Egret on a Tree

These egrets will sit on trees to preen while keeping an eye on the fishermen and their catch.

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Egret on a Tree
An egret perched on a tree in a Florida bayou

I took this at a bayou that is also a state preserve. Florida preserves give wildlife a safe place to thrive outside of the urban sprawl. Egrets are opportunists that adapt to just about anything. Often I’ll see them on the front lawn looking for lizards. It’s not uncommon to see them perched on the roof of a car.

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However, just because they adapt doesn’t mean they’re not skittish. If you get too close, they’ll fly away, so I had to keep a comfortable distance to capture this photo. That meant using a 70-200mm lens with a 2x converter for a total of 400mm. It’s rare that I carry that combination, but I’m glad I did on this day.

Myakka Heron

I drove through our local state park the other day. Typical for this time of year, Myakka River State Park is flooded from recent rains and the rising of the river. I stopped at a submerged path next to the river and watched as Egrets, Limpkins, and Herons forage for food in the shallow water.

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Myakka Heron
This photo was taken on a flooded trail next to the Myakka River

Also typical for this time of year is the oppressive sun and heat. But this section of the trail is covered in a thick canopy. The shade was a welcome reprieve and the scene was quiet and peaceful.

more birds in the gallery

I set up with a tripod at the edge of the water and tried not to move too much. Once I was still the birds would ignore me and I managed to get a couple of shots like this. The light would filter through in beams and illuminate small sections. I caught this heron (at least I think it’s a heron) at just the right moment.

Limpkin Kin

The other day I was at Myakka River State Park to try out some experimental gear. I didn’t have a plan other than to line up a few landscape shots. As I sat on a bench working with the apparatus, a mama and baby Limpkin strolled by.

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Limpkin Kin
A couple of Limpkin in Myakka River State Park

They were eating snails and clams. The snails were easy enough to catch and eat. The clams they would batter with their beaks to break open the shells. I was no more than six feet away and what I found surprising was that, as long as I remained still, they tolerated my presence.

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There’s nothing better than to observe wild animals in their natural habitat. The baby Limkin was more wary of me, but the mother seemed to decide that it was more important to eat than worry about me. Or maybe she did both. Whatever the case, it was a rare privilege I’ll not soon forget.

Mr. Wiggles Waiting

My dog is the most patient being on the planet. Even when we go to his favorite parks, he waits for me to take my photos. Here he’s waiting to go over the bridge, but I’m busy composing. If I could paraphrase the look, he was saying, “Seriously daddy?”. I’m just saying.

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Mr Wiggles Waiting
Mr. Wiggles waiting for me to finish taking a picture

Mr. Wiggles loves going to parks and exploring. I like the scenery. We have slightly different interests, but the excursion benefits us both. At the park, I have to be careful not to get too carried away. When taking photos, I need to be mindful of our surroundings. For instance, there was a small alligator in the lake on the left. It wouldn’t bother us, but the bigger ones love to snack on small pets.

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The summer heat makes it difficult for Mr. Wiggles to get much exercise during daylight. Imagine walking around in ninety-percent humidity wearing a coat. So we either go out after dark or on overcast days when the sun is less harsh. When we get home, he has a long drink of water and collapses on the cold tiles. And no matter how hot it is, he still looks forward to it every single day.

Beings We Call Animals

While wandering through Les Baux-de-Provence a few years ago I came across this gentleman. He sat perfectly still and seemed interested in what I was doing.

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Beings We Call Animals
An intelligent fellow watches intently as I take his photo.

Some animals have an intelligence you see in their eyes and actions. I got that sense from this soul as he continued to watch me. You could almost see him think.

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These are the beings we call animals. I wish there was a better word.

Horse Head in Profile

On Christmas day, we did something out of the ordinary and headed over to a nearby horse ranch for a picnic and bonfire. The horses there spend days in their stalls or with riders out on the trails; however, in the evening they are free to roam the property. As it was a holiday the horses came and went as they pleased. That meant they would come up to the picnic table looking for handouts.

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Horse Head in Profile
Horse’s head illuminated with an iPhone

At night, the only light was from the bonfire so when I stood up and turned around there was usually a horse looking right at me. Someone turned on their iPhone flashlight and I snapped this profile. It might look staged but it was just luck on my part that I was able to get this shot.

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I’m an animal lover so I’ll jump at any excuse to hang out on a ranch. In addition to horses there were sheep, goats, pigs and at least one ostrich. It was a fun way to spend an evening and if I’m not mistaken, the horses thought it was pretty cool too.

Kona and the Christmas Tree

This is our family cat Kona, curled up and sitting in his favorite spot. He sits here for hours at a time, long into the night. I took this one evening after I had already gone to bed and came downstairs for a glass of water. When I noticed him I quietly set my camera on a tripod and took this photo. I wish I could say I had thought of the idea ahead of time.

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Kona and the Christmas Tree
Kona and the Christmas Tree

I have no idea what goes on in that little kitty brain of his but it’s safe to say that he loves the glittery lights. He’s an old cat and as such gets a little moody at times. Sometimes if he gets agitated during the day we’ve discovered that turning on the tree lights calms him down.

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This peaceful scene belies a more chaotic history of Kona and Christmas trees. When he was a kitten he and our dog at the time where chasing each other around the house and Kona ran right up the tree and caused it to come crashing down. When we came to see what happened, he was nowhere to be found and only the dog was left to take the blame. Maybe that’s what he’s thinking about as he sits here. You never know.

Pulling Out of Port

Here we are pulling out of port in Barcelona being followed by a flock of gulls. It was amusing because they seemed to know the routine and followed the ship quite a way out. It was an excuse for me to get some funny photos.

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Pulling Out of Port
Pulling out of port in Barcelona

When it comes to animals I anthropomorphize them; I assign human traits to their expressions and actions. I think we’ve had it wrong all along. Perhaps I see the animals in a different way, like maybe there’s more them.

I always try to show animals respect and never assume I know how intelligent they are or what they’re thinking. On the other hand I eat meat, so that’s something to reconcile. That’s my inconsistent sense of things and if you asked me to explain better I probably couldn’t.

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Nevertheless, I still think our co-inhabitants on this planet deserve more respect than we give them. And for that I am happy to feed the gulls.

Graceful Act

The other day I stood at the waters edge of Sarasota Bay and watched the skimmers ply their trade. To get this I used high-speed settings to freeze the bird in mid flight. The skimmer flies inches above the water while scooping up food with its beak and leaving a small wake. It’s a graceful act to watch or photograph on a warm summer evening.

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Graceful Act

I just returned from the high desert. It was beautiful and very different from the Gulf Coast of Florida. Photographing the desert takes a different set of eyes than those I’ve developed for Florida. The dry land made me realize how fortunate I am to live near the water. But I would say the same thing if I lived near the mountains.

If you like photography then you will find something interesting no matter where you are. Being open to sights around you is not always as easy as it seems, it requires being flexible. Preconceived notions can block your vision when it doesn’t materialize. For instance, maybe you have a notion to capture a hillside, but there is an interesting wildflower right at your feet. It’s not just a matter of looking the other way, it also means adjusting your field of view.

photos with birds

When I took this I had setup to take pictures of the moon and a bridge. However I was drawn by the action of the skimmers. In the end I got different shots in addition to the one I came for. There will always be something unexpected, even in the most familiar setting. So put yourself in a setting and look around. You never know what you might see.

By the Waters Edge

The other evening I was standing along Sarasota Bay and there were all types of birds by the waters edge. This egret was picking through grasses exposed by the low tide. Egrets are accustomed to humans and will come quite close without feeling threatened. However if you’re fishing it’s a different story altogether. They have no problem walking right up and stealing fish or bait right at your feet.

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By the Waters Edge
By the Waters Edge in Sarasota Bay

This one thought I might be fishing and came to investigate. When he realized I didn’t have a net he lost interest. In this moment he seemed to lose interest and hop a few meters down the shore.

I love animals very much and tend to anthropomorphize them. For instance I would say this little fella is striking a pose, deciding on his next move. If they squawk I’ll attribute it to human emotions, as though they are complaining or mad about something. I do that with wild animals all the time and especially with my own pets. Sometimes if I talk to animals they’ll take an interest in me and look back quixotically. That’s because they’re not sure what to make of a crazy human like me. At least my dog understands me, but that’s another story.

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I’m not so much of a wild life photographer, but I do like capturing birds along the shore, especially here in Florida. There are a lot of egrets and herons that make for good subjects with their graceful poses and antics. But real wildlife photographers are a different bred, they are patient and calculating, and will end up with spectacular shots of nature. Me, I’m more of an opportunist; I’ll capture the wildlife if I happen to be in the right spot at the right time.