SpaceX launched another flock of 60 Starlink broadband internet satellites. I stayed close to home this time. I took this photo from my driveway in Titusville Florida.
The first Space Coast rocket Launch of 2021. SpaceX launching a Turkish telecommunications satellite into orbit. Photographed from Kirk Point Riverside Park in Titusville Florida.
SpaceX sending four astronauts on their way to the International Space Station. Photographed from Space View Park in Titusville Florida.
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.
An excellent photo opportunity has presented it’s self. SpaceX has scheduled a resupply mission to the International Space Station, launching right at dawn. There was a really good chance 45 minuets before sunrise, there could be some really nice color in the sky. I could not pass this up, I had to give it a try.
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!
After the launch scrubbed the previous day, the crowd gathers again for a second attempt for an Orion test flight. The weather is a bit iffy today, there are quite a few clouds. We have the same 7:05 – 9:44am launch window, so there is plenty of time for the weather to clear up. You know how Florida weather is, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minuets and it will change! Just before sunrise the clouds did thin and we were treated to another great sunrise. The countdown is winding down and all systems are go! There are no boats, no high winds, and no frozen valves. Yeah! There is a glow on the horizon as the engines on the Delta IV Heavy ignite. The Delta carrying Orion slowly rises into the sky. We get a good look at Orion before it disappears into the clouds. Orion performed well on its 4 hour test flight. Orion orbited the earth twice before splashing down in the pacific ocean.
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It’s a beautiful morning for the test flight of Orion, NASA’s new space vehicle. Orion is one of the first steps on the road back to manned space flight for the United States. It’s no wonder that this launch draws a large crowd. It almost looked like a shuttle launch. People came from all over the United States and a few other counties too. The launch was set for 7:05am, the launch window is open until 9:44am. I heard that some people had been there since 3:00am! I slipped in about 6:30am, one of the perks of living close by. Orion is hitching a ride on a Delta IV heavy, the biggest rocket we fly these days. It’s basically 3 Delta rockets strapped together. Orion will have its own new rocket soon. The weather was great! The sunrise was beautiful, everyone is looking forward to a great launch. Everything is go for launch, but just before 7:00am the launch is put on hold. A boat has wandered into the no-boat zone near the launch pad. It takes authorities quite a while to get the boat clear of the launch zone. No worries though, there is a rather long launch window for this launch. The boat is cleared away, we have a new launch time, and the countdown resumes. The countdown is once again put on hold. It seems that the winds at the launch pad are too high for launch. The winds have calmed, we are counting down to a new launch time. Once again the countdown is put on hold. This time we have a frozen cryogenic fuel valve. As they are working through the valve issue, it’s interesting to see how people who have been here since 3:00am, are passing the time. A few dolphins stopped by, that kept us entertained for a while. There is a glimmer of hope, around 9:30am the countdown is resumed. A wave of excitement moves through the crowd, everyone gets ready for the launch. Hopes are dashed just as the 9:44am launch window closes, the launch is scrubbed! The valve issue has not been resolved. So we try again tomorrow.
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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!
Fall not only brings cooler weather (below 90 in our case). It also brings the start of the Fall Art show season. Central Florida hosts many fine art shows. Art collectors and artists from all over the country visit the area to buy and sell all types of beautiful art.
Historic Downtown Melbourne Fl. is host to one such art show. The historic section of Melbourne is a 6 to 7 block walk back in time. The streets are filled with historic store fronts, eclectic shops, boutiques, and restaurants. This makes a great backdrop for the Fall Festival and Art Show.
The Melbourne Fall Festival is filled with art of all kinds. A short walk through the historic streets of Melbourne you will find all types of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and arts &crafts. There is fun for all ages, face painting, arts & craft making for the kids, shopping and beer for the adults. Music is also a big part of the festival. The main stage was filled with local artists featuring all kinds of music throughout the day.
Here are some of my photos that I took for Main Street Melbourne.
Click on an image to see it larger and to read the captions.
My wife Robbie and I recently had the opportunity to visit Space Shuttle Atlantis in her new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
In preparation of Atlantis’ arrival, the Visitor Complex underwent a facelift. From the new entrance, to the new building that houses Atlantis. At the entrance to the Atlantis exhibit there is a replica external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters that are huge! From Titusville looking across the Indian River at an actual Space Shuttle on the launch pad you really needed to strain your eyes to see the darn thing. The new replica tank and SRB’s can easily be seen from almost anyplace in Titusville. They make a very striking entrance to the new exhibit. After watching the construction and Atlantis moving from the Space Center to the Visitor Complex it was very interesting to see how it all came together. I think they did a fantastic job!
Once inside the exhibit visitors are treated to an entertaining, humorous, and informative short video about the history of rockets.
Visitors are then moved into an amazing theater. A video of Atlantis launching and working in space is projected onto the walls and ceiling of the theater. You can feel the vibration as Atlantis thunders into space. It’s really amazing to watch.
As the theater fades to a black star filled sky, a large door opens and you find yourself face to face with the real Atlantis.
As you walk out of the theater, Atlantis is looking you in the eye. She is very proud of the many accomplishments that were made in her 26 years of service.
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The upper level of the exhibit is filled with information about Atlantis and the 33 missions that Atlantis flew. On one of her missions, Atlantis and her crew repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. Getting a good view of Atlantis from any angle imaginable is not the only thing to see. There is a shuttle cockpit mockup where you get to see what it was like to fly a shuttle. There are very cool interactive displays. In one of them you are looking at a video of an astronaut during a space walk. Then you become the astronaut. As you move your hand the astronaut moves his hand using a tool to make a repair.
Behind Atlantis there is a HUGE video screen with images of the Space Station and astronauts making space walks. You don’t need to use too much imagination to feel like you are in space with Atlantis.
Looking from the upper level down to the lower level, you get a good look at the belly of the beast. Also you may be wondering, how do I get down there? You have several options. One you could take the elevator, or…
You could take the eery red hallway! Or even better, you can do what we did, and take the way cool sliding board to the lower level! That was fun!
Before you head down the slide, you may want to take a tour of the model International Space Station. It’s like a habitrail for humans. You get a feeling of what it’s like to spend some time in the Space Station. There is a bit of a thrill as you encounter a clear tube 30ft or so above the floor. The girl in the photo was hesitant to cross the gap. I think a push from her friend got her moving through the tube.
Once you make it to the lower level, aside from seeing Atlantis flying over your head, there are many more things to see. I’m not sure I saw everything. There are more interactive simulators, where you can land an orbiter, aka shuttle, or use the robotic arm. They have the Airstream Astrovan on display that carried the astronauts to the launch pad. I’ve always thought the Astrovan was pretty cool. There are lots of things to see and do at the new Atlantis exhibit. We had a great time! Oh, and don’t worry since you need to exit through the gift shop, you will be able to pick up a memento, or two, of your visit with Atlantis. So grab your favorite Atlantis T-shirt and come see Atlantis in her new home!
Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Mi esposa y yo pensamos que una buena manera de celebrar el Cinco de Mayo sería contar con una margarita en la playa. Así que mezclamos un poco de margaritas y dirigirse a la playa. Este es un gran momento del año para estar en la playa en la Florida. La humedad es todavía baja, la temperatura no muy por encima de 80. Es sólo el tiempo perfecto para un viaje a la playa. Llovió todos los días de la semana pasada. Así que estábamos listos para un día soleado en la playa. Fue un muy buen día de relax en la playa.