A branch hangs over the water along the Sunshine Skyway in Tampa. This image was taken at dawn one weekend.
During the weekdays, the skyway is inundated with cars commuting to work in the various counties that surround Tampa Bay. I traverse three counties just to get to Tampa, one county twice. The weird way Tampa is carved up, Hillsborough County is on both sides of Pinellas County, on the same highway.
Nevertheless, this is a long exposure that I took from Hillsborough County looking back at Manatee County. The Skyway is an impossibly long crossing of Tampa Bay. Not only is it a scenic drive, but it’s also a recreation area and one of the best rest stops in Florida.
I take a lot of pictures of this bridge because it’s so close to home. It’s the biggest thing around, way bigger than a bread box.
Do people still use bread boxes these days? Whenever I buy bread, it goes in the freezer. But I digress; the bridge is the biggest thing around, so it’s the center of a lot of attention. I’m all about iconic photos close to home like this.
This photo, in particular, is a long exposure that was taken with an ND filter. The picture is 46 seconds long which is why the water appears flat. Usually, I might use Photoshop to create the same effect, but in this case, there is little, if any, Photoshop involved.
I took this on that windy January weekend in Tampa Bay. Contrary to popular belief, we do get a little winter weather down here. A little.
When it gets cold in Florida, we complain about it. Basically, we feel entitled to good weather all the time. When it’s not, we get our noses out of joint. Nevermind it’s fifty degrees warmer than up north, we just can’t afford those fancy coats Y’all have. That’s not true, I have one in my closet, somewhere.
Anyway, we had a chilly January. We didn’t get frost or anything, but we did have to put on shoes and long pants. That sucks. But now it’s February and its back to sandals and shorts. See how I say that like it’s the most normal thing in the world? So, for the time being, I have nothing to complain about.
It never really occurred to me, but birds learn to fly. They aren’t born flying and after they hatch much of their development is learning to fly. They learn by watching their parents and practicing all of the little steps until they master each one. It takes a lot of practice.
What got me thinking about this is an eagle-cam on YouTube. I’ve watched as the egg hatched and grew to an almost full grown eaglet in just under three months. E9, as he is known, will soon leave the nest and strike out on his own. I’ve watched with fascination as he’s practiced daily all of the little skills required to fly. Sometimes he’ll flap for minutes while balancing on a branch.
In any case, observing the behavior of E9 and his parents has provided a window into their world. Now when I see a bird I have a new appreciation for its early development.
A few days back I went out on a windy day to take some pictures and noticed a flock of gulls by the water. As they flew against the wind they were nearly stationary in their forward motion. That allowed me to capture some gulls in flight with the bridge in the background. They were quite skilled at flying in blustery conditions. And of course they’ve had plenty of practice.
I took at dawn on the north pier which is where all the local fishermen hang out. The pier is the remnants of the old bridge that was replaced by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. To get out here you need to pay a fee to the parks department. Everyone that pays that fee comes here to fish, I’m the only one that comes here to take pictures. When I show up before dawn without a fishing poll I get a few sideways glances.
I’ve taken pictures of this bridge from a lot of angles but this is my first time from this one. In reality it was darker but this is a thirty-second exposure and it appears lighter. The eastern horizon began to shift in color in advance of the sun which created a silhouette of the bridge. At it’s highest point between the two towers the bridge is four hundred feet above the water. Even that is not high enough for the biggest cruise ships.
If you sit here all day you’ll see a constant stream of ships passing under the bridge. You might see military aircraft as they make their approach to McDill AFB. You will surely see any number of animals, from sea birds to ocean mammals. People fish off this pier all day and all night and in that time there is quite the array of things flying, swimming and floating by.
In my case I’m only here for an hour before heading off to somewhere else. Perhaps if I were to stay a little longer I might see more things to take pictures of. However, to do that I would probably need to bring a fishing poll. At least then I wouldn’t get those sideways glances.
When I show up here in the morning there is usually someone else doing the same thing. I cannot imagine how many photos of this bridge exists. I am one in a long line of bridge photographers. When I got my first DSLR this is the first place I came to. I’ve been here since and I’ll be back again.
Sometimes I’ll do an outing with my camera and not get any good photos. That’s subjective and long after I may change my mind. Photography is a state of mind and what you perceive as good changes over time. It also has to do with mood. We watch movies based on our mood; drama, comedy, thriller and romance, they all appeal to different moods. So it is with photography. One day I may like one photo, the next day another.
Sometimes I’ll go back and look at a shot I did years ago and have a completely different appreciation of it. I might no longer like it. Or I might see something I like but missed.
The Sunshine Skyway is almost ten miles long and as you drive across you have great views of the sea and sky. When you are in your car it looks like you are driving into the sky. Maybe that’s where it got its name, (that’s just a guess on my part).
On this morning I came to a little island on the northern stretch to take pictures. In the summer the clouds form large columns that tower miles into the sky. When the sun is low on the horizon the light hits these columns at different angles depending on the elevation. What I notice is that the lower section of the cloud columns have warmer colors whereas those higher up tend to appear white. My guess is there are more particles in the lower atmosphere.
In Florida, when you see thunderclouds in the afternoon the variation in colors is hard to miss. In this image the clouds are about fifteen miles in the distance but you can still see the variation in colors.
This is another long exposure panorama. It’s a thirty-second exposure that I took one morning just after dawn. I stitched two images to create the panorama. This vantage point is about ten minutes from home so it’s an easy spot to get to. I had to cross the bridge to get here and then again to get back. I suppose that means I had my head in the clouds at least twice before breakfast. Not an unusual thing for me I suppose.
On the far end of Tampa Bay is the Apollo Beach power plant. The way its situated you can see it from just about anywhere. Don’t forget, Florida is flat so anything taller than a palm tree sticks out for miles. This is a three minute long exposure from about twelve miles away. The clouds were situated to naturally frame the silhouette of the plant.
When relatives come to visit us in the winter we typically take them to the power plant. I know that doesn’t sound like a fun place to go but in fact it is. Every year when the temperature of the water goes down, hundreds of Manatee migrate to this plant where the water is heated by the generators. In effect it creates a man-made hot spring for the Manatee to live out the winter in relative comfort. In fact there is a large viewing center and museum so its well worth the visit.
Normally I’m not that interested in including industrial landmarks in landscapes. However in this case the plant is a permanent fixture of the region and plays an important role in the ecosystem of the local wildlife. And, of course, it’s what keeps my air conditioner working through the long hot months of summer.
I could post pictures of herons every day of the week, but then I’d have to rename the blog, Another Day Another Heron. This is such a common sight here in central Florida that I almost take it for granted; almost, but not quite. I used to live in Ontario Canada and I would travel into the back country. Up there the heron sightings were rare and it was a big deal when you saw one. Not so much here, they basically own the place. You see them along any stretch of water all up and down the coast. And they are territorial so you typically see them alone. I’ve noticed that other seabirds tend to give herons a wide berth.
The few I saw in Ontario were shy of humans, basically they would move away if you got within a hundred meters. Again, not so here, it seems they’ve grown accustom to us humans. They’ll even take an interested in us if we happen to be fishing. If you have bait or scraps they come right up to you. For me it’s quite an experience. It reminds me of feeding Flamingos in a petting zoo, they are even more amazing up close.
Herons fish in the shallow waters snatching fish with their pointy beaks. If you watch them for any length of time you’ll note they are extremely patient. They’ll remain perfectly still while a fish swims up and then they’ll strike like lightning. The prey never even saw it coming. It reminds me of martial arts, quick, precise, lethal.
Today and tomorrow we are getting a tropical storm that’s dumping a bunch of rain in the Tampa area. That’s normal for this time of year. I look forward to getting outside to take pictures of the calm after the storm. This is an image I took a few weeks back after an afternoon thunderstorm. In the evening the clouds dissipate causing them to scatter like brushstrokes in the sky.
Sometimes we can tell that a storm is coming by the behavior of the birds. Where I live the houses form a circle around a stand of trees. The houses shield the trees from the winds and so birds will congregate as much a twenty-four hours before a storm. How they know is beyond me, I’m pretty sure they’re not watching the weather channel. Maybe the weather channel is watching them, you never know.
This is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The surface of the road is four-hundred feet high and spans about eight miles over the entrance to the bay. When storms come through the wind can get high enough that they close it down. I’ve driven over the bridge in a tropical storm and it was an experience I won’t forget. However the next day the winds die down, the birds return to the shore and we all go about our business like it never even happened; summertime in Florida.