Monday, August 22, 2016

Slideshow of Lake Apopka


Wildlife of Lake Apopka

Over the last few days I've put together some of my favorite photos from Lake Apopka and assembled them into a video slideshow.  Lake Apopka has become one of my favorite places to visit--so much wildlife and so much diversity!  My video is about 7 minutes long; that's a little longer than I I intended, but I don't know how to make it shorter.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Photographing Waterfalls with Small Equipment

Muddy Creek
Muddy Creek
I visited Western Maryland in late July, and I had a lot of fun visiting my all-time favorite park, Swallow Falls State Park. I visited the park twice. On one day, I went to the main park entrance and walked the trails inside the park.  On the second day, I walked a trail on the other side of the Youghiogheny River. When I lived in Maryland I wasn't a birder, so I wondered what kind of wildlife might be in the park. I was not disappointed, as there singing warblers all over the park, including Pine, Hooded, Black-throated Green, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Common Yellowthroat and Northern Waterthrush. In Florida I never get to hear thrushes sing, and it was wonderful to hear Veeries, Wood Thrushes and Hermit Thrushes as well.  The biggest highlight was my first ever Winter Wren.

Muddy Creek Falls
Muddy Creek Falls
Swallow Falls
Swallow Falls
But when I was out birding, I also wanted to take photographs of the falls and cascades along Muddy Creek and the Youghiogheny River, some of the more picturesque falls in Maryland.  However, I didn't want to constantly change lenses or lug around a big tripod, so I decided to go with my DSLR and 400mm lens and then use my Canon Powershot G7X for landscapes. I brought a small tripod that is about 10 inches long when collapsed, but can expand to be about waist high.  Because it's so small, I could put one leg inside my belt and keep it with my camera. When paying attention to birds, I didn't even notice it, but it was always there when I wanted to photograph the beautiful scenery.

Muddy Creek Falls
Muddy Creek Falls
Muddy Creek Falls
Muddy Creek Falls
I think the set up worked pretty well.  The G7X takes great pictures, especially if I don't need shallow depth of field.  To get sharp images with long exposures, I put the camera on my small tripod and then put the self-timer on 2 sec. to eliminate camera shake.  I shot most of the waterfalls with a long exposure, but always 1 second or shorter, due to the limitations of the point and shoot. Of course, most of these images were taken between 7am and 9am so that sunlight doesn't cause mottled lighting on the trees and make it impossible to get slow shutter speeds.  I've included some of my favorite photos from my two days at the park. It seems to me that with this kind of photography, a large-sensor point and shoot will do a pretty good job, even when stacked up against the 40D I used to use when I lived in Maryland.  Of course, it can't compete with a DSLR in many other types of photography, but I will never shy away from using a point and shoot for landscapes again.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Boonie Falls


Trail to Boonie Falls
Last week I was on vacation at Deep Creek in Western Maryland, and in the mornings I would visit Swallow Falls State Park, which has some absolutely beautiful waterfalls. I came home to Florida wanting more, but, well, this is Florida.  I've known of a small falls along the Florida Trail in the Little Big Econ State Forest, but I've never gone to see it.  Those that have often joke about how small it is.  But I decided I had to go see for myself.  The waterfall is called Boonie Falls, and it can be accessed by parking in the grass next to Lockwood Blvd in Oviedo. There is hardly any signage, and so you have to know where it is in order to find it. But I made the half-mile walk to the falls.

A Nice Little Pond You Can Almost See
The walk out there was prettier than I anticipated. I arrived at 5:30pm, so the sun was still a little to high for photographing trees, but I took a few shots with my point and shoot anyway, just for fun. These photos will at least give you a sense of how pretty the trail is.  Much of the trail is actually a very rudimentary boardwalk, and part of it looks brand new.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk
Boardwalk
After crossing a small bridge over Lockwood Creek, the trail takes a sharp turn to the left, and you can hear the falls.  I chuckled almost as soon as I found it. There's a sign explaining that this is the southernmost falls along the Florida Trail and a bench that, should you sit on it, would almost give you a nice view of the falls except for the small tree that partially obstructs your view.

Boonie Falls

Boonie Falls is a Little More interesting in Video

So I visited the southernmost waterfall on the Florida Trail.  It's nothing to write home about, but I guess it is something to blog about.  Perhaps I'll visit it again in the hopes of some better photos, but more likely, if I go there again, it will be to find wildlife and scenery. But I'm glad I went and saw it. It was a fun experience.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Recording Video of Waterfalls


A few months ago I purchased a point and shoot camera, the Canon Powershot G7X.  I wanted to be able to quickly take photos of landscapes while I'm out birding without having to carry two DSLRs or switch lenses.  I had very little desire to take video with the camera.  However, it's very easy to do, so lately I've taken some short videos just see if I could make something interesting.  Last week I was up in Maryland, and I took 20 second videos of all the scenes I photographed.  Then I put them together as short movies with background music.


I visited Patapsco Valley State Park in Baltimore and Swallow Falls State Park in western Maryland. I love the photos I took of these parks, but when I put together the video footage, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they seemed a bit more interesting.


When I returned home, I figured I would visit a waterfall in my home county. It's nothing like what I can visit in Maryland.  It's tiny and not very picturesque at all, so I find it kind of humorous compared to the beautiful falls of Maryland.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Markham Woods Tract Scenery

Markham Woods Tract HDR
Well, 2016 is the last year of the 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas for Florida (BBA2).  The first one began in 1986 and lasted for 5 years.  This second one began in 2011.  I became involved in 2013, and it's been a wonderful way to motivate me to get out into nature during the hot months of May, June and July. This being the last year of the survey, we're focusing on certain strategic areas.  We use the U.S. Geological Survey Quad maps, and we divide each map into six blocks.  The 6-block of each quad is an area where we want to concentrate.  So I've spent a fair amount of time at the Markham Woods Tract of the Wekiva Springs State Park, since that's in the 6-block of the Sanford SW Quad.  I've been here a few times before, but I've never concentrated on the area because it seems like other areas are just a little bit better for finding wildlife.

Markham Woods Tract
However, I've been there quite frequently this May and June and Iv'e found that the area is much more expansive than I had thought.  I've added 18 species this year to my list for this eBird hotspot, mostly because I've explored more of the area. I've been bringing my point and shoot camera with me, and occasionally I shoot a few scenic shots.  Here are a couple that I'm willing to show you.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Virginia Opossum with Young

Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Yesterday morning I drove out to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  It's one of my favorite places for birding, and I was hoping to photograph a Yellow-breasted Chat that had been located there the day before. I heard two calling and singing in different places, but neither was interested in coming into view so I could get his photo.  Still, it was a fun drive.  My favorite moment, though, had nothing to do with birds. I saw an opossum walking towards me.  At first I thought it had some sort of deformity. It looked like it had a growth coming out the left side of its head.  But as it came closer, I noticed she had 4 little ones clinging on to her!  Because one was covering her eyes, I think she was more concerned with her young than with me. So I crouched down and remained motionless to let it get closer. When it came closer than my camera could focus, I backed up. She seemed totally unconcerned with me until I stood up to walk away, at which point she wandered into the taller grasses. These moments made my day.

Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
Opossum with Young
 Here is a link to my eBird checklist for the morning.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ruff at Marl Bed Flats, 5/3/2016

Ruff
Ruff
This morning I drove out to Marl Bed Flats. It rained last night, and I was hoping something interesting might show itself out on the flats.  I got my wish when I saw a couple Semipalmated Plovers in the muddy areas along the lake shore.  I also flushed a Wilson's Snipe--a common species in March, but pretty rare this time of year. I would have arrived at work happy just to see these.

Ruff
Ruff
However, down by the shore of Lake Jesup I came across a loose flock of yellowlegs and Black-necked Stilts. As I was taking photos of the yellowlegs, one turned its head and the bill was too short for a yellowlegs. Then I saw a profile view of the bird and a flight shot, and I was blown a way.  A Ruff, practically in my back yard! This bird is about 20 minutes from my home.  I still can hardly believe it.

Bobolinks
Bobolinks with 2 Least Sandpipers
Another highlight was about 150+ Bobolinks in the same area.  I got one pretty fun flight shot of them, mostly males with a few females sprinkled in.  It was fun to find a couple Least Sandpipers mixed in with the Bobolinks.

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