Painted Leaves

This Tricolor Stromanthe caught my eye at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh this week. The plant is not part of a special exhibit, and I’m sure I have walked past it many times before. I was attracted to the way the plant looked enough to stop and take several photos, hoping to share how much the leaves look painted.

stromanthe, plant, variegated leaves, nature
I loved the three shades of green along with sections of white, yellow and magenta: the intriguing Stromanthe at Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory.

The Stromanthe is a tropical plant in the family Marantaceae, native to portions of the Americas from Mexico to Trinidad and northern Argentina. It can grow to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It is also called a Tricolor Prayer Plant, and it thrives in indirect light, while bright light brings out its brightest coloring.

Are you a fan of variegated leaves?

Stop Action Series: Great Blue Heron in Flight

As an eyewitness to a bird in flight, I know the beauty we see is fleeting. In the blink of an eye, the sighting is a memory — as long as I didn’t blink! On the other hand, two photographs taken in quick succession can be studied, savored and enjoyed forever.

As a wildlife photographer, capturing a continuous series of a bird in flight is one of my goals, since I love seeing those beautiful wings outstretched. That’s not to mention the rewarding feeling of meeting the challenge of focus and freezing action of a fast moving subject!

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron’s lift off in the Everglades at Shark Valley. (First in series)
Great Blue Heron in flight
Great Blue Heron flies with wings outstretched. Everglades National Park. (Second in series)

Contrast these views with the serene beauty of the Great Blue Heron at rest, as it watches the water for a fish to catch.

Great Blue Heron, Everglades
Great Blue Heron perched waterside for feeding in Everglades National Park, Shark Valley.

Pecking the Palms

This morning I rose before the sun to go birdwatching on our golf course. As the sun began to light the landscape, I spotted this Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for insects on the palm trees. As he flew from one palm to the next, the sunlight gave us a good look at his red crown and black and white patterned wings.

This Red-bellied Woodpecker was spotted in Naples, Florida, but they can be found all along the East Coast of North America. Their red crown feathers are far more prominent than the tiny red lower belly.

Jackson Lake in the Mist

Jackson Lake water levels are at record lows this Fall (in 2021) after a very dry summer. From this location on the dry lake bed, we could see mist rising on a cold Fall morning and snow covered Mount Moran in the background.

Misty Jackson Lake on a chilly Fall morning with fresh snow on Mount Moran.

Brilliant Fall Foliage

Are you still waiting for the green foliage to change to its seasonal fall colors? The main factor that triggers the color change is the increasing length of the night, which causes chlorophyll production in the leaf to stop. We found some brilliant fall color in Grand Teton National Park in late September.

This location in Grand Teton National Park included the green, yellow and red foliage against a bright blue September sky.

I was curious about what types of trees turn yellow and what types turn red, so I turned to the Forest Service of the USDA for some answers.

Oaks: red, brown, or russet

– Hickories: golden bronze

– Aspen and yellow-poplar: golden yellow

– Dogwood: purplish red

– Beech: light tan

– Sourwood and black tupelo: crimson

The color of maples leaves differ species by species:

– Red maple: brilliant scarlet

– Sugar maple: orange-red

– Black maple: glowing yellow

Well Hello, Heron Hatchling

April is the month for baby birds to hatch, and Southwest Florida is now alive with chirping sounds. Of course, we humans need to keep our distance and give plenty of space and security to all the birds in their nests. Let me assure you that I have a long telephoto lens, and I also crop my files to bring you a close up, while maintaining a respectful distance.

This stately Great Blue Heron stands astride an adorable hatchling, just a few inches tall, yet very alert and watching me. The sight of this nest with mother and chick was a very special first for me. I hope the photo brings you a sense of wonder and delight.

Adult Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage stands tall in her nest with two hatchlings at her feet. One is visible in this photograph near Naples, Florida in April 2021.

Prints are available; please contact cathykellyphotography@gmail.com for details. More nesting photos to come!

Giving a Local Image an International Audience

Today I wondered how to make my nature photography in the tropics relevant to people other regions — where alligators and palm trees don’t exist. Then I remembered the photographs I shot yesterday of the ferns in the Cypress Forest. Ferns are an ancient and diverse plant that spring to life next to decaying wood all over the globe. I grew especially interested and appreciative of ferns while hiking the New Zealand woods.

The South Island of New Zealand was the location where I learned that the growth tip of a fern that takes the shape on an unfurling spiral is a symbol of rebirth, regeneration, and eternity. It’s called the Koru. Thanks to this experience and inspiration in New Zealand, I revere the Koru as well.

Looking for alligators and a wide variety of birds in the Florida wilderness, many nature enthusiasts will pass by the ferns without a pause to admire them. I love to find a great composition that features the Koru — the spiral shaped tip of the fern, showing us for centuries the ability of life to regenerate. A positive symbol during our trying times. I believe that this local photograph can truly attain international relevance and appeal.

Standing out from the Cypress Tree trunk with both vivid color and sharp focus, observe the intricate shape of the fern and its spiral top, the Koru. Naples, Florida, March 2021.

As a large print, this photograph will work well in contemporary decor. Consider a metal print for your home. Email me for details at cathykellyphotography@gmail.com.

A Good Gator

In my opinion, a good gator is a motionless gator. I always try to keep my distance from an alligator, especially one that is watching me, because I have seen how lightening fast they move, when they bolt. This gator was floating in the fresh water of the Everglades. You can see its leg dangling in the water.

Alligator floating with legs dangling in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park. He seemed to be watching me while I photographed him with a zoom lens from at least 15 feet away. Thankfully, it did not feel threatened or make a move toward me.

Gator on the Move

I made a sunrise trip to Ten Thousand Islands near the Florida Everglades hoping to see roseate spoonbills, but instead got a good look at a very large alligator. He was old, long and big bellied, yet still looking for his next meal. As he swam parallel to the shore, I followed him down the trail for about 15 minutes, getting a good look at him at each clearing. He was looking at me, while I was looking at him (her). Do you see the sunrise reflecting in his eye?

With my Sony 200-600 mm lens, I could stay at a safe distance, but get a close look at this gator’s face. Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Southwest Florida, February 2021.

To give you an idea of the length of this alligator, here is a second photo showing its length. As he cruised the marsh, pelicans, cormorants, anhinga, and a variety of herons flew off to safety.

Some shoreline grasses blocked my view of this 10-foot alligator, but I didn’t want to approach this dangerous creature, as they can move very fast when they attack. Here, he seemed to be crawling on a sandbar.

Driftwood in Infrared

This driftwood stump caught my eye while I was walking the beach, as I noticed grasses growing out of the center. The scene spoke to me of both the passage of time and the regeneration of life, naturally occurring. Looking it over, I saw a simple composition that would be interesting to photograph with my Infrared camera.

Grasses growing out of an old tree stump on the beach in Naples, Florida. Infrared Photograph processed to grayscale and ochre with high contrast in the sky, creative choices of the artist.

Do you find this image both peaceful and intriguing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.