About a month ago I took a jaunt to the jungles of Myakka River State Park about forty minutes away. It was after heavy rains and I was there to look for some new images. The atmosphere was absolutely AMAZING. Everything other than the roads was flooded. And throughout the whole park there was an eerie silence. Maybe because of the humidity that hung in the air, maybe because I seemed to be the only fool photographer in the park, I’m not sure. But from a photographic perspective it was spell binding. That, combined with the solitude was like a waypoint between two worlds. I took photos at various points and just before leaving I stopped at a trailhead near the park exit.
This image shows the path partially submerged as it led away from the road and reemerged only inches above the overflowing river. The water from the river overflowing the path had flattened the grasses as seen here. A mixture of fascination and curiosity got the best of me and I decided to follow it into the jungle.
It was eerily quiet, I was alone, and my senses became heightened. I could hear a twig snap two hundred yards off. My mind kept running through the risk verses reward argument as I wondered if I was crossing the line. It was perhaps a little risky; if I fell in the water it could be bad.
As the park is in central Florida, it is a sanctuary for alligators. Not just a few, five hundred or more in the lake and surrounding rivers, like the one I was following upstream. My idea was that I wanted to get that low angle perspective of the water in the flooded river and so was looking for a vantage clear of foreground obstacles along the bank of the river. I stopped a few times to still my breath and listen. I warily proceeded, slowly and alert, and then it happened. Out of nowhere I heard a splash in the forest perhaps thirty meters away.
The forest floor was covered in about a foot of water and whatever made that splash was substantial, …not a twig. Frozen, heartbeat elevated, I strained with my eyes and ears, peering into the shadowed thick forest for any signs of movement. Nothing. Determined, I continued at a much slower pace, looking for that bend in the river to set up. Then, I heard it, …the sound of a bullfrog. (Lesson break: for those of you not familiar, male alligators make a sound just like a bullfrog.) If you hear that sound, and you are home and not near a body of water, it’s probably a bullfrog, no need to put your drink down. If, on the other hand, you are in a state park that is an alligator sanctuary, and just had heavy rains, and the rivers are flooded then it maybe, just maybe it’s not a bullfrog. The difference between the two sounds is resonance. Bullfrogs are small. Large four hundred pound twelve foot long reptiles produce a deep resonance that cannot be produced by an animal the size of a fist. The sound I was now listening to had a wonderful resonance.
So, here I am, in the jungle, looking for a composition, faced with a decision, do I get my shot or get the hell outta Dodge. At this point I’m thinking that last bend in the river a few meters back might of had some overlooked potential. To continue walking upriver for a better bend might just be the equivalent of pizza delivery for reptiles. Therefore I walked back a few paces to the previous bend in the river and setup my tripod. I figured that as long as I could hear him, I was probably okay. It meant he was stationary (so I reasoned), I really have no clue. I was born and raised in California, I was a boy scout; I backpacked and hiked a lot, I feel at home in the mountains. Put me in the swamps and jungles of Florida and I’m no better than the next Wal-Mart shopper. Strike that, I’m probably worst because I don’t know what I don’t know.
So anyway, I composed the shot and captured the image above and just about that time my sanity came running along and caught up to me. Basically she asked what it was on Gods green earth did I think I was doing? The fact that I had to think a moment meant I didn’t have a good answer. So with sanity leading the way I made a hasty retreat to the trailhead and into the car. Well, not that hasty. Just before I climbed into the car I snapped this selfie.
I think this last bit of documentation was probably a fool’s errand. I half thought that a ranger would later find the phone and the selfie and my disappearance would be satisfactorily explained and the search called off. Fortunate for me that never occurred and despite my questionable decisions I lived to see another day.