Evening in the Everglades

Friday night (July 5th) I went to the Everglades to catch a sunset and hopefully some milky way shots. What I got was much much more.

I arrived just in time to see the barely existent sunset; just a sliver of bright orange was eking out behind the trees. The afterglow was pretty, ‘pinking’ up the few clouds to the southeast. I had to snap a few photos. I do love my magenta skies!

Magenta glow of post sunset

Magenta glow of post sunset

So before it got too dark, I set up and secured my 'infinity' focus. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. I had at least an hour before dark-dark (not twilight dark-yes, there's a difference). While I waited I reveled in the fact that I had internet service so I checked my Facebook and read a few articles. I noticed flashes of light to my right (west) and behind me (north) so went to check it out up on the overlook, where I could see the sky. Huge storm clouds were doing their own sparklers. I quick checked my weather app and they were nearly 30 miles away, but seemed so close. No thunder... just light.

I debated and debated and decided to keep the wide angle lens on the camera rather than switch to a longer lens, and shoot what’s left of the lightning. I will come to regret this decision. I was amazed at all of the electricity on display. My first set up was peeking through quite a bit of tree branches so I moved up to a little be better of a clearing. Grabbed a few more images, and moved again to face north at the other storm cloud.

Lightning and step-leaders.

Lightning and step-leaders.

There were no trees blocking my view here. Oh my… the lightning was fantastic! I snapped away and even vocally congratulated the cloud for the awesome display! As if it was listening to me. lol But I kept wishing I had put that 70-200mm lens on. I didn’t want to leave for fear of missing anything good. Getting good lightning is rare. Oh well… that’s what cropping is for. Nobody wants lightning prints anyway. (So I keep telling myself.)

North facing storm cell with lightning and step-leaders.

North facing storm cell with lightning and step-leaders.

Love this, beautiful clouds and multiple lighting strikes.

Love this, beautiful clouds and multiple lighting strikes.

After about 15 minutes the lightning was waning, so I went back to my original spot on the boardwalk to wait another 15 minutes for nightfall. I could have packed up and went home and been very satisfied. But… I didn’t. I started shooting and looking for the milky way. Re-composed and took a few more and had to wait some more. I was pretty close to the city and the lights were overpowering the milky way. I had to wait some more. After 10pm, the lights dimmed some and it was by now absolute night so I tried to grab proper exposure and decided to run my camera for a timelapse. Less than an hour later I would have my 200 shots and then I would go home.

Milky way over the boardwalk.

Milky way over the boardwalk.

As I sat while the remote shutter did the work, I just listened… the everglades are just teeming with wildlife. The noise becomes deafening. I’m guessing birds, thousands of loud birds and insects, a gator here and there, frogs, you name it. It was making noise. I decided to record it on my iPhone’s recorder. I hope to use it in my timelapse video. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it to work.

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As I waited I heard and then saw what I DON’T like to hear, vehicles. It’s so quiet out here you can hear vehicles about as soon as they turn down the road. Closer and closer it came, then there it was… headlights on my trees in front of me. Ugh… why oh why! Finally the lights turned the corner but I could hear the vehicle. Lights were shining on the trees on the other side of the parking lot. Probably not making it into my shot, but I could see it. Then more cars came. These were those whinny cars, those cars that are about 4 feet long and about 2 inches from the ground. I think to myself, what are these cars (and people who drive them) doing out here in the dark? I can guarantee you it was not to view mother nature’s wonder. Then I heard it, the whirling whining of their engines, one then the other further up the road. They were racing! Who comes to the Everglades to race cars?! After that I didn’t hear anything so I stayed. As soon as the 200 images were shot, I recomposed and took a few more and packed it in. There was no one in the parking lot. Its amazing the people that come in and leave in the dark. Anyway, nearing the main park road I come across a big blue pick up, and behind it, the 2 little go-fast whining cars. Back to race I suppose. I’m just glad I was on my way out. I wish the park service would spend more money and get these rangers on duty all night. I think if these people would have to pay to get in at 10pm they might think twice. Anyway… complaint over.

So enjoy my pics. Hopefully I can get the video done before the subscription to the software service is up. If you see it, you’ll know.

April in Paris...

Back in April I took the trip of a lifetime. I had been planning this trip for over three years. I had maps, charts, spreadsheets, notes, and calendars all laid out in my files. I found great travel credit cards that got me, for all intents and purposes, a free flight, non stop to CDG in Paris from Miami. I scoped out for months the apartment rental websites; AirBnB, VRBO, Homeaway, etc. and found myself a cute little apartment on the 2nd floor in a great neighborhood - the 6th Arrondissement or neighborhood called Saint Germain Des Prés, Odéon Quarter to be exact. It was just a block or so from the main drag of Boulevard Saint-Germain and a few blocks north of the Luxembourg Gardens.

I even found virtual communities on Facebook and YouTube that I followed. Daily and weekly I watched vlogs and live Paris “walks” to get a feel for what I was going to experience. It was going to be glorious! I was going alone. Solo travel is the ‘in’ thing now I guess. And without a partner that was willing to go when and where I wanted, who also had the funds and time to do so, I was stuck doing the ‘in’ thing. I went alone. I was fine with that. I was in very good company! LOL Me and my Nikons would be just fine.

In addition to all the above, I had a detailed map of places I wanted to photograph. I was going to get up early, ride the subway and buses to these awesome locations and take the most beautiful photographs. Sunrise, sunset, and all times in between.

The reality was, I was not prepared for the activity levels required, at all. I knew I should have prepared more but I let that slide. Once I was out and about, I had no problems. It was actually getting out that was my problem. My cute little apartment was uncomfortable to say the least. My bed was basically on the floor. No box spring, it was a bed in a drawer, or rather a mattress in a drawer. The rest of the ‘furniture’ while very cute, was not conducive to relaxation when it was most needed. After a long day of walking and moving more than I have in YEARS, I wanted a place I could rest up to get back and do it again the next day.

My reality was I rarely moved before 10 or 11am. Maybe it was jetlag. Maybe it was a bad start to the trip when the Notre Dame nearly was destroyed my 2nd day there. Maybe I was just too pooped to get up any earlier! Who knows.

But, besides being pooped, and the Paris drivers being crazy and a little suicidal, and my creaky old knees not wanting to traverse any more stairs than was necessary, I DID have a good time!

April 14th (night of the 13th back home)

My first day there… flight. My friend picked me up and took me to MIA so I didn’t have to worry about driving or getting an Uber. Very nice of her! I arrived in plenty of time. I checked my bag and towed the rest behind me. I had my suitcase, my rolling camera case, and I used my ‘daytime camera case’ as a personal item as it was bigger than my purse.

Air France is wonderful! I splurged the night before and upgraded to a better class of seat than I was originally booked for. It cost me more, but it was money well spent. I would have been miserable in regular coach. The food was quite good and elegant for a flight. No ‘crackers or peanuts’ here. Full meal with dessert AND a cheese course. Guess where the cheese came from… ha! Wisconsin! I laughed at that.

After dinner I watched a movie. Why not… A Star is Born'… Again. By the time I finished, they turned down all the lights and so I popped a melatonin and tried to go to sleep. I slept here and there but unfortunately, the woman in front of me had a baby and a young toddler. They weren’t sleeping and neither was I.

But the flight was good, no hiccups, no scary bits. Seemed as if everyone on the plane was Parisian and going home. We landed around 10ish Paris time. I walked and walked and walked for what seemed like miles to get to customs or immigration or whatever. I just followed everyone else. Smiled and nodded and just handed anyone who asked my passport. No issues. After all that walking in my pretty boots, my feet were in some kind of pain. It would appear these boots weren’t made for walking. Probably should have worn my tennis shoes but I thought I’d be able to get in and out of the boots easier. Oh well. I kept walking and found the taxi area. I did what I learned and said a forceful ‘NON’ to the unregulated drivers pawning for customers just outside of the taxi stand.

The taxi ride in was nice. We went around the northern périphérique and I could see the domes of the Sacre Coeur. I was so excited! Due to the Paris marathon being run that morning, we had a bit of traffic to navigate. The driver headed in near Porte Maillot, on to the street which is essentially the back side of Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe. Oooh it was sooooo cool! Then I spotted the Eiffel tower! I had all I could do to NOT stick my head out the window and look like a dog with his tongue hanging out! We crossed the river at the Place de la Concorde and then on to the Bd Saint Germain. I kind of knew where he was going. I had seen these streets countless times on my Google Maps. It was so nice. And the weather couldn’t have been better. About 60 degrees and sunny!

My driver dropped me off in front of my home base for the next 2 weeks and I waited. And waited. And waited. I had texted the apartment manager when I left the airport. He knew when my plane was going to arrive. I received no answer. Let me tell you, I had some pretty frightening thoughts standing there. And finally, finally someone showed up. Not who I expected, but a stand in.

Apparently my guy couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, this guy didn’t speak much English. He showed me the apartment, how to work some things, much I didn’t get because he didn’t speak English! I said it was ok, that I’d figure it out. Haaahaa, yeah. Famous last words. But, he said I’d have to come back because the cleaning woman was due any minute and she’d be in there until 4pm. Fine I said. I’ll come back then. So I stowed my stuff in the closet, grabbed my D4 and 50mm lens, and went flânerie (for a stroll)!

I just had to walk down the street to the Eglise (church) of Saint Sulpice, the same as my street name. It is the 2nd largest church in the city, behind the Notre-Dame. I walked around the square in front of the church. Snapped shots of the fountain with the meanest lions in the city! I walked back around the round about way back to my apartment. My feet were still sore so I decided to try my French at the nearest cafe to the apartment. Le Hibou. I had about an hour and a half left to kill. Grab some café creme and check Facebook and watch the rest of the world go by. I was in Paris after all.

Oh the coffee was excellent! I’m not much for hot coffee, not much for hot drinks at all matter of fact, but I watched the tour guide on Facebook and that was his drink of choice, so I made it mine too. I took a sip, needed sucar for sure. But only one sleeve. Mmmmm, very good and not so freekin’ hot that you burn yourself. No, this was just right, as if Goldilocks had ordered it herself! And there I sat. And I ordered another one. I must have sat there for about an hour. I asked for ‘l'addition’ and 2 coffee’s came to €12.60 holy moly! I guess I wouldn’t be drinking many coffees here.

So I walked down one of the side streets again. Walked up to the Odéon theatre and then back. The cleaning woman had to be gone by now. And she was. I decided to settle in and relax a bit. Figure out the lay of the apartment. I realized what some of the commenters had meant about the bed. Yeah, this was going to get interesting. I pulled out my laptop and set it up and went to download my images from earlier and realized I left my card reader (along with my bright shiny new travel tripod) at home. Grrrrr, I would be on a mission the next day for sure. So I checked emails from work and wished my Mamma a very happy birthday.

Then it was time for dinner. Where to eat?! I hadn’t eaten since the airplane breakfast and was hungry! So I decided to try the place next to Le Hibou, the Breizh Café Odéon and had a galette which is basically a savory crepe. Ham and cheese with an egg! Oh my god was it good! Of course I had a crepe for dessert. Salted caramel crepe, was ok. Wasn’t as crispy as my galette. But I enjoyed my first real meal in Paris. The people not so much. I guess it’s true. They really aren’t that friendly. Polite, yes, but not friendly. We American’s are just too eager to please I guess. That was just fine. I’d figure it out eventually.

I wanted to walk some more in the evening with all the twinkly lights, but I was beat. It was nearly 10pm so I went back to my apartment and went to see if there was anything on TV I could watch while I fell asleep. Great first day in Paris. Its not Disney Land, it’s definitely not like anywhere here in America, maybe New York, but it wasn’t half bad. I had a busy day coming up so I went to bed. And sleep I did!

Here’s a link to my Facebook page where I documented all of my travels daily. I’m not going to post all the photos here. Would be too long.


Paris, Day 1 - April 14th

Sailing away to Key Largo... (Yep, again)

Last weekend the South Florida National Parks Camera Club had another field trip to Key Largo for the sunset. This time we went to Snook’s Bayside and wow, the sunset was spectacular. It was the quintessential ‘big red ball’ sunset. The only disappointment was that there were WAY too many people there. I wasn’t able to move about like I would have liked to capture other compositions. Lots of tourists taking selfies, brides to be, moms to be, you name it, they were there. And they didn’t give one crap about those of us with big cameras and tripods. Can’t blame them I guess. Note to self, go down on a weeknight.

I got a room at the Key Largo Inn. Wasn’t a top rated motel for sure, but it did what I needed. It was nicely decorated, although the structure was old, and wooden, the AC worked very well and the bed was comfortable. TV had my Law and Order (which after I cut the cable cord, I never watch) so what did I care?! I was only there to sleep. I’ll definitely stay there again to save some $$. Oh, and it had a pool and was close to all the Key Largo had to offer.

Sunset was beautiful. I tried shooting something other than the big red ball, but conditions didn’t lend itself to great conditions there. Not bad, but not what I expected.

Snook’s Bayside, from the jetty.

From the jetty I snapped this one. Very fun place, albeit a bit pricey. But hey, it’s the keys!

About 15 minutes before sunset, docks.

And here’s the proverbial “big red ball, sinking in the water…” Thanks Kenny…

Sun reflecting on the side of the catamaran.

I was hoping for some more sun and color reflection in the clouds, but it just never happened.

Good night ‘big red ball’

My favorite shot. Sun setting with the sailboats and the sky a beautiful pink/orange hue. Can’t get much better than that!

After the sun set I waited around for something spectacular but it didn’t really top what I had just seen. I shot a few more, but nothing worth of showing here.

Most of us went in and had dinner. Truffled lobster mac and cheese was awesome! I even had a cold beer, nothing too fancy, nothing better than Milwaukee’s finest. LOL Hey, it’s what I know.

And that was it! I was going to get early Sunday and shoot a sunrise from a strange location, but like the Key Largo trip from July, it wasn’t in the cards. I woke early, eyes burning from tired, and said, naaaaahhhhh, and back to bed I went. It was probably a beautiful sunrise, but I had a beautiful couple of hours more sleep. And I can always come back for sunrise.

Until next time…. (Great weekend coming up, full of photo ops!)