It’s a dirt road, and although a bit narrow it’s well maintained. I didn’t have any problems with my car. There are some interesting landscape views:
Views from 5 Mile Road #2
And some interesting wildlife views too:
Guarding the burrow
I made these photos on May 21st. One of my Flickr friends told me he visited the Burrowing Owl nest on the 26th and it looked abandoned. That’s sad. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe the chicks fledged and flew off. That’s what I want to believe anyway.
Kevin K., Kevin M, and I went to Viera Wetlands last weekend. We’d had heavy rain the week before and the roads were closed to cars, so we walked.
Handsome Blue – Little Blue Heron
You’ll see different things walking versus driving. When you drive, you can cover a larger area and maybe see many more things. But sometimes the faster pace and the isolation inside the vehicle will make you miss something that you might see if you walk. And when you walk, it’s easier to stop and really look at something. Or stop and wait for something to happen. When we first saw the Little Blue Heron, it was in the shade. But we stayed for a few moments and the sun rose enough to put it into some better light. Worth waiting for, and we probably wouldn’t have if we were driving.
We started too late for a sunrise photo, but I did manage to make this infrared image of the moon setting into the marsh.
Marsh Moon – The moon sinks into the clouds over Viera Wetlands. IR, B&W, 3 frame Vertical Panorama
We also stopped for a bit to watch a family of Sandhill Cranes. With all the birders that frequent Viera Wetlands, they’re very used to people and you can get pretty close without disturbing them. They’re interesting birds. Whenever I see two adults foraging, they seem to take turns keeping an eye on things. One will be head down, while the other is up and looking around. When there’s a young one with its parent, it always seems to mimic what the parent is doing.
This one! This one is a good bug to eat! – Sandhill Crane and Colt at Viera Wetlands
Even though the birding action in our area might be slowing down as summer approaches, we still enjoyed ourselves. We spent some quality time out in nature, and made a few photos we like. Another good day for a photo-op in Central Florida.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
There are a lot of posts on here about nature / wildlife / landscape photography in our area. But the blog isn’t only about those subjects – it’s about Central Florida Photo Ops in general. So this week we have something a little different…
Central Florida’s new commuter rail system opened on May 1. The first phase of SunRail is 32 miles long and connects DeBary to Sand Lake Road, with 12 intermediate stations. The fares have been free for the first two weeks while they work the kinks out of the system. And I had some free time – so it was a perfect chance to check it out.
Trains run every 1/2 hour during the morning and evening rush hours and every two hours in the middle of the day. Getting there early gave me more opportunities to get on and off the train and explore nearby locations. And sometimes the light is really pretty in the morning too!
A beautiful morning to catch the train – at the Maitland SunRail platform
The trains are new, clean, modern, air-conditioned, and the morning I rode they were all on time. They’ve been crowded with many folks riding for free to scope out the system. But by the time I boarded last Wednesday the crush had thinned out – I had no problem getting seats all morning.
There are plenty of scenic locations within walking distance of the SunRail stations. Exploring them all would take longer than a morning so I only stopped at three: Orlando Health, Winter Park, and Maitland. Finding subjects to point my camera at was easy. Here are two examples:
Seaboard Coast Line – Amtrak Station
Lucy Bleuz and the Jazzy Dog – they look like good places to eat
I didn’t try photographing from inside the train – motion and glare would make it tough. But there are some interesting sights between stops. If you want to try this, the east side of the car in the afternoon might have the best shots and light.
Initially, SunRail isn’t operating on weekends – so you’ll need to get around another way on Saturday / Sunday. But if you have time during the week, it’s an enjoyable experience. And did I mention there are photo ops?
Lynn, Mary, and I spent the first weekend in May at Lake Louisa State Park (LLSP). It’s located just southwest of Orlando in Clermont, Florida. LLSP is 4500 acres of rolling hills including six lakes with 105 acres of shoreline. There’s a range of camping options and 20 very nice, two bedroom, furnished cabins that you can stay in. Activities include fishing, canoeing and kayaking, biking, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding.
This is another case of me wondering why it took so long to visit somewhere. My friend Kevin M has mentioned it several times, but I never seemed to get over there – until now. It’s truly scenic and I’ve included more images than normal in this post – I apologize if it loads slowly.
Info for Photographers
There’s a lot to photograph there and the variety of landscapes is greater than many places in the area. Hills are rare around here, but this park has them, some over 100 feet high. I made this photo on the hillside above the road by the cabin where we stayed.
Wildflowers and dewey grass at dawn
May 5-11 is national wildflower week and LLSP was doing its part. Several wildflowers were blooming, including Prickly-pear Cactus, Passion Flowers, Lantana, and others. I think we were lucky to see such a variety in bloom. The Passion Flower blooms are supposed to last for only one day.
All of the lakes in the park are great habitats for Cypress Trees and Spanish Moss – very scenic and a classic Florida landscape look.
Lake Dixie shore – From the fishing dock in the campground on the south side of the lake
The Cypress tree trunks can also be very interesting.
Nature’s sculpture – The older, weathered cypress tree shapes can be very unusual
There’s a variety of wildlife at LLSP, although not as much as some other locations in Central Florida. For instance, eBird lists 112 species at LLSP vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We spotted nesting Ospreys (with chicks / juveniles), Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Wild Turkeys, Nighthawks, a Swallow-tailed Kite, wading birds, vultures, Gopher Tortoises, Alligators, Deer, Crayfish, grackles and a few other species.
An Osprey returning to her nest to check on her chick
Most state parks in Florida seem to open at 8am, which makes early morning photography a challenge. Since we were staying there, we could photograph whenever we wanted. This one is on the western shore of Lake Louisa.
Cypress dawn – by Lake Louisa.
Tripod/Monopod: Yes – take yours and use it when needed.
Lenses: There are so many photo ops here that you could probably make use of every one of your lenses. Macro for flowers, wide-angle for landscapes, long telephoto for wildlife, etc. You’ll have to decide how much to carry and what to concentrate on.
Best time to visit: Any time, but of course winter months will be cooler. Late April and early May will be better for wildflowers and nesting Ospreys too. We often heard Ospreys calling. It was fun to watch the parents bringing food back to their very demanding offspring!
There’s a nice beach and picnic area on Lake Louisa. If you swim there be careful though, there’s no life guard and there are alligators.
The park also is a popular place to bicycle, so bring yours if you have room.
The kayak launch at Lake Dixie across from the cabins is an easy put in. The one at Lake Louisa requires a long carry, so bring a friend or a kayak trolley if you plan to paddle there. You can also put in at the Crooked River Preserve just to the north of Lake Louisa and paddle down to the lake.
I didn’t get a chance (yet) to hike the many trails in the park. There are 9 main ones ranging from 1/2 to 5.5 miles and some of these lead to smaller lakes which might be very scenic.
The Citrus Tower is close to the park. It was built as a tribute to the citrus industry in the area. There’s a great view from 226 feet up, but a lot fewer orange trees visible now than there were in 1956 when it opened.
Cloudy in Clermont – View from the top of the Citrus Tower, looking south along HW27.
There are also many restaurants within a short drive from the park if you don’t want to cook in your cabin.
Lake Louisa State Park is a relaxing and scenic destination. It seems a world away from busy downtown Orlando. It’s perfect for a weekend get away. If you haven’t been there yet, you should go. I’m very glad we did.