Frosted Trees

I love the delicate ice covered tree branches against a stunning blue sky.  No filtering or photo editing was done; this is one of those times where the original photo required no tweaking.   I had to go no further than our front yard for this shot.  I think the lesson here is to not to forget to look up or down when carrying your camera.  Not everything is at eye level.

Frosted Trees

Moon Rise

I was lucky enough, many years ago, to catch this beautiful moon rise over a beach in South Carolina.  It was a handheld shot using a relatively slow slide film, but I think it came out pretty well.  The texture of the clouds and the ripples of the water add interest to an otherwise monochromatic scene.

Moonrise

Manatees, Homosassa Springs, FL

One of my favorite day trips in Florida was our visit to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  It was our first opportunity to see the fascinating West Indian Manatee up close.

Manatee
Credit: Department of the Interior/USGS

Manatees are one of the animals most associated with Florida.  Some times called sea cows because of their habit of grazing on plant life as they slowly move along their way, these gentle giants are a sight to behold.  With its crystal clear water, Homosassa Springs is one of the places where you can get a good look at these creatures.

The park puts on a Manatee Educational Program several times daily.  You learn about these gentle giants, and get to see them interact with a park ranger.  For instance, manatees are quite intelligent and are capable of learning complex tasks.  Their ability to learn is on par with dolphins, and they have pretty impressive long-term memory.

It also turns out that they have a love of sweet potatoes.  When a ranger enters the water with a bucket full of cut up sweet potatoes, it’s a sure bet that she’ll have a cadre of manatees gather around in short order for their treats.  You haven’t lived until you see a manatee poke its mouth out of the water and ask for a sweet potato.

Feeding Manatees

The water at Homosassa Springs is perfectly suited to the manatee, who require a water habitat within a quite narrow range of temperatures.  The park is home to several manatees who, because of health issues, cannot be re-released into the wild.  They also care for injured or ill manatees until they can be released back into the wild.  I loved being able to walk along the canal and watch the manatee graze their way past.

Homosassa Springs

Because of their size there are no real natural threats to the manatee.  Unfortunately, they’re considered endangered because of loss of habitat, increased contact with motorized boats, and climate change.  Most of the manatees at Homosassa Springs were injured by contact with boats.  There have also been several instances of manatee deaths related to algae blooms, a result of rising water temperatures.

There are an estimated 13,000 West Indian Manatees, with about 6,100 of them in Florida.

Photography and the Art of Seeing

One of my favorite photography books is Photography and the Art of Seeing, by Freeman Patterson.  Patterson presents simple exercises designed to develop a sense of awareness by photographing familiar things and by thinking outside the box.  The book teaches the photographer to observe our surroundings.

On one of my recent morning walks with the dog, I carried my camera and slowed down our walk while trying to be aware of what I had passed countless times over the years.  These are the best of the photographs I returned with.

We live on a couple acres with a really nice section of woods, but Freeman’s point is you can find interesting and beautiful things anywhere.  The exercise of carry my camera and photographing familiar objects is one I like to do from time to time.  It helps keep me observant of everyday things.

On a side note, we’ve been dealing with Hurricane Florence today.  We were located on the northern edge of the storm, so the worst seems to have passed us by.  We’ve had a lot of rain and wind, with a lot of yard debris from the woods, but no damage and no danger to us.  We’ve been lucky.  There are a lot of people that are seeing much worse, so please keep them in your thoughts over the next few days.  Here’s a screenshot of the storm, with our location marked on the map.

Hurricane Screen Shot

Polychrome Pass, Denali

One of the highlights of our visit to Alaska was the Tundra Wilderness Tour of Denali National Park and Preserve.  The tour lasted about seven hours and we were fortunate enough to see a great many of the park’s wildlife.  The wildlife sightings were just one part of the tour, though.  There are also many beautiful landscapes in the park that will take your breath away.

One of the stops along the tour was a roadside overlook at the stunning Polychrome Pass.  Polychrome Pass was formed many millions of years ago by the pacific tectonic plate sliding under the continental shelf.  The pass gets its name from the colorful geologic formations, including volcanic rocks.  The mountains, part of the Alaska Range, are home to several small glaciers.

We were there in mid May, and things were just beginning to green up.  I love the colors of the new growth, the blue of the braided rivers that meander through the pass and the whites of the snow on the mountains.

The immensity of the landscape makes you feel very small.  Scenes like this make our trip into the park something I’ll always remember.

Polychrome Pass D

Blue Heron, Florida

Florida is a wonderful place for photographing wildlife.  This beautiful bird is an example.  I love the focus of the bird.  Even at rest he’s looking for his next meal.

Blue Heron

Foggy Road

Many years ago I took an early morning walk up Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.  The access road was shrouded in fog.  Fog has always been pretty difficult for me to photograph; the camera is frequently fooled by the grayness of the scene and the exposure is off.

In this case, I think everything came out just right.  The colors of the trees and the fallen leaves add just enough to an otherwise monochromatic scene.  I also like that I was able to get the focus right so that the nearby objects- leaves, road and trees, are sharp while, just like when you’re looking at a real fog, the details drop off in the distance.

Foggy Road

Flamingos, Homosassa Springs, FL

I took this photo years ago when we went to Homosassa Springs.  I love the way the colors of the flamingos pop among the greenery and the way the water seems quite abstract.  It almost seems like a painting.

Flamingos

Chincoteague Pony

Several years ago Ann Marie and I spent a three day weekend on Chincoteague Island, Virginia.  These days Chincoteague might not be as popular as Hogwarts, but kids have been reading about a pony named Misty of Chincoteague since 1947.  I was one of those kids.

The term “Chincoteague Pony” is actually a bit misleading. The ponies live on Assateague Island, an island in the states of Virginia and Maryland.  There are two herds of ponies, one living on the Maryland side of the island and one living on the Virginia side.

Also, Chincoteague ponies are more horse-like than pony-like.  Legend says that the ponies are descended from Spanish horses that swam ashore from shipwrecked Spanish ships.  The small size is probably due to the poor diet of the animals, which live on plants of the salt marsh covering much of the island.

Horse or pony, the feral equines of Assateague Island are quite beautiful.  Every July, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department holds a Pony Penning Day.  Healthy, older foals are auctioned to raise money for the fire department, and to keep the herds at a healthy level.  Not all the horses purchased during the auction leave the island.  Some bidders donate the money to the fire department and allow the horse to be released back into the herd.

Chincoteague Pony

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is aptly named.  There are over 1,000 glaciers in the park, the most famous of them being the 7 tidewater glaciers.  Johns Hopkins Glacier is one of the few tidewater glaciers that are actually advancing.

Johns Hopkins Glacier gets its start on the east slopes of Lituya Mountain.  Lituya Mountain was the site of two of the largest landslides in history.  In 1958 an earthquake kicked off a landslide that dropped an estimated 40 million cubic yards of rock into Lituya Bay.  The resulting tsunami measured nearly 1,700 feet high and was the largest tsunami ever recorded.

In 2012 another landslide, measuring 5.5 miles long and .5 miles wide, fell on Johns Hopkins Glacier, and was possibly the largest recorded landslide in North America.

I like the way the glacier seems to form a series of steps or terraces leading back  from the bay.  The weather, as usual in Glacier Bay, was overcast, so the colors are quite muted.  You do get a bit of the unique blue hue of the glacier ice in the center of the glacier.

The scale of the photo is a bit misleading.  It looks like we were quite close, but we were actual a few miles away.  Glacier Bay is a beautiful, wild place.

Johns Hopkins CFX Graduated ND