The first post on this blog went up on May 4th, 2007. Who would’ve thought it’d still be going 13 years, 672 posts, and 2000+ photos later?
It seems like I should have something profound to say in an anniversary post, but I’m not feeling any deep, heartfelt photography thoughts today to share. Instead, I’ll just remind you: We all carry our cell phones around. Make sure you take yours out and use its probably very good camera whenever something attracts your eye.
Here are a few sights I thought were interesting over the last several months when the only camera I had with me was my phone.
Light on leaves on a limb – From a neighborhood walk on May 2nd.
New palm fronds – From a neighborhood walk on April 29th.
Red Bottlebrush – From a neighborhood walk on March 14th.
Fire in the sky – Just before dinner at Cracker Barrel on February 7th.
Lynn and I are doing OK here. We’ve been sticking close to home and social distancing for what seems like forever. Florida has started to lift our pandemic lockdown a bit and I’m thinking about venturing out for a some careful exploration / exercise with my camera next week at one of the parks around Orlando that are beginning to open up again. It’d be nice to get out for a bit.
Changing the subject: I hope all Moms out there are having a wonderful Mothers Day! – Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!
“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.”
I miss you Mom.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, stay safe, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
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 saw and admired it again on my visit a few weeks ago, but I almost didn’t make this image. Why not? Because I thought I’d already made that very one before and didn’t need another. Fortunately, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I stopped and made a two frame vertical panorama with my IR camera.
When I got home, I tried to find the photo I thought I remembered. Here are two of that same tree that I found in my archives. This first one is from nearly the same spot:
Clear day, calm water, January 2011
And this one is from the other side:
Left at the lone pine tree, August 2018
I like the newest photo the best. I’m glad I went ahead and made it!
On the other hand: When Kevin M. and I were down in Osceola county, we saw two or three Bald Eagles. When I was young, Bald Eagles were rare and I never saw one in the wild until I moved to Florida and started paying more attention to wildlife. Now they’re getting much more common but I still get a thrill whenever I see one. One of the eagles was sitting on a pile of dirt a little off the road. Kevin asked if I wanted him to stop for a photo and I said no. I have quite a few Bald Eagle photos that I like (e.g. this one), and the setting that day just didn’t look like it would make a good photo. It would probably have sat on my hard drive or been deleted when I went through the photos. Why make it?
Take the shot or not? Like many things, it depends. I suppose the moral of this story is: “When in doubt, make the photo. But don’t make every photo.”
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, or not!
Hello loyal readers! This is the next entry in the occasional blog category called “Postcards” where I upload photos of Central Florida scenes – similar to ones you’d find on a postcard.
It’s easy to find all of these. Just use the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and select “Postcards”. If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you may not see that menu – in that case, just type “postcards” into the search box.
It’s a 2 frame vertical panorama shot with an infrared modified camera, handheld with a 24 mm equivalent lens at f/3.5, ISO 200 at 1/800 sec. I processed the photo and converted it to Black and White using Lightroom and Photoshop. You should be able to click on it to go to Flickr and then select the download symbol below and to the right of the photo. I hope you like it!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Note: Items in my blog that are marked with a Creative Commons license are available in high resolution for you to download for your personal use. Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
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!
Okay, I know the name of the blog is “Central Florida Photo Ops” and I usually write about landscape and wildlife photography. But Old Car City (http://oldcarcityusa.com/) is a very cool place and I have a scouting report and some photos to show you!
Old Car City calls itself a “Photographer’s Paradise”, and the “worlds largest known classic car junkyard”. It’s hard to disagree. It began as a general store in 1931 in White, Georgia. Over the years it evolved into a forested refuge for 4000+ cars, most more than 35 years old. Located about an hour from downtown Atlanta, it covers 34 acres with 6 1/2 miles of trails to explore.
The cars stay where they were originally placed. Some are piled high. Others rest alone or lined up. Many are overgrown with vines and some even have trees growing right through them. Admission is $25 (only $15 if you don’t photograph). We spent 3 – 4 hours there and I was exhausted before the photo ops were.
Impala convertible – and tree
Walking through can be surreal – especially in infra-red.
Old Car City IR Pano
Photography here can be challenging in several ways. I carried my tripod all around the place and the local cat kept showing up and rubbing up against it – not helpful!
Junkyard cat and matching VW van. It followed us around and liked to rub up against tripods. Not good, cat!
This isn’t a traditional salvage yard – no parts are sold. It’s more of a museum, although there’s no effort to preserve exhibits. The cars were saved from the crushing machine, but not from nature.
You can find much more than just old cars and car parts. There are school buses, and tractors, antique toys, wagons, bicycles, and more. I even read there’s a Cartersville Grand Theater marquis, but I didn’t see it on my visit.
Doll and chair – You can find more than old cars at Old Car City. This was right next to the path – yet it looks like no one’s disturbed it in years.
Safety: You’ll have to sign in when you pay admission, but there’s no lengthy rights waiver and a lawyer doesn’t follow you around. The place could be dangerous though – there’s broken glass, rusty metal and some sharp edges. Just be careful, not stupid. Heed the warning signs, stay on cleared paths and off / out of the cars and you should be fine. Oh, and some insect repellent might come in handy.
Don’t open hoods doors
My tripod was helpful mostly for Olympus hi-res images – but if you’re not making those I think you can get by without one. I used focal lengths from fish eye up to about 200mm equivalent and I’d say your wider lenses would be the most useful.
The number of photo ops in this place is huge. If you go, my best advice is to do a little research before hand and plan out a strategy or two. Get some larger framed intro shots, but think about concentrating on one or a few categories: hood ornaments, door handles, dashboards, interiors, decay, rust, textures, vegetation on vehicles, etc., etc. The possibilities are huge.
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.
This is a long article about Infrared (IR) image processing. If you don’t process IR photos, feel free to just look at the photos! And please take a look at the new Infrared Gallery I added under the Galleries / Portfolio menu at the top.
You probably know I like IR photography. I’ve written about it before (click here to review my posts) and I often include IR photos in this blog. Here’s a recent example:
Circle B Bar Infrared 1 (four frame vertical panorama)
Infrared’s an interesting medium.
IR captures invisible light: a portion of the spectrum that’s different from what your eyes can see.
The spectral response makes blue sky look dark and foliage bright. This reverses a normal daylight scene’s brightness values. It helps tame contrast and allows you to shoot even when the sun is high in the sky.
Since your eyes can’t see infrared, your interpretation of the alternate reality is up to you. You can process IR in Monochrome or as a false color image.
IR can sometimes capture details that aren’t seen with visible light.
If you use a modified digital camera, you may see improved detail in your photos. The conversion process removes the IR blocking / anti-aliasing filter. In many digital cameras this slightly blurs the image during capture to lessen Moire and other aliasing artifacts.
I’m not really qualified to discuss shooting IR film – I’ve only done it a few times. But I will say that modifying a mirrorless digital camera is a great way to approach infrared. The mirrorless design eliminates any issues with IR focus. The camera’s built-in exposure meter works well and values are close to the normal visible light ones, so you can hand hold in daylight conditions.
Circle B Bar Infrared 3 (three frame vertical panorama)
Eight Cedar Waxwings – I forgot to bring the spare battery for my main camera and ran out of charge. So I switched my long lens to my IR modified body and kept shooting.
So what’s the point of this post? I’ve struggled lately with how I process my IR images. The work flow I’ve used seems to result in too much contrast / clarity. I just felt that the results looked a bit “digital”. So I’ve searched for new methods and I’ve found one that I like. I’ve used it on all these photos and I feel that they look much more “organic” and much less “digital”. What do you think?
Five nest Cypress (five frame vertical panorama)
Here is my updated workflow:
Capture the RAW images with a modified micro 4/3 mirrorless camera. Aperture priority, mostly handheld (although I do occasionally use a tripod).
Import into Lightroom to save the master files. Then decide which ones are worth processing and discard the seconds / rejects.
Batch process the “selects” through DxO Optics Pro to take advantage of its noise and camera / lens module processing. This step returns copies back to Lightroom in Adobe DNG RAW format.
In Lightroom, apply a custom camera profile to optimize the white balance (see this article for how to create one). And if it’s a multi-frame image, stitch it together with Lightroom’s merge to panorama function.
Sometimes, you can use Lightroom’s B&W conversion and finish an image. But I’ll open ones I really like in Photoshop.
There, straighten and crop, use the content aware fill, and clone if needed.
Finally, it’s back to Lightroom for any final adjustments (tone curve, sharpening, vignette, grain, etc.).
Circle B Bar Infrared 6 (five frame horizontal panorama)
Could I achieve this look some other way? Maybe even with a lot fewer steps? Yes, I’m sure it could be done.
Circle B Bar Infrared 2 (three frame horizontal panorama)
Just a few years ago, we only had Adobe Photoshop and then Lightroom to process RAW images. One of the great things about photography and image processing today is that there are so many ways to do things. That’s also bad, because it takes a lot of effort to study all the options and find out which ones work best. It seems like each program has strengths and weaknesses.
Software is changing every day, but I don’t know if there will ever be a single image processing program that does every thing I want. For now, I’m happy with the results I’m getting using this somewhat complex workflow. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for new or simpler ways to do things.
Indian Springs is about six hours by car from Central Florida. It’s east of I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and well worth the drive. Lynn discovered they have cabins and suggested that we go up for a few days to see if any leaves are changing. They definitely are!
I think peak color will be in a week or so. We get very little fall color in Florida – so it was a treat to see.
The cabins are nice – some of the best we’ve stayed in. They must have been refurbished not long ago. They have two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a screened porch, and are fully furnished. And the location on a gorgeous lake was wonderful. This was the view just a few steps from the back porch:
Good morning (three Frame vertical panorama)
There were other things to see in the park too. This creek runs along the road by the entrance.
Big Sandy Creek (using the new iPhone “Live Long Exposure” mode)
And we spotted this cemetery from the 1800s along the road to the cabins.
At rest in the wood (Infrared)
We saw a few deer and although I didn’t put much effort in, several kinds of birds. We had some fun watching (and listening) to Canada Geese on the lake. I managed to make this video one morning around sunrise. The flock took off just as the sun started to hit the lake.
There are several other places to see in the area. High Falls State Park is just to the east and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is to the west. We’ve explored several state parks in Florida, but after this experience, we’re going to expand our target zone! And Indian Springs is definitely on our “go back” list.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Clouds, Mountains, Desert. Near San Augustin Peak, NM. 7 frame panorama.
I find western landscapes extremely appealing. Maybe it’s just that they’re so different from Florida. When I saw these mountains, I made MK pull over so I could make this image.
Volcano Cinder Cone. IR, B&W, 3 frame panorama
This is a view of one of the three Volcanoes visible from the Volcano Day Use Area in Petroglyph National Monument, a little west of Albuquerque. When I got back to the car, I realized I’d dropped a lens cap somewhere along the path. I did go back and look for it and of course, couldn’t find it. Does that happen to you too?