Tuesday, October 13, 2009



As a general rule, I do not care for insects. Butterflies, however, are an exception for me. Butterflies are not your typical yucky bug. They are colorful, playful, graceful, and sometimes mysterious.

I am fortunate to have a wide variety of butterflies (or "flutterbyes" as my daughter calls them) float in and out of my backyard, especially in the oppressively hot mid-summer months.  Butterflies of every color, size, and shape come calling on my petunias and hibiscus flowers, and it is fun for us to watch.  This Zebra Swallowtail decided one day to make himself comfy on my son, who had just finished taking a dip in our pool.  Whatever it was about him, his fair skin, his wet hair, this butterfly didn't want to budge.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flash of Color

Early springtime in the Smokies is a duality.  While the hardwood and evergreen trees that pepper the mountainsides have not yet sprouted their first leaves, there are flowering trees everywhere.  The trees display the most amazing palette of colors: pinks, reds, whites, and yellows.  They stand out against the still-beige countryside, and provide a glimpse of the vibrance yet to come in the year, of copiously blooming rhododendrons and dogwoods, and a vivid spectrum of greens.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Little House

One of my favorite children's books of all time is The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.  The story begins, "She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built."  I think of this when I look at this picture, taken from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad near Bryson City, North Carolina.

The house was built during the Civil War, and was occupied until only about 20 years ago!  Running water and electricity were only added during the mid 20th century.

In a time when old things, perceived as useless or even ugly, are torn down to make way for anything shiny and new, it is gratifying to see this Little House, so strong and well built.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Walking with Dinosaurs

It might be obvious by now that I like alligators.  I have so many pictures of them, and I always take more when I am out and see them.  Where I live, they really are a dime a dozen, but I just never grow used to sharing space with them.  When I say I like alligators - well, like is probably too strong a word.  I appreciate them.  Anything that provokes so much fear and awe is pretty cool to me.  They are ancient creatures, a living link to eons past, when creatures 10 times this size roamed - and ruled - the earth.

This guy was just hanging out along the banks of the Alachua Sink one late morning.  He was perfectly still for as long as I watched him, and probably for much longer after I moved on.  It was a brutally hot July day in Florida, and the humidity was suffocating.  It's as if this gator was opening his mouth just a little bit in hopes that a breeze would come along and pass through his jaws, to offer some relief to his sun-baked body.  More than likely, I am thinking that he was stretching his jaws after a long nap so that he could go find some lunch!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Banana Spider

I shot this one early morning hiking through San Felasco Hammock.  If you've ever gone biking or hiking in the Florida woods, then you have likely come upon one or more of these critters.  The earlier you go out, the lower the banana spiders hang on the trail.  They are harmless, but they can be huge, which for an arachnophobe like me causes mini panic attacks all along the trail.

We've been known to carry a stick along with which to bat down the elaborate webs that are hanging too low to duck under, and I have a friend that likes to employ the same trick on her lawn tractor while mowing the backyard of her secluded cottage home.  But if we can, we simply pass underneath the resting spiders, marveling at the craftsmanship of their webs, some that often span several feet across the trail from tree to tree.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Sometimes the prettiest pictures are not of sweeping mountain vistas or verdant prairie views.  For me, pretty pictures come from the small things, the mundane activities that we don't notice or take for granted.  A bee buzzing about from wildflower to wildflower might not catch your eye, but it always catches mine.  This little bee was so engrossed in his task that he didn't even notice me snapping away - and I appreciate him for it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Free to Roam

Seeing the elk graze in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was something of a dream of mine.  I had heard they were there, but had never been lucky - or early - enough to catch them doing their thing.  One morning, we got the kids up and made the hour drive to get to the park by 7 a.m., and were thrilled to spot a small herd having a quick breakfast on the roadside.  They quickly drew a crowd, but were unfazed by me and the other shutterbugs furiously and curiously snapping away.  I imagine they must wonder what all the fuss is about; it's only breakfast, after all.  They had a quietness about them, a strength and a fascination about them that made me put my camera at my side for a bit and just watch them.  Sometimes a shutterbug just needs to know when to stop looking through the lens and just observe.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Living in north Florida, I am fortunate to have access to some pretty remarkable scenery.  Sure, you think of Florida and you undoubtedly think of THE BEACH!  As for me, I think of Paynes Prairie, the Everglades, the Suwanee and Santa Fe rivers.  These places are the real Florida - hot and sticky, green and wet, wild and untamed.  Truly unusual and surprisingly beautiful.

I took this photo on Paynes Prairie, specifically the La Chua trail, a three mile hike that traverses the Alachua Sink, which is along the North Rim of the prairie.  There is much to be seen: egrets, herons, gallinules, butterflies, snakes, and in the fall and winter, the enormous flock of Sandhill Cranes that winter there.  But the real draw is the alligators.  Big, fat gators that look as if they could swallow you whole if the urge so struck them.  You can get scarily close to them on the trail; luckily, though, they are usually deep in a slumber in an attempt to warm up their cold-blooded selves.  In this photo, it looked to me as if one hapless bird was about to be an appetizer for the rather wide reptilian sunning himself in the shallow water.

Mossy Footlog

I took this shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in June, 2009.  We were on the Kephart Prong trail, a short trail that takes you through an old railroading camp.  This trail is the standard by which I will always measure hiking trails from here on out in terms of beauty, serenity, and interest.  The grade was very gradual, so there was very little physical exertion involved, and the views were simply sublime.  All you could hear were the sounds of rushing waters, and the occasional chirping birds.  In short, it was paradise.

Who is the Accidental Shutterbug?

I love taking pictures.  There is something about capturing a moment perfectly that is so appealing to me.  I try not to spend too much time taking pictures, however, because I believe in living in a moment just as much as I love to capture it for posterity.

I love to go hiking with my family.  Living in North Florida, there are few bearable days during the year  which hiking can truly be enjoyed.  However, if you are willing to confront the oppressive humidity and heat of the summer, there are things to be seen that are both awe-inspiring and frightening at the same time. 

I love to take pictures in the woods.  I like to snap photos of all living things, big and small.  I take pictures of mammals, amphibians, insects, reptiles, birds, trees, fungi, flowers...well, you get the idea.

The best thing is to to take my camera to a brand new place.  My goal is to travel to a new place each year, and take as many photos as I can to remember it by.  And I like to remember things.  I am a picture pack rat. 

So, I am an accidental shutterbug by sheer virtue of nosiness and nostalgia.  And I like beautiful images.  I am BY NO MEANS a pro, and don't profess to be.  But, sometimes, I think I have a good eye, and it once in a while translates into a memorable shot.