Musings Of A Fellow Adventurer…Florida

Susan Akitt

 

Several years ago I had the pleasure of taking one of Laurie’s workshops, in Tampa.  I had enjoyed taking pictures over the years, having been a fan of photography from the time that I was given my first “Brownie” camera!  I improved, as did my cameras.  I took pictures on vacations and of special events but, it wasn’t until I began photographing birds with Laurie that I truly fell in love with photography.  First, because I loved the subjects – so many beautiful birds; and, second, because I learned how to take beautiful photographs.  I had never shot pictures of birds before.  Now, four years later, they are still my favorite subjects and I only wish that I could spend more time in their world…

Great Egret

 

Earlier this year I contacted Laurie to ask if she ever had time to give private lessons.  It’s difficult for me to get away and I hoped that I might get another chance to learn from her.  I was so excited when she wrote to say she was going to be in Florida in late June and she’d be able to get together with me afterwards.  We set the dates and I made a very long list of things I wanted to try and cover.  The best laid plans…

 

Here in south Florida we haven’t had much rain for the past six months – in fact, almost no rain at all.  Well, the day before Laurie arrived we had a big storm.  The first day Laurie and I met to shoot – we had a big storm.  The next day – we had a big storm!  We did manage to go out a few times but, instead of taking pictures, we spent most of the time running for cover while soaking wet.  Still, the times we couldn’t be out shooting, Laurie was teaching me a better workflow; how she sets her in-camera menus – and why; and she was critiquing my pictures to help me improve my ratio of “keepers”.  My biggest problems were in losing focus and framing the subject.  Laurie both showed and explained to me how to fix those problems (and others) though I didn’t really get a chance to practice — until today…

Snowy Egret

 

Late this afternoon, once again Laurie checked Radar Scope on her iPhone to see if there would be break in the storm. YES!  So Laurie, my friend, Tim, and I headed out – though just to a large pond behind the condos in my neighborhood.  (After our past experiences we weren’t venturing far from cover!)  What a wonderful time we all had.  In just two hours we photographed: two Ospreys; a Great Blue Heron; a Great Egret; a Snowy Egret; a juvenile Little Blue Heron; and White Ibis.  We saw Moor Hens, an alligator, a vulture and more common birds.  As dusk settled we enjoyed a magnificent sunset with what Laurie called “reverse God beams”.  I’ll leave it to Laurie to explain and share one of her pictures.  We took pictures of the moon.  Laurie filmed one of the Osprey as it ate a fish we had seen it catch.  We all shot pictures of a Great Egret eating a small turtle.  And we watched, and photographed, dozens of Ibis and a few Tricolor Herons as they flew directly overhead to roost for the night…

White Ibis

 

As exciting as our shoot today was, because of all the beautiful birds we saw and photographed, what made the time even more special for me was when I looked at my pictures on the computer.  Almost every one – sharp!  Almost every subject – framed properly!  These are a few of the pictures that I took today.  All are as-shot, with no post-processing done…

Juvenile Little Blue Heron

 

Tomorrow we hope to get out for more practice.  But, even if the weather keeps us indoors again, I know that Laurie won’t stop teaching, helping and encouraging me.  I am so appreciative and very grateful…  Susan Akitt

Osprey

Florida…Nesting Black Skimmers 2

We’ve spent five mornings working the Black Skimmer colony.  It’s been quite the education observing the life cycle, the interaction and behavior of these beautiful birds.  A young chick hatches and within hours is taking whole fish from it’s parents, wobbling on it’s unsteady legs and growing up right before our eyes…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 400 f8 @ 1/500

 

The family unit is strong with both parents sharing in all the duties of raising their young from sitting on the eggs, fishing to feed their chicks and protecting them from the elements, predators and even other skimmers…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR ISO 400 f11 @ 1/500

 

It’s been a real treat to see what skimmers are known for, skimming the surface of the water with their lower mandible dragging the water as they fish…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E II ISO 400 f11 @ 1/500

 

And, bathing in the surf…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-14E III ISO 400 f11 @ 1/250

 

They are so beautiful and graceful as they fly…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR ISO 400 f11 @ 1/750

 

I feel so privilledged to have had the opportunity to have a short but, intimate glimpse into their lives…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, ISO 400 f11 @ 1/2000

 

The skimmer colony that we visited over the last week was the largest known colony in Florida and the numbers were way down.  We saw the killing of four baby skimmers by other skimmers and even observed one being eaten by an adult which is very unusual as they are fish eaters.  The gulls prey on the adults as they come in with fish ganging up on them as they try to snatch their fish and dive bomb the nests trying to capture a young, unatteneded chick.  The crows linger close by with the intent of grabbing and egg or young chick.  And, if all that is not enough.  The Tropical Storm Debbie has wrecked havoc on the Florida coast and I fear the colony has been destroyed by the huge waves and heavy surf.  As I watched the Weather Channel last night I saw waves pounding the condos just south of the area where the skimmers were nesting.  Their colony was between the water and the condos.  There is no way the eggs and young chicks could have survived the storm.  Even though I know this is part of nature, it breaks my heart to know that some of the very birds I have photographed are gone.

Extra, Extra…Nikon D4′s Now Available

My friend, Eugene “The Mailman”, does it again.  He just told me he has a bunch of Nikon D4′s available to ship NOW!  Give him a call at 214-744-5511 and tell him Laurie sent you.  He’ll take real good care of you!

Florida…Nesting Black Skimmers

June/July is a great time to visit Florida for the nesting Skimmers and Terns.  They nest in colonies on the beaches (which the Audubon Society ropes off to protect them).  They literally scratch out a small indentation in the sand and lay their eggs which they take turns sitting on until the chicks hatch…

Nikon D4, AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR, TC-20E III, ISO 200 f8 @ 1/180

 

The parents have to keep a close eye on the chicks to protect them from predators as well as other skimmers.  They also provide warmth for the little guys who don’t have any feathers yet as well as shade from the hot Florida sun.

Nikon D4, AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f8 @ 1/125

 

While one parent keeps tabs on the “kids” the other is out skimming the surf for food…

Nikon D4, AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f8 @ 1/1000

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f8 @ 1/1000

 

When the young get overheated, they “pant” trying to cool off…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f8 @ 1/750

 

A parent feeding a fish to it’s chick.  It’s flat out amazing how these little birds can get huge fish down with a little help from mom or dad.  Yep, it swallowed the fish whole…

Nikon D4, AF-S 600mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f11 @ 1/750

 

What a treat to have the opportunity to observe and photograph the nesting cycle of Black Skimmers up close and personally…

Nikon D4, AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR, TC-20E III ISO 200 f8 @ 1/750