I make a lot of photographs – you may not have been able to tell ;-). And I have many that I like that never get into the blog. So this week I’m going to post a handful of B&W images from around Central Florida that I think are worth seeing. I hope you like them too. Not many words this morning. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Pump house, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Cathedral Interior, St. Augustine
Cypress stand, Orlando Wetlands
Quiet morning, Merritt Island NWR
Sunrise Along Bobcat Trail, Orlando Wetlands
Tranquil morn, Orlando Wetlands
As always, click to view larger on Flickr, and you can see many more of my monochrome photos in this folder.
Thanks for stopping by and looking at my blog. Now – go make some photos!
There’s a lot going on at this city run park out in Christmas, Florida. I needed steps last Friday, so I got up early and took a walk. Hours are “Sunrise to Sunset”, but generally the gate is open about a half hour before sunrise. Plenty of time to catch some good light.
Marsh, moon, and sun rays
The quantity and variety of wildlife is remarkable. I’ve seen occasional deer, bobcat, raccoons, and otters in the past – and alligators and our common wading birds are plentiful. Winter migrants are also arriving.
Eastern Phoebe (winter visitor)
Savannah Sparrow (winter visitor)
Other migrants I came across included Belted Kingfishers, Black-necked Stilts, and Palm Warblers.
Spoonbills have been numerous there in recent years, but I only saw one this time. Maybe more will show as we get closer to springtime.
There were other unusual things too:
Pie Billed Grebe and crayfish
I noticed this Grebe surface with what I thought was a fish. But when I got a better look I could tell it was a large crayfish. It had a precarious hold at first. As I watched for about a minute, it adjusted its grip and eventually swallowed the whole thing. The crayfish looked bigger than the bird’s head!
Other birds I spotted: Black Bellied Whistling ducks, Mottled Ducks, Coots, Common Gallinules, Red-shouldered Hawks, Sand Hill Cranes, Limpkins, Wood Storks, juvenile and adult Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, Glossy and White Ibis, Anhingas, Black Vultures, and I’m sure others I missed.
There are on-going or planned projects that’ll make this park even better. They’re currently “demucking” cell 13 (far corner from the entrance). And they’ve prepared a site for a new visitor center at the first corner as you hike north from the entrance. I’m also looking forward to new vantage points a future boardwalk over lake Searcy should provide.
In the USA, the second full week of October each year is National Wildlife Refuge Week. I visited my local refuge last Thursday to help celebrate.
I decided to go straight to Black Point Wildlife Drive to photograph sunrise. The gate was still closed when I arrived, so I set up by the sign at the entrance and made the image above. The wind was blowing and I like the surreal appearance of the clouds, moonlight, and stars visible in the full res version.
This was the view a little later from the parking area at the southwest corner of the drive:
And here’s a monochrome infrared photo along the western side of Black Point. I like the low sun angle and clouds.
Out early on a straight road
You might be able to tell from these three photos that I was the first and only one on Black Point Wildlife Drive that morning – which led to the next situation. I stopped at the rest area and got out to scout around. There’s a small observation deck there at the start of Cruickshank trail and as I was just coming off the path to go up the short boardwalk, I heard a noise and then saw a very healthy looking Bobcat jump over the rail and disappear into the vegetation. Even though I had my camera in my hands, set up and ready – I was way too slow to get a photo.
I’ve come across Bobcats several times in the wild. Usually when they see me, they fade away quickly and it’s hard to get a photo. This time was unusual – I wasn’t trying to be super quiet, I can only guess it was catnapping and didn’t notice me at first, or it was hoping I wouldn’t come its way so it could stay comfortable.
I’m sorry I didn’t get the photo for you on Thursday and I know you’re disappointed. So here’s a previously un-published one from March 2017 from very near the same area. It’s typical of the brief and poor look I normally get of Bobcats:
Feral pigs in MINWR aren’t as shy as Bobcats. They typically go about their business when I see them. This one stared me down and when it was sure I was going to stay put, continued across the road – hackles raised. It too quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.
Young wild boar
One more picture to close this out – from the boat launch area at Parrish Park:
#53 – A banded Ruddy Turnstone
I had an exciting day at Merritt Island. Although the winter birds aren’t back in force yet, The Ruddy Turnstones and skittish Belted Kingfishers I saw are migrants – a good sign.
I’d long ago answered this question, but a comment from Frank B. about this image caused me to reconsider some things.
Cocoa Beach Pier before dawn
Fair warning: This post is a little deep into the weeds. Feel free to look at the photo and move on if it isn’t your thing. But I think it’s an appropriate subject, since part of the blog’s purpose is “… and how to photograph them.”
What are we talking about?
Bracketing means taking multiple photos of a scene, each with different camera settings (see this Wikipedia entry). In this case, I made three photos at different exposures so I could capture the entire dynamic range from super dark under the pier to super bright above the clouds. Making just a single exposure would’ve risked losing detail in the shadows or highlights (or both).
You can also use a Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND) – an optical filter you add in front of your lens to reduce light in the bright part of the frame (see this Wikipedia entry). Typically they have a 2 or 3 stop reduction that transitions into clear.
I’d long ago experimented with GNDs and decided not to use them. I can mostly reproduce their effect in static scenes by bracketing and then blending the resulting frames in post-processing. For landscape images bracketing is an easier solution in the field and gives me more control and a better final result. You can read about one example of my technique in this post (from back in 2011).
But then … Frank left a comment:
… amazing how the clouds remain sharp compared to the water given the time of exposure
And my reply:
Frank, this is a 3 frame, hi-res exposure bracket hand blended in Photoshop. The bottom portion was at f/5 for 25 seconds. The top was at f/5 for 3.2 seconds. So that and distance is why the clouds are sharp compared to the water.
The way I made this image resulted in a huge difference in shutter speed between the water at the bottom and the clouds at the top. And using the Olympus Hi-Res mode exaggerated the shutter speed differences since it combines 8 separate captures to create each hi-res output file.
If I’d used a GND the shutter speed would be constant throughout the frame and the blur in the clouds would’ve matched the blur in the water. In this particular case, bracketing exposure by varying aperture instead of shutter speed would also make the motion blur consistent. I’ve never done that since it seemed like it would lead to other issues (inconsistent focus / depth of field). It’s something to think about and maybe try in the future for a setting where consistent motion blur is important.
Thanks for the question Frank! Photography is fascinating. There is so much to think about and still left to learn.
And thanks to everyone else for stopping by and reading my blog (especially if you read all the way through!). Now – go make some photos!
Editor’s note: First things first: We’re safe here in Central Florida and came through our brush with Hurricane Dorian with very little damage, although people are still worried about possible future flooding from all the rain – especially along the St. Johns river. Other places weren’t as fortunate as we are. The news from The Bahamas is horrific and some locations along the US east coast have severe impacts too. I hope recovery efforts are swift and thorough.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge announced they were re-opening on Friday (9/6/19) although BioLab Road and BioLab boat ramp were damaged and are closed for now. Kevin M. and I decided to ride over on Saturday morning and explore a bit. Here are some photos from the visit.
There were several Ospreys fishing along the sunrise side of the entrance and we stopped to watch. I caught this one very close to the rising sun but unfortunately clipped a small part of its wing. I was shooting in continuous mode though, so I was able to make this composite image using a separate frame to fill in the missing bit.
Wood Stork portrait
For some reason, I haven’t made / posted a Wood Stork photo in a while. There were three or four hanging out at Parrish Park as we left. They’re very tolerant of people (the folks fishing must give them handouts) and it posed quietly while I made this close-up portrait. Some folks might not think they’re handsome, but I like their rugged good looks. They have a lot of character and seem to own their unique style!
Perched Osprey – watching us from a dead tree branch on Black Point Wildlife Drive
Black-crowned Night-Heron. Not a great photo, but I don’t see Night-Herons very often, so I’ll include it.
In general, the conditions at MINWR are pretty good. The water is high, and wildlife is a bit scarce, but that’s not unusual for this time of year. It’ll cool off soon and we can look forward to lots of birds visiting in the fall and winter.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
We stopped first along a side road for a sunrise pasture photo. It’ll be hard to see at web resolution, but there’s a large herd of cattle on the right in the distance.
Cow country sunrise
Next, we drove down Joe Overstreet road. This is a great place to see birds that aren’t too common elsewhere in Central Florida. Here are some examples:
We also saw many of our common wading birds including some Sandhill Cranes, Anhingas, Cattle Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. There were a couple of Bald Eagles, a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers, an Upland Sandpiper, several Solitary Sandpipers (several? solitary? I know, right?), many molting Meadowlarks, lots of Killdeer, and lots of swallows ( I think these were Cave Swallows, although there could have been others mixed in).
And dragonflies were very plentiful.
Dragonfly – Not sure of ID on this. Maybe a Red Saddlebags?
After Joe Overstreet, we stopped by Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area to see if we could spot any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers but they weren’t cooperating.
If you haven’t been to these areas, check them out. They seem to attract a diverse group of species. Click on any of these for larger versions, and you can see a few more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
When I wrote about Father Crowley Overlook a couple weeks ago, I realized I had several promising Death Valley images in my archives that I’d never processed. A trip like that can be overwhelming, and dealing with so many photos takes time and effort. I suppose back then I picked out ones I thought were best and left the rest for later.
Well this week I went back, found this one I liked, and worked on it.
Shifting sun, shadows, and sand – early morning at Mesquite dunes in Death Valley.
This scene is looking roughly north about 15 minutes after sunrise. The low sun angle makes for lovely contrasts and colors, and helps emphasize the shapes and textures of the dunes.
While I was working on this in Lightroom, I noticed something on the far sand dune, just below the shadow at the top. Please click on the image below so you can see it better.
I was making landscape images, so I used a 24-120mm lens and fortunately liked the framing at 120mm. My Nikon D800 camera had a 36 MP sensor and captured a great deal of information in the file. Even though it’s at the limits of resolution, you can definitely tell there’s something there – tracks in the sand and one (maybe two?) animals!
A photo like this is a good example of something I wrote about 10 years ago: Photographic “Level of Detail”. Looking at it from a distance, you see colors, shapes, shadows and lines. Zoom in a bit and textures, tracks, and other details become visible. Zoom in all the way and you can spot wildlife. How cool is that?!
I really enjoy this aspect of photography. Have you ever discovered something like this in one of your images?
You can view my other DVNP photos here. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – it’s can be surprising!
It seems like ages since I’ve been out amongst our natural Florida wonders. So I was eager to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week for a look ’round. I stopped first by the Indian River before dawn. The geometry of the pier, bridge and sun rays teamed up to form nice leading lines toward the pending sunrise.
A peaceful morning on the pier by the bridge – Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier by the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Florida
East Gator Creek road was closed, so I drove up to Haulover Canal and the Mantee Observation Point – of course there were no manatees visible there! Then I circled back to Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Standing bird – Tri-colored Heron on a bush. It was so still that I had time to zoom in and make a three frame vertical panorama.
We’ve had lots of rain lately and there was plenty of water at Black Point. I saw fish schooling in several spots, although for some reason the birds weren’t interested. I think the highlight of the trip for me was watching two Reddish Egrets dancing over the water.
Running bird – a prancing Reddish Egret seems to walk on water
There were just a couple other people on the drive and I only saw them briefly. It’s a special privilege to have a place like this mostly to yourself – even at this time of the year when it’s so hot and the wildlife is a bit sparse.
Flying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water
What a delightful morning! I have many more MINWR photos here. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go enjoy nature – it’s good for you!
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!