As a working photographer with a full time job (other than photography) I am extremely busy. I have to plan my away times well in advance and get away to renew myself every once in a while. This weekend I took another trip south to the Big Cypress and camped in Trail Lakes Camp Ground. Old friends own it and my son lives and works there as well as a native guide. I went out on my own Saturday to Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is part of the Fakahatchee Strand and walked the boardwalk mid morning. I was alone for most of my trip and passed a few folks coming off the trail, but heading to the end I was the only one out there……..so quiet and peaceful. I spotted mama gator and snapped a couple of shots. Coming in to the area I looked for the pair of Bald Eagles who have taken residence in the Fakahatchee for well over 20 plus years. I didn’t see any activity on the nest, but as I was sitting taking in the beauty of the ‘gator hole’ I could hear them calling. I decided to head back out and was listening as I was strolling along. Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Grey Gnatcatchers, and various other sounds. I was heading around the bend and I saw another couple heading in my direction, but they had stopped and all I saw was him reach around and snap a photo; not thinking much of this I rounded the bend and came pretty much face to face with a 250lb Florida Black Bear. My heart skipped a beat and I raised my camera up to snap several shots, then reality set in and I realized I had no where to go! He was blocked in with the other couple and be on each side. As the photo I will post shows he was taking steps toward me, I knew not to run and was praying it was not a mama bear with little ones around, because it was focused on me and not the other couple. Eventually he turned and exited under the railing which at that point I took my first real breath in about a minute of encounter. I could hear him rustling about in the water, but never saw him again, the other couple from Germany had basically the same shots I had except he was looking at them, and even with a language barrier we could share our excitement! I’m sure they will never forget their day in the swamp just as I won’t.
Later in the afternoon my son Tommy and I drove out to Fakahatchee to walk one of the trams. I ran into an old friend who passed the information along on the bear encounter and my photo will be in the November issue of the Ghost Writer newsletter put out by the Friends of Fakahatchee. Later in our walk we spotted an alligator that we thought was deceased, he was extremely emaciated and until he took a large breath and moved forward did we realize he was very much alive. Very dangerous at this point, because he was hungry and/or injured. We gave him lots of room, but not before taking a few shots to document his condition for the biologist at Fakahatchee, who happens to be my ex-husband. As we headed out, the rains started and we ended our day of adventure.
Sunday morning I woke up early and head off to Turner River Road. Driving into the Big Cypress I feel all of my burdens slowly lift from my shoulders, and any anxiety that I had has melted away into pure bliss on these quiet back roads of the Big Cypress Swamp. The only activity I see are few alligators and the birds feeding in the early morning light. I was on a quest this morning to find the elusive Purple Gallinule. Unfortunately I didn’t find one, however I was fortunate enough to see a doe and her fawn snacking on the grasses off the side of the road. Over all it was a beautiful trip and I can’t wait to head back out there. For me there is no other place on earth than the beautiful Florida Everglades.
Walking along the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk I realize this is where my element is. I shoot concerts and portraits and I’m quite busy at it, but this is where I readjust, realign my thinking, learn how to shoot better and get creative. I arrived early in hopes not to come in contact with too many other humans. I enjoy interaction, but this morning I need quiet. I am going to be extremely busy for the next couple of months and I will be running non stop with events, concerts, band shoots, portraits and weddings. I needed to simply walk and to be quiet. The silence is golden, there is no one else except for me and an occasional woodpecker singing with many other birds and insects. I watch the leaves drift from the trees; fall soon will be here. It’s amazing to just be quiet for a while, to take it in and to learn from nature.
The noise level I experienced with a group of people makes me wonder why they come to a sanctuary like this, where the quiet is what you absorb. If you plan on seeing anything, you need to be quiet and sadly they will leave the sanctuary thinking there is nothing there. My morning was quite productive with many wonderful photos taken; not all wildlife, but the flora which is quite beautiful. However it was the sounds of quiet, the gentle breeze, the buzzing of the bees and the singing of the birds that I took away with me this fine morning.
I get out into the wild as often as I possibly can. I lived in the Swamps of Fakahatchee Strand for 13 years and even though I no longer live there I still love being there and enjoying the outdoors. As a photographer it helps me keep focused and to enhance my creativity.
Today I visited another swamp area called the Babcock Ranch Preserve and took their swamp buggy tour, well worth the trip. This area is a working ranch and contains cattle from the days of the conquistador.
Wildlife abounds in this rich environmental area and they don’t seem to have the surge of exotics that have invaded other areas of South West Florida.
I have passed the genetics of photography to my youngest son, who lives in the heart of the Everglades. They are constantly battling exotics such as the snake he encountered in April of 2013; check out the article from Huffington Post below.
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What a fabulous place the Naples Zoological Park is. Such a treasure near the downtown area of Naples. This is my second time since the purchased of my year pass. I really didn’t take a lot of photos this time, because I wanted to enjoy the zoo.
It was such a lovely day and I enjoy being out in the sun and feel the warmth on my face. The primates were really active and so much fun to watch and quite vocal.
I think my favorite area is the giraffes. What unusual animals they are, straight out of the strange and unusual.
I also love the big cats!
I would encourage you to get to your favorite zoo, not only do you support the effort of breeding for endangered species, but you also give support to wonderful research and study of some of our planets great animals. For many people the only place they will see some of these species is at a zoo. Take your camera and visit your local zoo today. I know I will be back. Thank you Naples Zoo for a wonderful day.
There are times when I feel I need some sort of inspiration to keep my creativity up. I love going to the local park and walking through the wonderful fragrance gardens, but I end up getting the same photos over and over; boring! So today I decided to set my camera on monochrome and shoot away. Normally if I want something in black & white I simply turn it in post production. Doing it in camera is a bit tricky and not as easy, because the lighting and contrast have to be almost perfect for it to work. I also worked on angles. Not the hold the camera up and shoot sort of photos, but getting down on my knees, laying on my back in the grass and pulling out some really creative images. When I work this way, it opens my vision to angles and things I normally may not see. My beginnings as a photographer was in black & white, my father whom I’ve mentioned was a black & white photographer and I loved those images and still have many of them today. I want to get back to my photographic roots and take more in that medium. It’s good to work differently, and it’s good to stretch your creative imagination, so go out and enjoy your camera and open up your mind to doing something different.
Jack in the Pulpit
I had some down time prior to my photo session with my son I knew where I was going to head to. I wanted something specific and I knew the Fakahatchee Strand would yield the photo I was looking for. I have a friend who is wanting an alligator photograph. I’ve been commissioned of sort to photograph the perfect photo as he’s already hanging one of my photos in his living room and has asked for another. It is my pleasure to provide what he is looking for. I began my walk toward the boardwalk and had not traveled far when I came upon a very large alligator sunning himself up on the edge of the water. Several people were walking by and I warned them to walk carefully. It’s surprising how many people will walk past and not even see what is right in front of them. Sometimes I’m so amazed by this, they walk out thinking they never see anything and here it was right under their noses. I shot off a few photos then continued my walk down the boardwalk. Stopping to see what may be hiding. The deer flies were hungry and were gnawing upon my legs with a fervor.
As I arrived at the end of the walk I could see how shallow the water was and mama gator was doing her very best to keep the water within her pond. Rainy season will be her soon and the pond will be full once again and eggs will be laid and a new generation of alligators will be hatching in the early fall. The cycle of life is so amazing, as I have watched several generations within that pond. It was great to see momma out there working to keep her pond alive. Such are the seasons of the Fakahatchee Strand.