Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eastern Black Swallowtail

My friends and I took yesterday off and went shooting today at Boca Ciega Millenium Park in Seminole, FL today instead.

We looked for the Chuck-will's-widow bird, but didn't find her. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the chicks.

Instead, we busied ourselves with butterflies. This is an Eastern Black Swallowtail on Plumbago. These butterflies never stop fluttering their wings, so I boosted up the ISO to 400 which gave me a faster shutter speed to be able to capture this gorgeous butterfly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


My friend, Jim, saw this female sitting on eggs on the ground about a week ago, and I talked him into taking me there to see her. She now has 2 chicks, but they can't be seen in this photo. Actually, when I was there, I couldn't see them at all. She must've have hidden them after Jim was there earlier.

This Chuck-will's-widow is in the nightjar family and is a ground nesting bird. In fact, they don't build a nest at all. They just lay on the ground, usually on some dead leaves and lay their eggs right there. The eggs hatch in about 19 days and the fledge from the nest in about 2 weeks.

Another unusual thing about this bird is that they feed in flight. Their diet consists entirely of insects. They are nocturnal and they fly around with their mouths open catching insects as they run into them. It's difficult to see in this photo, but they have hairs on the side of their beaks that assist them with catching their prey.

I can't believe their camouflage! Jim said he wouldn't have noticed her, but he was stepping and brushing leaves around that log looking for snakes to photograph, when he spotted her. She allowed him to get about 15 feet from her and she didn't seem bothered a bit.

Yesterday, when he took me to see her, I kept my distance at first, and walked in very slowly, stopping every few inches and snapping off a couple of shots. She paid no attention to me at all. I guess she knew her hatchlings were safe and she didn't have anything to worry about.

This is the first time I've ever seen one of these birds and the first time I've ever even heard of them! She's related and looks a lot like her cousin, the Whip-poor-will. Most people have heard the Whip-poor-will, but have rarely seen one. The Chuck-will's-widow is a bit bigger and has a brown chin, while the Whip-poor-will has a black chin. That's the easiest way to tell them apart. This one's identification was confirmed by the Audubon Society.

What a thrill to see this bird. It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Monday, April 27, 2009

As I look at this shot, I'm trying to remember what park I took it at. I cheated; I looked in the metadata (thank goodness for keywords) and as it turned out, it was taken at Florida Botanical Gardens about 3 weeks ago.

One of my favorite flowers is in the foreground, it is the Indian Blanket flower. They can be found growing most anywhere in this area. I love the colors. I also like lily pads, and although these don't have beautiful waterlilies sitting amongst them, there are a few Spatterdocks peeking out here and there.

Florida Botanical Gardens is a fairly new park. I remember I stumbled across it by accident and it just happened to be the day it was dedicated. Since then, I've taken many a walk through it's beautiful gardens.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Szandra 2

Since I'm still working on the wedding edits from last week and I've been shooting or attending class this week, I'm going back through my files for tonight's blog.

This is another shot of Szandra. I posted one about 2 weeks ago from this same shoot. Szandra is a model from Hungary. She's in the states going to school.

As a model, she's very easy to work with. This is my first time with her and I only took a few shots. The shoot kept moving further and further from the equipment and I was getting a bit nervous leaving my equipment laying on the beach. I chose to "babysit" so the others could shoot, especially since I was satisfied with the shots I already took.

Last night, I shot a Quinceanera last night with one of my former group members. It went very well and the ceremony/celebration was beautiful. The best part of the deal is that as a second shooter, Jose has to do all the editing. What a deal! He says he'll send me some pix so I can post them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Crystal

While on my trolley tour meetup in Tampa a couple weeks ago, I spotted this crystal in a florist's window. There were flowers behind it and I originally thought a flower caught in one of the facets of the crystal would make a very pretty composition.

I tried and tried and made quite a few with the flowers in the facets, but because the flowers were white (I think, anyway), they just didn't come off as I had envisioned. There was also the problem with reflections in the glass and I didn't have a polarizer with me. (Shame on me.)

I like the colors in this one, and like it even though it's not what I envisioned. Sometimes, we just have to create something else and be satisfied. I think the next time I go back there, I'm going to give it another go. Hopefully, the florist will be open and I'll be able to get inside and not have to worry about a polarizer. Of course, I've learned my lesson; I will have my polarizer with me this time.

What was that old Boy Scout motto? "Be prepared"; that could work for us all.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


My friends and I went to the Florida Botanical Gardens to check what was in bloom a couple weeks ago and, of course, to shoot what we found.

These Orchids were in the Orchid area and I was struck by the way they grow, all in a row on their stem. When I looked through the viewfinder in my camera, the first thing that came to mind was the pretty curve they formed and how they'd look with a diagonal composition. Well, I shot it this way, then shot the same flowers in several other angles, but this one is the one I like best.

Orchids are hard to identify, and I apologize for not knowing the variety. There are so many species within the Orchid family only an expert could tell them all apart.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Friday Wedding

My friend and I shot a wedding last Friday evening and the worst thing that could happen happened to me.

The wedding was a very emotional one. During the vows, the groom totally lost it. He was sobbing and crying and everyone else in the church was also in tears. Well, being the photographer that I am, I just had to capture the emotion, so I rushed behind the altar where the choir sits and missed a stair. The mics were all on and all everyone in the church could hear was boom, bang, crash as I hit the floor with cameras flying everywhere. All of a sudden, the whole church, including the officiant, the groom and the bride, just cracked up laughing. I have never been so embarrassed!

Later during the reception the bride's mother actually thanked me saying it was the comic relief everyone needed, since the wedding was so somber. Leave it to me...

I did capture the emotion and I'll post the photo once I'm done editing all the photos. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this portrait of the beautiful bride.

In my opinion, no two people were more meant to be together than this couple.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Osprey in Flight

There is something about a bird in flight that I can't ignore no matter how hard I try. I especially like to photograph Osprey.

Osprey are fascinating birds to me because of all the Birds of Prey, the Osprey is the only one that eats a diet of fish only. It's amazing to see them glide way up high above the water while looking for their next meal. All of sudden, they'll hover for a few seconds, then dive so fast they're hard to track--even with our eyes, then slam into the water and come up just as quickly with their catch. They also will turn the fish around head first so there is less drag and it makes it easier to fly. It's such an amazing site.

I've also watched them on the nest. The male brings the first fish back to the female who feeds it to her clutch, or if they haven't hatched yet, she'll eat it herself. Then the male goes back to get a fish for himself to eat. He'll usually sit on a perch about level or slightly above the nest on a nearby tree so (I assume) he can watch his family. Imagine, with humans it's also the male who primarily makes the money to buy the food for his family as well. I wonder who started that. Was it the birds, the animal kingdom or humans? It seems we all do the same thing.

That should keep you wondering until tomorrow night.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I went out with another Meetup group last night, and I'll tell you if something could go wrong it did. I had equipment issues that I never did get resolved, but I came away with some pretty decent shots anyway.

This is Szandra, a Hungarian model. It was the first time I worked with her. The weather was pretty cool and very windy. I felt bad for her, but she toughed it out. There were 8 or 9 of us photographing her and she did her best to keep up with us all.

We went to Ft Desoto in Tierra Verde and, as you can tell by the lighting, it was just before sunset. Most of the others shot until after the sun set, but I was worried because the group had moved pretty far from the equipment. I went and "babysat" everyone's equipment. It would've been a shame if someone walked off with it. It didn't really matter to me since I'm not that into shooting models, but I had fun anyway.

I also had an added bonus while babysitting the equipment. I got to meet and talk to one of my favorite bird photographers, Andy Long. He runs First Light Tours and although he had a client with him, he took the time to talk with me and I came away from the conversation with a really good tip. I can't wait to try it for myself. I asked him if he would post the results on his website so I could see it. He said he might; so I'm going to watch for it. He's such an awesome birder, and a nice guy, too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tampa Convention Center Detail

This is another photo I took while on the Tampa Trolley Tour meetup with my friends. I've stated this before, but I've been experimenting with trying to get a bit more artistic and less photo journalistic with my photography.

Normally, I probably would never have shot or even seen this shot. My training is as a photo journalist, so I see everything as a realist. I've been shooting documentary or journalistic things for so many years that it's almost been an automatic thing. What I'm trying to say is I've been a "walk-up" shooter. Walking up to something that interested me taken my shot, and walked away.

Now, I'm trying to take my photography in an entirely new direction. I'm looking for more artistic shots, or detail shots. I'm also taking my time and walking around the shot looking for more angles and other ways to "see" whatever I'm photographing. It's been a learning experience and I'll have to admit, quite a challenge. I no longer work for the newspaper, so why am I shooting like I still do. I'm semi-retired, now is the time to walk around and "smell the roses", if you will. So, tell me, is it working?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Columbia Restaurant Panoramic

You'll have to click on this one to get the full view.

This pano was created with 9 shots of this amazing restaurant. I took these shots on Saturday while out with my group on our monthly trolley tour of Tampa.

The Columbia Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in the Ybor City district of Tampa. It was established in 1905 and now there are several chains throughout the Tampa Bay area. None of the chains are anywhere near as ornate as this one, though. This place is a must see. It sits on both sides of a block on N 21st St in Ybor City. All the windows and doorways are framed with beautifully painted tiles.
This is a closeup of some of the tiles above a doorway. The work is stunning, although I don't know who to credit for it.

I haven't gone inside to photograph the interior as of yet, but plan to in the near future. When we were there on Saturday, it was too busy. I'd like to go some time during the week when it's not quite as busy. They serve Cuban Cuisine and although I haven't ate at this one, I've ate at one of the chains and the food was delicious.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Different Time--Different Light

The time of day can make all the difference in the world with the way a photo comes out. Just to prove this, I'm posting both these photos taken at the same place, the same day, but different times.

This first photo of this pond was taken earlier in the afternoon about 4:00 pm, if I remember correctly. The light was very bright and contrasty, so I admit I had to tone this down quite a bit.

The second one was taken about 6:00 as the sun was coming down closer to sunset. This photo was only darkened up a bit at the top. As you can see, with the golden light of the sun about to set, it made all the difference in the world.

These were both taken in March at a rookery we found. The white spots you see in the trees are actually birds nesting or roosting.

It's an amazing place with literally thousands of birds. They come in droves to roost. It's strange to watch. When we got there, there was mostly Wood Storks and Great Egrets busily building their nests. While the female waited, the male would keep flying off to get nesting material and bring it back to the female for inspection before she began to weave it into the nest. It was relentless to watch the males fly off and bring back a bit at a time.

A little bit later, we saw the Snowy Egrets come in; probably about 50 at a time. The Little Blue Herons followed them, then the Glossy Egrets came in. Each time they'd come in and take their place. After a few minutes would pass another round of 25-50 birds would come in. They all had their special tree. By sunset, the trees were full of roosting birds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tampa Convention Center Detail

This is another shot from yesterday's trolley tour shoot. My friend showed me a photo he took of just the center corner showing the disco balls, and of course, I had to one-up him. This is my version.

I like the way the curve of the dome on the ceiling mimics the curve of the disco balls, while the sharp angles of the corner and the posts mimic the squares in the design on the bottom of the wall under the window cut-outs.

Although it's slightly asymmetrical, I'm happy with the way it turned out. I didn't want to include the whole dome, just a little hint of it. I think had I included the dome, it would've taken away from the rest of the design.

There's a lot to be learned when several photographers go out together to shoot. We not only share tips and techniques but we challenge one another and ourselves. If you're into photography, give it a try and see what you can come up with.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Channelside Street Car Station

Oftentimes when we go out to shoot, we are limiting ourselves to only one subject. Today, my group and I went on a trolley tour of Tampa. We did this last month and had so much fun we decided to make it a monthly meetup. We start at a different station and take a different route each time we do this and challenge ourselves to make as many different kind of images possible.

Our first stop today was the Channelside district. The trolley station is in the mid ground with the Marriot Hotel in the background. That's two members of my group in the foreground taking photos of the Embassy Suites Hotel. As you can see, Mother Nature cooperated and gave us some nice clouds and it was a nice day; not too hot.

As we got further into the shoot, one person would make a shot and then everyone would try to one-up him on his shot, but by shooting the same thing. It's challenging, educational and fun. I'll probably be posting more of these shots throughout the week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Unknown Flower

Today my friends and I went to the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo for our weekly get-together. We originally planned to go to Gatorland in Orlando until Stacy reminded us that this was Spring Break time, Good Friday and Easter weekend. Traffic in Orlando and the theme parks would be brutal. Since we already live here, we can go to Gatorland anytime, so we opted to stay in Tampa Bay for our weekly shoot.

I've taken photos of this flower before and was able to identify it, but wouldn't you know, the name just slipped my mind. If anyone reading this blog can ID it, I'd be most grateful.

I love the softness of the cone-type top of this and the little yellow blossoms at the mid section. The color combination is gorgeous. I'd love to try to grow these in my yard, but without a name it would be difficult to find them at the nursery.

I think they might be some kind of Bromeliad, but they also resemble Heliconias too. A Google search didn't provide any answers, either.

Tomorrow we're taking a trolley tour in Tampa again. This always proves to be a fun time. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Arbor Menagerie

I have a thing about seeing faces or animals in tree bark. In fact, I even have an entire web page to devoted to it on my website.

These are actually Cypress Knees, (I think) but I could see lots faces and animals holding babies in this formation. Or maybe I'm just whacked. Anyway, I think it's interesting to say the least.

This second one looks like a fish to me. It was just to the left of the other formation. I know the fish is easy enough to see. What do you all see? Do you think I'm nuts?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One More From the Don Cesar

Last month, while we were shooting the hotels, I spotted this scene from the Cupola in the Don Cesar. I've seen scenes like this before, but never got the opportunity to actually shoot one.

What attracted me the most was the view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico from this window. If you've never been to the beaches at the Gulf, you'd remember this beautiful white sand--and yes, it is this white.

I'm originally from New England and the sand on the beaches is very deep, mostly granite and very hot on the feet. It's difficult to walk on it in the heat of the day. The sand here is extremely fine, and as you can see, white and for some reason it stays cool no matter how much the sun beats on it. I believe it's mostly sea shell and salt, but I'm not really sure.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite shots from that day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bloom N Chalk Fest Revisited

You may remember my previous post of this image from the Bloom N Chalk Fest at the beginning stages. This is the finished piece.

It's amazing that after a week of people walking over it and the elements (we've had a rough week weather wise) that it still remains this beautiful.

None of these artists had ever tried sidewalk work before, nor had most of them ever worked with pastels. It was a very new experience for them.

Here are a few more pieces done from that festival.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Flagg Coal Co. #75

Last month when I was at the Florida Railroad Museum with my group, we got to ride on 2 trains. We also were treated to a "drive by" where the 2 trains cross each other on the tracks.

This is the first steam train we road on. You can see the open car. That's used so we can sight see while riding.

The Florida Railroad Museum is quite unique in that the museum is not contained in a building. The museum IS the trains. They are all running and part of the fun is being able to ride the trains.

Normally, the trains go up and down a 6 mile track; but when they use the steam trains, they cut the trip to 2 1/2 miles due to the expense. However, they use 2 different steam trains and they let us off along the way to take photographs of the trains. At the end of the tour, we can look in the engine compartment and the engineers and conductor are all around to answer questions and to show anything we're curious about.

This particular event was part of the museum's "A Month of Steam" promotion. The tour was strictly for photographers and we were allowed all the time we wanted to take all the photos we wanted. For $16.95, it wasn't a bad deal.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bombax Tree Blossom

This gigantic Bombax tree is just outside the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts. Until a few days ago, I mistakenly called it a Kapok tree, which people commonly call this tree. My friend, Jim, corrected me on the name. Although they are in the same family, the flowers look totally different. So, Jim is correct; it is a Bombax tree.

Below, you'll see one the beautiful flowers that has fallen on the ground. At the back of the flower, there's this heavy little button shaped thing (sorry, my botany is really bad) that is very heavy. It keeps the blossoms from falling on their side, or upside down. I'm sure there is a reason for this, but I don't know what it is. Maybe one of my readers can elighten us all.

The blossom is not fragrant, but it is very meaty, so it lives a long time after it falls from the tree. It's really beautiful to see hundreds of blossoms covering the ground, but a little sad as well. It means the tree will no longer be in bloom.

This tree is a favorite site for photographers and models alike because of its shape and size. I know I've used it as a setting for a model shoot or two in the past and it worked out great. The fallen blossoms are very pretty when the model either plays with them in her hands or puts them in her hair.

There used to be a restaurant in Clearwater called the Kapok Tree that was built around one of these trees. When the tree was in bloom, the flowers were used for garnishes for tropical drinks and on plates. It's too bad the restaurant closed. It's now a music store, but the gardens are still there.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Boat-tailed Grackle

I finally found the secret to getting a decent capture of this bird. I've been trying to photograph these Boat-tailed Grackles for years, and if I could show the eye, then I'd loose the iridescence of his plumage. The secret is, I think, to photograph them on a cloudy day. At least that's what I did this time.

Anyone that knows me knows I love anything iridescent. My favorite gemstone is the Opal, my favorite sea shell stone is Abalone and as you can see, I love the iridescence in the plumage of birds. The Grackle is one of my favorites.

I'm happy with the way I captured this bird. Everything I hoped to capture was captured without the need for a lot of post processing. It's a great way to end a day of photographing nature with my friends. One can't ask for anything more in life.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tricolored Heron

Today my friends and I went to Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor, FL to check it out. We were a little disappointed because there wasn't much wildlife to shoot, and hardly and flowers. The park is more of a walking park. It's in a safe area and it has paved paths.

While walking around we spotted this Tricolored Heron. I like the was he was just standing at the bottom of the steps. I also like the way the colors on the old concrete compliment the bird's plumage.

Wall Springs Park got it's name from the natural spring that feeds it's lake. The water is a warm, 74 deg F year-round. There is no swimming in it and it's sparkling, crystal clear. I took this fish photo in the spring where it comes up from the aquifer. This shot was made with no polarizing lens to reduce the reflections on the water. I just had to keep moving around until the reflections were minimized.

If anyone knows what kind of fish this is, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me know.