Last week I had the opportunity to be taken to a new place. A photo buddy of mine told me to get in the truck, sit down, shut up and drive. This might sound like a stick up for all of my precious Nikon gear, however it was refreshing to be on an uncharted course known to me. He knew the way and all I had to do was to try and not get either rear or front ended with all of our “visiting guests” for the winter season.
I was surprised, 20 minutes from our house we were already there. We came around a corner on a busy highway and I was told to pull off on a dirt road. I made a sharp turn just like Bo and Luke Duke driving the General Lee. Since we don’t get rain in Florida during the winter months, dust is everywhere. We started down this road that was quite neglected. It was scalloped and if you went to fast, it would have rattled the fillings out of your teeth. I recommend if you wear dentures, take them out and put them in the glove box until you get to the parking lot. You can go much faster. This is one of those times that I’m glad that we have an Expedition. This was rough territory and I’m not sure if one of those delicate little cars would fair well in these conditions. A mile down the road, our red truck was now white from all the dust, but no matter this was going to be an adventure.
We came to the main parking lot, and there was plenty of parking. We had arrived at the Deer Prairie Creek Preserve in North Port, Florida. We got out and grabbed our gear. Having never been to this place before, I like to travel light. I fitted my camera with an 18mm-200mm lens and I also brought along my tripod. Looking around there was a lake in front of us where some folks were fishing and there was also a port-a-let so we weren’t totally out of civilization. Our guide showed me the map of the park. As you might has gathered from the title of the post, the park is 6,400 acres with over 60 miles of trails. Ugh, glad I brought my walking shoes! After finding the “You are here” star, we set out a course to see what we could find. On our way to the trail, we passed some covered picnic tables and a dock that looked like it was in need of repair.
We just started down the trail and all of the sudden I stopped in my tracks. I looked up and I saw a clump of dead trees. Some might be thinking, “What is so great about dead trees?” Every so often, I like to dive into a new facet of photography. My next area that I’m studying is black and white photography. Black and white photos are coming back and if they are done right, I think that they can be more compelling than color photos. Also, since we haven’t got rain since September, everything is a lovely tan and brown color. Turning these scenes into black and white will hide the fact that there is no color to begin with and I also thought for some of these landscape photos it would be better suited.
Staring at this scene, I wanted to get the trees against the blue sky. Being 6’4”, this was not going to happen easily. No sweat, this meant getting lower to the ground, much lower. I laid on my side and pointed the camera up. Being out in the “wilderness” I had thoughts of snakes or scorpions crawling up my pants while I was trying to concentrate on getting the shot. Yes, come to Florida, we have all kinds of critters that will be at the state line to greet you. When I lived in upstate New York, all I really noticed was the occasional Daddy Long Legs going by. After shifting around, I found a composition I like and I took the shot.
We continued on and we came to a clearing. There was “Florida” pine trees for miles. The pine trees here look like someone forgot to put conditioner on their needles after a rainstorm. They go all over the place, unlike the ones in the northern states that have shorter needles and the tree is more of an A shape. I ran into the bushes and started looking through the viewfinder to see what I could come up with. I tried some with a wide-angle setting and it just wasn’t working for me. I decided to try and zoom in on just a few to see how that would look. I was more pleased with the composition that I was getting. After a couple of test shots this is what I came up with.
After photographing this scene, I turned around and all of the sudden, I couldn’t move. Apparently in my haste to get in and get a photo, I missed seeing this vine thing with pointy needles. I has some how managed to get this vine wrapped around my ankles. I kindly asked if my photo buddy had a knife. Within seconds, he produced a Crocodile Dundee knife that would have made a ninja think twice. I simply said, “That should work.” With a flick of his wrist I was free. I guess I owe him for saving my life. I now have such a knife of my shopping list. If for nothing else, if I want to get to the apples at the grocery store, I can pull that out and start peeling one to sample. This should clear the area quite quickly.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we didn’t feel like getting locked in. We were at a crossroads, I felt like Dorothy asking the scarecrow which way to take. However, before we turned back, I noticed one of the trails looked as if just had been mowed and more importantly, this was a great vanishing point shot. I was thinking that I wanted to lead the viewer eye in with the grass road to the vanishing point of the photograph. As I looked through the viewfinder, I wasn’t getting the angle that I wanted. You guessed it, back on the ground. I framed it so that the vanishing point was in the upper third to keep the rule of thirds in play as I wanted to emphasize the grass road, as the sky really wasn’t that impressive in that direction.
All in all, it was a great day. We all got some great photos and no one got killed. As far as the processing goes, I used Photoshop to open the photos and I let my Nik filters take over. I added some contrast using their “Pro Contrast” filter. Lastly, I used their award winning Silver Efex Pro to do the black and white conversion. This makes it really easy and within a few seconds, I can create a very dramatic looking photo.
If you live in the area, check this place out. It’s free and if you are into landscapes or wildlife photography, you will find limitless possibilities waiting for you.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean