Seeing Double

Naples Botanical Garden in Florida in 2014, just five years after it opened. Waterlilies and other water plants have since been placed in this pond so it is more difficult to get a reflection without “noise.”

What a perfect topic because our life has been consumed by double vision for almost a year. Jim’s double vision is improving very slowly with the low dose of steroids the neuro-ophthalmologist prescribed. The double vision was very disruptive to his daily living and exhausting. He is a much happier man now that more of his day is spent with seeing just one of everything and is able to keep busy with household tasks. He is once again feeling useful as he is able to do the things that bring joy to our lives and keeps things running smoothly.

His improved functioning has freed up my energy for thinking about photography and I have a lot of photos taken in Florida that capture this idea of double vision. I have gone to the Naples Botanical Garden at least once a week during the winter season for the past 13 years and their water lily collection has grown impressively through their hosting of the new water lily competition each summer. I go early in the morning, usually before a breeze is rippling the water in the ponds and this provides me with wonderful doubles.

After the fact, as I meander through my files of photographs, I find that I always stop to study my favorite reflection photos. The photo above on the right isn’t the most beautiful capture, but it sure intrigues me. There is a breeze rippling the water and you can see the reflections on green pedals that were covering the bud. Is that not a reflection of a reflection?

I especially enjoy when photos of reflections make me a bit disoriented. My favorites were obtained in trips into the Everglades of Florida. In the Bald Cypress stands along the Loop Road in January and February the water scenes are quite monochromatic.

Early spring reflections in the Everglades elicit very different emotion within me.

When I was post-processing the following photo I couldn’t decide the best orientation. What do you think?

Thanks to Jez for this fun topic of “Seeing Double”.

One Word Sunday: Feelings

Sweet Water Strand, Florida Everglades

I was looking for calm and quiet – I found it. You may register other feelings at the 25-30 alligators we observed along and in the road.

Taken on Loop Road (off U.S. 41- Tamiami Trail) in the Big Cypress National Park.

One Word Sunday: Feeling

Exploring Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

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We had visitors from Michigan over the week-end and they enjoy seeing critters of all sorts so we took them into the Florida Everglades. On a previous visit we went on a dirt road in the Big Cypress National Preserve called the Loop Road. This time I wanted to explore some of the dirt roads in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, a large area to the west of Big Cypress. It was just my kind of day.

Our first stop was the Big Cypress Bend 3,200 foot boardwalk that I read about in O’Keefe’s excellent book The Photographer’s Guide to the Everglades. Even though we went right where he told us to go we didn’t find it. Instead we found an abandoned portion of road that was originally the Tamiami Trail (US 41 from Tampa to Miami). The alligator above resides in the canal along this walk. The next three photos were also taken from that walk.

I would still like to find the boardwalk and there is a number to call in the guidebook.

What we did find was the Janes Scenic Drive off Florida 29 going north. It is an eleven mile dirt road that goes to nowhere and back through the different ecosystems of the Everglades.

_DSC0049Travel was slow so we only went about half way before we turned around. Returning was even slower because I was driving and I know the spots where I had wanted to stop but couldn’t tell they were good until Jim had passed. A section of this scenic drive runs east/west and the raised parts are culverts that allows for this very slow flow of the very wide 6 inch deep river from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Much of this water flow is through saw grass plains that are seen in the photos above. Driving down the Tamiami Trail through these plains, we seen large wading birds congregating at small ponds and nesting in far off stands of pines and bald cypress.

My favorite experiences are traveling through the cypress swamps to find birds fishing in the shallow water and seeing alligators sunning themselves. You should know that I enjoy being somewhat close to the alligators in the winter months when they are in semi-hibernation; not that hungry nor eager to attack. In any case, I understand that Alligators have the power to cause damage to my body.

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We saw several birds but this one was one I wasn’t familiar with and was in the process of communicating sweet nothings with a potential mate a ways away. When I processed the photos I realized that we saw two different birds. I think it is a Least Bitten heron, and maybe the one on the left is an adolescent.

Here is the one on the right with the mating plumage down.

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We also saw the green heron on the left and many black vultures (right).

As we were nearing the end of the Janes Scenic Drive, we could see storm clouds building on the horizon and it started to sprinkle a little.

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Fall in the Everglades

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Egret fishing from a sunbeam.

Daughter, Sharon, was visiting from Texas last week and one of the things she wanted to do was visit the Everglades. I have traveled the Southern Loop Road, a 26 mile loop of narrow dirt road through the Big Cyprus Preserve, many times in the peak winter months when it is cooler and water levels are low.

I didn’t have any photos on file from October or November so I was a little concerned about whether there would be birds and alligators in the water close to the road for Sharon to enjoy.

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When we stopped at the first (last) stop with facilities, several vultures were in the trees welcoming us. Or did they detect the smell of old age?

As we drove deeper into the everglades, the first thing I noticed was higher water. If the road hadn’t been well built we would have had to have kayaks. The higher water levels provided beautiful water-scapes of foliage

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In an environment where I don’t detect any dramatic change of seasons, the plants in the high water provided color.

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.And there were a few birds but not as many as I normally see. The high water provides good fishing throughout most of the everglades. We heard lots of splashing and thrashing about in the brush – just out of view. It was kind of eerie in the daylight, what would my imagination do at night?

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Heron

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Ibis high in a tree. It surprises me to see big birds up so high.

We didn’t see any alligators sunning themselves along the road but this was to be expected because it has been hot, with very warm nights. The alligators were keeping cool in the water. At several places Sharon would say she saw an alligator, but then question whether it was a floating log. Some were real because they sank underwater when she opened the car door.

That happened in one spot and we were all sure because we could see the ring of bubbles where the alligator had dove deep. We were feeling a bit pleased with the sight when she noticed babies in the water – about 20 of them. We didn’t get too close because we knew Mama was somewhere very close keeping an eye on us – and we knew she would strike if we reached down to pick one up (also not a good idea because I understand alligators are hatched biting and fighting.

20151111-DSC_0056Sharon was very pleased with her excursion deep into the Everglades and we ended the day by sharing a gaterburger and gater nuggets in Everglades City. And for me, going into this untamed piece of the Glades never grows old because it isn’t staged. I get to see how nature unfolds it’s story for the first time, all over again.