Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In A Lightning Instant

Storms Over The Everglades
Big Cypress, Florida

"The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box. "

--Henri Cartier-Bresson

Summer has arrived, and with it comes the birthing season of storms. The Everglades, that vast ocean of amazing vistas, becomes the maternity ward for our afternoon storms.

I love to drive out into its deceptive emptiness late in the day when the evaporative tension builds into oppressive heat and air so full of water it rolls down your face in rivers. Swamp lilies push up through the wet muck in wild flotillas, dotting everything in view with bold splashes of white. Then the wind kicks up in step with the bloom - the boom! - of black clouds. And there it is - that first cacophony of thunder rolling over the sawgrass, echoing off distant hammocks.

You can feel the fury, that huge rush of fury from across the swamp, standing miles away trying to capture your first exposure of lightning. It's exhilarating beyond description; so many senses triggering at once, there's barely time to squeeze the shutter.

Some nights don't need photographs to imprint the magic.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200 VR, wild skies and two willing compadres/storm chasers

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Treasures Found

Snowy Egret
Wiggins Pass, Florida

You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either.
- Galen Rowell

In the early hours of this day, while the air is warm and damp and quiet, I gently ease the yellow and white kayak into the water off the end of the dock, then slide it up to the step-off where I slip in, fasten the spray skirt around me, adjust the waterproof camera box one last time, and release the paddle from it's bungie.

The first forward stroke always feels like dipping my paddle into clouds, and this morning is no different. It is the confluence of grace and smooth water and floating and happiness. It is my time - this early hour - and I'm headed off to find treasures.

And I do. The 5 mile paddle to Wiggins Pass is quiet and solitary, save for the birds - egrets, herons, ibises - that line the channels through the mangroves like a gauntlet. The bait fish of summer are in, and they swarm like locusts just under the surface of this warm, green-blue water. The sun climbs above the trees and everything becomes sweeter as light paints this new day in dazzlingly saturated color. I get to the Pass and even ordinarily cantankerous snowy egrets pose happily against a canvas of breathtaking cyan.

Today is irresistibly beautiful. The Gulf of Mexico stretches out before me in pristine turquoise calm as far as I can see. I make my photos. I bless the birds, and I bless the winds and currents that keep the oil away.

Today is a gift, and that, my friends, is the treasure found.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400mm VR, one twitchy snowy egret, infinity beyond.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Morning in the Garden

Gulf Fritillary on Jatropha Integerrima
June 2010

"How does one become a butterfly?” she asked. ”You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
--Trina Paulus

I spent the holiday weekend doing two of my favorite things: paddling and gardening. The jatropha and firebush are flush with the color of fire in my yard. This morning, before I'd even finished my coffee, I wandered among my shoulder-high blooming shrubs chasing butterflies. What a way to start the day!

Zebra Longwings, Sulphurs and these two Gulf Fritillaries fluttered between the bushes, lighting long enough for a shot or two, then taking off to the next blossom. It was dizzying to watch them, much less let alone photograph them. I kept moving from spot to spot, intent on the pursuit. Bees joined the swarm as the sunlight warmed the air, their legs laden with pollen. Around and around we went, butterflies, bees, human and an ancient old cat, doing circles around the garden.

The Longwings and Sulphurs proved most elusive. Such is the way of it, I suppose. I've many shots of Gulf Fritillaries in my collection; the others, not so much. And I wanted them! Oh, how I wanted them, but it was not to be. My cat and I eventually gave up the chase and headed indoors to cooler air.

After all...tomorrow is another day.

Nikon D2x, 80-400mm VR, pretty early morning light