Saturday, March 26, 2016

Foto Art Friday – Goin’ Home
I decided to create a challenge for myself creatively.  I will be making a piece of digital photo art (or collage) every Friday, starting this past Friday, March 25!  The background of the piece is a vintage postcard.  I merged a photo that I took of a misty morning in Big Cypress, added a photo I took of a deserted building while driving thru Texas, and pulled an image of an older couple from some CitraSolv background I have.  It just sort of reminds me of going home, even if it’s just in our memories.
 Goin’ Home

Sunsets in the Keys
We were lucky enough to have several great sunsets while we were in the Keys.  I’m not going to attempt to comment on each of these images – I know I can’t find enough words, and to keep repeating myself would only take away from the beauty of the sunsets.


Stormy Day in the Keys
On our last full day in the Keys, the weather threatened storms the entire day.  Of course, it made for some rather different photos!  Take a look…..
Vintage Keys
We drove out to the end of a road that used to be the site of a railroad that once ran the length of the Keys.  Now, it’s deserted, with only some wood pilings left of this piece of history.  A “straight” photo just didn’t seem to portray the scene appropriately when you considered the history of this site.
Vintage Stormy Keys
We’re still at the same site and I just turned and took the image looking from a slightly different perspective.  It just looks so desolated and forlorn.
Lonesome Picnic
Back at our campground, I was able to capture this image of what I felt looked like a very lonely scene.  I especially was taken by the wind-blown palm tree and the color of the sky and sea.
Lonely Perch
And, finally, here’s a photo of a solo pelican on a berm, of sorts, of rocks along the far side of the swimming/snorkeling area.  Usually, there are a number of pelicans on these rocks, but on this day, only this little guy was out there, acting as a sentinel.

Pelicans and the Sunsets
We got to see a number of great sunsets in the Keys, and often, the pelicans helped to make them extra special!
Pelican Sunset
One of the things I never got tired of was watching the pelicans glide so low to the water.  At times, they maybe only had about a foot of air space between them and the water.  Add the sun reflection on the water, buoys in the foreground, and you know you are someplace special.
Flyin’ Low
Here’s a great profile shot of a gliding pelican. Talk about aerodynamic!  Since I’m not looking directly into the setting sun, you can see more of the blue color mixing with the orange from the sunset.
Sunset Pelican Flyin’ Low
Are you tired of pelicans gliding just above the water?  Somehow, I never got tired of watching them!  Be glad I’m only sharing some of my images of them!
Low Silhouette
Altho this is another shot of the pelican, I think the sky sort of takes the starring role in this image, even tho I am including it in this pelican post.  There were more clouds in the sky on this evening, which adds another dimension.
Flying High at Sunset
As the sun dropped below the horizon, the pelicans decided to soar.  To capture the sky, the pelicans are rather small in this image.  Can you tell there are 3 pelicans flying in formation?  They did that formation flying so well, at times I felt they’d give The Blue Angels a run for their money!
Pelicans During the Day
During our stay in the Keys, I became entranced with pelicans.  They hung around the campground in which we were staying in substantial numbers, and I had several opportunities to photograph them.
The Star
This guy is a brown pelican, and exemplifies what I love about these birds as a photographer – they are natural hams!  I loved his pose, along with the wonderfully blue water of the Gulf of Mexico behind him.
Pelican Portrait
From what I can tell from my little bird book, this guy is also a brown pelican, but this guy is considered a juvenile – definitely more brown.  Love that blue/green water in the background, too!
Pelican in Paradise 
I love the laid-back peacefulness of this image.  The empty dock behind him, and the clear waters beneath him.  It truly is a pelican paradise, and not bad for humans, either!
Pelican on a Rock
This grouping of rocks was a favorite perch for several of the pelicans, altho only one guy was there when I shot this.  It gave them a look of the more open area of the Gulf, so perhaps they could spot food easier?  I really don’t know, but he does look cool, just sitting there staring out to sea.
A Day at Key West
We spent a day checking out Key West and some of the sights there.  It was incredibly crowded, and we didn’t get to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park because the ferry over to it from Key West was totally booked for the entire time we were in the Keys.  Darn!  I guess that means another visit to the Keys……but check out what we did get to see!
American Shoal Lighthouse
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any closer than this to this lighthouse.  Perhaps on our next visit, we can rent a boat and get a closer look!  American Shoal Lighthouse was completed in 1880, and was honored by a US postage stamp 110 years later, in 1990.
Key West Lighthouse
One lighthouse we did get to see up close was the Key West Lighthouse, in the midst of Key West.  It was originally located in a different location, and first lighted in 1826.  However, that first Key West Lighthouse was destroyed by a hurricane in 1846.   It was rebuilt on this location in 1848. 
Open Lighthouse Window
This lighthouse received a Henry-LePaute third-order Fresnel lens in 1858, and that still serves the lighthouse today.  Then, in 1873, it received a new lantern.  Then, in 1915, the lighthouse was automated.
Keepers’ Quarters
In 1832, Barbara Mabrity, succeeded her husband as the keeper of the old lighthouse.  She served as keeper until 1864, when, at age 82, she was encouraged to retire by federal officials, after pro-Confederate statements were attributed to her.  Her granddaughter married a later keeper, and then succeeded him as a keeper.  It is believed that later one of Barbara’s grandsons also served as keeper, and that his wife later succeeded him.  If that’s true, Barbara Mabrity and her grandchildren and their spouses kept the Key West Lighthouse for 82 of the 89 years it was a manned station!  The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969, after 121 years of service.
Thru the Lighthouse Window
We actually got to climb up this lighthouse!  On the way up, I couldn’t resist taking an image thru the round lighthouse window.  I love being able to see the huge hinges for the window “door” on the side of this image and how the round window draws in your eye.
View of Key West
When we reached the top of the lighthouse, we paused a bit to catch our breath and take in the great views of Key West!  We got to walk around the top, each offering an interesting and historic sight.
Red Southernmost House
The red-roofed house is the southernmost house on the Keys.  It was built in 1896 for the Civil War surgeon, Dr. Jeptha Vinning and his wife, Florida Curry Harris. I’m only guessing, but I doubt that there were many houses surrounding this house when they lived in it.
Whitehead Point
Whitehead Point was the original site of the Key West Lighthouse, and is located at the point directly to the left of the high metal tower in this image.
Sand Key Lighthouse
Here’s another lighthouse that can be seen from the top of the Key West Lighthouse.  Again, when we visit again, I’m hoping we will be able to get closer to this and other lighthouses around the Keys.  Sand Key Lighthouse is on a small white sandy islet, and has always been a great spot for a picnic.  The first lighthouse on this spot, was built in 1827, and altho it survived the hurricanes in 1835, 1841, 1842 and 1844, in 1846 storm waves surged over the island, and the lighthouse collapsed, killing the keeper and 5 others who had fled to there for safety from the storm.  When it was rebuilt, it was a wrought-iron screwpile, with foundation piles secured to the coral reef below.  In 1989, there was a terrible fire, concentrated in the central core of the tower.  The Coast Guard determined the lighthouse was salvageable.  Renovations took about 10 years, but Sand Key Lighthouse still stands (minus the stairwell and keepers’ quarters) and functions!

Scenery and Foliage in the Keys
There was some cool foliage and a great scene that I managed to capture down in the Keys!
Saw Palmetto Perfect Imperfection
I finally figured out what this plant is.  In previous posts, I referred to this as a fern of some sort.  It is, in fact, a saw palmetto plant!  I loved the close up of this specific plant.  At first, I was looking for perfect fronds, but then, I realized this is what Mother Nature produced, and it’s perfect in its imperfection!
Heart of Palmetto
This image makes such a great graphic statement, compliments of the saw palmetto!  The sun light also cooperated, and focused its spotlight on the base of the plant bloom.
Red and Yellow
We were driving along on a small semi-backroad in the Keys when I spotted these leaves (above and below).  Jeff stopped the Jeep and I jumped out to capture images of them.  I really love when leaves display a few different colors.  In this case, the colors outline the veins of the leaves.
Be Bold
What Horizon Line?
This shot was one I captured as we first entered the keys.  I took it from the RV window as we crossed one of the first bridges into the Keys.  To me, this is what I think of when I think of the Florida Keys.  And, it’s pretty tough to spot the horizon line, and the cloud reflection certainly doesn’t hurt!

Everglades Wildlife
We did see a fair amount of wildlife in our relatively brief exploration of the Everglades.  Many of these will look familiar from my Big Cypress postings, but we did get to see one type of wildlife in more detail and closer up!
Wood Stork in Tree
In Big Cypress, I only was able to see a wood stork from afar, as he flew away from me.  At one of our stops in the Everglades, I was able to get a nice close up of a wood stork.  In this image, he’s sitting in a tree, and frankly, not all that happy I discovered his favorite pond.  I really wasn’t close to him (it only looks that way thru the magic of zoom lenses), but I have a feeling not all that many people stopped at this pond.  We were the only ones there, even tho it seemed to be a fairly busy day in terms of visitors to the ‘glades.
Wood Stork Taking Off
Ok, so he’s had enough of me, even from a bit further away and separated by water I wouldn’t even dream of wading into (alligators)!  In this image, he’s getting ready to take off, and is actually beginning to.  Now, you can see his telltale black wing tips that are just about fully hidden when he’s not in flight mode.
Awkward Flight
Here he is more in full flight mode, altho not high enough to actually look graceful.  With his long legs and wings, he sort of looks quite awkward as he takes off heading further into the trees.  It sort of made me feel like he really shouldn’t be able to fly and that he was defying gravity!  This pond seemed to be a favorite spot for wood storks, as across the pond (too far away to photograph), there were dozens of them nesting in the trees.  As an aside, during the shooting of all of these (above) images, I had some sort of huge insect bug thing attacking me (as well as Jeff).  I could feel them bouncing off my head and hear them bouncing off my camera. They were incredibly aggressive, and I was only glad that for whatever reason, they weren’t biting us! Hmmmm….perhaps that’s the reason no one else was at this pond!
Everglades Sea Turtle
At another stop, we walked along another boardwalk to check out some wildlife.  This was the only place where we saw a sea turtle.  He was quite a bit larger than the land turtles, and if you look closely at the image, you can sort of see his flippers (instead of feet to walk on land).
Anhinga in the Everglades
We also saw more anhinga’s in the Everglades.  I included this image because in this one, you can see the bright blue spot of color that encircles his eyes.  I don’t think any other image I have of this bird included that.  Isn’t it great how Mother Nature adds just that added touch to make him stand out even more?
Twin Turtles
Here are some land turtles that we saw along our boardwalk stroll.  They were both sunning themselves on somewhat of the marshy shore, before one of them slid into the water and cruised over for a bite of lunch (below)!
Alligator Resting
And, yes, even more alligators!  One interesting note – the Everglades is (I believe) the only place where both alligators and crocodiles co-exist.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any crocodiles on this day, but it’s kind of cool (in a creepy way) to know that there is an equal opportunity of being eaten by both here!  Just FYI – alligators like fresh water and crocodiles like salt water, and these marshy waters tend to have a mix of both (called brackish water).  I always thought brackish water was just sort of still, slimy water, but I guess not!
Stalking Egret
And, of course, there were egrets all over the place!  Here’s a nice shot of one as he was stalking his lunch of little bugs and fish.