Lynn and I drove over to the Suwannee River west of Gainesville, Florida last week and stayed for a couple of nights at Fanning Springs State Park in one of their cabins.
Into the Suwannee River – The Manatee Springs run into the Suwannee.
It turns out that April is peak season for Fireflies, at least around here. It’s been many years since we’ve seen any and it was a treat to watch them. On the second night, I set up my camera on a tripod and used the remote control app on my phone to make this photo from the mosquito free comfort of the screened porch at the cabin.
Fireflies 2 – I used my Olympus E-M5 Mark II in Live Composite mode. This is an ~11 minutes total exposure, with ~330 frames at 2 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600 each. Composited in camera.
We saw other wildlife too, including lots of birds and a few Gulf Sturgeons jumping in Fanning Springs. I managed to catch this snake swimming through the high water at Manatee Springs with my iPhone.
Florida Brown Water Snake – Manatee Springs, Florida
It’s a great time of year for a drive in Central Florida too. We enjoyed the beautiful wildflowers blooming along most of the roads.
Train Track Wildflowers – Next to the Williston, Florida Train Depot
And the farms in the Ocala area along our route are both scenic and idyllic.
Greener Pastures – A cattle ranch near Ocala, Florida
Fanning Springs and Manatee Springs are about 7 miles apart along the Suwannee. Both offer kayaking, and swimming (usually), and many other activities. High water at Fanning closed the swimming when we were there, but Manatee was open.
You can rent kayaks and canoes, and if you put in at Fanning, you can coast with the current down to Manatee. There’s a service that will return you back to your starting point. This sounds like a relaxing paddle to Lynn and I and we plan to try it next time. We’ll have to watch out for the jumping Sturgeons, though. There’s also a pontoon boat tour you can take from the concession at Manatee.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go enjoy some Florida State Parks and make some photos too!
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 – 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
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 – 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
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.
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 – 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.
My drive yesterday reminded me that the Turnpike and Interstates in Florida break out in bloom this time of year too. I’ve seen this before – here’s a photo I made way back in 2001 on the side of I-75 near Ocala, Florida:
New Flowers, Old Barn
So if you’re in Yosemite or some other photogenic place during wildflower season that’s great. If not, don’t worry about it. Stop and smell the flowers wherever you are and make some interesting photos too.
Note: You can click the photos above to go to Flickr where you can see a larger version.
I listen to the Digital Story podcast . The June 2007 photo assignment is “Before and After”. The idea is to submit two images showing how you “developed” the final photo.
I also just bought the book Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs , by Ansel Adams. He writes about how he re-visited his negatives over the years and was able to make better prints with additional effort / technique.
So these two things inspired me to go back to a photo I took in March, reprocess it and submit it to the Digital Story. Here are the steps I went through:
The first photo is the scene as I saw it from the road. Lynn and I were driving to an auction up in Ocala Florida and this looked like it could make a good image. It was a bit cluttered, and the composition wasn’t good, so …
The second photo was taken after I stepped inside the gate. Better composition, I think. This is how it appears with no adjustments after importing it into Lightroom . I had underexposed it a bit so that the clouds would show up well. As a result, the road into the trees was pretty dark (and there still wasn’t enough detail in the clouds). I played around with it in the Develop module, but still couldn’t get the exposure quite right. So …
Photo 3 shows the result after I exported two 16 bit TIFF versions of the image from Lightroom and combined them. One with an exposure bias of +2 and a second with it set at 0. Then I used Photomatix to create a High Dynamic Range / tone mapped version. Much better exposure and detail both in the clouds and trees. This was pretty good, but I still wasn’t happy …
I loaded #3 into Photoshop Elements, cloned out the distractions (lights, signs, houses, rags, fire hydrant, wires) and then re-imported it into Lightroom …
Photo 4 shows the final result after using Lightroom’s wonderful B&W conversion tool. You can play around with different color channels to emphasize different things in the picture. It’s like being able to use color filters over your lens after you’ve taken the picture! I think the final result is much better than the original.