Hometown AI

I hope you don’t mind if I use a little AI in my sunset photos, I certainly don’t.

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Hometown AI
A sunset from my hometown of Palmetto, Florida

I did a bit of processing on this to bring up the shadows and reduce the highlights, I do that quite a lot. One thing that’s a little new, however, is that I’ve started using artificial intelligence (AI) software. The AI is in Luminar 3 from Skylum. As AI gets better, it shortens the time it takes to get good results out of a photo. These days, AI is increasingly being built into everything, including your phone and camera. Computational photography is where we’re heading.

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What AI does is interpret scenes for us and then make choices on how to improve it. It’s not always right, but it’s getting better. Sometimes it’s no help, but more often than not it gets a bunch of stuff right. I then fill in the gaps with the vision that I had in my head, but the AI helped get me off to a good start. It’s like having an apprentice do the prep work before you begin mixing the magic brew. I suppose that as long as the sorcerer’s apprentice doesn’t get too carried away, it should be all good.

Bayou Small Talk

Here is a scene from along the bayou nearby. A lot of wildlife lives here, in fact, I could hear a boar thrashing around not far from me.

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The bayou in Palmetto, Florida
The bayou in Palmetto, Florida

I’ve driven by here but never really noticed the vibrancy of the greenery. Maybe it was produced by the soft even light from the overcast sky. Whatever the reason, it was enough for me to pull over and captured it with my camera.

more from the landscape gallery

While I stood in front of the car taking this, a fellow walking his dog came along and asked what I was taking a picture of. He thought maybe I had seen a boar, but I told him I was just impressed by the scenery of the bayou. He seemed to ponder this for a minute and then, agreed that I was on to something. He then proceeded to tell me stories about the boars and the local trappers. I suppose that’s how you make small talk in the bayou.

Egret on a Tree

These egrets will sit on trees to preen while keeping an eye on the fishermen and their catch.

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Egret on a Tree
An egret perched on a tree in a Florida bayou

I took this at a bayou that is also a state preserve. Florida preserves give wildlife a safe place to thrive outside of the urban sprawl. Egrets are opportunists that adapt to just about anything. Often I’ll see them on the front lawn looking for lizards. It’s not uncommon to see them perched on the roof of a car.

more bird images

However, just because they adapt doesn’t mean they’re not skittish. If you get too close, they’ll fly away, so I had to keep a comfortable distance to capture this photo. That meant using a 70-200mm lens with a 2x converter for a total of 400mm. It’s rare that I carry that combination, but I’m glad I did on this day.

Apartment Buildings

Something about the light at dusk, it can make a boring apartment building look like a million bucks.

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Apartment buildings in the city of Palmetto, Florida
Apartment buildings in the city of Palmetto, Florida

I drive by these buildings all the time and never take a second look, but look at them now. They’re kind of attractive, now that I see them. My Instagram tagline is, “through photography, I see.” I guess this is proof of that.

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I used a one-second exposure for the water on the bottom half which evens out the ripples. Usually, I use photoshop to get a similar effect but in this case, its straight out of camera (or SOOC as we say in the biz). I took this from a dock while walking my dog recently. He likes to come out here and survey the scene and sometimes I’ll bring my camera. So it was, in fact, Mr. Wiggles who selected this scene. I should probably change my tagline to, “through my dog, I see.”

A Good Life

Pelicans are always sitting on posts waiting for fish to swim by. Who would have thought life could be so good.

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A Good Life
A Pelican sits on a post in the Manatee River in Palmetto

As soon as the sun goes down, they fly back to their nesting site and settle in. At dawn, you see them flying to places like this to catch fish. Dawn and dusk are the best times to capture pelicans in flight.

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This is from the Manatee River where there is always a lot of fish. Sometimes man and bird are hunting the same fish. When fishing you should always bring a pair of gloves and needle nose pliers. That’s so you can grab the pelican and free it from your hook. It happens all the time. So, other than the occasional brush with us, they have it pretty good on the Manatee River.

Mangrove Glow

A few days ago I had a bright idea to take some photos. Somehow, I managed to leave with enough time to get here and set up the shot without rushing.

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Mangrove Glow
A mangrove plant at Emerson Point in Palmetto Florida

I usually procrastinate and then end up dashing out the door. But once in a while, I do it the proper way, whatever that is. I am continually going between calm and panic in my photography. Kind of like life I suppose.

more mangroves from the gallery

Lately, when I know I’m shooting into the sun, I’ve been using my high-quality Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens. It’s a lot heavier than my standard travel lens, but man-o-man, the quality comes through. I notice the difference because I take and process so many photos, but most folks would never know. That’s okay because I take these landscape photos for myself. And as the saying goes, whatever makes me happy.

River Storms

This is looking up the Manatee River in summer. After a few minutes we got a thunderstorm for about twenty minutes, then a crazy sunset; every day like clockwork.

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River Storms
Typical summer day as a storm travels downriver.

The one-second shutter speed makes the water smooth, like the calm before the storm. I’m nervous when out in these conditions, the air is thick, and it’s only a matter of time before lightning strikes. We get more lightning than anywhere on earth because of the geography. My heightened state of nerves battles it out with my need to get a good picture.

more from the Manatee River

The thunder clouds always come down the river, from east to west. Often, if we’re at an outdoor restaurant along the water, we can watch the clouds heading towards us. The river is about a mile wide, so it has its own micro-climate. After the storm passes, we brush the water off the table and, enjoy the rest of the meal, just like clockwork.

Regatta Pointe Marina

I took this image from the dock at Regatta Pointe Marina in my hometown of Palmetto. The marina is a few miles up from the gulf on the Manatee River. It has a restaurant that does good business on account of the views. I’m not a boater or sailor so, when I come, it’s to have a meal or take photos, or both.

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Regatta Pointe Marina
This is facing west to the Gulf of Mexico from Regatta Pointe Marina

I have sailed out of here once and also out of the marina on the opposite side of the river. Both were charters, and both times it was a great experience. You bring cheese and wine, sit topside and enjoy the views and breeze. That’s my idea of a good time.

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I came here because the colors in the sky were shaping up and this was only a few minutes away. When I feel the urge to capture a sunset without planning, I’ll rush to the river and point west. Here at the marina, there were plenty of people walking along the dock. A few were diners, a few were boaters, but just about everyone stopped to watch at the view.

Sunrise Composition

Here I am close to home on an early Sunday morning. I was standing at the end of Emerson Point which faces west into the Gulf of Mexico. (I, of course, was facing east). This local park is one of my favorite go-to places for sunrise and sunset.

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Sunrise Composition
Sunrise at Emerson Point in Palmetto, Florida

It rained the night before, so I thought we’d have a beautiful display in the sky with high scattered clouds, but, that was not to be. So instead, I composed this shot which focuses on the foreground elements with the sunrise in the back. If the scene doesn’t turn out how I envisioned, I try to remind myself to work with what I’ve got. Plans often go sideways, but there is usually another angle that’s pleasing or tells a story.

sunrise / sunset gallery

One other thing: because it was Sunday morning I figured I’d be alone. But there was another photographer down by the water, and when I turned around after taking this shot, there was yet another photographer with a couple doing a maternity shoot. So apparently, there was indeed an abundance of other compositions to go around.

Pond and Clouds

I took this image the other day on my way out of Emerson Point Preserve. This pond is at the entrance and is a real head turner when driving in or out. I’ve taken many pictures of it, and I’ve driven by many more times. This time I stopped for another photo.

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Pond and Clouds
The soft morning light on the pond and clouds at Emerson Point

I think the reason I like this photo, in particular, is that it has a little less contrast. It reveals the softer light and colors of the morning; I took this about twenty minutes after sunrise.

more images from Emerson Point

Sometimes I make complicated photos with a lot of elements and much post-processing. However, sometimes the picture speaks for itself without much effort from me. What I think, is that this image is one of those where nature does all the talking. So on that note, I’ll shut up and let mother nature take it from here.