Merritt Island Dawn

Dawn over the lagoons at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL

We were out at dawn yesterday to get in a few hours of birding and photography before the vendor area at the Space Coast Birding Festival opened for the day…so early that the gate to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive was still closed when we got there. So…we went looking for the sunrise, or rather for a sunrise shot. This is an in camera HDR take over the lagoons along the main road west of the Visitor Center. You can see a corner of the Launch Facility at Kennedy Space Port peaking out behind the trees on the horizon just left of center.

Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure: 1/125th @ ISO 80 @ f3.2. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Snail’s Last Ride

Limpkin with Apple Snail, Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands, FL

Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Viera Florida is a fairly reliable place to see Limpkin…a rare and local bird…highly specialized on a diet of Apple Snails. You only find Limpkin in healthy fresh water marsh where the snails live. I watch this Limpkin successfully find and devour 20 snails in as many minutes. That bill is specially designed to find the snail in the mud, and then hook the snail out of its shell for eating. You find the empty Apple Snail shells along the edge of the marsh, and you know a Limpkin has been working the area. This photo was taken on a darkish day at Viera, and pushed the limits of the Sony camera. Still!

Sony HX400V at 588mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/500th @ ISO 3200 @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Dawn Mix

Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island NWR.

Early morning action along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We were out for the World Digiscoper Meet competition at the Space Coast Birding Festival. This is pool of mixed waders: Snowy and Great Egrets, Wood Storks, and White Ibis.

In camera HDR. Sony HX400V. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Life Armadillo!

Armadillo. Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. Merritt Island NWR, FL

This is my life Armadillo…oh I have seen them dead in the road…but that does not count. This one was very much alive…looking like a cross between a steampunk rabbit and pig…schuttering alongside the exit road from Blackpoint Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR. My first! What a treat. I took photos out the passenger side car window…very awkwardly…but it actually let me park and get out. Still not the photo I wanted…it would bury its head in the grass…but not bad for a first.

Sony HX400V at 252mm equivalent field of view. 1/640th @ ISO 800 @ f5. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Great Backlit Egret

Great Egret, Gatorland, Orlando FL

If you are into bird photography, Gatorland, near Orlando, in winter and spring is always worth a visit. As a senior citizen I even get in for less than half price. Such a deal. The deal at Gatorland is close ups of “wild” birds…mostly Egrets and Herons that nest around the Breeding Pool…where over 300 Alligators are kept for breeding. There are some BIG Alligators in there! And birds. Wherever you find Alligators in large numbers, birds will build a rookery. They feel relatively safe from most predators with the Alligators patrolling the waters below them. You may have noticed the quotation marks around “wild” in the sentence above. The nesting birds at Gatorland are not, of course, captive…but they are so used to humans and human hand-outs that they can not, in my opinion, be classed as wild either. Gatorland is a place where you can take full frame photos of a Snowy Egret from 2 feet with your phone. I know. I did it. This Great Egret, coming into breeding plumage, was something closer to 4 feet from me, standing on one of the boardwalk rails. This is what the Gatorland experience is all about for the bird photographer. I could not resist the effective back-lighting.

Sony HX400V at 414mm equivalent field of view. In camera HDR. Nominal exposure: 1/200th @ ISO 100 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Purple Gallinules Meet You at the Airport!

Purple Gallinule, Shark Valley, Everglades NP

Purple Gallinule, Shark Valley, Everglades NP

In honor of being on my way back to Florida (I am currently in Newark waiting on a connection), another Purple Gallinule. If you don’t get the reference…one of my girls’ favorite children’s books was “Gila Monsters Meet You At the Airport.”

Sony HX400V. 705mm equivalent field of view. 1/1250th @ ISO1000 @ f5.6. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

The Wide View. Happy Sunday!

Parker River NWR, south end looking north north-west.

This is a portrait orientation Sweep Panorama from the Sony HX400V. Is is about 120 degrees of sweep, from just south of west to just east of north. Winter light on the marsh and snow squalls under those clouds as they come in. Patchy sun highlights the foreground while the tree line is still in shadow. And the massive clouds over all. Not a compelling image…but pleasant, and rewarding.

Sweep Panoramas, especially the more natural looking panoramas taken with the camera held vertically during the sweep, provide, still within the frame, something very close to the naked eye view of the world. We are used to looking at photos that range from normal wide angle to tight telephotos…photos that approximate our “focused area of attention”…photos that frame just as much of the world as we generally pay attention to. In a sense, every photographer offers a digest of the world…with the focus…the area of interest…preselected for us as something worth looking at. A portrait Sweep Panorama like this one challenges our photographic senses. We don’t know quite what to make of it. Where are we supposed to look? And that is the whole point. Sometimes there is interest in looking at the whole thing…the sweep of the landscape…the play of light across the land under, as in this case, a dramatic sky. Sometimes the attention needs a wider focus…sometimes there is reward in a wider view.

We tend to go through our spiritual lives in the same way…recording a digest of the high points…paying attention to what has obvious interest and meaning…when all the time the sweep of the spirit through our lives is like the sun playing across the landscape under a dramatic sky. There is reward in pulling back to enjoy the wider view. And challenge. We are such focused creatures. When the view becomes too wide we struggle to make sense of it…but it is, I think, worth the extra effort. It returns us to our point of true perspective, where we are, relatively speaking, pretty small in the grand landscape. This is good. Humbling, but good. God would not have given us eyes to see the wider view if God did not intend us to use them. Yes, we are in our focused attention…but yes we are also in the sweep of life around us. It is good to be reminded. I think. Happy Sunday!

Parker River Dunes in Winter

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island MA

I drove down to Newberryport and Plum Island…Parker River National Wildlife Refuge…to look for reported Snowy Owls yesterday. It is about an hour from home, pretty much a straight shot down I95 and then in through Newberryport to the refuge. I could not find any owls, but was definitely captured by the snowy dunes and the winter marsh. I parked and hiked over the dunes and out into the marsh on the Hellcat boardwalks, and on just about all of the dune side boardwalks. With the light snow cover, and a winter sky, the landscape was transformed.

A Snowy Owl was reported on the dunes yesterday…but I did was not there, apparently, at the right time. Still I am happy with the snowscapes :)

Sony HX400V at 24mm equivalent field of view. In camera HDR on auto. Program shift to keep the whites in range of the sensor. Nominal exposure: 1/800th @ f5 @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet. Besides the normal Lightroom preset for the Sony, I also applied two graduated filter effects: up from the bottom to increase exposure and bring up the snow, and down from the top to darken slightly, add some Clarity, and to increase Saturation of the blues slightly to increase pop in the sky.

Snowstract

Snow detail. Kennebunk Bridle Path, Kennebunk ME

This is another deep HDR experiment from my trip out to look for owls the other day. I love the texture of the snow, the way the shadows play across the frame, and the contrasting hard shapes of the cluster of leaves and brush stubble. It is a snowstract…an almost abstract made of snow. :)

Sony HX400V at 56mm equivalent field of view. In camera HDR. Nominal exposure: 1/600th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Great Egret Agression

Great Egret. Big Cypress National Preserve

After my Walk on the Wildside with Everglades Nature Tours in Big Cypress National Preserve, we spent the afternoon exploring Turner River Road between the Tamiami Trail and Alligator Alley…an interesting trek through the depths of Big Cypress. We stopped when we saw birds or wildlife. This Great Egret was putting on quite a show. Egrets are not generally territorial…they are colony nesters and you see many nests in the same tree…but this bird had issues with the other birds in its tree. You can not see them in this frame, but there was a White Ibis directly above the Egret and one directly below it.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.