It’s that time of year again! Every year I write a Year in Review post recapping my favorite photographic moments of that year. This year has been really good to me. Not only did I have some amazing opportunities with birds, but I also got to share some turtle adventures with Rich, and I learned some new macro photography techniques.
Some years I am amazed at the variety of places that I get to visit. This year was a little different. I concentrated my efforts on the same places, repeatedly, getting to know the locations and the wildlife really well. Not only did I minimize my drive time, I think I improved as a photographer.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
It will come as no surprise to my regular blog readers that this was the year of the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD). Like so many others who love nature and photography, I fell in love with this 11 mile stretch of dirt roads that meander through our Florida wetlands. Every time I go, I see something new. Highlights this year included the famous Fork-tailed Flycatcher, the White-faced Ibis, all the Least Bitterns, my very first (and second and third and fourth and fifth!) Pied-billed Grebe nest, the Ospreys diving for fish at the pump house, adorable Tree Swallow juveniles being fed by Mom, the elusive Yellow-billed Cuckoo, finally finding Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows, and the spectacular Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites that soared over the sod fields. Lake Apopka also gave me great opportunities to practice my landscape photography, especially sunsets at Magnolia Park.
I’ll definitely be spending more time at LAWD in 2018!!
Nesting Sea Turtles!
This year Rich and I visited the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge every weekend from June until Hurricane Irma devastated the beaches in September. The sky would be barely light as we pulled into the parking lot around 5:30 in the morning. The cool sand tickled our bare feet and a welcome breeze made the 90 degree heat more comfortable. We’d take long walks on the beach, averaging about five miles in a morning. Not only was it great exercise, but we got to see nesting sea turtles. These gentle giants were not used to being on land. They finished laying their eggs in the dunes, carefully covered the holes with sand, and then painstakingly hauled themselves back down to the water’s edge. You could see the relief on their faces as the first waves washed the sand from their bodies. Watching each turtle was a joy, even more special because I got to share these mornings with Rich. We were always on the lookout for baby turtles, but we mostly saw adults this year. That’s ok – next June will be here before we know it.
My Own Backyard
Sometimes the best birds are the ones you find in your own backyard. This April I took a week off from work to photograph birds, and I ended up spending several of those days just hanging out in my blind. We had a ton of American Goldfinches this spring, and I found that I could coax them onto pretty flowers just by placing their feeder near the vine. My beautiful Painted Buntings (and a single Indigo Bunting) were equally cooperative. A couple of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrated through in the spring, then several stayed on for a few weeks after Hurricane Irma. This was the first year we’ve had regular Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the backyard, and I enjoyed listening to them sing. I’d never seen the dark eye bar that is part of their breeding plumage. A visiting Eastern Bluebird was the icing on my birdie cake! Maybe I’ll convince the bluebirds to hang around more in 2018. Fresh mealworms on the menu!
I’ve always seen photos like these on the Internet and been amazed. This year I learned how to make them myself! It’s amazing what you can do with a flower, a few water droplets, and some patience. Ok, a lot of patience. I figured out how to focus stack, learned how to control refractions, and played with controlled lighting and flash. It’s amazing the detail you can observe when you just look close enough! I look forward to more macro photography fun in 2018.
Happy New Year!
As the sun sets on 2017, Rich and I wish you all a Happy New Year. Here’s to another year of happiness, health, and photography fun!