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.