In 2006 I moved to Abita Springs, Louisiana, a quaint, little town on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. A year later I discovered that I lived just over a mile from The Nature Conservancy’s Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve. Since then I have walked and photographed there dozens of times. Three ecosystems mesh at this 996 acre site– longleaf pine savanna, slash pine/pond cypress woodlands and bayhead swamp. From forests and grassy fields to the Abita Creek that runs through them, this unique convergence offers some wonderfully varied photographic opportunities.
Only about 3% of America’s longleaf pine savanna still exists today. At this preserve, not only do I get to photograph these wonderful woods, but, in an effort to give back, I’ve joined a team of volunteers that meets to plant saplings every January. Light streaming through the pine savanna is always a joy to photograph (particularly on foggy mornings,) but for a few weeks every Fall it takes on a surreal, colorful glow shortly before sunset, an effect I refer to as “fairy light.” Continue reading →
While looking at a map of Montana, if you draw a diagonal line between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, the center of that line nears a special place called the Pintler Scenic Byway (recently renamed the Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Byway). This byway is about 60 miles long and unlike many byways in Montana, it’s completely paved for its entire length. This scenic spur gives you a break from interstate driving but at the same time doesn’t deviate too far so you can get back on track if you’re headed somewhere specific. Also known as MT HWY 1, it was the first state highway to be paved. Going east on I-90 from Missoula, you can start at the north end of the byway in the town of Drummond. Going west on I-90 from Butte, you can start at the south end near the town of Anaconda. We’ll start in Drummond. Continue reading →
Rob Sheppard will be leading a Photo Walk in the California Shrublands on Thursday, February 19th from 9:00am – 12:00pm as part of the 2015 NANPA Summit in San Diego. Click here to learn more!
The NANPA Summit in 2015 is in lovely, mild San Diego. The Summit is a time to see old friends, connect with new friends, be enlightened and educated in all sorts of things related to nature photography, and even see new places through the photography of the presenters.
I am going to suggest that you take the opportunity to see and photograph something unique and special about nature while you are in San Diego or at least Southern California, something that you will not find in other parts of the country – the chaparral. This is an ecosystem, a landscape, a place of nature that is as ecologically unique as the redwoods, a place filled with biodiversity, and yet a landscape that is probably one of the least photographed of any important landscape in the country.
When people think of Southern California, so often, they only think of the big cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. Southern California, they believe, is just a place for surfers, celebrities, and a lot of cars! When I moved to the Los Angeles area over 20 years ago, many of my friends and family from Minnesota thought that I was moving to a barren, urban wasteland. Continue reading →
As cold weather approaches in northern climes, a nature photographer’s thoughts often turn to warm destinations for a winter photo trip.
Everglades National Park stays warm year-round. It includes 1.5 million acres on the southernmost tip of the Florida peninsula. Established just after World War II, Everglades protects the last remnant of a precious primal wetland from the land-hungry development and agriculture that has gobbled up the rest of South Florida.
The major characteristics here are dictated by the primordial flooding and resulting overflow of Lake Okeechobee every summer. All of this water makes its way southwest as the venerable and slow-moving “River of Grass.” More a shallow sheet of water than a conventional river, the life-giving liquid has created vast areas of sedges, tropical grasses and countless raised hammocks. Tiny islands of loose land pop up from the swampy river and support small trees that take advantage of the increased drainage provided by their slightly increased elevation.
Great Blue Heron
This fertile land is home to a variety of wild creatures. First among them are many species of birds: herons, egrets, ibises, hawks, anhingas, cormorants, coots, moorhens, gallinules, pelicans and the occasional osprey and roseate spoonbill. Many of these birds can be found and photographed nearly anywhere in the park.
In the relatively dry months of winter, water levels are low, and many birds congregate in and around the ponds along the roads. Check Mrazek and Eco ponds, Florida Bay and Snake Bight for spoonbills and the western islands and sandbars off Chokoluskee for white pelicans.
Royal Palm Alligator
After the birds come the famous reptiles. While most folks are familiar with the alligators that populate this area, less well-known are the crocodiles. Both are near the limits of their ranges here, and the two comingle in the brackish waters—a unique combination of salt and fresh waters. A word of warning: While appearing slow and somewhat sluggish, these carnivores are capable of moving very quickly, so keep your distance!
Gators often hang out in the sloughs along the Anhinga Trail in the Royal Palm area, Nine Mile Lake, and along the tram roadway in Shark Valley. Crocodiles are seen infrequently. Your best bet is the waterways in the Flamingo area.
The fabled Florida panther with its severely dwindling numbers may or may not be present in the park. The likelihood of seeing one in the wild is virtually non-existent.
At any time of year, the best photography is available during the low-light hours of early morning and early evening. Winter is the dry season, so true storm light will likely be hard to come by. Still, these subtropical skies can be dramatic at any time. Some of the best spots for sunrise and early morning light are West Lake, Nine Mile Lake, Florida Bay and right along the road to Flamingo, the southernmost headquarters of the park. For late afternoon light, I favor Paurotis Pond and Eco Pond.
During your time in the Everglades, try taking the tram ride through Shark Valley and a boat tour from the visitor center in Everglades City. Explore Big Cypress National Preserve and less well-known (but worthwhile) Biscayne National Park, only a few minutes east of Homestead.
The close-by section of US highway 1 through Florida City and Homestead offers a good choice of lodgings and restaurants. Rent any regular passenger car in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami Airport if arriving by air. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen and insect repellent.
Note: There has been a recent infestation of deadly Burmese pythons in the Everglades, so exercise extreme care.
Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published freelance photographer and co-founder of Master Image Workshops. He has photographed all 59 U.S. national parks as well as most of the parks of South America using medium-format cameras. More of Jerry’s work can be seen at www.JerryGinsberg.com. Email – email@example.com.
The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!
Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.
Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.
The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country. Continue reading →
Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Now that our long languorous summer is beginning to wane, particularly in the northern states, it is time to start thinking about fall photography. Let’s try something a little different.
Cuyahoga Valley, wedged between the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is not your typical national park. Carved out of multiple semi-urban areas, several great tracts of land are now protected within the boundary of this relatively compact 33,000 acre park. Just two of the many highlights included here are wonderfully restored stretches of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River, once so badly polluted by chemical waste that it regularly caught fire.
Having been cobbled together from several disparate elements, when this park was established in 2000 it was part of an effort to bring the national park experience to more people. Located within a day’s drive of perhaps 40% of the American population, Cuyahoga Valley offers a wide variety of fun and great photography. This is particularly true around early-mid October when the woods are ablaze with brilliant autumn color. Continue reading →
Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors. Continue reading →
Rich Mountain Road, looking down into Cade’s Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN.
While summer is still with us, it’s not too early to start thinking about good spots for fall photography, particularly if you happen to live in a northerly latitude. Luckily, one of the best in America is within a day’s drive of more than one-third of the nation’s population: Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Popularly called “The Smokies,” this big park is split equally between Tennessee and North Carolina. Three gateway towns provide access: Cherokee, North Carolina, in the south; the combined area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on the northern edge; and the small, quiet village of Townsend, Tennessee, bordering the northwest corner of the Smokies. All offer a wide variety of lodgings and restaurants to suit every budget and taste with Gatlinburg being a bustling tourist mecca. Continue reading →
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Second Beach in Olympic National Park, WA.
Seattle, Washington, is surrounded by a necklace of three national parks, each wonderful in its own right: Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades.
Of these, aptly named Olympic is located in the most northwestern corner of the contiguous United States on the remote Olympic Peninsula.
Olympic National Park is high up on my list of favorites. It has earned this spot because of its abundant variety of subjects. Besides the dramatic Olympic Mountains from which this big park takes its name, there are sparkling lakes, lovely waterfalls, at least three gloriously green rainforests and, perhaps best of all, Olympic’s numerous and deservedly famous beaches. Continue reading →
Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA
Story and Photographs by Marie Read
Mono Lake is one of California’s most photogenic locations, a well-known destination for landscape photographers worldwide. Bizarre rocky spires called tufa towers punctuate the waters and shoreline of this desert sea, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada forms a spectacular backdrop to the west. The well-kept secret is that Mono Lake and its surroundings are great for bird photography as well.
Mono Lake’s alkaline, highly saline water supports no fish, but it teems with brine shrimp and alkali flies, providing food for numerous breeding birds, including California Gulls, American Avocets, and Snowy Plovers. Osprey nest atop the tufa, commuting to and from freshwater lakes nearby for fish for their young. Around the lake sagebrush scrub, pinyon-juniper, and conifer-aspen woodlands support many other birds. I’d like to share some of my favorite bird photography spots. Continue reading →