The Swamp

This swamp is in Florida and is a good thing, meaning we don’t want to drain it; instead, we want to protect it as a national resource.

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The Swamp
An image from the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

The swamps, marshes, and bogs are quite beautiful. I did not expect I’d ever consider the swamp as beautiful before visiting, I was wary of what I might find. But once inside, I was struck by its vastness, rich biodiversity, and remoteness.

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I am not a naturalist and know very little about the ecosystem of the Big Cypress National Preserve, but if you want to know more, one recommendation is to visiting Clyde Butcher’s site. Not only is he a passionate advocate for maintaining our natural habitats, but his photographic legacy is considered a national treasure.

Natural Highlights

When I was driving the loop road in Big Cypress National Preserve, I’d stop every half mile or so. Sometimes I’d see these Bromeliad Tillandsia blooming on the side of cypress trees.

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Natural Highlights
A scene from Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida

I didn’t have the right equipment for taking flower photos, so I used a telephoto and zoomed in from the side of the road. This photo was taken with the zoom fully extended at 240mm.

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The main thing that catches my eye is the contrast of the flower against the green and earth tones of the preserve. I suppose I could have waded into the swamp to get a better look, but I could hear the croaking of alligators close by and I needed to get home to re-organize my sock drawer. Not that I was afraid or anything.

Sweetwater Slough

While this looks like a river, it’s known as a strand or slough. It’s nothing more than a widening of the swamp along a section of the loop road inside Big Cypress National Preserve.

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Swamp Strand
A strand inside Big Cypress National Preserve

I think it would be impressive to kayak here; however, I would not go without a guide. The swamp is endless, the land is flat, and the Cypress trees are so thick that one wrong turn and you have no sense of direction.

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I was born and raised in California, so I’m more accustom to the mountains. With mountains and hills, you can follow the contours of the land. But down here in the Everglades, there are no contours; at least none that are distinguishable from ground level. But with a guide, I could cede navigation to an expert and occupy myself with countless variations of scenery and wildlife to photograph. At least that’s my plan.

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.

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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.

Dead Pool

My guess is that this standing body of water is covered in some type algae which has robbed it of oxygen. If I’m right about that then there really is no life here, just a still quiet dead pool.

Dead Pool
A dead pool within the Terra Ceia Preserve State Park

I first noticed this while hiking through here and recently came back with my mountain bike and camera. Its inside a state park and there are several of these standing pools of water, but this one grabs your attention because there are no birds or life of any form and has this smooth velvet-like green carpet on the surface.

However in the hurricane season when we get torrential rains and a high tide at the same time these pools get reconnected to the bayou and probably come back to life for a short spell as the water becomes oxygenated again.

Some of my favorite images from the gallery

Anyway, there is a path around it and plenty of angles to look at this spectacle. With the bayou, mangroves and wetlands so full of life this presents an unexpected sight. It reminds me of the Tolkien Dead Marshes. In one sense it appears quite beautiful but I fear that if I get too close I might never be seen again. I can’t help but let my imagination runs a little wild when I see sights like this. This is a real-life dead pool. Your oxymoron for the day.

Palavas Swamp

Palavas Swamp
The Palavas Swamp in southern France                   Click here to purchase a fine art framed print

The Palavas swamp is a habitat for all manner of birds on account of the shrimp and other tasty morsels that thrive here. The glassy surface at dusk caught my eye as I drove past. Those houses on the other side sit along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, this is a popular destination for vacationers in summer. However I was here in the off-season which afforded me an opportunity to see a slightly different side of life in southern France. Quiet walks along the beach or simply watching the night set in across the swamp.

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Other swamps around this area are used to cultivate salt. The nearby town of Aigues-Mortes is where some of the finest salt in the world comes from. I’m not a good judge of salt but it seems to me refined and smooth. nevertheless but we bought a little box to bring home which we use sparingly for special dishes.

Aside from the salt, several little aspects of French culture rubbed off on us while we were here.; cheese, wine and baguettes be chief among them. But other things like slowing down to enjoy a meal which is something we don’t always do back home. In the end we came back with just enough to whet our appetite for more and the thought that things taste better when we slow down and, use a dash of good salt.

Tower View

Tower View
Tower view of Robinson Preserve in Bradenton Florida                                        Purchase a framed print

This is the tower view from Robinson Preserve in Bradenton Florida. It’s on a trial about a half mile from the parking lot and a good place to get some perspective on the land. In a way this is a poor mans drone shot without the drone. These are inland marshes and salt flats that attract all manner of wildlife. The waterway on the right is a popular place to kayak and further up are mangrove tunnels to be explored.

For this composition I deliberately ignored the rule of thirds because I felt the sky is just as compelling as the ground, they hold the balance in equal measure as a kind of yin and yang. I’ve starting doing that sometimes when using a wide angle lens, here I shot at 14mm.

Normally I am alone here and the last one to leave the park, but just as I ascended the tower about twenty people approached along the trail and ascended the stairs of the tower alongside me. It’s a big tower so it can hold a lot of people. Turns out they were on a guided tour of the park to observe it at dusk and evening. With all the nocturnal animals I’m sure there would be some interesting sounds as well.

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Everglade Impressions

Exactly one week ago I was in the middle of the Florida Everglades on a swamp boat. The most remarkable impression, at least for me, was the reflection of the clouds in the swamp. Of course there was much else to see by way of beauty including all manner of wildlife including Egrets and Cranes. But for me the next biggest impression after the reflection was the enormity of the space. Hundreds of square miles of natural swamp. I'm one of those people that has to see something to really get it. I get it now about the Everglades. We really need to preserve this natural ecological wonder.
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Exactly one week ago I was in the middle of the Florida Everglades on a swamp boat. The most remarkable impression, at least for me, was the reflection of the clouds in the swamp. Of course there was much else to see by way of beauty including all manner of wildlife including Egrets and Cranes. But for me the next biggest impression after the reflection was the enormity of the space. Hundreds of square miles of natural swamp. I’m one of those people that has to see something to really get it. I get it now about the Everglades. We really need to preserve this natural ecological wonder.