ME and Flat Stanley
Flat Stanley Goes Kayaking
Wiggins Bay, FL March 01, 2010
Tricolored Heron Fishing
Wiggins Pass, FL
March 01, 2010
“When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.”
Flat Stanley Lambchop and I had an adventure yesterday; a very good, wonderful adventure.
If you haven't met or heard of Flat Stanley, he's a small boy from a 1960's children's book who was flattened by a large bulletin board. In his new, wafer-thin physique, he finds he can go all sorts of places he couldn't go before, thus having adventures galore.
Flat Stanley's getting a lot of new attention in this new millenium, and if you have a small child or grandchild, you likely are very aware of his newest adventures. See, Flat Stanley travels easily in envelopes (ah, to never have to go through security!), and gets mailed and carried to the most amazing places. For instance, a network cable news channel reported that Flat Stanley was aboard Sully Sullivan's flight that landed in the Hudson, and he was carried to safety in a briefcase.
Anyway, today, the Flat Stanley Project helps teach kids about places and things. Flat Stan gets mailed to friends and family, who photograph him having various adventures, then he goes back to the child/grandchild with a journal of his adventures, the photos and a map. Cool, right?
So that's how Flat Stanley came to be the navigator/good luck charm/fun company on my kayak trip to Wiggins Pass and back for last light/bird/sunset photo scouting last night. Like any good tour guide, I made sure Flat Stan was wearing a PFD , which is a personal floatation device - or life vest to us oldies (my elementary school scissor skills are still intact, thank goodness). And off we went.
It was a great trip. I'd forgotten my iPod at home charging on the desk, but no matter. Flat Stanley had a lot of stories to tell about his adventures. And I had a lot of sights to show him. The tide was really rushing out, thanks to a waning full moon. Birds dotted the exposed oyster and sand bars, feeding in their usual frenzies in the cold (ok, it's all relative, but 58 degrees in Florida is cold).
We paddled around here and there, hopped out at the beach for one shot FS with some shells, then pushed off again, looking for more good light and birds. I identified egrets, spoonbills, terns, herons, and shorebirds, just to name a few. Flat Stan is really smart, and in time at all, he was finding cool birds faster than I could. In a tiny bay just east of the Pass, he found this lovely tricolored heron, lit by a shaft of sunlight just before it sank.
He's not so sure about the photography end of things, and he says my camera/lens weighs far too much for him. But he's very photogenic and not one bit shy in front of the camera, which is more than we can say for me.
A wonderful trip, we both remarked, paddling home in the fading twilight. And we agreed that it was good fortune, indeed, he didn't become Float Stan on an adventure with me.
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200 VR, Nikkor 80-400 VR, sublime light, a great partner for a grand adventure
Making Hope Work
Into The Storm
Lover's Key State Park
February 27, 2010
"Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work." ~Rita Mae Brown
I woke to grey-ish skies this morning signaling yet another Saturday round of storms. This winter has hit a litany of repetitious, monotonously frigid and blustery storm notes most weekends. The poor kayak barely knows the feel of water under her.
And so there I was, rolled in a soft throw on the couch, coffee in my hand, cat in my lap, trying to decide what to do with the day while watching a PBS documentary about SW Florida at the same time. It caught my eye because I've been reading Washington Post reporter, Michael Grunwald's book, The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise
. It's an amazing book, exhaustive in detail, and a riveting story, even if you don't live here. I was introduced to it by a friend visiting from Northern California, who read it during his stay here, feeding me juicy tidbits during our dinner conversations. Over roasted shrimp in lemon pasta with arugula salad, I was hooked.
But I digress. In the PBS documentary this morning, one man likened living in this area to "a blind man in a smoke house." "Everywhere you turn," he said, "there's something meaty and juicy to dig into." Call me quirky, but that just made me smile. It's just so true! It reminded me that even in the cold, gray of today, I could sit on the couch and hope for some creative inspiration to find me, or I could get up and work on finding it myself.
One cool thing about a pre-rainstorm, glacial Saturday morning: save for a few rangers and miscellaneous park employees (including a tram driver motoring an empty tram on an endless loop from the parking lot to the beach), I was alone. I have often visited this little fishing pier that stretches into the back bay just off the beach, but never have I been there alone. Seems even the fishermen were still home in a warm bed.
The rain began a few minutes into the hike back to the parking lot, and was coming down pretty good by the time I touched the car. Thankful for the white plastic trash bag I always carry for my gear, I myself looked more than a bit drenched. No matter. As I've been saying since January, it may be precipitation, but at least I don't have to shovel it.
It was a great morning adventure. Everything I'd hoped for, did indeed, work out.
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 12-24mm VR at 12 mm, 3sh GND, tripod, a nice hike and a free shower.
Juvenile Night HeronEstero BayJanuary, 2010
"Is is not only fine feathers that make fine birds."
--Aesop, The Jay & The Peacock
Two of our area's night herons - the yellow-crowned night heron and the black-crowned night heron - are the easiest birds to identify in their adult plumage and the hardest birds to differentiate in their juvenile plumage. One prefers salt-water environments (the yellow-crowned night heron) and the other is partial to fresh-water areas (the black-crowned night heron).
If you've ever spotted a yellow-crowned night heron, you may have observed the absolute patience it exhibits when stalking food, which tend to be shrimp and small crustaceans. Oh that I could have such focus and perseverance! It's an amazing thing to see; almost like watching paint dry, but better. They walk a step, hold their stance perfectly still for an eon or two, then take another step forward. Photographing them can either drive you crazy or fill up your camera card with astounding speed because they hold such great poses.
And such was the way of this juvenile. Feeding alone along the oyster bar skirt of a mangrove key in the middle of Estero Bay, I drifted about 30 feet away from it for the better part of an hour. Step, stop, wait forever, step again; a bird mime in slow motion. If you can't catch one shot with these guys, you better think about photographing inanimate objects instead.
A little bit of trivia: these guys (as adults) sometimes feast on small turtles - whole! They have a special acid in their intestinal tract that dissolves shells - even big, thick, hard turtle shells!
And of course, the lingo: a group of night herons has many collective nouns, including a "battery", "hedge", "pose", "rookery", and "scattering" of herons"
I'll have many more bird photographs on sale this Saturday, February 13, 2010, at the Side Street Artists Art Show (click here for more info)
. Come by and say hi! Art is the perfect Valentine's Day gift!
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR, a yellow kayak and a smidge of patience.
Long-billed CurlewNumenius AmericanusEstero Bay, FloridaJanuary 19, 2010
"Miracles are made in the heart, Papa."
Long-billed curlews - also once known as the "candlestick" bird - aren't exactly plentiful in my part of the world. Any day that you can find one - especially one so willing to pose - is a good day that makes the heart of any birder skip a few beats. I launched the kayak at an amazing low tide where dozens of roseate spoonbills, willets, oystercatchers, and all the usual reddish, white and blue heron and egret clans fed in frenzies in mudflats that stretched nearly everywhere but the main channels. Sucking noises echoed off the mangroves and little shorebirds flocked so thickly they looked like one large, living organism moving across the water. I came across a nice bunch of marbled godwits - not exactly plentiful here, either, and always fun to photograph with their Pepto-Bismal-pinkish upcurved beaks.
I was feeling especially fortunate with the sheer numbers and diversity of birds when this one little bird stopped me in my tracks. With its comical Pinocchio profile, the curlew's beak is an easy one third of its total length. The largest of all sandpipers - and the largest shorebird in the North America, they're also one of the fastest. Recently, using satellite tracking, one female curlew made it from the prairies of Montana to Mexico in just 27 hours.
Bird nomenclature is always peculiar. A flock of these big-beaked birds can be called a "curfew", "game", "head", "salon", or "skein". A "salon of curlews". Wonder if they give good haircuts.
One last interesting bit of trivia about these guys is that they were so plentiful in the San Francisco area in the late 1800's that Candlestick Point (and later, Candlestick Park Stadium) was named after them. By the time Candlestick Park was completed, their population was nearly extinct in the area, after being overhunted for ladies hats. One might easily deduce - correctly so - that millinery has brought more than one bird species right down to the brink of extinction, including the snowy egret right here in SW Florida.
That's the miracle of photography, really. I can bring home a catch bag to rival that of 19th century hunters, carrying birds of every description, and not a single one loses a life or ends up on my head.
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR, a stable kayak and my lucky star
A Photographer's Outtakes
A Photographer's Outtakes
Barefoot Beach, Florida
"You should never think without an image."
This time of year, you'll often see me down at Barefoot Beach, loaded up with camera gear and holiday props. I always intend to create my newest photo for my line of holiday greeting cards in the summer, when my schedule is more relaxed. But my intentions often get stuck to the paper my "must do NOW" list is written on, and there they stay until the last minute. I think I share the middle name of "procrastination" with a number of folks, so at least I'm not alone.
Any photographer has outtakes, and we pro's always hope and pray our outtakes don't outnumber our keepers. Sometimes the outtakes are just shameful, but sometimes they're funny.
Like this one. I spent a good fifteen minutes setting up a shot for this year's holiday card. It's not that easy going from threadbare conception to end product. I cleaned the sand up pretty good (but not too good that it didn't look real), measured the light, tried a few shots with flash and a few without. I basically tinkered away, trying to assemble my scene so that it finally pleased my eye when I looked through the viewfinder. I got one shot off, then SPLASH! A wave took it all way.
I'm sure a few of the tourists walking by wondered what the heck I was doing, wading in the small surf after a santa hat. It's never a real hard life being a photographer, and some days, it's just plain funny.
Be sure to stop by the Side Street Artists holiday art fair on Saturday, December 12. I'll have this year's final holiday shots all gussied up into hand-made cards, as well as a full line from year's past. Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200 VR, a giant bag of holiday props, two SB-800's (not used), a reflector (not used) and a lot of crawling around in the sand and giggling
First HarvestMy GardenNovember 29, 2009"Plants cry their gratitude for the sun in green joy."
There has been so much to give thanks for this season: health, prosperity, loved ones, the sun above my head...and this weekend, the fruits of my garden.
My vegetable garden is perched on the edge of my canal. It knows no chemicals, and is doused often with love, worm castings and Alaska Fish Fertilizer (ACE really is the place..it is the only store that carries my favorite plant food). I returned from my second trip of the autumn to the mountains and found the peas and 3 tomatoes chewed to nubbins by fat, black caterpillar creatures. I dutifully picked them all off and fed them to snook and catfish in the canal. I've replanted with spinach, lettuce and dill. Lots of dill. Apparently hungry pests don't like dill much. Pity them. These guys are equally diligent in devouring every green thing they can crawl to; they even ate the leaves off the marigolds I planted to repel them. Not much of a first line of defense, it seems.
Tending the garden is a good bit of work, as most labors of love are. In 1871, Charles Dudley Warner wrote that gardeners need a cast-iron back with a really good hinge in it. There's always a learning curve for every climate zone. And gardening without harsh chemicals is not for the faint of heart or faith. A garden teaches persistence, patience and unconditional love. Are there more important lessons to learn in life?
I'll enjoy these beans, all dressed up in their pre-holiday red and green. Though just an early handful, I'll savor each bite as I share them with friends coming to a delayed Thanksgving meal tonight. I spent Thanksgiving day helping prepare food for eighty folks at my neighborhood association's annual dinner. Those without families or places to go gathered and devoured nearly all the 35 pounds of potatoes I hand-peeled and mashed, the huge trays of stuffing and enormous pots of gravy I made, and the five turkeys roasted and carved by five generous seniors. I was grateful for the opportunity to lend my hands and help prepare a meal that joined together so many people who live near me. For most, this day is a day of thanks and gratitude, which was shared equally with food. I walked home when everyone was fed and full, smiling and thankful that I'd spent the day practicing the other half of Thanksgiving - giving.
Nikon D2x - Nikkor 18-200 VR, my favorite red plate, a little spot of pretty light that caught my eye in the kitchen
Robes of Azure Blue
Clingman's Dome SunsetGreat Smoky National ParkNovember 13, 2009“'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, and robes the mountain in its azure hue” --Thomas Campbell
Nikon D2x, Nikkor 18-200VR, GND, a bit of uphill huffin' and a deep chill
© M.E. Parker Photography
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction or distribution of any article, image or portion of this website is strictly
without written permission from MEParkerPhotography.com.
Site by M.E. Parker Productions