Babcock Ranch Eco Tours

I belong to a Meetup.com group for photographers call the SWFL Shutterbugs. I have been a member of this group for quite a number of years and have made some wonderful friends. This past weekend 26 of us gathered and went on an eco tour of Babcock Ranch. It’s not just a historic part of Florida’s history, but it’s still a working ranch with the descendants of the original Spanish Cattle and real working cracker cowboys.

The best thing is the wildlife we saw. Lots of wild hogs and baby pigs (bacon bits!), Wild turkey, Sandhill Cranes and lots of Alligators; lots to photograph!

We were fortunate enough to have our own private tour with a wonderful tour guide. The tour uses old school busses as their swamp buggies. It’s open, and bumpy and just a lot of fun; we filled the bus with our group. I love the wildlife, but my heart danced with joy when the cowboy’s horses came over and graced us with their presence. Our tour was over 90 minutes and was simply wonderful.

After the tour we all had lunch together catered by the ranch. As much as our group loves to take pictures, we love to gather together fellowship with each other and eat just as much.

If you ever make it to South West Florida please visit the Babcock Ranch Eco Tour, it’s worth every penny. Please enjoy the photos and feel free to leave me your thoughts.

North Carolina Bound

I have not taken a vacation, a real vacation in more than a dozen years.  I carry a pretty heavy schedule majority of the time due to working a full time job and photographing events and concerts thought out the year.  But this year I decided I needed a break, a long two week break in the mountains of North Carolina.  My best friend of almost fifty years lives in a little town called Concord.  So on October 15 I boarded flight 818 and headed north. IMG_1422

It was a very short flight; less than an hour and a half and was uneventful.  We landed on and I made my way across the tarmac to my waiting friend.  I should mention that she too is a Debbie.  When I got off the plane the temperature was cooler, but still warm, however I was in for a surprise.

On Tuesday we took off on a road trip up through the Pisgah National Forest and up through the mountains searching for some color and some waterfalls.  The color was missing from this scenario as North Carolina had longer than normal summer temperatures which was keeping the leaves from changing.  Not to mention two hurricane’s had passed through the area.

Our first stop was a little diner where I enjoyed a nice plate of NC style BBQ, one word; Yum!  Our adventure continued as we drove through the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest and the weather took a turn and it started to rain.  This did not stop our trekking the beaten path to find a waterfall; not only did I find one, but a covered bridge too!  Giant score for me photographically speaking.  The rain was coming down pretty steady but my excitement built as I heard the sound of rushing water and once we arrived the sound became deafening, but in such a wonderful restorative way.IMG_1373North Carolina-3

This next week we stayed close to home and I was able to photograph some local birds and experience a change in temperature.  Then on Saturday our other best friend flew in so we made another road trip into Charlotte to pick her up. Did I mention she too is a Debbie? (North Carolina will never be the same).

 

That weekend we invited a few friends who live in the area over for a gathering, it was great to see them and to meet their families.  So much love in one place……incredible.

On Monday October 22 we three Debbie’s took off on a road trip once again.  We drove up through the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was able to find more color, the temperature had dropped from the upper 70’s to the mid 30’s and settled around 45 degrees.  For this Florida girl it was cold, but the crisp air, sharing time with my best friends and just enjoying the ride and the color seeping through the trees was something I can’t explain in words, only heart can.  We drove up to about 5000 feet, found a lovely little restaunt to have lunch  and then off to find Linville Falls.  We didn’t hike to the top, but I was happy with what we found.  Continuing our drive we found icicles popping out of the side of a mountain.  So we pulled in to a parking area and I hiked back to the area where water was seeping out of the rocks.  My lungs were screaming with the thinner and colder 37 degree air, but it was so beautiful.

I needed this time away, I needed to do some life reflection and to be with my girls who know me so well.  I have not laughed or loved like this in a very long time.  They are amazing; we are amazing to have had this friendship of 50 years that is so deep and unshakeable. The T-shirts Debbie brought us says it all the back has the three D’s and it says “True Friendship Grows Forever”.

I love these girls so much and I was sad to depart.  I will be back…..again.

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Review: Styx, Tesla & Joan Jett

On Sunday June 17, 2018 three iconic bands from the 70’s & 80’s took the stage at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa, Florida.  Styx tours yearly and always has an incredible line up of stars with them.  This year was the band Tesla and Joan Jett & the Black Hearts.

Tesla opened their eight song set with a rocking start as lead singer Jeff Keith belted out I Wanna Live then went right into Hang Tough.  Vocally Jeff was strong as he worked his way across the stage, giving the audience a show of his still youthful moves and kicks.   Mid set they performed the iconic Signs cover from Five Man Electrical Band. It was an incredible fifty minute set.  Dave Rude (the only “new” member) is fun to watch on stage, he plays to the audience with flair.  Overall they were tight and the audience was into the experience.

Next up was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  I saw Joan Jett last year and wasn’t really impressed with her vocals, however this year she was on the money.  Her Vocals were strong and remained so throughout her sixteen song set.  She began her set with Bad Reputation and continued with several of her own songs and quite a few covers such as Cherry Bomb from her former band The Runaways,  The Arrows I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and Tommy & the Shondells Crimson and Clover.  She also performed I Hate Myself For Loving You and Fake Friends.  Overall her set was solid and she performed well. Unfortunately there are no photographs as no one was approved for Joan.

Last up was STYX, iconic and strong and one of this writer’s favorite 70’s & 80’s bands.  This band does not disappoint. Lawerence Gowan (1999) is not just a great vocalist, but he’s an incredible showman and fits right in with James “J.Y.” Young (founding member 1970), Tommy Shaw (1975), Ricky Phillips (2003) and Todd Sucherman (1996).  STYX opened their set with Overture which showcased each member as they entered the stage and opened with Gone, Gone, Gone followed by Blue Collar Man and The Grand Illusion.  The set continued with them doing all of their best hits such as the rock ballad Lady and Too Much Time on My Hands.  We were waiting on founding member Chuck Panozzo to make an appearance; as he normally does and I heard he did in Oklahoma.  However, it did not happen in this show.

The only cover was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody performed by Lawrence Gowan.  STYX closed their set with Come Sail Away  and encored with Mr Robotoyes, you read that correctly.  Renegade was their final number for the evening.

 

Over all this entire tour was fantastic and delivered all that was expected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camping & Superheroes

 

I really have been negligent with my blog.  I can only attribute it to pure laziness.  I must get out of that mindset and really buckle down.  I tell myself it’s because I don’t have any content, which really isn’t true, I have the content, I’m just lazy.

So here goes a new post, and hopefully this will spurn me into doing more writing and shooting.

This past weekend I took a much needed break and went camping.  I got to hang out with my youngest son Tommy and we tried some night photography work, but the clouds wouldn’t cooperate so I really didn’t get much.  We hung out with a giant snake and I took photos of Tom and he of me.

I also scheduled a portrait photo shoot with one of my favorite little girls.  I really don’t take portraits of children often, because they wear me out, mentally & physically, but this little lady is so very special.  I have had the privilege of taking photographs of her since she was about six months old and have every 6 months to a year since.  She is on the cusp of turning four (December) and honestly you would think as a toddler, she would be all over the place, however around the age of two, I had her complete attention.  I alway allow her to dictate when our session is finished (and she has), but she has always given me one hundred percent.  I have asked her to pose a certain way and have shown her and she does it…..without question.  This weekend was different.  I still showed her what I was wanting, but I took it a step further and asked her how she wanted to pose; what I got was just incredible.  This child micro-moves like a model.  She also uses her eyes, and I just love that about her.  Here are a few of her photographs showing her sass and Superhero self!

If you like what you see feel free to visit my Facebook page and give it a like!  and follow me on my Social Media sites.

Rod Stewart & Cyndi Lauper

A few years ago I had the opportunity to see Sir Rod Stewart in concert, I purchased a really good ticket and was excited to drive to the east coast to see him.  A couple of days prior to the concert I had gotten the flu and was terribly ill, however I was hoping to feel better and attend the concert in Sunrise.  Day of the concert get’s here and I am still not feeling 100%, but I kept thinking by the time I need to leave I will feel better.  NOPE, the time came to leave and I tried to go, but it wasn’t going to happen.  I was really bummed and I kept the ticket to remind myself how close I got.

Rod Stewart was returning in concert again, and I decided this time to put in for credentials to photograph him along with Cyndi Lauper.  As the time approached I had not received word so I had given up and made other plans for the day.  An email came at 10:59pm on Friday night, but I didn’t open my email until mid morning Saturday, I was ecstatic  to learn that I had been approved to photograph he and Cyndi Lauper at Amalie Arena in Tampa Florida and quickly printed out the parking pass and the release form, got my gear together and headed out the door.

Cyndi Lauper came out strong and was incredible.  Rod came on stage with the flair he’s known for, he was a bucket list artist for me and what an honor to photograph him, he was fabulous!  The extra treat was a last minute change in number of songs I could shoot, as they added a song with he and Cyndi singing together!

What a great experience in a place I had never photographed before.   And even though I have been doing this sort of photography for quite some time, I did learn a few things; bring your ID, they need it for you to get through security, I didn’t have it on me, but they let me in anyway,  and bring a small step stool,  I actually have one, but it’s heavy and I have already looked at some online which I will be purchasing soon, it will come in handy.

I think this concert was what I needed to relieve me of the funk and writer’s block I have been having.  Please enjoy….until next time from the pit.

 

I’m a Gear Nerd

Being a photographer I have a good collection of gear.  I love gear, new, used, doesn’t matter, if it goes on or near my camera I want it. I have great lenses, extra batteries, things to light up my subjects from the smallest critter to an entire family of people;  I can create beautiful images in natural settings or provide the gear to set up a studio.  Yep, that’s me the gear nerd!  Recently I added to my addiction in the purchase of a new (to me) Canon 70d crop frame camera.  I had the opportunity to purchase another full frame Canon 6d, but opted for the crop frame for several reasons.  First of all, I needed a second body so that I don’t need to change lenses while in the concert pit or at weddings and chance missing the shot, the second reason is because the 70d’s button placement is almost the same as my 6d and lastly because my son shoots with the 70d and as my second for weddings I may need for him to use the second body and he needs to not have to think about where the buttons are and what to control.  I tried it out this past weekend and I like it a lot, the shutter is a bit noisier, but overall the pictures were clean and crisp; I will use silent shutter for events.

My next purchase is an upgraded 50mm.  I currently own the Nifty Fifty which is Canon’s f1.8 5omm lens.  Great little lens, but I need something a bit sharper and faster.  I have looked at the Canon f1.2 and have read, watched videos and compared it to Sigma’s ART series F1.4 50mm.  With a cost difference of about $400 I think I may be going with the Sigma Art Lens.  The reviews are incredible and I’ve even seen a few who pit it against the Canon f1.2.  Stay tuned………..

Time Off

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I took some much needed time off. After a full summer and a busy start to our concert season along with weddings, portraits and other work, I was ready to unplug and get back to nature.

My go to place as I’ve posted in the past is in the Everglades.  I love to camp and I took four full days to step out of the digital world and relax.  I did do some posting to Facebook, but instead of worrying about my status, I took camera in hand and stepped out into the swamp.

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Because of the cooler temperatures (great for camping), the alligators were in abundance along the road of Jane’s Scenic Drive in the Fakahatchee Strand, and on the trails my son and I walked, (check out his website: Phloridaphoto.us He even decided to get a bit more up close and personal with a gator lying on the path we were walking.

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I stopped and photographed him, photographing the alligator.  I just could not bring myself to be that close to something that large with huge teeth.  As my son walked past him, Mr. Gator lifted his head and rumbled that deep throaty sound as a warning to let him know he may be a bit too close.   I had the same experience as I hung out the car door to get a rather large alligator hanging out on the road we were driving.

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We also went out two nights in a row to capture the Milky Way, however during the hours we were there, the sky have cloud cover in the general vicinity.  We did capture the sky at night and this photograph shows Miami glowing in the distance as the International Space Station does a fly over (I have an app on my phone called Sky Guide that allows me to track this).

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Overall it was a wonderful relaxing long weekend, with friends, family and my camera.