Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In my last post I wrote about photographing silhouettes on Vero Beach this past weekend That post features different people relating to the ocean. At one point I turned and looked up the beach to my left and saw this amazing sky, the kind that in Sci Fi movies the mothership of the invading aliens is hiding! Well, there were no alien ships which was a good thing, (although I can't help but think what a great photo opportunity that would have been)! As soon as I looked up the words "Lucy in The Sky" popped into my head. I'm a child of the 60s, what can you expect!

There was a small group of people walking on this part of the beach and I started following them. I wanted them in the picture as a point of scale, I think they help the viewer see how large the sky looked to me that night. I did not want them to know I was photographing them, wanting a more natural look plus I knew that it would be hard to recognize any of them the way I was planning on photographing the scene. I was planning on keeping them small in the frame, emphasizing the sky.

I kept my distance from them and kept photographing, looking for different compositions.

Keeping my exposure set for the sky and not for the people, the cloud formation was changing pretty quickly, kind of a swirling effect. I think this next one is my favorite!

   As I was shooting I saw a woman walking towards this group of   

I just had a feeling they were altogether so I started photographing her. When the young girl ran towards her, I knew I was right. It was easy to see that the young girl was really excited to see her mother. She started to run down the beach with her arms waving as if she was saying, "Look mom, look at this great beach!"

After I was through photographing them we started talking to the family and found out not only did they come from Massachusetts, (which is where Phyllis and I lived for years) but the father was friends with my niece, Sheena. Imagine being down here on a beach, far from where our home was for many years, and meeting them. It is a very small world. 

I love photography for many reasons but one is the people I meet while shooting. It seems we meet such great people all over the world and when I have my camera with me it provides opportunities to meet and speak with them.

As I look at these images I am reminded how much I love our move to Florida. I know this country and the world has many beautiful places. But for Phyllis and I living where we can go out for dinner and I can photograph the ocean and these great skies within 300 yards of our table is more evidence that we are in the right spot at the right time in our lives.

I never found out this little girl's name but I'd like to think it was Lucy!!

Monday, June 27, 2011


This weekend Phyllis and I had dinner and drinks at one of our favorite spots on the Treasure Coast of Florida, the Cobalt Restaurant which is located in the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa. One of the reasons we like it so much, besides the delicious food, is its location. It is right on Vero Beach and the ocean is a few steps from its large patio where we always sit for dinner. It is really a great location and as always I had my camera with me. There is something really great about eating outside and seeing and hearing the ocean as its waves dance with the shore line.  

After relaxing for awhile with a few adult beverages we decided to walk down to the beach. Phyllis relaxed on a lounge chair while I started playing with my camera, looking around for something that would inspire me. There were other people occasionally walking by and it started me thinking about candids. As I put my camera to my eye I realized that the light on the ocean was brighter than the light on the people. I knew that if I set my camera to expose for the ocean I could capture some silhouettes. That really intrigued me, candid silhouettes. I had never attempted that before!!

                 The Vero Beach Hotel looking up at the patio.

Here are some fun facts about silhouettes (at least I hope you find them fun!) A silhouette is the image of a person, object or scene consisting of the outline and featureless interior, with the silhouetted object usually being black. The term originated in the 18th century and they were cut from thin black cards.  The term silhouette derives from the name of Etienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister who, in 1759, was forced by French's credit crisis during the Seven Year War to impose severe economic demands upon the French people, particularly the wealthy. (A long war caused economic  difficulties and sever demands were put on the people, sounds like what we are going through today in the US.  The people that were asked to give the most were the wealthy?? Not the poor and middle class?? What a novel idea!!)

Because of de Silhouette's austere economies, his name became eponymous with anything done or made cheaply and so these outline portraits, which prior to the advent of photography were the cheapest way of recording a person's appearance became known as silhouettes.

So I started looking for good subjects standing along the shoreline, trying to stay inconspicuous, so that I could truly capture candids.
The first people I saw were a small group of two adult women and three younger people walking down to the shoreline. I started following them at a distance.  I waited till they were standing at the water's edge and then started shooting away.

I love the young girl resting her head on the young boy's shoulder, I guessed that they were brother and sister, the mother right beside them as she should be, there if they needed her.

        This young girl and her mom, I'm guessing, stood holding each other. You do not need to see their features in either of these two images to feel the emotions of caring, protectiveness and love shared by these people.

      I love seeing the glow of the cell phone in the women's hand.  
    Modern technology captured in one of the oldest forms of  

They turned and walked up the beach and I thought it more prudent not to follow them. First of all, they would probably notice me and I would loose the candid moments, plus it would be a little creepy even if they didn't notice me! I decided I would stay within the hotel's dimensions, not walking beyond its boundaries. I started shooting as people came by, them coming to me and me not stalking them. I thought if they saw me photographing the ocean I would blend in and would be able to capture candids. I think it worked really well as you can judge in the next three images.

I really did try shooting the ocean with the same settings to see what I could capture. Turns out not much lol. The exposure was too low and I only tried a few while I waited for people to reach me as they walked up the beach. This one is my interpretation of a crashing wave at sunset. I kind of like it. I think it shows the force of the waves in a different way than is usually seen.

I saw this couple walking toward me and the woman was picking up shells as they walked.

Then as most people do when walking along the shoreline, they stopped and just looked out into the ocean; possibly some primordial urge we humans have, drawn to where we originated, the ocean.  

 We stand there and look out at the deep ocean and at least with me a feeling of calmness comes over me. Is it that urge or just seeing the horizon line that marks where nature's infinity is represented, where we can see the end and a hint of the beginning of time? If that is so, maybe presenting humans in silhouette is a proper way to attest to how common, cliche and inconsequential we are to the earth. Will we one day go the way of the dinosaurs and are the only enduring silhouettes those of nature?

Friday, June 24, 2011


The Sacred Ibis was an object of religious honor in ancient Egypt. In the town of Hermopolis, ibises were reared specifically for sacrificial purposes and in the Serapeum (a temple dedicated to the Hellenistic-Egyptian god, Serapis) at Saqqara, archaeologists found the mummies of one and a half million ibises and hundreds of falcons. 

According to legend in the Birecik area, the Northern Bald Ibis was one of the first birds that Noah released from the ark as a symbol of fertility. A lingering religious sentiment in Turkey helped the colonies to survive long after the demise of the species in Europe.
(Please remember you can click on each image to see a larger version)

Here in the state of Florida in the USA, the mascot of the University of Miami is an American White Ibis. The ibis was selected as the school's mascot because of its legendary bravery during hurricanes. The ibis is the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane hits and the first to reappear once the storm has passed. (We do not have any images of the Sacred Ibis but we do have some of the American White Ibis. If we ever get to visit Egypt, I would really love to see the Sacred Ibis).

In the short time we have lived here, we have gotten use to seeing many beautiful birds right in our own neighborhood; herons, cranes, egrets and spoonbills. The one bird we see the most, pretty much everyday, is the ibis. We will see them in ponds, the sides of roads, in strip malls and in just about any canal. They are really cute birds and from what I can see, not a problem to have around. 

They are a mid-sized bird with an overall white plumage, bright red orange down-curved bill and long legs. Their black wing tips are usually only visible during flight. The males are larger than the females. The breeding range of the American Ibis spans along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts and also along the coasts of Mexico and Central America.

Their diet consists mainly of small aquatic prey such as insects and small fish. Depending on the habitat and the prey abundance, the White Ibis will adjust its diet although studies have found crayfish to be its preferred source of food in most regions.

Being monogamous, the White Ibis has only one mate during the breeding season and both parents care for the young. Ladies, before you give them too much credit, males do tend to engage in extra- pair copulation with other females to increase the reproductive success. I would suspect that is not an excuse that would work really well with humans but I am sure it has been used!!! Males have also been found to pirate food away from unmated females and juveniles during the breeding season. Kind of like human males during the football season!!  

What is the biggest threat to the ibis?? You should not be surprised to read it is, wait for it.... humans!!! Have you noticed that seems to a be a recurring theme in nature??? With the increase of methyl mercury being released from untreated waste into various habitats and the ibises consumption of food from those habitats, their hormones are affected. This disrupts their mating and nesting behaviors, leading to lower reproduction rates.

 One last interesting fact concerns whether size matters !!!!!!!  Guys, it is what we always does!!!! At least with ibises and their bills!! A larger bill is important for intraesexual fighting during courtships of females. In addition, a larger bill also allows the males to probe deeper while foraging, thereby increasing foraging effectiveness.  God knows we all want to probe deeper!!!

Many times we see them in large groups, all foraging for food in a river, pond or other body of water.

If anyone knows what this large grey bird is, please let me know!! I would be grateful! I am guessing some type of heron?

     This guy seems like he is well equipped to be a good forager.

   If you click on this image to make it larger you can see a piece of food in his bill!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This is part two of our trip to the Florida Keys. In these images, I was able to capture some amazing actions by Aaron, a kitesurfer who was determined to perfect his craft. From the preparation to the event, kiteboarding is a labor intensive activity. Surfers, like Aaron prepare the lines, adjust the control bar, straighten the harness and check the wind strength, all for a chance to turn, grab, jump and fly with the wind at their backs. 

Sharing some info about kitesurfing may be helpful to readers: Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is an adventure surface water sport that has been described as combining wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and gymnastics into one extreme sport. Kitesurfing harnesses the power of the wind to propel a rider across the water on a small surfboard or kiteboard similar to a wakeboard. The terms kiteboarding and kitesurfing are interchangeable.

There are a number of different styles of kiteboarding including freestyle (most common and utilizes a standard kite and board), wake-style (flatter water using board with bindings) and wave riding which is focused on big waves using a board designed specifically for wave riding.

From these images, I hope you will be able to join Aaron and me on this incredible and magical ride. SURF'S UP!!


   As I was leaving the beach, I caught one  
   more image of a jumper!! AMAZING!!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011


As we took off in the tram, our ranger informed us that Florida and in particular, the Everglades was in a major drought. The Everglades were the driest they have been in 35 years. This is causing many problems including the threat of fire, set off by lightning strikes or the biggest threat, human carelessness.  Driving off marked roads, smoking and campfires could all be a lethal mix for the natural and cultural resources. If one was to start, it would almost be impossible to quickly get under control. The loss of animal life would be particularly devastating. 

Fire was the the Everglades natural way of getting rid of dead and dying trees and plants. They would be replaced with new fresh growth. But for the animals, it could be devastating. In the past animals could sense the fire and move to a different area to escape it. Now all the new construction has prevented them from getting from one area to another.  Much of the Everglades are covered in peat moss. In a fire the flames could travel underground burning the moss and traveling great distances. 

Another problem caused by the drought is water levels are way down. We traveled on roads that would normally be under two feet of water but are now dry. This causes major problems with the animals. The alligators mate in deep water. The males hold the females below the water and mate (not exactly romantic for the female) but with the water levels being so low, mating is not happening at the same rate, so less alligators are being born. They are endangered already. If this was to keep up, who knows what would happen to them.

This is a list of endangered species in the Everglades;

  • American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
  • Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  • Atlantic Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempi)
  • Atlantic hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Atlantic leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritima mirabilis)
  • Snail (Everglades) kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus)
  • Wood stork (Mycteria americana)
  • West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus)
  • Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi)
  • Key Largo wood rat (Neotoma floridana smalli)
  • Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola)
  • Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
  • Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus)
  • Garber's Spurge (Chamaesyce garberi)
Some of you might be thinking, so what??  A few less alligators, would that really be a problem?  To quote an old TV commercial; Don't fool with mother nature!!!  We have found time and time again that when we do, it causes problems for all species including humans.

Alligators, as top predators, play an important role in Florida's ecosystem. Alligators build nests and dig large holes ("gator holes") that create habitats for a wide variety of wildlife, especially during droughts. Alligators have complex social behaviors, including elaborate courtship displays. You can hear the bellowing of courting alligators in swamps in the spring. Alligators communicate vocally and visually through body postures. Female alligators are very protectice of their nests, and baby alligators will stay with their mothers for as long as two years. Alligators can live to be more than 35 years old in the wild.

These unique animals have existed for millions of years. Yet alligators have much to fear when they encounter human beings who have left them with dwindling habitats. To make matters worse, alligators are tormented and killed for amusement and profit.
This is a young gator 
in a small culvert we could see from our van. It was possibly the lone survivor of a hatching that produced up to
40 baby alligators. They are in danger from all kinds of predators including Great Blue Herons. We saw more of the blues in the Everglades than any other wading birds. They are there because the baby alligators provide a great food source for them. Again nature has a plan. It may sound cruel but if most of the 40 babies lived, Florida and surrounding states would be overrun by them.

Alligators serve an important role in the balance of nature. We need only look to Gatorland in Orlando to witness one of the many important contributions alligators provide. Thousands of indigenous aquatic birds have made Gatorland their home. Why? Because alligators protect their nests from such natural predators as raccoons and opossums. Thousands of herons and egrets, along with many threatened and endangered birds nest virtually on top of each other, because the alligators make it safer to hatch their eggs and raise their young.

This image shows a family of Sandhill Cranes. We were told that the two adults visit the Everglades each year to have their babies. 

When you look out into the Everglades from the tram, you see miles and miles of Sawgrass fields. Sawgrass is a tall plant (not really a grass) that if you looked at it closely, would reveal tiny ridges or teeth along the length of it sides. If you're not careful you could get tiny, paper like, cuts from touching it. Sawgrass is the most prominent plant in the Everglades. It can be a safe home for many species, preventing predators from reaching them easily. I think the fields are beautiful much like the fields of wheat that you see in other areas of the US. But when they are dry like they are now, it can become a fuel that feeds the fire!

                              A river still runs through it.

      This image shows one of the small water holes along the road    
      which are normally much larger.

An immature alligator was spotted on the left side of the tram. You can see why we recommend getting a seat on that side of the tram, unless you happen to like silhouettes of the people who wisely sat on the left!!

   This is a Great Blue and Phyllis' silhouette. You will    
   see a much better image of the heron when Phyllis 
   posts her images. (Remember sit on the left!!!!)

At one point the tram stopped and the ranger took people for a short walk out to a larger water hole. Bill (the ranger) was very informative and entertaining. We really recommend taking the tram ride and looking for Bill, if you can!

This is the tram's road between fields of sawgrass and the wonderfully blue Florida sky above.

About half way through the fifteen mile loop trip, we came to an observation tower built in 1984. It spiraled skyward about fifty feet. Once on top you can see the River of Sawgrass spreading out as far as you can see.

        Phyllis climbed to the top of the tower.

I really enjoyed our trip to the Everglades and will be visiting it many times. We hope that it is still there for generations to come, although we have our worries. Between the drought, threat of fire and man's encroachment on its land, the Everglades and the species that live there are in danger of surviving.

The danger even involves people taking their pet pythons and releasing them into the Everglades. I know this sounds like a really bad movie plot but it is true. These former pets grow too large and then the owners release them into the wild where they mate and now there are pythons overrunning the park. 

The Burmese python is one of the worlds largest snakes.
(I won't even go into what I think about these former owners! What were they thinking when they bought these snakes? Did they not understand what 20 feet was?? That's how long these snakes grow to.) 

People have witnessed, on a few occasions, major battles between these snakes and the alligators. So far it appears that the alligators are holding there own but how long that is true is anyone's guess.

This is just another danger to the park and the species already endangered who live there.