Thursday, December 31, 2009

St. Marks Fog

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Driving to St. Marks in the pre-dawn peasoup, I wondered why I got up so early for this. The fog was so dense and wet that I doubted I'd even expose my cameras to it. But I had arranged to meet Ross and I knew he'd be there. He was. We bumbled about and laughed at ourselves for an hour or so, until there was enough light to see some vague silhouettes. Not much to look at. Then a bright red poison ivy leaf caught my attention, and while studying it for a possible composition, Ross noticed the spider webs. They were numerous and loaded with water drops. I was enthralled while working one or two with my macro lens for the next hour.

As we were about to head out (earlier than usual), I saw a fish swim to the edge of the pool and beach itself. It lay there looking at me, it's blue highlights glowing with health. In only minutes, the fisheye glazed over and all color faded as the fish died. I wondered at this death, at the knowing look in the fish's eye, at the intentional beaching. I thought about whales that beach themselves, about premature fish deaths I'd seen, impaled and gasping on sharp anhinga beaks, and the circle of life that would surely include this meaty fish lying on the beach. While still squatting there by the fish, I heard a grackle call and looked up to see it on a nearby post. Despite my musings, I didn't make the connection, but as soon as I stood and made a photo of the bird, it flew down to claim the meal on the beach. The protective fog hid the bird's banquet from circling osprey and other likely party-crashers. In that moment, everything seemed right to me. I stayed and watched for a long time.

On my way home, I was feeling pretty peaceful and mindful when, all of a sudden, I saw the swamp near the Refuge entrance in a way I'd never appreciated before.

There was a stillness in the fog, everything was glistening and drippy, and the late fall colors glowed in splendor.

I wandered the length of the wetland picking out misty compositions...

and finally ended where I began... on a colorful strand of poison ivy growing on the side of a cabbage palm.

The everchanging magic of St. Marks will forever draw me in.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Mighty Apalachicola River

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On this full-moon-Halloween weekend, John Moran ( and I headed to Apalachicola to explore some of the namesake River's tributaries, creeks and coastal marshes. Locally renowned photographer, John Sporher ( and his wife, Helen had offered us their delightful screen house on Scipio Creek for our sleeping comfort and base camp. Long docks into the marsh and big sky views just a minute's walk from the house offered some lovely sunrises.

Over the next few days, besides Scipio, we visited Cash Creek, Doyle Creek, Ft. Gadsden, Owl Creek, and Cesar Creek - paddling, boating, hiking and/or viewing from bridges, banks and even rooftops.

Cash Creek offered a gorgeous vista of the marsh, as well as beautiful flatwoods and meadows full of Deertongue and Goldenrod. A small green treefrog called one of these meadows home. We returned to Cash Creek three times - mid-morning, just before sunset, and another day at sunrise. That last time, following John Sporher's lead, we were there well before dawn to shoot the setting full moon and rising mist.

The Tate's Hell State Forest, Ralph G. Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk provided a birdseye view of the dwarf cypress forest at peak fall color. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, taking in the magical light and color on the red, yellow, and green cypress needles and lilypads.

Further north upriver, we hiked the Nature Conservancy's Garden of Eden Trail through the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. The plan was to be there at sunset - a challenge given that it's a rigorous 4 miles through slope forests, steepheads, and sandhills to Alum Bluff, the largest natural geological exposure in Florida.... and then the same rigor and distance out AFTER sunset. We considered backing out given the skyful of clouds, but we were at the trailhead and had always wanted to see this trail and bluff. The Alum Bluff and riverview were amazing even in the gray evening light. But then the sun broke beneath the cloud layer and shone red-orange across the land... mere moments before dropping below the horizon and fading to dusk. Wow. We were ready. (Well, almost... I had forgotten to bring an extra memory card and was down to too few shots on the one in my camera. Thanks for the loan, John.) We hightailed it out of there, hoping to be able to see the trail blazes and find our way out before it got too dark. I was glad to have my hiking poles. Here's the one shot.