The Golden Door

This image is the golden door at the base of Bok Tower in Central Florida. I was here the other day taking pictures of the gardens and just before leaving noticed this elaborate door. Surely it is an element of some fantasy novel I haven’t read yet.

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The Golden Door
The door at the base of Bok Tower in Lake Wales Florida

Florida is mainly flat, and the tower is on the tallest hill of the Florida peninsula at 295 feet above sea level. Add the tower’s 205 feet on top of that, and it’s easily the tallest thing around for maybe fifty or a hundred miles.

While I was there, music from the tower’s carillon bells resounded throughout the gardens. Perhaps someone was playing them or, maybe it was automated. I didn’t take the tour to find out.

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A thunderstorm rolled over, and the bells abruptly stopped minutes before lightning hit the top of the tower. The tower has lightning rods, so it’s perfectly safe, but I would not want to be the one striking those bells in a storm. Unless perhaps, it was part of the plot of that novel I’ve not yet read.

Sunrise Composition

Here I am close to home on an early Sunday morning. I was standing at the end of Emerson Point which faces west into the Gulf of Mexico. (I, of course, was facing east). This local park is one of my favorite go-to places for sunrise and sunset.

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Sunrise Composition
Sunrise at Emerson Point in Palmetto, Florida

It rained the night before, so I thought we’d have a beautiful display in the sky with high scattered clouds, but, that was not to be. So instead, I composed this shot which focuses on the foreground elements with the sunrise in the back. If the scene doesn’t turn out how I envisioned, I try to remind myself to work with what I’ve got. Plans often go sideways, but there is usually another angle that’s pleasing or tells a story.

sunrise / sunset gallery

One other thing: because it was Sunday morning I figured I’d be alone. But there was another photographer down by the water, and when I turned around after taking this shot, there was yet another photographer with a couple doing a maternity shoot. So apparently, there was indeed an abundance of other compositions to go around.

Lummus Park

Lummus Park runs parallel to Ocean Drive in South Beach. I was riding a bike here and taking photos in the middle of the day. I usually prefer to go out when the light is softer, but I thought to myself, what the heck.

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Lummus Park
A hot day in South Beach, Miami

The summer sun in Miami Beach is relentless, so I saw quite a few people walking with umbrellas. As for me, I made sure I had an umbrella in my drink. I figure if I collect enough of them I can use them for the sun.

beach gallery

For this shot, I lined it up and waited for the ladies to walk in the scene. It’s an easy technique, and I use it a lot when I do street photography. I suppose this is a street photo, although part of me wants to call it a beach photo. It really doesn’t matter; it’s just my analytical side working overtime.

Badlands Highway 240

Here is another picture from South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. Highway 240 is a road with curves and hills, perfect for touring. As usual, I pulled over every half mile or so for a shot of the roadway and scenery.

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Badlands Highway 240
Part of the winding Highway 240 through the South Dakota Badlands

The ridges are made of alternating soft and hard layers so that they erode fast, which is why they look so unusual. Here is a link to how the Badlands are formed. You can almost see erosion working in real time. When they get torrential rain here, the runoff carves new features and the basin floods. I would not want to be stuck out here in the rain. A few hours after we left a summer storm hit, and I suspect that things looked a little different in the morning.

more from our road trip

Along the road, we saw buffalo, mountain goats and large numbers of prairie dogs. Amongst the prairie dogs, we also saw small owls. I’m not sure what they were doing, perhaps looking to steal the young. The landscape here is both barren and full of life. It’s harsh and beautiful at the same time.

Pond Panorama

Here is an image from nearby Tom Bennett Park in Bradenton. I’ve been here twice this week trying to get some photos that do the landscape justice. To make this, I combined four vertical images, and each was a combination of two focus stacked images; so eight in all.

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Pond Panorama
This is eight images combined into a hi-res panorama.

I’ve been doing a lot of focus stacking lately. If you’re not familiar, it’s taking two or more photos of the same thing, each focused at a different distance. Then by combining the in-focus parts of each image, everything is sharp. It’s an excellent technique to use when you want to have a strong foreground element. It makes good sense in a lot of landscape scenes. Also, since this is a multi-image panorama, the resolution is very high. Therefore, having everything in focus is even more beneficial.

more panoramas from the gallery

I was at this same park a day or two earlier when I came to walk with my dog. This time I came alone to shoot, but after I did, I felt a little guilty that Mr. Wiggles got gypped out of a walk. I could have brought him because the photography wasn’t particularly difficult. Mr. Wiggles has me wrapped around his paw. I’m not done here so I’ll probably bring him along next time.

Highway 240

Highway 240 loops through the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I took this photo near the entrance to the park. The geological formations of The Badlands are amazing to look at, but in this frame, I was looking at the winding road ahead. The entire thirty-mile loop is scenic winding roads with turnouts every half mile or so.

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Highway 240
The road that loops through Badlands National Park

If I had a motorcycle, this is where I’d ride. The road has everything, curves, hills, and of course scenery. When I came through here, it was a couple of weeks before Sturgis, and already groups of bikers were riding in that direction. I met one biker from Montreal when I took this photo. We chatted for a while because we were both into photography.

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In these grassy plains are hundreds, if not thousands, of prairie dogs. We’d stop along the side of the road and watch their antics; it was a regular circus. We continued down the road, eventually arriving in Rapid City. That night we had a massive thunderstorm, like those we get in Florida. It made me think about the constant erosion of this landscape as well as all those groundhogs hiding in their burrows.

Mount Rushmore at Night

We drove across South Dakota to Rapid City, and by itself, the drive was pretty amazing, full of sights. The next day was Independence Day, and so we set out sightseeing the two main attractions. In the morning we visited Mount Rushmore which is about twenty miles from town, and in the afternoon we drove to the Sitting Bull monument which is another seventeen miles west.

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Mount Rushmore at Night
Mount Rushmore on the evening of Independence Day

At both locations, there were large crowds, but that was no surprise on the biggest holiday of summer. After a full day, we returned to our hotel in Rapid City for dinner. During dinner, we decided that rather than watch fireworks in town, we would drive back to see the monument at night. Spotlights illuminate Rushmore in the evening creating a massive spectacle.

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So on our second trip to Rushmore that day, I took this image from behind the amphitheater about thirty minutes after a presentation. As it was late at night, the crowds had dissipated, and only a few visitors remained. That is how I managed to be standing at the base of the mountain to take this picture without anyone in the frame. All in all, it was an excellent way to end the day.

Stand Rock

One of the first stops on our summer road trip was in Wisconson. While there we took a boat up the river at Wisconsin Dells in an area known for rock formations like this. I can imagine seeing these in Arizona or Utah, but here in Wisconsin, it was a big surprise.

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Stand Rock
Stand Rock in Wisconsin Dells

This formation is known as Stand Rock, and during the summer, trained dogs will leap from one surface to the other. If you look closely, there is a net in the space between the rocks. When we arrived, it had just rained, so the demonstration was canceled for safety reasons.

Nevertheless, there is a famous image of this rock taken by HH Bennett over a hundred years ago. That image is in the lower part of the frame, and it depicts his son jumping from one rock to the other (without a net). Among other things, Bennett was a pioneer in photography because he invented the shutter which freezes motion.

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Back then there was a lot of logging here. If you look closely at the old image, Stand Rock is mostly exposed. Today it’s covered in a thick canopy of trees as logging has long since ceased. Anyway, I thought it was cool that not only is there an old photo of this rock, but it is related to photographic history as well.

Big Cypress National Preserve

I just returned from driving the Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s a twenty-four-mile dirt road through the heart of some of the most stunning landscape in Florida. As a landscape photographer, I was in my element and overwhelmed at the same time. There was just too much to take in, but I tried.

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Big Cypress National Preserve
One of my many stops along Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve

 

Living in an urban area, I find only scraps of nature as I look for it among the sprawl. So when I get the chance to emerge myself among hundreds of square miles, it’s a good thing. It took me nearly five hours to travel the road because I stopped every quarter of a mile. A bike would have been faster. But, alas, I was in no hurry.

more images of nature in the gallery

This image is from one of my dozens of stops. It’s the reflection of the cypress trees in the swamp. As I stood there taking photos I could hear the bullfrog-like bellows of alligators all around me At first, it’s unnerving, but you grow accustomed to it. In reality, alligators prefer to mind their own business. At least from their bellows, you know where they are, and they know where you are; which is as it should be.

The Path at Neil Preserve

Niel Preserve in Bradenton borders the intercoastal waterway. The boardwalks allow you to walk through and above the thick brush and mangroves. From a photography perspective, the perfect time to come is just after the rain and right before sunset. That way the clouds accent the natural elements and help set the mood.

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The Path at Neil Preserve
One of many boardwalk pathways at Neil Preserve in Bradenton Florida

However there is one minor problem, the mosquitoes are thick as thieves. And they also love this particular time of day, perhaps as much as I do. They are quite active after the rain; so when I arrive, I typically spray myself down with a generous portion of repellant. That way the photographer and bugs keep a respectful distance and everybody gets along.

more landscapes from the gallery

The path in this image is a classic leading line. With our eyes and imaginations, we follow the trail and perhaps feel it leads to a safe place. That is the central principle behind this image, and it should be convincing as long as you don’t think about the bugs.