The Calm Before the Storm

Back at the end of October I posted an image of a beautiful church in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with the promise of more pictures and stories to come. This post will bring you some of that.

Today’s image is from my camping trip back in October. I went to Calhoun Falls State Park in South Carolina. Upon my arrival to the campground, I setup my tent and got some of my campsite essentials setup as well. Table – check. Chairs – check. Cooler – check. Air mattress inflated and in the tent – check. Spectacular view of the lake – check! All that was left to do was to walk around the site, take it all in, snap some pics and just relax and enjoy the breathtaking beauty. Sounds easy enough right? Sure let’s go with that.

My specific campsite was surrounded by water as it was situated right at the edge of the lake. Rule number 1 when you camp in a tent: Anytime you are going to leave your campsite you should always zip up all open doors and windows to prevent water from entering said tent. Remember this rule and everything will be fine. So after taking care of that business it was time to explore the park as a whole.

I drove around checking out all of the other campsites so I could pick out my faves for my next visit. After that I proceeded to the day use area of the park for some exploration. This was such a beautiful park that I didn’t want to leave, but after making about a 10 hour drive to get there, all I could think of was getting some food. One of my favorite things to do is grill out. However I didn’t feel like doing that on this night so I had to drive over to the next town to hit a grocery store for some grub. Abbeville, South Carolina was about 25 minutes away from the camp. Insert rule number 1 here!

When I got there I located a nice grocery store and went inside. After perusing the store, I found some good-looking sandwiches in the deli, and a big bottle of tea. A perfect dinner to take back to the campsite and enjoy the beautiful scenery and sounds of nature. As I walked out the door and across the parking lot I was noticing how the full moon was illuminating the night sky. I thought to myself that would be so beautiful rising over the lake at the campsite. Again, we need to insert rule number 1 here.

As I started my Jeep I saw a flash of bright light. Surely that wasn’t lightning! I thought. Naw couldn’t be. I just saw the moon. As I made my way back down the road I saw light flashing again. Now I know that was lightning. Crazy! Then it started sprinkling rain. Do you remember rule number 1? “Anytime you are going to leave your campsite you should always zip up all open doors and windows to prevent water from entering said tent.” Yes, yes I remember that rule. I always practice that rule. Right?

Well under normal circumstances I follow that rule to a TEE. Except this time. Oh no! It absolutely did not look like rain when I left. I am still about 20 minutes away and by now it is raining so hard I can’t even see the road. I pull off into a parking lot to stay safe. I decided to check the weather radar. WOW! Heavy rain is just all over the place. I can tell by the map that the campsite is being hit really hard. I get back on the road and lightning is hitting all around me. I have to drive slow because of the deluge. I kind of figured by this time, what’s the point of worrying about it anyway. Whatever has happened is done and I can’t do anything about it.

As I finally pull in the park entrance, my headlights are no match for the driving rain pounding the darkness. I make my way slowly back to the campground and to my site. I pull into the driveway and just sit there. The rain is blowing sideways into the tent! The good news is that it is still standing. Only thing to do is sit and wait. And wait… After consuming my dinner in the Jeep, what seemed like hours of waiting, the rain finally quit. Once the lightning disappeared for good, I got out to survey the damage. My air mattress was covered in water as well as the whole tent floor. Looks like I’m sleeping in the Jeep tonight.

After a not so restful night, I awoke to birds chirping at the sunrise, signaling a new day. Looks like today will be awesome! Right after I dry everything off and get some breakfast. Now where did I put that towel?

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This was taken at sunset right before I left to go get dinner. C’mon this does not look like a monsoon is about to let loose!

A beautiful sunset reflects upon the water in South Carolina at Calhoun Falls State Park.

A beautiful sunset reflects upon the water in South Carolina at Calhoun Falls State Park.

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Coronado Springs Resort

Welcome to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, a Spanish-colonial style resort hotel with a beautiful lake view. To get this shot I knew I wanted to be there at sunset. I was here earlier in the afternoon and the water was too ripply to get a nice reflection. I was hoping the breeze would subside by evening and the water would look like glass. I was not disappointed!

I ended up circling the entire lake by the time the night was over. I shot from several different areas looking for the right balance of buildings, reflection, sunset color, and a little bit of foreground element to complete the image. I was really happy how this one turned out.

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Coronado Springs Resort

Privateer Lynx

I had read about this ship coming in to Tampa from Fort Myers called Lynx. The arrival date was set for January 15th. It is a replica of an 1812 warship complete with cannons and full sails. Its path into Tampa would take it through St. Petersburg and under the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It seemed like the perfect photo opportunity so I decided to make the two hour drive down there.

I did some research online to see if I could find the exact time it would be sailing under the bridge, but I had no luck. I went to the website of the ship and contacted their main office. I was told that the ship would be sailing under the bridge at 9:00 am. The next step was looking at Google maps to determine the best shooting location. The south fishing pier looked promising as it was about as close as you could get to the center of the bridge. Also for that time of day the sun would be behind me and should have provided some nice light. I got to the pier around 8:15 and setup my tripod. The sky was kind of overcast so the lighting unfortunately was flat and dull. The wind was blowing so I had to hold my lens steady on the tripod to make sure my photos were sharp. This wasn’t exactly the image I had planned on getting but you have to accept the hand you are dealt and roll with it. In the end though  I was very happy!

In post processing the first image I added a texture to give it a vintage post card look. Kind of like old meets new.

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The Passage of Time

After the ship sailed under the bridge, I watched it for a few minutes and decided it was time to head to Tampa. I read online that when it was going to be in Tampa that the sails would be down. Since it was scheduled to arrive in downtown Tampa at 12:00 noon, I figured that should give me plenty of time to get another shot of it with the sails still up. When I got over there I drove out to a park that has a nice long fishing pier. I got there about 10:30 and didn’t see any signs of the ship. I waited around for awhile and thought “what if it already passed through here and I missed it?” I took the gamble and left to head to it’s destination – The Tampa Convention Center.  I ended up beating it there by about 30 minutes.

I went up to the observation deck at the back of the convention center to see if I could spot it. When I saw it coming in they had already pulled the sails down. I missed the shot I had planned out in my head but now I had decent lighting so I was still happy. Once the ship was situated in the harbor I went to work. The final image I made is an HDR composed of 6 brackets.

Privateer Lynx

The ship is going to be going back and forth between Tampa and St. Pete until March 13th so I am hoping to get back down there for some more pics.

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Camping at Lake Kissimmee State Park

At the beginning of October I took a little camping trip. I reserved a campsite at one of Florida’s many beautiful state parks: Lake Kissimmee State Park. If you are a nature lover and want to get away from the lights and sounds of the city then this is the place for you. Located about 15 miles away from the main city area of Lake Wales is a park that is hidden from urban development. Once you arrive at the entrance the campground is still 3 miles back in the park. With extremely dark skies the park is a wonderful place for stargazing.

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Upon my arrival I checked in at the ranger station and drove back to the campground to get my site all setup.

CampsiteAfter setting up the site it was time grill up some burgers! No food pics as I was pretty hungry by the time I got to eat so the camera was put up.

When I checked in on  Friday evening the ranger informed me that their cow camp had just opened for visitors. I was intrigued at the photo opportunities so I perused the brochure to find out more information.

1870's Florida Cow CampThe open prairies of the area were a real draw to the cowboys of the day. They even had a real cowboy on hand to tell the stories of survival in the wild of the 1870’s.

1870's CowboyThey had some authentic items on hand to complete the theme as well. This saddle was a great example of the way of life back then.

Saddle 'em Up!

Here is a close-up of the metal emblem on the horse bridle hanging on the end of the wooden post.

US Horse Bridle

And this old wooden canteen for carrying drinking water was another great find.

CS Wooden CanteenAnd nothing completes a great day better than a spectacular sunset provided by mother nature.

Sunset Canal

But to really finish off the night nothing can beat a sky full of stars!

Starry Starry Night

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Liberty Belle

To celebrate the upcoming release of the Disney Pixar movie Monsters University on June 21st, Disney’s Magic Kingdom was open for 24 hours on May 24th. The fun began at 6 am Friday and ended at 6 am Saturday. Walking around a theme park during the middle of the night gives you a magical feeling. Everything just looks different for some reason.

I walked around with my camera gear all night so I could capture some different images. I saw the makings of this shot earlier in the evening, but the water wasn’t quite still enough to get this smooth reflection. At 3:21 am I got to take this shot. I couldn’t believe how calm the water was. This was exactly what I was looking for.

The boat is the Liberty Belle. It is what makes the Liberty Square Riverboat ride. It takes passengers on a scenic half-mile journey around Tom Sawyer island. Here is a link to the website for more information about this ride. The Haunted Mansion can be seen lit up in purple in the background.

If you would like to view more pictures on my blog from Disney, just click here.

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Liberty Belle

The Boardwalk

On a recent trip to Disney, I spent the day walking around taking in the magic. I explored some of the resorts and slowly made my way to the boardwalk area. After walking around there for a little bit, I sat down to a quick meal and a little relaxation.

It was getting close to sunset time so I started looking for something interesting to shoot. I noticed a sliver of sunlight peeking through the clouds. I found a spot that I liked and noticed the way the light was hitting the buildings. Since the lights were also turned on, it made for a nicely lit scene.

For the last half of the day the sky had pretty much been gray so I wasn’t expecting spectacular sunset colors. I moved around a little bit looking for different compositions and just enjoyed the way everything was looking. All of a sudden the clouds started breaking up and the most beautiful display of color and light that I had ever witnessed was appearing before my eyes. I started getting really excited! I had a very surreal feeling come over me. It was like standing in a dream. I was mesmerized by what I was seeing.

I kid you not when I say the light was changing every 30 seconds. This was one of the most awesome things I have ever seen. And just when you think it’s over it changes again. I took a lot of shots this day, but this one really stood out to me. I will never forget Sunday January 13th, 2013.

If you would like to view more pictures on my blog from Disney, just click here.

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The Boardwalk

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Around the Bend

Happy New Year everyone! This is officially my first post of 2013. And this image was shot on the first day of the year!

For my first outing of the new year I decided to go for a bike ride. I wanted to see something different so after researching the Florida State Parks website for bicycling activities, I chose this area: Cross Florida Greenway – Withlacoochee Bay Trail. Situated in Crystal River, Florida the trailhead starts at Felburn Park. The trail runs 5 miles out to the Gulf of Mexico along an old barge canal. There are pavilions along the way with tables and benches where you can sit and relax with a beautiful view of the water.

The day started out as kind of a gray cloudy day. I prefer blue skies with puffy white clouds, but you have to use what you’re given. I stopped along the way to the Gulf at the different areas to see what I could shoot. I wasn’t really feeling inspired so I continued on.  I did get to see a family of deer run across the trail right in front of me which was pretty cool!

When I got to the Gulf area, I saw the most beautiful God rays I had ever seen. And they lasted for quite awhile. I hope to post one of those shots on the blog real soon.

When I started heading back I was watching the sky and noticed that there was some blue color trying to show through. With eager anticipation I kept looking upwards and decided to stop one more time. I finally got to get what I was hoping for.

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Around the Bend

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