Beauty in the Swamp

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?

My photograph of the bed of ferns in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary became a painted image, using Topaz Simplify software. Available as a print by request.

For more information on a print, contact cathykellyphotography@gmail.com. Your feedback is always welcome, too.

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.

Edelweiss then, orchids today

Christopher Plummer, the iconic actor who played Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” celebrated the simple goodness of an Alpine flower in his touching song, “Edelweiss.” (Sadly, CP died this week at age 91, but he left us gifts that will live on for generations.) In ” The Sound of Music,” the purity of a loving marriage, a close family, a father singing to his children and a tiny wildflower stand in contrast to the rigid, militaristic, powerful, cruel, violent and murderous culture of Nazi Germany.

Direct sunlight on this outdoor orchid at Naples Botanical Garden threw the background in shadow for a dramatic photograph, staged by Nature.

Sometimes I wonder if we have learned from history, or if we are doomed to repeat it. Take a moment to look at these sunlit orchids, and to think about what is good.

The Path Across the Pond

As a photographer, I’m always attracted to a scene that shows a path, because my mind questions, “Where will this path lead?” In this infrared photograph, the scene looks quite mysterious. A line of stepping stones provide a solitary path across a dark pond to a tiny Asian temple.

I feel a celebration of sunshine in the golden foliage and deep blue sky. The deliberate path to the little shrine is an invitation to personal meditation. How does this image speak to you?

Infrared photography shows stepping stones to a tiny temple in the Asian garden of the Naples Botanical Garden, February 2021.

Pelicans in Formation

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?

Two White Pelicans foraging together at low tide mirror each other in formation, as the overhead sun casts a mirror-like shadow on all three pelicans in the water. Low tide is feeding time, and on this day it happened near noon. J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, Florida, January 2021.

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!

Pelican Stare Down

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!

As a bird lover with a specific affection for Brown Pelicans, I enjoyed this moment of connection with a Brown Pelican at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. The yellow crown feathers and pink bill indicate a pre-breeding adult. January 2021.

Brown Pelicans and Climate Change

There are so many reasons to like the Brown Pelican. I love to watch them dive for fish along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are so big with a length of a meter and wingspan of 2-3 meters, yet they are docile and quiet.

This Brown Pelican takes off while feeding in the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. Its yellow crown feathers and pink beak indicate it is a pre-breeding adult.

Yet another important reason to love brown pelicans is the important role they play as an indicator species to help humans monitor the effects of climate change. We can monitor their numbers and migration to help understand the changes in fish population.

What Creativity Means

I’ve been thinking that Creativity really means that you let your mind go. Let it spin. Close your eyes and wonder where can you go next. You try something new and find out if it works. You give yourself freedom to experiment. It comes from having time to reflect and the guts to try a new path. Selectively, you embrace some rules and discard others.

With Infrared Photography, the new path I’ve chosen, I continue to embrace the rules that define strong composition, but I throw away the rules that tie photography to the way things truly look to the eye. Realistic color goes out the window. Green trees can be white…or yellow…or gold…or magenta. Just like they can be any color in a painting. But you say, “This is photography, and photography is realistic, journalistic, a witness to truth.” I say, “Before we had color photography, we had black and white photography, which was not true to life. It was and is widely accepted as an art form.” Right?

In that spirit, I present my latest Infrared Photograph: “Isle de Jaune.” I love this image for reasons I’m not sure I can explain in words. It is one of my favorite images of the past year. The complimentary colors and composition work for me. Are you with me?

Infrared photography at the Naples Botanical Garden. “Isle de Jaune,” combines complimentary colors and a balanced composition with interest in the sky and the lake. I find the image peaceful and meditative.

If you are interested in a Fine Art print or even better — a metal print of this image, please visit my website and place an order online. Thanks for joining me on my creative journey.

Unlikely Pairing: Infrared and Wildlife

When I set out to shoot Infrared Photography with a modified camera, I usually employ a wide angle lens and look for sunny skies and green foliage that create a strong composition. The direct sun and the strong composition are key.

When I set out to shoot wildlife, I use a regular camera (not modified for infrared light) and a close up lens, so I can capture true color and detail and avoid approaching and disturbing the wildlife. My strategy and my equipment are completely different.

So, today when I was roaming the golf course along the lake with my Infrared camera and wide angle lens, I was surprised to see an Anhinga (large bird) that just happened to contribute interest to my composition. “Hello, and hold that pose!”

The female Anhinga perched in the lakeside tree added interest to this Infrared photograph. Green foliage appears white in this south Florida scene.

A Lizard’s Camouflage

I was attracted to the silhouette of this lizard along the lake and moved in slowly, hoping he wouldn’t dash away before I got the shot. As I examined the photograph later, I discovered the lizard was mostly green, and brown in the tail. I’m guessing now that the lizard had turned green while sitting in the grass, and was in the process of changing to brown to match the rock where it was now sitting.

This large lizard, over a foot long, appears to be changing color from green to brown, starting with its tail. Did you know that this magical quality of lizards inspired the use of “camouflage” uniforms for the military?