At 3:31 am on Sunday August 12, the Parker Solar Probe was launched on a Delta Heavy rocket. Getting up extra early for the second day in a row, as the previous launch attempt was scrubbed, I captured the launch from Ormond by the Sea. This photograph was made using a long exposure of just over five and a half minutes.
The lighted buildings are in Daytona Beach and the small bright light just to the left of these buildings and to the right of the rocket trail is the Ponce Inlet light house. The two lights below the arc of the rocket were fishing vessels. The one that is a line was moving more perpendicular to my line of sight, and the other that showed up as more of a bright dot was more directly approaching or receding from my viewpoint. One star in this field of view was bright enough to leave a star trail on the image. I think that this star was Vela.
After the launch, I stayed up experimenting with photographing the Perseids meter shower which was peaking this same weekend. One of those meteor images can be seen here.
Perseids Meteor and Orion
At 4:21am a bright fiery object passed overhead. Since I was set up for capturing meteors in that part of the sky, I managed to take eight 2-second long exposures that showed this flaming light. At first I thought that this was the third stage burn for the Parker solar probe, but that actually occurred about 11 minutes earlier, and I later found out way above earth orbit. Since both the second and third stages left earth orbit, and the first stage was unlikely to last that long, it does not seem that it would have been any of the spent rocket stages de-obiting. The only other thing I can think it could be was a very long lasting slow meteor fireball.
Here is a stacked composite image of the eight photographs that I made while this light passed in front of the constellation Orion.
Perseids Fireball and Orion
And here is a video created from a series of those same eight photographs spaced out in time to match when they were taken and the length of the exposures.
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 traveled 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.
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.
Don't Mess With My Chicks
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.
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.
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.
Purchase a 20.00" x 16.00" stretched canvas print of Paul Rebmann's View from Blood Mountain for the promotional price of $75
Sale ends at 5 pm Monday, Feb. 23.
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.
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.
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.
William Bartram was born in 1738 in the family home (pictured here at the end of March) overlooking the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia. His father was John Bartram, widely considered the Father of American Botany and co-founder with Benjamin Franklin and others of the Philadelphia Philosophical Society. When William was 27 he accompanied his father on his first expedition into Georgia and Florida. The purpose of this trip was to provide a report and collection of plants to King George III on the area recently acquired by England from Spain.
After that expedition, William returned to the southeastern colonies on behalf of private English benefactors who in return received much of what he collected. He also attempted at one point to start a plantation in Florida along the St. Johns River, an endeavor that did not last long. After returning to Pennsylvania, he wrote and eventually published his famous and popular book Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida. In it he described the plants and creatures that he encountered in this strange wild land, including the natives, with which he had many interactions. The chief of the Alachua tribe called William 'puc-puggy', which was 'flower hunter' in their language.
As a result of the botanical knowledge that he brought back to scientists with his drawings and collections, a number of species bear the Bartram name in William's honor (and also a few for his father). The images here include several that I have photographed, one of these is Bartram's Ixia, a small wildflower that is only found in northeastern Florida, mostly in the area surrounding Bartram's failed plantation. Calydorea caelestina blooms in the late spring and into the summer. Each of the violet-blue flowers open only once early in the day, start closing during mid-morning, and are usually gone by noon. When not in bloom, the plant is nondescript, appearing as though it was some kind of grass. Travels included a drawing of this Ixea.
Here is a sample from Travels where William is returning down the St. Johns river in his small boat and has spent a pleasant night camped in an orange grove along the river. After arising and attending to his vessel, he ventures into a field beyond the grove: "What a beautiful display of vegetation is here before me! Seemingly unlimited in extent and variety: how the dew-drops twinkle and play upon the sight, trembling on the tips of the lucid, green savanna, sparkling as the gem that flames on the turban of the eastern prince. See the pearly tears rolling off the buds of the expanding Granadilla:* behold the azure fields of cerulean Ixia!"
*Granadilla = Passiflora incarnata - purple passionflower, maypop
Another interesting plant named for William is Bartram's airplant - Tillandsia bartramii. This epiphytic plant anchors itself on tree branches and trunks and derives sustenance by absorbing nutrients from the rain, dew, dust, decaying leaves and insect matter. Bartram's airplant can be found in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tamaulipas, Mexico. In the image here, a tubular violet flower can be seen emerging from rose-red bracts. The plant forms a globular cluster of needle-like leaves.
A documentary titled Cultivating the Wild: William Bartram's Travels is in the works centered around William Bartram and the nature that he explored. A sample of this project can be seen at https://vimeo.com/148183049.
When Travels was first published, many readers were skeptical about some of his descriptions, such as the size, ferocity and number of alligators that he encountered, and of the civilized nature of the native tribes, which many people at the time considered savages. As time passed and more people ventured into the same areas, they discovered that his fantastical descriptions did have a basis in fact.
As I venture into the wild natural areas of Florida while hiking, canoeing or kayaking, I sometimes try to imagine what this must have seemed like to a young man from Pennsylvania over two hundred years ago.
The Sarraceniaceae is a family of carnivorous plants known as the pitcher-plants. Members of this plant family have modified leaves that form a pitcher of various shapes and colors that traps and digests insects. This allows these plants to thrive in low-nutrient soils as is found in some bogs and other usually wet locations. Unlike the better-known venus fly-trap, the pitcher-plants catch their prey without any moving parts, using the shape of the pitcher, hairs and/or chemicals instead to capture their meals.
Other than the California pitcherplant - Darlingtonia californica - on the west coast, all of the North American species of the pitcher-plant family are in the genus Sarracenia. A number of these can be found in the southeastern states, with one - Sarracenia purpurea - also occurring across the colder regions of the continent.
In Florida the most widespread of these is the hooded pitcherplant. Sarracenia minor is the only species found in the Florida peninsula., occurring from just north of Lake Okeechobee, west into the central panhandle and into Georgia and the Carolinas. While I see these fairly frequently, they are seldom as nice looking and not obscured by other plants as they were early this May in Tiger Bay State Forest.
All of the other pitcherplants are absent from the Florida peninsula, occurring mostly in the panhandle and various southeastern states. I have seen several of these during Florida Native Plant Society conference field trips in the Apalachicola National Forest. During these and other visits in the forest, I have seen many color variations of Sarracenia flava, yellow pitcherplants. At one of the locations visited, I went back after the field trip and made the image that I call O'Sarracenia.
This memorial day weekend I visited Tate's Hell State Forest, stopping at an area that was recently burned to check out a big patch of Oceola's Plume. Here I also discovered fresh leaves of parrot pitcherplants. In this species, the hood resembles a parrot head and obscures the small opening that allows insects into the trap.
There are many variations on the details of how the area got its name, but all revolve around Cebe Tate, a farmer who in 1875 went hunting a panther that was killing his livestock and had a lengthily and harrowing experience in the wild. It alleged that when he emerged from the swampland he stated that that ..."I just came from Hell". After which the area came to be known as Tate's Hell. Now a state forest , it is popular with hunters, paddlers enjoying the New River, birders seeking red-cockaded woodpeckers, migrating warblers and more, plus other nature lovers.
My primary objective this day was to find whitetop pitcherplants, a species that I possibly seen before late in the year. They were dried, brown and mostly toppled pitchers along the Florida Trail in Blackwater River State Forest and could have been either yellow (S. flava) or whitetop (S. leucophylla) pitcherplants. After scouting around in Tate's Hell, stopping here and there to photograph various subjects, I finally found some Sarracenia leucophylla and was able to make some photographs before a thunderstorm moved in and sent me on my way.
While May is not the only time you can see pitcherplants, it does happen that all of the images seen here were taken in May of various years. Most of these species would probably have prettier flowers earlier in the season, before the drooping petals fall off.
This is the first in a series of posts that will focus on images in the Only in Florida exhibit, now on display in the Lyonia Gallery in Deltona.
Bigflower Pawpaw, photographed in the Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida.
In 1774 while traveling in present day Putnam county from Spaldings lower store at Stokes Landing to Halfway pond (now known as Cowpen Lake) William Bartram saw many new shrubs, "particularly a species of annona...". Bartram went on to describe what is now known as Asimina obovata in his Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, a book that was not published until 1791. Imagine how difficult it was to get a book published in the 18th century, even if your dad (John Bartram) started a really cool club (the American Philosophical Society) with one of the area's most famous printers (Benjamin Franklin), who was known to come over and hang out at the house for chats (Bartram's Gardens).
The home of John & William Bartram at Bartram Gardens, Philadelphia.
In the meantime André Michaux was exploring Florida for France in 1787. Michaux also noticed this plant near the Indian River in present day Brevard County where he "collected two Annonas, one of which was a new species with very large white flowers...".
Both of these early botanical explorers were describing an endemic Florida species - Asimina obovata - or bigflower pawpaw. This plant is only found in the Florida peninsula from just south of Jacksonville to Lake Okeechobee.
Bigflower Pawpaw grows in a variety of habitats, but tends towards scrubby, sandy areas. Most frequently a shrub it can become treelike and reach up to 15 feet tall. The large white to greenish-white flowers can be seen from March through May after the current season's new leaves have emerged. The flowers form at the ends of short lateral shoots. The tips of these shoots and the veins on the undersides of the leaves are red-pubescent(fuzzy), one of the distinguishing marks that help identify this species. Another is the maroon corrugated area on the inside base of the inner petals.
Showing the maroon base on the inside of the petals.
Now that winter has actually arrived, both here in Florida and in points north, I want to look back at just last month when much of the eastern United States was experiencing temperatures that could be used as a textbook example of 'unseasonable'.
Unless you have been living in a remote cave I am sure you have heard the reports that 2015 was the warmest year on record. In fact December was globally the warmest calendar month in 136 years of weather history. For anyone who wants to read more on this, Jeff Master's blog at Weather Underground is an excellent summary.
In Florida the weather was only marginally cool enough to camp a few days in November and December when it is usually ideal weather to sit around a campfire and sleep in a tent.
In mid-December I had heard that the water level was high enough to allow easy paddling up to Lake Norris. This had long been on my kayaking to-do list, so I enjoyed a beautiful Sunday on the water paddling upstream on Blackwater Creek, winding through the cypress swamp then all the way around Lake Norris and back. This scenic water body in Lake County is similar in appearance to Lake Disston in Flagler Co (see my October post) and Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County.
I was surprised to come across several scarlet hibiscus flowers along the edge of Lake Norris. It is not that this is an unusual place to see them because it is not. In fact, the best way to see this magnificent native wildflower is by boat, as it favors the wet edges of streams and ponds. But it is a summer or early fall bloomer, with flowers most often seen in July and August in this area.
During the Christmas bird count, our team noticed a few anomalies with the types and numbers of birds seen, including a low count of robins, which in a more typical year would have been driven here in large numbers by cold weather. While out canvasing birds we saw several out-of season flowers. The azaleas might not be that unusual, as they do tend to flower sporadically during even slightly mild winters earlier than their more typical late February blooms. But the big surprise were the southern magnolia flowers, which would normally be seen from late spring into early summer.
These untimely floral phenomena might be just a observational curiosity. It is unlikely - as can often happen farther north when plants bud and flower too early - that freezes will significantly harm the coming year's normal plant cycles. But as a fellow naturalist pointed out the other day, the last time there was a winter similar to this was 1997-1998. That was during an El Niño event, one that up until then was the strongest in history but surpassed by the current cycle. The warm and wet winter promoted a lot of unseasonable growth. Followed by a shift to a La Niña weather pattern that brought a dry spring and summer, making all that extra growth prime fuel for the most devastating wildfire season Florida had ever experienced. Each El Niño and La Niña period do not necessarily duplicate the resulting weather of previous events, but many of the factors that influence the weather in various areas can tend to be similar. Hopefully weather history will not repeat itself and that the increase in prescribed burns in the intervening years has helped lower the fuel load in many of Florida's natural areas and therefore make any wildfires that do occur more manageable.
With the year coming to a close I looked back at the photographs that I made over the past twelve months and picked some of my favorites to share with you here.
Last December this "View from Blood Mountain" presented itself near the end of my first day of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. This shows the Blue Ridge Mountains in north Georgia form the highest peak of that week's hike. This trip was the subject of my February post and was followed up with another week of backpacking the next section of trail at the beginning of March. That hike was encapsulated in a video by Danial Reed which can be seen in the YouTube video "A. T. Neal's Gap to Dicks Creek Gap".
The swallow-tailed kite pictured here (and also at the top of this post) was captured (photographically) near Goethe State Forest. I had been there to hike one of the forest's Trailwalker trails and try and find some of the spring orchids to photograph. I did not have much luck with the orchids, but I did find other wildflowers and wildlife including a red-headed woodpecker and a Sherman's fox squirrel, the latter of which eluded the camera. This kite was plucking things to eat out of the tops of some trees, occasionally swooping low and close to the position I had taken near the trees of a fencerow. I did get some nice images of green addersmouth orchid on the way home that day at a location I knew about near Ocala.
This image from Lake Disston (see October post) is what I consider an iconic Florida scene, but one that is mostly only seen by kayakers, canoeists and fishermen out enjoying the state's lakes and rivers. The image shows two osprey, one on the nest and another perched nearby, in an old, gnarly, weatherbeaten cypress tree growing in the shallows of the lake surrounded by spatterdock leaves.
Closer to home on the Atlantic coast this summer I photographed seaoats backlit by the early morning sun.
Once the heat of summer broke, Virginia & I went camping at Hillsborough River State Park in October. The entrance road to the park was lined with spectacular fields of Liatris in bloom. This wildflower has several names, also known as gayfeather or blazing star. This is one of the images that I made while we were there.
I hope that you have enjoyed my photographs from the past year and that you are also inspired to go out and enjoy nature.
The photography of Paul Rebmann is being shown in two public venues.
The Halifax Historical Museum is featuring the exhibit "Our Natural World Around Us" and one of the entrance displays at the Ormond Beach Library will be filled with Wild Florida Photos during The month of August.
One of the themes of both exhibits features photographs of plants named after some of Florida's botanical explorers, such as Curtiss' milkweed named for Allen Hiram Curtiss (1845-1907).
Other explorers with images of their namesake plants include Mark Catesby (1683-1749), André Michaux (1746-1802), William Bartram (1739-1823), and Ferdinand Rugel (1806-1879).
Another theme is "Only in Florida" featuring state endemic species like the Forida Scrub Jay.
A couple of the other species found only in Florida include the peninsula cooter, Florida Indian Plantain and Celestial Lily.
Both exhibits are filled out with other images of Florida scenes, flora and fauna
"Our Natural World Around Us" opened on July 14th and will be on display at the Halifax Historical Museum, 252 S. Beach St, in downtown Daytona Beach through November 14.
An online version of the exhibit can be found at the Wild Florida Photo Halifax Historical Museum exhibit section.
During this exhibit run, I will be featuring one or two images from the exhibit at a time in limited time sales of 11 inch by 14 inch stretched gallery wrap canvas prints for only $50.
To see which image is on sale, visit the Wild Florida Photo home page or the "Our Natural World Around Us" page, and/or follow on twitter @WildFlPhoto.
An online version of the Ormond Beach Library display is also available. The photographs will be on display at the Ormond Beach Library at 30 S. Beach St, Ormond Beach, FL.