butterflies, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, gardens, Just do it, live and learn, making memories, moments, natural wonders, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, perseverance, photography, road trip

Exploring a Rainforest…

We visited a Rainforest yesterday. In Gainesville, FL. With Butterflies. A shorter road trip this time. Your price of admission included visiting the museums associated with the University of Florida, so we saw more than just a host of butterflies. But for now it’s the butterflies that stole the show.

You walk a boardwalk through a lush garden of lovely flowers, with waterfalls, turtles, and koi fish. Butterflies of every imaginable color are literally everywhere. If you stop to take pictures you must check around your feet before you take a step, just in case.
These black and white butterflies were either the most abundant variety or the ones who most wanted their picture taken.
Black butterflies seemed elusive.
I loved his blue color.
Just saying hello!
Catching them while they were on flowers wasn’t easy.
This one was small, and it’s body was thick enough that I thought it was a hummingbird for a second.
Say cheese.
Yellow fellow.
A worker pointed out this blue butterfly when it was staying still and we could get pictures. He called it the ‘money shot’. These blue butterflies, and others of every color you can imagine, flitted through your view constantly, but didn’t stop often enough to get photos of them all.
This is how that blue butterfly looks with his wings closed. Signage said that some of these startling colors are so that the butterfly can open its wings and the color will startle a predator.

We set the record for heat in the Tampa area yesterday. If it wasn’t a record in Gainesville then I’m sure it was close. Plus the humidity was even more than what was natural to enhance the rainforest atmosphere. But it was a worthwhile trip, we were happy we got to enjoy this colorful place.

'scene' along the way, adventure, attention to detail, exploring new places, friends, fun, Just do it, live and learn, making memories, natural wonders, perseverance, photography, road trip

Looking Glass Falls to Chimney Rock…

Waterfalls were supposed to be the destination for stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway on our last day. Nearby Brevard County, NC has dozens of waterfalls, but we had been away for quite a while and if we were to go there we wanted to spend lots of time, so we settled on the falls that were right on the parkway as we continued south. Only there was a detour that took us past Linwood Falls without being able to stop, a big disappointment. But Looking Glass Falls made up for it.

The view from the road was certainly nice, but I had to go down the steps for a closer view.
Not the biggest waterfall ever, but the weather was rainy off and on so we were glad for this opportunity for a few shots.
Sometimes having other people around makes a place seem even more special, and on this day a few more hardy souls were braving the rain to come to the falls.
And when I looked upstream I discovered yet another unexpected photo shoot happening. This time a pregnancy shoot. Not a great picture but it’s the best one I got.
We stopped to see a rocky stream along the way.
As we ascended yet another steep drive up, with lots of twists and turns, we encountered mirrors along the way to make those hairpin turns a bit safer.
And then there it was, way up high, Chimney Rock. Seeing the walkway I knew I was going to have to go up for the view. And discovering that there was an elevator was a happy surprise.
The view, it wasn’t disappointing.
Zooming a little closer, because I could.
Lest you think there was a nice, level patio of sorts to stand on and enjoy that view. Nope, it was impossible to approach the railing at the sides without climbing over lots of rocks, so I just stayed put and got what shots I could.
This is the view of the tunnel that leads to the elevator. The signage along the walkway tells you that if you are standing in line at this spot your wait will be 30 minutes, etc. On that rainy day there was no wait at all. When I reached the elevator I turned to take this shot.

Somewhere in this trip we found a cliff-side overlook, where, we were told, they held events that allowed people to become certified to paraglide. (I hope that’s the right term.) For the life of me I couldn’t see down the cliff, try as I might for a photo. The feature photo was from this same area. Spending a few days traveling those very scenic roads was a pleasure, not only for a photographer, but for anyone who appreciates nature in all it’s glory.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, blessings, bugs, butterflies, exploring new places, family, flowers, friends, fun, making memories, natural wonders, perseverance, photography, road trip

Those hazy views…

We looked into the haze at every stop along Skyline Drive. I don’t know if it was better or worse than usual while we were there, but it didn’t stop us from taking shot after shot at every overlook we came to. A couple of days ago I mentioned my previous trip there when the pop-up camper popped off the hitch of my car, and how I just headed for home after that. What I didn’t mention is that my cousin was a supervising ranger at Skyline Drive for 21 years, and that he lives in the area. We had lunch with him on Cape Cod while we were there, but he wasn’t going to be back home when we got to his area the next week. So imagine my surprise when I posted a picture of a surprise engagement shot I got on our first day on the drive, and he commented that his farmhouse is in the background of the shot. Small world and lucky accident of timing, it all factored into the shot, which I love all the more now.

They are strangers to me, but I wish I had approached them to say I had photos. Someone else took pictures and I assumed it was a friend of theirs, or a professional photographer, so I kept quiet. I regret that now.
I don’t know these people either, but I was waiting for them to clear out so I could take a picture of the sign. Then I decided that someone else’s memory-in-the-making would make my photo more of a story. Did I walk on the Appalachian Trail? Of course not, I do photos as a ‘drive-by’ of sorts, content with the overview rather than the details.
Okay, sometimes I take close ups. This fawn showed up just as we got onto Skyline Drive. Then he turned out to be the only wildlife we saw in three days oof driving the winding roads of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
What was odd about the views was that everything close to you was so clear, the distant view was hazy. The color was great. The not-so-great skies meant that the light was softer so your foregrounds looked great. And there were flowers in your foregrounds, and lively butterflies who challenged you to get their photo.
And when I got lucky I spotted bees too.
And yellow butterflies that spread their wings for you.
And yellow butterflies on pink flowers.

There are so many pictures that now I find them hard to group into a cohesive story. The iPhone will tell me where the pictures were taken, and when, which is helpful provided I also took a few shots with my phone as well as the camera. As we approached home I said that I didn’t know when I’d be ready for a long trip like this one was, but the thought of a couple of days here and there is already sounding like a good idea.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, finding my way, friends, fun, go with the flow, making memories, natural wonders, perseverance, photography, road trip, travel

Ups and downs…

The last time I drove Skyline Drive I popped the pop-up off the hitch when I drove over railroad tracks in Front Royal. Fortunately two very nice gentlemen appeared out of nowhere and jacked up the now bent front support and got me back on the road. So I drove the whole way preoccupied with the camper, worried it would pop off again. I know I took pictures and enjoyed the scenery to a degree, but not like I did on this trip down Skyline Drive. The fact that I wasn’t the only driver was both a blessing and a curse because we both really would prefer to be the driver, but we managed to share the driving duties peacefully. But driving that road with its ups and downs, and hairpin turns to the right, and hairpin turns to the left, and stopping at every overlook to take pictures, can wear a girl out.

And when you come to the end of Skyline Drive you immediately begin your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with more ups and downs, and twists and turns. So we stopped for the night in Hillsville, VA. Which my son may remember from an infamous trip we took from FL to upstate NY, dragging a uHaul, and he said, looking at the map, “Mom, there is a road that’s a shortcut from the road we are on to the one we are going to”, and we took it. Much to our dismay we found it had twists and turns, and ups and downs, and we groaned when we saw that we had been driving, however appropriately, through Hillsville! I asked him if I had been driving him nuts by driving too slow over that road and he said no, I was driving him nuts because he thought I was driving too fast! I never imagined I’d spend four days driving that sort of road willingly, and calling it fun!

My first trip to Florida was in 1988 and I came away with the impression that it was entirely too flat. At this moment in time I think that Florida’s flatness just might be its best feature.

'scene' along the way, adventure, blessings, bucket list, fantasy images, finding my way, friends, leap of faith, making memories, natural wonders, perseverance, photography, safety Harbor, second chances, sunset

Pink Moon…

Judging by the number of photographers there it was a perfect night for a Pink Moon at Safety Harbor. Yes, it could have been more perfect if the moon would have shown itself through the clouds when it was still behind the Tampa skyline, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Just one by one people started saying they were starting to see it showing through the clouds, what a night it was. Some nights are just right.

Lightroom editing saved the day.
While we were waiting.
I thought it was going to be lost in the clouds, but it rose above them and was still gorgeous when we finally left.
'scene' along the way, a second look, birds, egrets, Florida wildlife, fun, live and learn, natural wonders, nature, nesting, on closer examination, perseverance, photography

Mistaken identity…

I got a little carried away with the wood stork chicks at the rookery the other day. I do think they are cute, in an a ‘face only a mother could love’ sort of way. Plus they were really the only game in town. They are always earlier than the egrets, but I did expect to see a few egret chicks by now, but I didn’t see any. I asked another family that was watching if they had seen the alligator, and the dad answered that yes, he had seen one. What followed was a comedy of errors as they, the father, grandfather, and young granddaughter who was manning the binoculars, began to spot alligator after alligator. Or so they said. I on the other had spotted none, but that didn’t stop me from shooting in the general the direction of where they were pointing. Eventually I did hear the dad suggest that what they were seeing might be soft shell turtles. My feature photo seems to have proved him correct.

Yes, the lovely egrets were present, but without a busy nest of chicks to tend. Not so far at least.