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The Unexpected…

Upon arrival at the Merritt Island Visitors Center we stopped in for a map, and advice as to where to see the Painted Buntings and Spoonbills. I didn’t really have to ask because the volunteer there was already giving instructions to other new arrivals. But what he seemed most excited to talk about was the Space X launch that was scheduled for 1:13 PM that very day (last Thursday). Go to the beach he said, and stop at the 3rd parking area (I think), and if that is full go to the next and next for the best view of the launch. I didn’t want to be distracted from my mission of finally exploring Merritt Island, so we quickly stopped at the feeders there and then headed to Blackwater Drive. I was afraid to spend time waiting for the launch only to see it cancelled, but that was a silly concern on an absolutely perfect day. Over the last couple of days I’ve posted the pictures I took as we drove through the park, but as we drove I kept an eye on the time, and at about 1 PM I saw a place up ahead where we would have an unobstructed view to the east. But when I turned to look I was surprised to see the missile, so big, and right there! The sight came first, the sound came later.

I counted 75 pictures of the launch in my camera, all of them looking pretty much like this.
As it rose higher and higher I zoomed out to record what it actually looked like.
And then I zoomed in again to watch some more.

The timing of this trip had everything to do with the upcoming weather reports and absolutely nothing to do with rocket launches. But from now on if I think I’d like to go back I think I’ll check to see what’s happening at the Kennedy Space Center, and maybe I’ll decide to jockey for position to see the launch pad itself.

Obviously we had already had a lot of fun that day, but there was one more surprise photo op awaiting us as we drove back to the hotel. We found kite surfers at a beach along the road! On a Thursday afternoon when some of them anyhow should probably have been at work. I guess that perfect day with nice wind was just too much for them to resist. It looks like so much fun… for a few seconds and then I remember how old I am. So I take pictures…

This guy never stopped, just jumped into the air as he reversed direction and kept on going.
They jumped much higher in the sky than this photo shows.
I don’t think that the kite in the picture belongs to that skier. The skier and his own kite proved too far removed from each other for one photo.
They skied at the very edge of the water, making for fun photography.

That’s it for this trip to Merritt Island, I’ve come to the end of my photos. A very successful trip I thought. It won’t be our last…

The remnants of the space shot. I loved seeing this and then forgot to include it!
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It was a toss up really. Which did I want to see more, Painted Buntings or Spoonies? This trip to Merritt Island was instigated by a gal I talked with when I was unsuccessfully shooting the eagles the other day. It was unsuccessful because I never saw the eaglets that day, but also because when I changed to my biggest lens I somehow upset the settings in the camera and had a hard time getting everything back to normal. As we talked about where to go and what to see she said that she saw ‘hundreds’ of Spoonies at Merritt Island a few weeks before. That statement was what sent me home determined to take a trip soon, like the next day! The fact that the weather was going to be absolutely perfect cemented the deal.

The Blackpoint Drive was the place to see them, stop #11, she said. And she was right! There they were, right on cue. Not hundreds, just a few. And once you are there and seeing them there is only a limited variety of poses that you can get. Standing there looking pretty, with a lovely reflection because you don’t seem to see them on land, is one pose. And the other pose is with their beak in the water, swishing back and forth. That’s about it, so I got a lot of identical shots. But the other shot I’ve seen online is with them flying, their feathers looking gorgeous in the sun. So I was torn when they took to the air, I was disappointed that they were leaving, but I kept shooting.

I couldn’t get over the deep red color on the wing. And what I assume is the ear hole (?) which sometimes shows prominently in the pictures.
As they swish their bill back and forth they unearth small snails, fish, insects, shrimp, crabs, and some plants. Shrimp is what causes their pink coloring.
In looking up their diet I discovered that there are 6 varieties of Spoonbills and they are common all over the world. But the Roseate Spoonbill is the odd ball due to it’s coloring.
I love the ruffled feathers in this shot.
Did I want him to leave? No, but I happily clicked the shutter as he took flight.
Pointed ‘toes’, graceful feathers…
Up, up, and away.
It was the end of the trail, and the next day we didn’t see them except in the distance.

It took me two days to get the courage to look at my spoonie shots. After shooting all day I realized that I hadn’t quite gotten my camera back to normal. It was shooting jpeg photos, not RAW, and I was worried that none of the shots would be decent. But what that really means is that the geniuses who create the algorithms that edit the photo as you take them know what they are doing. And there was nothing much for me to do except crop. Whew. Another adventure in Florida. At this moment I have no clue what’s next, but that’s okay, it’ll be a surprise to me too.

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Merritt Island…

First of all, Merritt Island isn’t an island, it’s a peninsula. It not only contains the Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve, but it also contains the Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral National Seashore. But it was the wildlife preserve that I had my heart set on seeing on this trip. I don’t know when I will head to a wildlife preserve in Florida and expect to see the flat, wetlands that always seem to be there. I always start out disappointed, thinking that I’ll only see the birds that I used to be able to see from my own back yard. Or on any day of shooting nearby. So I ask myself why did I drive two hours to get there? And then I spot something different and grab the camera.

There was a tiny bird hovering in the air. I wanted to take a picture because I thought it was fighting the wind, but when I saw it dive straight down into the water I knew for sure it was a Belted Kingfisher.
I wish these photos would have been sharper, but this little guy was in constant motion and quite high in the air. We were lucky to see him at all because after these couple of moments we couldn’t see him anymore. He, and we, moved on. My attitude was already much improved.
A glossy ibis is also seen close to home, but not often, so again I was glad to have made the trip.
I know, I know, Osprey are everywhere, and this one doesn’t even have a fish. But I loved the silly look on his face.
Now I was fully invested in shooting what I saw, even if it was one of ‘my’ birds.
This was the only gator we saw the first day. Not very big either. The second day we saw just the head, but I think it was him again.
Merlin says that this is a Reddish Egret, not at all what I suspected when I took the picture, but I’m not about to argue.
Moorhens are certainly not something I have to travel to see, but I took this picture anyhow.
I believe this is a pied-billed grebe. I saw them a time or two in the pond at my old house.
The Canaveral National Seashore. I had to resort to an iPhone shot to get the widest possible view of the amazing surf. Neither of us had been to the ocean in quite a while, so this was a treat to see.

My feature photo is a blue-winged teal, at least I think that’s what Merlin said. I hadn’t seen a duck that looked like that before so I had to take a picture.

Maybe it’s just the right time of life to up and head out the door at almost a moment’s notice. I’ve never been short on brainstorms, but they nearly always were met with a ‘back to reality’ comment about why it wasn’t possible to do whatever I’d thought of at the time. So the last few years have had me heading out on my own and being happy with my various adventures. But it is also very nice to head out on these adventures with a friend, who thinks your ideas aren’t bad at all. I hate to be obnoxious and tell you to come back tomorrow to see what else we saw on this impromptu trip, but that’s what I’m going to do. There were other ‘finds’, both hoped for, but also completely out of the blue. Stay tuned.

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Those champaign tastes…

I do have good taste, but I also have the beer pocketbook to go with it. A little cottage on a lake, where I could watch the sunrise and/or sunset without racing up, or down, the road. Someplace with quirks, which, to me, suggests a cosy, homey little place. Speaking of the place, I might have found the community in SC while visiting for Christmas. Lake Wylie. Lots of little fingers of land jut into the lake, and the houses on the roads there must have great views, at least in the winter when the leaves are gone. The little park that I found so that I could stop to take pictures was up high, with views in three directions. There was a playground and bathrooms, and lots of designated golf cart parking spaces. But when I got on Zillow I discovered that there are no tiny cottages, or tiny price tags. Sigh. Somewhere there is a cosy little spot just waiting for me to find it. In the meantime I’ll keep dreaming…

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The Immersive Van Gogh Experience…

I missed the opportunity to see this exhibit in Tampa, so when I saw that it was coming to Orlando I wasted no time snagging two tickets. This was months ago, and it turned out to be conveniently timed to be a birthday present for my friend. Upon arrival we were delighted to find easy parking close to the doors of the venue, and then we walked over a mile (round trip) to the actual location within the convention center. When we finally arrived I was disappointed to find ourselves standing in the room, with people between us and the displays on all four walls surrounding us. But, as you can see, in looking at my pictures it was the ones that included those people that I liked the most, to show the experience rather than trying to do justice to the artwork itself. In the feature photo you see the people sitting on a bench, enjoying the view. We eventually took over that bench, and I wonder if we are now front and center in other people’s photos. Thank goodness for the iPhone, 11 pro max, which I knew would handle the low light situation perfectly. What a fun experience.

Just as each scene came into full color the images would begin to dissolve into another beautiful scene.
You could look in any direction and be amazed at what you were seeing.
Phones were the preferred cameras of the day.
The scenes wrapped around the corners of the room. As the scenes changed I found myself a bit dizzy as the floor seemed to be moving. It was good to sit on the bench.
Of course, when I could I tried to fill my shot with the beautiful paintings.
Beautiful blossoms.
More endless hallways.
A little cottage, my dream house.
You can even see the brushstrokes in some of these images.
The final images.
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Sanding Ovations…

I have always wanted to see the sand sculpture event at the beach, but something always prevented me from heading to Treasure Island. And it was not on my mind at 2 AM on Friday when I walked out the front door to look for the lunar eclipse and got rained on. I hadn’t seen a notice that the sand sculptures were even happening, but, lucky for me, my friend did, and off we went. You can see from the pictures that it was a perfect day, hot in the sun but with a wonderful breeze to cool you off and keep the kites aloft. Traffic was surprisingly light driving there, and I was delighted that I had easy access to the sculptures without people in the way. I neglected to notice all the commotion in the background of my pictures while I was taking them. And with the tools in Lightroom and Photoshop I could have knocked my head against the wall trying to remove them, or I could not worry about it and assure myself that I’m presenting an accurate picture of the event. But I’m sure there are lots more people and distractions going on today and tomorrow as the event reaches full swing.

You can see that this is a work in progress. I have no idea when the judging will take place, but I was blissfully unaware of the unfinished aspects of some of the sculptures while I took pictures. They will be on display through the holidays, barring weather related damage. This one is Neptune’s Organ.
Lest you worry about my hydration during this event you’ll be happy to know that we drank Liquid Death while we walked around. At one point I was holding two cans of this when a gentleman asked me how my drink was, and was disappointed to realize it was water. Not even fizzy water. Many people probably shook their heads over this old two-fisted drinker.
This ” tort-a-potty” was one of the first stops of the day.
I didn’t catch the name of this one, something about a mermaid trapped in the kelp.
The DJ was playing some really fun music as we walked around, and he announced that someone had just told him that since he was located beside a sculpture named ‘whale wash’ then he ought to play Car Wash, and he did!
This one was Pilotfish. Those portholes were actually openings to the other side, with different faces looking out on that side.
The hiney on this one caught my eye so I took this picture. As the day went on there were plenty of bikini clad gals walking around showing almost as much hiney as this.
I made it a point to take another photo of that last sculpture and totally missed seeing that he was kissing that scuba guy kite who hovered over us all day.
This is the pregnant mermaid. I love that the little toy rocking horse is actually a sea horse.
Biting the arm that feeds you.
A mighty battle…
The flip side of the battle sculpture was this fresh fish sign.
When you don’t pay attention to the activity in the background you might wind up with a picture you could title “Off With His Head”.
This castle sculpture was placed at the far end of all the sculptures, and was the biggest and most elaborate. I was happy that I could crop the photo and only have a couple of people in it. For scale, LOL, but not really.
This might have been the more interesting view of that castle sculpture, if not for the tools of the trade all on display. I’m surprised that they didn’t show when I took the picture from the other side.

You can certainly tell which photos were taken with the sun behind the sculptures and which had the sun on their faces. As usual I was happy to be out talking pictures in such a fun environment, it’s only when I look at the pictures later that the details of backgrounds and shadows really hit me over the head. But there was so much going on, rows and rows of vendors and a great selection of really good food to choose to eat, that I just happily clicked away. It might be worth another trip next Friday…