October 1, 2016

Theme Day: Abandoned

I suppose one could describe this scene as the early stages of abandonment.  Tables and chairs are stacked and ready to be placed into position for the lunch crowd -- but, this restaurant on Sanibel island moved locations about a month ago.  Hard to believe this outdoor furniture was left behind.   The restaurant is called Doc Ford's -- named after the fictitious character made popular by New York Times bestselling author Randy Wayne White.  Before becoming a novelist, White was a fishing guide on the island.  Now with many bestsellers under his belt, he owns several Doc Ford's restaurants in the area.  I was happy to hear this one relocated nearby because I always enjoyed food and service.  (Word has it, Randy will be at the new site in just a couple of weeks signing his latest novel "Seduced". )  To see other interpretations of this month's theme day -- abandoned -- by City Daily Photo bloggers click here.

September 30, 2016

On The Road: Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch
Probably the most well known image associated with Arches National Park is Delicate Arch.  Standing 64 feet tall and 34 feet wide, it's the largest of the 2,000+ natural sandstone arches in the park. (Look how small the Junior Editor and I look standing beneath it!) To get to the arch, you have to be willing to hike in the direct sun for 1.5 miles over slick rock and climb almost 500 feet.  The views are wonderful and the destination sublime -- well worth it!

September 29, 2016

On The Road: Arches National Park

Arches National Park
The first stop on the Wild, Wild West Whirlwind Tour was Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. What a unique and beautiful area! Believe it or not, there are over 2,000 (yep, 2K) natural sandstone arches in the park. Some are big. Some are smaller (a park ranger said a span must measure at least 3 feet to be officially designated as an arch).  And, what's amazing...is that they all formed naturally, the result of millions of years of erosion.  

Arches National Park
This is a portion of Double arch -- one of my favorites of all the arches we visited.  (The first photo shows why it's called Double arch.)  I love that you can walk around, under, and in some cases, through the arches, if you're daring enough to try.  It was just a 5 minute walk to reach this one.  (Other hikes can take hours.)  And, even though other tourists were there, it's such a large space it felt like we had it to ourselves.

Arches National Park
Hiking along Devil's Garden trail, the landscape is filled with spires, towers and amazing sandstone formations.  (Nonstop photo opps!)  It gets extremely hot in Moab and we were fortunate it was only in the high 80s/low 90s (F) during our rigorous outings.  More later on the hiking at Arches!

September 28, 2016

On The Road: San Antonio - The Alamo

The Alamo
A short stroll from the River Walk, you'll find the historic Alamo tucked in a busy part of San Antonio. This structure, Mission San Antonio de Valero, a Franciscan mission, is most widely identified with the Alamo. The entire site encompasses about four acres and is free and open to the public. And, we listened in on a brief lecture about the history of how Texas was settled, the brutal loss of life at the Alamo, and how Texas ultimately joined the United States -- all very interesting!

In the 1820s, Stephen Austin brought American settlers to Texas (then owned by Mexico and known as Texican) where they could purchase land for 12 cents an acre interest-free for 6 years with three caveats:  (1) They had to become a Mexican citizen; (2) They had to learn Spanish; (3) They they had to have a good reputation and character.  After awhile, the Mexican government became concerned about what was going on so far away in Texas.  The settlers were becoming too independent and they wanted to invoke the American judicial system to resolve legal disputes.  Ultimately, a war for independence from Mexico began.  In 1836, Mexican forces (historians place estimates at a staggering number: between 1,800 and 6,000 soldiers) attacked the Alamo, which was defended by just 200 Texas volunteers. Amazingly, the Texans defended the Alamo for 13 days before being overwhelmed and just a few were spared. The survivors were ordered to tell other Texans they would suffer a similar fate if they continued to revolt. Two months later, Sam Houston led an attack on Mexican troops in San Jacinto declaring "Remember the Alamo!", which led to Mexico withdrawing and nine years later the U.S. annexing Texas.  

The Alamo
Some Alamo history buffs were on the grounds in period attire demonstrating how the men defending the Alamo would have loaded their rifles.  As I recall, they were expected to go through all the motions and be ready to fire in just 20 seconds.  In addition to being strong willed and tenacious, the Texans must have been well trained to hold the Alamo for nearly 14 days.  Remember the Alamo!

September 27, 2016

On The Road: San Antonio River Walk

San Antonio When visiting San Antonio, strolling the River Walk is a must!  It's approximately 1.5 miles long and runs along the San Antonio River with oodles of quaint cafes and retail shops just feet away.  I snapped this pic with my iPhone my first evening in town.

San AntonioCan you say 'charming'?!  Arched pedestrian bridges connect the two banks and various tourist attractions.  It's quite enjoyable -- and very active in the evenings with hundreds of people strolling, the sound of live music wafting from cantinas, and diners enjoying a drink or meal at a cafe while watching the boats putter by.  We took a relaxing riverboat tour under the stars with the guide telling us about the history of San Antonio -- fun!  I had visited San Antonio 15 years ago when I was a TV reporter and was dispatched to Texas to cover a federal trial -- and the only thing I had a chance to see outside the courtroom was the River Walk briefly one night after a 11 hour work day.  I hoped it was going to be as nice as I remembered and it was. Definitely worth checking out!

September 26, 2016

On The Road - San Antonio: The Saga

San Antonio:  The Saga
The SDP staff has returned from its Wild, Wild West tour of four national parks, plus a brief stop in San Antonio, Texas!  For the most part, SDP posts have always been limited to Florida; however, with such picturesque adventures to share, the Editor in Chief has waived that rule (to the immense delight of the entire staff.)  So, anticipate a steady diet of "On The Road" photos for awhile!  

While visiting San Antonio earlier this month for a conference, the hotel concierge recommended I check out something called "San Antonio: The Saga".  It's an art installation of sorts that you have to see and experience in person, but here's a brief explanation:  The history of San Antonio is told through a colorful video light show that is displayed on the facade of San Fernando Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the U.S.  The show starts at the beginning of time, goes through the Alamo, and concludes with San Antonio today -- a bustling, diverse and prosperous city.  (This photo was taken with my iPhone, believe it or not.)  The idea originated two years ago as a way to attract visitors to the area -- and it has worked!  The exhibit is free and lots of people attend the showings.  Designed by artist Xavier de Richmond, it's very creative -- one of the most amazing video displays I've seen.  Only music is used -- no narration -- for the entire 20 minute program.  As I mentioned, you really need to see it in person, but here's a video I found on YouTube.   Hope everyone has been doing well in the Blogosphere!  I look forward to catching up with you soon.

August 16, 2016

Myakka Charm

SDP 8-16-16
As many times as I've visited Myakka River State Park, I've never been canoeing here. Probably because:  a) I'm not an overly proficient canoeist;  b) there are gators in that water (which leads back to point a.)   With my northern upbringing, I still think the most dangerous thing that should be living in a river is a pike.  So, knowing these are gator infested waters, I continue to have a healthy respect for Mother Nature. (I've canoed at Oscar Scherrer State Park, which also is located in Sarasota. But, that area doesn't attract the gators like Myakka. Myakka, literally, is a breeding ground for alligators.) That being said, as you can see by the number of canoes, lots of people are interested in paddling around the river here. (The people who really concern me are the fishermen who wade waist deep into the water. What are they thinking?!)  By the way, there's a small 3-foot gator just off shore and out of sight in this photo -- the same one that was featured yesterday.   And, I bet you'll find one at the end of that rainbow! 

August 15, 2016

Colorful Gator

SDP 8-15-16b
After running errands yesterday afternoon, I decided to stop by Myakka River State Park and see how it's fairing with all the rain we've been receiving (roads are dry....trails are flooded, I'm told).  As you probably know, gators are a common sight here. But, a gator with a rainbow under blue skies?  Very unusual!  (If you look closely to the upper left, a second rainbow can faintly be seen trying to appear.)

SDP 8-15-16
The saying goes that there's a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  So, what does it mean when a rainbow cuts across a gator's head?  (He didn't seem to mind.)  Maybe...good luck for the photographer?! 

August 14, 2016

#1 Beach

SDP 8-14-16 We're still testing the latest asset acquisition at SDP -- a 10-24mm lens.  And, those tests took us to Siesta Key Beach (at sunset, of course).  In addition to the sugary white sand, one of the most remarkable aspects of this beach is its sheer width.   Previously, I've been stymied trying to depict it.  But, not with the new lens!  This was the scene last night looking all the way across the beach toward the Gulf of Mexico.  Five years ago, Siesta Beach was named the #1 beach in the United States by Dr. Beach, and since then it has become increasingly popular with visitors from around the world.  I can confirm it is indeed a beautiful beach!  Hope everyone is well in the blogosphere.

August 6, 2016

Goin' Wide

SDP 8-6-16

After a few minor skirmishes between the SDP editorial staff and procurement division, I'm pleased to report the Editor-in-Chief prevailed and a Tamron 10-24mm lens recently was acquired and is now part of the SDP portfolio!  This was taken last night at 10mm....and there doesn't appear to be any "fisheye" bend.  Nice!  I definitely will be able to capture some beautiful sweeping landscapes with this lens.  The entire SDP staff is heading out west soon and will be touring several national parks (Arches, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone)...so, the lens acquisition occurred just in time! Really looking forward to testing it. 

July 30, 2016

One More

SDP 7-30-16

Sometimes you have to stop for one more picture.  Taken last night as I left Myakka River State Park.  Hope everyone in the blogosphere has been doing well!  

June 25, 2016

God is Good

SDP 6-25-16
For years (yes, years), I've wanted to photograph this cross. It's located in rural Sarasota at the corner of Verna and Fruitville (where Fruitville Road dead ends east of I-75). It's always intrigued me…wondering who put it there…and, what prompted it.  The right circumstances have never been present to shoot it --- until last night. A light rain had just ended...and as I turned the corner and glanced at the sky near the cross I thought, "Tonight's the night!".  At first, there was a hint of pink, which shifted to grey, followed by a dark peach glow.  The cloud formations, opening to reveal bright blue sky, were incredible.  In this serene setting I kept thinking, "God is good."  Happy Saturday!

June 18, 2016

Whistling Ducks

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck
It's been one thing after another for the past several weeks.  After enduring a very long, emotional week in connection with the horrific terrorist attack in Orlando, I wanted nothing more than to seek solitude last night.  And…I found it!  The week before the mass shooting, Tropical Storm Colin breezed by and dumped 10+ inches of rain in some parts of Sarasota.  Portions of Myakka River State Park are still flooded, and as a result, I pretty much had the place to myself.  The resident animals are seeking dry territory and their behavior seems a little out of sorts.  I spotted these two black-bellied whistling ducks sitting on a wood fence near the flooded river. They kept inching along the fence and looking down, as if they were disgusted by the smelly flood water -- and that was the last place they wanted to stick their little webbed feet. Hope everyone in the blogosphere has been doing well!

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Sarasota National Cemeteray

((Insert 1,000 words here))


Sarasota National Cemeteray

I stopped by Sarasota National Cemetery yesterday and, as you can imagine, I was struck by this remarkable and poignant sight. Today is Memorial Day in the U.S.  Previously known as Remembrance Day, it's a day set aside to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation.  While honoring these heroes' courage and sacrifice, let's also thank those military personnel who currently are on active duty or once served our country.  Always remember:  freedom isn't free.  God bless them all.

May 28, 2016

Changing Light


Myakka Sunset
With the mercury starting to rise, the sunsets are starting to change.  Gone are the eye popping, orange, red and lavender sunsets streaking across the sky.  Now, sunsets tends to be more of a yellowish hue and the light somehow isn't as soft.  (A bit blinding, I'd dare say, for that great blue heron on the hunt for dinner.)

Myakka Sunset

Even with the changing light, this ended up being a lovely (albeit quick) golden sunset last night at Myakka River State Park.   While the sunlight is changing, the behavioral patterns of nearby wildlife is too.  Driving to the park last night, I spotted something very unusual:  a large alligator walked out of the brush next to a busy country road -- and lumbered into a ditch filled with a few inches of water. The gator was so big and so out of place, I circled back to get another look (safe from my car) --- and saw the gator return (quickly) into the scrub.  I never, ever would expect to see an alligator in a dry area like that.  Later, I asked a park ranger about the gator's behavior and the ranger speculated it was a female protecting a nest of eggs.  She also said gators are on the move right now walking from lake to lake.   ((gulp)) Seeing that firsthand definitely will make me pause and think twice (or three or four times) before I wander into the palmetto scrub!  Hope everyone in the blogosphere is having a nice weekend!

May 23, 2016

Pink Party Crasher

SDP 5-23-16

Overheard: "So typical of the roseate spoonbill  -- arrives late to the party wearing a stunning shade of pink.  And, I'm stuck in this pedestrian tuxedo!" 

May 22, 2016

Soaring

Kiteboarding When you're approaching the Sunshine Skyway from either direction on a nice day with a bit of a breeze, you're bound to see kiteboarders having fun on Tampa Bay. The colorful kites always grab my attention.  And, it's so easy to pull off the road, it's almost like it's meant to be for me to shoot them. So, yesterday, when I saw the kites I stopped for a few minutes.

Kiteboarding

It was late in the afternoon and the sun couldn't have been in a worse position. After taking a few shots that ended up being silhouettes, I thought maybe I could use the sun to my advantage and do something funky with the sun bursting over the kiteboarder and water.  I like how the symmetry in this shot worked out.

Kiteboarding

And, this is Anthony, the soaring kiteboarder from the previous photo. He told me he took up this water sport 7 years ago -- and insisted it isn't difficult. (We didn't get into upper body strength etc.) With his ability to do some cool aerobatics, he was fun to shoot. Looking forward to shooting some more out there -- with my long lens and better light.

May 18, 2016

The One That Got Away….Almost

Gotcha!

As I strolled to the end of the bird walk at Myakka River State Park last Friday night, I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron with a sizable catfish in its beak.  I set up my camera and for ten minutes, I watched this bird play with its pending dinner. It picked up the fish, dunked it in the water, proudly displayed it in its bill, then dropped it back in the muddy water. This happened over and over again. One would think the fish was long dead after enduring so much. Well, not so fast!  

Roll the video….!


video

You can also watch the video on YouTube.

Too bad it was so windy….making it difficult to hear my commentary.  After regaining control of the situation, 20 minutes passed…. and that heron still hadn't eaten the fish!  Not sure what it was waiting for…but, unfortunately, I lost all daylight.  So, I don't actually know if the bird ever enjoyed its sushi dinner.  I can only hope so (and hope that fish was put out of its misery).

May 16, 2016

I Spy

Everglades National Park

This is the final installment of our Everglades National Park tour.  This is Pa-hay-okee Overlook just before sunset. Swamp and wilderness stretch for miles on end. It's simultaneously, beautiful and peaceful -- and a bit creepy knowing all the reptiles and other creatures that call this area home. We left the overlook with a hint of a daylight left -- and, it's a good thing we did!


As we drove away, I spotted something alongside the road!  The SDP Junior Editor gets an 'A' for creativity.  Rather than risk scaring away the wildlife by opening/closing a car door, she popped her head through the sunroof to get a better look.


She had a great vantage point! 

Everglades National Park


Dusk was rapidly setting in.  But, there was no question what was perched in that tree so close to the road.

Everglades National Park


A barred owl!  And, it seemed very curious about the activity on the road. Somehow I was able to quickly and quietly set up my tripod.  And, maxing out the ISO, I was able to squeeze out this shot.   What fun!  Believe it or not, this is how our brief excursion to the Everglades ended -- very memorable. Looking forward to returning!  

May 15, 2016

The Birds

Everglades National Park

We're continuing with our tour of Everglades National Park! Portions of the park are inhabited by vultures. And, when I say vultures…I mean LOTS of intimidating, menacing looking feathered creatures.  Apparently, they're attracted to the rubber on vehicles and have been known to cause quite a bit of damage.  Enough cars have been damaged that the park actually provides complimentary tarps, so you can cover your car and, hopefully, protect it. We saw more ospreys than vultures in this portion of the park, known as Flamingo, and didn't bother using a tarp.  The car was safe and sound.  Photo bombing my own photo, I snapped a quick pic of this unusual display with my phone, never expecting to use it for SDP.

Everglades National Park

Then we entered Paurotis Pond.  Oh, my goodness -- I felt like Tippi Hedren in 'The Birds'!  Yikes!  Vultures were everywhere -- roosting in trees, flapping their wings, and swooping down low….very low.  While they didn't attack the car, there were so many birds and they seemed so aggressive, the SDP Junior Editor and I didn't feel comfortable leaving the car.

Everglades National Park


So,  I opened the sunroof -- and quickly snapped this photo!  Even then, I wondered if the vultures were watching and would plunge into the car.  We didn't stay long!  Unfortunately, we didn't have an opportunity to talk with a park ranger about our experience…but, apparently, no one really understands the vultures' behavior.  I found an interesting 2012 news article on The Weather Channel website talking about the aggressive vultures in the Everglades. You can check it out here.  I see vultures at Myakka River State Park, but nothing like this.  We'll conclude our Everglades tour tomorrow with more wildlife --- and another creative use of the sunroof (this one documented!).  Have a good Sunday!

May 8, 2016

Flamingo Visitor Center

Everglades National Park
We're continuing with our adventure through Everglades National Park! The park is vast. Spanning nearly 2,400 square miles, it's the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.  Translation:  lots to explore!  The SDP Junior Editor and I entered the park via the Ernest Coe Visitor Center near Florida City.  From there, you can drive 38 miles to the southern tip of the park --- which, of course, we did.  And, this is part of what you'll see: the Flamingo Visitor Center, an unremarkable structure located next to a marina on Florida Bay.  (At the marina, we actually saw an adult and juvenile seahorse swimming in the sea grass near the surface next to the boat docks.  Very cool experience.)

Everglades National Park

And, this is the view behind the visitor center.  Amazing! Mangroves, big sky, and beautiful blue water stretching as far as the eye can see.  It almost feels like you're at the end of the earth.  Technically, I suppose, you could say you're at the end of Florida here, before heading to the Florida Keys.  See those dark blobs on the horizon?  Those are just a few keys scattered throughout the bay.  You may have heard of the 10,000 islands in Florida?  This is part of that vast chain of mangrove islands.  While they're uninhabited, the park allows "back country" camping on several keys.  It's not for the faint of heart, though.  According to a kayak outfitter website I found, one of the closest park approved campgrounds is 12-15 miles (one way) from this spot.  Whew!  

May 2, 2016

Anhinga Trail

Everglades National Park
The most popular trail at Everglades National Park is the Anhinga Trail.  It's an easy walk along a boardwalk around an open swamp area.  The vistas are quite nice.  

Everglades National Park

Of course, you never know what you're walking near…or over. It's wise to keep your eyes open…and camera at the ready.

Everglades National Park
This is an anhinga -- the trail's namesake.  These are the birds that many times are seen with their wings spread out, drying, after plunging into the water for a meal.  Since it was late spring when the SDP team visited, I suspect most of the migratory birds, like the pretty roseate spoonbills, had already left.  So, we're already sharpening our pencils and planning a return trip in January or February.

Everglades National Park
Adjacent to the Anhinga Trail is the Gumbo Limbo Trail.   This one goes through the woods around many gumbo limbo trees and others.  We made a point to hit this trail after a particularly helpful National Parks volunteer randomly told me a barred owl nest is located there.  He even marked it on a map -- without me asking.  At the time, I thought it was bit odd.  Why would the volunteer want to direct tourists to a nest?  Well, once we saw the trail, I realized immediately it was so dense with foliage it would be nearly impossible to find an owl nest.  And then…I heard it call!  Again…and again.  Then, it went silent.  Darn!  I've seen several barred owls here in Sarasota…but, I was on a mission to find this particular rascal.  After walking around for a few minutes about ready to give up, amazingly, maybe 30 yards deep into the thick brush there he was….sitting  in a tree watching me.  He was  tucked in so far it was difficult to get a clear shot.  But, we were able to point him out to a couple visiting from Germany who we had met on the other trail -- and they were pretty excited. Success! The Everglades journey will continue...

May 1, 2016

Theme Day: Smell

SDP 5-1-16
We're back from a trip to Houston and settled into the SDP offices in time for Theme Day in the City Daily Photo community.  Today's theme is an interesting one:  Smell.  For me (who can be a bit olfactory system challenged), being at the beach can evoke many, varied scents:  from the smell of the salty sea air, to wet sand, crustaceans washed ashore and, of course, the occasional whiff of suntan lotion being applied.  Sometimes you can even smell a rainstorm rolling in. This photo was taken on beautiful Lido Beach in the Sarasota city limits.  To see more interpretations of today's Theme Day click here.  Hope everyone is well in the blogosphere!  P.S.: The entire SDP staff is looking forward to resuming our tour of Everglades National Park very soon!  

April 17, 2016

Say 'Aaaaaah!'

Everglades
Well, since Everglades National Park is synonymous with alligators, we'll start the highlights of our recent trip there with what can only be described as a "Show off Gator".  This guy really wanted us to see his incredibly large (and pristinely clean looking) maw.  So, how did we get to this point?

Everglades
Well, we were hiking the Anhinga Trail, a very popular walk in the Everglades. At the end of a boardwalk, we paused to take in the beautiful scenery when this guy spotted me immediately. (Note I say me…not the SDP Jr. Editor who was present and accounted for on this adventure.  I suspect I may have been viewed as a smaller, more manageable snack….but, who knows?!)  For whatever reason, the gator made a beeline toward me as you can see in this video.

Although there was decent bit of separation between us (and I was elevated on a boardwalk), there's something a bit unnerving about an  imposing beast like this staring you down and swimming straight for you. It didn't even wait to get on land before exposing it's massive white/pink mouth, teeth and all.  Naturally, I was looking down at my camera at the time -- and almost missed the entire "gaping maw scene" which happened very quickly. Fortunately, the SDP Jr. Editor was on her game and alerted me: "It's mouth is OPEN!"


 Everglades 
This is what it looked like without my long lens -- and no cropping.  Welcome to the Everglades!  It's perfect timing that we're sharing these photos, because it's National Park Week in the U.S.  Although I've lived in Florida for almost 18 years, this was my first visit to Everglade National Park and I really enjoyed it.  We'll be sharing more from this wonderfully wild and swampy area soon.

April 16, 2016

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber
One last post from the Miami Open before we move on to other topics.  Some players are more fun to photograph than others because of their expressiveness on the court.  This year my favorite player to shoot was Angelique Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open champion from Germany.  This was first time I saw her play in person and she didn't disappoint. Whether she was unleashing a forehead from the baseline…

2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber playing on the Grandstand Court during the Miami Open on Key Biscayne.
  …or prowling at net -- she was all business and it showed!

Angelique Kerber
  How would you like to face that intensity just a few feet away? ((gulp))

Angelique Kerber
"Come on," Angie yelped after winning a point when she was down a set to a relatively unknown Dutch player in the seering Miami heat.

Angelique Kerber
After she stormed back to secure the victory, Kerber's intense on-court demeanor was tucked away and she happily paused for photos and autographs with fans.  What a champ!  From what I'm hearing, the Miami Open will remain on Key Biscayne for at least one more year -- great news!  Next up on SDP:  highlights from the entire staff's big adventure to Everglades National Park. Hope everyone is doing well in the blogosphere!