Perseid Meteor Shower 2015

The conditions for the Perseid Meteor Shower this year were ideal so myself and a photographer friend, Robert Chaplin, ran out to the Everglades to see if we could capture some in photographs. It turned out we could.

For this meteor shower we had planned to head over to the Big Cypress National Preserve but due to less than ideal weather conditions made a last minute call to head south to Flamingo in Everglades National Park instead. Except for the mosquitoes it turned out to be a good decision that resulted in some good images. I even managed to capture a lightning bolt to go along with the milky way and meteors.

The Flamingo campground area provided a good variety of foreground subject to use to anchor the vast sky and compliment the shooting stars. The meteor shower peaked between 3 and 4:30 in the morning. During the peak I was seeing a meteor almost every second with numerous bright fireballs.

It was definitely worth the mosquito bites and the lack of sleep. I am already looking forward to Decembers Geminids.

Milky Way Landscapes Everglades National Park

I took advantage of the new moon last week to head out to Everglades National Park to try my hand at capturing some unique Milky Way Landscape shots. Everglades National Park is one of the few dark sites here in South Florida where one can actually see the Milky Way with the naked eye. I wanted to try and use the Milky Way to compliment the overall scene.

To accomplish this I took two (2) photos with an aperture at f/2.8. One focused on the foreground subject and the second focused on the night sky. I then combined the two (2) images together to ensure that both my foreground subject and the Milky Way were sharp and in focus. The exposure times were around 25 seconds. I used a handheld flash to illuminate the foreground during the exposure.

Click on Thumbnails for full image.

Everglades National Park Thunderstorms June 2015

June is typically the wettest season in South Florida which also means one of the best times to chase thunderstorms. Unfortunately, this year has been very dry and the thunderstorms have primarily been rain showers. On my last trip out to try and shoot lightning I only managed to capture some nearby solitary rain showers and dramatic clouds. Although I still liked the resulting dramatic images, they would have been much better had I also had a bolt of lighting in the field of view. Hopefully, the storms will become more plentiful as the summer goes on.

I also manged to capture a close up image of a screeching hawk just prior the storms arrival.

Milky Way Over Rare Cowhorn Orchid in Everglades National Park

There is a Cowhorn/Cigar Orchid in Everglades National Park that is growing out of an old tree stump. The orchid is a very rare specimen as it is more than 5 feet wide and 8 feet tall. It is one of my favorite orchids in the park to see in full bloom. I have been trying to capture a captivating image of this rare Cowhorn Orchid in Everglades National Park for the last three (3) years. However, each time the images come out boring or to busy.

This year I decided to get creative with my efforts and visit the orchid in the middle of the night. I envisioned using the dark starry sky as my backdrop to contrast the vibrant orchid and cause it to stand out in the image. I used a flash to illuminate the orchid and some of the foreground. I was also rewarded in that the milky way was positioned in an ideal location to compliment the scene.

I am happy with this effort and believe I finally got a photo of this orchid that is unique and captivating. I also captured a few sunrise photos before I left, however I had a little problem with my lens fogging up right before the sun rose above the horizon.

Nike Missile Site Everglades National Park

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to tag along with the South Florida National Parks Camera Club to take a tour of the Nike Missile Base located in Everglades National Park. The Nike Missile Base, HM-69, is no longer in operation and has been declared an historic site. The base was constructed in 1962 to help defend the United States from an attack from Russia during the Cuban Missile Crises. The base closed in 1979.

Everglades National Park offers tours of the site from December through April. There is a fully assembled restored Nike Missile on site within one of the missile silos.

I decided to process the photos in black and white to reinforce the historic nature of the location. Also, I was there in very harsh noon time sunlight causing high contrast between the dark and light areas which yields a more pleasing look in black and white than it does in color.

I highly recommend the tour next time you visit Everglades National Park.

Everglades National Park Early Morning Fog

Photographing fog has been on my list of things to do for quite some time. Being that fog is unpredictable and happens early in the mornings, I have been procrastinating on setting my alarm. However, yesterday I saw that there was a dense fog advisory and high probability for fog so I decided to get up early and make a trip out to Everglades National Park.

The fog cooperated and was fairly heavy. The sun was scheduled to rise around 6:50 AM but did not make an appearance until after 9 as a result of the fog. I did not have a real plan on how to shoot the fog so I experimented as I went. I captured a few decent shots and learned a lot for my next photo trip.

I found that fog is best captured with a long lens that compresses the scene and more accurately reflects the scene. Unless you are in white out conditions, fog is more noticeable in the distance than right around you. This is more accurately captured and/or accentuated with a long lens versus a wide angle lens.

I still need to find the best subject matter to compliment the fog. I tried pine trees and cypress trees yesterday. Next trip I will work with some of the lakes and/or boardwalks.

Another lesson learned was that color photos and fog tend to be bland. I found that if I converted them to black and white they had more emotion.

Everglades on Ice

While looking at the weather forecast yesterday afternoon I came up with an idea for what could be a unique photograph. Yesterdays forecast called for the coldest weather South Florida has seen in more than 4 years. The lows in the interior were thought to dip to the mid 20’s to low 30’s and a freeze warning was issued by NOAA. I envisioned trying to capture an image in the everglades with white frost within the landscape. A unique image that would be hard to repeat unless you had the right conditions. I called a friend of mine, Robert Chaplin, and asked if he was interested in tagging along with me. He said yes, so we headed out this morning at 5:30 AM to see what we could create.

Unfortunately for us, but good for the local farmers, the temperatures were running some 4 degrees higher than forecast and the wind speeds also stayed higher than forecast limiting the formation of frost. I had hoped to have widespread white frost on the ground to set my scene but now I would have to find something else. We ended up at the Pahayokee Overlook Boardwalk. Man made objects, especially those raised off of the ground tend to freeze/frost faster than living plant matter. Luckily for me the Payhayokee Boardwalk was iced over when we got there from top to bottom.

I set up my shot to use the Boardwalk as my leading line and main subject matter since I was hoping to accentuate the icing. This proved problematic since prior to the sunrise there was no light to reflect off the ice and make it recognizable as ice. I ended up using my flash and flashlight to try and make the ice more visible. I never did end up with exactly what I was hoping for but I still managed to capture an image that is captivating and has visible ice. The only problem is that without the background story one may not realize that the white color is ice and not the normal color of the boardwalk.

Luckily as a bonus I captured a few other good photos both prior to the sun rising and afterward. I even got a visit from one of the local owls. All in all it was a successful trip even if not exactly how I planned it.

On the way out I stopped back by the Cypress Dome with the blooming Everglades Daisy’s to give it one more try. I know there is a good photo in there I just am having a hard time finding a way to capture it with my camera. So far I like this effort the best. I will see if it continues to grow on me.

Everglades National Park Scouting Trip

For Presidents Day I decided to take a day trip out to Everglades National Park to explore a few trails and Cypress Domes I have not been to in a while. The weather was great, not to hot, and there were little to any bugs to speak of.

I started my journey in a well known Cypress Dome called Double Dome. Most of the dome was dry except for the deep hole in the middle and few deeper spots here and there. However, dry is relative when talking about Cypress Domes. During the wet season Cypress Domes typically are full of water, anywhere from shin deep to waist deep. Therefore, dry means no standing water. However, there was plenty of squishy mud. Between the wet season and the complete dry season is a time period where the ground is mushy and soft. This was one of those times. Some of the Bromeliads were in bloom and the resident large gator was there guarding his watering hole and female. I saw a few Water Moccasins but none wanted to be photographed. There were also a good number of birds flying around and feeding in the few water holes remaining, including a couple of Great Blue Herons.

My next stop was a smaller less well know Cypress Dome that was full of blooming yellow flowers. I tried to capture the scene but found it to be pretty difficult. The scene was just to busy with all of the flowers, cypress trees and branches and then the grass. I am sure that printed very large it would all seem proportional, but shrunk down on a computer screen or at low resolution it is just hard to not be overwhelmed by complexity and overabundance of details.

After photographing the Cypress Dome, I then hiked a few other trails but did not find anything of interest to photograph. I finished the day by hiking a trail I had never been on but had spotted from Google Earth. On the trail I came across an alligator that had died some time ago. All that was left was some bones and the skull. They had all been bleached white by the sun. I took a few photos of it just for fun. It appeared to be a fairly good sized gator when it was alive.

I could envision capturing some good photos from this new trail given the right conditions. I will definitely hike it again.

Snake Bight Boardwalk Sunrise Everglades National Park

This morning a few members from the newly formed South Florida National Parks Camera Club took an early morning bike ride down Snake Bight trail in Everglades National Park.  The goal was to capture a sunrise over Florida Bay.  We left Homestead around 4:30 and arrived at the trial head around 5:30.  The trail is only about 2 miles long but at night in the dark it is much harder to traverse.  On this trip it was even harder than we anticipated due to the lack of maintenance and how overgrown the trail was.  In fact one of the members of our party encountered a fallen log that was not visible due to the high grass and fell off his bike.  No one was seriously hurt but he was definitely sore the rest of the day.

Eventually we made the Snake Bight boardwalk just at prime light.  I managed to capture a few images before the rest of the guys caught their breath and got their camera equipment set up.  As a result I was able to capture an image of the empty boardwalk and use it as a leading line toward the rising glow of the sun.  I was happy with the composition and colors in this image and will likely add it to my website collection.

Snakebight Boardwalk Sunrise