Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mangrove Wilderness at the Everglades

The Everglades is where swamp, marshland, birds, mangrove, alligators and crocodiles are. So when we visited there during our winter vacation, we looked forward to seeing alligators and crocodiles at their natural habitats, and grand Egrets sitting on top of Cypress trees, great heron standing at water's edge, manatees gently swimming in shallow water  ....

Where you go to look for them, and where they happen like to go that particular time dictates whether you see them or not!

The mangrove wilderness boat tour took us into the dense swamp and mangrove part of the Everglades where water is brackish, and mangroves are dense At the boat lunch area, a brown pelican lazily rested on top of post, nearby a grey heron patiently standing in the shallow water waiting fishes to swim by. As the captain sped up in the water way in search of dolphins, we saw many birds along the way.

As we made a few turns, we got into a Egrets paradise, hundreds of Egrets standing along the edge of mangrove As we were approaching mangrove formed tunnels to look for alligators,  and the air stunk big time. We did not see any alligators there, but the egrets flying in front of our boat was really exhilarating! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Everglades - by Nicholas

Two Alligators Swimming 
The wetlands and marshes of the Everglades help define the Everglades. Thus, water also plays an important role in the Everglades. These are the elements that are most well-known about this national treasure. However, one must keep in mind, like most other national parks, the park features an assortment of wildlife, both rare and rather common. For one, the Everglades are the only place in the United States with both American alligators and American crocodiles. But this is not all the park has to offer. Manatees, dolphins, panthers, coral reefs, birds, an abundance of fish, and even sharks call the Everglades home. 

A Crocodile by Florida Bay
When we visited Everglades National Park during winter break, not only did we find the lush scenery in sub-tropical Southern Florida, we were fascinated by the amount of wildlife this park supported. While the sights may not be as grand as other parks (although some would disagree with me on this), it is, for the most part, true. There are no geysers, like Yellowstone, no towering mountains, like Yosemite. Countless black, white, and red mangroves do get boring sometimes. However, there is no doubt in my mind that the Everglades are equally as spectacular. It is because the main attractions are so elusive and rare, that seeing one gives such a thrill, such excitement (although not quite as much with crocodiles and alligators). When viewing such an animal up close in the wilderness for the first time, you feel elation beyond that of seeing a mountain, which is constant and unwavering. The hunt begins to see these amazing creatures. Seemingly simple acts (for the animals), such as crocodiles eating, ospreys snatching fish out of the water, become what you have come to look for. The scenery isn't half-bad either. Mangrove islands, and the blue-green ocean outside, and the swamps, filled with mangroves within. It is then when you realize, the Everglades are a national treasure, along with all other national parks. The wilderness and beauty deserve to be protected and preserved so that both we and future generations will be able to enjoy the parks as I did and have done. That is why I love the Everglades and its inhabitants. The wilderness truly is amazing.

The Alligator just swallowed a fish

Feeding on a catch at home

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lights at Florida Keys - by Justin

Light is a fickle thing. It radiates across the world, bending and splitting as it passes through the air. It accents and fades away colors. We thrive in both the presence and absence of light. Photography is all about capturing light, or the absence of it.

Sunset and sunrises are some of the best occasions to capture the contrast of light and dark. And the Florida Keys provide a great opportunity to witness the power of both.

Rarely anyone photographs the sunrise on vacation. That requires waking up early, for crying out loud! But that makes it all the more special. The silence, save for the whispers of the wind and the crashing of waves, embraced me as I walked outside early one morning to watch the sunrise. In the complex where we were staying, there was a small peninsula that stretched out into the Atlantic. The ocean acted as a choppy mirror of the pre-dawn sky filled with gray clouds tinted a rosy pink.

To my surprise, I found a few people sitting on the bench at the end of the peninsula. “With this cloud coverage, you probably won’t be able to get a shot of the sunrise,” one remarked. I sadly acknowledged this as the “official” sunrise time came and went. Still, I could get a few shots of the damped lighting and how it played out on the peninsula. I snapped a few pictures when suddenly the cloud coverage shifted and the sun peeked through. Its golden rays dappled the water in front of me as I raised my camera up to snap a few pictures.

An image of white sand beaches, blue sky and white clouds, and azure waters typically comes to mind when Florida is mentioned. This scene was present at many of the stops we made along the way from Key Largo to Key West that day.

The ball of fire had traveled across the sky by the time we reached Key West. As it approached the western horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, we wandered around the tourist city that made up the island. All sorts of street performers lined the piers, from acrobats and fortune tellers to jugglers and flautists. I wandered from act to act as I waited for the sun to lower itself further in the sky. The sky looked like it was on fire, the few clouds tinted an orange-red. I took a seat on the edge of the dock, camera at

the ready, as I watched birds and boats swoop across the harbor, silhouetted by the sun behind it. I snapped away as the sun dropped into the water, leaving behind a canvas full of colors.

Strangely, there are no lights that illuminate Highway 1 in the keys save for the headlights of the cars. As we stopped for dinner, a quick glance up showed a beautiful starry night. The absence of one light sometimes leads to the beauty of another.