Saturday, March 6, 2010

Everglades National Park

I am very blessed to live in a state where we have so much wildlife to live with and observe. I live in Sarasota, Florida. I photograph birds all over Sarasota and south central Florida. Early in February, I decided that I would take a couple days and drive down to Homestead, get a hotel room and go to the Everglades the next day. On Saturday the 20th of February, I got off work,got my oil changed and then drove over to Economy Tackle, which is the largest bait and tackle store in town. I wanted to take my kayak along with me, and take it fishing down in Flamingo, Florida on Monday morning. I then bought a new fishing license and some flurocarbon leader material and some new fishing tackle to take along with me in the hopes of catching some big redfish on Monday morning. The rest of Saturday evening I spent preparing my fishing gear, charging up my camera battery, and packing my clothes because I was scheduled to work the lunch shift on Sunday the 21st.
Sunday arrived without much fanfare and I went to work. I got finished with my shift at about 4pm and drove home. I found an unpaid internet bill that was past due so I had to drive over to the Verizon office and pay my bill. I got home and immediately loaded up the kayak and secured it to my truck with the tie-down straps. I packed the rest of my gear and washed some clothes that I would need when I returned to Sarasota. I jumped in the truck at about 7:15pm Sunday evening. I needed gas and ice and some other supplies. I stopped at Arby's for a quick bite to eat and then hit the road. I left Sarasota at almost 8pm Sunday night.
I drove down interstate 75 all the way across Alligator Alley and listened to The Everglades Radio Network while traveling across Alligator Alley. Check it out at . I arrived in Homestead, Florida at about midnight Sunday night. I paid $56.47 for my little hotel room and noticed that it was lightly raining. I unloaded all of my stuff and put the kayak in the hotel room because I was afraid that it would have been stolen if I had left it on the truck bed. I played around online on facebook and flickr until about 1am before retiring to bed. I set my clock for 6am.
I awoke to my cell phone alarm buzzing away at 6 and opened the hotel room door. It was coming down in sheets. I was upset and disappointed that I drove all that way to look at the rain falling down. I decided to go back to bed for a while. I got back up at 7:30 or 8am and just decided to load up the truck and continue with my trip. I was hungry so before heading to the park, I stopped in for breakfast at the ihop for some sausage and eggs. It was really raining and I drove to the park and stopped in at the visitors center to learn a little more about Everglades National Park. It was still raining so I had given up on my plans to fish. The first turn off inside the park was to a road leading to the Anhinga Trail. I had seen photographs of birds at Anhinga Trail, so I was eager to et some photographs. The rain had almost stopped and I parked the truck and found some other photographers who had the same idea.
Anhinga Trail is a long boardwalk built over a wetland marsh. The first birds I saw were the black vultures that were all over the cars in the parking lot. I went behind the buildings and there was a little pond back there with an anhinga in the tree and an alligator in the water.

I was really busy photographing this anhinga that I failed to notice that little limb right beside the bird. It is so close to the bird in this image that it doesn't distract from the bird too much, at least I hope not. I looked down and saw an alligator sitting in the water. It wasn't moving, just sitting there.

I took several photographs of the alligator and anhinga and I was hoping the alligator would move a little closer so I could get a tighter shot, it didn't so I just photographed it where it was before I moved on to find another bird, of which there were plenty.

There is a reason that they call this place "Anhinga Trail" They were everywhere!

I moved on away from the anhinga and the alligator and saw a great blue heron across the water and as I approached, it flew up and landed on the wood railing right next to me. I couldn't beleive how close and how tame this bird was, it was like it knew I wasn't going there to cause any harm. Look at how beautiful this bird is!

I moved on around the boardwalk and noticed how many Purple Gallinules there were running around in the bushes. A purple gallinule is a type of rail. The bird has these giant feet that enable it to walk around on the leaves and lilly pads which cover the surface of the water. Notice how beautifully this bird is colored. It is just brilliant!

I spent a couple hours here, walking around the boardwalk, photographing all the birds I could. I was looking at another gator swimming around this little pond and there was an anhinga on the tree just watching the gator, the bird seemed completely unalarmed by te alligator and just watched it swim by. I felt something brush my head and looked up just in time to notice a black vulture land on the boardwalk railing right beside me. It sat there and posed for me so of course, I snapped off a couple shots!

I then left Anhinga Trail and went back to my car just as the rain started falling again. It rained so hard that I was afraid that I wasn't going to make it back to the truck before my camera got soaked. I did make it in time and got back to the truck just as the sky unloaded. I left and then decided to drive the 35 plus miles south to Flamingo, Florida. Flamingo is a little fishing village at the southern most part of the penninsula of Florida. It rained the whole way down and only stopped long enough for me to get out and look around a bit! There wasn't much there, just a boat ramp, a visitors center and a little store by the marina. I saw an osprey nest, a couple seagulls and an American Crocodile. Flamingo is the only place in the world where you can see Alligators and Crocodiles together.
I got tired of the rain so I decided to drive back to the hotel, pay for another night and hope for the best. I paid for another night, rested a little bit and then drove to the Florida Keys in a driving rain storm. My luck fort the day just sucked. I couldn't win for losing. It rained the whole way down there and the whole way back. I couldn't even stop to eat without getting soaked. When I got back to Homestead, I stopped at Mickey D's and had some food.

I awoke the next morning to a few clouds, but no rain. The sun did come out as I approached the park so I went back to Anhinga Trail. I stopped and photographed the rising sun as I entered the park.

When I got to Anhinga trail I saw this little green heron.

I then left the southern end of the park and headed north to go to Shark Valley. Shark Valley is another entrance to the park at the northern end along the Tamiami Trail, (Highway 41). When I got there the parking lot was full so I had to park along side highway 41. The birds were all over the place, as were the gators. I saw green herons, anhingas, and great and snowy egrets.

There were so many gators there that you would almost step on one if you didn't watch your step. Here is a closeup of one. I was about seven feet away from this gator.

I kept moving on and saw some thistle growing beside the trail so I thought that it was a great opportunity to use my macro lens for a closeup shot of this lavender colored bloom.

I kept moving as I found one subject after another to photograph. I saw several Florida cooters, which is a turtle and a beautiful woodstork sitting on the ground beside the paved trail.

I finally was happy with the photographic opportunities that I had been presented with and I had about a three hour drive left in front of me. I knew the going would be slow and that I would make a couple more stops along the way. I drove back on Tamiami Trail and I stopped at the Clive Butcher gallery and museum in The Big Cypress preserve. I kept driving and also stopped in Everglades City. I don't see how anyone actually lives there. There was not much to see. I left Everglades City and then drove on back to Sarasota to complete a trip of sight seeing, photography and alot of driving. I arrived home tired and sleepy at a little after 6pm. I had a great time got some good photos, in spite of the rain and educated myself about the Florida Everglades. I am now ready to go back, stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My 50th birthday!

I was born fifty years ago today, November 30, 1959. I was anxiously awaiting my birthday and I was really hoping that it would not happen. I havew never been in a hurry to be fifty years old. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but it wasn't going to be sleeping all day and letting the time slip by. I decided that I would spend the day by my self and drive up to Ft DeSoto state park in St. Pete. There are many migratory birds there and I knew that I would have a good day! I got my ass up at 5:30 in the morning and was on the road well before six. When I got there, it was still somewhat dark, and I drove over to the eastern side of the island to photograph the sunrise

I stayed in this spot for a while and took a few photos. I have always liked this spot and I am looking almost due east.

Here is another shot, this time I will move away from the bridge!

I enjoyed that beautiful sunrise so now it was time to move on and see some birds! I then left the eastern side of the island to drive over to the west side and visit the north beach. North Beach at Fort DeSoto is always ranked as one of the best beaches in the country.

I walked onto the beach and I immediately knew that this was a special day because I saw a bird that I have never seen before and only learned of its existence, this year. This is an image of a White Morph Reddish Egret. I understand that they are a rare bird here in Florida and I was glad that I got to see one.

I also saw a dark morph Reddish Egret. I have only seen this bird once before and it was here at Fort Desoto as well. These Reddish Egrets mate and nest here at Fort Desoto and a few other places in Florida. They are so beautiful! See what you think!

It was nice to get away and come up here and photograph these beautiful birds! I can't wait to get back again!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dinner Island WMA trip October 4, 2009

I am a very lucky man and I have a bunch of great people that I know.I met a bunch of my new friends on Sunday October 4, 2009 at Dinner Island WMA for a meet-up of a group of us that share our photos on flickr. A young lady named Heather Green organized the trip and did a wonderful job at putting this event together. Dinner Island is located several miles to the southwest of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. We were supposed to meet there at 7am and I live about 150 miles away so I had to leave my house at 4am. I followed my directions to a tee and still almost got lost because it was dark and there were no signs to show me where to turn into the entrance but I did find it.

I rolled up and I saw a few people that I recognized and I introduced myself to Heather and everyone else. I was really excited and I just kinda stood there for a few minutes until I noticed that everyone was behind their camera and then I noticed this absolutely beautiful sunrise.

I then just stepped back and looked at the place and looked at what everyone was photographing when I heard some one say to turn around and look at the moon, so I turned around and saw one of the most amzing full moons anyone could ask to see!

We were all standing there at the entrance of this place waiting on all of the people who were expected to show up. A couple of the folks were late and a couple didn't show up at all. I took more images of the sunrise and there was a horse in this coral next to where we all parked, so we all took images of that horse in the beautiful morning light. I, as usual, was so excited that I forgot to get my camera settings just right and I missed those shots by having the wrong shutter speed and wrong ISO settings to get the right shutter speed. I am still and always learning at photography.

The time went on and we finally decided to move on and see what we could find. There was a dirt road that encircled the place and so we started driving down the road not knowing for myself what I would encounter. We found a group of spider nests so we decided to get a few images of them.

We then rolled on down the road a little bit and as I drove up I noticed that everyone had stopped and I thought that we were going to get the chance to see and photograph some Barred Owls. I was right and that is exactly what we did! Someone had some owl sounds recorded and as usual, they worked.

While I and others were into the owls and trying to get the best photographs that we could, I noticed some other folks with there macro lenses out and taking some images of smaller things like a catapillar and a couple tree frogs. I had my 70-300mm lens on my camera and for the tree frogs, that one was just not going to get the job done. I went back to my truck and fetched my camera bag and took out my Tamron 90mm Macro lens and attached it to my D80. The nice thing about tree frogs is that they don't move too much. I wasn't quite tall enough to get the camera set up the way that I wanted so I went back to the truck and got a bucket to stand on. I then was able to fire off a couple long macro exposures of this tree frog.

We then moved on again and the sun was getting pretty high in the sky by this time and I didn't think that I would get many more images, as we were riding out I saw this brama bull, so I took a shot of him. Here is that image. I thought he looked kinda pissed.

We got back to the parking lot and stood around and talked for a little while. I thought about the day and what a good time I had with my friends. We did decide to do this again, this time at Viera Wetlands, on the east coast of Florida. I wanted to remember what the place looked like so I decided to take this parting shot of Dinner Island WMA. What a cool place!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More of my rants

This is just some of the things that has been getting under my skin lately. The past two weeks have showed one example after the next, that we have become a society that just don't give a shit about anyone except ourselves anymore. The first example was when South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson interrupted President Barrack Obama's speech to congress last week. Rep. Wilson called Obama a liar, implying that Obama was lying by saying illegal aliens were not going to receive health care under his new plan. Wilson stood by what he said and only apologized when forced to do so by his fellow congressmen. I don't really care that he called him a liar but he could have done it in a better way.
Serena Williams was playing for the championship at the US Open tennis match the other day. She was getting her ass beat by Kim Clysters. She disagreed with some of the calls that the official made and she slammed her racquet upon the ground and then she threatened and berated the official right there in front of God and everyone. She too later apologized but the sincerity of that apology was questionable at best. She no more cared about that than the man in the moon. The only thing that she was concerned about was that her actions could potentially cost her money in the future because she will lose endorsement contracts and her image will take a big hit in general. Didn't her parents teach this stuck up bitch any manners? Evidently not.
The last incident came Sunday night at the MTV video music awards show. Young country songstress Taylor Swift had just won their award for "Best Video of the year" when rapper Kanye West barrged out from backstage, snatched the microphone from her hand and then went on to say the Beyonce had the best video. He too later apologized but it was too little too late. He apologized to her in his blog, what a jack ass! Who gave this jerk the right. First of all, who cares about the MTV music awards show? Does anyone watch videos anymore? Second, who gives a damn about Kanye West? How did he get that gig anyway? I have more God given talent than he! If Kanye had been a white man it would have been a bigger story because then he would have been labeled a racist and we would nevr hear the end of it.
We have absolutely no respect for anyone anymore. Kindness and respect have been thrown out the window and no one seems to care. It is really no surprise. The images and behavior on television, with the reality shows and the selfishness of the athletes that we idolize just fuel that behavior. Parents don't teach their children and everyone is all about me me me! In many ways, I am glad that I grew up in a different generation. I would have gotten my ass beat if I acted like these people have. My dad would have kicked my ass, my friends would have kicked my ass and I don't even want to think about the ass kicking I would have received from my mother.
Everyone needs to step back and take a long hard look at themselves and ask, Would my grandmother approve of the way that I am acting? Well, would she?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

All Alone

Over the course of the last year I have gone from a guy who wants to drink and smoke, get drunk and party all night to one who has become totally clean and sober. I quit drinking on Christmas night, December 25, 2008. I was drunk and I knocked a beer over onto and on top of my laptop computer that I had owned less than a year. My entire collection of photography was on that computer with no back up. I was so angry with myself that I could almost cry. The entire previous year had been spent with me trying to improve as a photographer and here I was about to lose my entire collection of photographs all because of my drinking habit. I decided at that moment that I had enough. I haven't touched or wanted a beer or a drink since. I quit smoking marijuana later on in the year when I lost my job at the restaurant. I started applying for jobs and it seems like everywhere you go is now a drug free workplace that requires all employees to be screened for drugs, so I quit! I don't miss it at all. I don't need it. I don't want it and I wonder why it took me until I was almost fifty years old, to figure it out. I feel, in a way, like I have wasted most of my life, but that is NOT true!
I remember going to AA meetings and such, and the people who knew more than I would tell me that I was going to have to change my entire group of friends. I refused to believe them. I thought that I was powerful enough to quit everything and just still hang out with the same people and do the same things that I used to do, only difference being, I wouldn't drink or smoke. I was so wrong. I have had no problems staying clean and sober. I just seem to have a problem being with people who continue to use and drink. I no longer wish to be around these people, they are all so much different than I am now and we no longer have that "thing" in common. I go to the bar to sing karaoke like I always have and I just stand in the corner all by myself. I watch everyone else drink and smoke and smoke and drink and this is all they do. I feel so alone. I move around and try to talk to everyone and be the same person that I was, but I am not and I just don't enjoy doing it any longer.
I am now all alone. I am going to have to find a whole new set of friends that don't drink or smoke. I have no fear that I will be able to do this because I have never had any problems with finding friends. I do stuff that keeps me by myself most of the time now anyway. Photography keeps me occupied most of the time and that's a hobby that I do better by myself. I don't bother anyone and no one bothers me. I just feel all alone now. I don't really want to spend my time with these folks and they don't want to spend time with me. I thought for all of this time that we had more in common than our desire to get drunk or get stoned, now that I have no desire to do that any longer, I feel no connection to my former friends. I hope that I don't sound too cold but it's just the way I feel. Those folks at AA were right all along. I will be fine. I will not drink and I will not smoke. I also quit smoking cigarettes in January of 2007 but that has been no problem with my relationships. People refuse to believe or accept the influence of the alcohol and drugs upon their pysche and the way that they think about everything. They refuse to believe that their entire life is predicated by their use of these powerful drugs, I sure didn't. I am glad that I am clean and sober! The two best decisions I have ever made. I just have to think about my decisions in the future now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My little buddies

This is an image of our little puppies. The mama dog (Jackie) gave birth to them on July 1, 2009. We had been waiting for them and hoping with great anticipation that they would be born healthy. The dark faced one is the only one that has been sold so far. I have been waiting for the puppies to get big enough so that my room mate, Dusty, would be willing to let them go outside. Tonight was the night!

Jackie is almost impossible to photograph, she runs from me whenever she sees my camera. Tonight, I couldn't get her out of the way of the puppies. I did manage to capture a couple shots of her. We took the puppies outside and they didn't know exactly what to do, so they all decided to squat. A funny sight indeed, almost as if on cue! Jackie wouldn't get out of the way, so the puppies figured that they would take advantage of the situation and they started nursing. We weaned them a few days ago. The time passed and Jackie relaxed a bit and I was able to get this shot of the four pups together. They continued to romp and play around with each other and I was able to get images of each of them individually. I enjoy photographing my little buddies and in the coming days, I plan to get many more. More photographs to come!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I love my squirrels

I love my squirrels. I don't know when it started for me but I have loved these little creatures for all of my life. I remember as a little kid, my grandfather came to live with us starting when I was ten years old. My grandmother ha just passed away and he moved in with us, he was my maternal grandfather. He was very lonely after my grandmother passed away so he started building bird houses and bird feeders. He was good at it and it didn't take long before he had several put up around the yard. A few months went by and I noticed that we had several birds and squirrels making visits to our yard to eat out of our his bird feeders. We would sit together in the backyard, my grandfather and I, and watch all of the different birds come and eat out of the feeders. There were all kinds of birds, blue jays, brown thrashers, robins and cardnials and of course, the squirrels.
The squirrels were very big compared to the small bird feeders and they would wedge their entire body inside the feeder. They would sit in there and eat until all the food was either eaten or knocked out of the feeder by their clumsiness. I remember not liking the squirrels then because I thought that they should let the birds eat, I mean it was a bird feeder not a squirrel feeder, right? I would try to chase them off and get the birds back but the squirrels just took over the bird feeders and would eat all of the food. My grandfather built bird houses and they would take them over too. A couple years went by and the squirrels kept coming to the feeders and eating all of the food. Another year or two went by and my family and I moved into another house in a different part of the same city. This house was built on a lot that was next to a set of woods. My grandfather loved it.
Our house was built like a tree house,with trees surrounding us. The bird feeders and houses went up all over the neighborhood and the process started all over again. The birds and squirrels were all around, everyday more and more of them would show up. One Christmas, I received this brand new pellet gun as a gift and I couldn't wait to go out and shoot it. I didn't shoot anything at first but as some time went by I slowly started shooting the birds and squirrels. I was thirteen years old. I remember being out with my grandfather and my gun and one day I took aim and shot a squirrel, right in front of him. I didn't even think about it. He said nothing at first and then he looked down and said, "You know if you keep doing that, then they won't come around anymore," and I said, "what?" and he repeated himself. I felt horrible and have felt guilty about that ever since. I haven't pointed a gun at a living thing since that day. I never told my grandfather that. He passed away in 1982. I have never met a better man. I grew older and when I was in high school my friends would show me their deer rifles and ask me to go hunting with them. I just couldn't do it. I was too soft hearted and I am still. I am happy with myself, being that way. I now only want to "shoot" an animal with my camera.