Sunset Watchers

Most people leave the beach at the end of the day. That’s when the second shift starts and all the sunset watchers show up.

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Sunset Watchers
Sunset from the north shore of Longboat Pass

That’s good for me because I’ll be driving against the traffic to get to the beach on time. If you’re one of the three people reading my blog, you know I’m a procrastinator. So, even though the traffic is going the other way, more often than not I am rushing to get there before the sun goes down.

more from Anna Maria Island in the gallery

After I finish taking photos, I still get stuck in the traffic leaving the beach. That’s no problem though, being stuck in traffic with the beach on one side and no place to be is a dream. I roll down the windows and inch along. I could do that all day.

Pelicans Preening

Cortez is one of the last fishing villages on the east coast of the United States. That would mean these pelicans picked the perfect place to live.

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Pelicans Preening
Sea birds in Cortez, Florida

We came for the annual fish festival and left stuffed to the gills. They had every kind of fish dish you can imagine, and then some.

Fishing vessels were docked alongside the processing plant, and I captured these fellas preening themselves, oblivious to all the commotion around them. Sea birds in Florida coexist with fishing and are not afraid of humans at all.

see more images featuring birds

Anyway, this reminded me that I need to come back to Cortez on a regular workday to see everything in action. It’s one of the first places I came with the new Sony camera about five years ago, and I always find something interesting to shoot here. And, as one of the last villages of it’s kind, it is a little bit of history.

Cormorants

If a cormorant is out of the water, it will spread its wings to dry off. On this morning, however, they were still dry.

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Cormorants
A scene from Robinson Preserve in Bradenton

These birds spend a lot of time under the water catching food. It’s a little ironic that they even though they have feathers, they are excellent swimmers and spend a lot of time underwater. When they are fishing, you might only see their snake-like head and neck pop-up for air. We also have snakes in the water, so seeing a Cormorant’s head pop-up might give you pause.

more from Robinson Preserve

Just as often they’ll sit on a low branch or along the shoreline with their wings outstretched. Initially, I thought that it was to ward off predators by making themselves seem more prominent. But in fact, it’s to dry their feathers which are not as water repellant as other birds like ducks or pelicans.

A Good Life

Pelicans are always sitting on posts waiting for fish to swim by. Who would have thought life could be so good.

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A Good Life
A Pelican sits on a post in the Manatee River in Palmetto

As soon as the sun goes down, they fly back to their nesting site and settle in. At dawn, you see them flying to places like this to catch fish. Dawn and dusk are the best times to capture pelicans in flight.

see the sunset gallery

This is from the Manatee River where there is always a lot of fish. Sometimes man and bird are hunting the same fish. When fishing you should always bring a pair of gloves and needle nose pliers. That’s so you can grab the pelican and free it from your hook. It happens all the time. So, other than the occasional brush with us, they have it pretty good on the Manatee River.

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.

Elk Lake Geese

I took this image as I disembarked from the ferry to Victoria a few years ago. That was my first time visiting Vancouver Island, and I remember being thrilled at all the new sites. So, before arriving in town, we stopped here to walk around and take pictures of the scenery.

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Elk Lake Geese
Elk Lake is on Vancouver Island in British Columbia between the ferry terminal and Victoria

I used my first mirrorless camera, the Sony A7R. Now, as I go back and look at old photos I haven’t processed, I’m surprised at how well the images hold up, even against newer cameras. So I find myself going back to explore old RAW files with more modern tools and each time, I come away with few surprises.

more from Vancouver Island

The trip was the beginning of a week on the island, and some of my all-time favorite images came from that trip. There are different climates all across the island, and the geography varies widely. As a result, I was pulling over all the time to take pictures. That meant it took us hours to get anywhere, but since we weren’t on a schedule it wasn’t a problem, until the last day when we had to be at the terminal on time for the ferry back. That’s when I got a speeding ticket, but that’s a story for another day.

Pelicans in Flight

I live near the Manatee River and lately I’ve noticed large flocks of pelicans flying by in the morning. Pelicans will move at dawn and dusk between their feeding and resting areas. Maybe they have always flown by but recently it seems like there are more than usual. Amongst the hundreds are sub-flocks of white pelicans that are distinct and easily noticeable.

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Pelicans in Flight
Pelicans in flight at dawn along the Manatee River

On this morning I was taking photos out of the bedroom window as they flew past the house and along the river. I took too many but that always happens when I see something amazing. Their graceful flight against the dawn sky easily caught my attention.

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For about ten to fifteen minutes the skies were filled, and then a few minutes later the pelicans settled down and everything returned to normal. I’m not a bird photographer, but there are many around here and it’s easy to understand why. The town of Palmetto where I live is a sanctuary for the seabirds and many of them seem to know it.

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.