Saturday, March 22, 2008

Niki and Nocotee

When Denise Kleiner, of the Old Braden River Historical Society, asked me if I would create a hand painted photograph for a donation to help save a small house that is a piece of the architectural history of Manatee County I was honored. I had passed those tiny mysterious homes sitting behind barbed wire at Jiggs Landing many times and always wondered what they were about.

Other than in St. Augustine, Florida has a very short architectural history. It has always bothered me that as Florida grows communities often disregard the architectural history that came before the growth. I am impressed that Manatee County cares enough about its history to save even the tiniest house as a memory of what came before.

The image I created of the house is a black and white hand-painted photograph. The image is computer manipulated to create a fantasy.
Please Join Us for the Party and Auction
Saturday, April 12th 2008 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm at the corner of 69th Street and 68th Ave. in Marineland. Directions: SR70 to Tara Blvd., Tara Blvd south to Linger Lodge Rd., Right on Linger Lodge Rd. to 69th St., Left on 69th St to Block Party. Free Admission. Tickets will be sold for refreshments and other items. Bounce House for young folks...Live animals from Jungle Gardens...Frank Gamsky, former Linger Lodge owner & storyteller...Silent & Live auction...Live a half-day freshwater fishing trip with Captain "Doc" Lee...and much more!

Join the effort to help raise funds to renovate this tiny little historical home.

The Nocotee house was once one of several tiny homes lined up in a row.

From the county:
Charlie Hunsicker
Charile Hunsinger
Dora Mills

Denise Kleiner in front of the house

Interior of the house

In the early 1900's the Nocotee Crate Company was one of the early businesses in Manatee County. Because of their remote location they provided housing for some of their employees. Later, when an Italian immigrant by the name of Rossi came to the area and started the orange juice company of Tropicana, he purchased the small homes from the Nocotee Crate Company for his employees.

The 1940's brought a boom to the area with the building of the famous Linger Lodge and Jiggs' Landing along the banks of the Braden River. Jiggs' Landing was a wild and busy place with eager fishermen digging nearby for worms and setting up fishing camps awaiting the catch of the day. It has also been said that traveling bands of musicians stayed at Jiggs' Landing and entertained. Women were not able to go there in those days.

Jiggs negotiated to purchase the small houses from Rossi (Tropicana) for one dollar and then moved them to the Landing in the 1940's to serve as lodging for the many tourists who loved fishing along the Braden River.

In 2006, Manatee County purchased Jiggs' Landing as part of the Braden River system with the intent to convert the land into a county park. When the decision to knock down the old small homes was made, Old Braden River Historical Society stepped in to save them. After an inspection it was found that one of them still had enough structural integrity to save.

The Old Braden River Historical Society is working to create funds to refurbish this house and move it near an old oak tree at the Landing.

Niki in front of the old house

Long Key Opening

The time had finally come for Long Key to have the grand opening of their new nature center. We had no idea what the center would look like, or how Clyde's mural was going to look, so we were excited to be a part of the event.

(for more information about this project check out the blog for February called "Almost on our way")

The building was absolutely beautiful! The image above is the back of the building. The boardwalk stretches across a restored pond and into the oak hammock. We didn't have time to walk through the oak hammock, but are looking forward to taking the camera in there this summer.

We enjoyed all of the speeches and the pride of the community in their new building. After the ribbon cutting we visited with folks and finally found Tim Harrington in the crowd.

After awhile we went inside to see the educational displays. There were so many people it was hard to see everything, but I truly enjoyed the archeological displays and information. When Tim directed us to the mural we were very impressed with the presentation. They did a great job!

One very interesting display was a model of the way the Long Keys looked before the Everglades was drained. If you look at the image and realize that everywhere there is water is now houses it will give you some idea of the damage we humans have done to the one of a kind environment of the Everglades. Kind of sad, hmmmm?

It was great fun meeting so many people who were responsible for this great gift to the people of Broward County...but the icing on the cake waited for me as we left the event. As we drove out of the parking lot I saw in the distance an incredible sight of thousands of Ibis landing on a rookery. I have never seen anything like it.

It was almost dark, but I was determined to photograph the rookery anyway. Clyde parked the car and I jumped out hoping I'd be able to capture at least one good image.

Watching all of the birds define their pecking order was a lot of fun, but there were so many of them that it was hard to find a composition. Then, the moment I did, they'd have a "pecking order problem" and they'd change places!

It was fun trying to capture an image. It finally started getting so dark that it was almost impossible to take pictures.

I could have stayed all night watching them...what a sight! And to think that this kind of thing use to be common in the environment of the Everglades...heaven!

Developing film...

When we got home Clyde immediately cranked up his darkroom and began developing film. It was like Christmas looking at all of the negs after they were developed! Can't wait until he gets some of them printed...we are soooo lucky to be having so much fun with life!

Adios until we meet again...

We woke early to leave Everglades National Park. Clyde was excited to dash home and develop his film.

As the sun rose my heart drifted out over the 'glades. I wasn't ready to leave and head back out into the reality of life...I longed to stay and feel the saw grass scratch against my jeans as I walked through the early morning mist in the swamps; to hear nothing but the morning songs of the birds; to watch as the sun crests over the horizon and castes its light onto the tree tops; to feel the peace and be at one with the world. A part of me stayed behind...

Of course a stay in the Everglades National Park would be nothing if you don't stop and have a milkshake at Robert Is Here. There is no place in the world that has better milkshakes! They come in every tropical variety you can imagine...and if it's not on their list, but they have the fruit, they'll make it for you. Great folks, great shakes, great veggies and fruit!

When I look at all of that fresh produce I am again thankful for our farmers...without them I'd be out there doing the work and wouldn't have time to be a photographer...Thank you farmers!

An evening talk at ENP

We never tire of telling folks about the beauty and mystery of the Everglades, so when the rangers at Flamingo asked if Clyde would give a presentation we gladly said yes!

It was a great evening and we met many wonderful people who find the Everglades just as fascinating as we do.

Another day on Anhinga Trail

It seems that every time we walk the Anhinga Trail there are three Blue Herons who have their "spot"....which works out very nicely for photographers! The great thing about herons is that they stay very still for long lengths of time, which allows for very sharp photographs. Or, as in Clyde's case, the ability to use a large format camera!

Clyde was determined to photograph one particular Blue Heron because the background of the herons domain made a nice composition. When we arrived at the spot the heron wasn't there, however with great faith Clyde set up his camera and waited. While he waited I hiked around the trail to see what was happening with the other birds.

The first thing I saw were the misty images of photographers in the distant fog... couldn't resist the photo!

I watched as a Purple Gallinule took his morning bath and then preened his magnificent feathers in the morning sun.

A little further down the trail a White Egret sat in a precarious location. I watched as both a Blue Heron and a Green Backed Heron protected their territory as they shouted obscenities at the egret. He finally had enough and flew away.

Several Anhingas had their wings spread trying to dry them in the morning fog.

As I made my way around the trail I came across this butterfly. It's wings were wet with dew so it was having a hard time trying to fly. Did you know that butterflys, bees and houseflys have chemoreceptors (taste receptors) on their feet? Before a butterfly lays their eggs on a plant, she will walk on the leaves to make sure they are edible for the hatchlings.

As I continued down the trail I heard the "rat-a-tat-tat" of a woodpecker. I looked all around and then looked up. There it was right over the top of me! What a great photographic opportunity! I took picture after picture...his head was moving so fast it was hard to know if I got any of them without a blur! It was a Redbellied Woodpecker creating a hole for a nest. I had so much fun watching the chips fly out of that hole!

And then I came across my wonderful prehistoric Double Crested Cormorants and their emerald eyes...mmmm, sounds like a good song!

As I walked along it occurred to me that I hadn't include one alligator in my blog! There are certainly a lot of them in the Everglades, but because I live with them they have become a natural part of my life and aren't that unique to me anymore...but I'm sure they may be to you, so heres a picture of one really big gator on Anhinga Trail!

As I walked down the trail I overheard a woman say to her husband, "Oh look at all these marvelous creatures! THANK YOU GOD!" ... and I thought, yes we should all be thankful that our world is such an incredible place, and in my mind I thanked her for reminding me to thank God...

I finally made my way back to Clyde and found him showing his camera to a fellow photographer.

The Blue Heron had returned to his "spot" and was standing there in a nice position for all of the photographers...however, Clyde was the only photographer with a large format camera!
Clyde managed to get several shots...another successful day!

Fog in the 'Glades

We woke to the silence of fog embracing the Everglades and headed out early toward Anhinga Trail, but when we reached the pines were were enthralled with how the fog moved through them and gave a feeling of mystery and depth.

As we drove through the pines I looked back over my shoulder to see the sun coming up through the pines. "STOP!" I yelled. Clyde, who is accustomed to my shouts of photographic opportunities, carefully pulled over to the side of the road and looked at the scene. I said, "If we move fast, I think we can get it." We jumped out of the car and put together his 5x7 view camera in record time! I was so busy helping him to capture the scene before it disappeared that I didn't get the shot myself...tsk...but I can't wait to see his shot because it certainly was a beautiful scene. This shot is as close as I came to capturing it...and it doesn't do the scene justice.

As Clyde took the opportunity of the sun streaming through the fog I looked down and noticed the flowers covered in very delicate and beautiful...

The beauty of this morning reminded me of my favorite poet, Mary Oliver. In her book, Why I Wake Early, is a poem I love to read when I wake up to a difficult day because it lifts me to the wonder of life:

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety --

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light --
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Snake Bite Trail

It felt good to be riding a bike again. I wish their were more wilderness trails in our National Parks for bicycle riders. As for Snake Bite...well, we are talking mosquito heaven and riding a bike at least keeps you ahead of them!

Clyde didn't take his camera with him because the light wasn't right, so we just had fun and checked out the photographic opportunities.

We found a beautiful Buttonwood tree and will return later when the light is right for a better photograph.

When we finally reached the end of the trail we came to a boardwalk that looked out over the bay. Fortunately it was a breezy day so the mosquitos weren't bad. We sat there and enjoyed the scenery for quite a while, then returned to the motorhome.

New 11x14 view camera

I have to drop back in time a bit in order to explain the story of Clyde's new 11x14 view camera...

We had taken the 12x20 view camera out west for Clyde's America the Beautiful project. That camera weighs 40 pounds...and that does NOT include the weight of the lenses and the film! The lenses, film and tripod add another 80 pounds! We only used it four times, but believe me, that was HARD work.

Clyde had heard that Richard Ritter was building a light-weight 12x20 view camera that weighed 12 pounds! So, when we drove up to Vermont to give the Cone workshop, we stopped by Richard's place to see his new 12x20 view camera.

Richard Ritter has an extensive history of working with wood and metal, and a keen interest for the arts. By trade he is a Tool & Dye Maker with a degree in Tool Design. Richard worked at Zone VI studios for 15 years. He was responsible for product design, testing and manufacturing the photographic equipment. He is also an accomplished large format photographer. If you would like more information about Richard and his cameras his website is:

Clyde enjoyed talking "camera" with Richard and was very impressed by the craftsmanship of the camera. However, the more he thought about it, the more he decided that he would rather have a smaller camera...the age thing is becoming a factor in all we do, so you young photographers get out there and photograph while you can! Anyway, back to the point...

Clyde ordered an 11x14.

He received the 11x14 just in time for our trip to the Everglades National Park.

When he saw the wonderful composition of bromeliads while we were with Eric and Katy he decided he would go back and photograph them with a larger camera...the 11x14.

We waited for the right light and then hiked back out to the Cypress dome.

Of course there is nothing that is more fun than sharing a new photographic "toy" with another photographer. Eric and Katy took great interest and joy in seeing such a beautiful piece of equipment.

I loaded the film and lenses into my backpack and Clyde carried the camera and tripod.

The bromeliads were still just a beautiful as they had been on the day that we entered the Cypress dome on the first trip . Clyde knew exactly where he wanted to be, so the set up was quick. Can't wait to see the final image!