The Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant inside De Leon Springs State Park has become one of our favorite breakfast spots. Something about their batter recipe cooked on a griddle right at your table, and served hot and fresh makes the pancakes taste so much better.
Our family met there on Christmas Eve and really enjoyed the food and each other’s company! After, we strolled around a bit and I made this photo – looking toward the lake from the spring outflow. The morning was a bit gloomy, but I still like how this infrared image turned out.
Christmas Eve Morning at Spring Garden Lake
If you’ve never been there, go! It gets pretty crowded, so check the hours and arrive early so you don’t have to wait. You might find a few photo ops too!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go eat some pancakes, and make some photos!
Then we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive. The water there is very high and although wildlife numbers might be a bit below average, there’s great variety with both normal residents and winter visitors present.
A ternery pano – Caspian Terns and a Sandpiper in a four frame panorama
We saw Green, Blue, Great Blue, and Tri-colored Herons, Reddish, Snowy, and Great Egrets, a Roseate Spoonbill, Sandpipers, Caspian Terns, Belted Kingfishers, Blue Wing Teals, Coots, Ospreys, a Bald Eagle, Savannah Sparrows, White Pelicans, Gulls, Vultures, an Alligator, and probably others I missed. A person we talked to at the rest stop had just seen a bittern.
My friend Jim Boland reported seeing a Red Headed Duck, Northern Pintails, Blue Winged Teal, American Wigeons, and Northern Shovelers on BPWD in his newsletter* last Monday. We didn’t see that many – I suspect they were out there, just hidden. We heard hunters making a lot of noise throughout the morning and I bet the ducks are skittish.
If you’ve held off visiting MINWR or BPWD because you were uneasy about hurricane damage and lack of wildlife – stop worrying. The place is rapidly getting back to normal and there’s every reason to get out there and witness some of Central Florida’s beauty.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Indian Springs is about six hours by car from Central Florida. It’s east of I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and well worth the drive. Lynn discovered they have cabins and suggested that we go up for a few days to see if any leaves are changing. They definitely are!
I think peak color will be in a week or so. We get very little fall color in Florida – so it was a treat to see.
The cabins are nice – some of the best we’ve stayed in. They must have been refurbished not long ago. They have two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a screened porch, and are fully furnished. And the location on a gorgeous lake was wonderful. This was the view just a few steps from the back porch:
Good morning (three Frame vertical panorama)
There were other things to see in the park too. This creek runs along the road by the entrance.
Big Sandy Creek (using the new iPhone “Live Long Exposure” mode)
And we spotted this cemetery from the 1800s along the road to the cabins.
At rest in the wood (Infrared)
We saw a few deer and although I didn’t put much effort in, several kinds of birds. We had some fun watching (and listening) to Canada Geese on the lake. I managed to make this video one morning around sunrise. The flock took off just as the sun started to hit the lake.
There are several other places to see in the area. High Falls State Park is just to the east and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is to the west. We’ve explored several state parks in Florida, but after this experience, we’re going to expand our target zone! And Indian Springs is definitely on our “go back” list.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
MK and I went out to New Mexico for a short visit over the July 4th holiday. I’d been there several times on business travel but never got to see much of the state. This trip fixed that!
One place we very much enjoyed was the Acoma Pueblo (also known as Sky City). It’s a lovely spiritual site, and provides a glimpse into what Native American life was like as long ago as the 13th century. The Pueblo is about 60 miles west of Albuquerque – it’s a lovely drive. Mesa Encantada – Along Route 23 just east of Acoma Pueblo (visible in the distance on the right). According to Acoma Pueblo oral history, it was their first home before they moved to the current location.
If you enter “Acoma Village” in your GPS, it will try to lead you up on the mesa, which you can’t get to unless you’re on a tour. Search for the visitor center instead!
Looking up – This B&W IR view of Acoma Pueblo is from about 360 feet below, just across the highway from their visitors center
At the visitors center you can learn about the culture and history of the area. Their tour includes a bus ride to the top of the mesa and a guided walk around the pueblo. Also included in the tour price is a “photo permit” for one camera. You’ll have to buy more permits if you want to use multiple cameras. I decided to just bring my Olympus Pen F with the 24-200 mm equivalent lens and it worked for most situations on the mesa. I used the extra space in my camera bags for two bottles of water. Nice to have while walking around in the hot sun!
The horno is a traditional outdoor, wood fired oven. People were selling bread made in these ovens in the pueblo.
Homes, horno and wood fuel
Even though there’s no electricity or running water up there, many of the homes on the mesa are still lived in. I liked how occasional colorful paint accents contrasted with the tan walls.
Door and windows – One of the homes on the mesa
Our guide told us that the Acoma adopted Catholicism from missionaries in the 1500s but they still practice their own spiritual traditions too. Although they’re very private about this, outsiders can attend celebrations during the Feast of St. Stephen(September) and at Christmas.
Kiva – The Acoma concealed their traditional worship places inside homes and entered via a ladder through the smoke-hole in the roof.
As you’d expect, the views from the mesa are spectacular and the visibility is awesome.
View north toward Mount Taylor (on the horizon, about 40 miles away). Ponderosa Pine used to build the mission was hand carried from Mount Taylor and up to the mesa.
Photography isn’t allowed in the cemetery (to the left of the mission) or inside the church itself. This spot is about the best vantage point I could find.
San Estevan del Rey Mission Church – Built between 1629 and 1641. According to Acoma oral tradition, their people were forced by Friar Juan Ramirez to build the mission.
For those of you that are wondering why I haven’t posted any bird or wildlife photos in a while, please be patient. We did some birding while we were in New Mexico and I’m planning to blog about that next.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget. So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).
The Air Force Memorial. (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.). I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens. It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.
The Potomac River at Great Falls. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom). Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.
Ceiling in the Library of Congress. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL). Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress. I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view.
The Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.). I really like the way the IR camera rendered this, especially the bronze contrasting with the foliage. There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC. You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.
Washington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec). There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial. I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view. I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry. I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess! After we left this time, we heard reports that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…).
I grew up near Washington DC, and I’ve made many trips (both business and pleasure) to the area since then. So I feel somewhat qualified to offer ideas on photo opportunities in our nation’s capital.
My most recent visit was last week. Lynn and I went to Williamsburg, VA to see Caroline (our niece & god-daughter) graduate from high school. We decided to go early so we could spend a few days as tourists in downtown DC.
“Uncommon Valor was a common Virtue” – I was very happy when I saw how the light was falling as we arrived at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus!
I probably don’t have to tell you that DC is a rich photo environment. Monuments, memorials, museums, history, art, architecture, gardens, government, and more are everywhere. But how do you get interesting photos, ones different from everyone else’s? Here are some suggestions.
Try using an Infra-Red modified camera. I really like the way mine renders buildings against foliage and the sky.
Smithsonian Castle – Infrared, Black and White
Take an evening guided tour: Lynn signed us up with the Bi-Partisan Tour Company for their “Epic Evening Tour” (thanks Lynn!), and we both really enjoyed it. They took us around to great locations and allowed us to see them in a different light (dusk, blue hour, and night). I think it added interest to my photos.
If you do take a tour, stay alert in the bus and watch for good vantage points as you ride. I spotted the Washington Monument behind the Jefferson Memorial and rushed back to make this shot when we parked while everyone else went into the building itself.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial at dusk – with the Washington Monument in the background
It’s almost always crowded. You can try going in early on a Sunday morning, but if you’re there with everyone else you’ll have to use the people in your photos or find vantage points / ways to minimize them in your photos. I don’t know how many were at the Wall when we were there – it was elbow to elbow and had to be thousands.
Crowds at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963. Ghostly figures move around the base of this long exposure photograph of the Martin Luther King Memorial at blue hour, with the Washington Monument in the background.
If you go at night, be sure to take your tripod. It can be a pain, but my night tour images wouldn’t be nearly as good if I hadn’t taken mine.
Some other hints:
Contact your senators or congress person to arrange a tour of the capital (you’ll need to start months in advance). If that doesn’t work out, there are commercial ones available that will still get you a guided tour inside.
Take wide or ultra-wide angle lenses. Building interiors don’t fit in the frame with a standard zoom.
Before you go, practice making stitched panoramas. You can use this technique in place of an ultra wide lens.
Stay in a hotel as close to the National Mall as you can. Parking is scarce and expensive. You’ll be walking or catching rides to get where you want to go. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, and use your light weight photo gear.
If you’re from Florida, you’ll appreciate the price of admission. All of the museums and monuments are free. Museum hours are usually 10am – 5:30pm. Lines were typically short, but some will require reservations (check first). You can visit monuments 24/7, but rangers are only available 9:30am to 10pm.
You might have cooler weather in May or early June. It’s not as pleasant to walk around later in the summer with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can spend many days (or weeks!) exploring DC. But if you run out of things there, Photo ops abound in the surrounding area. Two that I’d highly recommend are the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just south of Dulles, and Great Falls Park about 30 minutes NW of DC.
I’m collecting Washington DC photos in this album on Flickr, and I’ll add to it as I finish processing images from this trip. Please check it out!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go to Washington DC and make some photos!
I was lucky to have some downtime in Seattle before a recent business trip to Vancouver, so one of my best friends – Jessica – popped up from San Francisco to join me for some National Park adventures and whale watching! I love exploring our National Park system and its jewels – and we packed a lot of them into one weekend.
Our first stop was Mt. Rainier National Park – America’s fifth oldest national park. Blessed with amazingly perfect sunny weather, we spent Saturday driving through the park and stopping along the way to appreciate its beauty. The Nisqually Entrance is open year round, and with an SUV its an easy drive through the park with lots of scenic overlooks. But winter at Mt. Rainier means renting chains to carry in your car – even if you’re not required to put them on – or you’ll have to turn around and drive to the nearest rental place (like we did!). Plan time to stop at the Longmire and Paradise Visitors Centers to learn more about the park’s history, ask a ranger questions, or get a souvenir!
On Sunday, we took a 4-5 hour whale watching trip with Island Adventures out of downtown Seattle – I’d highly recommend this company, and Tyson our naturalist was very knowledgeable! While January isn’t peak whale watching season, they still run a trip everyday and have luck spotting resident orcas or a humpback here and there. While the first few hours of our trip were pretty quiet and peaceful, we were excited to find Speckles the Humpback Whale – a juvenile humpback that has been spending a lot of time in the area. Named Speckles for his distinguishing marks on his back and tail, this little guy gave us a show for about an hour fishing, surfacing, and even blowing his whale stench in our direction (quite a smell if you’ve never experienced it!).
Speckles and his Speckles
Speckles really gave the two guys on this boat a close encounter!
Speckles the Humpback Whale
We finished the weekend with a scenic drive through the Western part of North Cascades National Park. While there were many breathtaking views, it was mostly closed for the season (or for Martin Luther King Day) – so we’ll have to come another time when its warmer. It was still worth taking the longer loop back to the airport (vs. the interstate) for views like this:
North Cascades National Park
More photos from my trip can be found in my album here, or check out Ed’s previous post with additional whale photos.
Thanks for reading about my whale of a trip. Now go make some photos!