A huge dust cloud from the Sahara Desert, floated over Florida’s east coast. I thought this may have an unusual effect on the sunrise. I woke up early one morning to find out. One of my favorite times of the day to photograph is blue hour. I got going extra early so I wouldn’t miss it. Blue hour turned out to be nice and blue. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Sahara sunrise. It turned out to be a bit dull and lifeless. You can definitely see the haze from the Sahara dust. The sun was a few degrees above the horizon before it was visible. It was definitely not a typical Florida sunrise.
Last night SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A normal Falcon 9 rocket has, 9 powerful Merlin rocket engines. A Falcon Heavy is three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together! SpaceX has been continually tweaking it’s Merlin engines. This Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket flying today. Boy was it powerful! This rocket was Space Shuttle loud. You could hear the rumble building as it got closer and closer. The sound started to reverberate off of the buildings, then the sound waves hit, you could hear and feel the rumble! It was awesome! The reason for all of that power, the Falcon Heavy was carrying 24 assorted satellites into space. Advances in technology have made it possible to build smaller satellites. This allows rockets to carry multiple satellites into space on the same rocket. Not only is this more profitable for companies like SpaceX. It should also be less expensive for satellite users. Night launches are always beautiful, and this one was no exception. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this launch was at 2:30 AM! It was worth getting up early to see it though. A very strange phenomenon happened during the launch. Looking through the binoculars, as the two Falcon 9 boosters strapped to the side, separated, the glowing engines and vapor, created an image that looked very much like Voldemort’s dark mark in the sky!
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites. Although the satellites were small, it was the heaviest load a Falcon 9 has lifted into space. The satellites are the first of up to 12,000 satellites that will make up a blanket of satellites that will provide a space based internet connection. Technological advancement or space pollution? Astronomers are already complaining, satellites are impeding viewing of the stars. Only time will tell.
The launch took place at 10:30pm. Night launches are awesome to watch. They make a really cool photographic subject. But also watching a launch at night is really beautiful. The flames from the rocket engines make all sorts of interesting shapes and colors. On a clear night with a pair of binoculars, you can follow the rocket all the way into space.
I was taking a drive through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, near Titusville Florida, doing a bit of bird watching. I was seeing lots of birds but nobody was being particularly photogenic today. Even though the birds are not cooperating, it’s always nice to be out and about in the refuge. I was hanging around thinking that I would like to photograph the sunset. That wasn’t looking too promising either. All day the sky had been blue and cloudless. Not typically the best scenario for a great sunset. Sunsets are very unpredictable, you never know exactly what you are going to get. So I stuck it out taking in the sights and sounds of the refuge. About 45 minuets or so before sunset, I headed to the place that I had in mind to photograph. It wasn’t until I setup my camera and looked through the lens that I noticed the clouds. A few long thin windblown clouds had moved in, creating a very dramatic sky. Things were looking up. Now all I needed was a bit of color. As the sun slowly lowered into the horizon, the color filled the sky. I was glad that I stuck around. So along with your camera equipment, a photographer also needs a bit of optimism and perseverance.
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It was that time of year again, the birds were flying south and so were the birders. That means it was time once again for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I had the opportunity again this year to offer my Nighttime Photography Workshop at the A Max Brewer Bridge. We had a great time photographing the bridge, watching birds and dolphins. I had lots of fun, I think my participants did as well. I’m sure they got some awesome photographs. I always spend a lot of time working with the people in my workshop, so I don’t take many photos during the workshop. A few days before the workshop I always get out to take a few test shots. So here are the test shots that I took just before the festival.
In order to get this sunrise photo, I needed to abuse my tripod a bit. I spread the legs wide and low to get the angle I wanted. I also wanted to get the water from the retreating waves in the photo. This meant that the surf was washing up over my tripod legs. Sand and saltwater was everywhere inside and out of my tripod legs.
So, when I got home, I needed to disassemble each leg and clean it inside and out. This is why you need to spend more money than you want for a really good tripod. It needs to be made of good quality materials. It also needs to have the ability to be taken apart and put back together. I have been using and abusing this tripod for nearly 30 years. It still works like it did when it was new.
I took my camera for a walk on the boardwalk at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I was just shooting anything that I found interesting. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I had a nice walk, taking some photos. At home when I downloaded my photos, I thought I had lost half of them. The first photo was one that I had taken half-way through my walk. I thought “well this is odd.” As I looked a bit more closely, I realized what had happened. Halfway through my walk I had taken photo #9,999 with this camera, so the camera started numbering the photos over again at 001. So here is the 10,000 photo that I have taken with my D600.
Also here are some of the other photos that I took on my photo walk.
It’s the beginning of October, time for the annual Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. Each year, photographers all over the world gather on the same day to explore, photograph, share photos with one another, make new friends, and be a part of a great cause.
I once again joined a walk in Historic Downtown Titusville FL. Chris Wiley a local fine art photographer was our walk leader. Our group of walkers came from allover Florida. We had a great time walking around Titusville looking for things to photograph.
We took a similar route as last year, so I was trying to find different things to photograph. I did photograph some of the same things, but I photographed them differently. I had lots of fun and I think I may have even gotten a good image!
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Marilyn Cook, my Eastern Florida State College portfolio class teacher got together a group of past and present portfolio class students for a sunset photo shoot at Riverside Park in Melbourne Beach. Marilyn, Mike Brown (another one of my EFSC teachers) and guest instructor Fred Gramoso gave the group some sunset photography tips to prepare for the sunset photo shoot. Sunsets are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. I think we got a vanilla cream, it was a pretty decent sunset.
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Riverside Park is the Mallory Square of Melbourne Beach. People bring lawn chairs and gather for the show.
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Don’t leave after sunset! There are still great photos to be had. Approximately 1 hr after sunset the blue hour will start, not to be missed.
Also look behind you, there may be something interesting. In this case the church behind the park offered some interesting photos.
It was great fun getting together with fellow portfolio students, new ones and especially the old ones that I have not seen since the class.
The organizers of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival expanded the photography offerings for the 2016 festival. One of the photographers that joined the festival this year was Mike Matthews. (click here to see Mikes web site.) Mike conducted an amazing macro workshop with an interesting cast of characters.
Mike brought with him 10 to 15 species of exotic reptiles and amphibians like this very cool three horned chameleon.
He not only brought along some very cool subjects to photograph, he also brought the sets to photograph them in. There was a whole room full of small props and backdrops. Mike would expertly place one of the reptiles in the set then you instantly have a great photograph. Mike enjoys teaching photographers the tricks of the trade. He was very helpful with camera exposure settings as well as lens and flash selections. A well placed drop of water on a lizard’s mouth would create a fantastic image as the lizard licked the drop with its tongue. This was a great workshop! Not only were you able to learn all about the wonderful world of macro photography, but you came away with some world class images. Another one of the many reasons why you need to get your butt to the 2017 SCBWF!
I want to thank Mike for allowing me to follow him around and photograph his workshop. He helped me get some good photos as well as helping his workshop attendees get good photos. I only wish I would have had more time to see some of his other cute little friends.
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Another amazing Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival field trip: The Little-Big Econ State Forest. I was anxious to photograph this field trip; I have not been to this area before. I know Little-Big sounds a bit contradicting, but this is where the Little Econlockhatchee and the Big Econlockhatchee rivers come together, hence Little-Big Econ.
The field trip was led by biologist Lorne Malo from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wildlife biologist Selena Kiser, Angel and Mariel Abreu with Nature is Awesome Tours. This was my first trip with Loren, he knows this area and its history very well. I have been on other trips with Selena, Angel and Mariel, they are all excellent birders! This is another reason why you need to attend the SCBWF. You could visit this area on your own no problem, but you would not have four expert birders with you. They know the area, they know the birds, they are great at sharing their knowledge with you. SCBWF field trips are a wonderful learning experience. I learn something new on every trip. For instance, on this trip I learned about mistletoe. In Florida not many trees lose their leaves. The ones that do sometimes have several balls of green leaves among their bare branches. I always figured they were some sort of parasitic plant. I learned from Lorne that it is mistletoe and that cedar waxwings like to eat the mistletoe berries.
The Little-Big Econ was beautiful. It was almost like walking through a prehistoric jungle. The mist was rising off of the river. The eerie call of the pileated woodpecker. I was expecting to see a dinosaur at any moment. There were no dinosaurs, but Lorne expertly lead us through the many trails to where we were able to get a good view of an eagles nest. There was an eagle in the nest to boot! We could not see into the nest but the eagle seemed to be tending eggs or maybe very young eaglets. The female eagles are very noticeably larger than the males. This is quite evident when you see them together. This was a large eagle, my guess is that it was the female. I travel light and didn’t have enough lens to get a decent photo of the eagle. Besides the eagle, we saw many types of birds on this trip. The Little-Big Econ is a great place to go birding. Fun was had by all.
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The 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival got off to a beautiful start. I enjoy taking photos for the SCBWF each year. On the first day of the festival there were several field trips planned at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. My plan was to meet up with a few of the field trips and photograph them. The sunrise was stacking up to be a good one, so I found a good spot to photograph it. This particular area is a berm road with water on both sides. I was facing the sunrise; to my back there was a row of mangroves and the other body of water. Just on the other side of the mangroves there was a huge flock of American coots, but I didn’t know that at the time. Shortly after the sun rose above the horizon something spooked the coots. Possibly an eagle looking for a coot breakfast. The huge flock of coots made a frantic dash for the sunrise side of the berm road. They were crashing through the mangroves and stumbling onto the road. Several of them flew into my car! (no one was hurt.) The water dripping off of them as they flew over me made it feel like it was raining. It was quite the sight, coots everywhere with the beautiful sunrise for a backdrop.
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After the coot fly-in I went in search of the field trips. I met up with Shiv Verma on one of his daily photo walks. Shiv’s photo walks are sponsored by Panasonic. This is cool because Panasonic provides Shiv with lots of new equipment. As part of the photo walk, you not only were able to get some expert photography advice from Shiv, you could also take the new Panasonic equipment for a spin. Grab the new Lumix mirrorless camera and plop it on a new 4800mm scope, wow! One of the many perks of attending the SCBWF. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to play with the toys.
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Next, I met up with Kevin Karlson on his Birding by Impression field trip. He has recently co-authored a book of the same name. As well as writing books, Kevin is an excellent photographer and also did photography classes and workshops at the festival. I have gotten to know Kevin over the years and his field trips are always among the best at the festival. Birding by impression is a technique of bird identification that he has been perfecting over the years. By observing the birds size and shape, as well as the behavior of the bird, you are able to ID the bird when traditional field marks are not clearly seen. It is an interesting concept and Kevin is fantastic at explaining it. The 2016 SCBWF was off to a great start.
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I recently conducted a night time photography workshop at the 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I did three workshops on three different nights. On the first night we were treated to a spectacular sunset! On the second night, the sunset was not as spectacular, but we got some spectacular night photos of the Max Brewer Memorial Bridge over the Indian River Lagoon. The third night was the coldest windiest night ever! The waves on the river were crashing over the seawalls. We also, despite the weather, got some great night time bridge photos. I want to thank all of my participants for coming out and braving the weather with me. It was great fun for me, I hope you all had fun as well.
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You have probably heard of the golden hour. It’s the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The light has a warm gold cast to it. It’s one of my favorite times of the day, and not just for photographing. I just really like that time of day. The time just before sunrise and just after sunset is known as the blue hour. The sky turns a beautiful blue color. A lot of photographers will pack up after the sunsets and disappears below the horizon. If you have a little patience and hang around for a while, your images will have an amazing blue sky. You need to plan ahead, find a good location and work fast. Speaking of time, you don’t have much. Despite the name, the effect will last as little as 10min. and as much as 40min. Even then, it’s still not time to pack up your gear. There are still some great images to capture. This is what we will be discussing at my night time photography workshop at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I hope to see you there!
I think this grackle has been hanging out with his friend the osprey way too much.
If you want to see birds like this doing the things birds do, come to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.
I have been intrigued by this old Hotpoint sign since I moved to Titusville. Originally occupied by an appliance store, this building sat vacant for quite some time. Amazingly this very cool sign survived. Recently a clothing boutique moved in. I was very happy when they restored the sign and adapted it to their needs, rather than replacing it. I really like this old sign and I’m glad it’s still here.
I will be doing a photography field workshop at the 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival on night time photography. We will be learning how to make photographs like this one. This is an amazing festival. There is something for everyone, not only birders and photographers. I hope to see you there!
During this years Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival I will be leading a photography field workshop. We will be photographing the A. Max Brewer bridge at night. I will be doing three workshops, Jan 21, Jan 22 and Jan 23. This is one of the many locations on and around the bridge we will be photographing. I hope to see you there!
Here are some of the highlights from the 18th annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.
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Birders from all over the United States and several other countries gathered in Titusville, Florida for the SCBWF the last week in January. Although January is typically Florida’s coldest month, and it was one of our coldest weeks. I’m sure visitors from the northeast, who were in the middle of a deep freeze, were happy to be here. Birders both young and old had a great time and saw lots of birds. The youngest birders rivaled even the guides. They didn’t miss a bird and were able to name every one!
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The early bird catches the worm! Birders tend to take that phrase pretty seriously. No worries though, it’s my favorite time of the day!
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Back at the exhibit hall you can do some shopping. There is everything from great arts and crafts to that new kayak you have always wanted. Pick out a new pair of binoculars, or plan your next birding trip to some exotic place. Visit the art show and pick out your favorite piece of art. Don’t forget to look at the birding checklist board to see who is seeing what birds where.
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The entertainment is fantastic! After a long day of birding in the field, save some energy to enjoy one of the evening keynote speakers. You will be glad that you did!
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Take a class to learn how to be a better birder. Then go out in the field with the best birders in the country, and put what you have learned to use. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. All of the field trip leaders are happy to answer any question you may have. No matter how trivial you may think it is, there is probably another person thinking the same thing, and will be happy you asked the question. These people love to share information, and are happy to help you out. Take advantage of it!
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Titusville has a large variety of birds. One of the reasons this area is a great place to go birding is the diversity in habitats. There are several types of habitats in very close proximity. This makes it very easy to see many different birds in a short period of time.
If you hang out here too long, don’t be surprised if you start acting like a bird!
A great time was had by all! If you have never been to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, I hope you will plan on being here next year! If you have been to the festival, I hope to see you again next year!
The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Where the action is!
2014 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. A field trip to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.
The 17th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival (SCBWF) in Titusville Florida, has grown to be the largest birding festival in the country. The festival is attended by people from all over the country as well as from several other countries. Once again this year, I was asked to photograph events at the festival. I always have fun photographing people taking part in festival activities. The SCBWF has something for everybody. Whether you are a beginning birder, someone who just loves getting outdoors, or a seasoned birder, you will find several festival activities to enjoy.
Looking to add that elusive bird to your life list? Sign up for one of the many field trips offered at the festival. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the Florida Scrub-Jay are two birds that many birders would like to add to their life list. A great place to see both of those birds is at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. If you want to take advantage of this field trip, you will need to wake up early! The bus boards at 4:30 am!
The first stop was the park visitor center to meet our guides and resident experts, Samantha McGee from the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park (SSRPSP) and David Simpson of Birding with David Simpson. Samantha gave us an overview of the park and some information about the birds we would be seeing. The great thing about the SCBWF field trips is not only the very knowledgeable guides that take you right to the birds, but the festival makes special arrangements with the locations to give you VIP access. The SSRPSP doesn’t normally open until 8:00 am. We were there much earlier! Also, we were transported in State Park vehicles to locations in the park that you would otherwise need to see on foot. That saved us a several mile hike.
This field trip leaves so early in the morning, because the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers leave their nest cavities so early in the morning. Samantha is pointing out several tree cavities as we wait for the birds to emerge. It’s worth the wait, as the woodpeckers emerge, they perch on an adjacent tree and showoff for us.
Watching the woodpeckers chasing each other from tree to tree as the sun rises above the horizon. They put on quite a show for us.
Taking time out to photograph a nice Florida landscape.
David Simpson, in the plaid shirt,of Birding with David Simpson helping out with bird identification.
The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW) are a highly managed bird. Park biologists keep an eye on all of the RCW’s in the park. Here, Samantha McGee is explaining how they manage the RCW population. The RCW use live, long leaf pines to build their nest cavities. Most other woodpeckers will use any dead tree to make a nest cavity. This makes the RCW a very habitat specific bird. This is why preserving habitats like the SSRPSP is so important! Park biologists have been helping by making nest cavities for the RCWs. It can take over a year for a pair to create their own nest cavity, so they are very happy to move into the man made nest cavities. All of the long leaf pines with nest cavities are marked with a white band around the tree trunk. There are several young birds in the park that have nest cavities ready and waiting. They just need to find their mate, move in, and start their own families. Thanks to Samantha and her colleges, the RCWs here are doing well for now. It is a very fragile situation and could go one way or another at any time.
Peeking through the scrub oaks watching a family of Florida Scrub-Jays. The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are not the only habitat specific bird that the SSRPSP manages. The Florida Scrub-Jay is another bird that needs a very specific habitat to survive. They will only survive in a scrub oak habitat. The scrub oaks need to be of a certain height and density. If the scrub is too short the birds will not move into the area. If the scrub grows too tall the birds will move out. The health of the scrub habitat is managed by fire. The scrub habitat is burned periodically to maintain the height and density. Scrub-Jays are interesting birds. They work together as a family group to protect each other from predators. The one predator they can’t protect each other from is the loss of their habitat.
Sometimes when you are out in the field birding, you never know what rare or unusual bird you’re going to encounter.
There is no better way to cap off a great day in the field than lunch at the Marsh Landing Restaurant. It was nice listening to everyone’s birding stories. The food was great too! Once you finally make a decision between all of the great things on the menu.
For the past few months I’ve been in somewhat of a creative slump. Sort of a photographer’s block. I didn’t feel creative enough to take photos. The photos I did take didn’t end up looking the way I wanted them to. When I take a photo I get a vision in my mind of how I want it to look. My vision and my camera somehow become one. Lately though, my vision and my camera have been disconnected.
Creativity is like a muscle. You need to exercise it or it will get weak. My creative muscle was getting weak. This is the time of year when we get some nice fog in the mornings. I like taking photos on those foggy mornings. There were a couple foggy mornings that snuck up on me and I missed them all together. There was one I was ready for; I woke up early, and it was nice and foggy. I decided to go across the river to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Big mistake, there was no fog on that side of the river. I took a few photos, but nothing I was real happy with. My creativity and my camera were disconnected still.
I kept my eye on the weather for more fog. The other day there was a chance of fog. I woke up early and looked outside, I didn’t see any fog. I went back to bed, and when I woke again there was fog. I guess I checked too early and the fog hadn’t formed yet. It was too late to get to where I wanted to photograph; I was very discouraged. I expected the next day to be foggy too. I decided to get out early and take some photos, fog or no fog. I needed to exercise my muscle. There was some fog, but it was very spotty. I drove over to the wildlife refuge. The first thing I came across were some black skimmers. They were skimming over the mirror smooth water. The sun was still below the horizon, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I took a few good images, and LOTS of bad ones. As the skimmers moved on I was treated to a beautiful sunrise. I moved back across the river to the marina. I found a few nice images on the way to the marina. Once at the marina I found another one of my favorite subjects: reflections.
All in all, I think I was able to give my creative muscle a decent workout. My creativity is feeling stronger and I hope that my creative slump is waning!
I took a short walk on the beach the other day. I found myself under the Cocoa Beach Pier. As I was walking around watching the waves as they advanced and then retreated over the sand. My eye was drawn to the reflections on the thin layer of water as it slipped back into the ocean. I have always been fascinated with reflections. I liked the way the water flowing back into the ocean was distorting the reflection, giving it an eery feeling.
Spring has sprung with an explosion of color, like fireworks on the 4th of July!
I needed to get a good photo of a red shoulder hawk. I was at the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management area a few weeks ago and I saw a nice one. The hawk was hunting in a location that would make it easy to get a good photo. So when I needed to get a red shoulder, I thought I would return to the TWMA. Hopefully my friend, the red shoulder hawk, would still be there. I knew it was a long shot; things rarely work out the way we want them to. I arrived at the Tosohatchee in the morning to take advantage of the morning light. I drove to the place where the he had been hunting on my previous trip. Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen. I drove deeper into the TWMA to maybe find another hawk. I did see a kestrel, but he was too far away to get a good photo. I thought this may be a good time to go back and check on my red shoulder friend. I drove back to his hunting grounds and still no hawk. I still had lots of time, so I thought I would drive around and see what else I might find. I only got a few yards and I saw a pretty swallowtail butterfly on a thistle. I got out of the car and started to photograph the butterfly.
I took quite a few photos when I finally looked around me. There was not just the one butterfly; there were 15 – 20 of them on thistles all around me.
I was having fun with the butterflies when I heard my hawk calling close by. For the longest time I could only hear it calling to its mate. Then I saw it flying over the trees. The hawk was heading toward the area that I had seen him in before. I followed his flight through the trees. I was looking through the trees and I saw him. He landed in a dead tree. The tree that he landed on, although it was in plain sight, it was way too far away to get a good photo. We sat and watched each other for the longest time.
He looked at me and I looked at him. He must not have been totally looking at me. He jumped off of his tree and down to the ground, as if he found something to pounce on. I watched for the longest time, but I never saw him again that day. I failed on this trip to get my hawk photo, but just because you fail at your main objective, that doesn’t mean the whole trip needs to be a failure. Even though I wasn’t able to take any great photos, I still saw lots of cool things and had a great time in the field!