Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sandwich Tern

My grandson, Bill, and I went to the beach today at Ft Desoto in Tierra Verde. I hadn't intended on taking any photographs; just enjoying the water for a change.

The water was a warm 79 Deg. F; still a bit cool for me. I like it best when it's about 85 Deg. I did enjoy it even though it felt a bit cool. I haven't managed to find the time to go to the beach since I moved back to Florida 3 years ago.

I brought my camera and was glad I did. After about a 1/2 hour in the water, I became bored and thought I might as well photograph some birds while I was there. The area I usually go to at Ft Desoto is partially cordoned off because the birds are nesting this time of year. Amongst the Black Skimmers nesting on the beach, were a few of these cute little Sandwich Terns. It's so much fun to watch them diving in the water for fish. I shot this one just before his dive. They're way to fast for me to catch during a dive unless I can get very close. Since this area is roped off, I couldn't get too close, so I had to photograph them up in the sky.

Sandwich Terns aren't very big when compared to the other birds or even when compared to Gulls. I only had my 55 - 250mm lens with me, so it was pretty difficult catching them at all.

Since the sun was pretty bright and this white bird was backlit, I opened up my exposure by 1 stop. I couldn't see the histogram on my camera (I need to get one of those hoods); I had to guess that the exposure was fairly close. I probably could've opened up by another 1/2 stop to get more detail in the shadows. Anyway, it isn't too bad like it is. Thank Heaven I shoot RAW. Shooting RAW has saved my butt many times when I don't get the exposure right on. It's especially important when shooting fast moving objects and there isn't enough time to be checking exposure and adjusting it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

White Tipped Black Moths

This was taken in my back yard in St Petersburg, FL. I've never seen these little moths before and I couldn't find them in any of the insect books I have. Finally, I gave up and Googled, "black moth, Florida" and finally came up with the name of these little guys.

They are so cool with their red thorax and black abdomen and, as you can see they're pretty small. They really love my Mexican Sunflower tree, too. They were just all over it. Each one landing on a flower and staying there for quite some time.

To judge their relative size, I've included the whole flower in this photo. The flower is about 4 - 5" in diameter, so by comparison, these are pretty small moths. They're easier to see if you click on the photos to see a larger version.

These were shot after 4:00 pm when the sun was pretty low in the sky. Especially when photographing yellows, the sun needs to be lower in the sky and not shining directly on the flower so the yellow doesn't blow out or become over saturated.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Madeira Beach

It's that time again when everyone is thinking about vacation and the beach. We're already getting some pretty hot weather in Florida.

This shot was made on 5/2/2009 across from John's Pass on Madeira Beach, FL. As you can see, there are plenty of people on the beach already. One thing I can tell you for sure, none of these people are Floridians, they are all tourists. How do I know that, you ask. Easy, Floridians don't head to the beach until the water is at least 80 Deg F. The water was probably 72 Deg and the beginning of the month. This is fine for all the northerners whose water temperature never reaches above 65 deg. even in the summer.

It looks like a nice, warm, peaceful day and these 2 women sitting on the rocks appear to be just enjoying the sounds of the surf and watching everyone play. What a great day!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Golden Lion Tamarin

Since I haven't been out shooting since my Lowry Zoo trip, I'm posting another photo from there.

This is a Golden Lion Tamarin. It's pretty easy to see how he got his name. I like the way he's laying on this log. It makes a good portrait. Believe it or not, this is not desaturated at all; the colors are just the way they came out of the camera. Behind him is a "rock" background and the perch is actually this color.

I like the way the light was hitting his coat. It really shows off the sheen and the color. His expression is kind of sad, though.

I shot this using fill flash (- 1 stop) because of the back light and I wanted to show some detail in his face. I think this technique worked very well and it helped to put some nice catch lights in his eyes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crested Seriema

This is another bird from my visit to Lowry Park Zoo. This guy was up above my head on a perch and just looking down checking me out while I was checking him out. It looks like he has the start of a cataract in this eye. The other one is clear, but this one looks a bit cloudy.

He's a rather large bird, probably the size of a Great Blue Heron in height, but much more stout. He seemed friendly enough or maybe just curious, but wouldn't come any closer. I love that little tuft of feathers just above his beak. It adds to his curious expression.

Whenever I'm shooting birds or animals in a zoo, I try not to show signs of a zoo in the background. Not because I'm trying to fool anyone, but because I want the photo as natural as possible. The easiest way to do this is with a wide aperture. I don't open it all the way, because the depth of field would be limited and all the bird will not be in focus; especially when using a telephoto lens. This one was shot at F6.3 and 1/250th. I think it blurred out the background just enough so it doesn't detract from the photo, yet enough so it hid the mesh above his head and behind him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unknown Bird Species

My grandson and I went to Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL today. One of the first places we visited was the Free Flight Aviary where I spotted this bird.

Usually I take a photo of the signs so I know what kind of bird or animal I'm photographing. Today I didn't bother because Lowry Zoo always had each bird and animal identified on their website. Wouldn't you know, they've changed their website and no longer have photos and names. What a shame! I'd love to know what kind of bird this is.

He's sitting on top of his nest box about to go in. It looks like he might have some feed in his mouth for either the nesting female or maybe even chicks. There are a lot of new chicks at the zoo in the aviary. I refer to this bird as a he since he's so brilliantly colored and most of the time the most colorful is the male.

I made this image using fill flash at -1 stop. It was a little bright so I toned it down in Lightroom. The next time I think I'll use - 1 1/2 stops. I used Aperture Priority at + 1/3 stops at F 6.3 to ensure I'd have enough detail in the bird while blurring out the background and 1/250 shutter speed to stop any action on the bird's part. I used my 55-250mm lens at 250mm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Framed by Palms

I'm always looking for different angles when I'm out photographing. During the Tampa Trolley Tour with my group last Saturday, I spotted this scene just begging to be photographed.

I like the way the Palms frame the facade of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Tampa. Our group spent some time there on our first Trolley Tour but we concentrated on photographing the inside of this beautiful hotel located across the street from the Tampa Convention Center. I'm not sure how many stories it rises up but I think this image displays it's height effectively.

Normally, it's not considered "good photography" to show a building tilted like this, but in this case I chose to break the "rules" in an effort to show how high this building really is. This inside is just as beautiful as the outside and one of the most unusually decorated or laid out hotels I've seen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Homeless Laundry Day

I think I've mentioned before in my blog that I started as a Photojournalist. I try hard to capture my photos in the camera and not in Photoshop, but as a photojournalist, the editor wants as much as one can possibly get in the frame so he/she can crop as they like. Consequently, when creating my nature and other photography I have to make a conscious effort to crop in camera--not in post processing.

While on our group's monthly Trolley Tour of Tampa, FL, I came upon this scene from behind Tampa's Performing Arts Center on the Hillsborough River. If you look closely, you can see the legs of the woman that these clothes belong to. Times are hard with unemployment rates in our country being the highest in years. Banks are closing, too many homes are in foreclosure and this unfortunately is how way too many people end up--living under a bridge. I have to give it to this woman, though, she's at least trying to keep her clothes clean.

It's such a sad state of affairs and I can only hope our new President can come up with a solution before we have another depression like we had in the '30s.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black Racer

The other day out in my yard after a rain I spotted this Black Racer coming out of his hole. He didn't seem to mind the photographs as long as I kept my distance.

If you live in Florida, chances are you will see many of these snakes. They hunt by day and eat frogs, lizards, birds, mice and small creatures.

They get their name because they are so fast. They are not usually aggressive, preferring to slither away from you either to tall grass, brush or up a tree. They are also excellent swimmers. Black Racers are not poisonous, but if they are cornered or feel threatened they'll bite and keep biting.

Fortunately, I'm not afraid of snakes. If I were, it would be hard to live in Florida since they're encountered so often.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

White Rose

Recently, I took a trip to the Florida Botanical Gardens. The Roses are in bloom and it smelled so good at the garden. This is one of my favorites taken that day.

Florida has been going through a drought and it's really affecting the plants, flowers and even the trees in my yard. Thank Heaven we've had rain the past couple days. It won't help with the drought unless we get rain for many days, but our grass is starting to come back and the trees are looking a lot healthier. I was afraid we were going to loose our Avocado tree. That would've been a shame. I love Avocado.

Anyway, back to the Rose. My friend brought a spray bottle of water and sprayed this flower just before I made this photo. What a difference it makes. It made the flower come alive! Spray bottles also help when photographing butterflies, insects and dragonflies, by the way.

While I admit I'm a lazy photographer, this day I set out to get some great images. I brought along my closeup filters and used them. Most of the time they just sit in my camera bag adding weight to an already heavy bag. For this shot, I added a +1 closeup lens and it was just enough to allow me to fill the frame with this beautiful Rose. I also chose to use an fairly small aperture because closeup lenses tend to make the depth of field really shallow and I wanted the whole rose to be in focus. This was shot with my Canon 40D, 75-300mm lens at 190mm, +1 closeup filter, at F8, 1/250th, and ISO 400. I'm including the technical data because several people have asked me for it. Just keep in mind that different cameras and lenses react differently to the same settings. These settings are just a starting point. You'll have to judge the results for yourself with your own equipment.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I've been playing around with post-processing techniques lately, and I like this effect. It's the new, edgy or grunge effect that's so popular these days. I think this effect looks better on a guy, but I still kind of like how this looks on Monica.

This is another technique I've been trying. It's a cross-processing technique that I learned from my friend and mentor, Jim Sykes. If you'd like to see some of his work, it can be found at here. This technique I just call the blue thing, it's again of Monica and although it's not quite there yet, I like this way it looks. Now all I have to do is perfect it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Osprey Flight Formation

Yesterday, my meetup group and I met at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, FL. We took a walk on the Osprey Trail to see a Bald Eagle nest and hopefully a glimpse of the Eaglets. Unfortunately, the area next to the nest was cordoned off, so we weren't able to get very close to the nest so I couldn't get very good shots of it.

I did however, get some great shots of the Ospreys in their nests and the Osprey chicks. These two were flying doing some kind of dance near their nest. I'm not sure what they were doing, but it was thrilling to watch them fly overhead.

This is one of my favorite shots of these two. Actually, it's one of my favorite shots of the day. I love how they're flying so close in formation. A fast shutter speed and high ISO allowed me to get this sharply detailed shot. I used + 1 1/2 stops exposure compensation since I was shooting in the sky which allowed me to hold the shadows from blowing out and keep detail in their whites.

I'll be posting more shots from this shoot at a later time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Riding the Surf

Sunday evening I took my grandson to the beach to catch the sunset. He's just beginning to learn photography, so while he's here, I'm trying to teach him all I can.

While we were waiting for the magic moment when the sun set, we spotted this kid riding the waves with a mini surf board. I liked the movement of the water, so I decided to make this shot from a high view point, leaving the cloudless sky out of the picture.

Riding these little waves looks pretty tough--the Gulf is usually pretty calm and doesn't get large swells like the Atlantic or, better yet, the Pacific. He's doing pretty well though. This boy and his two friends gave us plenty of action to shoot while we waited for the sunset, and another lesson for my grandson.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Red-fronted Macaw

This little Red-fronted Macaw was with is owner last night when I arrived a bit early for our regular Monday Night Meetup in Safety Harbor.

I had never seen a Red-fronted Macaw before and couldn't get over how small they are--especially compared to the rest of the Macaw family. This guy is about the size of a Grackle or a tad bit smaller than a Crow. He gets his name from the red edge on the front of his wings. I assumed he was young because of his small size when the owner told me that he was 16 yrs. old.

He's a cute little bird and listened well to his owner's commands. I shot this pose after his owner told him to pose for the camera. After that he struck several different poses and stood still as I made my shots. Once I was through taking photos of him, his owner took him through several of his tricks, including one where he goes down his owner's t-shirt head first, turns around, then goes back up and pops up through the neckline. During his visit, I never heard him speak, so I'm wondering if he's a non-speaking variety. He's cute just the same.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area and would like information about joining my photography group, just click on this link.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eastern Coral Snake

Yesterday my grandson and I attended an 8 camera club meetup in Largo, where 3 totally different parks share the land.

The meetup started in Florida Botanical Gardens, where my friend, Jim Sykes (see his work at gave a presentation on macro photography. As usual, Jim's presentation was very enlightening. My grandson, who is very new (only 2 weeks) into photography immediately put Jim's techniques to work, and came up with more astonishing photos. This kid is a natural. I'm amazed at his natural vision.

Getting back to the Coral Snake, which incidentally is extremely poisonous, but not very aggressive, thank goodness, was just crossing the pathway between 2 of the parks when we spotted him. I took a lot of shots, and I couldn't make up my mind between 2 of them. This one is my final decision.

A LITTLE ABOUT CORAL SNAKES taken from the National Geograpic website:
"A bite from the notoriously venomous eastern coral snake at first seems anticlimactic. There is little or no pain or swelling at the site of the bite, and other symptoms can be delayed for 12 hours. However, if untreated by antivenin, the neurotoxin begins to disrupt the connections between the brain and the muscles, causing slurred speech, double vision, and muscular paralysis, eventually ending in respiratory or cardiac failure.

This iconic snake, with its bulbous head and red, yellow, and black bands, is famous as much for its potent venom as for the many rhymes—"Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack"—penned to distinguish it from similarly patterned, nonvenomous copycats, such as the scarlet king snake.

Coral snakes are extremely reclusive and generally bite humans only when handled or stepped on. They must literally chew on their victim to inject their venom fully, so most bites to humans don't result in death. In fact, no deaths from coral snake bites have been reported in the U.S. since an antivenin was released in 1967.

Eastern coral snakes are relatives of the cobra, mamba, and sea snake. They live in the wooded, sandy, and marshy areas of the southeastern United States, and spend most of their lives burrowed underground or in leaf piles.

They eat lizards, frogs, and smaller snakes, including other coral snakes. Baby snakes emerge from their eggs 7 inches (17.8 centimetes) long and fully venomous. Adults reach about 2 feet (0.6 meters) in length. Average lifespan in the wild is unknown, but they can live up to seven years in captivity."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Brown Pelican Landing

This was shot on my trip to John's Pass with my grandson. I was just fooling around tracking Pelicans coming in and caught this one just right.

John's Pass is a great place to see many Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Snowy and Great White Egrets and of course, all kinds of Laughing Gulls. It's also a great place to practice catching the birds in the air as well as landing and taking off. They all hang around the boardwalk waiting for tidbits from the fishermen as they clean the fish on the docks. These birds are used to people, so they're not skittish at all.

It's also a great place to watch for dolphin in the channel. They usually follow the bigger boats, like the Casino Cruises as they come in and out to pick up passengers. In addition, if you like to go shopping or eat fresh fish and seafood, this is the place to visit. There are so many little shops and restaurants, there is something for all.

John's Pass is on Madeira Beach on the central west coast of Florida.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sportsman's Saloon

My grandson is in town for a visit so yesterday I took him to one of the more famous tourist traps in the area. We went to John's Pass in Madeira Beach.

This is the side entrance to the Sportsman's Saloon on the boardwalk. I've been to John's Pass probably a thousand times since I've lived in Florida, but for some reason, I never noticed this. It just could be that the Sportsman's Saloon built it recently, since it's a new lounge.

This entrance reminds me of some of the PC games and some of the old movies, where a secret entrance is found. I just like the way it sits between the two palm trees.