The start of every wildlife photography outing is overshadowed by doubt. Will I see anything today? Will the wildlife come to me? There is a great deal of luck involved in success: while we plan for weather, the angle of the sun and the tides, we don’t control the wildlife. We just pray for it.
The other half of the success equation is preparedness. How often do we go out there? I tell myself that I won’t see anything staying home or sleeping in! How good is your equipment? How well do you use it?
On my last trip to Sanibel Island, Mother Nature gave me a gift. The sought after Roseate Spoonbills were feeding at low tide in the shadows of the mangroves. I was there with my Sony mirrorless camera, a 600mm lens and a tripod. All the pieces came together.
I delight in the pink hues of the Roseate Spoonbill’s plumage. In this photo the splash of pink contrasts the dark shadows of the surrounding mangrove and water.
Hurricane Irma lashed Naples Florida in early September 2017, stripping and uprooting trees, knocking out power and damaging homes. Three and a half years later, the year-round tropical growing season has filled in the gaps and erased most signs of Irma’s destruction. The landscape looks lush and green again.
This mangrove preserve in Pelican Bay still tells the story of Irma, when she stripped the trees bare of leaves close to the Gulf coast. This infrared photograph shows some of those bare tree trunks along the boardwalk that leads to the beach.
I’m not sure who blinked first, but I do know that my camera shutter clicked before this handsome Brown Pelican looked away. I followed this Pelican for several minutes through a 600mm lens at a significant distance, tracking his behavior at a comfortable distance, not disturbing him. Yet he saw me watching!
Having admired the landscape photography of Clyde Butcher, I love to create my own photographs of tropical Florida with high contrast. Infrared photography is one method to use in making high-contrast images.
An Infrared photograph can be processed in many ways. It is the artist’s choice to use white, yellow or magenta for the green foliage, and to dial in a light or dark hue of blue or cyan in the sky and water. Of course, the image can also be rendered in pure black, white and midtowns. Does this recipe work for you?
During the Covid-19 pandemic when our mobility is suddenly limited, I think about the enviable mobility of the birds around us. Here in Florida, we often see brown pelicans soaring through the sky and flying low across the Gulf of Mexico. For birds, mobility equals escape from danger, or the slightest perception of danger. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fly away from the virus that threatens our health right now?
Pelicans are fun to watch. They fly in V-shaped formations with numbers ranging from 3 to 20 or more. They are silent, and they never bother people, given us the impression that they are gentle creatures.
When they forage for fish, they fly close to the surface of the water and then make a steep climb and nosedive to stun the fish with their beaks. Then, they scoop up the fish and a gallon or more of water with their stretchy pouch. Keep watching to see them tip up the beak and swallow the fish whole.
We arrived at Naples Pier about 10 minutes before sunset. My friend Marjorie warned me, “It’s going to go fast,” and she was right. We needed to pick a spot for a sunset photo quickly among scores of others who were on the beach for the very same reason, to witness the sunset and preserve the memories with photography.
I realized that the sun was going to slip behind the pavilions at the end of the pier, creating an opportunity to photograph the sun as a sunstar with rays. When the sun or other bright light source is clipped by a foreground object, you can create this type of image by stopping your lens down to f/16. (This assumes you know how to manually set your camera!) If not, no worries. Just enjoy this image of a beautiful end of an equally beautiful day.
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When you think of Florida, you probably think of beaches, baseball and golf. Or maybe Disney, tennis and retirees. Right now it’s snowing and cold in much of the United States, but in Florida the landscape is green and warm and teeming with life. In a typical day here, I observe numerous birds, lizards, turtles, alligators, and fish. In any case, when you think of Florida, you don’t think of dead trees…unless perhaps you think of hurricanes.
Lover’s Key State Park has a white sandy beach, lots of shells and birds and people with beach towels and coolers, but it also has a number of dead trees. They stand boldly on the beach where they have tried to survive hurricanes and all manner of wind and weather. While their leaves and branches are long gone, several trunks still stand tall, reminding us of our mortality and the circle of life.
Looking through my viewfinder to see the moon in the composition, I liked the simplicity of the blue and white image. The stark tree trunks reminded me of the skulls that Georgia O’Keeffe painted in New Mexico. I think that O’Keeffe liked the simple sculptural shape of the white, dessicated skulls, and she also probably thought about that unpopular subject, the short term nature of our lives.
The Shell Tree on Lover’s Key is a unique spot where countless passers by have hung a shell. I think they wish to be remembered by Nature at the same time they pay quiet homage to this tree, which lives on and continues to tell stories beyond its lifetime.
It will be interesting to visit this site again after Hurricane Irma to see what remains.
Snowbirds from the Great Lakes region, these large White Pelicans are fun to watch, especially when they spread their wings to fly, soar over the Gulf and come in for a quiet landing on the sandbar.
It was a balmy morning on Sanibel Island, Florida today in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Bird lovers cruised slowly in cars and on bikes, and perched themselves along the shoreline with binoculars and cameras. The highlight of the morning was when one of us would say quietly to his neighbor, “Incoming!”