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.

The Swamp

This swamp is in Florida and is a good thing, meaning we don’t want to drain it; instead, we want to protect it as a national resource.

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The Swamp
An image from the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

The swamps, marshes, and bogs are quite beautiful. I did not expect I’d ever consider the swamp as beautiful before visiting, I was wary of what I might find. But once inside, I was struck by its vastness, rich biodiversity, and remoteness.

my favorites from the gallery

I am not a naturalist and know very little about the ecosystem of the Big Cypress National Preserve, but if you want to know more, one recommendation is to visiting Clyde Butcher’s site. Not only is he a passionate advocate for maintaining our natural habitats, but his photographic legacy is considered a national treasure.

Lummus Park at Night

Here’s a scene from Miami Beach’s Lummus Park at night. I took some daytime photos here, but night time was way more fun.

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Lummus Park at Night
At night in Miami’s Lummus Park

Sorry if I sound like grandpa talking, but it wasn’t that long ago when shots like this were next to impossible. I shot this handheld without a tripod. In fact, the original photo didn’t look like much. Nevertheless, I was able to recover most of the shadows thanks to software and the amazing sensor on the Sony A7RM3. The camera sensor saves things that are invisible to the naked eye. However, with post-processing, we can make much of it visible.

more night photography from the gallery

I would say that low-light techniques like this are what got me back into photography. Back in the day (grandpa again) I used to shoot film but lost interest due to the amount of time I spent in dark rooms. Today, the only time you need to spend in the dark is taking photos of cool scenes.

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.”

Big City

When I see a big city, I’m like a deer in the headlights. I look up and can’t stop staring.

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The big city of Miami
The big city of Miami 

I’m fascinated by the perpendicular angles of construction, a million squares, layered and stacked in every direction. It’s a sensory rush that quickens my pulse and speeds up time; a big city high.

more cityscapes in the gallery

Maybe it’s of all the lights, or the mass of humanity, or the scale of it all. Whatever it is, I’m in not much use until I snap out of its initial spell. Perhaps there’s some part of our DNA that attracts us to a hive or colony or tribe. Or maybe, it just all the cool lights.

Village Across the Water

This is the back side of Bradenton Beach, the front side is, uh, a beach.

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The village of Bradenton Beach as seen from across the inter-coastal waterway.
The village of Bradenton Beach as seen from across the inter-coastal waterway. 

The little beach town is surrounded by water because it sits on Anna Maria Island. The back side faces the intercoastal waterway and is the place where all the boats dock. It’s also where you’ll find a lot of fun things to explore, like restaurants, galleries, and fishing piers; not to mention other little villages like Cortez.

more from Anna Maria Island in the gallery

I shot this picture at water level using a Platypod on a remarkably calm night; usually, there’s a little chop. This is also a prolonged, thirteen-second exposure, so it makes the water appear even smoother. Then I stretched the lights a little downwards to accentuate them. But at the end of the day, if you squint your eyes a little, this is exactly what you would see on most evenings along the inter-coastal waterway. But if that doesn’t float your boat, there is always the beach on the other side.

Angry Seas

Isn’t it funny how we anthropomorphize all things? Here are some defiant colors against the¬†angry Mediterranean.

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The tempestuous Mediterranean as seen from the port of Barcelona
The tempestuous Mediterranean as seen from the port of Barcelona

I do it all the time with animals, but between you and me, I think most animals have emotions, so it doesn’t seem like such a stretch. However, sometimes I do it for the weather or inanimate objects; then I’m surely projecting my own feelings into the world. The sea can’t really be angry, can it?

more minimalism in the gallery

As we journeyed out into the North Atlantic, things got worse. There was a hurricane a long way off that roiled the ocean. The winds across the deck were seventy-five miles an hour, and the swells fifty feet high. At that time I looked out at sea from the comfort of a massive cruise ship and tried to imagine myself on a small ancient craft crossing the ocean in the midst of a storm. Admittedly I had feelings, but I’m pretty sure the sea had none at all. And that was maybe, just a tiny, bit, scary.

Cloud Animals

When crossing the Atlantic, we’d see these singular clouds. They’de float by like big animals casting reflections on the water.

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A passenger watches the sunrise in the North Atlantic aboard Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas
Sunrise in the North Atlantic

The clouds change the color of the water surface which plays tricks on your eyes. It looks like the sea has variations of light and dark patches. However, when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, the only thing that changes is the light hitting it. That took me two days to figure out.

seascapes from the gallery

There’s a lot of free time on a long crossing, enough to look up and see what shapes the clouds are making. Between sitting by the pool and sitting at the bar, I did manage to have a little extra free time. In this case, I could see an elephant sitting down with his back to me. But that’s obvious, right?