Lynn and I drove past the area yesterday. There’s a lot of standing water visible from 417. We saw a few flowers along the road, but none out in the fields.
When I got home, I checked their website. It says: “LAKE JESUP WILDERNESS AREA IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO HIGH WATER LEVELS. THE PROPERTY WILL RE-OPEN ONCE WATER LEVELS ALLOW.”
In previous years with this much standing water, the sunflowers didn’t bloom. So for now, I’m predicting a poor sunflower season. Yogi’s right, though – I’ll check again and if anything changes, I’ll update you.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Florida has wonderful weather photography opportunities. They’re not often the kind that you see from tornado alley out west. But the clouds here are awesome too.
Lynn and I traveled recently (New Jersey, Virginia, and Georgia). I realized when going through those photos that they lacked dramatic skies like we often see here in Central Florida. Maybe our timing was just bad. Anyway, it inspired me to put together this post with some examples of our weather along with a few hints.
We’d had several days of rain last August and even though afternoon light isn’t usually the best for photography, I decided to drive over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and see if I could capture some of the weather drama. This one is from the south-east side of the causeway. There was a slight drizzle where I was standing and rain drops ruined several frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.
Storm Ahead (stitched panorama, nine frames at 24mm focal length).
This next photo is from September of 2012, also at Black Point Wildlife Drive. These clouds actually stopped me in my tracks and made me shift out of bird photography mode to make this B&W, IR image. You can see a color version of this here.
A little stormy (stitched panorama, three frames at 24mm eq. focal length).
These next two have been on the blog before, but they also illustrate my point: Clouds and storms in Central Florida are photogenic!
Stormy Shore: Storm clouds blow through north of our hotel on Casey Key, Florida. June 15, 2015 (stitched panorama, eight frames at 24mm eq. focal length).
Lakes Jesup Wildflowers and Rainstorm (105mm eq. focal length).
We don’t have mountains here in Central Florida. And we don’t have very good waterfalls either. But our clouds are just as good as anywhere else. How are they where you are?
Although you can see interesting weather all year, the best time here is summer afternoons and evenings.
The storms are big. As you can see from the captions, many times I find myself using a wide-angle lens or stitching panoramas for this kind of photography, although some situations (like the last image) benefit from a longer focal length.
You can shoot from your car in many cases or just dodge the showers. Do bring a lens cloth and maybe a towel or some plastic to cover your camera if it’s not weather resistant.
Be careful with your exposures. If you have clear sky behind the clouds you can easily blow out highlights in the image which will be tough to fix in post.
When processing your photos, try using some mid-range contrast / clarity to bring out details in the clouds. Don’t go too far though or your results will look unrealistic.
Find yourself some good foreground locations so you’ll be ready to head out when the weather gets interesting.
And be careful – don’t get struck by lightning or ruin your equipment!
The flowers are just about in peak bloom. If you want to hike out there, you’d better make plans quickly. The blooms only last a couple of weeks, so by next weekend, they’ll be fading.
The flowers are beautiful, but the bugs are swarming. I didn’t make any photos of the insects, but I did bring home souvenir mosquito bites. Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and use insect spray too. It’s also wet. I didn’t get far from the forest edge – but the water was already several inches deep. Waterproof boots are a great idea.
Lake Jesup Sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats
There are other things to see out there too. It’s a good local birding spot with at least two Bald Eagle nests reported.
When you go, please be careful. Don’t stop on the side of 417 – it’s dangerous! It’s a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers. And it’s still hot – wear a hat and bring water with you.
The Lake Jesup Wilderness area really is wild – I’ve seen bobcats and worried about wild hogs. I haven’t seen any snakes, but I’ll bet they’re around. And Lake Jesup has one of the densest populations of alligators in Florida. So enjoy, but be careful!
You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr. I also have more info on the area collected in these older articles:
An update on the Lake Jesup Flowers – they are indeed back in full force.
Tom M. and I went over last Wednesday morning to check on them. They seemed to me to still be a little before the peak. I think they’ll get a bit higher and fuller before they start fading away in the next several days. If you want to see them this year, you don’t have much time left.
The Marl Bed Flats are a little soggy. There were places that were dry, but a large part of the area away from the woods had an inch or two of standing water. The sky was incredibly clear and there was a soft wind blowing too – not ideal conditions for flower photography, but we looked for interesting compositions anyway.
With the sun so low, it was hard to keep myself out of this shot – hence the photographer shaped shadow in the middle bottom
Finding flowers that reach above their neighbors is one way to isolate subjects
The light was very pretty in spots. This blossom was sheltered in a pocket of calm along the path out to the fields. With a nice dark background, it called out for a close up.
For a different perspective and an example of how diverse the view here can be, look at this blog post from Jeff Stamer. Jeff timed his visit better than we did and hiked out before sunrise on Thursday when the sky was beautiful.
Here are links to previous articles with more info:
When you go, please be careful. Stopping on the side of 417 is dangerous. And the Lake Jesup Wilderness area is wild. It’s also a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers. Bring water and use sun screen and bug spray. Long pants and waterproof hiking boots are a good idea too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) start blooming at the end of September in our area. One of the largest concentrations is in the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where the blooms stretch as far as you can see.
Swamp Sunflowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
This is a truly unique photo-op and worth checking out. See these links for more info:
When you go, please be careful. Stopping on the side of 417 can be dangerous. And the Lake Jesup Wilderness area is wild. It’s also a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers. Bring water and use sun screen and bug spray. Long pants and waterproof hiking boots are a good idea too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some flower photos – maybe I’ll see you out there!
I’ve photographed the wildflowers (swamp sunflowers) that bloom near Lake Jesup at this time of year since about 2006. I’ve never seen as many people out there as I did tonight. When I drove by on 417, there were 8 or 10 cars along the shoulder and people with cameras and tripods were clambering down into the flowers to get photos. When I arrived at the Lake Jesup Conservation Area just before sunset, the gate was closed and the two parking spaces outside the gate were already taken – so I had to park on the road. On my walk in, I met up with two people with cameras and on my way out another person stopped me to ask what I’d seen. On most previous trips, I haven’t seen anyone. I guess the word has gotten around.
Lake Jesup Conservation Area – Fisheye fun with the Swamp Sunflowers.
The flowers are at their peak. If you want to see or photograph them, you should go in the next few days.
Lake Jesup Conservation Area Wildflowers
Check out these links for info and please be careful. Stopping along 417 could be dangerous.
If you live in the Central Florida area and want to photograph an endless field of flowers, get ready to head over to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) bloom from horizon to horizon during the last week in September and the first week of October.
Kevin M. in the flowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
I drove by on highway 417 this afternoon to see what’s going on, and there are already a few flowers out. My guess is that they’ll start peaking next weekend. Check out these links for info and maybe I’ll see you out there!
We may not get much Autumn color on our trees in Central Florida, but we do have one wonderful sign that fall is here – the sudden appearance of huge fields of Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) covering the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area.
If you haven’t driven over Lake Jesup on the 417 toll road to see this year’s flower extravaganza on the north shore, now’s the time . They started blooming last weekend and the peak will probably last through this coming weekend. You can see my earlier posts for more info:
Last year during wildflower season, I hesitated to venture out into the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area in the dark. I’ve seen several types of animals and birds out there and never any snakes, but it sure does seem like prime snake country to me. And I don’t relish stepping on something dangerous in the tall growth and dim light. This year, I was a little braver (and very careful) and got out into the wildflower fields just as the sun came up.
I’ve posted once before about wildflowers on the north-west shore of Lake Jesup. They bloom this time of year and I’ve photographed them since 2006, mostly from the side of the road.
October 10, 2006: Lake Jesup Flowers and Sunrise. 4 shot panorama, assembled in Photoshop; Nikon Coolpix P1, ISO 50, 126mm eq. focal length, f/5.2 at 1/30 sec.
In 2008, the area was completely under water and there were no blooms.
August 31, 2008: Lake Jesup flood waters from tropical storm Fay; Nikon D80, ISO 100, Nikon 18-70 lens at 18mm, f/16, three exposures combined with Photomatix
All year, I really hoped that the flooding hadn’t killed the flowers permanently. Once the water receded, I did a little exploring and found a park and a path out into the blooms through the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. About two weeks ago, I revisited the park and made these photos. As you can see, the blooms came back from the flooding. If anything, there are more than ever. If you are into flower photography, you have to ask yourself why you’ve never explored this wonderful place in late September. Get ready for next year!
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flowers and moon; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 62mm, f/16 at 1/50 sec
Here’s a close in photo of one of the blooms. There are so many different types of wildflowers, that Identifying them isn’t easy (for me anyway). These are in the Aster family and resemble Black Eyed Susans, but are taller than the 14 – 36 inches my book says Black Eyed Susans should be. If you recognize them and can supply a positive ID, please let me know in the comments.
1/24/2010 update – These are most likely Narrowleaf Sunflowers, also called “Swamp Sunflowers”.
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flower closeup; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 70mm, f/4 at 1/500 sec
This web page has directions on how to get to the Marl Bed Flats part of the conservation area, where I made these photos. It’s a short hike over flat ground from the parking area to where the flowers are.
The plants are fairly tall and the blooms range from a few feet off the ground to as high as 6 feet. A tall tripod will be helpful to get your camera above the vegetation. Bring a wide-angle lens to take in the incredible vista of so many flowers in one place. You might want to carry your macro lens too.
Get there early for calm winds. I was a little leery of walking out there in the dark, so I passed on sunrise shots this year.
If you plan to do this, you should scout the area and the time-line before hand. The blooms last a couple of weeks, but they are definitely better in the middle of the period than at either end.