Myakka State Park

I had a conference to attend in the Tampa area and decided to bring my camera with me and stop by Myakka River State Park on my way back south to Miami. I first visited Myakka years ago when I was only 10 or so but remember being impressed with its numerous and large alligators. I returned about 4 years ago for the first time since I was 10 and spent a day exploring and hiking some of the trails. This time I did not have much time to spend in the park but still enjoyed what little time I did have there.

I managed to capture some interesting landscape shots and even tracked a few deer that where skittish but curious about my presence. All in all it was a good trip. One of these days I would like to return to spend some time kayaking the river and/or camp in the campground.

Everglades on Ice

While looking at the weather forecast yesterday afternoon I came up with an idea for what could be a unique photograph. Yesterdays forecast called for the coldest weather South Florida has seen in more than 4 years. The lows in the interior were thought to dip to the mid 20’s to low 30’s and a freeze warning was issued by NOAA. I envisioned trying to capture an image in the everglades with white frost within the landscape. A unique image that would be hard to repeat unless you had the right conditions. I called a friend of mine, Robert Chaplin, and asked if he was interested in tagging along with me. He said yes, so we headed out this morning at 5:30 AM to see what we could create.

Unfortunately for us, but good for the local farmers, the temperatures were running some 4 degrees higher than forecast and the wind speeds also stayed higher than forecast limiting the formation of frost. I had hoped to have widespread white frost on the ground to set my scene but now I would have to find something else. We ended up at the Pahayokee Overlook Boardwalk. Man made objects, especially those raised off of the ground tend to freeze/frost faster than living plant matter. Luckily for me the Payhayokee Boardwalk was iced over when we got there from top to bottom.

I set up my shot to use the Boardwalk as my leading line and main subject matter since I was hoping to accentuate the icing. This proved problematic since prior to the sunrise there was no light to reflect off the ice and make it recognizable as ice. I ended up using my flash and flashlight to try and make the ice more visible. I never did end up with exactly what I was hoping for but I still managed to capture an image that is captivating and has visible ice. The only problem is that without the background story one may not realize that the white color is ice and not the normal color of the boardwalk.

Luckily as a bonus I captured a few other good photos both prior to the sun rising and afterward. I even got a visit from one of the local owls. All in all it was a successful trip even if not exactly how I planned it.

On the way out I stopped back by the Cypress Dome with the blooming Everglades Daisy’s to give it one more try. I know there is a good photo in there I just am having a hard time finding a way to capture it with my camera. So far I like this effort the best. I will see if it continues to grow on me.

Cattail Twilight Sunrise

On my way into the park on my Cowhorn Orchid Trip I took the time to stop and shoot a sunrise at a lake I had not been to in quite some time.  I found some interesting cattails at the lake and decided to try and use them as my foreground subject.  As a bonus, there was fog moving across the lake due to the cold air interacting with the warmer water.  I had some difficulty capturing the shot due to the wind causing the cattails to sway back and forth.  As a result, I had to try and time my shots carefully to get as little movement as possible.  The shot below was taken just before the sun rose over the horizon.

Cattail Twilight Sunrise

Everglades Mangrove Sunrise

I ran out this morning for a quick early morning photography trip.  My main purpose was to go to Eco Pond in Flamingo to see if the birds had arrived yet.  However, I got talked in to getting up early enough to shoot a sunrise on the way down by Robert Chaplin who was also headed out to Everglades National Park.

We stopped at a place I have shot before but never liked any of my results.  It is a location with numerous mangrove trees growing in small clumps surrounded by shallow water.  In theory this spot should produce some great sunrise photos but to date has not been productive for me.  This morning at least produced a photo I like compositionally but I am still not sold on it.  I wish I would have had more clouds or more overall color reflected in the water.  However, I still like this photo and I will continue to clean it up a little bit to see if I can get a final result I am satisfied with.

Everglades Mangrove Sunrise

Christian Point Trail Everglades National Park Sunrise

Planned a trip to Christian Point Trail with a photographer friend of mine this week.  We decided to try and capture a sunrise from the end of the trail overlooking snakebight.  Unfortunately, this required leaving the house at 4:45 AM in order to get to the trail head by 5:45 AM.  The hike to the end of the trail takes about 45 minutes and since we were making this trip in the dark we left ourselves a little extra time for any wrong turns or unforeseen events.

Christian Point is a 1.8 mile hike through varied terrain and ending at the waters edge overlooking Snake Bight.  The shoreline faces due West making this an ideal sunrise location.  The trail starts by going through a mangrove forest before opening up into a small marl prairie.  After the first marl prairie you enter a large hardwood hammock where the trees are covered with epiphytes such as bromeliads, orchids and wild pineapples.  The hardwood hammock eventually thins out and the trail emerges into a large marl prairie that is about .5 miles long and full of dead buttonwood trees from past hurricanes.  At the end of the prairie is another thin clump of mangrove trees ending at the waters edge.

Unfortunately, the shoreline is densely covered in Mangroves leaving little in the way of options for choosing a photography location.  One is limited to the opening at the end of the trail.  The sunrise view is great however the composition options are limited.  I was able to get an OK shot using the surrounding mangroves trees and overhanging branches silhouettes to frame the sunrise.  In order to accomplish this I had to use a wide angle lens causing the sun to look small in the picture.  I did take a few with a long lens before the sun came up but quickly realized the sun was going to rise away from the subject I had chosen in the distance.

I did not have time to explore to see if other openings existed farther down.  I will try to plan a return trip when I am not in a hurry.

I found Christian Point Trail in Everglades National Park to be one of the more interesting designated trails in the park.  The varied landscape created multiple photographic subjects.  One could do landscape shots in one area and then switch to macro or plant specific shots in another.  I also saw a good number of raptors flying overhead or perched on the dead buttonwood trees.  However, be warned that the mosquitoes can be very thick in the mangrove and hardwood hammocks.  When I was there they were not to bad but the temperature was in the 60’s in the morning.  As the temperature started to warm up they started to become more plentiful.

I do not know if I would hike the trail again only for a sunrise as I think there are better sunrise locations within the park that do not require as much work to shoot.  However, I will definitely return to Christian Point Trail for other photography subjects that are available on the trail.

Everglades Sunrise, Birds in Flight and Cypress Dome Walk

I went out last week to capture a sunrise down in Flamingo, Florida.  I took a few reflection pictures across the water as the sun came up.  After the sunrise I went to Eco Pond to try and capture some bird in flight pictures.  The birds have started to thin out after reaching a peak a few weeks ago.  There were still a good number of Roseate Spoonbills, Egrets, Heron’s and other birds but not like there had been the last few weeks.  I ended up with a few I liked.

After the birds stopped performing, I started heading back toward the park entrance.  I made one last stop to explore a cypress dome I had never walked into before.  It was a great find and I plan on going back to try and take more pictures there in the future.  Inside the cypress dome, I found resident gators, birds, and three water moccasins.  I also found numerous orchids of different varieties including some very large and rare cigar orchids.


Everglades National Park Photography

I finally got some free time to take a dedicated photography trip.  It has been almost four (4) months since my last photography trip.  I chose to run out to Everglades National Park to catch a sunrise and then see what other photo opportunities I could find.  I was hoping for some dense fog in the morning based on the weather forecast the night before, but alas no fog was present.  I did find a little layer of fog across a lake but not the dense fog I had hoped for.  Either way I was able to capture a few decent shots across a nearby lake.  I captured one before the sun came up and then a few sunbursts as it broke the horizon through the trees.  I would have preferred some more dramatic skies but it was still a productive shoot.

Once the sun had gotten to bright to shoot, I packed the truck and headed to the Anhinga Trail to check on the wildlife.  I have not been to the Anhinga Trail since last March and wanted see if I could find a few animal shots to add to my collection.  I succeeded in capturing a Great Blue Egret eating a catfish and an Anhinga in Mating colors drying his wings.  When I left I encountered about five (5) vultures eating various parts of my truck.  Luckily they did not cause any major damage.

From the Anhinga Trail I went exploring to find a place called Movie Dome.  It is a cypress dome in Everglades National Park within walking distance of the main road.  To get there you have to traverse the wet and muddy saw grass for about .25 mile or so.  Once there you are surrounded by cypress trees and shin to knee deep water.  The Cypress Trees are covered in Bromeliads and other air plants.  This time of year only a few were in bloom.  Later in the year it will be much better.  In the middle of the cypress dome is a deep gator hole a couple of feet deep in which no trees grow.  It looks like a lake in the middle of the trees.  I captured a few shots of some blooming bromeliads before heading back to the truck.

I left around noon to head home.  I plan on heading back to the cypress dome when the bromeliads are all in full bloom.

Florida Keys Photography

I recently was given the opportunity to tag along on a Florida Keys Workshop put on by a local Photographer Robert L. Chaplin.  The workshop started out early in the morning with a trip to Anne’s Beach in the middle Keys.  I captured a great shot of a Mangrove Tree illuminated by the morning sunlight with a color sky and wading Egret.

From Anne’s Beach we went further south to Robbie’s to capture some Tarpon pictures before the crowds showed up.  I got two I liked.

After Robbie’s we continued further south to the old Bahia Honda bridge.  Along the Bahia Honda Beach I found some driftwood that had washed ashore and had been bleached white by the sun.  I used my wide angle lens to get close to it and capture a nice scene between the blue sky and water and white wooden tree.  I also got a good shot of the Bahia Honda Bridge that I liked as well.

We left Bahia Honda around noon and continued our trip south where we started to encounter Florida’s thunderstorms.  While we pulled over to try and capture some lighting shots I found a picturesque lagoon and waded in to try and photograph a lone mangrove I liked.  I was able capture a dramatic storm cloud in the distance to give my mangrove tree a nice back drop.

We did not make it to Key West this trip as we were all getting tired.  We decided to start working our way back north and home.  On the way we saw a great line of thunderstorms coming in off the Atlantic and pulled over near the card sound bridge to intercept them.  I got a great shot of the sun setting with a lightning strike in it surrounded by silhouettes of the nearby mangroves.

All in all it was a great trip and I am glad the Robert Chaplin invited me to tag along.