Tag Archives: vacation

Cruising Wildlife

Lynn and I returned last week from a wonderful visit with her brother Arthur, and his wife Michele.  We cruised together around the Caribbean on Holland America’s MS Zuiderdam. I’ll post more about the rest of our adventures later, but this time I’d like to write about wildlife photography from cruise ships.  Here’s one earlier post about this (North to Alaska, Ch. 1: Intro and Wildlife) but it’s a subject worth discussing again.

Our route went by the Bahamas, Aruba, Bonaire, Panama, and Costa Rica.  Many of the animals in these places are only inside zoos in the US.  It’s wonderful to see them wild in their natural habitats.

Sleepy SlothSleepy Sloth – A wild, two-toed sloth napping In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. They seem to be common there. We saw three on our tour – although they were hidden in trees and hard to find.

If you’re on vacation with your family,  the main reason for going isn’t wildlife photography, so you’ll have to improvise and stay alert for wildlife photo ops.  Since Lynn and I hadn’t ever been to these places, we took advantage of several “highlight” excursions offered by the cruise line.  The one to the Tortuguero Canal in Costa Rica was especially nice and we enjoyed seeing a variety of flora and fauna.

Masked Booby in flightMasked Booby in flight – These birds were feeding on fish (flying fish, and others) that were stirred up by the ship’s wake

The morning before we arrived in Aruba, we noticed “sea gulls” flying near the ship.  After breakfast I spent a while watching what turned out to be scores of Masked Boobies catching fish stirred up by the ship’s wake.  It was fun to watch (and photograph!).

American FlamingoA wild American / Caribbean Flamingo – Bonaire is famous for its flamingo populations and has one of only four nesting grounds for flamingos in the Caribbean.

On excursions, it’s helpful to have a good guide.  Our Costa Rican guide (Porfilio) was exceptional at seeing and pointing out the wildlife in the canal.  You could tell he liked his job, and we enjoyed our time with him immensely.

Howler MonkeyHowler Monkey – A wild monkey In the rain forest, along the Tortuguero Canal, near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Here are a few pointers if you go on a similar adventure:

  • Do your research ahead of time.  Look into the wildlife that lives in each place.
  • Search for reviews and critiques of the excursions offered and pick ones that give the best photography opportunities.
  • If possible, schedule your excursions for early in the day.  Animals are more active then, and it’s cooler.  I found the Masked Boobies at breakfast and we left for the Tortuguero Canal at 6:30am.
  • Question the guides.  They’re very helpful and can let you know the best place to sit, etc.
  • Have your camera out and ready to go, not in your backpack.  Many times the sightings will be brief, so pay attention and be ready to shoot instantly.
  • The animals will likely be far away and you’ll have to hand hold your shots, so you’ll definitely want a long lens with stabilization.  I used an Olympus E-M1 M4/3 camera and a 200 – 600mm equivalent lens for the photos in this post.

Hard core wildlife photographers will want to spend much longer in places like Costa Rica, but if you’re on a cruise don’t overlook the opportunities.  A few hours in a new place can lead to wonderful memories and unique images.

I’m collecting photos from the cruise in this folder on Flickr.  Please check back as I finish processing and add more.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Vacation, part 2: Shenandoah National Park

On July 4th, 1936, in the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains along Skyline Drive at Big Meadows, President Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park.  Since that time, people have greatly enjoyed wonderful vistas, beautiful waterfalls, quiet wooded hollows, hiking, wildlife and the night sky.

Shenandoah sunrise at Spitler KnollSunrise at Spitler Knoll

I’ve been to Shenandoah many times.  It’s the first national park I ever visited – too long  ago to admit.  I hiked there with our Boy Scout troop from Bowie, Maryland when I was a very young man .  Hiking’s a major activity at the park – the Appalachian Trail runs along and crosses Skyline Drive in many places.

Appalachian trail viewAppalachian trail view

Lynn and I also took Mike and Mary there when they were younger and we have fond (and scary!) memories of hikes with those two scrambling over rocks and along ridges to be first to see a view.  On one of our visits, we also picnicked with our good friends the Sullivans, and hiked with the kids down to Dark Hollow Falls.

Dark Hollow FallsDark Hollow Falls – A gorgeous waterfall, although crowded at times since it’s one of the closest ones to Skyline Drive.  (Photo from 1996).

To get the most out of your visit, you need an up to date guide-book.  We had one from our previous visits (printed in 1988!), but unfortunately we didn’t realize how out of date it was.  Fires and other events have changed places in the park, sometimes quite dramatically.  Fortunately, we found updated books at the park.  One example of the changes:

Dead eastern hemlock treesDead eastern hemlock trees – Hemlock Springs, Shenandoah National Park. We really enjoyed hiking through large stands of hemlock trees the last time we were there, 20+ years ago.  Now, 95% of the Hemlock trees in Shenandoah have been killed by the hemlock woolly adeligid, an invasive species introduced by humans. 

Weather can vary in the park.  All of our visit was beautiful, but we spent one day completely socked in with heavy rain and visibility of 50 to 100 feet.  I had fun walking around in the fog looking for photos, while Lynn wove a White Oak basket from scratch.

Rain drops in the mistRain drops in the mist

We saw lots of wildlife while we were there.  The deer are all over and not very skittish, since animals are protected in the park.  We also saw 2 black bears – exciting!  I didn’t look too hard for birds, but managed to spot at least one life bird (Dark-eyed Junco).

If you search the web you’ll see things to do in the surrounding area too.   We’ve been to Luray Caverns in the past, although we didn’t have time to explore outside the park this time.

In summary, Shenandoah National Park deserves to be on your bucket list.  If you haven’t been there yet, just go.  If you have been there, you know what I mean.

You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and some other photos from our trip in this album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

 

Climate Change

We had a wonderful visit with Mike and Sara last week in Wisconsin.  We waited until April to go so the weather would have time to warm up.  And it did – but it was still a change for Lynn and I.  We’re used to Florida’s climate.

On one day, we drove up into Door County and had a good time tasting local wines.  The area’s scenic, although not quite thawed out yet.  It was just above freezing with a strong wind – nice and brisk!  This photo is from Fish Creek Harbor.

Spring is on the waySpring is on the way – Door County, Wisconsin

By way of contrast,  yesterday in Florida looked like this.  When I made the photo, it was in the mid-70s and on the way up to 90 degrees F.

No one watching?No one watching? – Just south of Rotary Riverfront Park in Titusville, Florida

We did find patches of color while we were in Wisconsin.  Here’s one scene we all enjoyed on another morning.

S.A.L.T. Restauranct in De Pere, Wisconsin
S.A.L.T. Restaurant in De Pere, Wisconsin

So that’s our version of personal climate change over the last week.  It was chilly in Wisconsin, but we got a very warm welcome.  And if you clicked on this hoping for a debate about global warming, sorry.  Maybe another day.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your family – and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Cruise Ship Photo Experiments

We went on a family cruise to the Bahamas during Thanksgiving week aboard the MS Carnival Liberty, out of Port Canaveral.  It was a large group with Lynn and I, Mary, Mike and Sara, Julie, and Nancy and Howard all along for a wonderful vacation.  Except for wind and current on the day we were supposed to visit Half Moon Cay, the weather was nice.  And the food was delicious and plentiful and the company was delightful too!  We had a great time!

It was a family vacation, but of course I brought along a camera (or two, or three) and I made some photos on the trip.  I’ve written about cruise ship photography before (see Cruise Ship Photography Ops and Christmas Time Cruising).  In this new post, I’d like to tell you about some techniques I tried on this cruise.  It’s fun to experiment and I thought you might be interested in how they turned out.  Here are three photos and some background on how I made them.

1.  Long exposure photography from a moving ship

I’ve wanted to try something like this on earlier cruises, but never have.  Long exposures can add interest to a photo and make it look very different from most tourist snapshots.  But usually, you lock your camera down on a stable tripod and only some things in the scene (e.g. water, clouds) are moving.  On a ship, I was worried that everything is moving.  If I tried to use my tripod for a sunrise for instance, the sun might be unacceptably blurred due to the motion.    But I made it work for this photo by composing with the ship as the subject and using it to fill the foreground.  Since the ship doesn’t move relative to my camera, it’s very sharp.  The horizon and the other ship are far enough away so that any motion blur isn’t a problem.  And with a four-second exposure, the water and clouds take on a dreamy look that I like.

The view aft, before dawn
The view aft, before dawn.  (21mm eq. field of view, f/8, 4 seconds at ISO 200)

2. Stitched panoramas from a moving ship:

Panoramas are also problematic from a moving ship.  The change in the camera’s position between frames can lead to issues when stitching frames together, especially if you use automatic stitching software.  For this photo, I made two frames.  Instead of using automatic stitching, I loaded the frames into layers in Photoshop and selected Edit -> Auto Align Layers.  Then I manually blended them using layer masks and was able to use the natural seam along the right hand side of the breakwater as the line between the images.  Since not much overlaps there except water, I could hide any perspective shift stitching errors.

Nassau Light
Nassau Light – Leaving port late in the day.  (f/2.8, 1/100 second at ISO 125.  70mm eq. focal length, two vertical frames, stitched panorama, hand-held)

3. Low light photos without a tripod

And finally, here is another stitched panorama.  In this one, the ship was moving very slowly, so I probably could have used a tripod.  But – I didn’t have it with me!  Bad Ed!  So instead, I upped my ISO, and opened my aperture so that I could shoot hand-held.  Even though the pre-dawn light was dim, I was still able to make a super wide image consisting of 9 vertical frames showing our arrival back at Port Canaveral.

Pre-dawn arrival in Port Canaveral
Pre-dawn arrival in Port Canaveral.  (f/1.8, 1/50 second at ISO 1000.  24mm eq. focal length, nine vertical frames, hand-held, stitched panorama)

So that’s how I got these three shots.  Photography is an interesting pursuit.  Creativity helps – and not just with subject, composition, etc., but also with technique.  Now I know these descriptions aren’t very detailed, but maybe they’ll give you an idea or two to try for yourself.  If you want more information, please feel free to ask in the comments.  I’d be happy to answer questions.

You can find larger versions of these photos on Flickr (just click the image).  And more photos from this cruise are in this set:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some cruise ship photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Regarding image selection

Sometimes it’s obvious that an image is good the first time you look at it.  With others, it can be difficult to visualize what they’ll look like after processing.

If you use raw format in your photography, they look different from jpg photos.  Raw format is just the data read directly off of the sensor with no processing by the camera.  Depending on how you configure your camera and software, raw image contrast and sharpening can be very low, white balance may not be optimized, and exposure is often set for capture / low noise instead of display / print.. This can make it tough to judge raw photos and decide which ones merit further processing.

When I returned from Maine and reviewed my photos, I bypassed some.  When I finished working on the ones I’d identified as “selects”, I went back and re-looked at those I’d set aside.  Some of them deserved attention.

A calm morning on Bubble Pond
A calm morning on Bubble Pond

It’s not just raw images that can be difficult to evaluate.  Infrared photos usually need processing to optimize too.

Bass Harbor Light
Bass Harbor Light

And multi image panoramas make seeing composition and field of view a challenge before the individual frames are stitched together.

Behind Sand Beach
Behind Sand Beach

I can’t tell you how to rate your images and select your best.  But what I can tell you is to be very careful not to discard something before you’re very sure that it’s not worth pursuing.  Give your photos a second chance.  Learn your software so you know how far you can go with adjustments.  And as with any thing worth pursuing, practice will make you better.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Acadia National Park, bonus photo

Tranquility at Bubble Pond

Tranquility at Bubble Pond.  This is a two frame, hand merged image.  ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 sec, 16mm, using a polarizing filter.

Hello everyone,

Apparently, my web server glitched and didn’t send emails to the subscriber list when I posted the new entry about Acadia National Park earlier today (Sunday, 17 August, 2014).  If you’d like to read it, please go to this address in your web browser:  http://edrosack.com/2014/08/17/acadia-national-park-maine/

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.   So let’s get that out-of-the-way now:  That won’t happen at Acadia National Park.  It’s an utterly awesome place.   If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.

Jordan Pond and "The Bubbles"
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond.  I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left.  ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.

This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park.  I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years.  But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.

I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time.  My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it.  When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise.  I spent almost 6 full days there.  I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon.  Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning.  It’s brimming with photo ops:  rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more.  It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.

Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area.  And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season.  This map shows where I made my photos.

Acadia National Park Photo Locations

You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it.  Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car.  I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads.  I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!

I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different.  Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.

Looking west from Otter Creek Drive
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance.    A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook.  The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.

Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there.  We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves.  Just make sure you’re careful.  The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.

Schoodic Point Waves
Schoodic Point Waves.  I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed.  Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.

Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there.  Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it.  And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!

Paper Birch and sedge grass forest
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path.    This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

We saw wildlife too.  On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching.  It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us.  We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds:  Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls.  And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify.  Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear.  But sadly, no moose.

Two Humpback whales show their tails after surfacing.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing.  We watched a group of three feeding together.  As the boat idled they often came close.  Researchers keep track of the  whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs.  The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.

After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M.  She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine.  She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective.  And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert.  What wonderful hosts!

There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide,  Instead, here are some of the references I used.  I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):

If you search the web, you’ll find a great many Acadia sites.  Here are a couple I looked at:

And you can also find out a lot on Flickr:

Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:

  • I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear.  We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions.  I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters.  Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
  • I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while.  Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
  • Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat!  There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds.  But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
  • Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat.  You can get some good photos even with a phone.
  • Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go.  And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip.  You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
  • Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed.  Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
  • It’s crowded in July and August.  Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center.  But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
  • The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
  • I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
  • The weather varied too.  There was some fog / mist and drizzle.  I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks.  Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility.  But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour.  So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself.  Relax – don’t get overwhelmed.  Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.

Bar Harbor Blue
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain.   ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm

 I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted.   I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home.  But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.

I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.

A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father:  “Taking pictures with really big cameras.
Girl:  “Do we have one?
Dad:  “No, but Mommy wants one.
Girl:  “Why don’t they use their phones?
Dad:  no answer

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

First Light

I spent several exciting days in Maine last week exploring Acadia National Park and some of the surrounding area.  Mary Kate went on business up there and invited me to tag along and sight see.  Thanks again, Mary Kate!

I’m still going through all of my images from the trip, so I can’t really write an article about it yet.  I’ll work on it over the next week or so and add photos to my Maine / Acadia album on Flickr as I finish them.  You can take a look there for a preview of what’s coming.  For now, here are a couple quick photos.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the highest point on the east coast of the US, and going up to the summit to see “the country’s first sunrise” is popular.  When MK, her coworker Ryan, and I got there at about 4:45am, the parking lot was already filling up.  This was the view about a half hour before sunrise.  If you look at the larger version on Flickr, you can see the lights in Bar Harbor on the near shore.

First light - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
First Light

It turns out that the first sun light hits the US on Cadillac Mountain only in the fall and winter. So we really didn’t see the “first light” – but even so it was a pretty sunrise.

Sunrise panorama - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
Sunrise panorama

Please be sure to check back for the rest of the story on this absolutely fabulous place.  It’s a landscape photographer’s dream and there’s wildlife around there too!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Georgia vacation report

Lynn and I spent a week in Georgia this month.  She had a school reunion and we wanted to visit the north Georgia mountains for a few days beforehand.  We have fond memories of weekend hikes along the Appalachian Trail when we were in college.  I can report that the area is just as pretty as I remember, but the trails seem a lot steeper now.

We stayed in a cabin at the Enota Mountain Retreat, between Helen and Hiawassee.  This was only a few miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.  The Cherokee people called this mountain Enotah.

Brasstown Bald is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and there’s a small entrance fee at the parking area, but if you have a National Park Service Senior Pass, you can use that.  The 0.6 mile paved trail from the parking area to the top is very steep, although a bus runs between 10am and 5pm.  We arrived after 5 on our first day – it was well worth the hike to the top.  The spectacular 360 degree view was the best one we saw.

The view from Brasstown Bald
The view from Brasstown Bald – This is the highest point in the state of Georgia (4,784 feet). 5 frame infrared panorama, B&W.

Compare that to a very similar view from an un-modified camera to see how the infrared sensor helps cuts through the haze.

The view from Brasstown Bald
Color view from Brasstown Bald – Looking a bit to the right of the IR version. Also a 5 frame panorama, 

Good vistas don’t seem as common here as they are for instance in the Rockies.  The small roads have places to pull over, but the view is often blocked by trees.  Which makes the outlook from Brasstown Bald exceptional.

North Georgia also has a huge number of waterfalls – but some are more difficult to find, get to, and see clearly than others.  There are four on the Enota Resort grounds.  The trail to this one was steep and muddy in spots and led up along the side of a ravine to this spot  across from the falls.  We couldn’t find a viewpoint with a clear view through the trees, although there were other paths that we didn’t have time (or energy) to try.

Hidden falls
Hidden falls – Along a trail inside the Enota campground.  ISO 200, f/8, 0.6 sec.

We did visit other waterfalls that are easier to get to and see.  There’s even a pull off just outside Vogel State Park where we could view a large waterfall from the road (no hike!).  Anna Ruby Falls is on federal land inside Unicoi State park near Helen.  The paved path to the falls is about 1/2 mile long and not too difficult with resting places along the way.  We also visited Amicolola Falls near Dahlonaga after our wonderful lunch at the Smith House Restaurant.  This falls also has a relatively short and easier paved path to a wonderful open view.  But the hike might be even easier when your stomach isn’t so full!

Amicolola Falls
Amicolola Falls – Near Dahlonega, Georgia.  ISO 100, f/16, 0.1 second.

I used a variety of shutter speeds on the waterfalls and I think 1/10 to 1/2 is the range to play in to make the water look best. Unless you find a pool of swirling water – where a longer exposure might be better.  Try different shutter speeds while you’re there so you can pick the best result when you get home.  Most of the time I could get my shutter speed in range by adjusting ISO and aperture.  I did have a variable neutral density filter with me that I used a couple of times – it was handy when the sun was out.  Most of the time it was cloudy enough so that I didn’t have to worry about using the filter or fight the extreme contrast of sun shining on white water.

As far as wildlife goes, we didn’t spend a lot of effort looking and we didn’t see many animals.  I was able to photograph one new life bird:  a Louisiana Waterthrush.  Lynn found it foraging on the ground outside (while we did the laundry!).

After our time in North Georgia, we headed to Atlanta for the reunion.  For various reasons, my photo ops there were limited, but we did have a nice vantage point from our hotel room.

Incoming storm
Incoming Storm – Atlanta.  During a long exposure needed to capture this ominous cloud rolling in, I also caught a flash of lightning.

One place I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to visit is the Georgia aquarium.  I’ll have to save it for next time.

All in all, an exceptional, relaxing, and photogenic trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed.  These and other Georgia photos are in this  album  on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. Also, if you haven’t seen last week’s post about the Narcosee Indian Mound, please take a look at that.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Christmas Time Cruising

Mike, Sara, and Mary joined Lynn and I for Christmas this year.  When we’re together we often visit a theme park, but since we liked our last cruise so much, we decided to take a holiday cruise instead.  We booked on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and departed from Port Canaveral for Nassau and Coco Cay on Friday, Dec. 21st.

Port Canaveral is about an hour east of Orlando on the 528 Beachline.  We found parking right at the pier and the embarkation wasn’t too bad, although there was a line getting through security.

Overall  the Monarch of the Seas was very enjoyable.  The food was good (the Strawberry Pavlova dessert was a BIG hit!), and so was the service.  Our staterooms were in different parts of the ship this time, which made coordination a little more difficult – but we worked it out.  Once nice thing about sailing at this time of year is that the ship was fully decked out for the holidays – Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, and other seasonal touches.

Seasons Greetings!
Ship’s decorations in the main atrium

We departed Port Canaveral late in the afternoon.  The weather was nice for the whole cruise and although Friday’s sunset wasn’t that great Saturday’s sunrise made up for it:

Pre-dawn clouds
Pre-dawn clouds in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida

We arrived in Nassau Saturday afternoon and spent time shopping.  Then Mike and Sara found us a great place to sample the local food (the Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant) where we enjoyed their Conch Fritters.  After that, we all boarded a catamaran for a sunset tour of the harbor.  The low light combined with a moving boat made for a challenging photo-op, but I did get a few nice images.  One of the highlights was seeing Oprah Winfrey’s pair of side by side mansions (with a huge matching yacht).  I guess she uses the second mansion for guests – quite impressive.

Nassau harbor at night
Nassau harbor at night from the sunset cruise catamaran.  I thought the red and green running lights were an unexpected seasonal bonus!

From Nassau, we sailed to the Berry Islands where Royal Caribbean has exclusive use of Coco Cay (also known as Little Stirrup Cay).  They’ve set the place up for cruise passengers to enjoy beach time, snorkeling, shopping at a straw market, parasailing, wave runners, an aqua park, kayaking, hammocks, and of course – food. We had kayak reservations for first thing in the morning.  The wind was really blowing and even though we were a bit worried about it we went anyway.  It was a workout, but worth it in the end.  We paddled about a mile to a sand bar off of Big Stirrup Cay, where I made this photo:

A starfish in the ocean
A starfish in the ocean near a sand bar at Big Stirrup Cay.  We haven’t been able to ID this one – our guide told us it isn’t common.

Later, back on Coco Cay we relaxed, shopped, and yes, ate too much. Mike and Sara also went snorkeling and saw fish, Sting Rays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and coral.

Sara and Mike enjoy the view
Sara and Mike enjoy the view from our Coco Cay cabana

It was a wonderful way to spend time with our family.  Except for the wind, the weather was great and not at all typical of the season in most of the country.  Poor Mike and Sara had to return home to winter storms and snow.  I imagine it was a bit of a change!

You can click any of the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr and I’ve posted several more from our cruise in this set.

This is my last post of 2012.  I’ll be back next year and I hope you will too.  May you, your family, and your friends all have a happy and prosperous new year.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, get cruising and make some photos!

©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.