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Be Merry
Written By: OC Fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
 Be Merry
 Be Merry
 Be Merry
 Be Merry
 Be Merry
 Be Merry

As I leave my nest on this 22nd day of December, 2013, I’m thinking of last year’s Adventure. Wasn’t it Sunday when a panther posed for me? This was Sunday, too, as I turned the corner onto the trail/dirt road that leads to Florida State Hiway 29 to begin my morning walk. Is that a post I haven’t noticed before in the distance, I ask myself, or maybe the Park Service is doing some kind of maintenance or is it an animal? I can’t tell, so I walk a little farther, and point my camera with a 400mm telephoto lens on it. It has ears, so it’s not a post!  I fire a couple of photos, then realize there’s not enough light, and jack up the ISO up to 16 hundred, then 32 hundred, with the newer cameras, that’s OK, It won’t cause a grainy picture like it used to do. I move towards the shape with ears. I think, since it hasn’t moved and appears to be a post, maybe it’s a big horned owl.  Their ears are right on top their heads, about two feet tall, and they’re here in America’s Jungle, too. Then, it moves, it has four legs. It’s a panther. I know Mother Nature would show me her stuff. The panther crossed the dirt road and went into the palmettos; I turned to retrieve my mega mug of coffee, that I’d sat down, when I began taking photos.
OMG what is that about a half mile away in the other direction from what I’d just been shown. It’s a huge beast. Maybe the bear that left the bucket sized piles of defecation I’d seen. I walk rapidly towards it and the massive shape separates. It’s two panthers. OMG that’s three inside of two minutes. These are ambling away from me.  I fire a couple photos then quicken my pace. They leave the trail before I can get close enough for a good full frame photo.  I walk to the spot where they disappeared from my view into the pines, cypress trees, and under growth of shrubs and brambles.  I wait a while looking in every direction, because I never know what may appear or where, and the other panther may come back. As I’m looking at where the first panther was I think, “and they say panthers are rare!” I don’t think so. Wood ducks, bob cats, rattle or cotton mouth snakes, armadillos, painted buntings, little green tree frogs, big orange grass hoppers, and I could list a whole bunch more that I see here every couple of years when I’m here for weeks at a time, are much rarer. Why some years certain creatures are plentiful, but most years they are not, is a kinda cyclical mystery to me. 
I’m satisfied when I get one impressive sighting in a day. The day has just begun, so maybe I should go back to the nest and cool it and relax. No, I brought my superb close-up lens along and I have some subjects. There’s some gorgeous pink aster flowers and I know where there’s a tree with what appears to be orchids, which I know don’t bloom here til several months from now. I made the pink flowers a challenge. I want two in equal sharp focus in the same photo at the same time. To do that the camera needs to be precisely the same distance from both. A tripod would come in handy, but I didn’t bring it. I can only carry so much stuff. I get on my knees and they protest as the pebbles punch into them. I move right and left and back and forth to get the composition and focus right. After several minutes of knee discomfort I’ve had enough. I’ll see if I have equally sharp focus of the pistols (interior) of the two flowers, when I download the photos to my laptop computer tonight. Through the view finder, which I always use, not the LCD screen, they both looked sharp.  I post view them with the LCD screen, but even it’s 2x3 inches is too small to determine the sharpness and  I find using it to view a subject as I photograph it results in an out of focus image very often.
I move on to find the tree with the orchids. I find it and there’s many of them, but no other trees have them. Why?  There’s no flowers (the inset flower on the photo shown was taken in Key West later), to help identify the epiphytic plants, but they did have the characteristic bulb like roots. I’m close to where I’ve left my chair and it’s time to relax, write what you’re reading and head back to my nest. As I’m picking the right words to describe what I’ve seen this morning, the movement of a gecko attracts my eyes. It’s flashing its crimson mating flag, a piece of skin under its chin.
As I stashed my chair, so it would be there tomorrow, I heard my old friend, a barred owl, call from way back in the wooded swamp “who cooks for you.” My day was complete! I don’t care what time it is or the day of the week. It doesn’t matter, neither have any relevance; eat, sleep and be merry………
Here the OC Air Show was a World Class Phenomenal Event again and I hear that next year we’re getting the Blue Angels. There’s one picture shot of the ThunderBirds that I try to get each year that they’re there. This year I had the chance six times and missed each time! It happens when one ThunderBird comes from the north down the beach and another comes the opposite direction and they pass.  I want a photo at the instant the planes pass. I didn’t get it, but the guy who was sharing the wall along the boardwalk got both planes! My finger and eyes just didn’t get it together! Check out my Fb & Picasa/Google sites for more photos.
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