Bert Gildart: Good photography has two maximums: One, visit areas that are highly photogenic; two, be patient.
CORMORANT HABITANT: Firmly believing those two mandates Janie and I once again returned to the Everglades and, specifically, to visit the Anhinga Trail, located about 5 miles from the entrance station and about an equal distance from Long Pine Campground.
Predictably, the settings had changed, and predictably, we were beginning to explore the same features more critically with the lenses of our cameras. In the words, we were applying the maximum of patience, realizing that if we didn’t succeed the first time, try again. In my case, I wanted more portrait and behavior photographs.
In so doing, we also realized that many of our images were being made with one or two lenses, lenses that most travelers often have with them. In our case, the photographs shown here were made with two zoom lenses. One of those lenses ranged from 18 to 70mm, the other from 80 to 400mm.
Our other discovery was that the trail internationally known as the Anhinga Trail might better be called the “Cormorant Trail.” In other postings, I have shown the Anhinga, once with a fish speared in its beak. That photo was also taken from along this boardwalk, and it was also taken with a hand-held camera and the longer of my two zoom lenses.
CORMORANT PORTRAIT: Cormorants and Anhingas are similar in that both species gather their food by swimming underwater. In order to perform that feat, they sacrifice the oil glands inherent to all other birds. As a result, once they have finished their job of gathering food, usually a fish, they must haul ashore and then dry their wings in the warm sun.
Though you’ll see both species along this trail, the cormorant is the one you’ll see most often, and typically, it is the species most tolerant of people. In fact, I made these two photographs with the wide angle zoom set at 18 mm and then moved in until I was just inches away from the bird. This technique created an unusual perspective in both the head portrait and of the photo of the cormorant surveying its habitat, an effect that would have been impossible to achieve with a normal or telephoto lens.
GREAT EGRET: One month ago, the Great Egret did not exhibit its breeding plumage to the same degree it now does. This plumage, of course, is what made the species so highly desirable to plume hunters and that contributed in part to the death of the nation’s first game warden. In 1905 Guy Bradley lost his life to poachers in Florida where he was attempting to protect birds on Pelican Island, our first national wildlife refuge, established under Theodore Roosevelt.
This photo was taken with my zoom lens completely extended to about 70mm. Notice the beautiful plumage in the bird’s tail feathers now starting to develop. Because of these beautiful feathers, several species were almost exterminated.
GATORS GALORE: Again using one month as a comparison, the number of alligators did not appear so abundant—or at any rate, at least so concentrated. Yesterday, however, they had concentrated along the boardwalk and had become more tolerant it seemed of visitors.
Typically, the majority of visitors abide by the signs stipulating that gators and wildlife should not be touched, but invariably, someone chooses to ignore the rules designed to protect gators and humans. In this case, the woman touched the alligator’s tail, and it responded by whipping its tail away. Such irresponsible behavior contributes to the animal’s habituation of humans and one day under different circumstances it might attack. The photo was made with a normal lens.
GATOR FACTS: Gators have concentrated here essentially because of the abundance of water. Typically, this is considered the dry season, and here, water so needed by all species of wildlife is plentiful.
Gators have 70-80 teeth and in this photo taken with my zoom telephoto extended to about 200mm, you can almost count them. The open-mouthed attitude is not a threat display, rather one in which the gator is attempting to cool itself. Muscles that open the jaw are weak, while those that close the jaw are strong enough to exert over 3000 pounds of pressure per square inch—strong enough to crush the shell of a turtle. Their jaws are specially hinged allowing them to open extra wide.
CONICAL TEETH: Gators have teeth that are evenly divided between uppers and lowers. As we could easily see from this photo taken with my zoom telephoto full extended to 400mm, gators have sharp cone-shaped teeth used for grasping and tearing. They swallow their prey whole.
This series of photographs concludes the ones we will be taking in the Everglades. Today, we are departing this wonderful part of our country, and will now be heading back–slowly–to Montana. Before departing, we wanted readers to see what we believe illustrates the results of exhibiting patience—and visiting an area that is extraordinarily photogenic.