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.