May 26th, 2015
In my years of photographing wildflowers I have found that Florida State Forests provide some of the best locations to locate interesting subjects.
The 37 state forests in Florida comprise over a million acres of land. The forest service manages these properties for resource management, to protect biological diversity and for various public uses such as hunting, hiking, bicycling and horseback riding, just to name a few.
Many of the hiking and horse trails are featured in the Trailwalker and Trailtrotter programs that encourage keeping track of the trails completed to earn small tokens of accomplishment. I have hiked over 20 of these trails, attaining the Trailwalker and Trailblazer levels. The Florida Trail also passes through some of the state forests, and many of the forests are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The natural habitats in forests throughout the state allow native, and sometimes rare, wildflowers to thrive. This is especially true when the appropriate fire management can be conducted, which the forest service strives for as resources and conditions allow.
One of my favorite locations is Tiger Bay State Forest, which is home to a substantial portion of the known populations of the rare Rugel's false pawpaw. Deeringothamnus rugelii is endemic to Volusia County, meaning this is the only place it naturally occurs. Also called yellow squirrel-banana, this little plant responds well to fire, not liking the competition from other plants after too many years without fire.
Other subjects I have photographed at Tiger Bay include Pine Lily and Pines and Milkweed Veins, a close up image of a pinewoods milkweed leaf.
Butterflies abound as well, including Zebra Longwings and a Phaon crescent butterfly in Phaon on Phyla. The tiny little flowers are turkey tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), a host plant for this and several other butterflies.
The Florida Indian Plantain,also called Florida Cacalia and subject of the photo titled Florida Cacalia Trio is another Florida endemic wildflower that I photographed both in Tiger Bay and Lake Wales Ridge state forests.
Clasping Warea, an endangered endemic wildflower was photographed in the Warea Tract of Seminole State Forest.
Goethe State Forest, where I captured this crab spider on a rayless sunflower, is also home to many native terrestrial orchids.
The horned bladderworts at Okaloachoochee Slough State Forest reminded me of little yellow conquistador helmets, which I photographed from various angles.
The fetterbush flowers at the beginning of this post were found at Point Washington State Forest in the panhandle.
There is much to experience in our state forests and I encourage anyone who enjoys nature and the outdoors to check one out.
Regular readers may remember my post earlier this year on hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail last December. Daniel and I returned for another section hike at the beginning of March and he posted a 13 minute video overview of this second wintery hike on youtube.
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May 25, 2015
May 1st, 2015
Florida is home to over a hundred orchid species, making up about half of the orchids found in North America.
Many may think of orchids as being a tropical plant, but orchids are one of the most diverse plant families and can be found almost anywhere on the planet.
I have been pleasantly surprised to come across orchids in both Michigan's upper peninsula and in Oregon's Mt. Hood National Forest.
People for centuries have had a particular fascination with orchids, with explorers traveling the world collecting new species for orchid fanciers to cultivate in their gardens and greenhouses.
This obsession, as characterized by the phrase “orchids put the cult in horticulture”, has been observed and described in various books and other writings over the years.
One of the more widely known of these is Susan Orleans' "The Orchid Thief".
"The Scent of Scandal", a more recent book by Craig Pittman is not only an entertaining true story of Florida orchid mania, it is also an informative bibliography on the subject of orchids.
My appreciation of orchids is focused on finding and photographing the many native species that are found in Florida and elsewhere.
This quest has taken me into various natural and often inhospitable habitats around the state, both on my own, and on field trips with knowledgeable orchid experts.
I have been on several field trips lead by Paul Martin Brown, author of "Wild Orchids of Florida" and other orchid guides and publications.
On one of these outings, Paul made a statement typical of orchid enthusiasts, “there are two kinds of plants in the world, orchids and not orchids”.
Thanks to Paul Martin Brown I have seen several orchids that I might not have found otherwise, including woodland ladiestresses, green addersmouth orchid and a new species that he just described about 8 years ago, Potts' plume orchid.
I have also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Owen, state biologist at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, on several occasions.
One of these was a Florida Native Plant Society field trip that he led, but the first time I met him was on my first of several visits to the Fakahatchee.
He stopped and talked to me as I was getting organized at my car in a parking area along Janes Scenic Drive.
Mike was very friendly and helpful in suggesting where I might want to go to look for interesting things to photograph.
In retrospect, he might have been also checking me out to ease his mind that I was not a poacher, as I could very easily appeared as such at first glance.
The Fakahatchee is a very different place depending upon what time of year it is.
In late spring, at the end of the dry season, it is a fairly easy place to explore.
A person can walk down any of the old logging tram paths and off into the low areas with only a few puddles here and there and if your timing is good, very few bugs.
By mid summer, the water is up and the mosquitoes are in full blood-sucking force.
In mid winter, the mosquitoes are often gone, but the water is deep.
Getting to the pretty plants involves carefully wading through waist deep water as I did with Daniel Reed one December during some of south Florida's coldest weather on record.
The orchid highlights of that adventure were the night-scented and the clamshell.
A misstep from catching my boot on a submerged log resulted in my film camera getting dipped into the swamp.
The camera continued to work the remainder of that outing, but it soon died and I was unable to revive it as I had after it's dunking in the Apalachicola Forest's Bradwell Bay several years earlier.
This development resulted in my migrating to digital photography.
Although I have seen and photographed many things in the Fakahatchee, the magnificent flower of the ghost orchid has eluded me there.
I have seen young not-yet-blooming plants in the strand, simply a few green threads of orchid roots on a tree.
The only flowers I have seen were on the plant in the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
This was only fairly recently discovered by a birder looking for owls after the devastating 2004 Florida hurricane season apparently cleared the view from the boardwalk to a ghost orchid plant high on a tree.
You can see my ghost orchid photos at Wild Florida Photo.
Not all of Florida's orchids are epiphytes, plants that grow on trees instead of the soil.
With the exception of the greenfly and Tampa butterfly orchids, most of those outside of tropical south Florida are terrestrial plants.
These include the leafless beaked lady orchid - Sacoila lanceolata - that can sometimes be found in highway right-of-ways.
The many species of ladiestresses are mostly terrestrial, with fragrant, or marsh, ladiestresses - Spiranthes odorata - being semi-aquatic, often growing in seasonally flooded areas.
The waterspider false reinorchid - Habenaria repens - is one of the few truly aquatic orchids, found along open shorelines, ditches and stagnant pools.
Orchid hunting, in my case with a camera, can be a challenging and rewarding experience, taking a person into places they might not otherwise go and also experiencing many other interesting and beautiful aspects of our wild natural world.
The orchid photographs above can be purchased online by clicking on the desired image, and you can see all 33 of the Florida orchids that I have photographed so far at the Wild Florida Photo Orchidaceae page.
April 30, 2015
March 24th, 2015
Florida's Ocklawaha River flows north 74 miles from Lake Harris in Lake County passing through Marion County and along the western border of the Ocala national Forest, ending in Putnam County, entering the St. Johns River just upstream of Welaka.
The Ocklawaha is the largest tributary of the St. Johns River, and Silver River is the largest tributary of the Ockalwaha.
The 5-1/2 mile Silver River is the outflow of Silver Springs, one of Florida's largest freshwater springs.
The name is derived from ak-lowahe, meaning muddy in the Creek language.
After the earlier Timucua people of this area were vanquished by disease and early colonists, Creeks moved in as they were pushed out of their traditional homelands to the north.
Those native peoples that remained in Florida came to be known as Seminoles.
The Ocklawaha River was one of Florida's earliest tourist attractions after the Civil War, with specially designed steamboats taking passengers along a wild jungle cruise up the Ocklawaha to Silver Springs.
This activity peaked in the 1870's and diminished after railroad service was established to Ocala in 1881.
The Ocklawaha was intended to be a major part of the cross Florida barge canal, a project started several times and canceled in the early 1970's but not before Rodman dam was built, creating a reservoir out of part of the river.
For a complete history of the canal, one should read Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida's Future by Steven Noll and David Tegeder.
The path of the canal is now the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, named for one of the people most active in the efforts to stop the canal from being built.
The July-August 2012 issue of Audubon Magazine featured an article by Ted Williams about the Ocklawaha River titled "Has One Florida Dam's Day Finally Come?".
Recommended reading for anyone who would like to know more about this beautiful river and the struggle to remove a remnant dam from the abandoned cross-Florida canal project.
Recently a new impetus to removing the dam has come from an agreement to promote Ocklawaha River restoration to improve the St. Johns River water quality to offset the effects of planned dredging for the port at Jacksonville,
The sections of the Ocklawaha that are still natural are some of the most scenic waterways in Florida and make for excellent canoeing and kayaking.
The river is enjoyed by many, including paddlers, birders, fishermen and others. It is a favorite of both myself & Virginia, and we like to be on this beautiful river as often as possible.
All of the photographs in this blog post were made along the Ocklawaha River.
March 24, 2015
February 18th, 2015
Last fall as an important project at my day job was coming to a close, I mentioned to my friend Daniel that I had some vacation time I needed to take before the end of the year and we began discussing possible outdoor trips. Considering various kayaking and/or backpacking locations for what was looking like a mid-December trip, I sent an e-mail that included “I did have what is probably a crazy idea that we might want to hike the first stretch of the Appalachian Trail...”. Daniel did not think that was so crazy and we proceeded our planning from there.
We both have done many backpacking trips, from overnight to a week, but had never been on the Appalachian Trail for more than a few miles. Having just turned 60 I thought it was about time that I did an AT section hike. Since it had been a number of years since either of us had been backpacking in the mountains and with the time of the year creating the possibility of seriously cold weather, snow and ice, gear and clothing selection took into consideration weight and likely cold hiking and camping conditions.
Following almost two months of planning, gear selection and stepped up physical training, we met at one of the campsites in the Three Forks area near where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Noontootla River. Noontootla Creek #1 was one of the photographs I made near camp the next morning before we headed off to drop off a cache of food along the trail and then to Neel Gap to start the hike.
It was very late in the day as we reached the highest peak of our hike, where we were treated to a beautiful View from Blood Mountain of the Blue Ridge. This is also the greatest elevation in the Apalachicola River watershed making Blood Mountain the highest source of water that reaches Florida. Amazing to think that rain falling on this remote north Georgia peak could be part of the fresh water essential to the oysters in Apalachicola Bay.
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After passing the historic rebuilt stone AT shelter, we descended down to a group of campsites where we stopped for the night just as the sun was setting.
At the nearby water source, we met the first of several groups of through hikers nearing the end of their long journey on the AT.
A surprise to both of us was how many other hikers were also on the trail at this time of year. Of the several dozen people we saw during our trek, almost ten were finishing up hikes from Maine. Most of the times that I have been backpacking, I seldom see other people, and if I do it is usually only 1 or 2, or a single group. Hiking the AT is much more social than either Daniel or myself were used to.
The second day of hiking was a long one and included the View from Big Cedar Mountain along the way. That night was the only rain of the trip while we were snug in the bivies and mostly dry under the tarp.
A short day of hiking brought us to Gooch Gap were we camped on a long unused roadbed on the side of a hill near where we stashed supplies. The next morning was the only one where I got up before the sun – just barely - and captured Appalachian Sunrise.
Also that morning I photographed the small nearby streams making End of the Road Falls and Walden Creek Cascade.
Taking a break and refilling water bottles at Justus Creek also provided a photographic opportunity. This was the last water source until Hawk Mountain shelter, which we reached right around dusk, ending one of the longer days on the trail.
A short day of hiking allowed a side trek to Long Creek Falls and retrieval of my car at Neel Gap after selecting a campsite for our last two nights. Long Creek Falls Swoosh is a perspective looking down from a midpoint of the several cascades.
This final camp was several miles downstream from our first Three Forks camp. Here I made Noontootla Creek #2, Noontootla Creek #3 and Noontootla Flow and Swirl.
We drove up to the approach parking lot and hiked up to Springer Mountain then back down to Three Forks to finish our section hike. The View from Springer Mountain was particularly nice as we enjoyed our accomplishment at reaching the summit of the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. See the image at the head of this post, that is Daniel on the left and I am on the right.
On the last morning I made Noontootla Creek #4 before heading back home to Florida.
Feb. 17, 2015
December 31st, 2014
Each year since 2001 the non-profit organization Operation Migration has used ultralight aircraft to lead that year's juvenile whooping cranes from the breeding grounds in Wisconsin to Florida for the winter. After being shown the migration route once, the cranes head north on their own in the spring and return to Florida each succeeding winter.
In the winter of 2010-2011 I planned on going to one of the public flyover events and was all set to see the whoopers when they came through Marion County in December on their way to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Weather kept the ultralights & cranes in north Florida where they waited until after the holidays, and then resumed the final leg of their flight in January.
This photograph of four of the whooping cranes and the ultralight aircraft are from the flyover event in Marion County just before the cranes arrived at their last stop. The other half of this flock wintered at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
More photos from the flyover event can be seen at Wild Florida Photo and information about of whooping cranes and other photos of these birds can be seen on the Wild Florida Photo Grus americana page.
To learn more about the work and history of Operation Migration visit the Operation Migration website.
Dec. 11, 2014
December 31st, 2014
My 'on the water' photography has increased greatly the past 4 years since purchasing a sea touring kayak that I found on Craig’s List. Prior to this most of my paddling had been in a canoe. I acquired the kayak to allow me to go out on solo photography paddles and also for extended kayak camping with my friend Daniel Reed from Tennessee.
Kayaking is a great way to see natural Florida and its flora and fauna. The low 'near the water' position provides a great angle for photography and that low profile along with the relative quietness of a kayak, allows sighting of even more wildlife than in most other boats, even canoes. I have seen more green herons since I started kayaking than I had previously, like this pair along the Tomoka River.
Most of my kayaking has been solo, which allows me to stop and spend whatever time I want photographing various scenes and subjects. On one paddle last year I met another solo kayaker on Blackwater Creek who I only knew from reading his Dave’s Yak Tales blog.
I have participated in several kayak camping trips with Daniel & other friends, plus field trips like this one on the Silver River with groups such as Florida Native Plant Society or day trips with an informal group of paddlers known as the River Runners. The string lily image below was made on a lower Ocklawaha River paddle with the River Runners.
In Florida almost any body of water with access is paddle-able, although some are more scenic than others. The natural parts of the Ocklawaha River are particularly nice, as is the Silver River that flows from Silver Springs to the Ocklawaha. The Suwannee River is great for kayak or canoe camping trips from 1 or 2 nights to a week or more. For more information check out the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.
For the more adventurous, there is the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, which Daniel and I kayaked for a week from Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola to Henderson Beach State Park near Destin.
Water - especially salt water - and cameras do not mix. I killed my previous camera in the keys when the cockpit filled with water while snorkeling in choppy waters near Big Pine Key. The dry bag I was using did not remain dry inside. I learned a hard lesson that dry bags are not created equal. It is important to use a good waterproof bag that is easy to open and close, such as the one I now have, a Sagebrush Dry Hip & Deck Pack. My current camera survived a dunking in the gulf of Mexico thanks to that bag which simply floated, tethered to the overturned kayak in the over six foot waves.
The Scarlet Hibiscus below was photographed along Spring Garden Creek, between DeLeon Springs State Park and Lake Woodruff.
The Cooter on Alligator Log image was made on Snake Creek near Hontoon Island State Park.
Nov 20, 2014
November 5th, 2014
One of the highlights of the local Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail is the Fairchild Oak, a majestic live oak tree estimated to be over 400 years old. This tree is located in Florida's Bulow Creek State Park and was named for botanist Dr. David Fairchild who was fond of and visited the tree regularly in the early 1900s. This is the same Fairchild that Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables, Florida is named after. Capt. James Ormond's 19th century Damietta plantation, just north of present day Ormond Beach, included this landmark oak tree.
Live oaks range through all the southeastern coastal states from Texas to Virginia and are found throughout most of Florida except for the keys.
For more information and photographs of live oaks visit the Wild Florida Photo Quercus virginiana page.
Oct. 25, 2014
September 3rd, 2014
With the passing of Labor Day marking the end of summer from a cultural perspective, though not quite the closing of the season in either a meteorological or astronomical calendar, I thought summer vacations would be a fitting subject. As someone who still has a non-photography day job, vacations often present opportunities to pursue my part-time career while still providing recreation and 'down-time'. Over the years Virginia and I have travelled to a number of places, during which I have managed to capture some interesting subjects, branching out from my mainstay of Florida photography. Some of the highlights can be seen in my Pacific Northwest and Michigan galleries.
For instance, last summer took us to Oregon with a dip into the redwoods of northern California. After several days experiencing the Portland scene, we ventured out, first to a cabin at Detroit Lake where our local friends took us on some drives to higher altitudes to discover that the wildflowers were as abundant in mid-summer there as they were in the southern Appalachians in spring. Among these wildflowers were bird's-foot trefoil which I captured in an image called Fabaceae Circle. The camping portion of the trip began at Silver Falls State Park where I found Salmonberries in fruit next to our campsite. A short stay only allowed us to see some of the many waterfalls in this park, but I was very pleased with one of the images I made of the main falls that I titled Silver Falls Silver Mist. In Mt. Hood National Forest we stayed in a yurt along Lost Creek with an enchanting nature walk next to the campground, which revealed many subjects for my camera. A drive up a small, sometimes washed out, hillside road lead me to a vistas where I made Mt. Hood. At another location the conifers were framing the peak for Mt. Hood #2. We left the mountain area by way of the scenic Columbia River, and after another night in Portland headed to at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park for more camping, where we were introduced to the cute but noisy Douglas Squirrels. A scenic drive down the Oregon Coast Highway took us to the majestic redwoods of northern California.
A previous trip to the Pacific Northwest in 2003 had us visiting Washington and British Columbia. We started by visiting Mt. Rainier National Park, where I quickly realized that cloudless views of the peak were limited to early in the day. The next portion of that trip was into the Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean, where I saw sea stacks for the first time that I can remember, including Cake Rock at Rialto Beach. We also visited Dungeness Harbor before taking a ferry to Vancouver Island.
2009 found us in the upper peninsula of Michigan, staying with a group of friends from around the country in a cabin at Van Riper State Park which served as our base for exploring the area. One busy day included Big Bay Point Light, Alder Falls, which I also did in black and white, and both the upper and lower cascades on Pup Creek. Before culminating our day of sightseeing with locally brewed beers in Marquette the group visited an interesting geologic formation in Ishpeming where an outcrop of jaspilite can be seen at the top of a hill. On our way to our next destination Virginia and I visited Pictured Rocks National Seashore, where the sights included Munising Falls and Miners Castle jutting out into Lake Superior.
Combining vacations with photographic opportunities may mean not being in a place at the ultimate best time for imaging, is also presents subjects that I might not otherwise have captured.
Sept. 3, 2014
June 30th, 2014
Every year the Orange Audubon Society conducts the Kit & Sidney Chertok Florida Native Nature Photography Contest. The contest is named for the Chertoks who moved to Orlando in 1985. Sidney Chertok had numerous skills and interests during his life, being an electrical engineer, patent holder, director of information services and also advertising and promotion for Sprague Electric Company. He was also a reporter and photographer, with a particular interest in nature subjects. Mr. Chertok edited a photo-filled calendar for 34 years featuring images solicited by competition. Kit Chertok, an Orange Audubon board member in the 1990’s, was instrumental in establishing this photo contest in her husband’s memory to encourage nature photography in others. The contest mission statement reads: "To promote interest and concern for preserving the native fauna and flora of Florida, and to encourage nature photography and enjoyment and appreciation of our natural wonders.” Participants in the contest include Audubon members and others interested in nature photography, with separate categories for youth, novice & advanced photographers since 2011. Previously the categories changed from year to year, usually separated by subject matter. Orange Audubon serves the Orlando area and submitted photos are from throughout Florida.
I won my first Chertok award in 2007 for the image “Don't Mess With My Chicks” (see my March “Great Horned Owls” blog post for more about that image), which placed third in the Florida's Birds! category. I took two awards in 2009, with “Heading Out to Sea” of a loggerhead sea turtle hatching winning first place in the Beyond Birds! category and the Black Skimmers adult and chick image titled “Homer & Bart” (shown here in my 'selfie' with a big print on display at this year's awards ceremony) receiving an honorable mention in Florida's Avian Wonders!. In 2009 my extreme close-up of “Small Butterwort” won an honorable mention in the category Florida Invertebrates and/or Wildflowers. My “Pine Lily and Pines” from Tiger Bay State Forest earned and honorable mention in the 2012 Chertok contest Advanced class.
Gallery of Award Winning images by Paul Rebmann
This year (2014) I was asked to be one of the judges for the 26th annual contest. The other judges were Marina Scarr, photographer and Carolyn A. Cohen, watercolors and etchings artist. In 2013 Marina won both first and second place in the advanced category of this contest and in 2012 took third place. The winners were announced Thursday evening, June 19 at an awards dinner at Leu Gardens. After the contest committee had culled out the disqualified entries (images cannot contain humans, human structures or artifacts or non-natives), the three of us spent most of a Sunday viewing the over 350 entries and selecting those worthy of the top three awards in each category, plus honorable mentions. We were particularly impressed by a number of the entries in the youth category, several expressing some 'out-of-the-box' thinking that produced some successful results. The 2014 winners can be viewed, along with winners from previous years at Orange Audubon's website.
June 22, 2014
May 7th, 2014
After my April 8 tweet '7 years ago today' of a Carolina satyr butterfly -
view original tweet – Dr. Andrew Warren (@AndyBugGuy) of the University of Florida McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity contacted me asking if I had more photos of that butterfly since he wanted to see if any of them might be a newly described similar species. It turned out that I had taken a number of photos on several occasions and at different locations that I had identified as Carolina satyr. Two of these butterflies were actually the 'new' intricate satyr butterfly. The photo that I tweeted was a Carolina satyr. The butterfly had its wings spread and the photograph shows one of the differentiating characteristics between the two species. Intricate satyrs lack a darker area towards the base of the forewings that is shown in my photo of the Carolina Satyr titled "Brown Velvet". This photo will appear in an article about these butterflies in the June issue of the News of the Lepidoperists' Society.
May 7, 2014