Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Yaupon Holly

I thought by now you're all getting sick of my birds, so I'd post something a little more in season.

This is Yaupon Holly. Although the leaves don't have the traditional points that you'd expect to see, it is definitely in the Holly family. It's also one of the more seasonal-looking plants that one would find in nature. I found this during my meetup at Lake Seminole last Sunday. The bush was pretty full, so I got under the branch and shot up at the sky. This way, it eliminated the busy background, and it helped to make the plant stand out more. Yaupon Holly can be found in Florida growing in upland woods, streamsides, pondsides, dunes and pine flatwoods.

Settings used for this shot were, Aperture priority, with partial metering on the plant, ISO 400, 1/80th @ F5.6, -1/3 exposure compensation. I chose ISO 400 because it was very cloudy and their wasn't much light as you can tell by the settings used. The -1/3 exposure compensation was to keep the sky from blowing out.

This is another shot with a loss due to jpg compression for the site. This is much brighter not compressed.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yup; another bird shot. I'm on a roll with these right now. When I visited Lake Seminole Park with my students, I couldn't believe all the birds we shot. This is one of the better shots I made.

This one, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron just kept right on posing for us only moving once. We first shot him/her when she was on the footbridge, then in an effort to get away (sort of) he/she flew down on the ground on the edge of the water. I think he wasn't giving up his spot for lunch, no matter what we did.

It's always a thrill to see and capture one of these elusive Night Herons. Since they're largely nocturnal, we don't get to see them too much during the day. When we do, they're pretty secretive. The only time they show themselves is when they're hungry, so it's usually a pretty easy shot. They don't give up their spots that easily just because we humans are there. They want to be sure to keep all the Crab for themselves.

Settings used for this shot were: Aperture Priority Mode with partial metering on the bird, ISO 400 for extra light sensitivity because I was shooting him under a bridge and it was a cloudy day. There wasn't much light to work with, 1/20th at F5.6 and -1/3 exposure compensation to keep the whites from blowing out. Focal length 208mm with my 55-250mm lens.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Great Egret

I don't think I've posted any birds in a little while. This one was shot at Lake Seminole Park yesterday while I was teaching a class.

He was so funny, he just came up to the picnic table where I was speaking to my group about exposure, and he was just begging to be photographed. I could see everyone getting a bit edgy, wanting to shoot him. He was posing so nice. Finally, I relented, since they weren't listening anyway. As soon as I said, "Well, what are you all waiting for? He's posing just for you". You could hear all the shutters being released. While they were shooting, I answered any quick exposure questions about shooting all white birds. Of course, all the while wanting to shoot him as well. I just couldn't help myself, I had to shoot him, too!

Settings used for this shot; ISO 400 because it was a cloudy day, and I needed more light. F5.6 at 1/250 in case he moved and because I was handholding the lens, +2/3 exposure compensation to capture detail in the whites without them going too gray, Aperture Priority Mode with partial metering on the bird. My focal length was 250mm with my 55-250mm lens.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lake Seminole in HDR

Today I took my students to Lake Seminole Park for a lesson on exposure. This is one of the original images I made with the class. This image looked like it would make an excellent HDR study, so I tried it with this one. When I downloaded my photos to my computer, I noticed that I deleted the -2 stop exposure by mistake, so I made a pseudo HDR. I'm surprised it came out so well from one image.

The second image is the HDR image. As you can see, this one is much, much better. I don't like HDR when it's done over the top. It seems to present unnatural colors and a lot of noise, and I'm very happy with the way this one turned out. It's much brighter, the colors are more saturated and vibrant, and it's natural and believable.

Settings used for the original image are, ISO 200 because it is a cloudy day and the sensor needs more light for a proper exposure, Aperture Priority mode, which I use for about 95% of all my photography. The shutter speed was 1/100 at F7.1, which is the sharpest or sweet spot of my lens, 0 exposure compensation, with partial metering off the trees, which was the most important part of the scene (actually the greenery and reflections), 36mm with my 18-55mm lens.

Chicken Turtle and American Alligator

Note to my followers: I must apologize for getting out of my normal routine of posting one photo a day. I've been not feeling well, and terribly busy these past couple weeks.

This Chicken Turtle certainly isn't living up to his name as he sits atop an American Alligator's head. He must know that Alligators go into a semi-hibernation in the winter months and don't eat during this time. They go without food for approximately 4 months, living off their body fat.

This image was photographed Christmas day at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. I took my grandson to the park as part of his Christmas gift. We got off to a late start because it was raining in the morning, so we waiting for it to clear up. We still had a great time and stayed until closing.

Chicken Turtles can be found in shallows and fresh water, while American Alligators can be found in ponds, rivers, swamps, both fresh and brackish marshes, mangroves, canals and oceans (rarely) throughout Florida and the southern states.

This image was captured with my Canon 40D, Canon 55-250mm lens at 131mm, in late afternoon on a cloudy day. I used 400 ISO, in Aperture priority mode and partial metering off the turtle at 1/20 and F5.6.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I caught this guy climbing up the side of a Palm tree in my backyard the other day. He was really big, as you can tell by the Palm tree trunk. It's amazing how they can cling to surfaces with their webbed feet.

The Bullfrog is the largest native American frog reaching lengths of 8 inches. They're found throughout central Florida in ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams. They eat young birds, snakes, crayfish and other frogs. That may explain why he was climbing up this tree.

The jpg compression has taken away the greenish tinge across his lower body. He's a lot more colorful than he looks in this shot. I wish I could post the full resolution image.

Settings used for this photo were at ISO 200, with my on camera flash (he was in a dark spot between 3 other trees) at 1/250 which is the shutter speed I set my flash to fire, F5.6 and +2 exposure compensation to be sure to get all the shadow detail, partial metering on the frog in aperture priority mode. I used my 50-250mm lens at 250mm so I wouldn't scare him away.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lyman and Pat

My friends, Lyman and his brand new wife, Pat (as she likes to be called when in America) were married on the 30th of November on a little bridge that separates the Unity church and the Buddhist temple in Tampa. They had his minister and her monk officiate.

They met last year while Lyman was doing business in Thailand. He has a factory there, so he goes to Thailand every year for about 4 or 5 months to make sure everything is running all right.

They've had this long-distance relationship for the last year and now they've finally married. Lyman has had some serious health problems in the last few months and hopefully it'll all be ironed out before they leave to go back to Thailand in January. They'll be there for 4 or 5 months, then come back to Florida to live.

Lyman has been my friend for a few years now, and Pat has been my friend since she came to Florida last year. She is the sweetest girl and will make a good wife to Lyman. I'm very happy for both of them.

When Pat was here last year, she could barely speak English and was very shy. This year, I couldn't believe how well she speaks English. You'd think she'd been here for years. She says Lyman's been helping her to learn. But I think it's been sheer determination on her part that helped her to learn our language that quickly. Amazingly, since she can now speak the language well, she doesn't seem as shy.

They are both good friends and I wish them all the luck and happiness in the world.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Well, I've bit the bullet and decided to try to do some HDR. I don't really know what I'm doing, so anyone out there with advice, is more than welcome to make a comment.

I don't like the HDR "look", but some of the stuff I've been seeing lately is downright beautiful when it's done right. I like HDR that doesn't look like HDR. This is my second one that I've tried. I'm still sitting on the block with this one, though.

This second shot (in silhouette) is the original. I shot this one at 0 ev, then one at +2 and one at -2. I think the sky doesn't look that different, but there's a lot of detail in the minaret that I was able to pull out.

What do you all think?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Red-bellied Woodpecker

While I was photographing the Red-shouldered Hawk, pictured in the last post, I heard this guy up in the Maple tree chattering. At first I didn't spot him, but listening for his chatter led me right to where he was perched.

He didn't pay any attention to me; he must've thought I was still stalking the Red-shouldered Hawk. He gave me just enough time to grab this shot before he flew off.

These Red-bellied Woodpeckers are resident in Florida year 'round and can be found in open woods and in towns.

Most people think Woodpeckers are pests and damage trees. The opposite is true. They are actually beneficial by consuming large amounts of wood-boring beetles as well as grasshoppers, ants, and other insect pests. They also feed on acorns, beechnuts, and wild fruits and they habitually store their food.

Camera specs used in this shot: ISO 200, 1/250 @ F7.1, aperture priority, partial metering on the bird, with 0 exposure compensation in the late afternoon sun.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Red-shouldered Hawk

This Red-shouldered Hawk just finished trying to get a Limpkin for dinner. However, the Limpkin turned on him and the Hawk was relegated to perching on this fence waiting to capture something a little bit easier.

Red-shouldered Hawks or Buteo lineatus are in the Hawk and Eagle family. They are resident in Florida and can be found in wooded wetlands and swamps. They prefer lowlands, especially swampy woods and bogs.

The Red-shouldered Hawk hunts by sitting in a low perch then swooping down to snatch their prey. They eat snakes, frogs, insects and small mammals. What amazes me is that the little Northern Mockingbird can set this much larger hawk on the run. I have often watched as 2 Mockingbirds working in tandem chasing these Hawks away. The do a great job of it, too; I might add.

This photo was made at ISO 200, F7.2 and 1/60th of a second in aperture priority mode. The gold on his right side is from the low, setting sun around 5:00 pm. I used partial metering off the bird to ensure a good exposure with my 55mm-250mm zoomed all the way out. Image was heavily cropped in Lightroom and his eyes were brightened in Photoshop. Other than that, no other post processing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ballast Point Pier

Several of my students mentioned this place to me, so I decided to check it out for myself. They told me I could get great shots of the Tampa skyline from this park.

I don't think the view of the Tampa skyline from this park is that great, compared to other places have been; but I like this pier. If you are one of my followers, you know I love to photograph piers and bridges.

I tried this shot in HDR, but since I'm not that great at HDR, I ended up deleting it and just using the file as it came out of my camera. I particularly like the starbursts on the lights and the way they shine on the water as well as the silhouetted rocks in the foreground. It's difficult to see, but in the background are limestone mines and quarries. I've never seen them before and had to ask another photographer what they were. Now I'm wondering where exactly the quary is so I could possibly drive there to photograph it.

Settings used for this shot on my tripod-mounted Canon 40D were, ISO 200 to keep digital noise to a minimum, 4 seconds at F16 -2 stops exposure compensation. F16 provided the Depth of Field, while the 4 second exposure smoothed out the water somewhat. This was shot at 55mm with my 55-250mm IS lens.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Causeway Memorial Bridge

Last Saturday, Frank and I took a few people from our Newbie group to Clearwater to photograph the Causeway Memorial Bridge. There's a whole lot of construction going on in the area and it was quite challenging to get a decent photograph without all the construction equipment ruining the shots.

Frank and I have photographed this bridge many times and every time, we try to come up with something a little different than the last time we shot it. I like the colors in this one.

Settings use for this image were: ISO 200 to eliminate noise, F16 for depth of field and to get the star bursts on the lights, the shutter speed was 2.5 seconds, which is 1 stop over to be sure to keep detail in the shadows. The camera was set in aperture priority mode, which I use about 95% of the time and partial metering off the underside of the bridge. The focal length was 25mm and the Picture Style was set to Landscape. Normally, I don't touch the Picture Styles at all. I prefer to leave it in the Neutral position, but as I said, I was looking for something a little different and the I think the Picture Style contributed a lot to the final image.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tree Bark Figures

I've always had a fascination with faces and figures in tree bark the way some people have with clouds. These three images were all found in my back yard.

I think the first one looks like a pig or an old Asian man. I can't make up my mind which. Maybe one of you can tell me. This one was found in my Camphor tree.

The next one looks like an angry old man. He's on the side of a Maleleuca tree.

The last one looks like a Victorian woman on my Avocado tree. One of these days, I think I'll paint her. Wouldn't that be neat? I'm wondering, though, if acrylic paints would hurt the tree, or if the lacquer covering would hurt the tree. Anyone have any idea?

Let me know your thoughts.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Paper Wasp

This image was made at my regular Monday Night meetup. While photographing Monarch caterpillars, I noticed this Paper Wasp on this Butterfly Weed bush. He appears to be eating aphids or some kind of larvae.

This bush is covered with aphids, caterpillars, eggs and various sorts of minute creatures that can't be easily seen with the naked eye.

Even with the wind by the water, I managed to hand hold my 90mm macro lens in one hand while holding onto the stem of the bush to keep it still with the other hand. It was no easy feat, but I got the job done. I'm pretty proud of myself for that one. :)

Paper Wasps are much more tolerant of people and minor disturbances than are hornets and yellow jackets, which means they're less apt to sting according to the Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders. All I know is I was pretty close to this guy, and he completely ignored me.

Settings used for this image ISO 400 to help get a fast shutter speed and to stop any movement, flash to get more light on the insect, and also to arrest movement, aperture priority, partial metering on the wasp, 1/250 at F9 for better depth of field--especially with a macro lens at 90mm.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Safety Harbor Sunset

I'm a sucker for a nice sunset or sunrise and this one was no exception. This was shot from the Safety Harbor Marina a couple weeks ago, while I was at our regular Monday night Meetup.

I was just getting ready to leave for dinner, when I turned around and took another look. This is what I saw. I had just put my camera away, so I dug it back out of my backpack and quickly shot this scene.

I didn't take the time to change my previous settings, but I'll give them to you anyway. ISO 200, partial metering off the sky which is what produced the silhouette of the trees, 1/125 at F16 in aperture priority with my new 90mm Macro lens because that's what I had on the camera at the time.

The color of the sky was tweaked a bit in Lightroom 2.5. Other than that, no other adjustments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Of all the "butterfly plants", Lantana is my favorite. For one thing, it is native to Florida, so it will not become invasive, but mostly for its delicate little flowers and its range of colors.

In my yard, I have the all lavender variety, but this multicolor variety was found at Sawgrass Lake Park in St Petersburg, FL. I'm fortunate to live about 1/2 mile from Sawgrass Lake, and it's one of the most popular nature parks in the area. Being so close, I can visit it every day. It's also free to get in, so there is no reason to stay away.

This park has lots of American Alligators, and I think of all the times over the years I've visited Sawgrass, I've seen Alligators in every visit but one or two. There are many native plants, many species of birds and plenty of wildlife to be seen. All one has to do is walk through the boardwalks being quiet and aware of sounds on the trails. There's also a beautiful overlook where one can see many shore birds as well as 'gators and turtles. There are also two separate butterfly gardens, which is where I made this image.

Settings for this image is as follows: I used ISO 400 because of the heavy canopy in this park. I was trying out my new 90mm Macro lens on this floral cluster shooting hand held at 1/25 second (pretty slow for this focal length) at F11 for good depth of field. I used partial metering and aperture priority which I use for about 90% of my shooting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This was another shot from our Sunday "Using Your Camera" workshop with my Newbie group. This was one of two Viceroys we saw on this shoot. This one seemed to be posing for us. We were able to get quite close to him without him flitting off, allowing us to get quite a few shots of him.

In Florida, there are two forms of Viceroys, which are in the Brushfoot family. One form mimics the Queen, while the other mimics the Monarch. This one mimics the Monarch. It's not too hard to tell them apart though, because their color is a bit darker than the Monarchs. They are more of a bronzy color and have 2 spots on their forewings, which is lacking in the Monarch. They also glide with their wings horizontal.

The Viceroy's food plants are Willows and can be found in all of Florida except the Keys, in marshy fields and meadows.

Settings used for this image was ISO 400 to allow a faster shutter speed of 1/200 in case he took off and to stop any movement of his wings, F7.1 for better depth of field and sharpness, -2/3 exposure compenstation to keep the highlights from blowing out in the harsh sun, at 250mm with my 55-250mm IS lens.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Common Primrose Willow & Honey Bee

While on one of my teaching meetups, I spotted this Honey Bee working so hard to get at the pollen in this Common Primrose Willow. He seemed to be trying out for yoga competition with all the positions he was getting into. This one has him in an upside down position, laying on his shoulders. It was fun watching him work so hard to get at that little bit of pollen.

For some reason, I really like these wild flowers. Maybe because of their bright yellow color; just like a ray of sunshine.

Settings used for this shot, 1/400 at F7.1, aperture priority, partial metering on the flower, ISO 400 and 55-250mm lens at 250. It was pretty windy, so I upped the ISO to give me a higher shutter speed to stop any action that might have occurred with the wind. The image was slightly cropped for composition in Lightroom.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Safety Harbor Pier

Yes, this is yet another photo of the Safety Harbor Pier taken from the Safety Harbor Marina on our regular Monday Meetup. When I saw this image import from my media card, I couldn't believe my eyes.

I remembered making these photos, but thought they were lost on the card. However, the other night my roommate asked me to take a couple pictures for him, and I used my Canon 20-D, instead of my usual 40-D. Now I know where the photos went! It really stinks getting old. :)

Most of the time at the Monday night meetups I don't shoot any photos. But this particular evening, I just had to capture these amazing clouds and reflections on the still water. This is one of the compositions I made.

Settings used for this shot were ISO 200, 1/80 at F9.0 to get a decent depth of field. If I had bumped up my ISO to 400, I would've been able to use F11, but that would've meant I'd have to deal with some digital noise in my shot. I'd rather not have to deal with it if it can be avoided. The camera was set in Aperture Priority mode and I used partial metering on the sky to be sure it wouldn't wash out. I used my Canon 18-55mm IS lens at 18mm, also to get a good depth of field and a nice wide angle of this scene.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unidentified Orange Flower

This pretty orange flower was shot while I was "playing" with my new macro lens. I didn't have my tripod, and it was very windy, so I'm surprised I even got this one as sharp as it is.

I found this flower in the butterfly garden in Safety Harbor in Veterans' Memorial Park at the Marina. It kind of looks like some kind of poppy. The outside is yellow but the inside is orange. The color is an accurate rendition of the actual color of the inside of the flower. The flowers grow are one to a stem, about 18-24" tall and the Monarch Butterflies won't leave them alone. They apparently love their nectar. There were 3 Monarchs in this garden and each one was burried inside these flowers. They couldn't seem to get enough.

Does anyone out there know what this flower is? I'd appreciate it of you could let me know.

This second shot, although not my best because it clearly shows the effects of the wind is posted to let my readers know the shape, size and outside color of the flower to make it easier to identify.

Settings used to capture this flower were: ISO 200, 1/100th of a second at F7.1 at 90mm with my Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro lens.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dawn at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Another day having to get up to check where the sunrise is and still no sunrise! Now I have to get up again tomorrow. I don't want to miss that window.

I do like this morning's dawn, though. I'm happy with this shot. I sure wish I could post it larger so it isn't so compressed. I caught it today during low tide and the water looked like glass. I think this is the first time I've ever seen the bridge reflected in the water in this spot.

I like the color, too. Nothing was done in post processing except straightening. I have to do that to all my photos where the horizon shows. I have astigmatism (I think that's how it's spelled), so everything I see as straight is crooked.

Setting used for this shot were 15 seconds at F8, -1/3 exposure compensation, in aperture priority with partial metering off the water, at ISO 200 to keep the noise down as much as possible. I used my 55-250mm IS lens.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunshine Skyway Bridge Sunrise

This is the time of year when the sun rises right between the spans of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Every year, around this time I start going there to check out where the sun is because it only rises between the spans for 2 days from this spot. Every year it's at a different time to complicate things even further.

I went for the first time on October 27th. It is impossible to tell where it rose because it was hidden by the heavy cloud cover. If I can get up in the morning, I'm going to go back to check it out.

Unfortunately, the jpg compression took a lot of the beautiful color and contrast in the image away.

This image was shot on a tripod, at ISO 200 to keep the noise down, for 1/25th sec at F4 using partial metering in aperture priority. Nothing other than straightening the horizon was done in post processing with Adobe Lightroom 2.5.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Vinoy Tower

I shot this image during the same meetup as the last photo I posted. Rather than showing the entire photo of The Renaissance Vinoy Hotel, I chose to show only the tower. People who have visited the area know this tower well, so there is no doubt where it was taken.

The beautiful cascading Bougainvilleas on the arbor was what initially attracted me to this site. It's the only place to find "Fall" color in this part of the country. I didn't want the scene to look tropical, but rather like the season. Hopefully, I've managed what I have envisioned. Fall in New England has always been my favorite time of year. From the photos my son sent me from CT the color this year was spectacular. It must be all the rain we've had all summer long.

This was made at around 10:00 am and the sun was pretty strong. I had to be careful of extreme contrasts while not blowing out the whites. I chose F11 to get plenty of Depth of Field (DOF) at 1/320th second because even though my lens is Image Stabilized (IS), I wanted to be sure there was no evident camera shake. I used Aperture Priority mode with pattern metering at ISO 200 and a 55mm focal length with my favorite walk-around lens, a Canon 55-250mm IS lens.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Since we really don't have fall color in St Petersburg, I thought the Bougainvillas on this arbor in Vinoy Park would suffice.

Actually on Sunday, I brought my Newbie group to downtown St Petersburg for their Travel and Vacation Workshop. After the lesson, we walked around Beach Dr, pretending to be tourists and making photos.

It's funny, but people think "Travel" photography means you have to "travel" to make these kind of photos. That's just not true. Anyone can make "travel" pictures right in their home town or at the very least the nearest city. Everyone travels somewhere, and there are always tourists in your city. Someone has to take those photos; why not you!

I know what you're all thinking, "you live in Florida and everyone travels there". Yes, that's true, but I travel to Tennessee, Connecticut and New York. I also travel around Florida and all the states between Florida and upstate New York. You don't have to be on vacation to travel. Try "traveling" in your own home town. Take your camera along and make like tourists. You'd be surprised how things look when you really look at them. Give it a try--I'd be interested in how it worked out for you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honey Bees and Nest

During a walk on one of the trails at Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole, my friends and I came upon this bees' nest high up in a tree.

You can imagine this was shot with a very, long lens. I'm allergic to bee stings, so I didn't want to aggravate these little buggers. All I could think of was that movie, "My Girl", with McCauly Culkin (spelling probably wrong).

I've never seen a nest with the honey combs sticking out of it before and thought this was kind of interesting. There must be thousands of bees on this thing! It's definitely a bee keeper's dream.

Honey anyone?

Settings used for this shot were F7.1 (my sharpest aperture) at 1/30th and ISO 100. Because I was using partial metering, and the yellows and sky were blowing out (according to my histogram), I used a compensation adjustment of -1 1/3 stops. The focal length was 194mm with my 55-250mm lens.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wattled Crane

This Wattled Crane from Africa was photographed at the Lowry Park Zoo. I love their bright red faces. This is a huge crane, standing up to 6 ft tall. This is the second largest crane in the species, second only to the Sarus Crane.

Settings used making this photo are 1/3200 at F7.1 in Aperture Priority mode with partial metering on the bird's face at ISO 400 with 235mm focal length with my 55-250mm lens.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


While I was at The Pier with my friend, Frank, a week-and-a-half ago, I spotted the reflections of these pilings in the water. I rarely shoot anything like this, but for some unexplainable reason, I just happened to like the way they looked.

It's not my usual style, but like I've mentioned in several blogs lately, I've been working on my creativity instead of just walking up to something that looks neat, snap it and quickly walk away. I have a name for that kind of shooting. I call it a "walk up shooter". It's just this type of shooting that I've been trying to work on for several months now. I'm doing a whole lot more thinking and planning a shot before I squeeze that shutter button. Does it work? I'm not sure, but I do like this one. How do you all feel? Let me know in your comments. It would be imteresting to hear someone else's opinion.

Settings used for this shot were handheld 1/2000 at F5.6, Aperture Priority in spot focusing mode (on the reflections), ISO 400 at 240mm with my 55-250mm lens and +1/3 exposure compensation, which I judged by my histogram which was a little to the left side.

It's sometimes difficult to judge your exposure in your viewfinder window. Always trust your histogram. It never lies.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Blue Skimmer

I brought my Newbie Group (Tampa Bay Newbie Photographers Workshops) to Sawgrass Lake Park in St Petersburg, FL yesterday for their bi-monthly lesson and shoot.

Right after my lesson, I spotted this Dragonfly landing on a leaf in this bush just outside of the picnic pavilion where we have our lessons. I grabbed my camera right away and captured this beauty. It was funny, because we were just talking about capturing Dragonflies and how hard it is to get them.

While this position is not the most desirable position to photograph them, I'm happy with the way this grab shot came out. I only had a chance for 3 shots before he flew off. I'm fascinated by Dragonflies because I love their faces; they always look like they're smiling. I also like how delicate they are. I've never been afraid of them and just recently found out that they bite. I never knew that. They just don't look that scary. It hasn't stopped me from photographing them, though.

This was a grab shot, so the settings used were my basic starting settings. I didn't have time to adjust. Whenever I'm done reading my media card after a shoot, the first thing I do is make sure my photos transferred correctly on my computer and are still there after I remove the card from my reader. Then I put it back in my camera, format it, and reset all my settings so it's ready for the next shoot. My normal settings are: ISO200, continuous drive, F7.1, Aperture Priority, Center-weighted metering, RAW, Cloudy White Balance.

Friday, October 9, 2009

St Petersburg Skyline

My friend, Frank, and I went to The Pier in St Petersburg last week to try to capture the sunset over the St Petersburg skyline. We didn't get a lot of clouds, but the color was awesome.

This is one of our favorite haunts. We go up to the 5th floor observation deck where Cha Cha Coconuts restaurant is and shoot to our hearts content. The best thing is the wait staff will serve us out on the deck.

This is one of my favorite images from the shoot. It was shot using my Canon 20D with an 18-55mm lens. I usually don't shoot this skyline wide angle, but for some reason, I decided to give it a try and I like the results. Settings were 1/40th at F4.5 aperture, -1/3 stop eV, in aperture priority mode and average metering at ISO 400 at the 18mm focal length. I chose these settings because they're a little different from my normal settings and was looking to shoot this differently than I usually do.

I've been striving to capture images differently than what I usually see looking for the creativity in my vision. I'm very happy with the results.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nicobar Pigeon

This is another bird from the Asian Gardens at Lowry Park Zoo. It's a Nicobar Pigeon and in my opinion, she's one of the fanciest pigeons I've ever seen. I love her colors!

These birds are from Southeast Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Nicobar India, etc. Currently, they are OK, but are considered a near threatened species due to logging and hunting for food as well as their gizzards being used for jewelry making.

This one is a female, since she has a knob on her beak and unfortunately, her pure white tail can hardly be seen due to her position.

Settings used for this shot in bright afternoon sunlight were 1/60th at F7.1 in aperture priority mode with spot metering off the bird so I wouldn't lose her colors. I used ISO 200 (only because I forgot it was set there). I should've used 400 to get more speed on my shutter and used my 55-250mm lens at 250mm.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Black-naped Oriole

Every now and then when my life gets too hectic and I get overwhelmed with all I have to do, I take a break from everything. I stay off the computer, my camera sits and I pretty much do nothing. If any of you have been wondering, that's what I've done this past week or so.

Today, one of my friends, Kathy, got me out to the zoo. At first I was excited, then I was on the verge of changing my mind about going at all, and finally, Kathy emailed me and said she didn't want to go alone. So, I went and I'm glad I did. I got some great shots, saw an old friend, Carol and met one of Kathy's friends, Mike, from her group.

It was one of the hottest days we've had this summer, but it was worth it. Maybe I'm finally out of that funk. I only edited a few shots from today, but this is one that I really like. He's a cute little bird, not much bigger than a Quaker Parrot, but so pretty.

I promise, I'll be back to my old self. I just had to slow down a bit. I just have too many things going on all at once.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Black Skimmer Landing

In keeping with the bird theme that seems to be very popular this week on our blogs due to a couple meetups that included bird shooting, here's just one more.

Just before sunset every night, the Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls and Terns gather on the beaches to roost. This one, a Black Skimmer is just coming in. It's a pretty amazing sight to see them all lined up--usually facing the same direction roosting on the beaches.

As a bonus, I'm attaching a second image showing more of the flock. There are probably 100 or more birds on this beach just like this.

I've seen them flying at night picking up food on my canal in my back yard. It's amazing to watch how they get their food. If you look closely, you'll notice that their lower beak is quite a bit longer than the upper beak. That's so they can fly (really fast) with their lower beak in the water scooping up food to eat. They have very long wings for their body size. I'll see if I can find a photo where I've caught them swimming for a post later on.

Settings used for these photos are as follows. The shooting mode is in continuous in case one of them or many of them take off, ISO is 200 because although it is nearing sunset, it's still quite bright. The exposure is 1/250 at 7.1, in aperture priority at 250mm with my 55-250mm lens. I used partial metering off the beach so as to not blow out the whites. The shadows were lightened slightly using Lightroom.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tricolored Heron

This Tricolored Heron was sitting at the edge of this pond the same morning I was out with my friends looking for Deer. Although my trip was primarily to hunt and capture Deer photos, I'm not one to pass up a bird shot.

This fellow was very accommodating. He was so busy gazing out over the water, I don't think he noticed me, because I was able to fire off several shots from several angles before I made him nervous enough to fly to the other side of the water.

The trick to bird photography is pretty much the same as for all wild life. Don't run up on them, instead move slowly toward them. Take a few shots from far away so he sees what you're doing isn't hurting them. Crouch down, as low as possible, so you appear less threatening. As you move closer, go even slower. Try not to appear to be stalking them as a hunter or a predator would. If the bird looks at you, look away and pretend you're not watching them. They'll think you're probably stalking something else. Practice your panning technique before your big hunting day, so you'll capture him in flight should he fly off. Be patient and you'll get the shots you want.

Settings used for this image were: Aperture Priority mode with partial metering on the Heron at 400 ISO for speed in case he flew off, and continuous shooting mode. Shutter set at 1/40th at F7.1, the sweet spot on my lens and 0 exposure compensation at 250mm with my 55-250mm IS lens.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


This is a little bit more unusual for me. A friend of mine has been going to John Chestnut Park in the very early mornings and seeing many Deer. So, we decided to make it ladies day out and six of us met at 7:00 am to see if we could find some Deer.

We sure did see Deer--everywhere! The Deer were right in the field in front of the parking lot; I'd say about 20 of them in all. At first they were OK with us making pictures as long as we didn't get too close. We stayed with them as they slowly moved on toward the picnic shelters and kept right on shooting. It's strange, we were all thinking that the thrill wasn't just the fact that we found and were capturing Deer with our cameras, but the hunt was just as thrilling.

I still haven't had time with working diligently on the Safety Harbor project to edit most of the photos I've been taking recently. This is only one from this shoot.

Settings for this image were: ISO 800, because it was still pretty dark, 1/40th at F5.6, +1/3 expsure compensation to allow more light. Partial metering off the Deer, and 250mm with my stablized 55-250mm lens.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Safety Harbor Marina

Monday nights at the Marina, my photography club has their weekly meetup. While some of us shoot photos, most of us don't; we just sit around trading tips and techniques.

This Monday night, I saw these amazing clouds and liked the way they formed a semi-circle with the reflections in the water. I knew this called for a wide-angle lens. I love the way this came out. Usually, I have to tweak stuff a little bit in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. I didn't touch this one, other than resizing.

Funny thing, I like it and it's not really my style at all. I hardly ever use a wide angle unless I have to. I'm beginning to think it's time to explore what I can do with this lens.

Settings used for this image were 1/250th at F10 using 200 ISO and +1/3 exposure compensation with partial metering off the water to be sure I'd capture the reflections of the clouds at 18mm with my 18-55mm lens. The shot was made at 5:15 pm.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Muscovy Chick

This little Muscovy chick was trying to keep up with his mother. He looked so cute with those huge feet, trying to run and waddling at the same time. It's amazing how big their feet are as soon as they're hatched. They grow into them rapidly, but they just look so clumsy at this stage.

This was taken during a project for the City of Safety Harbor. One of the places to see is the Safety Harbor Linear Greenway. I've gone by it so many times on my way to our meetups at the Marina. Every time I go by it, I think that I really need to stop there for pictures. This time I finally stopped and was happy I did. This photo, of course, is not one of the ones for the city. I just love to photograph birds and the babies are just so cute, I can never resist them.

The settings for this image were 1/30th of a second at F7.1 in aperture priority mode at ISO 200. I used partial metering off the duckling and opened up 1 stop to be sure I'd get detail in his eye and dark feathers. It was taken in the early evening at about 5:00 pm under a cloudy sky.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Safety Harbor Shoreline

This beautiful scene was shot the same morning as I shot the pier at sunrise. This little part of the shoreline is to the left of the pier. I've seen this many times, but during the day it looks kind of bland. It just goes to show you how the various qualities of light can affect a scene.

When you've found a beautiful landscape, you should always photograph it at different times of day. You'll never know what beauty you can find otherwise.

Settings for this scene were as follows: It was shot at 6:50 am, just 20 minutes before sunrise at ISO 200 for 13 seconds at F16. I chose ISO 200 so I'd get less digital noise (grain) and F16 for two reasons; I wanted to be sure everything was in focus from near to far and I wanted a slow shutter speed to blur the water and make it smooth. I used Aperture Priority mode so I could set the aperture, with 0 exposure compensation and partial metering on the grass (which is as close to 18% gray as I could get. Since the light was changing very fast, I set my White Balance to Auto; not that it makes a whole lot of difference when shooting RAW. The focal length was 18mm with my 18-55mm lens.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Muscovy Family

It's so sad when I see only one duckling left out of a clutch of 8-12. These two Muscovy's are fiercely protecting this little one. In this shot, they're running for cover beneath this Elderberry bush because three Red-shouldered Hawks are flying above them searching for food. I stayed around until the hawks left so they wouldn't grab the baby.

Nature is wonderful, but so cruel at times. I don't know how these birds grieve or even why they choose to have their clutches in a lake filled with 'gators and many hawks. Year after year I watch their broods disappear. It's no wonder their clutches are so large. That old cliche, "only the strong survive" must've come from the natural world. Sometimes I wish I could protect the little babies. At least I know that if I'm outside nothing will happen to them. The hawks and the 'gators take cover. Unfortunately, I can't be there all the time. On the other hand, the 'gators and the hawks have to eat, too. It must be tough being at the low end of the food chain.

If you've never encountered Muscovy ducks, you don't know how friendly and how gentle they are. Everytime they have a new clutch, they always bring them to our yards to "visit" and show off their young. They're so adorable.

Some of the people in my neighborhood complain because there are so many of them and they even tried to have an ordinance put in place to get rid of them and make it unlawful to offer them food. We don't live within city limits so our opinion will not be heard, but the ordinance didn't pass. I'm happy about that. They know they're safe in my yard and in my neighbors' yards.

Watching them communicate with one another is such a treat to me. Muscovies don't make very loud sounds. The males sort of blow wind through their mouth; I think it comes from their throats and wiggle their tails. The females have a very low whistling sound. When they're communicating with one another, they face each other wag their tails and bob their heads and necks. It's the cutest thing to watch.

Muscovy Ducks are always welcome in my yard.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daybreak at the Safety Harbor Pier

You'll probably be seeing a lot of Safety Harbor through my blog in the coming weeks. I'm currently working on a project to update the Safety Harbor website and for their magazine.

This is the Safety Harbor Pier taken from the Safety Harbor Marina. I've probably taken thousands of photos at this site over the last 1 1/2 years of going there every week for our regular meetups. Of all of them, this one is definitely my favorite. It was worth the effort to get up early to capture something like this.

Speaking of getting up early, I was supposed to meet my friend, Jim, there this morning at "first light". I got up, looked at my watch before putting on my eye glasses, and took off out of the door and drove like a maniac to Safety Harbor so I wouldn't miss the sunrise. Just as I was rounding the corner to the marina, I noticed the clock in the car and it said, 5:50 am. I actually got up at 5:00 instead of 6:00! So, here I was an hour early. How funny.

The settings used to capture this image were at ISO 200 (to avoid noise and to ensure a long exposure to blur the water), F16 to maximize depth of field and sharpness, at 5 seconds. The area is very well lit, so without an ND filter, I couldn't get a longer exposure. I probably could have pushed the aperture to F22 or more, but I didn't want to have to deal with sensor dust, which would get magnified at that level.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


For the last five days, I've been working on a challenge with my photography students to spend 5-15 minutes every day creating one photograph of something they've found in their back yards.

While I was looking for something to photograph, I remembered seeing something that I wanted to try. This is my result. I photographed subjects that looked like the letters in my first name, then created a montage. It only took me 15 minutes to find all the letters.

It was fun looking for these, and I'll tell you that it's quite a challenge to find a new photograph every day in your own back yard. The exercise is to help my students to develop their photographic eye. It also proves that you don't have to drive 50 miles to a "great" place to make a "great" photograph. A good photograph can be found right under your nose if you just look hard enough. The previous four posts in this blog are other things I found to photograph in my yard.

If you want to develop your photographic eye, this is a simple, yet very effective way to challenge yourself. Give it a try; you'll be surprised at what you might find that you've never seen before.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

They're Back!

Every year these Mottled Ducks come here to breed and raise their chicks. Today is the first day I saw them and they are a pleasure to see.

They usually have 12-15 chicks or more per clutch, but unfortunately, they lose a lot of them to the 'gators. Most of the time only 3 or 4 from each clutch survive. It's so sad.

I look forward to seeing them because not only that they've come back, but it's a sign that the weather is cooling off. This is my favorite time of year. It's not too hot and not too cold. It's just perfect. Most of the vacationers have left with their children back in school, and the snow birds haven't arrived. The beaches have emptied out and we Floridians can now start to really enjoy our paradise.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blue Dasher Dragonfly

My photography students haven't been posting a lot to the photo albums and haven't been very active on the board in the last couple weeks. So today I gave them an assignment for a week--and told them I'd do it with them to give them ideas about subject matter.

This Blue Dasher Dragonfly is my today's contribution to the assignment.

After explaining to them that the best way to learn photography is by making pictures, looking at others' pictures and critiquing pictures. I'm sure they feel intimidated because they are beginners and they don't know how to critique, but it's all about forcing them to look--I mean REALLY look at photos taken by others and their own. In order to critique a photo, they need to look at it long enough to decide what they like about it and what they don't like. By analyzing what they like, they're enforcing that concept in their brain and getting ideas which will eventually develop their own style. Be looking at what they don't like, will make them remember that, and they won't make the same mistake. Again, they'll be developing their own style.

Back to the assignment, just in case you want to try it for yourself. They were asked to spend 15 minutes in their front or back yard every day and make a photograph. The first thing that comes to mind is there's nothing out there except grass! That won't work because in the grass, they can find all kinds of critters to make photos of, there's all kinds of detail on the house, maybe a rusty spigot, a coiled hose, well you get the picture (no pun intended).

Everyone is busy these days, and there's very little time--so we think. However, 15 minutes or 5 minutes in your own back yard will definitely yield some very good photos. Once you've made the first one, they get easier to do. People think that they need more time to make a great picture, because they have to drive 50 miles to a great place. That's not true at all. We all need to see right under our noses. Sometimes the best photographs can be found right there. Today, I went out to make the first picture. I was out there 12 minutes, I took photos of 9 totally different subjects. I'll admit, some of them weren't great, some were pretty good, but I'm trying to prove a point here. They don't all have to be great. Although I'd like it if they were.

So, those of you who are wanting to better your photography. Why not give it a try?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Roseate Spoonbill

There's a lot to said about never having to leave your own yard to get photos of beautiful birds like this one. I think I've mentioned this before, but every day I challenge myself to make at least one decent photo a day. This is today's bird. It's not always feasible to go out to find photo opportunities. Sometimes you just have to look right under your nose.

Actually, I was trying to get one or two of the Red-shouldered Hawks that have taken up residence in the Camphor tree right over my roof. There's three of them living there, and the problem is they stay on the branch right over my door, so they spot me as soon as I come out. They've been hanging around here all week, staying on the same branch. It is driving me insane that I can't get a shot off one of them. I'm not sure if they hear the alarm beeping when I open my door or if they hear the door opening, but they wait until I come out then glide right over my head. They don't even bother to screech at me.

This afternoon, I came out without my camera for a change, and one of them stayed on the branch. He looked down at me and stayed there as long as I was talking to him. So I thought, maybe I can just duck in and grab my camera. As soon as I came out with the camera, he glided off. I still didn't get the shot off! They are really starting to get me frustrated. I'm determined to get them though.

For now, I'll just have to pacify myself with this Roseate Spoonbill; not that it's that bad getting a shot at one these beautiful birds.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eastern Screech Owl

I spottrd this little guy sitting on the high tension wire in my backyard last nught about 11:30. I wish he had turned his head, but after waiting a long time, I let him win and took the picture the way he was looking. I didn't dare move around too much, because I didn't want to scare him away.

I attached my flash and turned down my flash exposure by -2 stops so it wouldn't be so harsh. It was still a bit bright, but i was able to tone it down in Lightroom. I used ISO 400, F6.3 in Aperture Priority Mode. The focal length of my 55-250mm lens was tapped all the way out at 250mm. In Lightroom, I cropped it to get a larger image of the little Owl and toned down the exposure. After removing the noise, I was done.