It’s getting to be that time of year down here in Central Florida: Hot, muggy, and buggy, with many of the birds hiding or gone.
None the less, Kevin K. and I went over to Merritt Island last week to see what’s going on. Our first stop was along the Indian River at the Titusville Marina. Clouds on the horizon helped the sun add some color to the morning.
Dawn, down on the river
On Black Point Wildlife Drive, our most interesting find was this Stilt wading through calm water and good light. I like this close up, but I wish I’d also made a frame including the whole reflection.
As we left, this healthy looking animal was calmly marching across the black top. There were no cars coming from either direction, so we could stop and give him the right of way. And make a photo too!
Why did the gator cross the road? It didn’t say, but the grass is green on the other side!
There are still some interesting birds at MINWR. For instance, Pat H. found a Clapper Rail on BPWD a couple weeks ago. But it seems like most of our winter visitors have moved on. Maybe we need to move on too and look for photo ops in other spots until it starts cooling off again.
You can click on these images to view a larger version on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
A friend wants to make long exposure photos on an upcoming trip. I recommended using a Variable Neutral Density Filter (VND) and offered to let them try mine. So we headed over to the Cocoa Beach Pier last Friday to test them out on some ocean waves.
Cruising home. VND, ƒ/11, 35 mm, 0.3sec, ISO 100
VNDs are made from two polarizing filters – one’s fixed and the other rotates. You use the rotating one to vary the amount of light that’s blocked (typically between 1 or 2 and 6 or 8 stops). I like them because they give you precise and easy control over how much light hits your sensor. If you reduce light on the sensor, you can use a slower shutter speed or a wider aperture for a given scene. They’re good to have when you photograph waterfalls (slow shutter to blur / smooth water) or in bright light (to shoot with a wider aperture and blur backgrounds).
Here’s my approach for smoothing water:
Mount the camera on a tripod and trigger it with a remote or the self timer.
Set ISO (usually for best quality). Don’t use auto ISO. We want the camera to vary shutter speed instead of changing ISO when the VND rotates.
I use Aperture Priority mode and select the F-stop (for depth of field, image quality etc.).
Compose with the VND filter at its minimum value (brightest setting).
In bright light, you can use auto focus. In dim light, you may need to manual focus so the camera’s auto focus doesn’t hunt when you darken the VND.
Now, slowly turn / darken the VND until your shutter speed reaches the value you want. You’ll need to experiment to find what looks best to you, but for water try between .25 and 1 second.
If you can’t get a slow enough shutter, you can close down your aperture, or lower your ISO.
Some things to watch out for:
Like much in photography (and life!), you can find very expensive VNDs and very cheap ones. I’ve had good luck with name brand ones in the middle price range. Don’t buy the cheap ones! They may not be optically flat or coated, and might introduce color shift problems. You’ll probably pay more for thinner ones too, which will reduce chances of vignetting.
Definitely look for VNDs with coatings to help prevent reflections / flare. You’re adding four more air/glass interfaces to the front of your lens and you can’t use a lens hood, so coatings will improve performance.
Since these filters can be expensive, I recommend buying only one, sized to fit the biggest diameter lens you’ll use it with. I have a 77mm VND and step down rings to mount it on my smaller lenses.
Some VNDs can be rotated too far and will show an ugly cross-shaped anomaly. If yours does this, watch for it and back off until it disappears. Some are made with a stop so you can’t rotate them too far.
Check your results as you go. It’s easy to over expose highlights in moving water, so you may need to dial in some negative exposure composition. Also, if the light getting through is too dim, your camera’s meter may not work well. In that case you’ll have to change to manual exposure and adjust accordingly.
Make several exposures at different shutter speeds so you’ll have distinct looks to choose from when you get home.
Golden beach. VND, ƒ/8.0, 26 mm eq., 0.8sec, ISO 200
That’s it – simple, right? Do you use VNDs? If so, let me know where I can view your long exposure photos. And if you have any hints of your own, please share in a comment for everyone.
You can click on these images to see a larger version on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I spent a couple of days in St. Augustine, Florida last week. It’s been two years since I last wrote about it (in this post), but it’s still a photo rich environment. Here’s a sample of the images I made there this time.
Columbia Restaurant interior. We usually stop by this place for the food, but the inside is lovely too!
Memorial Presbyterian Church Dome. We rode the Old Town Trolley around again and got off at this stop to see this beautiful church. Henry Flagler built it in the 1890s as a memorial to his wife.
>Santa Maria Restaurant Ruins. Our trolley guide told us it has too much hurricane damage to repair. It’s going to be demolished soon and replaced with a new restaurant
Flower Box. I like to watch for interesting doors and windows when I walk through town. This is one example.
Golden mooring morning. Lynn used some points to help us splurge on a waterfront room. I made this from our balcony.
Refreshments – Make the photo, then drink the subject. It’s important to get the sequence correct!
I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while. This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level. There weren’t many clouds. I used a low camera position for this photo to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.
Gator Creek Morning.
Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp. Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been. Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo. I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting . But since I was there, I got out of the car. I counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock. It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall. I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/). When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.
Manatee head shot
I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees. I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.
By the Indian River
Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too. I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish. This heron had just launched from the left.
Tricolored Heron in flight
I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light. I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.
I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me: a Whimbrel.
Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
This post is about blogging, not photography. So feel free to move on if this doesn’t interest you. But before you do, here’s an unrelated photo to try to make your visit here worthwhile:
Sunrise Surfer – An early morning image, from October 2018, near the Cocoa Beach Pier (click for a larger version).
My blog has been up since May of 2007 and I’ve written almost 600 posts through the years. A few weeks ago, I read an article about broken links and how Google crawls the web and downgrades a site’s search ranking if it finds broken / dead links on web pages.
I knew this, but hadn’t been actively addressing issues. I’m not a commercial site, and search ranking doesn’t affect any bottom line for me, but – well, we don’t want to be left out of Google do we?
Anyway, I’ve had a plugin loaded on my site called “Broken Link Checker” for a long time. I was having some server performance issues a while back and deactivated it. I decided to turn it back on and see what it found. It was disturbing!
> 5100 links total
186 broken or dead links
> 900 redirects
And a few warnings
I’ve been going through and fixing these. Here’s what I’ve done:
If the site I referenced changed and I can find the new page, I updated it.
If I can’t find a new page, in some cases I substituted a different source such as Wikipedia. (By the way, Wikipedia is amazingly good at keeping their links up – none of my broken links were to them.) If I couldn’t find a new page to link to (seems to be a common issue for newspaper articles) I removed the link and marked it as “no longer available”.
On some problems, I just removed the link if it didn’t really need to be there.
How embarrassing! Some of the broken links were to my own pages! These had to do with re-organizing categories and tags. So I went through and fixed these too.
I looked at redirects and they don’t seem to be real issues, so I left them alone.
As of this morning (finally!) all of my broken links are gone.
In the future, I’m going to modify my link philosophy:
I’m not going to be as eager to insert links. Web search is pretty good these days and you can highlight and right-click to get info on anything I write about. And It’ll be current too!
I’ll favor using Wikipedia when it makes sense. There’s less chance those links will break.
I haven’t noticed any performance issues with the Broken Links Checker this time. So I’ll leave it on
Broken Links Checker will email me when it finds problems and I’ll fix them as they come up, instead of ignoring them for too long.
Onward to search results dominance!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
We stopped by the boat ramp at the St. Johns River on US 50 for sunrise. There weren’t many clouds, so my hopes for color weren’t too high. But there was a nice pop as the sun came over the horizon and I zoomed in to capture this moment:
St. Johns Sunrise – a peaceful pasture
I had my infrared modified camera in the car. When I saw these fishermen leaving, I pulled it out and hurried over to make an image. Despite rushing, I like the way it turned out. The clarity that IR brings to this image is nice, and the wake and boat reflection are pretty too. I’m glad I had the camera all setup to go before I grabbed it!
Early departure – Monochrome, infrared
KM is an ace at spotting birds and he called out this Merganser. When I got home, I thought at first it might be a Common Merganser – which I’ve never seen before. But it turns out their range doesn’t include Florida. So this was a Red-breasted – which I have seen, although infrequently.
There are a large number of Northern Shovelers around Black Point Wildlife drive. Of course they were mostly far away and when they were close, they seemed to always face in the wrong direction. But patience paid off when this male eventually swam slowly in front of us in good light and dragged his very handsome reflection with him.
Male Northern Shoveler
Thistle plants are also all over on Black Point – this one came with a Bee on it. I made a four image panorama to record the whole subject with higher magnification and resolution. Sometimes I run into issues stitching these together. But this one turned out well:
Thistle and Bee
KK called out this Snipe in the mangroves along the canal and we of course stopped to photograph it. The light was poor, with the sun behind it. When I first looked at my photo on the computer, it was very washed out. I added some dehaze in Lightroom and was pleased with the result.
Smaller birds were flitting around near the rest stop on Black Point. I usually find these hard to photograph. The light is bad way back in the reeds and they move quickly. It’s tough to focus on them through all the obstructions. I was shooting toward the sun for this image too and it didn’t look good at first on my computer. Thankfully it’s in focus and there’s a lot of latitude for processing with a RAW format file. I used local adjustments with the radial filter in Lightroom to boost the exposure and visible detail on the bird.
When we left on this trip, I had no idea what we’d see and photograph. There are no guarantees. I’ve learned though, that Mother Nature usually rewards us when we pay attention to her – in this case with a nice sunrise and several birds that I rarely see. And a little post processing rewarded me with improved photos.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
At least it is at Viera Wetlands – a wonderful place to witness bird courtship and nesting behaviors.
This Great Blue Heron was lazy. He was raiding an abandoned nest close to his and scavenging sticks to bring back to his mate. A situation like this can be a great setup for photographers. Watch for a cycle or two and you’ll get a good idea of what’s going to happen next. It’ll allow you to anticipate and get good action / flight shots.
Nesting Great blue Herons
I was back at Viera Wetlands to check on the Sandhill Crane nest that I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, that nest has disappeared. The water in that spot is much higher and the birds abandoned it when it flooded.
Sandhill Cranes seem to be a very successful species, but I wonder about their nesting habits. Building in low-lying, marshy areas seems risky. How often do they lose eggs or chicks to flooding or predators like alligators, raccoons, etc?
We did spot two other Crane nests, although we almost drove right by the one below. We heard a bird calling as it flew by and stopped to watch it land. That was when we noticed its mate and nest. A few moments later the mate rose, revealing two eggs it had been tending. It stepped away and after a quick inspection to make sure all was well, the other one carefully took its place. I hope this nest and the second one we saw will survive.
Nesting Sandhill Cranes
I didn’t think our sunrise stop along the St. Johns river was that good, but I enjoyed making this photo of fishermen leaving the boat ramp before dawn.
Let’s get an early start
The light was dim. I made a second exposure at a higher ISO to keep the shutter speed fast and the boat sharp. Then I merged the two frames in Photoshop.
Here are some photos from a trip to Viera Wetlands last week. There’s a lot to see there!
Dawn in the harbor – A sunrise stop at the Cocoa Riverfront Park on the way to Viera
Sandhill Crane and egg in nest – it’s fairly close to the berm. I think I’ll go back in a week or so and see if it’s hatched.
Deer – I’ve seen them several times hanging out at the east end of the park
Web – The spiders were busy and some of their work was catching the early morning sunlight
American Robin – Winter visitors / migrants are showing up in force
Eastern Phoebe. Ash-throated Flycatcher(?) I didn’t recognize this bird when I made the photo. and I’m still not totally sure what it is. A Great crested Flycatcher was seen at Viera Wetlands in January, but this one seems too small for that. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen there in previous years. Many thanks to Wally Jones for the ID help!
So I had a very nice visit to a wonderful place – if you’ve never been, now is a good time to go!
I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!). So I was eager to photograph something this week. My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.
Whoops. I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running. I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and no water in the corner cell, I turned around. Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.
Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.
After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. There are a lot of winter migrants here now. The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex. In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID. I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there. I heard later they found it again on Saturday.
Hooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area
Pair of porkers. Part of larger family just inside BPWD.
Spoonbill and reflection. This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama. That really helps with details!
Weathered Red Cedar. I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!
So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well. Those engines I heard were pumps. I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14. And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16. I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down. Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go. Even if you’ve been there many times!
MK and I decided to drive over to Flagler Beach last Sunday. Several whales have been seen recently – one the week before from the pier. We knew the chance we’d spot one was very small, but it’s a pretty place for sunrise and the restaurant on the pier serves a decent breakfast!
Quilted surf sunrise
We set off at “o-dark-thirty” and arrived before dawn. I spent some time making photos on the beach and when it was light enough, we went up on the pier to scout.
We ate breakfast and then drove to a couple more spots on the beach. We knew before we left that day that our chances of seeing whales were slim. But we all know our chances are zero if we never look. And although we came up empty, it sure was a nice morning and worth the drive.