R&R ON SANIBEL ISLAND

Can I please direct your mind back to February?  Remember dark, cold days?  Sorry, but I’m a little behind in blogging and I’m just now getting caught up.

I acquired a severe bronchitis in late January.  I didn’t feel like doing anything, and dining on antibiotics and Robitussin certainly didn’t help.  I certainly lacked the will to pack and schlep sixty pounds of cameras and clothes or to hurtle my body through space for our annual Sanibel visit.  My Doctor, however, said I should go, and my daughter, Sigrid, offered to pack my bag.  What could  I do?

Well, it was worth it.  This guy welcomed us back.

 

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The next morning we found the beach already crowded.

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Well, now, what shall we do today?  First, breakfast on the porch, nodding hello to fellow guests as they strolled to and from the beach.  Then, some reading and where shall we go for lunch?  Depending on the tide, a daily ride on the wildlife drive around the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, a favorite spot.  Then it’s time for more reading and a nap.  Other after-lunch trips would be to favorite shops to discover what we didn’t need but liked.

We enjoyed a guest for a couple of nights, Clair W., a friend from home who was exploring Florida for the future.  On another day there was an annual lunch with our friend, Allyson M., from Beach Haven who winters on the island.  Lunch this year was around the Oasis Pool Bar at the Tween Waters Inn, a pleasure.  It was accompanied by a Pirate’s Treasure, fruit juice with something added, and you can see how all of this facilitated my recovery.

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Our daily trips through Ding Darling were not as productive as in past years but still a delight.  Hope springs etc. for the perfect grouping of Roseate Spoonbills but we didn’t see ANY this year.  Here’s a typical daily scene.  The crowding happens as the tide returns.  I have no idea what the two on the left had done to warrant their isolation, nor were they close enough to ask.  For  a full size version of this, click here.

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More reading, more napping.  Hey, how about a walk on the beach?  There we found this group of Ibises, marching into the sun.  (Colleagues: side lighting = more contrast.)  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology tells us they’re also seen in Cardinal Red; that would be exciting.  The opening image above is of a juvenile version still in browns.  Down at Forsythe we’ll see them shiny like an oil slick, and referred to as Iridescent or Glossy.

They were followed by the Wandering Willets.

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New to me this year were these Sandwich Terns, so named after the town of Sandwich in County Kent England where they were first discovered.  They’re smaller than their Royal Tern cousins and possess the yellow-tipped, black beak compared to their cousins’ stark, orange beak.   It  is said that they’re rare in Florida, seen after storms and in migration.

 

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Next, if it was Sunday, it was off to the outdoor jazz concert presented by a group of retired musicians: electronic guitars, a clarinet, a keyboard and an accordion, couple of different saxes, a set of traps and a couple of horns.  An informal but skilled group playing old music for old people.  Then back to the porch for some late afternoon reading interrupted by the tap-tapping of this woodpecker.  We’re told that the holes they create will eventually kill the tree.  Meanwhile its colors were great.

 

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Well, we killed another day.  Time to gather to salute the sunset.  Our go-to place, Beachview Cottages, is a collection of twenty-two, old-Florida cottages, spread on either side of a palm-lined drive from West Gulf Drive to the beach.  One of the cottages can be seen (red) at left.  “New” Florida in contrast can be seen looming behind us.  At the beach is this pavilion.  Many of the guests are also returnees and it’s a friendly group.  We all gather here at the end of the day to savor the day and the sunset.That’s Barbara on her phone at the left, ordering up some more ice.  😉

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Sunsets?  Oh, yeah.  It was on its way when I “saw” this scene which stole my heart.  We know there’s a sunset off to the right but this is a softer capture and much more of a statement about life on Sanibel Island.

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Finally, the real thing, further enhanced with some Sanderlings and sun-reflecting wavelets and beach.  Can you wonder why I reserved for next year before we even left?

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WHADDYA MEAN IT’S AUGUST???

Sigh, it is.  I’ve said it before but endless summer isn’t.  I moved to the beach mid-June and had the whole summer ahead of me.  But that was then, and now it’s August.  Actually, things don’t change that much.  Gregg Whiteside on WRTI tells me every morning that the day’s going to be another two minutes less of sunshine.  Two minutes a day I can deal with, and I’ve still got two months before I have to return to the Old Folks Farm.

The beach and the bay still beckon, whether a perfect day or one with a stiff wind out of the west with whitecaps.  Here’s the view we’ve enjoyed looking west from Barb’s place in Holgate this summer.

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Sunrise at the “new” beach?  Priceless.  The reclamation project is pretty much done at the southern end of LBI, with some fine tuning such as gravel walkways over the new dunes.  The scene below is from the parking lot at the end of Holgate.  The beach chair occupant?  He’s the over-night guardian to protect us from the replenishment pipes and equipment on the other side of the dune.

 

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By early July the project had extended this dune to cover the old wooden jetty that bordered the surfing beach at the beginning of the Forsythe Refuge.   The dredges at sea pumped tons of sand sludge onto the beach, and dozers such as this one moved it as the Corps of Engineers had decreed.  This took me back to my Sea Bee days.

Farewell to the jetty and also to the surfing beach because the jetty had created the surf.  Sic transit gloria.

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Being a photographer at the beach summer after summer is challenging;  where’s the new scene or the new perspective?  Well, you have to keep your eyes and your head open and hope you’ll luck out once in a while.  Here’s one that surprised me.   Sitting on Barb’s deck at sunset I noticed the bay’s reflection in the windows of the house next door, and I loved it.  Even more when I developed it and discovered that the undulations in the window glass had created a rolling sea on the quiet bay surface.

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Another surprise grab shot was this scene.  I had gone to the beach to photograph a post-storm rainbow.  Beautiful? Yes.  Impressive? Sort of.  But, (yawn) another rainbow on the beach.  When I turned around and climbed the dune to return, however, here was a reminder of how narrow this sandbar is on which we live.  I’m on the beach dune and one can see the end of the street at the bay, only 1900′ away.  Composition Guideline:  always look behind you after you’ve taken your shot.

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My favorite summer event is the Twilight Sail.  This year some heavy duty thunder storms were smashing the mainland so Barb and I demurred.  I felt it confirming when our Fleet Captain also declined.  Anyway, four vessels took off for the edge of the world, including our now Beach Haven resident A-cat, Ghost (the taller mast below).  They all returned safely.

I was impressed with the blue world into which they were sailing.  Made me think of a colleague’s photography business, Twilight Blue Photography.  (No charge, Pat.)

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Well, so what if it’s August.  Summer’s still here and I’m stickin’ around, too.

Here was the month’s first sunset;  Well Done August!

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WINTER WHITE STUFF (THE FLORIDA KIND)

We managed to escape on the last flight out of Philadelphia before winter storm Jonas (OK, maybe not literally the last but it felt that way).  Even with the last minute struggle to change our flight to Friday night and to make sure there was a car and a room in Sanibel, we were still apprehensive.  Indeed, after taxiing out to the runway the pilot announced a further delay in order to DE-ICE THE WINGS.  How comforting was that??  I was convinced he would abort but we made it and slipped in to our cottage about 1:00 in the morning.  Our first view of the beach the next morning (while Jonas was howling at home) …. WHITE STUFF …  but, a very comfortable kind.

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Yet more white stuff is seen here.  Sanibel Island is known for being a shelling paradise.  For some reason the shape and position of the island in the currents of the Gulf of Mexico result in extraordinary deposits of shells with each high tide.

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It’s something to do every day.  The fanatics are on the beach before sunrise with headlamps, searching for the elusive and therefore prized Junonia.  It’s so rare, finders wind up with their pictures in the paper.  Aside from the Junonia, however, we enjoyed our beach walks and inevitably came home with shells that caught our eye.  The above sight is typical.  The image is now a part of my place mat collection.

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Another exciting activity is photographing the sea birds that meet daily on the beach.  Aside from the routine gulls we also enjoyed Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, skittering Sanderlings, and clusters of Royal Terns having bad hair days.  The terns are tolerant of walking humans ( dogs, another story) and gather in groups at sometimes the same spots along the beach each morning.  I’ve enjoyed photographing them over my fourteen years of occasional visits.  I posted recently about the need to get prone to capture some scenes and the terns are certainly in that category.

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I particularly love this image below.  He seemed to be zoned out in the joy of the morning sunlight and breeze.  I heard him murmuring, “Hey, Dude, is this cool or whaaat?”  I absolutely agreed.

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The tern was chillin’ in the sunrise along with others also drawn to dawn.  Most of us react to the drama of sunrises and sunsets and though I’ve seen and photographed lots of them I’m not immune to the next one.  Here’s one morning in which the sun was filtered more than usual but there was still light for the early morning shell seekers.

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And at the other end of the day, the sun’s farewell.

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Not every day was warm or clear or sunny, but at its worst it was better than being up home in February.  Even a foggy morning calls a photographer.

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Another major attraction of Sanibel is the 5200 acre “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  We managed to drive through on the eight mile Wildlife Trail almost every day.  It’s best to do so slightly before and after low tide as the bird life is then feasting on creatures from the exposed sand flats.  One sees a great deal of White Pelicans, Ibis, Herons, Willets, and Cormorants.  In fact they report over 200 species of birds.  Here are some selected captures.

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

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Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

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This one made me literally laugh out loud.  They tolerate humans being close and I was about six feet away from his bath.

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Finally, an after-breakfast Cormorant Cleanup.

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This was a nice experience for us, and certainly warmer and sunnier than February at home.  We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and informal atmosphere at Beachview Cottages on Sanibel Island.  As always, glad to be home but also wondering why??

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There is a gallery of additional images from the two weeks.  To view it please click here.

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VERMONT FOG AND FOLIAGE

My last photo trip to Vermont was four years ago.  The itch was itchy.  I googled Vermont photo tours and serendipitously found Kurt Budliger Photography offering an early October tour in the more northern part of the state.  This was appealing as I’ve done plenty of touring down in the Weston-Chester area and below.  Budliger’s landscape images have a dreamlike quality so it’s no surprise that he’s part of the Dreamscapes team which includes Ian Plant, Joe Rossbach, and Richard Bernabe, with all of whom I’ve enjoyed previous productive workshops.  So, into the saddle and off to the great northland.

Evening from the Sparrow Farm

Evening from the Sparrow Farm

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I joined eight others at a nice Comfort Inn in the countryside outside of Montpelier, which served as our base.  We left early each morning to see the sunrises that absolutely no one else had ever photographed.  They would be followed by some early morning scenes before the sun became too harsh.  Then back to the inn for lunch, a rest, and afternoon classwork before setting out again for sunsets and twilight photography.  The classroom emphasis was on composition ideas and post-processing.  I learned things in both categories. Deep sigh:  I keep thinking I know what I need to know but along comes someone like Kurt, and suddenly there’s a couple of those “Why didn’t that occur to me?” things.

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For me, the above was our best sunrise location (Marshfield Pond).  It was still quite gray when we got there and the fog was rolling in from the pond.  It was somewhat surreal; my mood was excited but in awe of what I was seeing.  I was so moved that I captured some video to better convey the mood.  (Please, no comments about watching grass grow; rather, think how you’d be feeling in such a setting.)

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Not all of our sunrises were so dramatic but they were at least peaceful, quieting, tranquil.  Here the boats await the day ahead on Seyon Pond.

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After our sunrise experiences we were guided to other locations to enjoy the scene as the day’s light evolved through the mists.  One such spot was Ricker Pond.

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I then hiked out on the above peninsula and was rewarded with lots of dewy spider webs.  I wish the leaf hadn’t been there or that I had pre-processed by snipping that twig but that’s nature.

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Just as we had early morning shoots, so did we have pre-sunset shoots on the way to a sunset location.  Among these was Moss Glen Falls on Route 100 north of Granville.  I had photographed this with Joe Rossbach in 2009 and had told Kurt that, having been there, I wasn’t keen on returning.  But, his workshop so back we went.  I was astounded at how large it had become as my four year old memory was of a rather unimpressive scene.  Wow!  I was glad we had returned to it.

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Sunsets were also lovely.  They induce mixed reactions.  One is the warm power of the scene.  Another is the primitive feeling of one’s own mortality: day is ending, darkness comes.  This image is of Lake Champlain from Oak Ledge just outside of Burlington.  It also brought back memories of piloting our rented houseboat on the lake years ago with my then two pre-teeners taking tricks at the wheel; of late afternoon anchoring and swimming, leaping from the roof of the boat; and cozying in for the night after a Marty Lou dinner.

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The glow from a sunset can also result in some powerful non-sky-sun images as in this case.  Note the rock alligator emerging at right from the grasses.  Careful!

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We finished the workshop on a hillside above Peacham, founded in 1776.  Here we are in the fog again, waiting for some sign of the valley, and photographing whatever appeared with some promise.

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It was here that I bid my new friends and colleagues goodbye.  On the way down the hillside, however, I passed the cattle on the farm below, ambling out to pasture in the mists.

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It was a splendid workshop, and I brought home some of the best images I’ve done in recent years.

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There is a gallery of these and many more images from the workshop.  It can be seen by clicking here.

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