Joshua Tree National Park Color and Black & White

Joshua Tree National Park Color and Black & White

Named for trees, spectacular for rocks

For me, the phrase joshua tree has always been associated with the famous U2 album from 1987 and its iconic cover art. There is actually no joshua tree in the photo. I finally got a chance to visit Joshua Tree National Park and soon realized that the eponymous trees are not the stars of the park by a long shot. The real attraction are the rock formations. Some tower, some are piles, they are all sitting there challenging you to climb them. This photo story presents a set of black and white photos of a lone climber on a rock face and a series of color photos one of which is made up of silhouettes of me, Jessica, Kiki and Artie!

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Flowers Like Rocket Popsicles in Cloudcroft New Mexico

Flowers Like Rocket Popsicles in Cloudcroft New Mexico

On a recent overnight photo shoot trip to Cloudcroft, New Mexico the excellent true bed & breakfast I stayed at, The Crofting Inn, had this wonderful flower garden.  Being still totally enamored with my recent purchase of the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Macro lens, I am always looking for opportunities to use it.  These flowers on their own would have been beautiful to photograph, but the color of the bokeh really makes this macro flora image.  Then upon further exam, I thought these flowers looked like the classic rocket popsicles I used to enjoy on hot summer days growing up!  Tell me what you think in the comments below.

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Silver Lake Recreation Area Brooksville Florida

Kiki and I in front of Silver Lake in Brooksville Florida after a 90 minute trek through scenic green woods - self-portraitVenturing far inland, Kiki and I went to Silver Lake Recreation Area in Brooksville, Florida seeking new trails and a deeper forest experience.  There were positives and negatives about this area of the Withlacoochee State Forest, but enough of the former so that I can recommend trekking there along the Low Water and High Water trails.

Silver Lake Brooksville Florida panorama - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/60th 3-shot panoramaUpon arriving at the area and paying the $2 entrance fee, the road funnels you right to Silver Lake.  There were almost no people around.  Dogs are allowed in all the day use areas, leashed of course, and even far out on the trail I kept Kiki leashed as well as sometimes an actual road would appear right in the middle of the forest with cars flying by.  

Amazing cypress tree grown into a natural arch in Withlacoochee State Forest on the Low Water Trail near Silver Lake - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/60thThe best find during our 90-minute 3.55 mile trek was this cypress tree.  It was enormous and its based formed a natural arch.  We stopped at the foot of this towering tree for water and a snack.

The view from the other side of the cypress tree looks other worldly - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/80thThe view from the back of the cypress tree offers an otherwordly look into the forest itself.  I did not dare pass through the arch for fear of coming out into another dimension.  Kiki showed no desire to pass through it either.

Cypress knees floating on greens in Withlacoochee State Forest Brooksville Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/60thSoft green grass grew throughout the forest floor providing an ethereal feel.  The beginning of the High Water trail is too close to I-75 with far too much noise pollution to help one lose thoughts of the human created world, however, once out on the Low Water trail, one could feel the age of the Withlacoochee Forest

Kiki is a very good outdoors-dog at home on the trails and in the forests - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/60thFinding out about these trails and how to get to them took some doing.  There is no good website to point you too (this one was a starting point at least), just basically search for Silver Lake Road in Brooksville Florida and Google Maps points you almost exactly at the park entrance.  From I-75 take exit #301, then make for Silver Lake Road.  

Dandelion Florida Fine Art Photography 50mm bokeh

Dandelion ready to be plucked and blown in the wind - Nikon D300 Nikkor 50mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/400thJust a simple dandelion at the end of its flowering life ready for the wind or a young child to come by and send its parachuted seeds in flight.  Do kids still even do such things on warm spring days out in open green spaces?  I hope so.  

Edward Medard Park and Reservoir Trees HDR & Jumping

Live Oaks showing their roots in Edward Medard Park - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR tripod mountedIt had been too long since a couple of old college friends and I had one of our outdoor adventures together.  That was remedied by a recent visit to the surprisingly amazing Edward Medard Park and Reservoir in Plant City.  They said it had hills, so I was expecting some modest plain grass covered round and soft hills.  I never expected to step into an alien environment where live oaks sat perched upon angry hills of clay-like dirt with all their roots exposed in a display of their might.

A fearless tree climber in Edward Medard Park - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/8 ISO 200 1/40th tripod mountedAfter a few handheld shots with my 80-200mm f/2.8 lens, I quickly relized that was not the setup ideal for photographing this environment and switched to my 17-50mm f/2.8 lens and mounted my Nikon on my Induro carbon fiber tripod the rest of the day.  Without that wide lens I would never been able to capture one friend who is an avid tree climber surprisingly high up in the branches of this long limbed live oak.

uprooted tree in Edward Medard Park - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR tripod mountedEdward Medard Park has more traditional looking Florida outdoor areas by the reservoir itself offering shady live oaks, with roots all neatly underground, well, save for one that was uprooted long ago.

Jason performing trademark "Liu Kang" leap - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/2.8 ISO 800 1/800th tripod mountedJust to show you I did not spend the entire time behind the camera, in the above shot you can see yours truly performing my patented "Liu Kang" method air leap over some roots perfectly shaped like hurdles on a tricky downslope.  Some of you who have know me well will already have seen my debut of this move, which was over a much more dangerous gap.  I set up this shot with my Nikon D300 mounted on my tripod with all the settings dialed in.  

photography tip:

As you can see shooting an action shot into the sun required some very unusual settings.  My DSLR photography lesson students should be able to see I used settings I have told them probably never are needed, such as using f/2.8 on a wild angle lens.  In order to expose the subject (me) enough, a long shutter speed is needed especially shooting into the sun like this.  However, to freeze the action, a fast shutter speed is needed.  The solution to this is to go ahead and set the needed shutter speed, 1/800th of a second, then adjust aperture and ISO until there is enough exposure to show me and not worry if the sky gets blown out.  So that is my photography tip for action shots into the sun!

Using the tripod all day did not slow me down, but rather freed me much more to make the photographs I wanted to and still enjoy all the action with my friends.  Shooting on a tripod is not physically demanding and the setup is pretty easy to carry, so I did not get tired from having a camera hanging off me all day.  Plus, since I did not have to constantly keep taking a camera strap on and off, but rather just let the tripod stand up on its own, it was really easy for me to switch from photographer to adventurer.  I just had to leave the camera standing where it was on the tripod then explore the area as I liked.  

As you can see Edward Medard Park, despite the unfortunate name, is a great place for photography and adventure!

--official website and directions 

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  • Brief Survey of Weedon Island State Preserve

    All I saw on my 90-minute trek through Weedon Island State Reserve was typical Florida forest.

    I woke up early (for me) this morning to go to Weedon Island State Preserve because I had been feeling like it has been a long time since I went out and did nature photography by myself.  Now I first visited this preserve a few months ago, but only walked along its winding boardwalk.  I thought this time if I go on one of its trails early in the morning, surely there would be birds to photograph, not to mention the stray armadillo or other critter or insect.  I did not see a single bird nor a single creature of any kind.

    This tiny fluff of color was all that I found in Weedon Island State Park.

    I had my macro lens on and ready to discover something tiny and interesting.  The only photograph I made with it all morning was the above tiny pink flower puff, which was the only bit of color (other than green) to be found anywhere in the preserve.  

    The quintessential Florida nature woods trail view.

    For a peaceful stroll in pristine Florida woods and wetlands, Weedon Island State Preserve is a great spot.  The paths and trails are fairly well marked and are long enough to spend hours on.  However, they are definitely for the meditative mind rather than a photographic one.  If I return to this preserve it will be to go cycling on the long roads that run through the preserve, or to just take a nice, undisturbed walk.  I'll save my back some work and leave my DSLR at home.

    If you have visited this preserve and photographed any fauna or interesting flora, please let me know in the comments below.


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