American Photo Magazine Model Shoot Workshop at the Marriott World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  The magazine organizes the event, hires models, brings lighting equipment and sets everything up for you.  You just need to show up with your camera and plenty of memory cards.

They also bring in an instructor for the day.  For this session it was New York Photographer Lindsay Adler.  She provided some very good information on lens choice, lighting, posing, and creativity in two different sessions during the day.  She and the other instructors also circulated and offered advice and help while we were shooting.  It’s a great opportunity to learn, especially if you’re not familiar with this kind of photography.

There were 15 different models there.  I’ve included four photos of three of them in this post.  You can see more photos I made (including the other models) in this gallery.  You can also look at other photographers’ images at this link.

Tiffany, in fur

Since I’m normally a Nature & Wildlife photographer, I found it quite fascinating to think about the differences between those genres and Fashion and Model photography:

Nature and Wildlife Photography Fashion and Model Photography
The light is what it is.  You may be able to change it a bit with flash for fill and catch lights. You control the light.  Indoors, you control it completely.
High Dynamic Range is common for landscape photos to control large contrast levels. Since you control the lights, you control the contrast.  HDR isn’t required.
You rarely interact with the subject.  And if you do, you usually scare it off. You must interact with the subject.  Building a rapport and directing the pose is critical.
Very wide (landscape) or very long (wildlife) lenses are favored. Large aperture lenses are favored:  50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 70 – 200mm f/2.8
It’s all on you – a one person show. You’ll require a team: models, make up artist, costumes, sets, etc.
Knowledge / experience and persistence are necessary to find good subjects. Portfolio, reputation, and relationships are necessary to find good subjects.
You go to where the subject is. The subject comes to you in a set or studio.
Post processing: Color adjustments, HDR (landscapes), Selective sharpening Post processing:  Color adjustments, Retouching, Selective sharpening

I’m sure I must have missed something.  What else is different about these two types of photography?

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

At this type of event, everything except you and your camera are provided:  backdrops, lighting (hot lights and soft boxes), sets, models, costumes, makeup, etc.  The instructors will help with light adjustments and offer advice if you’re having any problems.  Flash isn’t recommended, since the lighting is provided and flash will interfere.  It will also be a lot harsher than the large soft box hot lights that are used.

You do need to use a higher ISO setting.  I used ISO 800 almost all day.  I shot with my lens wide open and my exposures ranged around f/2.8 between 1/60 of a second and ~1/320.  A capable high ISO camera will come in very handy as well as a large aperture lens with VR.  The Nikon D700 and 70 – 200 f/2.8 VRII combination worked well for me.  I did have some issues with overexposure.  I don’t know why these scenes were fooling my meter (maybe the dark backgrounds?), but I sometimes had to dial in some negative exposure compensation.  Make sure to check your histogram often.

Flavia, in black and white

White balance was tungsten on some sets and daylight on others.  I shot in RAW mode, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  I just set my camera in auto white balance and then corrected it (if needed) in post.  If you shoot in JPG mode, pay attention to the changing white balance.  I overheard a lot of discussion that day from different people about “degrees Kelvin”.

The overall experience sometimes resembled a paparazzi shoot out on a red carpet.  Popular models would attract a crowd of photographers.  Courtesy is very important.  Take your turn and let others have theirs – there was plenty of time for everyone.  It was also fascinating to be one of  the photographers in the crowd and hear shutter clicks sync up when a model changed position or where they were looking.

Tripod/Monopod:  Not recommended – it’s too crowded and would definitely be in everyone’s way – including yours.  It would also slow you down.  The models do move around, so you need to  react quickly to get the compositions you want.


One of the event sponsors was Sigma.  They brought a couple crates of lenses and would let you borrow one for a session.  This is a great chance to try glass that you haven’t used before.  I checked out an 85mm f/1.4 for the first session, but ended up not using it very much.  I wasn’t getting many sharp images even when I stopped it down.  I didn’t have time to diagnose the issue but I think my problem was a combination of very shallow depth of field and blur caused by slower shutter speeds with no VR.   I switched to my 70 – 200 f/2.8 and used it the rest of the day.  It was occasionally a bit long at the 70mm length, but I compensated when needed by taking multiple shots.

Jennifer, in close

Best time to visit:

You’ve missed your chance for this year.  To see when they’re coming back to Orlando, you’ll have to check the American Photo Website.  They told us they’d be posting the 2012 schedule soon.

Other:  I had a great time, but it was a long day.  You’ll be on your feet a great deal of the time, and you’ll be shifting positions often to get a good vantage point.  I was quite tired at the end of the day.


You can view a higher resolution gallery of other photos I made at the link in the table below.

My Gallery:  https://edrosack.com/APMS
Their Website:  http://www.americanphotomag.com/modelshoot/
Their Contact Info:
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A different kind of CFL Photo Op must do!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

If you’re a birder, go see it!

The Big Year ” opened in theatres this weekend.  It’s a comedy about competitive birders starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin.  If you enjoy birding or bird photography, ignore the mixed reviews and go see it – it’s good.  Lynn went with me and we both liked it.  A lot.


The movie is based on a book by Mark Obmascik about the competition to sight the most bird species in a single year.  In the movie, the winner (played by Owen Wilson) sacrifices everything else in his life to set the record at 745.


There are 924 species of bird in North America.  362 are common in Florida, 341 in Alaska, and 444 in California, so to reach 745 requires a lot of dedication, knowledge, and travel across the country.   I have a long way to go.  In my Lightroom catalog, I have photos of  67 different bird species.  I’ve probably seen about 20 more that I’ve identified.  745 is a big number.


More info:

  • Trailer:
  • Soundtrack:
  • Article about the possible impact on Florida birding: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2011/10/16/big-year-big-movie-big-boost-to-florida-birding/#ixzz1aziemeTk(sorry – no longer available)

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Emeralda Marsh

Intro / Description

Emeralda Marsh is called the “Jewel of Lake County Bird Watching”.  When we first visited in May of 2010, the Interpretive drive had just been closed to vehicles – which was a big disappointment and prevented me from doing a review of the site.  Fast forward to late March of this year and the drive is again open, so Kevin M. and I headed over to see if this place lives up to its reputation.

It’s huge (7089 acres), with a 4.3 mile long drive that’s accessible by car for part of the year.  We arrived a little after sunrise but before the gate opened at 8am, and so we spent a little time around this very picturesque canal just up the road from the entrance.

Canal, mist, and sundog
Canal, mist, and Sun Dog: A Sun Dog appears over this misty Florida canal near Emeralda Marsh just after sunrise.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  The Interpretive drive is open from the 3rd week in February through May on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Call before you go to make sure.  The drive had already been closed when we went last May and the place is too big to walk (at least for me).  The hours are 8 – 5.   We didn’t see much of interest on about the first half of the drive.  Things picked up a bit when we turned north at the south-west corner (see link to Google Maps, below).  Then we ended up seeing a good variety of birds including a Belted Kingfisher, coots and moorhens, gators, American Bitterns, a Northern Harrier, Ospreys, Egrets and Herons, and various ducks.

Northern Harrier in flight
Northern Harrier in flight: This bird was quite active on the morning we were there

There’s a dirt road that’s closed to cars leading west from the north-west corner of the drive.  It goes to a rookery on a small island just off the Lake Griffin shore.  We walked out there and saw some displaying and nest-building going on, but it was grown up and hard to get a clear view.

American Bittern
American Bittern

Tripod/Monopod: Allowed of course.

Lenses: Bring your standard bird set up – the longer your lens, the better.

Best time to visit: When the drive is open (late February to May), which is also the best time for nesting, breeding, etc.  Winter time is reportedly good for migrating species, but the drive will be closed to vehicles and you’ll have to hike in to the area.


You can download the drive guide map here.

Landscapes and sunrise / sunset photos will be hard due to the hours that the drive is open to cars, although you may be able to find a few scenic locations close by for golden hour photos.

There was a Bass fishing tournament going on the morning we were there, which made for a few loud moments as the fast boats all roared off.  We also heard several gun shots, so there was some hunting going on in the area.


“Jewel of Lake County Bird Watching”?  I certainly can’t argue with that.  This is a huge place with a diversity of habitats and we did end up seeing a lot.  I think that if you could visit several times over the course of a year, you’d see a variety of Florida and migratory birds.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157626234490421/
Website: http://www.sjrwmd.com/recreationguide/emeraldamarsh/index.html
Address / Phone: Lake County BCC
315 West Main St.
P.O. Box 7800
Tavares, Florida 32778(386) 329-4404Geolocation: 28.886668,-81.79056View in Google Maps
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: There are places near me that I think are better, but go if you’re close.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog – now go make some photos!

©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Universal's Islands of Adventure

Intro / Description

I apologize for not publishing  a post  last weekend.  We’ve had a very busy week with family and the Christmas holiday.  I’ll try to make up for it today with this Central Florida Photo Op review of Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme park.

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Dawn at Hogwarts Castle

Islands of Adventure is right next to Universal Studios and City Walk and is one of the newest theme parks in the Orlando area.  It opened in 1998, and this year (2010), Universal added a new “island” to the park – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  This much awaited addition has been extremely popular and is a must see for Harry Potter fans.

Ollivanders wand shop

Ollivander’s wand shop

The park also has a Port of Entry and 5 other “islands”:   Marvel Super Hero Island; Toon Lagoon; Jurassic Park; The Lost Continent; and Suess Landing.  Depending on your interests these will be more or less appealing to you.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints: The line to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey winds through Hogwarts Castle and has many, many photo ops along the way.  Be prepared so you don’t hold up people or lose your place.  Most of the photo ops are at close range, so use your flash and fire away.

Tripod/Monopod:  I did see one person using a tripod, but I think it’s very impractical.  When you’re inside and need it, you won’t have time or space to use it because you’ll be in a ride queue.  Outside you’ll have plenty of light, and the crowds will make setting up very difficult.  And the less equipment you have to carry on the sometimes cramped rides, the better.

Lenses:  Nothing too extreme is needed – a mid range zoom is enough to capture many fine images at this park. You can use a flash too, so you don’t have to worry too much about fast, heavy lenses.

Best time to visit:  Winter is a great time to visit, since you’ll be blessed with fine Florida weather.  If you time your visit right, you can even see some color in our trees.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Pick a day when no fronts are coming through and you’ll avoid the rain.  If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll want to research strategies for the best ways to get in quickly to this area – it can get quite jammed with muggles.  We arrived at the park before it opened, made straight for the area and did pretty well.  Other people have had luck avoiding long lines by going late at night just before the park closes.

Muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village

The muggles crowd in Hogsmeade Village


Several rides at Islands of Adventure will get you and possibly your photo gear wet.  Take precautions when riding Popey & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Jurassic Park River Adventure.  There are lockers where you can store your gear.  I wasn’t comfortable taking expensive camera gear through wet rides or leaving it in lockers, so I made do with my small Canon S90 which I could protect in my pocket.

The Mythos restaurant in the Lost Continent area is rated very highly and has some of the best  theme park food in the world.  It’s also fairly reasonably priced.  We very much enjoyed our meal.

The Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer at  Mythos Restaurant

Tempura Shrimp Sushi appetizer


You can click on any of the photos above to go to Flickr, where you can see a larger version.  The link to the rest of my Islands of Adventure photos is right below.  You can look at all of the photos from our Christmas holidays in this Flickr set.  Thanks for stopping by.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625691192000/
Website: http://www.universalorlando.com/Amusement_Parks/Islands_of_Adventure/islands_of_adventure.aspx
Address / Phone: Parking Garage:

6000 Universal Boulevard

Orlando, FL 32819

Main Number: 407-363-8000

Longitude: -81.46228

Latitude: 28.47399

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Harry Potter fans can’t go wrong in this point and shoot paradise.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Correcting blur with Topaz InFocus

3/19/19 NOTE:  This post is no longer current.  As of March 2019, Topaz has a new product – Sharpen AI  They’re offering a free upgrade for owners of Topaz InFocus, although I’m not sure how long this offer will last.


Topaz Labs recently introduced their InFocus plug-in to refine detail, increase clarity, and rescue blurred images.  It uses deconvolution and micro texture in addition to the more common unsharp mask algorithm.  If you go to the Topaz website, you can  read much more about this and their other plug-ins, download the manual as well as a free 30 day trial, and also examine some very impressive examples of this software at work.

So, how well does the plug-in actually work with a real world example?  I decided to give it a try.  I selected a photo of a hawk that I made recently.  You can see the full image here on Flickr.  I was happy with the original photo and most of it is sharp, but the bird’s feet are blurred – I think it was shifting positions when I made the photo.

Here’s a crop showing the appearance before I used Topaz InFocus:

A portion of the image showing the hawk’s blurry feet.

And this second crop shows the improvement after processing with InFocus:

The same portion of the image, showing the improvement after processing with InFocus

Conclusions and recommendations

InFocus helped me remove a great deal of the blur in this photo.  The improvement is good, but not perfect and not quite as dramatic as some of the samples on the Topaz site.  It’s very possible that a more experienced / knowledgeable user could do more with this image.  I’ll be looking for other examples to try it on and  re-reading the manual / watching the tutorial videos to make sure I know how best to use it.

One thing I did notice while playing with the software:   The InFocus settings needed to de-blur the hawk’s feet couldn’t be applied to the whole photo without introducing artifacts.  I ran a duplicate layer through InFocus and then selectively painted it onto the bird’s feet in Photoshop.  You  may need to do this too to get the best results.

Should you get a copy of this software? Well I bought one.  It seems to work better at de-blurring than I’ve ever been able to do with Photoshop’s built in tools.  It’s also quite handy for capture sharpening, even when a photo isn’t obviously blurry.

If you do buy it, spend the time to learn it so you can get good results.  You can find the manual and tutorials here (sorry – no longer available).

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Circle B Bar Reserve – Lakeland, Florida

Intro / Description

This nature wonderland in Lakeland, Florida is named after a cattle ranch that used to exist on the property. It was purchased by Polk County and the SW Florida Water Management District in late 2000. The area is 1,267 acres total and starting in 2005, 400 acres have undergone a marsh reclamation to recreate a natural habitat and food source for many kinds of resident and migrating birds and wildlife. The Circle B is also home to the Polk County Nature Discovery Center.

Lake Hancock - western shore

The western shore of Lake Hancock (from the Alligator Alley trail)

Circle B has a tremendous variety and number of birds. Alligators also inhabit Lake Hancock and can be seen from the trails in several places. There are a variety of different areas on the property including Oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lake shore.

The Circle B has over 7 miles of marked trails for walking or biking. If you go, make sure you see at least the Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run trails. We hiked these as well as the Shady Oak, Windmill Whisper and portions of Wading Bird Way and Eagle Roost trails when we were there for a total hike of more than 5 miles.

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

In our one visit we saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Ibises, Cattle Egrets, Ospreys, Red Shoulder Hawks, Cormorants, Anhingas, Limpkins, Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, a very brave rabbit and some other things as well. One local photographer we spoke with told us about a Barred Owl in the area as well as some otters, but we never saw them. Next time!


Cormorant – These birds have been posing for me lately.

In addition to the wildlife, the scenery is quite beautiful and different from our normal areas near the coast. There were many types of trees and flowers, including this sunflower variety that was very abundant all over the property.

Marsh flower close up - sunflower?

These sunflowers (?) were all over the Circle B Bar Reserve – very pretty. I wonder if they bloom all the time or if we just happened to be there when they’re in season?

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

I’ve only been to the Circle B once, and need to go several more times to get an idea of how consistent the photo ops there are. If you have the kind of experience we did, you’ll have lots of opportunity for photos of still as well as in-flight birds. If you’re quiet as you walk, you can avoid scaring off the nearby birds and get some better shots. They are somewhat used to people here, but not overly tolerant. Make sure you look all around as you hike (especially up) and take an occasional glance behind to see if you’ve missed anything.

In addition to my photo set from the Circle B, visit the Circle B bar group on Flickr to see what others are photographing there and to read up on discussions about the reserve.


Allowed, of course. Tripods would be very handy for landscape photos or (with a gimbal head) for birds. You’ll have to decide how much gear you’re willing to carry on your hike. Since this was a scouting trip, we traveled light and I wished several times that I’d brought my tripod.


Telephoto for birds / wildlife and and wide-angle for landscapes. You’ll need a good range of lenses to cover everything here, but you’ll be able to get some good photos no matter which lens you have with you.

Best time to visit:

As for any place when looking for birds and wildlife, early in the day (or late) is best. I’m not yet sure what times of year are the best here, but mid to late November is definitely worth a visit.


You’ll be walking a good bit. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring some water with you.


You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr, where you can also see a larger version.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625343566505/
Website: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/circlebbarreserve.html
Address / Phone: 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540)

Lakeland, FL 33803

(View in Google maps)

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Another CFl Photo Op must do!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland cancels early entry program

Update (1/8/2012):  Gatorland has re-instated their photo pass.  See their blog post here.

Gatorland in Orlando announced on their Blog that they’re canceling the 2011 Photographers Pass Program.  This is very unfortunate for bird photographers, since the early entry / stay late times are during the best light of the day and when there are no “civilian” crowds.

The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine has issued an announcement in response on their mailing list saying that they will continue their Photo Pass / early entry program.

I’ve updated my post comparing Gatorland to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm as I think having a photo pass gives the  Alligator Farm a strong advantage for photography.

There’s some discussion of this on Flickr in the Gatorland Group (this discussion has since been deleted).