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.

Palm Island Cape Haze, Florida

This year my family and I took a much needed vacation to Palm Island Resort in Cape Haze, Florida. Palm Island is a beautiful and quiet destination with miles of undisturbed beaches and plenty of sea shells. I brought my camera with the hope of capturing some vivid west coast sunsets. The first 3 days or so did not cooperate with cloudy and raining skies. However, the last few days made up for the first few days with some great sunsets.

The only problem I had was trying to compose the shots with something interesting in the foreground so that the image would be more dynamic. I had to get creative as nothing jumped out at me. To make it harder I was also trying to keep an eye on my one year old while trying to set up my shot. All in all I am happy with the results.

On this trip I also had an opportunity to use my Outex cover some more. I really like this cover as it gave me the opportunity to create some unique photos that would have been impossible without it. I am still figuring it out but I am making progress.

Keeping Lens Filter From Binding Onto Camera Lenses

I frequently use lens filters with my lenses for my landscape photography such as circular polarizers, neutral density filters and step up rings. Inevitably they always seem to get stuck on my lenses at the most inopportune time. I then spend the rest of my photo shoot trying to get the lens off or, if I just leave it on and try to work around it, frustrated that the lens filter is stuck.

Luckily, I have always eventually been able to remove the stuck filter. The same cannot be said for some other photographers I have spoken to. Some of them have had filters on their lenses that have been stuck for years. After the most recent occurrence I started thinking there had to be some way to keep this from continuing to happen. After spending some time researching I finally found a solution that works and thought I would pass it on to my fellow photographers.

From my research there were two (2) primary approaches to keeping lens filters from remaining stuck in perpetuity. The first was using tools to remove filters after they were stuck, the second was taking preemptive action to keep them from getting stuck in the first place.

For removing already stuck lens filters it seems the best tool for the job is a lens filter wrench. These cheap accessories apply equal pressure to the filter and from all accounts easily remove the filter from the lens. The lens wrenches usually come in packs of two (2) and can be had for less than $10.00 at your local photo supply store. Even if you take preemptive actions it is not a bad idea to own and carry this item with you on your photo excursions.

To keep lens filters from becoming stuck in the first place, the best solution is to use good old pencil lead. Turns out pencil lead is primarily made from graphite. Graphite is a great dry lubricant and does not cause a mess, smear on the lens or attract additional dirt and grim that is likely to cause the lens to get stuck even more frequently. Without getting into to much detail, pencils are labeled based upon the level of graphite they contain. The softer the lead the more graphite it contains. The softest pencil available is a 9B the hardest is a 9H. These pencils are typically only found at your local hobby store. However, many people use the standard No. 2 pencil as well. Here is a link to a more detailed explanation of pencil hardness http://www.cultpens.com/pencyclopedia/lead-hardness.

For me I went to my local hobby store and picked up a 6B which happened to be the softest they had in stock at the time. When I got home I proceeded to rub the lead on the threads of my lenses and my filters. I then blew off any excess powder than did not stick to the threads. I am happy to say that I have not had any stuck filters since taking this preemptive action. I also now carry a lead pencil in my photo bag with me and occasionally add a new layer of lubrication to the filters.

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.

Highland Hammock

I stopped by Highland Hammock after a friends wedding this past weekend. They had recommended this as a great place for photography so I wanted to drive through and check it out. I did not have time to do much exploring as I had my family with me, but we did get to walk a few of the boardwalks and drive some the trails. It was a very unique place that I will definitely return to when I can spend a day or so catching the right lighting conditions. We also saw some wildlife including deer and some gopher tortoises.

Corkscrew Swamp Sancutary

I tagged along with fellow photographer Robert Chaplin to the west coast of Florida for a quick scouting trip of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Corkscrew Swamp has been on my list of places to check out for sometime. Unfortunately, it was toward the end of the peak season and it was a little hot and the birds had already started to head back north. However, I did enjoy the walk through the boardwalk and will plan to return again when I have better conditions.

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.

Haida Slim Multi-Coating Pro II 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter

Long exposure daytime photography has always been a technique that I have wanted to add to my bag of tricks.  Unfortunately, I always found the price of a 10 Stop Nuetral Density (ND) Filter to be cost prohibitive, especially considering I was not sure I would like the effects it produced or, that I could find enough situations to make the investment worthwhile.  That was until I stumbled across a forum post about a brand of ND filter that was relatively low cost and still produced quality images.  That brand was Haida.

Haida filters are made in China and are not carried by any photography retailer that I am familiar with either locally or online.  The only way to purchase one of these filters is through ebay or amazon.  After hours of researching and looking at sample images I decided to roll the dice and ordered one from Amazon.com for the low price of $88.00 shipped.  All reviews and discussions had nothing but great things to say about the Haida Pro II 10 Stop Filter.  To my surprise my filter arrived 3 days after I placed the order.

Prior to purchasing the Haida ND 10 Stop Filter, the two things I was most concerned about was color cast and the effect of the filter, if any, on image sharpness.  I can report that neither is a problem.  The Haida ND 10 Stop Filter produces very little if any color cast.  Using the camera’s auto white balance may sometimes produce an ever so slight cool cast, but unless you compare an image taken with the filter with one taken without the filter side by side you would not notice any negative effect on the captured image.  Any color cast/shift can easily be corrected with the temperature slider in Photoshop or other RAW image editor.

Some 10 stop ND filters produce a very strong color cast that causes the resulting image to be a hue of blue or tan depending on the brand of filter.  Some filters create a stronger color cast than others.  A strong color cast can be very difficult to remove in post processing and can render the filter useless for producing wall hanging images.  Therefore, I am very happy that the Haida ND 10 Stop filter I purchased has virtually no color cast that is visible to the naked eye.

I have attached 4 images I took to test the color cast of the filter.  Two of the images were taken at f/10 one with the filter and one without.  The remaining two images were taken at f/22, again one with the filter an one without.  In regards to color and white balance I cannot visibly see a difference between the four (4) images.  The image taken with the filter at f/22 was a thirty (30) second exposure.  The images were taken at around 12:30 in the afternoon with unimpeded sunlight on a windy day (thus the blurry tree branches and leaves).  I used my Canon 16-35 f/2.8 ii lens.

The second issue I was concerned about was the effect that the filter would have on the sharpness of the final image.  In the photography world, typically you get what you pay for.  Therefore, I was concerned that a cheaper filter would use inferior glass that would ultimately degrade the image.  It makes no sense to spend thousands of dollars on high quality lenses to only place low quality glass or plastic filters on the end of them.  Expensive lenses plus cheap filters usually lead to subpar images.

In the case of the Haida ND 10 Stop Filter, there was no effect on the final image.  The images captured with the filter and without the filter were identical in terms of sharpness.  I have attached 100% crops of a bucket I used as a test subject to see the effect the filter would have on the image quality.  Both shots are equally sharp to the naked eye.  The two shots were taken at f/11, one with the filter and one without the filter.  I again used my Canon 16-35 f/2.8 ii lens.  The image with the filter was a 10 second exposure.

I would highly recommend this filter to anyone looking to purchase a 10 Stop ND Filter.  I researched other brands before purchasing the Haida.  Many of the other well known brands had issues with color cast or the ones that did not have color cast issues were much more expensive than the cost of the Haida.  The only unknown for me is the durability of the filter and will it stand up to the elements a landscape photographer like myself will expose it to.  I believe the answer is yes but only time will tell.  The filter feels solid in my hands.  The filter ring is made from aluminum so it is also element resistant and lightweight.  Even on the slim version the standard Canon lens cap will still attach to the lens with the filter on.

I purchased my filter through Amazon.com.  The seller was GoShot Camera located in California.  The filter arrived earlier than originally projected and was well packed.

Two real world test shots taken out in Everglades National Park.  It was a very windy day but the 10 Stop Filter rendered the water smooth and added motion to the clouds to give a very dull composition wise photo some interest.

All images in this post were straight out of the camera.  Click on the thumbnails to see the full size image.