Through the Lens and Beyond, Deborah Owen, Photographer

Archive for February, 2014

A Day in the LIfe

I am really fortunate that I have lived in one of the prettiest places in North America, the Florida Everglades. I am also fortunate that my son Tommy is a guide in the ‘Glades and I get to visit. This past Friday I had that opportunity, but not only did I have the pleasure, but I was able to take someone with me (a new friend) who had this trip on her bucket list. Linda, is a friend of a friend and one of my future clients as well. Her son is getting married to our mutual friend’s daughter in July and my son Tommy and I are honored to be photographing the wedding as a team.

I picked Linda up from a location our friend and I agreed upon and our adventure began. As we drove along we were able to get acquainted and I really enjoyed her company. She is a school teacher from the north and for her being down here this time of year was a real treat, considering her home was blanketed in snow and still quite cold. She was enjoying our 80 degree sunny weather.

Linda wasn’t sure what to expect and of course didn’t know where exactly she was being taken, which I think added to her excitement. We arrived at Everglades Adventure Tours in Ochopee, Florida and while waiting for our tour guide Tommy (my son) we looked around the eclectic gift shop. Linda found a few things she wanted to purchase including an alligator head and a postcard of a photo my son took. She decided to wait until our return to make her gift purchases.



Tommy loaded us up and our driver took us to our destination; a place I had never been even with living down in that area. I had heard about it, but never took a trip. Generally our three hour tour would have been on the Turner River, however due to low water the river is closed for commercial use. I’m sort of glad it was. Donna Drive turned out to be a mecca of photographic opportunity. I am always proud to listen to my youngest son, do what he loves which is the interpretation of his home. This young man has quite a history of his own and being only 27 years old has had many wonderful adventures which include kayaking the Mississippi River (54 days) and again in a canoe for 500 miles. He also wrestled a python that was spotted in what he considers his home while on a tour; of which the video went viral. If you Google ‘Tommy Owen Python’ you should find a plethora of links to view that video. He makes his mother very proud.

As we were traveling, (the great thing about this trip is the clients don’t have to do any paddling) and this particular trip was an actual photo safari. As soon as I sat down in our boat I took out my camera, I didn’t want to miss any opportunity and Linda followed suit. It was a gorgeous warm day with a slight breeze and as we entered the river/canal we were greeted by a beautiful blue sky with wonderful white puffy clouds, picture perfect.

Donna Drive

Donna Drive

We were on the lookout for birds, the possible alligator and any other creature who calls the Florida Everglades home. After about an hour on the water, we came upon a flat marsh area; one of many habitats within this community. Looking at it, you would think it would be dry and easily accessible. Linda was thrilled to be able to add this to her day and we all got a good laugh as we realized, this area was not “dry”, but actually quite wet and if we didn’t step in the grass areas we were going to sink, sometimes up to our knees! Linda was the first to go down, as I turned around to get a photo of her, guess who also fell? Me! We both had a good laugh and Tommy who had Linda’s camera, caught it all.



I was able to get a couple of photos of Linda “sitting” in the mud after I made my way back to a standing position. We walked around a bit more and then decided to work our way back to the boat. What fun! The most amazing thing, this so called mud really isn’t mud, not in the dirt sense of the word, but a mixture of peat like plant material that has decayed and built up layers in the water. Getting out of it we realized we were not dirty.

Tour guide Tommy Owen

Tour guide Tommy Owen

Our wonderful guide headed back out and took us in another direction into different habitat. We went through a couple of Mangrove tunnels then back out onto the Sawgrass areas where we finally saw an alligator.

Small Alligator

Small Alligator

Heading back in Linda said the trip far exceeded her expectations and she too had a camera full of photos. One of her goals on the trip was to get some tips and tricks in using her camera. She was happily snapping away and using her manual settings on her camera by the end of the tour. Teaching other’s to use their camera is something I truly enjoy.

Our day was not quite finished. After making her purchases in the Swamp Ape Headquarters gift shop, Linda, Tommy & I then headed over to Joanie’s Blue Crab Café, you simply can’t miss this opportunity. The food is very good, but the atmosphere can’t be duplicated. This little roadside café has been featured in the Disney movie ‘Gone Fishin’ with Danny Glover & Joe Pesci. You could spend hours simply looking at all the things in this place. I love the notice posted upon the wall behind the cash register that says “if you want fast food, keep driving”, kind of sums it all up. Joanie wasn’t there and was sorry I missed her this trip. For anyone reading this, you must stop if you are in the Ochopee area.

After dropping Tommy off back at Trail Lakes Camp Ground we said our goodbyes to him and Linda and I headed back, but not before we made a stop at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve Park. We were able to see two young eaglets in the Bald Eagles nest which is viewable from the boardwalk, and had some gorgeous birds greet us at the end of the alligator pond. There was also a nice large alligator at the entrance to the boardwalk.

Bald Eaglets

Bald Eaglets

Great Egret

Great Egret

All in all it was an incredible day and I’m always reminded of the wonderful area we live in and the diversity of wildlife we can possibly encounter each and every day if we simply open our eyes and look. I am fortunate because I have a child who lives and works in this beautiful area and I can visit and go out as often as I can with him. If you are ever in the area of Ochopee, Florida please visit Trail Lakes Campground/Skunk Ape Headquarters/Everglades Adventure Tours and tell them Tommy’s mom sent you. Take a guided tour with Tommy and you will be glad you did. The uniqueness of this tour makes it well worth the money. It’s a private tour, which means only your party is with the guide, you don’t have to paddle, your guide will do it for you. Take your camera because you will be able to capture your trip without worry of getting wet, and make sure you tell your story on Trip Advisor. For more information please visit and Tommy Owen’s website at

A Metaphore with Butterflies

I did many things this weekend which were fun and exciting. As a newly “again” single I met up with friends for dinner on Friday evening “V” Day to listen and dance to some great music by Copper Head at a new place called Ter-Tinis.

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Saturday evening I went with a couple to watch some great blues with the Marty Stokes Band at a local place called Cadillac Jacks.  (I have blogged about this band before).

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Marty Stokes Band at Cadillac Jacks

Today, Sunday I hosted a small group at The Butterfly Estates in downtown Fort Myers and had a wonderful time with these friends.  Our tour began with the docent speaking about the life cycle of the butterfly and how they must have certain plants to feed on and certain plants to form the chrysalis.  As she was speaking again I was thinking about my life and what was going on within myself.  As we entered the greenhouse the butterflies were flitting about all around us and you have to feel like a child when watching the magic of these incredible creatures.  Butterflies are not the easiest fauna to photograph, I use my 70-300mm long lens because once you start getting too close they will flit off and it’s difficult to get them to lite again.  I did manage to get a few shots off of some
of the butterflies and was happy with my results.  My friend Geva attended and it was wonderful to have opportunity to talk with her.
She recently published a book which I have read and it’s exactly what I needed at this time in my life.  Geva like the butterfly transformed her life into a one of abundance, happiness and beauty in a one year experiment and in doing so chronicled it in written word.

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The Butterfly Estates

My life has been a bit like the caterpillar, sort of chugging along, doing what I need to do to keep going, not enjoying it as much I should be, and then these past few months I have sequestered myself within a cocoon because of some things that have taken place. However, recently I have started to break free of that cocoon and I am emerging into something quite beautiful. I’m in the process of spreading my wings getting ready to take flight…’s only a matter of time. Life is definitely getting better, but isn’t that subjective to how we view it? I know what bothered me yesterday, doesn’t bother me today. What upset me last week is really trivial and I won’t allow it to upset me again. I’m finding I am in love with my life and myself. I want to share the beauty of the world with my camera and nothing gives me any greater pleasure.

If you are interested in my friend Geva’s book please check out her facebook page and website:

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Geva Salerno – Author

A Walk in the Woods

This morning I decided I wanted to take a walk in the woods. Living in South West Florida I have a plethora of places to visit, whether it’s getting out in the woods away from civilization or simply pulling into a local park and walking their created paths or boardwalks. My decision was made to get away from all the noise; not just the physical noise from cars and people, but also the noise in my head. I go to the woods to clear my thoughts and to have a simple chat with God about what’s happening in my life. Of course I’m not alone, my camera always attends with me. I arrived at my destination at the backside of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve off of Winkler (the very end of the road off of Summerlin). I parked, threw my camera bag over my shoulder and took off walking. The first fauna I ran across (actually he flew across) was a Piliated Woodpecker; wow, could be a promising morning.

Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve

Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve

I kept walking and as I came to the first bend, made the turn I came upon a hindrance, water! It has rained quite a bit the past couple of weeks and with all the rain we received over the summer the ground is still fairly saturated and the puddles were quite substantial and unpassable on foot, unless I wanted to get really muddy, which I didn’t so I turned around and decided to head on my straight path, but once again found the same problem, blocked by water. 


Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve

I was a bit disappointed because one of my favorite spots is this short boardwalk overlooking a small pond, I had plans to sit, talk to God and decide what to do about some things going on in my immediate life. I turned around and walked back to my car and was deciding on my plan B. I mulled over a few options and decided to head over to Six Mile Cypress Slough. A small county park with a boardwalk nature trail. Arriving later than I have in the past, I wondered what wildlife I may encounter. I have never been disappointed there, and my first encounter were three little pigs (yes, the big bad wolf was missing). They were sleeping and being warmed by the sun they seemed oblivious to the multitude of folks watching them. I snapped off a few photos and kept on my way. The boardwalk was quite busy with families, older couples and photographers, so I really wasn’t alone, always someone to talk to.

Feral Pigs

Feral Pigs

 As I walked I was actually looking for Water Moccasins (crazy I know, but I want to add to my photo collection). I didn’t find a Moccasin, but another patron pointed me toward a Banded Water Snake sunning himself;  a non-poisonous look alike of the Cotton Mouth (Water Moccasin), not the same, but it’s a snake and I was able to get a decent photo. His eyes were quite milky and his coloring a bit dull as he was ready to shed.

Banded Water Snake

Banded Water Snake

Continuing on, I came across an alligator sunning himself on the floating platform in the lake and numerous birds, I was able to identify them as a Black Crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, and a Great Egret, however they were all too far for my lens to capture adequately, which is disappointing, but I will always have another chance on another day.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment of the photography, I forget why I’m taking my walk in the woods in the first place. There are some habits I have gotten into, that are causing me grief and I need to stop them and simply let them go. I also have encountered some recent issues with someone who is a friend of sorts, but still not sure where that friendship stands. Unfortunately there are control issues with someone else that I was involved with and because of that ,the friendship has now come to a standstill, not really upset over it, knew it was a matter of time. So I will let it go. Just like those birds that were slightly out of my lens reach and focus, so is this friendship, if I can’t take the photo and make it something someone wants to look at then I simply don’t take it. As with friends, if the friendship is real and strong it will come into focus in the lens of my life like so many recently have, if it is just out of lens reach then I need to take a step back, evaluate it, meter it and realize it’s probably not going to get any closer and simply turn off the camera.

My New Valentine

Sunset at Bunch Beach

Sunset at Bunch Beach

I have titled this blog My New Valentine, because that is exactly what it is, I have found a new love; ME!
I normally don’t use this blog for the personal stuff, but it is my blog and I am human and every now and then I need to post my more personal life.  My main New Year’s resolution this year is to live more authentically and that means to be open and transparent in my life.

I have been going through relationship issues and trying to find who I am once again.

I knew for a couple of years  I needed to remove myself from this relationship, however I was in love and wanted to make it work, then something happened which began another year and a half simply because he ‘needed’ me to be there for him. I stood by him, believed in him and I did what I had to do because I loved him and wanted to help (isn’t that what love is about, the good and the bad?).  After this was over I felt even less appreciated and more taken for granted than ever, I felt used.  A few months later once again another life event and I was there to help, some of it labor intensive because I loved him and wanted him to be happy. What I didn’t expect was after he was finished using me, he wanted to end the relationship.  I resisted because he had always said  people aren’t willing to work through their problems, they would prefer to throw them out like the trash and I was willing to work through it, this was all a lie, in fact I realize now most of our relationship was a lie. At that point I figured out some other things were going on as well; a revelation which was a deal breaker for me, as much as I loved him, I deserved better and a lot more respect. I decided I would not tolerate being used, lied to and cheated on any longer.
I refuse to be a victim, and chose to move forward with my life and reclaim the person I had been missing.

Unfortunately the poor choice to spread lies was made in a public forum; must have been the guilt. I took the much higher road and refused to respond; call it maturity.
Considering the hurt and betrayal I felt, I also felt foolish for not seeing it sooner, but love will blind you to the negative, because you don’t want to see it in someone you love. I am not perfect and it takes two to make a relationship, however it’s difficult when only one wants to try.

From this I have become incredibly happy, stress free, healthy and successful. I wish only the best for those who have been in my life. As a friend recently told me, I simply outgrew the relationship, and it was time to move onward and upward. I have healed and moved forward with life. My photography business has increased in ways I would never have imagined, I am still doing the type of photography I truly love and have a passion for, I have a group of friends who have stood by me and encouraged me, God is working through me in ways I could have never imagined and I have improved my life and my outlook and I am no longer in a toxic relationship.
Life is incredible and on this Valentine’s Day I don’t need a relationship to make me feel like I am important, special, or beautiful. I already know I am all of these things and so much more. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!


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