As an artist, I’m inspired to experiment. And so on a sunny afternoon in South Florida, I captured this infrared photograph in a pine forest.
Infrared photography is a ripe medium for experimentation, as I find so many choices are available in processing. Shall I go black/white, blue/white, cyan/orange? To fully embrace infrared photography, which only captures invisible light above the red spectrum, you need to let go of reality as your eye defines it. Then, you are free to see the world in a brand new way.
On first impression, the swamp is chaotic. With its high canopy, most of the scene is dark with shadow. The day’s bright sunlight barely filtering through. Large tree trunks, felled by past storms lie at random angles and decay. Walking the boardwalk, I look down into the murky water for alligators, frogs and snakes. I hear a variety of bird calls, but looking around and above me, I cannot spot the birds.
I walk and observe my surroundings for more than an hour. My vision is drawn to the ferns, which spring from the decaying tree trunks and at times fill in a section of the swamp. I see the color, the pattern and the contrast of a narrow trunk, speckled with lichen. I have found a composition. As I work with the image later, I developed a painting. What do you think?
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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.
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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.
These two Brown Pelicans met in the mangrove shortly after sunrise. Perched alongside one another, they looked identical. A few minutes later, they were splashing in the water nearby, breaking the silence of the early morning. Were they competing for fish, or showing territorial behavior? I honestly don’t know, but I said to my friend Marjorie, “It’s a Pelican Party over there.”
What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.
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?
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.
The delicate curve and pattern of this palm branch and its sharp shadow that echoes on the ground drew me over to photograph this patch of ground. I chose to isolate these elements to emphasize the shapes I noticed.
When it came time to process this infrared photograph, I slid the hue for the foliage over to a hot orange. The hot orange against the white shelly gravel spoke to me about the heat of the tropics. It was a hot afternoon in sunny southwest Florida, the perfect time of day for a high contrast infrared capture.
What are your weekend plans? During COVID times, we need to choose an activity that is both safe and restorative. My husband and I are taking walks.
Depending on where you live and what climate you have, you might be walking in the snow, in the city, in the woods, the park or something else. What’s in your neighborhood? In Florida, we are often walking along the edge of a lake. In late afternoon, we find a walk in Nature to be restorative. Along the edge of the lake, we observe the colors and reflections of dusk.
When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?
When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!