The more you photograph, the more you realize what can be photographed
and what can’t be photographed. You just have to keep doing it.
– Eliot Porter
What have I been up to?
Well, now to cover the second week of my bird photography adventure in Florida and believe me, it was an adventure. After finishing the six days with Art Morris and company, my wife and I travelled back to Orlando for a few days as I had signed up to spend two days – Saturday and Sunday – under the guidance of Robert Amoruso (Robert’s Imagery), photographing birds in the Nesting Area at the Orlando Gatorland – Orlando’s Gatorland. (I have put all my images at the end of the blog, rather than trying to fit them into the text – hope this works for everyone – I am thinking of changing my blog format – stay tuned.)
This was quite different than the previous week as the setting would be the same each day and the folks at Gatorland had a deal called a Photography Pass that got us early risers into the Farm at 7:30 am and let us stay after the closing hours until dark. This worked quite well, as we got to photograph the birds long before the park opened and long after it closed.
There were fewer types of birds here than we had seen at Fort Myers- Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons. Wood Storks and some tri-colored Herons, as well as a couple of Roseate Spoonbills were also present. There were also the usual Vultures and Boat-tailed Grackles in attendance, but by far the egrets were the most prevalent.
This weekend workshop only had two participants, myself and a women named Ethel, who had just replaced her Point and Shoot camera with a new DSLR. She was keen to learn all about the camera as well as some tips on photographing birds. For my part, I was focused on putting into practice what I had learned in the previous workshop with Art Morris.
The other thing that I learned from Robert was how to use my flash, even in daylight, to fill in the darker areas around each of my bird subjects. I am not sure I have it mastered, but it will prove an addition to my repertoire of techniques for photographing birds in the future. I also got to use my Better Beamer, which is nothing more than a Fresnel lens that attaches to the flash and gives an extended range to the flash Better Beamer Flash Extender.
St. Augustine, Merritt Island and Titusville
After this weekend workshop, we headed north to St. Augustine, where I had hoped to photograph birds at the Alligator Farm – St. Augustine Alligator Farm and my wife had arranged to meet up with an old friend who was now living there. Unfortunately, the weather was not too cooperative, so I thought that if we headed south to Merritt Island, we might run out of the rain and maybe see some Bald Eagles as well as other birds in the journey. Our first stop was at the Titusville Blue Heron Wetlands. There was not too much to see there. We did see some American Coots, some Cormorants, and the one and only Robin I have ever seen in Florida. I assumed it was probably on its way north to Canada and had stopped briefly to refuel. The wetlands are heavily overgrown with the usual marsh vegetation and there were alligators present as well. We then proceeded to venture into Titusville to find the road to Merritt Island.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as part of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center – Merritt Island Refuge. It consists of 140,000 acres that provide a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flat woods, and hardwood hammocks provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals. We saw a few ducks, lots of American Coots, a few herons, including a Green Heron, and some Roseate Spoonbills. We stopped to use the facilities at the visitor’s centre and were lucky enough to spot a male Painted Bunting at their feeders – a first for me. On our way back, we stopped at a small beach area on the east side of the causeway to check out an assortment of gulls that were feeding off scraps that folks had left behind and bathing in the puddles left by the rain. We returned to St. Augustine and were happy to see that the rain had stopped.
The next day, My wife went to visit with her friend and I went to check out some locations along the barrier island complex north of St. Augustine. The surf was a little high and there were a few shorebirds and some gulls on the beach with the occasional flock or two of Brown Pelicans in the air over the waves. In the afternoon, I went to the Alligator Farm at St. Augustine – . I went out to investigate the area where the birds were located and was pleasantly surprised. There were a couple of Roseate Spoonbill nests with chicks in them – another first for me. One had only one and the other had three. The area was also home to an abundant group of Great and Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, other Spoonbills and some White Ibises, both mature and immature. There were also a couple of Yellow-crowned Night Herons who were simply sitting in the palms ignoring all the commotion going on around them. I was interested in the observation that the birds seemed to be able to wade in the water among the alligators with impunity – the ‘gators simply seemed to ignore them.
So there you have it – a brief summary of my two weeks of bird photography in Florida with a couple of firsts. It was great. I learned a lot about bird photography and some general aspects of photography, met some nice people and generally had a great time. I now know of more sites to go in Florida when I go again to photograph birds (next year?). For any of you wanting to learn more about bird photography, Art Morris’ course, while not cheap, is well worth the money in my opinion – Art’s Blog. If you only want to spend a couple of days then check out the courses and private instruction offered by Robert Amoruso – Robert’s Blog.