I have a lot of (too many?) images in my Lightroom Catalog. I like to look through them sometimes. It brings back memories of people and places I haven’t seen for a while. It’s easy to lose track of time doing this. And if I run across a promising image that I’ve never processed or published before, I can end up spending even more time “stuck in the archives”.
There’s a bit of water / mud in the riverbed, left over from a rain storm several days earlier. And there’s a group of hikers on a ridge on the right hand side. If you’re viewing this on the web, you’ll be able to see the header image, which is a small crop showing the hikers.
Late afternoon at Zabriskie Point (75mm, f/8 @ 1/80s, ISO 100).
When I went through my photos after the trip, I passed over this one. The sun’s position just out of the frame on the top made the light very harsh. The RAW image was washed out, the riverbed was over exposed, and the terrain was a bit underexposed. There were also a few ugly lens flare spots through the middle of the frame. I can see why I didn’t bother with it back then.
Anyway, I decided to try and process it and spent some time applying various quantities of modern software magic to it. I like the result and I think it was worth getting stuck in the archives for this photo. I’m really glad I saved the file!
Big Cypress National Preserve is a 729,000 acre swamp in South Florida adjacent to Everglades National Park. It was originally going to be part of that, but instead was established as a national preserve in 1974.
I’ve wanted to visit for years and finally went down a couple of weeks ago. I stayed at the bungalow Clyde Butcher rents behind his Big Cypress Gallery along Tamiami Trail. This is a “first impressions” blog post, not a guide. I don’t know the area well enough to give you a comprehensive review.
Butcher’s Pond. Next to Clyde Butcher’s gallery on Tamiami Trail
The bungalow was very nice and provided a good base for exploration. I do wish there was cell service or that they provided an internet connection – although I guess you could argue that being cut off is part of the swamp experience!
Big Cypress is huge and there are a lot of places to check out. And even more places if you include Everglades National Park. For me, the southern portion of the Everglades was just too far away from where I stayed so I concentrated on nearby spots including Kirby Storter Park, Fakahatchee Strand, Loop Road, Shark Valley, and a few others. There was a lot I didn’t get to – I need to go back!
Pre-dawn stars and clouds, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
Kirby Storter was only a few minutes away and I hoped to take advantage of dark skies and catch site of the Milky Way from there. I did manage to glimpse it but clouds rolled in towards dawn and I had to make do with a starry pre-dawn photo instead. I can tell you that I felt very alone out there in the middle of the swamp at 5am. It was dark (no moon) and hard to see very far – kinda spooky. But I also felt pretty safe because every time I moved a bit, the crickets went silent. I figured they’d warn me if anything large got close!
Cypress swamp, Kirby Storter Roadside Park
There’s a lovely, short hike along a boardwalk that leads back into the swamp next to some flowing water and ends at a large gator hole.
Red-shouldered Hawk Pair. Fakahatchee Strand State Park
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park was close too. It’s the largest state park in Florida and Janes Memorial Scenic Drive is an eleven mile dirt road leading from the visitor center back into the swamp. There’s only about six miles open right now due to damage from Hurricane Irma. You can drive this yourself like I did, or take a guided tram ride.
I was busy trying to make landscape photos when a lady hawk (the one on the left) started calling in the tree next to me. I thought she was yelling at me for being too close, but it turned out she was calling for her mate. He flew in and they had a “conjugal visit” while I rushed back to the car to get my longer lens. I missed the action, but did get a nice family photo of the pair afterward.
Fakahatchee Strand 4, color
There are a great many views of this lovely swamp along the scenic drive. It took me a long time to go out six miles and back because I stopped so often to photograph.
Loop Road Cypress and Sawgrass
Loop Road is another scenic area. Both ends connect to Tamiami Trail and I explored those, but didn’t travel the whole twenty six mile route. Next time!
On my visit, I mainly focused on landscape images although I did see and photograph some wildlife – mainly in Shark Valley. There were alligators, turtles, and a lot of birds – most were the same ones we see up here in Central Florida although I did sight a yellow crowned night Heron which isn’t very common in my usual spots. There were also a lot of small birds / warblers that I should have spent some time photographing / identifying.
This was a good time of year to visit. It’s considered the “dry season” and in additon to the comfortable temperatures, I got zero bug bites even though I didn’t use any bug spray the whole time.
You could spend a lifetime exploring there. I stayed for three nights and was very tired when I got home but only touched the surface. Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp, a swamp buggy tour, a swamp walk, an airboat ride, the Indian reservations and many others. Things to look forward to!
Cypress and air plants, IR B&W
Location scouting is a huge part of good landscape photography. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of scouting in advance. You know that an area is special when you can come back from your first visit with photos you really like. Big Cypress is extra special – a Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!
We should all be grateful that we’ve preserved places like Big Cypress and the Everglades and that we’re working to restore them to their natural state.
I’ve just about finished going through the photos from my trip to South Florida. I ended up with many images I like – way too many for a single post. Today, I’d like to complete what I started in the Wild Baby Gators! blog with a few more photos from the Shark Valley area of the Everglades. Next week I’ll finish my trip report with images from other parts of Big Cypress.
In a couple of spots along the north side of Tamiami Trail a few miles east of the entrance to Shark Valley visitor center, you can cross over the canal and drive along the dirt road on top of the berm. From there you can get a good look at the “River of grass”, stretching farther than you can see.
River of grass – looking north
I tried to stop by Shark Valley on my first afternoon in the area. But the parking lot was full and there was a line of cars waiting to get in, so I turned around and explored elsewhere. At 8:30 the next morning I was first in line waiting for the park to open. I bought a ticket for one of their two hour tram rides and was on the first one to leave. If you go, arrive early to make sure you can get in. I think taking the first tram ride of the day is a good idea too. Wildlife should be more active / visible and the light is better for photography.
Crowded airspace – Glossy Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill in flight. This was close to a small pond where a bird feeding frenzy was in progress.
There was a lot to see on the ride and the tour guide was excellent. He knew where to spot things and passed along a great deal of info to everyone. The tram stops for about 20 minutes at the 65 foot observation tower. There’s a wonderful view there too. If you zoom into this next photo, you can see two large alligators floating in the pond.
River of grass 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley
There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.
Happy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine
And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.
Lunch time – Great Blue Heron with a Florida Gar
We also spotted Cormorants, Anhingas, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Wood Storks, Red-shouldered hawks, a Purple Gallinule, and other birds. We didn’t see any pythons, but you can tell they’re out there because many of the smaller mammals have disappeared – eaten by these large snakes.
To summarize: Shark Valley is definitely a Central Florida Photo Ops “Must do” location and I’m going to visit again.
Over the holidays, Mike asked if I wanted to ride with him (and Avon) on his drive from Wisconsin to Florida and back. Of course I said yes! It was a good opportunity to spend some time together and I haven’t been on a road trip like this in a long while.
This post includes some photos from along the way and a few comments about the trip. It’s a little off topic from Central Florida Photo Ops’s stated purpose. I hope you don’t mind.
It’s quite a drive! It took us three days, although you can make it in two if you push hard enough.
Three Amigos. Here we are mid drive on the way back up – it was chilly at times! Avon is a good traveler. The only times he got even a little bothered was when Mike left him with me for a few minutes and was out of sight, or if the hotel we were in had other dogs that night.
Food on the trip was varied and tasty. This Vietnamese place was across from our hotel in Indianapolis. Good food, quick!
We were usually on the road early and some of the sunrises were pretty. This one is leaving Indianapolis, south bound.
This semi up ahead of us was moving around 70 mph – backwards!
When you get near Chattanooga, there are many “See Rock City” signs. No, we didn’t go by and see it.
Heading south out of Atlanta, the clouds were pretty thick
The last time I drove I-75 through South Georgia, I remember seeing a giant peanut on the side of the road. We couldn’t find it this time – even though the map said it was still there!
There are a lot of “World Famous Ruby Falls” signs too. This one may need a little maintenance.
We went north on a slightly different route and it was a little more scenic, especially through the mountains.
Another Mountain View
Passing wind: According to Wikipedia, the Meadow Lakes wind farm along I-65 in Indiana has 414 turbines and produces 801 megawatts of power.
We lucked out on the weather. There were clouds and some rain on the way down, but it wasn’t too cold. On our way north there was a snow storm coming, but it didn’t hit until we were almost to Mike’s house. The next morning, the park near his place was a very un-Florida looking landscape!
A path through the snowy woods
After I got back home, I was struck by the contrast between winter in Wisconsin and Florida. Our weather is very different!
Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Osceola County
Family time during the holidays is wonderful. Our home seems so very quiet and empty after everyone leaves. But it’s also wonderful to look forward to the next visit!
Thanks for the invite, Mike – I really enjoyed the ride!
And thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – on a road trip!
You may have seen the tragic news last week about a US Navy F18 crash in Death Valley. The jet was flying through Rainbow Canyon next to Father Crawley Point when it hit, killing the pilot and injuring seven bystanders.
I feel a connection to this. One reason is because of my own Navy service. During NROTC training, I was assigned to an attack squadron aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. I saw firsthand how professional, dedicated and skilled Navy aircrews are. My heart goes out to the pilot’s family.
I also feel connected because I’ve visited that exact spot. Back in 2015, Tom M. and I drove up to Father Crowley Point during a trip to Death Valley and made a few photos. At the time, we weren’t aware of the background of this place and just planned to make landscape photos. But then we heard the jets overhead.
US Navy F-18 exiting “Star Wars Canyon” in Death Valley at Father Crowley Overlook, October 2015
Air Force and Navy pilots have trained there since the 1930s and it’s become a hotspot for military aircraft photographers and enthusiasts (see this article in the LA times). Rainbow Canyon has a couple of nicknames: “Star Wars Canyon” and the “Jedi Transition”. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see and photograph military aircraft below you as they fly by (here’s another good article on Arstechnica).
Tom and I were getting ready to move on when we heard another jet approaching and getting much louder. I managed to switch to continuous mode and follow with my camera as it roared through the canyon right next to us. The photo above is a 9 frame sequence merged into a single image to show the progression as it leaves the canyon. I’d only ever processed a single frame of it before (here on Flickr). Although this set of frames is from a more recent (and capable) camera, I went through processing steps similar to those I described here: Reprocessing-a-mt-evans-elk-herd-panorama. I merged it manually this time to make sure all images of the aircraft were preserved in the final version.
I’m glad bystanders’ injuries weren’t too serious. I feel very sad for the young pilot and his family. And I’m grateful that we have people that volunteer to serve and protect us, even at such great risk to themselves.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go thank someone in the military for their service.
Lynn and I flew up to Wisconsin for a wonderful visit with Mike, Sara, and Calvin last weekend. Just before landing back in Orlando, the sky lit up. Lynn had the window seat and was making many photos, and she made a few for me too.
Almost home – a lovely sunset on our way in to Orlando from Wisconsin
Before I gave her my iPhone, I opened the Lightroom Mobile App and set the file format to RAW DNG. When I got home I processed it in Lightroom and Photoshop. I think it’s very nice for a grab shot through a thick window!
If you have a recent generation phone, you should look into using RAW format, especially for scenes like this. It records much more information and gives you adjustment room in your post processing, especially when changing white balance and recovering highlights and shadows. It’s well worth it!
We’re both a little under the weather after our trip, so that’s all I have for you this week.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some RAW 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!
The last time I wrote about covered bridges was way back in August of 2007 when we visited Indiana (The Covered Bridge Capital of the World). I find them interesting, so maybe it’s time for another article!
When we were in Bethlehem, PA, we had some extra time and Lynn found a web page describing a tour of covered bridges in the area (Lehigh Valley Covered Bridge Tour). We printed out their PDF brochure (from this link) and set off one morning to explore.
We ran into trouble right away trying to navigate to Bogert’s Bridge using a street address. We ended up pulling over while Lynn figured out the lat/long location for each one. Using those proved much easier and we didn’t have any further nav issues. If you go, here are the numbers we used.
Covered Bridges of Lehigh Valley Pensylvania
The early morning weather was nice with blue skies and some puffy clouds. But the sky got grayer the farther we went.
Covered Bridges in Florida? I got curious about covered bridges in our state and did some web research. www.dalejtravis.com has a huge amount of info on covered bridges (and round barns too) including state by state listings. His page for Florida lists many covered bridges. Unfortunately, the structures here in Florida are decorative and / or modern – there aren’t any “authentic” / historical covered bridges listed in our state. You’ll just have to travel elsewhere if you want to see some. Pennsylvania and Indiana would be good places to start!
Guitars are another long-time fascination of mine. It began when my folks got a piano and my sister started lessons. I must have been jealous because Mom and Dad bought me a Harmony Guitar (but no lessons!). I learned a lot with it and kept it for over 30 years. I finally sold it at a garage sale sometime in the late 90s – wish I hadn’t.
When people ask, I usually say that I “play at” guitar. I think the small amount of natural talent I have comes to me from my Mom’s side of the family. Her father played in a band on the radio in the 1930s.
Granddad Harrison’s Band, about 1939. He’s the one in the middle with the fiddle.
Anyway, Martins are a sort of ‘holy grail’ for guitar players and I wanted to visit. Since we were already in Pennsylvania, I talked Lynn into stopping by the C. F. Martin & Co. Factory in Nazareth. They have a wonderful behind the scenes tour and I signed us both up.
Ed, outside the Martin Guitar Factory. Lynn said I looked like a kid in a candy store!
We got there a little early and spent some time in their museum. It’s interesting to see guitars that many of my favorite musicians played. Martin started in 1833 and their collection of memorabilia and more than 200 instruments show off the history and timeline of the company.
The factory tour itself was wonderful and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide (Ben) was the retired plant manager. He certainly knew a great deal about how they’re built.
Panorama from a walkway overlooking the factory
The first thing I noticed walking in to the factory was the delightful aroma. I won’t soon forget the smells of all the wood being worked.
I built a guitar (from a kit) once, so I’m familiar with how they go together. But seeing the factory in action, with its blend of hands-on craftsmanship and modern machinery / robots was spellbinding.
Robot Neck Carving
Using machines on some pieces (e.g. necks) increases the accuracy and precision of the parts and fit. And they can apply finish and polish without exposing humans to the fumes and dust.
Robot Body Polishing
There’s still a lot of hands on work, especially in their custom and Retro Series guitars.
Hand carving top braces
Custom back and fretboards
Almost done – these are waiting to be strung up and tested
They’re very photo friendly on the tour. They don’t want you making any video, but photography is fine, except for a couple of locations (they’ll let you know). The light is pretty good inside. I used ISO 400, f/1.8 – f/2.8, and my shutter speeds varied from 1/13 sec. to 1/200 sec. You’ll need to be careful if something’s in motion, but otherwise image stabilization should take care of the slower shutter speeds in dimmer light.
The 1833 shop is next to the museum and sells Martin branded items. And their “Guitar Maker’s Connection” is located in the old Martin Factor a little bit away from the main site. The behind the scenes tour is $25, requires a reservation and begins at 9:30. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere nearby. Check Martin’s site for more details.
I’m still the “semi-official” PITCA photographer, so I spent a lot of time there photographing the people, activities, and displays. I also presented a talk on “Collectible Photography” that seemed to go well. But I did manage to fit in a bit of exploration time.
The first photo above is from a morning I spent up on Mount Washington – what a spectacular view of the city! Highly recommended if you’re ever nearby.
On another day, we went on a riverboat cruise that PITCA arranged for the group and that’s highly recommended too. Three different rivers converge in Pittsburgh, so there’s a lot of water and many bridges that add to the scenery.
Pittsburgh: From the junction of the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny Rivers
I didn’t get a chance to ride Duquesne Incline, but it looks like fun too.
Duquesne Incline – from the river up to Mount Washington
When I was a kid, we used to visit my grandparents every year. We’d usually travel to Cedartown, Georgia in the summertime where my Mom’s folks lived. At Christmas, we’d go to Cannonsburgh, Pennsylvania to be with my Dad’s family. I remember Pittsburgh only as an “almost there” waypoint on the route to Cannonsburgh – I don’t think we ever stopped. As an adult, I visited Pittsburgh on business once or twice and went to see my Dad’s brother (also named Ed) who lived in Ambridge (just north-west of Pittsburgh). But this is the first time I’ve ever actually had a little time to go into the city and look around. I wish I’d done it sooner – Pittsburgh is very picturesque!
Pittsburgh: West End Bridge and the Ohio River
After the convention, Lynn and I spent a few more days traveling around other parts of Pennsylvania and I have some photos from that I hope to share with you in a future post.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!