Sunday, November 9, 2014

Where Mangroves and Grasses Mingle

Within the Big Cypress National Preserve is an area that I love to explore with the canoe. It is where old airboat trails still exist (including the markers) and where sawgrass and cattails intermingle with mangroves. Nothing spectacular about the quiet beauty as you paddle through gently flowing waters, but there is something about this place that makes me want to photograph it.

On this day, I was not on the water until about 15 minutes after sunrise. The clouds were beginning to form their telltale patterns that indicate a front was eminent. Sure enough, the next day brought us much rain and cooler temps. By the time I was on the water, those glorious sunrise colors were gone, leaving a brilliant blue sky coated thinly with clouds.

I placed the polarizer filter on the lens and decided to lazily photograph my surroundings paying attention to the tall cattails and the reflections of the clouds in the water. I attempted to compose some vertical as well as horizontal images and played with foreground objects. I also played around with light and dark contrasts that seemed to occur very naturally; mangrove leaves being darker than the surrounding sawgrass.

Birds, including woodstorks, were plentiful. Unfortunately, they can hide very easily as they forage in the grasses and not one of them allowed me to approach.

So I stretched my imagination a bit and turned my attention to a little spider I have paid little attention to while in the canoe. It is the orchard orbweaver and if I had a dollar for every one I saw that day I would be a millionaire. They make their webs among thick brush, primarily mangroves. Unlike the larger goldensilk orbweaver, this spider makes her web lower and consequently, it is easy to run into them as you paddle through mangrove tunnels.

With the front light of the sun, the little orbweaver glimmers. In fact, its genus name is Leucauge, which is Greek for "with a bright gleam". Its species name is Venusta, which is Latin for charming or elegant. So how could I resist photographing this gleaming and elegant spider. Here are a few images. One of them includes both female (larger of the two) and male. In each image, I attempted to get a clean background, sky, mangrove or sawgrass.

My goal is to get back to this beautiful piece of the Big Cypress before sunrise or sundown and capture some beautiful sky colors to complement the landscape. Awesome place to be in a canoe.

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