It’s been quite a while since I last visited Orlando Wetlands Park, so when my friend Michael Libbe suggested that we go there for sunrise, I was excited to go back. Summer days at Orlando Wetlands Park are very hot, but there was a nice breeze to keep us comfortable. We arrived a good half hour before sunrise, and we found fog and clouds to obscure the horizon. So we had some time to catch up on our recent trips to Oregon and Maine as we waited for the light to illuminate the swamps.
When the sun finally came up, it was a bright yellow orb behind the fog. I thought it was pretty with the silhouettes of the distant trees underneath. There were also a lot of grasses in the foreground which blurred and obscured the horizon. I played with this image some in Nik Color Efex to add a vignette and a slight film grain. I liked the mood of the resulting picture.
Michael told me that a Snail Kite had been seen recently at Orlando Wetlands, so we headed off to find her. We found her pretty easily, perched in some trees at the back of the park. She obliged us by flying fairly close a few times before she headed off to a more distant tree. We followed as close as we could, but she didn’t cooperate again. Silly bird. It was fun to watch all the egrets and herons fly off as she swooped overhead. Birds have an interesting pecking order! I wouldn’t have thought that she’d bother the waders much, but she did.
As the sun burned through the fog, it covered the wetlands in beautiful golden light. I was glad I’d taken my 5D Mark III and wide-angle lens to use for landscape shots. The below image is a 3-frame HDR of the marsh.
We saw our first-of-fall Belted Kingfisher that day, which was very early (August 4). While we stood watching the Snail Kite, Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks flew all around us, and the air was full of their sweet happy calls.
As we headed along the trail, we found a family of Least Bitterns who were happy to pose for us in the bulrushes. We spotted several adults and several juvies. The juveniles still had a bit of downy fuzz on their backs. They were cute as they played peek-a-boo with us…
By 9:00 the light was getting harsh and we were getting hot. We paused for a few minutes to photograph the Snowy Egrets who were fishing in a pond. I loved the detail of the whites in my 5D Mark III images! The focus is so sharp and the detail is incredible. I just wish the camera had a faster frame rate. (Yes, photographers are a very demanding bunch!)
As Michael pointed out, there was a lot of green algae in the pond and the pictures would have been much prettier with still, clear blue waters. But in August the bird photography in Florida is a little hard to come by, so we were happy to take pictures of the birds that we could find, in typical summer Florida conditions!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Orlando Wetlands?
Check out my Orlando Wetlands page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!