Tag Archives: kayak

Silver Springs State Park

Intro / Description

I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May.  This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park.  Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong.  But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.

Silver Springs headwaters, view 2
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm

Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides.  The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone.  It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water.  You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in.  I used the launch close to the headwaters.  It’s a short paddle to the main spring.  It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!

In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me!  One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring.   Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.

A view from my kayak
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs.  Take a look – they like it as much as I do!

If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion.  You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Airboat ride on the Silver river

Tripod/Monopod:  I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would.  It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.

Lenses:  Bring what you can carry.  I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them.  If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.

Best time to visit:  It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly.  If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable.  I went during the week.  Weekends will be crowded.

Other:

There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida.  For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.   I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species.  There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs.  And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys  descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.

Typical Turtle
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters

The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays).  Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer.  You’ll have to call the park for details.

Cracker cabin
Cracker cabin

Finally, 60 campsites are available along with 10 very nice, two bedroom cabins.  I’d recommend staying for one or two nights so you have some time to explore.  There are also several other great areas nearby including the Ocala National ForestRainbow Springs State ParkJuniper Springs Recreation Area, and Salt Springs Recreation Area.

Summary

Click on any of these photos to go to Flickr where you can see larger versions.  My Silver Springs album on Flickr includes these and a few other  photos.

Silver Springs State Park is a wonderful place to visit and an especially wonderful place to paddle!

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157644924434114
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/default.cfm/explore.html 
Address / Phone: 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34470(352) 236-7148
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

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Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Kayaking at Haulover Canal

If you search the web for “Haulover Canal” you’ll get many hits on fishing and kayaking there.  I haven’t tried the fishing, so I can’t really comment on that, but I see people (and dolphins!) fishing there all the time so it’s probably pretty good.  I have kayaked there many times and it’s a wonderful place to paddle and to photograph too.

Haulover Canal is in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and it’s part of the Intracoastal Waterway.  It connects Mosquito Lagoon with the Indian River.  You can launch your Kayak at the Bairs Cove boat ramp on the south side of the canal, but we use a better spot on the north-west end of the canal.  Heading north along the Courtenay Parkway, take the first left after the bridge and follow the dirt road to the end where there’s a sandy bottom put in.  There’s a fee to launch from Bairs Cove, but not from the north side.

From the put in, you can paddle west and circle around Mullet Head Island where there are usually quite a few birds. We’ve seen Redish Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, etc. there. It is a protected nesting area, though – so you’re not allowed to get too close.

Handsome Pelican
Handsome Pelican:  From my kayak, near Mullet Head Island (Olympus EM5)

We usually paddle east along the canal and stop back in Bairs Cove, where we’ve seen manatees every time we’ve been.  They’re very docile and sometimes friendly.  You’re not allowed to harass / approach them, but if you sit quietly in your kayak, sometimes they’ll harass you!

Manatee checking out Mary's kayak
Manatee checks out Mary’s kayak (Olympus EM5)

You can paddle further east and go under the bridge to a manatee observation deck along the north shore.  However, I’ve never once seen manatees there.  Do you think the manatees enjoy the joke?

We frequently see Bottlenose Dolphins too and they’re often feeding.  This one was near the launch point and made a fuss chasing fish before swimming off.

Mike & Sara watch a dolphin from their kayak
Mike & Sara watch a dolphin from their kayak (Olympus TG-2)

There are even a few landscape opportunities, although I haven’t made it over for sunrise or sunset yet.  This group of struggling trees caught my eye.

Survivors
Survivors : On the west side of Haulover Canal. (Olympus TG-2)

You’ll need to watch for boat traffic, but since it’s a no wake zone, it’s fairly safe for kayaks.  If you haven’t kayaked before and want to have a little support when you make this trip,  A Day Away Kayak Tours is close by and very helpful.  They’ll take you on a guided tour or rent you a kayak so you can go on your own, too.

All the photos in this post were made on kayak trips using a variety of cameras.  I now have enough experience with our boats that I’m confident in the water and not afraid of tipping, but splashes from paddles and waves are still a worry where camera gear is concerned.  A dose of saltwater is not too healthy for most normal cameras.  So I’ve been using an Olympus TG-2 and a GoPro Hero3 (both waterproof) on these trips.

G0030066Photographing birds near Mullet Head Island (GoPro and EM5)

It’s great not having to worry about water damage, but I do miss some of the higher end photo capabilities (e.g. RAW format, interchangeable and long lenses, etc.). So I’ve taken the higher end gear out once or twice.  In the photo above I really photo-geeked and used the GoPro to make a photo of myself making a photo with the Olympus EM5.

Here’s some additional info on Kayaking at Haulover Canal from a couple other sites:

And you can find out more about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in these posts.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And go for a paddle too!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Return to Shingle Creek

Mary and I took our kayaks to Shingle Creek last week.  I wanted to post a few photos to show you again how pretty this area can be.

Shingle Creek reflections

Winds are usually calm early in the morning – leading to scenes like this.

It was a calm morning, but the current was strong – probably because of all the rain we’ve had recently.  Shingle Creek gets  narrow in spots.  If you go kayaking, watch for it and turn around before I did so it doesn’t knock you up against the cypress tree knees!

Paddling through Shingle Creek sunbeams and reflections

The reflections weren’t as pristine after Mary paddled through them – but the sunbeams made up for it.

Dad photographing Shingle Creek

Dad photographing Shingle Creek (photo by MaryKate)

I’m still building my kayaking skills and I’m not yet confident enough to take non-waterproof gear out with me.  I made the top two photos using the GoPro camera you can see mounted on the bow of the kayak in this image.  I set it to make a shot every few seconds and compose by positioning / pointing the kayak and selecting from the results.  It’s a bit hit or miss, but I usually manage to get some I like.

The GoPro is super small, comes with a waterproof case and has a fixed, very wide-angle lens.  I like all its built-in capability but it does have a couple of limitations.  There’s no viewfinder, although there’s a model with wi-fi and an iPhone app that lets you control it and see the output.  I don’t use my iPhone on the kayak, since I don’t want to drop it in the water either.  Also, like most small sensor cameras, the dynamic range is limited (compared to larger sensors and shooting in RAW format) – so highlights have a tendency to overexpose.  But if you work within its capabilities you can capture great images.  You can also try the old Black and White trick to hide any blown highlights.

Shingle Creek is wonderfully scenic. There’s not as much wildlife as we see at other sites, but there are plenty of birds, turtles, fish, and I’ve heard reports of alligators and otters.  If you want to see more, there are other  Shingle Creek photos in this setkayaking photos in this set and GoPro photos in this set on Flickr,

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Central Florida Summer Sights

One of the great things about photography is that it gets you up and out there. You may not see anything if you go – but if you don’t go you definitely won’t ever see anything.  Here are a few photos of what I saw around Central Florida this week.

I made this first one about a half hour before dawn along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The low tide had uncovered these rocks, so I used my ultra wide-angle, rectilinear lens and lowered my tripod to emphasize them.  This is a single exposure, processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I also tried out the new Topaz Clarity filter.  It seems to do a good job enhancing contrast without introducing halos.

Quiet morning
Quiet morning

The word “parhelion” comes from the Greek for “beside the sun”.  They’re also called sundogs and are always 22 degrees away from and at the same elevation as the sun.  They’re most visible when the sun is low and the sky is darker – dawn or dusk.  I like to watch for them and I thought it was nice of this kayaker to pose with one for me.  I was lucky that I’d already shifted to my long lens to make bird photos.  I needed the reach for this composition.

Early start
Early start – Kayak fisherman paddling underneath a sundog.

There were several dolphins also fishing in this area.  I could see the fish jumping and the dolphins seemed to catch a lot of them.

Fishing Dolphin
Fishing Dolphin

I stopped by Orlando Wetlands Park briefly and it was very scenic despite the cloud cover.  I liked the pathways the birds made through the vegetation in this scene.

Morning marsh
Morning marsh – A cloudy morning in Orlando Wetlands, just after dawn

This time of year, there’s not as much bird activity as in the spring.  Orlando Wetlands was pretty quiet and so was MINWR.  But there are still some regulars around and it’s nice to watch their antics.

Killdeer nest on the ground.  When a predator gets close, they pretend to have a broken wing and try to draw the predator away from the nest.  I watched this one perform and when it finished it turned around to peek back at me and check if it was working.  It did – I didn’t bother its nest.

Killdeer checks me out
Killdeer checks me out

I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by the remains of this dock on the right side of the causeway leading into MINWR – but I never noticed it before.  When I was leaving the other day, I finally saw it.  It was a quick thing, almost subconscious.  I actually drove on by before I processed what I saw and turned around.  I’m very glad I stopped – it doesn’t look like it will last much longer.  By the  time I made this photo, the light was pretty bright.  I used a neutral density filter to slow down my shutter speed and tried several focal lengths / compositions.  I like this one the best.  A B&W conversion using Nik Silver Effects seemed to fit the scene.  In the future, I need to be more observant.  What else is out there I’ve missed?

Old dock
Old dock

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  And you can see more from Merritt Island in this set on Flickr, and from Orlando Wetlands in this set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – get up, get out there, be observant, and make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Crystal River, Weeki Wachee, Micanopy, and Cross Creek

We’ve kayaked at Crystal River before but wanted to explore the area a little more.  So Lynn and I decided to take advantage of our long weekend and went back last Saturday.  It was a very beautiful trip – relaxing, great scenery, and good weather too.  We reserved two kayaks for 8:30am from the Crystal River Kayak Company and were on the water before most of the crowd got there.

Lynn gets pretty far ahead
The canals in the area can be pretty. Sometimes it takes a while to position my kayak for a photo and Lynn gets pretty far ahead.

In the winter months, manatees are all over this area although we didn’t see any on this trip.  It’s warmed up so much they’ve moved on.  If you’re planning to kayak here, it’s best to go early in the day.  We drove by later and the water was very crowded – not at all like what we experienced the first thing in the morning.

The hotel where we stayed was right on the water, so I was hoping for a good sunrise or sunset view, but was disappointed.  There weren’t any good sight lines east or west and even though we drove around a bit looking, we couldn’t find a spot close by.  I’ll have to do more research before our next trip.

So … on to Plan B.  The deck next to hotel pool was right on the river, next to dive shop and restaurant / bar.  For some reason, the evenings were crowded and noisy, but before dawn there was no one around!  So I got up early on both mornings and wandered down to the water.  It was extremely calm both days with a full moon.  Perfect conditions for some pre-dawn, long exposures.  I made several images and I like this one best:

Calm harbor

One view from the water by our hotel.  I wanted to show the sailboats and reflections against the sky.  It was about 30 minutes before dawn, and so dark that it took me a few tries to frame the image the way I wanted.  The sky colors were a bonus – I couldn’t see them at the time.  I was lucky the water was calm and the boats didn’t move during the 6 second exposure.

In addition to the kayaking and relaxing, we also had several good meals and especially liked Charlie’s Fish House.  There’s lots to do in the area too.  We enjoyed stops at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park on the way over, and Micanopy and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park on the way back.

the Weeki Wachee live Mermaid show

Weeki Wachee mermaid.  

Weeki Wachee State Park has a live mermaid show, a glass bottom boat ride, a water park and canoe / kayak rentals.  It was crowded when we stopped.  We saw the mermaid show, but the line for the boat ride was over an hour long.

At the corner of Cholakka Blvd. and Seminary Avenue
At the corner of Cholakka Blvd. and Seminary Avenue, Micanopy, Florida.

Micanopy is a good place to look for antiques and photograph historic buildings in an “old Florida” setting.

The farmhouse at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in
The farmhouse at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Cross Creek, Florida. She wrote her books on the screened porch.

We had a great trip, but it was too short.  There’s way more to see and do in this area and it won’t all fit into a single weekend.  We might have to schedule another visit soon.  You can see a few more photos from Crystal River in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.