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!
Howell Branch creek starts at Lake Maitland and flows into Lake Waumpi. From there it’s called Howell Creek as it goes through Lake Howell and then wanders east and north to empty into Lake Jessup. It passes within a half mile of our home in Winter Springs.
I’ve driven by this spot below in Maitland many times, but didn’t realize it’s on the same waterway:
Howell Creek – Where it crosses Lake Howell Road. A small dam there creates a lovely little waterfall / rapid. I’ve driven by it for years and finally made a photo.
I never stopped before because there’s no obvious parking nearby. But Lynn volunteered to drive me over, drop me off (and come back and pick me up too!). So off we went…
My plan was to make a few images from down near the water with a wide angle lens, maybe up close to the dam. But several “No Trespassing” signs scuttled that. I stayed up on the bridge by the road and made my images from there. I’m glad I brought my 24 – 200 mm (eq.) lens too – the reach came in handy!
Several people walked by while I was there and mentioned how pretty the view is. They talked about wading birds and the otter family they see there. I didn’t see any otters, but a Great Egret eventually wandered into my frame. I was lucky it stayed still while I made a long exposure to blur the water. When Lynn saw the photo, she thought it needed a dark colored bird – I should’ve waited for an anhinga!
Wind caused some blurring in the leaves and Spanish moss. I was also worried the vibration caused by trucks on the road behind me would shake my tripod and blur things. I made several frames just in case and this one came out pretty well.
Research indicates there was a water powered mill located just up stream from this dam in the mid 1800s. And I found an old article in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that the first dam in this spot was built around 1900. One story says residents blew up the dam during a hurricane and replaced it later. Apparently, a more durable one was built in the 1950s and was replaced by the current dam in 1979 when Orange County widened Howell Branch Road.
It doesn’t seem like I’ve used other photos of Howell Creek in the blog before, so I’ll end this post with two older images from closer to our home in Winter Springs.
Howell Creek infra red (October 2013)
Howell Creek bed and reflections (October 2013)
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – stop somewhere you’ve been passing by and make some photos!
At that time, I was using a Nikon D80 camera and made this photo with an entry level 70-300 telephoto lens. I remember wanting to capture as much detail as possible, so instead of making one exposure of the whole herd, I zoomed in as far as I could and made four different frames at 300mm (450mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/100 sec, and iso 100. I ran across these images in my photo archive recently and wanted to see if I could reprocess the RAW files for a better result. I thought you might be interested in my work flow – not so you can reproduce my results, but to give you some ideas on how to process your own images.
Here is one of the original RAW files SOOC (straight out of camera). The white balance and exposure aren’t optimum and sharpness isn’t very good either – maybe due to poor lens stabilization and optical performance (and maybe due to my poor technique).
Here are the steps I went through to reprocess this:
Used DxO Photo Lab software to convert from RAW to .tiff and take advantage of the built in Prime Noise reduction algorithm. I like that this software applies camera and lens specific corrections to all images. It also returns the results to Lightroom still in RAW / DNG format.
Made basic adjustments (exposure, white balance) in Lightroom, and copied to all four frames.
Opened as layers in PhotoShop.
Stitched the frames into a panorama: Edit -> Auto-align Layers; Edit -> Auto-blend Layers. At this point, it looked like this:
When I made the original frames, I didn’t cover enough ground for a rectangular composition. To fix this, I used PhotoShop’s excellent Content Aware Fill on the missing corners.
Select the blank areas with the Magic Wand tool. Expand the selection (~3 pixels). Edit -> Content Aware Fill
use the clone tool to eliminate any obvious fill anomalies.
And then I worked on sharpness. Here is a 300% look at the area near the Bull Elk:
Not very sharp. So I:
Duplicated the layer and applied the Topaz Sharpen AI filter. I used the Stabilize method with a Remove Blur value of 0.70. Here’s the much improved result:
Topaz Sharpen AI can work wonders on this kind of problem, but it does take a lot of CPU power. Depending on your hardware, you might have to be (very) patient.
The final step in Photoshop was to use Topaz Clarity for some added midrange contrast. I applied the Nature -> Fur and Feathers II preset.
Back in LightRoom: I cropped to a 2:3 format; tweaked White Balance and exposure again; boosted texture and shadows on the Elk with a circular adjustment and range mask; Reduced green and yellow saturation; Used a -12 highlight priority vignette and added grain at 15.
And this is the new version I just posted to Flickr.
Mt. Evans Elk herd (2019 version) – Near mile marker 8. Quite a harem! There are about 60 elk in this image: A single bull, ~10 young ones, and the rest female.
It took me about 30 minutes to do this. Was it worth the effort? I can’t answer for you. I think it looks much better and I’m glad I saved those RAW files! As long as i can re-start from the original sensor data, I can leverage newer software and get better results. I know a lot of folks don’t enjoy computer work, but I do – so to me it’s worth it.
Click on any of these to see larger versions. I have other Mt. Evans (and Colorado) photos in this album on Flickr. And if you have any questions on this, I’ll be happy to try and answer them. Just ask in a comment below.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make (or reprocess) some photos!
MaryKate had the day off last Thursday for Independence Day and invited me to walk around Lake Dixie and Lake Cherokee with her. I was glad to go – I’d been by before, but only inside a car and unable to take a close look. We also wanted to check on how the cygnets she wrote about on Fathers Day are doing.
Lake Cherokee is the smaller of the two and both are lovely. For a location in downtown Orlando they have a lot of wildlife. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by this since they’re very close to Greenwood Park and Cemetery, where there’s also a lot of wildlife.
One of the first things we encountered was this Heron. I thought at first it was a Green Heron, but got some help with the ID on Flickr. It was small and still – and I glanced right past it without any recognition. I’m glad MaryKate commented on it so I could make a photo! Least Bitterns are supposed to be common in this type of environment, but I don’t see them much. I think because they’re so good at hiding!
Hunting Heron (Least Bittern)
Next we came up to this Mallard posing for me in the grass in front of some yellow flowers.
And there were several Wood Ducks. I’ve seen them before at Greenwood and Mead Gardens, but hadn’t paid attention to their non breeding colors. This young one is interesting and I’m looking forward to spring time when their plumage starts changing.
Juvenile Wood Duck
Here’s a bird that I’d never seen before or even heard of.
Swan Geese are native to the Far East and have also been domesticated. There were two, this one and another that was all white. It’s likely they escaped or were released from captivity since they don’t occur naturally in the US.
This Mottled Duck was resting in a notch about seven feet above ground. It watched us as I made the photo, but didn’t seem nervous. The tree was right next to the sidewalk and it must be used to people nearby.
Unfortunately, there’s some bad news about the Lake Cherokee Mute Swan family. There were initially three babies, but only one’s been seen lately.
From across the lake, MaryKate and I spotted two adults but no babies. We worried they’d lost the last cygnet too. But when we got closer, we saw what was going on – Mom was riding the baby on her back!
Mute Swan Mom carrying baby
We also saw Limpkins, Common Gallinules, Great Egrets, a second Mute Swan family (with four large juveniles!), Anhingas, and several turtles. What a wonderful walk and what an unexpected abundance of things to experience and photograph! Thanks for inviting me, MaryKate!
You can click on each of these images to view a larger version on Flickr. And if you’re interested, I’ve started collecting my photos from here in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Editors note: Here’s another post from our roving correspondent MaryKate – this time from right here in Central Florida. She was kind enough to write this for us which let me have Father’s Day off from the blog. Enjoy her post!
Happy Father’s Day to all Dads far and wide!
To celebrate, I thought I’d share some recent photos of a new swan family at Lake Cherokee in downtown Orlando. I noticed a single swan in Lake Cherokee, and locals tell me (s)he has been alone for quite some time. We were worried that something might have happened to its mate.
Lake Cherokee Mute Swan
However, last weekend, the mystery was solved. Turns out the swan couple was fine after all and had been up to some FOWL play. They showed up together with their swan babies!
Lake Cherokee Mute Swan Family
Mom and Dad are proud parents to three baby swans, two white ones and one grey. Apparently Mute Swans can be grey or white when they’re young, and then their feathers all turn white as they grow. My favorite is the grey one.
Mute Swan Cygnets Close-Up
Especially today, it’s touching to see this swan Dad (and Mom!) taking such good care of their family. I’m glad they found their cygnet-ficant others before Father’s Day!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hope all fathers out there (especially my Dad and brother) have a very Happy Father’s Day! Now go make some photos!
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!
To help celebrate, I thought I’d share some photos I’ve made of Florida Mothers and their babies. These are all wild animals / birds and they’re from several places over several years, so I’ll include where and when in the captions.
Momma gator guarding her nest and 4 (blurry) babies. Along La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville, FL, December 2006
Momma Sandhill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands, March 2017
Spoonbill Mom returns, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, May 2010
Great Horned Owl Mom and chick in the nest, Circle B Bar, March 2018
Momma Limpkin and baby, Circle B Bar Reserve, October 2013
Great Egret Mom and chicks, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, April 2011
It’s amazing how devoted Moms are, and it’s fascinating to watch them raise their babies.
You can click on these images to see larger versions on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your Mom!
I decided to revisit this week and I’m glad I did. It’s a wonderful place to observe this family from 40 – 50 feet away. Since the birds are used to traffic and people, you can watch them without stressing them at all. An ambulance even went by with its siren going and Mom just calmly watched it.
As a bonus, I met another photographer there. Turns out we have a lot in common: While we shot, we talked about birds, locations, cameras, lenses, and grandkids! A marvelous, mini photo excursion!
I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while. This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level. There weren’t many clouds. I used a low camera position for this photo to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.
Gator Creek Morning.
Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp. Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been. Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo. I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting . But since I was there, I got out of the car. I counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock. It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall. I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/). When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.
Manatee head shot
I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees. I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.
By the Indian River
Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too. I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish. This heron had just launched from the left.
Tricolored Heron in flight
I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light. I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.
I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me: a Whimbrel.
Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Here are some photos from a trip to Viera Wetlands last week. There’s a lot to see there!
Dawn in the harbor – A sunrise stop at the Cocoa Riverfront Park on the way to Viera
Sandhill Crane and egg in nest – it’s fairly close to the berm. I think I’ll go back in a week or so and see if it’s hatched.
Deer – I’ve seen them several times hanging out at the east end of the park
Web – The spiders were busy and some of their work was catching the early morning sunlight
American Robin – Winter visitors / migrants are showing up in force
Eastern Phoebe. Ash-throated Flycatcher(?) I didn’t recognize this bird when I made the photo. and I’m still not totally sure what it is. A Great crested Flycatcher was seen at Viera Wetlands in January, but this one seems too small for that. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen there in previous years. Many thanks to Wally Jones for the ID help!
So I had a very nice visit to a wonderful place – if you’ve never been, now is a good time to go!