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Tripod Photogs
Written By: O.C.fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Tripod Photogs
Tripod Photogs
Tripod Photogs
Tripod Photogs
Tripod Photogs
Tripod Photogs

    I’ll say this right up front: a tripod can really help in the generation of gorgeous photos that are extremely sharp with strikingly saturated color. Why is this? Because the long shutter speeds (of 1/30 of a second or longer) are necessary to accomplish the increased sharpness and color, it can not be hand held. New lenses and some cameras have image stabilization, but still a tripod is a time tested fail safe device to prevent camera shake, especially when a heavy camera and/or lens is used. A high Fstop (F11-F32) also produces sharper focused photos. Is this why most people use one, though? No! Usually it’s used for the same reason grocery and mega mart stores provide electric mobile chairs. The users of most tripods are too lazy to hold and support the camera as they use it. Plus many are using a long telephoto lens that is heavy and may need to be supported, but if they’d walk closer to their subject, it would be needed. Yes, of course, I know the mobile chair and tripod have legitimate users. I rarely use a tripod, especially at Shark Valley in EverGlades N.P., just east of Miami on route US 41, a haven for tripod users. There are more unusual birds, alligators, and other critters concentrated in a small area, especially in the dry season (winter months), where there is water, than any other easily accessible area that I go.  The parking lot is only steps to where all the critters are and you can walk right up to most of them. I do.
    Why is it called Shark Valley?  I have no idea. There are no sharks here and it is not a valley. The River of Grass, the EverGlades, is only six feet above sea level at its highest elevation. I use a tripod seldomly because it limits my mobility. I want action, not posed, photos and unique situations. I need the flexibility to move the camera quickly in any direction where my subject is performing (flying, swimming or whatever). I have enough perched bird, etc. photos. A photo of an inflight Heron or Limpkin, an alligator swimming, or two critters interacting, a fish being caught or competition for a feeding spot or mate is what I want.
    As I left, I saw exactly what I wanted as I was driving. A great blue heron had caught a fish and flew right past my driver’s side window. I reached for my camera, but the settings weren’t right for that photo, plus there were cars behind me.  Had I not been driving, I would’ve gotten the photo. If I wait an extended period of time holding a camera with long heavy telephoto lens, I may get what I want and would a tripod come in handy, oh yeah!  But I may not have been able to move the camera fast enough to aim it where the action was. I’ll put up with aching arms, hope Mother Nature will be generous and give me a chance once in a while, and hope to get lucky!
    The next morning I awoke early at Mitchell’s Landing CampSite, part of Big Cypress N.P., a little west of and near Shark Valley. There was time to get to the Sweet Water Bridge on Loop Road farther west of there before sunrise. I’d already decided to take Loop Road, which can be in an undrivable condition, but I’d biked several miles of it the evening before and found the road to be smooth. It was chilly, foggy, and was drizzly, but that effect can help photos be unique. On the way I stopped at several spots that looked promising for photos. At one there were several eating sized fish. One even kinda looked like a shark! Plus I saw a rare EverGlades Squirrel near the dirt road. I did several landscape photos of the water, marsh, and cypress trees filled with white egrets and other birds. I’ll combine them later to make a panorama. I even used the tripod, so I could do one second exposures. The white/grey sky killed them, though, and most of the wading birds were very skittish and flew away quickly when I approached.  Then I saw a Great Blue Heron that was too intent on catching its breakfast to be concerned with me. It was photo time. I waited till it caught a critter or fish (which it had; I could never figure out, maybe a tadpole?) and it was amongst the ferns, cypress trees, and air plants. Wow, heron with a critter combined with the indigenous EverGlades environment. I win; the photo God had smiled on me!
    Then I headed for EverGlades City where the Seafood Festival (Music Fest for me) that would begin that evening, February 7-9. On the way is a place where I can launch my kayak, but I decided the weather was not warm enough, so I found an out-of-the-way place to park my nest (slide-in camper on a pickup truck), showered, and put on a sweat shirt and jeans and decided to do a minnie pub crawl in EverGlades City, where in recent years there have been several restaurants and bars built along the  River. When I stepped outside I saw the sky was blue, the fog was gone and it was nearly 80 degrees. That equaled change of plans and back to my kayaking spot on the Turner River, where there’s alligators, always something to see and tunnels cut in mangroves, which I traverse like a slalom ski race. This day, like all others of this Adventure XVI, even though some don’t start so good, all end on a high note! Then onwards to EverGlades City and let the festival, tunes and ACBs roll!
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