Photographing Corkscrew Swamp – Naples, Florida

The weather here in Florida seems to turn in a flash. One day it’s winter with cool dry breezes, the next day summer is here with hot humid air that makes you rethink about moving back to New York. As the days count down to summer, I try and visit most of the outdoor places before the heat of summer rears its ugly head. I had heard of a place for quite some time but never had the chance to go there. We made an appoint to carve out a day to visit Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. I have been to other swamps and sloughs in the area, however everyone was telling me that this was the place to be. I’m always up for an adventure and see what kind of trouble I can get into.

The wife and I pile into the car and make sure that the tank is full of fuel. It’s about a 90 minute trip to Naples from Port Charlotte. The camera gear was secured and off we went. Heading south on I-75 and passing all of the multimillion dollar gated communities is always fun, I always ask the same question though, “What did these folks do to get here?” When I photographed some of the elite homes in Punta Gorda Isles last year I asked all of the homeowners what they did for a career. Most of them were high-level CEOs for large companies and other owned rather large corporations. This is the point where I’m listening for the answer that I’m hoping for, which is, “I was a photographer!” Hummm, seems that this profession doesn’t pay unless you are appointed by the White House to photograph the President! Nonetheless, I’m still going to press on and keep eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! We came across a big brown sign that told us where to turn to head towards the swamp. All of the sudden in five minutes we were in the back country of Florida. As I was looking around I could see remnants of mobile homes that looks as if they kind of made it though the last hurricane, but were still livable. Then I had a flash back, I looked at my wife who was driving and I told her if either one of us heard banjo music; she was to immediately slam the gas pedal to the floor. After what seemed all day, we finally arrived and found a place to park. It was amazing to see this oasis out in the middle of nowhere.

I fitted the camera with a 80mm-400mm and I took my 18mm-200mm as a backup in a backpack with some cards and other odds and ends. We headed into the main building and I was impressed with how nice it was considering we just had come through banjoland. We paid the $12 bucks each and we were shown where to start our adventure. We followed a couple out and we were about ten feet apart. Those of you who have read these posts before know what’s coming next. We are chatting along when all of the sudden a limb of a pine tree falls right in front of the couple that was in front of us. We’re all standing there like idiots staring at the limb and then I get my senses back and ask the folks if they are ok. All is well and I jokingly said that maybe the photographer’s Gods are trying to tell me something. We walked for quite a ways with no action, birds, animals, bugs, flowers or hot dog stands. There was a big sign saying that we had to silence out cell phones and walk quietly. My wife and I love a great joke, but walk quietly? I guess they didn’t realize that people are made in my size. We silence the cell phones and I try my best to keep my 400lbs of frame “quiet”.

All of the sudden in a grassy meadow we were greeted with some gentle furry friends.

 A deer is passing through a open plain in Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.Oh Deer – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There was a family of five off in the distance that was coming out into the clearing to get some food. For once in my life there was an animal coming towards me instead of away from me! With the 400mm lens I was able to fill the frame with the deer. Everyone was quiet and watched as the deer did their thing. I guess there is something to this keep quiet thing.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this "Lone Tree" at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida.The Lone Tree – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I love “lone tree” photos, you just can’t go wrong. I’m always on the lookout for these types of photos. Granted the tree has some friends in the background so it’s not as “lone” as I would like, but hey what are you going to do? This scene was pretty blah in color, but once I converted to black and white it started to gain my interest. I felt sorry for this tree as it looks like it lost all of its leaves. I guess it’s just waiting for Charlie Brown to come along and take it back for the Christmas play!

As we continued on our way, we finally stared to see some flowers.

 Spencer Pullen photographed this purple flower at Corkscrew swamp in Naples, Florida.Purple Swamp Flower – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

I hope you appreciate my titles they are very scientific. I’m sure that someone out there will know what these are and will let us know in the comment section. This is some kind of special flower that grows in swamps. I was in the right place as the background was in deep shade but the flower itself was in full sun so this made the flower jump off the background. If you look closely, you can see the pollen falling off the flower, as it was moving around in the breeze.

Black and white fern photographed by Spencer Pullen at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. The Turn Of The Fern – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

There were ferns everywhere. These guys were leafy green and full of texture. I have enough photos of ferns to start a nursery so I was looking to do something different with these. Lighting is always key, but I was more interested in the texture that was on the individual leaves themselves. This was a pretty easy shot, I shoot in manual mode and I used the boardwalk as my tripod. This would have been a great macro shot if I had that lens with me. Again, since I’m looking at texture I’m all about black and white.

 Night Blue Heron posing at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.Night Blue Heron – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

After we walked, and walked, and walked…you get the picture, we came upon a pond that was the only wet spot left in the “swamp”. As I was walking along, the boards were making a creaking sound. Sure enough, an “official” looking person with an Audubon vest came over and asked if I could walk more quietly. Not to insult this person’s intelligence, as I mentioned before, I have an SUV style of body, I just said, “I’ll see what I can do.” I looked at my wife and asked, “Do you have any pillows?” She looked at me kind of funny and asked why. I replied, “Apparently I need to walk softer and I could strap the pillows to my feet and I could quietly brisk along the boardwalk and do a rendition of Swan Lake as I exit.” As you could tell, I was one of their “popular” guests. Anyway, they had some scopes set up for viewing some of the birds that were there. This Night Heron was in full sun so I made sure to watch my exposure on the highlights. As I have stated on other posts, I’m not a bird photographer, but I do know light. I sat there and waited for the bird to tilt his head into the sunlight. This made his eye light up like a Christmas tree. At that moment, I pressed the shutter and grabbed this photo.

 Spencer Pullen photographs this Tricolored Heron at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida.Tricolored Heron (I Think) – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

They had a scope set up on this little fellow as well. At first I didn’t see him but there he was creeping out of the foliage on a stick waiting for a fish. Same deal here, I saw that he had yellow eyes. I knew once the light hits these just right that they would light up. As we were shooting he heard something and started to raise his head and look around. This made him look tall dark and handsome!

 An egret waits in the trees at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. Photographed by Spencer Pullen.Egret – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Lastly, in the trees was an Egret. He was just hanging out with the other birds waiting to see where all of the fish were. In this photo, he is lit from the side, which shows great dimension, however this also means shadows. All I had with me was my pop up flash. I’m standing there with the “officials” around that I’m already on their watched list so I have to be careful. When they were walking back down the boardwalk, I popped up my flash and set it to full power and let er’ rip. It was enough to keep the shadows going black.

 Catepillar looking for dinner at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, Florida. Taken by Spencer Pullen.Spiny Caterpillar – Spencer Pullen © 2013 All Rights Reserved

It was time for us to head toward the exit of the boardwalk as it was starting to near closing time. On out way out I spotted this caterpillar. He was very photogenic and was posing. It looked as if he was helping himself to some of the plants around for dinner. I wonder what butterfly he will become.

At the end of the day, we were exhausted and I came home with a few keepers. The boardwalk goes on for miles and trying to walk quietly, well that’s another story. I would say if you are really into birds and Audubon, this is the place for you. Granted it’s amazing to see how the landscape changes as you walk along. I suppose if you go at the right time when birds are nesting you may see more that we did. Just make sure you have a full tank of gas and set the place in your GPS and you’ll do fine.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Gorgeous, thanks, Helene Haugen

  2. I pass by that brown sign every trip to Miami and back and tell myself I’ll visit one day! Thanks for doing the scout work so I know what to expect. I think you’re getting the hang of that bird photography stuff! LOL

  3. And by the way…that’s a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar. It becomes a bright orange butterfly with white spots. Very pretty.

    • Spencer

      Thanks for identifying. As you can tell, I’m a little dumb when it comes to names! Thanks…


  4. I especially like the purple swamp flower with the falling pollen. Whatever it’s official name, purple swamp flower does it for me. Nice shots. PS: I like my Canon S95. Perfect size for my purse and lots of options I am still trying to figure out.

    • Spencer

      That’s great! I look forward to see you new toy when we get together next time. Thanks…


  5. Loved looking at your pictures ……….. And your commentary about trying to walk “softly” was quite funny and entertaining. Brightened my day. Keep up the funny quips!
    P.S. photos were great too!!!!!!
    Joyce, see you Wed

  6. I loved reading about your adventure. I’ve been there twice. Bird photos are very very good. Keep the post coming.
    Linda O.

  7. I feel like I’ve been to the Corkscrew Swamp! Great photos and love the Egret!

  8. love your blog and really love the bird photos. Also loving your class. See you Wed. Jeanne

  9. Great bird shots Spencer. I enjoy Corkscrew Swamp as well. Enjoyed the post.

  10. Hey Spencer!

    Your “blue” heron is probably a black-crowned night heron.

    I believe your “tricolor” is actually a little green heron, possibly immature/juvenile. Usually, we see them all hunched up and small, so it’s a surprise to see that they actually do have necks. If you want to see a little green in his breeding colors, check my page:

    LOVE the great egret’s plummage – nice shot!

    Hope to be able to get back to one of your classes in the fall.

    – Erin

    • Spencer

      Thanks for the input. Glad someone has a clue on these birds! Thanks for posting the comment…


  11. Love, love your narrative. We made the trip several months ago. It seems that what is available for viewing varies vastly.

  12. I was hoping someone would identify that purple flower. I’m out in the swamp in Central Florida and trying to figure out what that purple flower is

    • Spencer

      Thanks for coming to the blog! It’s a purple iris. They are very beautiful! Thanks again!

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