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!
Good morning! We were traveling last weekend and I started coming down with a cold on the flight back. So I haven’t been out much since and I don’t have any new material for you. Instead, I’ll repost this write-up from back in April, 2014 – it’s one of my favorites. And it reminds me I need to go back over there and see what’s changed! You can also look at this post for more info on the location: https://edrosack.com/2014/01/04/marineland-beach/
There were a few lights in the parking lot way back behind the sand dunes and the clouds were thick and low, making it so very dark on Marineland Beach south of St. Augustine, Florida that my first few exposures didn’t even register on the sensor. I kept raising exposure times and ISO until I was able to capture this:
99 seconds in the dark – ISO 400, 99 seconds @ f/8; Marineland Beach, about 45 minutes before sunrise.
It sure didn’t look this way to my eyes. I couldn’t see much at all and had to use my head lamp to compose and focus.
When I got home and processed the photos, they reminded me of some things that might be useful to others.
Pre-visualize before, during, and after you press the shutter
You should always try to pre-visualize the photo you’re making before you compose and shoot – and it’s a delightful feeling when the image turns out just like you imagined. But this is often harder than it sounds. Especially if you can’t see what you’re photographing. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your vision as you go. This is a wonderful advantage of digital cameras that we’d be foolish to ignore. Check your results on the LCD during the shoot and adapt as necessary. In this case, I knew exactly what I needed to change when I first looked at my (black) LCD. I needed more exposure!
Pre visualization is great, but there’s also nothing wrong with post visualization. What I mean is to try as many things as you can think of while you’re there and sort it out later when you get home. Try HDR, panoramas, high tripod, low tripod, and focus stacking. Use different focal lengths, shutter / aperture combinations, and positions / directions. Exploit changing weather / light as time goes on. Capture them all and give yourself a better chance to come out with something you like.
Shutter speed is a critical variable when photographing moving water. The 99 second exposure above gave me very smooth and milky looking water, nicely outlining the rocks. A 1/1000th second (or faster) exposure can freeze drops of water. In between, you can find other speeds that look very different from the extremes. Capture the scene with different shutter speeds when possible. In this 1 second exposure, I like the added interest from the flow patterns in the water.
Marineland Beach and coquina rocks – ISO 100, 1 second @ f/4 with 8 2/3 stop neutral density filter, ~30 minutes after sunrise.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and ghost removal
There are so many controls and sliders in HDR software that it’s hard to know which ones to change. Most HDR software has an option for removing “ghosts” (differences between multiple frames for anything moving in the image) and I think it’s a critical setting. HDR Efex allows me to select the baseline frame I want to use as well as the amount of ghost removal to apply. I like to experiment with these and select the combination that looks best. In the image below, there was only one setting that showed the breaking wave. And I think the wave definitely adds to the image.
Golden rocks and sand – 5 image bracket (-4 to +4 stops), almost an hour after sunrise.
Don’t leave too soon
I made these three images (and more!) over a period of 90 minutes. The changing light provided different looks and opportunities to photograph this place. It’s worth getting there early and staying for a while.
Don’t get overwhelmed
When you visit a beautiful place, especially for the first time – it’s easy to be overwhelmed and forget about everything except pressing the shutter button. It helps to visit multiple times. The first time, it’s hard to see all the possible compositions until you get over the novelty and excitement. When you can relax and enjoy the experience you can open your mind and get in the zone. Then you’ll make images you’ll be happy to share with others.
The best colors at dawn are often before sunrise – sometimes well before. But a couple of minutes after sunrise last Wednesday, I was getting ready to move on when I noticed how colorful the horizon had become. So I decided to make one more photo. I was lucky I had my 24 – 200mm equivalent lens on and I zoomed all the way in. As the image flashed in my viewfinder, I saw a large bird close to the sun. When I recognized how many there were – all flying north (right to left), I made several more exposures.
By the way, this would have been a great time to switch to video, but I’m never able to think of that when I should.
Anyway, I ended up with 7 frames spread over 9 seconds. I brought them all into layers in Photoshop, aligned them, used curves to manually adjust each one so the exposures are the same and then blended birds from each frame into one composite image. I guess that’s cheating – but I think it’s a better representation of what I saw than any single frame I made.
I like images that reveal more the longer / closer you look at them. and this one does. Please click on it to see it larger.
Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired. Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too. It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together. Much too long!
We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise. Riding together is great for catching up with friends!
Dawn on the Indian River
Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped. Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.
We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.
We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones. This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;
And so was this Tri-colored Heron:
… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):
We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point. The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road. I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.
And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.
One more (small, kind of sad) story. We saw two pigs at Black Point. The second was along the canal near the exit. I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed. I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo. It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor. I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?
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.
So when I heard their announcement about a photo workshop in Atlanta I was eager to go – and It wasn’t too hard to talk Lynn into getting this for my birthday! They coordinate using the Mirrorless Adventures page on Meetup.com so sign up was an easy process. If my post gets you interested, you can find out about their future workshops there.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis Interior 2
Our HQ was the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta and it’s an awesome photo-op itself – lots of interesting architecture, angles, and patterns to fill your memory card. And if you get tired of the photo ops there, you can take a break at one of their restaurants or bars!
We met on Friday evening and then left for the Jackson Street bridge for some sunset and light trail photography. It’s a popular spot. There were lots of folks making photos and it’s easy to see why – the skyline view is awesome! Here’s one of mine:
A little after sunset.
I made this image with the Olympus “Live Composite” mode. I’ve used this once before, but it was great to get in some guided practice and I’ll be using it more in the future.
Other stops on the workshop were at Old Car City (http://oldcarcityusa.com/), Amicalola Falls (http://www.amicalolafallslodge.com), and Oakland Cemetery (https://www.oaklandcemetery.com). The workshop was last weekend and I came home with hundreds of photos. I’ve been going through them every day since then – but I’m not finished processing yet. So today I’ll just include a few from Atlanta and maybe do another post later about the other locations.
Watching sunrise. We stopped near this park while we waited for the cemetery gates to open
Oakland cemetery was founded in 1850 and many of Atlanta’s prominent citizens are buried there. It has a great deal of sculpture, architecture, and gardens to draw your eye. And an interesting sign across the street!
Six Feet Under BarAtlanta Skyline from Oakland Cemetery
I’ve always liked Atlanta. My mother’s family lived in the area (in Cedartown) so we visited often when I was growing up. I also went to college there (Go Tech!) and that’s where I met Lynn. It was great to visit for a long weekend, and the drive from Central Florida isn’t too bad.
A photo workshop can be a big boost to your image making. You might;
Learn or improve your skills: I refreshed and practiced “Live Composite” mode and will likely use it more often now.
Go places you wouldn’t normally see. I’ve been to Atlanta many times, but the only place from this workshop that I’d seen before was Amicalola Falls (mentioned in this post). Trying new things is good for your soul!
Meet new people. Hanging around with other folks passionate about photography is fun! They don’t even get bored when you talk about lenses, cameras, technique, processing, etc.!
See different approaches / techniques. On the last day, we spent a few hours processing images and each of us picked out several images to show the group and talk about. I was floored by the variety and ideas that everyone shared. It’s amazing how people can go to the same place and come back with such different photographs.
I really enjoyed this workshop – it was a pleasure to meet so many new photo friends! I thought the locations we went to were terrific and Mike and Jamie were extremely knowledgable, friendly, and always willing to help anyone with questions. They created a wonderful atmosphere for us to learn and make beautiful photographs. And I liked the van they used for transport – it was a real pleasure to just climb in and have someone else drive us around to all these spots. Well done Mike and Jamie!!!
The sky wasn’t very promising on our way over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week. There were no clouds and we didn’t think the morning color would be any good. Since it didn’t seem like we had a lot to lose, we decided to try a new sunrise spot: Loughman Lake, on the south side of SR 46 just west of Mims.
Misty Palms. Olympus High Res mode, converted to B&W. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200 mm eq. (cropped to ~250mm eq.). 6:16 am.
We were right – at first. There was hardly any color and I ended up converting this first image to black and white. But there was some photogenic fog and around 15 minutes later, the color arrived along with a few clouds on the horizon.
Misty Dawn. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/6 sec. @ f/6.3, 150 mm eq. 6:28 am
The images in this post are in time order and I’ve added exposure, focal length, and timing info for you. It turns out that I made all of these with a relatively long lens – unusual for my landscape photography. I’m sure that there are some great wide-angle compositions there, but the shorter focal length photos I made that day aren’t as interesting to me as these. I’m glad I brought the very versatile Olympus 12-100 f/4 zoom.
Morning Glory. Olympus High Res mode, two frame stitched panorama. ISO 200, 1/80 sec. @ f/8, 200mm eq. 6:37 am
Here’s one more image. I like the Great Blue Heron “statue” out in the water.
Misty morning marsh. Olympus High Res mode. ISO 200, 3.2 sec. @ f/6.3, 200mm eq. 6:45 am
Loughman Lake turns out to be a good place to stop on the way over to MINWR. But make sure you bring a longer lens!
I spotted this large fish (~2 1/2 feet long) resting near the shore. My long lens was stowed in my backpack and I knew it wouldn’t stay there long, so I quickly made a photo with my IR camera. If you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can better see the small minnows swimming nearby.
Dragonflies are out and about. This is the first time I’ve noticed them this year.
And finally, here’s a photo of my walking companion. This bird joined me for a bit on my stroll around the park.
The park offers free Tram Tours on weekends – check their site for details. I much prefer to walk so I can pause and photograph any time I want and get a little exercise too.
Thanks for stopping by the blog. Now – go make some photos!
Kevin K., Tom M. and I met at the Sanford Marina on Friday before dawn. The plan was to make a few sunrise photos and then go photograph a nearby eagle’s nest.
I like this long exposure:
Blue hour at the marina. Olympus Hi-res mode, 13s, f/5.6, ISO 250, @ 24mm eq. focal length (no tripod).
Confession time again. Since I didn’t need a tripod at Mead Gardens last week, I’d removed the L-plate on my E-M1 MII camera before that trip. Unfortunately, I forgot to re-attach it. So I had to improvise and try some different techniques on this trip. The image above was made with my camera resting on the dock.
This next image was made handheld. By opening my aperture and upping the ISO, I got my shutter speed up to 1.3 seconds. And the image stabilization in the camera was good enough for a tack sharp photo with those settings. Going by the old 1/focal length rule, I should have shot this at 1/24th second. The IS gave me about 5 stops of stabilization!
Half Staff at dawn. The flags at Sanford’s Veterans Memorial Park were at Half staff in honor of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Two frame vertical panorama, 1.3s, f/4.0, ISO 400, @ 24mm eq. focal length (hand held).
I made this last image with my IR camera – this time from a tripod since I did have the L-bracket on this body.
So what’s the title of this post all about? Well, we wanted to photograph a pair of eagles nesting on the railroad bridge that crosses the St. Johns river by Sanford. It looked like we could get an eye level view from the road nearby. But when we got over there we found the nest, but there were no eagles in sight. I’m not sure if they were just away for a bit or if they’ve abandoned the nest. Anyway, we couldn’t spot them. I might try driving by again next week and if I do, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! But check your gear before you leave, improvise if you have to, and when you’re photographically frustrated, try again another day!
I had the place to myself when I arrived that morning. It was fun to wander around and look for compositions even though the sunrise colors weren’t that good. I made this dawn landscape looking North over Lake Searcy. It was dead calm and the water was a perfect mirror.
This back-lit flock landing in the early light was lovely.
I don’t feature Coots in the blog very often, but I enjoyed watching this group. They often race across the surface of the water and squabble over who gets the best spots. These two seemed to be competing.
Front row seats at the Coot race
Spring is a great time of year to get out and explore nature in Central Florida. There’s a lot going on and the variety of birds is especially good. You can see all my posts about Orlando Wetlands at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/orlando-wetlands/