One of my favorite places to photograph in the Fort Myers, Florida area is Six Mile Cypress Slough. So much that I recently started teaching photography classes there. The boardwalk that takes you though the slough is easily accessible and is very photography friendly. Some of the places that I visit don’t like tripods for liability reasons and that makes sense. However, at this venue as long you use some common sense, no one will bother you. A couple of my photography students are tour guides and naturalists for the slough, and explained how the slough changes as we walked along so we all learned something. The admission is free; the only fee is a parking fee. It’s $1.00 per hour up to $5.00 for the day. If you have never been there before I would recommend paying the daily rate so you can take the time to visit the education center and tour the boardwalk. They also have plenty of places to eat lunch at so pack a picnic basket. This is also one of the few places that has photo blinds set up so you can sit, relax and photograph some wildlife. It’s like Christmas (or what ever you celebrate), every time you go as I have seen many different kinds of critters over the years. This is also one of those locations that you can shoot landscapes one day, birds another and so on. Here are a few photos that I took awhile back. Be sure to click on the photos to see the full size version.
I came across these two at the beginning of my walk. Not being the bashful type, I figured if anyone asked if I have photos of grasshoppers mating, I could honestly answer, “Yes”. After a few test shots, I realized that my depth of field was limited since I was using a telephoto lens. This was taken with my trusty 18mm-200mm lens. Since I was racked all they way out at 200mm on these guys, I had to increase my f-stop to f/16. This gave me enough depth of field to get enough sharpness from front to back on the grasshoppers. The next issue that I had was the light. Granted I was in nice soft light, but I wanted to get their colors to pop. All I had with me was my pop up flash that’s on the camera. Usually, this doesn’t give me the results that I want, but there are times when you use what you have with you. Since I was at f/16 I set my flash power to nuclear mode. I recomposed the shot and took another one. In the photo above you can see the catch lights of the flash in the grasshopper’s eyes.
More and more, I’m getting back into black and white. Color is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are times where the simplicity of a black and white photo will speak volumes over its color cousin. One of the biggest questions that I get is, “How do I shoot in black and white?” This is my suggestion, always shoot in color and convert the photos on the computer later. This way if you ever want to use the color version for something, you will have it. If you shoot in monochrome mode, the camera doesn’t keep any of the color information.
At one of the photo blinds, there was an Anhinga sitting on a branch resting. Those of you who read the blog regularly should be proud and you know I don’t shoot a lot of birds, but I try my best when the opportunity presents itself. It was an overcast day and when the light is soft on these days, it’s pretty much impossible to take a bad photo, as there aren’t any harsh highlights or shadows to contend with. This fellow didn’t seem to mind me as I spent about twenty minutes photographing him. I think he is part pig as he was quite the ham.
I’m from upstate New York and where I come from these are called stumps, however as I soon found out after moving here, these are called “knees”. We got into a discussion of the function of these the other day and it was determined that they are more for supporting the tree than water. I was told that Cypress trees don’t blow down to easily and in Florida hurricanes are a yearly threat. Some of the Cypress trees that I have seen in Florida are hundreds of years old and they have stood the test of time. I felt that black and white would give this photo more emotion versus the color version.
As I was making my way around the boardwalk, I ran into this guy. He was trying to make his way up the log. He would try for a while then rest and continue on. The poor thing needs an elevator to get to the top!
So, if there are “Cypress Knees”, this would make sense that this would be Cypress toes. This kind of reminds me of my foot, must be time for a pedicure! Again, this is a brownish tree; I loved all of the texture and the soft lighting. Converting this to black and white really helps show off the bark of the tree. Folks who see my black and whites or who take one of my classes always ask, “How do you get that black and white look?” In three words, Silver Efex Pro, I have talked about it before on the blog but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. I love this plug in for Photoshop as it makes me look really good in a short amount of time.
One of the best things about the slough is that it’s quiet. If you are looking to get a way for a little while, this is the place to go. I have seen other Florida landscapes photographed from well-known photographers and wanted to see what I could do. It was a calm, quite and peaceful day.
There you have it, another adventure in the books. If you have family visiting and you are looking for something affordable and will give you the opportunity to take some photos, give this place a try. Every time I go I find something new to discover and best of all take a break from being plugged in. If you haven’t tried your hand at black and white, give it a go and see what happens. If you start playing around with black and white, you’ll soon be able to “see” in black and white and what will work best. I wish you all the best.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean