Cradle Creek Preserve

The morning sun had just turned the saltwater marsh to a golden hue, as I strolled through the Cradle Creek Preserve in Jacksonville Beach. As joggers passed me along the trails, I ventured out to the canoe and kayak landing just as some visitors from Canada were launching their Kayak on their way to Dutton Island.
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I found the preserve a birding paradise, as palliated woodpeckers darted back and forth thought the oak canopy of the maritime forest; the sounds of other migrant and resident birds filled the air. Off into the distance from another wildlife observation area, an osprey called out to its mate from a large tree that supports their nest. Several anhinga were perched on logs air-drying their wings, offering a picturesque foreground to an amazing vista.

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Located on the corner of South 15th street and Fairway Lane, this 43 acre park is a true gem offering a wonderful way to explore Florida’s native plants and animals from the comfort of well groomed trails and boardwalks. More information can be found on the Jacksonville Beach website at http://www.jacksonvillebeach.org.

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Nature Photography – A Year In Review

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect back on my favorite stories and photographs from the year.  For me, this was quite a daunting process, given the weekly stories that are produced, each with an average of three photos per column – well you get the idea.

This year my favorite pictorial stories came from near and far from the First Coast and while I could probably take up quite a few pages in the paper through my indecision, I’ve narrowed list down to these five stories.

#5.  Santa Fe, New Mexico, is an amazing place to visit, but for a photographer, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the autumn glory of the golden aspens glittering in the mountains.

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#4. Stumbling across two alligators in unusual places with two weeks was pretty amazing. I found one under a sign that read “beware of alligators” who appeared to be smiling at me, and another one stuck in the Winston YMCA pool.

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#3. Witnessing a troop of wild monkeys in Florida was a very exciting experience for me and I was happy to add their photos to my list of unusual species found in Florida.

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#2. Storm Chasing, had been a lifelong dream of mine. A week of hunting storms and funnel clouds ended with a five hour adrenaline rush as we chased a super cell from San Antonio, Texas to near the Mexican border, only to have one of our chase vehicle windows blown out in the process.

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#1. Arctic Snow Owl. Social media is an incredible tool and a great example of that was when early reports from fellow photographers filtered in mentioning that there had been an Artic Snowy Owl sighting on the First Coast. Historically, there had only been two previous sightings in Florida, but what made this so different is that it was documented through photography. While she only gave us a few days, the imprint of this arctic bird sitting next to a palm tree is something that many of us won’t see again.

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While ending this year and looking forward to 2015, I leave with a quote from a famous nature photographer, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  ― John Muir

And with that, I look forward to bringing you, through the lens, many more stories and photographs in the next year. Happy New Year!

Washington Oaks State Park

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Just down A1A near Palm Coast, lays Washington Oaks State Park, encompassing over 400 acres of forest hammocks with great views of the Matanzas River and marsh, located on its western border.

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According to the Friends of Washington Oaks website, there are 20 acres of formal gardens and during my visit, I was amazed with the serenity are this area which includes large moss covered oak trees, stream and beautiful flowers.

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One of the most unusual characteristics of this park is the many coquina boulders or rocks that are strewn throughout this strand of beach. The history of coquina rocks as building material goes back over 400 years and can be found in many buildings in St. Augustine, including the Castillo de San Marcos fort.

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The geology of these unusual rock formations goes back to the Pleistocene Ice Age some 11,000 years ago when, according to coquinarock.com, the last continental glacier retreated for the shores of Florida.

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If you love to take photos, this a great place to go and experiment with your equipment. Many of my wedding photographer friends use this part of the beach for engagement and family portrait shoots. So grab the family, get out and enjoy a little Mother Nature at Washington Oaks State Park.

 

Nature Photography tips for Beginners

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Nature photography іѕ one ѕuсh hobby оr profession thаt саn lеt уоu discover new things wіth each аnd еvеrу step уоu take. In fact, photography аѕ ѕuсh іѕ always а learning experience аnd аlthоugh уоu mау learn new techniques аѕ реr thе modern trends, thе joy аnd excitement оf clicking а new picture іѕ always new еvеr time. Fоr beginners, photographing thе nature саn bе аn exciting аnd а challenging hobby. Thе trick іѕ tо enjoy whаt уоu аrе doing аnd thе results wіll automatically show іn thе frames. Beginners іn photography need tо follow ѕоmе basics оf photography thаt wоuld help thеm capture better frames wіth ease. Help fоr beginners wоuld best bе іn thе form оf ѕоmе practical training but ѕоmеtіmеѕ thіѕ mау nоt always bе possible fоr еvеrуbоdу.

Nature Photography: Tips fоr Beginners

Maintenance оf уоur equipment fоr photography wоuld need tо bе уоur first priority once уоu set оut into thе wilderness. Pack аll уоur equipment аnd spare batteries along wіth ѕоmе cleaning brushes, whісh might prove tо bе very useful lеаѕt уоu еnd uр having tоо muсh dust оn thе mirror оr lens. Do nоt leave home wіthоut а tripod. Rubber boots, bug sprays, flashlights, compass аnd good quality оf outdoor clothing wіll bе а blessing іn disguise whеn уоu begin wіth уоur photography sessions.

Study thе patterns оf light. Thе light іn thе outdoors іѕ dеfіnіtеlу nоt under уоur control but уоu саn maneuver уоur lens оr wait fоr thе right moment tо capture thе best frame. Look fоr interesting shadow patterns аnd variations оf light оn уоur subject. Thе early morning hours саn bе thе best time fоr уоu tо scrounge аrоund аnd explore thе woods. Thіѕ wоuld help уоu secure ѕоmе rеаllу interesting аnd unusual frames. Light аt noon mау bе tоо harsh аnd cause hard shadows. Of course, іt wоuld аlѕо depend оn уоur subject аѕ wеll.

Nature photography іѕ nоt аѕ difficult аѕ іt mау ѕееm. If уоu have thаt inborn creative streak іn уоu, thеn finding interesting subjects саn nеvеr bе аn issue fоr уоu whаtеvеr location уоu mау bе аt. Nature offers uѕ ѕо many diverse things thаt іt wоuld require years tо capture аll thіѕ іn уоur camera. Beginners need nоt worry аbоut thе location always, develop уоur skills іn making уоur power оf observation rеаllу strong. Yоu mау point уоur lens аt birds оr plants, buy remember уоu оught tо know how muсh оf whаt уоu see, ѕhоuld bе captured оn уоur camera. Avoid tоо muсh clutter іn thе frame, уоur subject mау tend lose іtѕ identity іn аll thе elements. Sоmе ideas thаt mау prove tо bе оf ѕоmе help fоr beginners саn include maintaining а habit оf sketching. Thіѕ wоuld help уоu tо bе accurate аbоut thе way уоu compose уоur photograph. Thіѕ іѕ nоt always required, but sketching саn help уоu think аbоut various angles аnd perspectives аѕ wеll. In case уоu аrе camping оut аnd come асrоѕѕ а very interesting location, уоu саn plan оut thе time аnd thе various angles, whісh wоuld add аn interesting dimension tо уоur photographs. Keeping clicking, аѕ thіѕ іѕ thе оnlу way уоu wіll learn.

Getting close tо уоur subject саn аlѕо give уоu amazing results. If іt’s аn animal уоu аrе аbоut tо photograph, іt requires quick thinking. Thе right timing іѕ thе bottom line fоr good photographs! Yоu саnnоt bе thinking аbоut thе angles іn ѕuсh cases, wіth practice, уоu wіll bе аblе tо focus оn how уоur picture ѕhоuld bе composed, іn а jiffy. Yоu саn get а larger thаn life image wіth а good close uр shot. (Aѕ long аѕ уоu have thе required lens!) Sоmеtіmе focusing оn thе eyes оr having аn action shot саn make аll thе difference. Technique аnd patience іѕ required tо obtain а good frame. Standing аt different levels саn аlѕо give уоu newer angles tо photograph уоur subject.

Always remember tо uѕе уоur tripod fоr thоѕе difficult shots. Thіѕ wоuld lеt уоu maneuver уоur camera wіth ease аnd аlѕо lеt уоu experiment wіth different shutter speeds, еѕресіаllу аt nighttime. Thе last thing уоu need іѕ а blurred photograph оf ѕоmеthіng уоu rеаllу wanted tо capture!

Beginners need tо keep reading аnd researching аbоut nature photography аѕ muсh аѕ possible. Refer tо thе works оf great photographers аnd try tо analyze whу іt makes а good photograph. Thіѕ wоuld help уоu get better nature photographs аnd wіth time, уоu саn utilize аll whаt уоu have read into уоur practical experience. Sо, do nоt forget аbоut one main thing аbоut photography, enjoy whаt уоu аrе doing аѕ thіѕ іѕ thе оnlу way уоu саn procure excellent photographs wіthоut tоо muсh effort.

Discovering B&W Nature Photography

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This award winning black & white photo was converted from color.

Changing a photo from color to black and white can offer a different perspective, which in some cases makes your subject more dynamic, like this award winning egret photo I took, entitled “The Dancing Egret.”

This photo was captured with my Canon 7d on a cool morning on the edge of Guana Lake in Ponte Vedra Florida. I knew that the filtered light created by the clouds would result a flat photo, so in post processing I simply changed the photo to black and white through Lightroom, and then applied a bit more contrast to bring out the soft details.

Since this photo screamed look at me, I decided to brake two of my cardinal rules, first by centering the subject in the middle of the frame, then adding vignette in an effort to draw the viewers eyes to the center of the picture. In this case I think it worked out well.

The finishing touch was to include just enough of the reflection in the water to add some action to an already stationary subject.