Paradise Found

I am so fortunate that I get to live in paradise.  I sometimes forget how beautiful our area here in South West Florida is. No matter what direction I travel I can find the natural environment I crave.  From beaches to swamplands it’s all here.  Today my travels took me to Sanibel Island and the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

While driving slowly down the scenic drive and stopping when something caught my interest, I felt so blessed to be able to have the day off and enjoy such natural beauty.  From birds to butterflies the day was full of surprises.  A lone Roseate Spoonbill and White Ibis looking for their breakfast and finding it.

Ding Darling

A curious Little Blue Heron signaling a warning of the alligator who was lurking close by.

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A lovely Common Buckeye butterfly unknowingly pollinating the flowers as it gathered life giving nectar.

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Even the pungent smell of fermenting palm berries carried in the warm breeze was refreshing in it’s erthereal own way.

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The nutrient rich tannin stained waters were bringing forth life to the White Ibis as it was searching for a quick meal.

Ding Darling-8

As I watched nature doing her thing, I was reminded that I am just a very small part of all of this, yet just as important.  Each of us have our place in this world, the birds, butterflies, the water, the land, all celebrating our creator.

Thank you for joining me on my adventure……until next time, happy shooting!

 

 

Mentor/Mentee

I belong to a local Meetup group called the South West Florida Shutterbugs and in two weeks we will be six months old as a group.  In that six months we have offered learning opportunities, trips both local and out of area and have met some really cool people.  Recently, we have initiated a mentor/mentee program and I have decided it’s time to take my skills to another level by working with an incredible portrait photographer.  This will stretch my knowledge and also take me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve already worked with him on a few shoots and he makes what he does look so effortless.  I know this will make me better, especially when it comes to using off camera flash.

Now, for the next part, I will be mentoring a more beginner photographer.  I really appreciate what has been taught to me and I want to give back.  When I started shooting I had no one to guide me and I learned on my own.  I learned that concerts and events were sometimes a crap shoot depending on the lighting, but now I go into them full of confidence in my own skills.  This mentoring will hopefully allow another beginner to feel more confident with their camera without having to learn it all on their own.

If you are in the South West Florida area and want to join a top-notch photography group, feel free to check out Meetup.com.  Happy shooting.

Eye Contact

You hear all the time that the eyes are the window to the soul, one of my goals when I’m shooting concerts is to get the eye contact; now mind you I don’t ask for it, I don’t do anything distracting to get it, but generally it happens, even when I don’t think they can even see me as with Alice Cooper.  I was way over off to the side and a couple of rows up, yet this happened;Alice Cooper-6

There wasn’t anyone that I could see in his direct eye contact, I even asked the photographer behind me if she got him looking our way…….she didn’t.

On Monday I got kind of the same thing, but it was almost as if I was recognized, don’t see how that’s possible, but REO’s bassist comes out on stage and this happened;REO

and it continues with the other two bands Tesla………Tesla-14Tesla-3

and…….Def Leppard;Def Leppard-15

 

An Unveiling

Recently I reconnected with an old friend through Facebook.  We had been friends back in our late Junior High early High School days.  He moved away and we kept in touch for a short time after; well before Facebook when letter writing was envogue.  He had moved back to the same area as an adult and joined the local Sheriff’s Department as a K9 handler.  He is currently retired and breeds/trains Malinois & German Shepherds.  He contacted me about photographing his dogs working so I took a trip up mid June to a training facility.  It was a huge field set up with obstacles and many different working dog owners.  I was allowed to be on the field with the dogs working and even though the field was full of water and mud it was a great time.  I met some incredible people and took some awesome photos.  Out of the photos I took THIS is why I was there!

Photographic Funk

It’s not often I get this way, normally I have lots to share and lots to write about, but lately I have been in a photographic funk.  It’s not something that will last as I have had them before, but I’m having a difficult time getting myself motivated to shoot anything other than concerts, portraits and weddings.  I know these are my true niche because I love the excitement of it all.  Especially the concerts!  I love meeting people and seeing them excited like when I took photos at the Big Ole Bonfire in the Photo booth.  Or meeting the artists and photographing their fans like I did this night at The Ranch (my photos have my watermark on them).  I love seeing the look of excitement on peoples faces when they get to meet their rock star idol like this young man did with Sixx: AM at Fort Rock.  This excites me! Check out more about Fort Rock here on my blog Festival Daze

My funk comes within my own realm of doing photos for myself.  I need to find something outside of my “normal” range of concerts, weddings & portraits to shoot.  I have tried the “photo a day” challenges and I feel bad when I can’t complete a day’s challenge so I stop doing them.  I need something other than beaches and flowers too;  I need something exciting, something that catches not just my interest, but my eyes.  I need to slow myself down and create my own masterpiece, something worth sharing and talking about.  But what would that be?   I’m not really sure.  Do I need a vacation to somewhere other than here? Maybe, or maybe I just need to take in what’s around me and see it in a different way, but how?  I love adventures! I love taking adventures on my own where no one but me dictates how or when.  Maybe I need a day of adventure, to explore somewhere new on my own and to get back within my grove.  Or maybe I need a day with  couple of my friends who are incredible photographers, who are creative and like to think outside the box. I’m sure this will pass quickly as it always does, but in the meantime if you, my readers have any thoughts or suggestions, please comment below.  Until next time, from the Life of a photographer.

 

A Final Farewell

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I really had not planned on writing tonight, but I’m home instead of being out celebrating and I didn’t know I would be as emotional about this whole New Year thing, but here I am at the computer typing my thoughts for the world to read.  So here goes….

This time last year on December 31, 2013 I was also alone, but I went out and enjoyed an evening at a local establishment (which sadly is no longer open), listened to a band who was losing their lead singer to cancer, it was to be his final performance, he passed a month later. When I first arrived at my table, I was a bit upset, they didn’t seat me with anyone……I was in a huge outdoor seating area, sitting alone at a table for four and I felt really awkward and thought maybe I shouldn’t be there.  You see I had just ended a four-year relationship and was determined that my life was going to be better alone than what I was enduring the last couple of years in that relationship.  As I sat at my table being served a wonderful surf & turf dinner by the best waitress ever, I kept thinking “2014 will be my year”.  It was quite chilly and I wasn’t really dressed for the coolness, but I endured to midnight, had a glass of champagne and toasted what was to come.  A young girl came over to me and gave me a huge hug and invited me to her table, I declined,  You see I was holding back tears, because I wanted her to know I was fine and really wasn’t staying much longer.  I finished my glass, and took the rest of the bottle to their larger table and wished them all a Happy New Year and left.  Driving home I was almost smiling at the thought that I got through the evening and I was going to be just fine.

Life simply got better, I was surrounded by friends who rallied around me and kept me encouraged in the midst of those sad few trying to discredit me and my work.  I threw myself into my photography and began to pick up more and more work.  I realized I was much more successful on my own and was regaining my self-confidence and finding my lost identity once again.  I have talent and my photography is good and even though the gossip mongers were trying to tear me down I was surpassing my own expectations!  I also picked up a new partner in my photography; my son Tommy who is incredible and he knows how to use his camera, he’s so amazingly talented and creative. We are my father’s prodigies, he would be proud of us.

Tommy allowed  me to photograph him and in return I succumbed to the front of his lens as well, not an easy task for a photographer.  It felt awkward and unnatural, but after a few minutes I began to enjoy the experience and really loved the images he produced of me.

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As the year progressed I was able to add an incredible amount of images to my portfolio and actually had the privilege of photographing my all time favorite former Beatle Ringo Starr (bucket list).

Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr

I have had a set back or two, but I never allowed them to get the best of me, because I know I’m right where I need to be.  God is in control of my life and what I am doing.  My faith is unwavering.  The end of the year has been trying with finding out a close friend was diagnosed with cancer, thankfully she is a fighter and it didn’t win, she did! I’ve added friends to my very small circle and I love each one of them.  I also just sent a text my to my son and his response brought on the emotions.  I have two incredible boys and my youngest is a lot like me in more ways than with a camera.

So here I am ending my year in a puddle of tears, yet I know 2015 is going to be even better than 2014.  I will find love again this year because I’m ready and I know God is preparing someone for me, and I will be one step closer to realizing my dream of being a full-time working photographer.  I am beginning the new year documenting the journey back to health of a woman in the fight for her life and hope to highlight her here in the very near future.  So to all of my followers, stay tuned, it’s only going to get better.  God Bless each of you, treat each moment as if it could be your last….Love, laugh, dance and sing…… 2015 is going to ROCK!  Happy New Year!

Photography In Paradise

I have wanted to go camping for several months now and finally had a weekend free where I could even think about doing it. I love to camp and if I can take my camera and explore even better. I decided on camping at Trail Lakes Camp Ground in Ochopee, Florida which is a multi-generation family owned business. I have known the family for several years and my son went to school with the current owner. This place is unique as it’s been around for well over 50 years and owned by the same family. Big Cypress has tried to have them removed but they have endured.   This particular trip had a goal in mind, my youngest son wanted me to take portrait style photos for him, so I knew I would be using the camera a lot and for this reason I was even more excited about going.

I decided to arrive on Friday evening after work because I wanted a full day on Saturday and didn’t want it interrupted with drive time, even though it only takes an hour to get there I knew I would have plenty of time Friday evening to set up my campsite and eat a bite before dark.

My campsite
My campsite

This was a great decision because I was awarded with an amazing night sky. I met up with Tommy after he got off work and we shared a meal at my camp. My son lives on the campground and is a guide for Everglades Adventure Tours which is housed out of Trail Lakes Campground and is run by Jack Shealy who also is now running the campground area. Tommy is a bit of a local legend himself because last April he had an encounter with a ten foot Burmese Python, one of the exotics currently trying to take over the Everglades. Growing up in this area and the son of a biologist, Tommy’s instincts kicked in and he got in the water and grabbed the snake. You can see the video on his website www.phloridaphoto.us

The weather was near perfect for sleeping cool but not cold and the stars! I was also serenaded to sleep by a chorus of frogs, so delightful to hear. I woke up fairly early and planned out my day. Made a quick breakfast and headed out to Turner River Road and HP Williams Park. I saw the usual, alligators, wading birds and tourists. I ventured on down the extremely dusty road toward Wagon Wheel road in hope of encountering a Purple Gallinule and to get a wide vista shot of the Big Cypress Preserve; goal two was achieved, didn’t get the Purple Gallinule as the growth was incredibly heavy. I headed back to my campsite to get a bit of lunch and to see what time Tom would be off work, I then proceeded to take a brief nap in my very warm tent. I awoke and muddled about cleaning my camera until Tommy’s quitting time. A short time later we met up packed our gear and headed off into the Saw Grass prairie in back of the property. Tommy brought several changes of clothes as he wanted to get some different shots in different areas. His first choice was business wear, dress shirt & pants, totally out of place in a swamp, but then again if you knew my son, you’d understand. The contrast of being dressed up and being out in this wild area was actually quite striking and it accented his natural good looks. As we were shooting we had a visitor, whom he thought was secured in the house; his dog Sunny, she had broken free and knew where to find her master, it turned out really well as I was able to get some shots of the two of them. This was a pleasant surprise.

Tommy-19 Tommy-26 Tommy-25 Tommy-6 Tommy-8 Tommy-16

After several scenery and clothing changes we packed our stuff back up headed to his place to see what I captured, (this is the most exciting part for me). I was blown away at the incredible images that came forth on his computer.

I headed off to my camp cut up by the Saw Grass (lives up to its name) and excited for Sunday as we were going to head to the Fakahatchee Strand. After trekking around for a couple of hours I was tired and sleep came quickly.

Sunday morning arrived and I packed up most of my gear back into my car and headed to get Tom. We detoured into Everglades City and had a wonderful breakfast at the Island Café. Then off we headed to the Fakahatchee. My ex-husband, Tommy’s dad is still biologist there and it’s easy to understand why he loves this place, as there is nothing else like it in North America. We drove down Jane’s Scenic Drive heading to our destination with a few stops on the way to look for the illusive Everglades Mink which Tommy was fortunate enough to capture on video and on camera (first person to post it ever on You Tube). We checked the spot and didn’t see any signs of them. We did encounter plenty of Great Egrets, White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets in our path. We also stopped at an Alligator hole and were fortunate enough to see one being quite active. As you can see from the photograph, it was VERY active!

Big Cypress-7

We finally reached our destination of West Main tram and saw a small gathering of people, watching something very intently with cameras in hand. We grabbed our gear and took a look at what they were watching. They were watching an entire family of Everglades Mink, this was my first time ever seeing them even after living there for 13+ years. I was so excited and hopeful that I would be able to capture one on camera. I did, even though it’s only the back of its head I was able to get a decent photo. Not only did I see one I have a photograph to prove it! Even the deer flies we later encountered were unable to dampen my day, it was incredible.

Everglades Mink
Everglades Mink

Heading down the hiking path we scouted out a few locations that Tommy was interested in using as his portrait backdrops, we came upon an old cabin and even though the hand scribbled sign said it was a private residence the place looked as if it had not been inhabited for quite some time so we stopped there to get a few photos again with him dressed like a business man. We also moved on and found some other interesting spots to shoot from including him climbing an orange tree.

Tommy Tommy-2

A few clothing changes later we headed back out, but not before I turned around and for the second time in one day saw another Everglades Mink, we staked it out, but they are so quick and so quiet that neither of us were able to squeeze off a frame. Coming out of the swamp we were tired and hot and ready for ice cream. After making a short trip back to the campground we headed back off to Everglades City to a local shop called Sweet Mayberry’s for some wonderful gelato and a cookie. This little shop is owned by another local whom my boys grew up and spent a lot of time with. Tommy has a lot of his framed photographs in this shop as well as his postcards.

Finishing up our sweet treat we headed out and this is sadly where I had to tell my boy goodbye, as I had to head back home to begin another work week. You can bet I will be heading back down there again soon. It was a great weekend and one I won’t soon forget. So what have you seen from Behind the Lens?