As we head into the middle of summer, I am looking forward to some downtime under a tiki hut sipping a frosty little drink with an umbrella. Umbrellas in glasses are a crucial element for survival in harsh environments. This is an important fact you may wish to keep in mind. You’re very welcome.
The reflections along the Hillsborough River are entirely peaceful. That is until you realize alligators lurk just below the surface.
But if I was an alligator, this seems like the perfect place to live. I’m living in a state park, I don’t get harassed, there are plenty of turtles to munch, and I don’t have to get stuck in someone’s pool and have my jaws taped shut.
In reality, alligators have it hard. Only a small percentage make it to maturity. The most energetic, most intelligent among them live out their full lives. And the luckiest of those are living here in these beautiful parks.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of covering another UNAA Ninja competition in my hometown of Palmetto at LIVE Training Center. The UNAA is not affiliated with the NBC show, American Ninja Warrior, but it’s all the same people that turn up at these events to prepare for the big show. These are professionals at the top of their game and watching them perform is both exhilarating and humbling.
Anyway, I shot stills and video all weekend. The video is a quick 2-minute recap, and these are just a few of the 1500 stills. The rest can be found at the Live Training Center Facebook Page
Here Morgan Wright (aka-Moose Morgan) put on a perfect pouty face after an early end to stage two. Don’t be fooled by the tomfoolery, Morgan is a ham of a character and a fan favorite on the show. I can say he’s pretty much the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. No surprise that Morgan placed number one in his category.
At 19, Ashley McConville just returned from her debut on American Ninja Warrior 2019 in Atlanta. I’ve watched her perform in many events and it’s obvious she’s a rising star. In the spring I watch in amazement when she surpassed the men in a super-human feat of rope climbing. She knows how to bring the house down.
This year, Kyle McCreight was picked from a lottery as a walk-on for ANW Atlanta. Kyle McCreight is a regular at LIVE Training and arguably one of the most aggressive competitors in the sport. If I didn’t know better I would swear he’s the real-life Spider-Man.
Jason Kotzin is another amazing performer that had his debut on Season 11 of ANW in Atlanta. Jason seemingly came out of nowhere to captivate the audience and rival competitors alike. He places second overall and he has the battle wounds to prove it. He features prominently in the video above.
Speaking of rising stars, look no further than Caleb Bergstrom. His father is a show veteran and this year he competed with his sister in Atlanta. Now that Caleb is old enough to compete on TV, look for him to be a top contender. That aside, Caleb coaches many of the children in the juniors events and is a great role model.
Docks are kind of a big thing here; everybody seems to have one. Dock Life is the new Salt Life; only you don’t get wet.
Not that I know the first thing about docks or salt. I’m one of three people that doesn’t have one. Most of the docks in Florida are private, and they have No Trespassing signs posted. That’s a shame, but I suppose it makes sense.
Anyway, some of the best are public, like this one in Longboat Key. It’s next to a couple of restaurants so you can dock the boat and have dinner. Near my home is a commercial marina with a couple of hundred yachts. It’s also next to a restaurant, appropriately named the Dockside Grill.
The little stubs grow up from the roots and are known as Cypress Knees. It’s thought their purpose is to provide stability to the swamp floor or, extra oxygen to the Cypress during times of flood. These are the best guesses of the scientists, but no one knows for sure. However, if you look closely, you can see they are actually sleeping gnomes. And I didn’t need science to figure that one out.
There are two paths along the river; one higher up and one lower down at the bank. The alligators prefer the lower one.
The problem with the higher path is there is too much growth to get a clear shot of the river. So every fifty yards or so I’d make my way down here to set up for a photo. It’s amazing how the sense of hearing becomes heightened at such times.
I’ve been in Florida for a while, so I’ve become familiar with some of the animal sounds. I also carefully scan the water and banks all around to ensure I’m not disturbing them. Alligators don’t want anything to do with us, and if you’re mindful and steer clear, there will never be a problem. With this knowledge and care, I spent much of my time on the lower path.
I took this about five years ago at Fort DeSoto Park. Looking at it now I wish I’d used a smaller aperture so the foreground would be sharper, but I like the photo anyway. Sometimes I try not to sweat the little stuff if I like the image. Technically the picture is a bit subpar, but I like the shot anyway, and in my mind, that’s what counts.
The Bradenton causeway has advantages over the beach. You can park at the water’s edge, and there aren’t nearly as many rules.
At this spot, you can generally see horses in the water. But I was here on a Monday, and they weren’t. The causeway isn’t fancy, but if you want to spend time at the water without the parking hassles, this is it.
There is a theory in science that consciousness is present in all things. It’s tricky to know what to make of that given our limited understanding of the subject. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel the presence of something when standing near these great living creatures. It makes me wonder what we’ll eventually learn through science and if, it will validate that sixth sense we sometimes have about certain things.
A winding path is a metaphor, but in photography, it’s a leading line — kind of like a leading lady, only more mysterious.
We are influenced by symbols all around us. For me, a leading line like this describes something to come or, returning home. Anyway, whenever I find something with direction, I look for ways to incorporate it into the scene so that it hopefully resonates at an emotional level.
I took this photo inside Hillsborough River State Park, which is just north of Tampa. It is somewhat typical of the parks we have in Florida, lush, full of vegetation, and with lots of trails that lead to mysterious places. Metaphorically speaking that is.