Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back to St. Marks NWR

St. Mark's NWR Lighthouse
It's become something of a tradition with Megs and I. At least one day of a trip is devoted to a photo safari. So we put mom in the car with all our camera gear, then go somewhere Megs and I can photograph together while mom, the non-photographer, can sightsee. Everybody's happy.

Today we went back out to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is south of Tallahassee on Apalachee Bay and the Gulf. We'd been there once before in May, and we decided to go again because... because we liked it. That, and the fact it was the off season, and I wanted to see what it looked like in the off season.

And it looked very different for two reasons. The first is this is late fall in Florida.

Yes, we do have seasons, even in Florida. It does get cold, but not as cold as say Detroit. But it gets cold enough, and the life goes through changes that pretty much parallel life changes up north. And so, down here in Florida in late fall, the foliage has turned from vibrant greens (mostly) to browns, tans, and light greens. There's lot's of colorful and falling leaves. There's plenty of plants going to seed. Even the wildlife is changing, with many birds coming through here in flocks on to destinations further south.

The second reason was the weather itself. The day started foggy, then turned cloudy, then as the afternoon turned to evening the fog rolled back in again. As a consequence the light was muted instead of hard, and varied in strength of illumination. With the clouds on the horizon and with the light breaking through the clouds it reminded me of the dramatic lighting I experienced on my last trip to Detroit.

I took all four bodies with me this week; the E-3, E-P2, and both E-1s. And I used all of them in one way or another. I'm not trying to look cool. But if I've got that much hardware, and I've got my car and can lock up it and keep it out of sight until I can use it, then I will. The only time it comes out is out in the tourist areas, one or two bodies at a time, and I fit right in with all other other guys (mostly) carrying much supposedly better hardware (5Dmk2's with white 'L' glass, D-700's with equivalents, you get the picture). I don't have a day job as a photographer, so I take advantage of every opportunity to take it with me and use it where I go. Nothing sits in a bag for very long unless it's being transported from points 'A' to 'B'.

Moving On

At the first stop on the road that winds through St. Marks I got out with an E-1 with the 12-60 and the E-3 with the EC-14 and 50-200mm. While the photo above wasn't the first one I took, it turned out to be one of those moments that mean more to me than just my daughter walking down a sandy path. It summed up all my feelings about watching both girls heading on out into life. I remember when both started toddling to walking and then running, and this one moment seems to telescope all those moments into this particular one. Call me sentimental, but it was a powerful realization that this photo does poor justice in capturing.

Marshes

As I was walking around the filtered sunlight and slight haze muted the fall colors even further. I found St. Marks as beautiful today as I did six months earlier right before the high days of summer.

Hunting in the Reeds

The Gator

This particular bad boy had been lying there for at least three hours. The story on him is he caught a feral pig and enjoyed a gator equivalent of carnitas, but without all the fancy fixings. The E-3 with the EC-14 + 50-200mm gave me plenty of distance between me and him. Not that I thought he was going to get up and come running after me, but I am a cautious kind of guy, especially when dealing with a gator a good deal longer than I am tall.

The Pelicans

Once we got to the lighthouse, the sunlight actually brightened up a bit more, giving a bit more modeling to the landscape and the wildlife. I do like symmetry in nature, and when I saw this group of pelicans on the remains of this peer I couldn't resist.

Low Tide

Horizon Study Black and White

As the afternoon wore on the light began to change again. Fog started rolling in off Apalachee Bay, and a chill began to hang in the air along with the fog. At basically the same spot I fired off a few more photos, one with the E-1 above and the other with the E-3 below, then packed everything back in the car.

Texture and Light Study

On the way back to the motel room we stopped off at La Fiesta for a pretty good Mexican meal. Then back to the hotel room to spend the rest of the evening together before Megs headed back to her place.

Tomorrow we pack up, have an early breakfast at Savannah's, and head back to Orlando.

Technical

I was all over the map with the photos both location wise as well as hardware wise. This is literally the first time I've used all four bodies, and had a chance to really compare how they operate. As much as I love the E-1, there is a noticeable difference between all of them, especially with regards to ergonomics. For shot-to-shot speed nothing matches the E-3, neither the E-1 or the E-P2. The E-3 is a true workhorse. And yes, there is a definite resolution improvement moving from E-1 to E-3 to E-P2. But beyond those two key points, the cameras are different enough depending on what it is you're trying to accomplish you can use any of the three and get excellent results, it just depends on the use case you want to use the camera in.

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