Archive for the ‘kayaking’ Tag

The Brood   7 comments


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They don’t start out life all colored in.

A short while ago, I published an image of a spectacular male Wood Duck keeping a watchful eye on his brood. There was good reason to be watchful: There were so many of them!

The female Wood Duck and her brood had taken a break from swimming the river, jumping up in a lineup along a fallen tree. There was a bit of a tussle as they scrambled up among the turtles that had been sunning there, but eventually everybody seemed to fit in and settle down.

If you look carefully toward the right side, you can see a bit of yet another young duckling. There may have been a couple of others there… I lost count after a while.

Fine Dining at Anhinga’s Cafe   Leave a comment


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Ahh, sushi… It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Paddling toward the headwaters of the Silver River in Florida, we passed by a small, forested island that held a large colony of Anhingas, water birds that dive underwater for their catch, which is usually fish and amphibians. Rough nests were scattered across the island, most having two or more juveniles waiting for food.

Mom and dad go out to catch fish, letting them, um, settle for a while, before hacking up their catch to the young ones. As the feedings continued despite our close presence, the cacaphony of squawking juvies was almost overwhelming. With several young ones in the nest, competition for the one provider was intense.

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Grouch   3 comments


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After the chill of the evening wears off, a number of cold-blooded animals climb out of the water to warm themselves in the sun. Alligators tend to favor land or vegetation mats, turtles tend to climb up on logs that stick out of the water. In both cases, the chosen location is a good one in case a quick escape is needed.

This little guy — a Suwannee River Cooter, I believe — is actually only a few inches long, perhaps 5″ at most. I slowly nudged my kayak toward his carefully chosen log and snapped a few frames at 210mm.

Why “Grouch?”

This was the look he gave me just before grudgingly dropping into the cold water.

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‘Gator on a Rope   1 comment


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Not your average “Soap on a Rope.”

This, it seems to me, is one prime example of a giant bull Alligator mississippiensis, otherwise known as the American alligator. All I need to know is that they have big teeth and strong tails and that my kayak hull is rather fragile when it comes right down to it.

It was a warm day in late April on the Silver River, so the beast came onshore to collect some heat from the sun. Typically, alligators stay sedentary, preferring not to go into the colder water unless they feel threatened. If they do get scared, their normal safety procedure is to scramble directly into the water and submerge. That’s fine, as long as one’s kayak is not between the ‘gator and the water.

There’s a 3 knot current in the Silver River, so once I spotted this guy, I paddled upstream a bit, grabbed the camera and began to drift (from right-to-left in this picture.) As I came directly across from my subject, I noticed the OTHER tail in the woods… “Good ford!” I said, “There’s two of ‘em!” Evidently, this little puppy had a girlfriend.

Not wanting to disturb his marital bliss any longer (they do have reptilian brains, after all, and are not capable of much discernment), I slowly paddled… backwards.

The Guardian   3 comments


The Guardian
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If looks could kill.

While kayaking along the Silver River in Florida, we encountered our first group of wild monkeys, the backstory of which you can learn in Shelter from the Storm.

The monkeys weren’t hard to spot. The mother and child seen in “Shelter…” were sitting on a cypress stump near the water. Just on the other side of the large cypress tree, this alpha male was standing guard against the onslaught of other members of the troop. Just behind him, in the woods, there was a cacophony of howling and screeching as monkeys chased each other through the trees. It seemed more serious than just play. I don’t know what the problem was, but there was clearly upset in the tribe deeper in the woods.

Meanwhile, the male’s attention was drawn to a number of colorful boats approaching from the river. Threats all around.

He kept a careful watch on the mother and child. If a rambunctious member of the troop got too close, he’d climb up on a flexible downed tree, bouncing up and down while grunting his warnings. The other monkeys seemed to respect that, and kept their distance.

As did we. This guy gave me a look, so I backed… away… slowly…

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Handheld from the kayak, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250s, 210mm

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So I’ll Follow the Sun   4 comments


So I'll Follow the Sun
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Despite being on the road in Florida for almost two weeks, the winter weather dictated that we would get only one kayak paddle trip. Fortunately, the Silver River was loaded with wildlife of all sorts.

Passing by one of the many downed trees along the way, we spotted a primordial procession of turtles leaves the water, seeking the warmth of the sunshine. Given that we were bundled up against the cold north wind, it seemed like a good idea.

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‘Gator, Resting   7 comments


'Gator, Resting
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It was early January.

We had come to the Okefenokee Swamp to shelter ourselves from the oncoming storm, the ferocity of which we couldn’t even imagine at the time… rain, high winds, bone-numbing cold. (Okay, so the state park at Okefenokee has really nice cabins, you see.)

Late in the afternoon during a break in the rain, we wandered around to see what we could find, and discovered this guy. We were surprised to see him at all, as alligators are markedly less active and visible in the cold weather. He didn’t mind at all as I snapped a few pictures. Good thing: This was taken at 55mm, a rare opportunity to get so close without being chomped.

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Shelter from the Storm   7 comments


Shelter from the Storm

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Yes… monkeys.

“You’re not going to see any monkeys today,” an experienced outfitter told us at the launch ramp before we started out. “It’s too cold and dank.”

My advice is to take local knowledge — usually quite helpful — with a grain of salt. We came across lots of monkeys.

After snapping the cormorant (Cormorants) while paddling the Silver River in Florida, we rounded a bend and found the first troop of monkeys cavorting near the edge of the water. They were creating quite a ruckus deeper in the woods, swinging from the trees and challenging one another.

There were about twenty individuals, ranging from the dominant male and young-buck upstarts, to teenagers, and pairs like this adorable mother and child. Here, the mother is taking a break from grooming the young one long enough to warm him up. Just on the other side of the tree, the dominant male was posing and bouncing up and down on a fallen tree, warning other troop members not to approach.

You might ask: Why are there wild monkeys in Florida?

At the Silver Springs headwaters, you can find a number of attractions, including the famous glass-bottomed boat rides. In the 1930s, the operator of the Silver Springs Jungle Cruise put the monkeys on a small island in the river in order to spice up the ride for customers.

He didn’t realize that monkeys are excellent swimmers.

The monkeys escaped the island, of course, and began to populate the surrounding woods. As civilization approaches closer to the Springs, some monkeys have been seen in the nearby city of Ocala, or raiding citrus groves, or free-ranging on livestock farms. Some people have claimed that the monkeys pose a threat to humans, as they can carry the Herpes-B virus, fatal to humans, though the threat is surely overblown.

An animal shelter worker studying the monkeys once stopped 15 tourists in the park and asked them what drew them there. Fourteen said they came to see the monkeys (as did we.)

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Cormorants   2 comments


Cormorants
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As I mentioned in my previous post Full Retreat!, not all of our recent trip was a downer. On the one day that we did get to paddle the kayaks, we took a trip up the Silver River to the headwaters of Silver Spring.

Now, Silver Spring is an interesting place. It was the location for the “Tarzan” movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller. “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” was filmed there. The first glass-bottom boats plied the river in the 1870s. “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Nelson was filmed there. Silver Springs was, and still is, the site of various tourist attractions both active and defunct.

But, we were there to paddle the river. Because Silver River is restricted to paddle boats and idle-speed-only motors, it seems that the wildlife has become accustomed to the presence of humans. This allowed us to get very close to the animals — while still maintaining a respectful distance, of course.

Here, a cormorant dries his wings after diving for sushi lunch. Getting this close let us notice, for the first time, how their feet wrap around and grip the perch. We could see individual patterns of feathers and coloration, each bird a bit different.

This proved to be the case with other wildlife as well, including wild boar, great herons, ibis, and monkeys.

Yes… monkeys.

Here, Susan is doing her impression of a cormorant…

Susan's Cormorant Impression

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The Drift   8 comments


The Drift

The Drift

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Some people trick out their cars or motorcycles. Others sink thousands into landscaping. Me? I like to dress out the kayak, mostly with safety bling and sandals. (The boat is a 2000 Perception Eclipse, Kevlar, composite bulkheads, a little over 17 feet. Susan has a similar version, but a bit smaller. And firecracker red.)

The other day – mid-November, mind you – the weather was forecast to be almost 80F, so we felt it was our responsibility to go out for a nice, long paddle trip. This spot is near Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island, one of our favorite destinations. Bear Island is separated from the mainland by a few miles, with a network of creeks flowing through rich marshlands, filled with Great Herons, Egrets, Pelicans, and a host of other shorebirds.

We worked our way upwind during the morning, with a nice wind-driven coast back to the landing in the afternoon — just the way it should be. Late in the afternoon, not wanting it to end too quickly, we beached up to take in the last warm rays of the setting sun.

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This is a single-exposure image. I used it to test out several new product versions in the world of Photoshop Plug-Ins. (I have to wonder if these product uprgades were released just in time for Christmas?)

Flipping back and forth between Nik Color Efex Pro 4, Topaz Adjust 5, and OnOne Perfect Effects from Perfect Suite 6, I was struck by the architectural similarity between them.

There used to be a time when running a filter would return a single filter result in a layer (the old PhotoTools from OnOne excepted.) Now, in Adjust and Color Efex Pro, we have the ability to stack effects together, adjusting each to taste, without having to continually pop in and out of Photoshop (or Lightroom, or Aperture.) This is clearly a good approach, as all three companies have adopted this model.

Each plug-in set has different features, pre-sets, strengths and weaknesses, of course. Which one is best for your purposes is a matter of taste and convenience. But I must say, all of these companies are pouring on the steam to develop kickazz modules, and we as photographers benefit from that competition.

If there is any drawback to this, it comes from trying to decide which filters you need at a given time. Oh, the horror of too many options. 🙂

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