Odds & Ends From My Files

I was so excited when I saw Tina’s topic for the Lens-Artist Challenge last Saturday that I immediately found the photos I wanted to use – and then they sat, I would look at them, rearrange them, and they sat. Well today I finally added the words, just as the next challenge is coming out. I guess I can say I had a whole week’s full of fun from thinking about those photographs that have been the odds & ends in my files before sharing them with you.

I have hung on to this first photo because it seems so characteristic of the hot and humid tropical garden I visit several times a week. I have taken so many photos but use only a small portion of them for my blog so it was fun pulling this one up. This one I like because it is of a mood, not a specific object.

That mind thing is happening again where I am so happy where I am in southern Florida but all of a sudden I get a longing to work in my Michigan garden or sit on my purple porch swing in Michigan. Logically I know that isn’t possible because it is still late winter there so instead I meandered through some Michigan files and landed on this one of a gate along a dirt road going down a lane. I lingered on this one enjoying the feeling of cool shade, inviting path, and dappled sunlight. The slight sag of the gate makes me smile – at my age I know all about sags, and hanging a bit crooked.

As I meander through the garden, from lily pond to lily pond or orchid garden, I frequently stop to admire the foliage of all the tropical plants that are strategically place and of course am compelled to try the capture whatever it was that caught my attention. The photo below, and others somewhat like it, are scattered throughout my files but I don’t think I have used them in a post. That seems to meet the criteria of an “odds & ends.” I think what I like about this composition is the overlapping patterns of outward fanning spikes.

We have been too busy to go into the Everglades this year but I hear it calling my name. Southern Florida has had a dry winter so I predict there will be wading birds fishing in the areas where culverts move the southern flowing water under the east/west roads. I’ve been going through past files of photos from the Everglades as a very weak substitution for taking new photos and find that I linger over the photos of the grass-lands that make up a good portion of the Everglades. These have been odd and ends in my files because they don’t quite fit into any category of post. I would discount them as uninteresting except I enjoy them because they reflect what I see as an important part of the personality of this region. It seems to capture the vastness of the area.

The next photo is technically very poor but I haven’t deleted it because I smile every time I see it. It is at the beginning of the western end of the Loop Road, a one and a half lane dirt road that was originally built as a part of U.S. 41 from Tampa to Miami – the Tamiami Trail. It seems like the “Last Chance Turn Around” should be a part of everyone’s repertoire for when we are about to do something that is incredibly stupid.

When I walked into the Idea Garden, maintained by the Garden Club of Naples, and saw this end view of one of their raised beds I was awed by the colors and textures. Ahh, but I never found a good topic under which to post it – so it is relegated to “odds & ends.”

My final “odds & ends” takes us back to Michigan last spring, when Covid was on the rise. We decided to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive to Hidden Lake Gardens. There was a sign saying that picnic tables were off limits because of Covid but my logic couldn’t figure out how Covid would be spread by us using it. Our Covid picnics brought great joy and created fond memories of a difficult period.

Lens-Artist Challenge: Water

I like it when there is congruence in my life – like a foggy night and the new Lens-Artist Challenge being “water.” The cool gulf water temperatures and a couple of warmer nights here in subtropical southern Florida created fog. I was delighted by it Saturday night as I was closing the sliding doors and by morning the fog had collected in the screens of the lanai. I took several photos, none of which were satisfactory. So goes photography, but now I know what settings I need to change. Maybe sometime soon we will have similar conditions so I can practice again.

During the first six weeks of this year I fought pain, depression, and fatigue but I now seem to be coming out of my watery depths, taking a more active interest in my narrow world. I am maintaining my precarious balance between being aware of what is going on in the broader world while withdrawing enough to not feel burdened by things I can’t control. Something like how I practice my balance exercise of standing on one foot while fighting to stay standing, an exercise to decrease my chances of falling.

Our life seemed to turn back to a more normal state last week when we decided to walk in the botanical garden two or three times a week instead of once. I suggested it because Jim had become very inactive since being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis late last summer. I understand how hard it is to come to terms with a chronic illness and MG is difficult because the symptoms (weakening of voluntary muscles) compound the normal loss of functioning caused by aging. He felt feeble and afraid. I found a journal article on exercise and MG that reported inconclusive findings on whether exercise helps with MG symptoms but it did reiterate the many advantages of exercise on health in general. I decided that gentle walking in a beautiful garden that he enjoys could only be helpful. Besides, the Naples Botanical Garden provides me with ample opportunities to collect photographs on the topic of water.

I have lived in Michigan my whole life so I have a brain chocked full of memories of spending time close to, on and in lakes and streams during my 77 years of life. Now I spend half the year in southern Florida where water defines life and I am thrilled to be emersed in the ecosystem of the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico coast. Water is a major factor that has defined who I am, and I experience a strong emotional response when I am near bodies of water.

There are eight small bodies of water in the Naples Botanical Garden where various water plants grow, most having lotus or water lilies plus two larger lakes. Most of my photography in the garden is macro, focusing on the beautiful flowers and foliage but lately I have been drawn to landscapes, in an attempt to capture the personality of the garden. These landscapes also seem to express how the water in the garden impacts on my emotions.

Upper & Lower Lily Ponds in the Brazilian Garden. These ponds are the first to capture the heat of the morning sun.
View of the Water Garden as I am sitting at the cafe eating a delicious scone.
First of three connected ponds in the Asian Garden.
Waterfalls taking water from the upper lily pond to Lake Tupke in the Florida Garden. Southern Florida is very flat so water falls need to be engineered. The topography of the garden was formed by dredging dirt from where the architects wanted lakes. This dirt, along with imported rocks, make it possible to hear the delightful sound of falling water in almost all parts of the garden.
The upper lily pond, that feeds a smaller lily pond a bit below, that feeds the falls in the photo above, that feeds a stone-lined brook that bubbles its way to the lake in the distance, all of which creates the music of water.
When rainwater meets the water of a lily pond via the tiled roof of the shelter in the Asian Garden. What fun I had photographing the patterns formed by water drops among the reflections of light and bordering vegetation on the water surface.

The Botanical Garden isn’t the only place I feel the impact of water on my mind and soul. We make a few trips to the Gulf of Mexico beach where I enjoy the morning or evening light and also the excitement when winds are strong, churning up waves.

The Gulf of Mexico on a windy day.
Peace washes over me as I stroll along the warm gentle water as the sun is setting.

The also go to the protected lands of the Everglades a couple of times a year. This is one of my favorite spots, where I look for wading birds who are feeding in the shallow waters and alligators who are sunning themselves in the cooler winter weather. When I have visited in late Spring I like to listen to the eerie bird calls and rustling from the brush in the near distance where hatchlings are being cared for.

Sweetwater Strand, Loop Road, Everglades

What fun to participate in this week’s Lens-Artist Photography Challenge: Water. Click on the link to share your photography of water.

Weird & Wonderful

I enjoy reflections in water, especially when captured with my camera. They seldom turn out the way I hoped they would, but the surprise I get after playing around with post processing a little is frequently a little weird and almost always wonderful. When I saw Anne-Christine chose “Weird and Wonderful” for this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge, I immediately went looking for photos with reflections.

Frequently reflections leave me a little disoriented, in a very pleasant way, like the first two photos.

There are other times when the reflection of the primary subject of the photograph is clear and pretty, but reflection around the subject add interest, drawing my eye around the photo. The reflections excite my senses and stimulate my curiosity. The reflections in the next photo both excite me and sooth me.

I have also spent a lot of time looking at both the photo above and below, although the one below leaves me unsettled. I find it interesting but just a bit too weird, maybe.

The last two photos come from the Florida Everglades where so much of the landscape seems weird in a wild sort of way and the reflections in the still pools of water make it seem even more wild, like the reflections of these cypress knees that find so fascinating and wonderful.

Sometimes reflections can camouflage the dangerous, weird (as in unfamiliar), and wonderful creatures of the Everglades.

Trees of Winter

On this beautiful summer evening when the temperature is 80 degrees F, the humidity is low, and I’m surrounded by lush green leaves on trees and flowers blooming in my garden, it seems really strange – almost surreal, to be posting photos of winter trees. I have posted the trees of summer and fall for Becky’s July TreeSquares, now I am ready to post winter’s trees.

I love trees in winter, how snow collects on branches creating a stark contrast of white and black and the long shadows cast by the de-robed skeleton of trunk and branches by the low winter sun. I have emotional memories from childhood of being fascinated by the flicker of tree shadows through the car window as we drove down winter roads, like a 16 mm film. I am still intrigued by this magic of sun and shadow.

I don’t have much time to enjoy the trees of winter now that we spend most of it in Florida where there aren’t many deciduous trees. One of those trees is the bald cypress that I enjoy when we drive down the few dirt roads in the Everglades.

Good Morning, Everglades

Beth, of Wandering Dawgs, is hosting this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge and her theme is A Change of Scenery. I didn’t go out to find new scenery, instead I saw old scenery in a new way. Maybe I changed the way I interacted with familiar scenery.

We were out the door at 7:00 this morning with coffee in travel mugs, me with my camera equipment and Jim with the morning newspaper. We were headed down US-41 (Tamiami Trail) to the southeast into the Everglades. It was dawn and I wanted to catch the sun’s first rays as they shown over the Everglades grassland and most of all I wanted to take some photographs of wading birds at the shallow ponds along the south side of the road. We had seen a lot of them there the last time we made this drive, but didn’t stop because I was eager to photograph the birds at the waterholes along the Loop Road.

Usually Jim likes to drive and I like to look for potential photo opportunities. This arrangement doesn’t seem to work because by the time I say “Pull over here,” and he checks out if there is a safe place to pull over and checks traffic while saying “Where?” I have to say “Back there.” This time I drove so I could quickly pull over when I saw birds. It also gave me an opportunity to pull into some parking areas that I haven’t visited before – for a different view of the familiar Everglade scenery and maybe new opportunities for photos.

What a perfect morning for photography. There was a cloud bank to the east giving me nice, even light and a little more time before the harsh sun hit the grasslands. And there was a light fog. My first stop was onto the grass shoulder of US-41, hoping to photograph the patchy morning fog and the first light from the sun-rise. There weren’t any birds on the ground looking for breakfast but I saw a few small flocks flying around high overhead. I didn’t need to hurry so I just enjoyed the quiet, peaceful time spent exploring what the Everglades offered on this spring morning. It’s like I have become friends with this environment through my many visits over the years, so now the landscape is familiar but I am eager to experience the changes in the scenery due to season and weather. There seems to be a freedom within this kind of familiarity, like being with old friends when I feel comfortable enough to just let life happen.

This was a trip without a destination – each roadside park, trailhead parking, unpaved road became a potential place to pull into and explore with all my senses and my camera. My favorite spot turned out to be the parking lot across the street from an air boat ride establishment. There is evidence that this was once the place to buy a ticket and board an air boat. On this day the only worker present was this fellow who appears to be directing traffic or telling me to remove myself from the premises.

I probably shouldn’t project human intentions on these Black Vultures, but they seem to be having a discussion about what to do with this elderly lady trespasser with a bright pink hat. I showed them my camera and they seemed to understand my intentions and didn’t make any threatening moves. I went about my pleasures and they sat a while before flying off. I think there were alligators in the pond because I heard some splashing and some strange grunting (it is alligator mating season) but when I glanced in that direction I only saw ripples on the surface.

I pulled into this parking lot because it didn’t look used much and I liked the rope fencing. I wasn’t sure there would be much to photograph, but I’ve learned to just be still and pay attention to what is around me. The air was cool on my skin, there were birds calling to each other, and the dampness of humid, Florida air smelled fresh. What fun I had finding all kinds of surprises. Notice the dew-drops on the grasshopper.

Another place I pulled off was the H. P. Williams Roadside Park because there is a short boardwalk along the canal that runs the length of US-41 between Miami and Naples. The canal was trenched of blown up hard rock that was used to build the Tamiami Trail (US-41) through the Everglades between 1915 and 1928. More about that in a future post.

Across the canal is what appears to be a hardwood hammock, one of five habitats that make up the Big Cypress National Preserve. The other habitats are pinelands, prairies of saw grass, cypress swamps, and estuaries with mangrove strands. Don’t you think the Spanish moss hanging from the trees is a nice decorative touch? There is a lot of it growing north of Orlando but I don’t see it much on the coast in SW Florida.

Still no wading birds, although by this time I was happy with what the Everglades scenery had given me. I walked back to the car, and when I neared the end of the boardwalk I saw, through a thin hole in the brush growing between the boardwalk and the canal, a Great Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret. There wasn’t a spot big enough to photograph them, but at least I got a record of seeing them.

You know, sometimes we take what we can get and if we cop the right attitude we may get more than we expected. Sometimes we can change our scenery and sometimes we need to change how we see the scenery we are familiar with.