The Love of a Florida Backyard
Article and Images by Bob HansonThe beauty we behold and the wealth of wildlife and fauna in our daily lives are a photographer’s dream come true.
September 11, 2001 was a day which we had scheduled to shop for a retirement home in Florida. I was attending a class at the Federal Aviation Management School in Palm Coast, Florida and my wife planned on scuting the area while I attended class but it goes without saying that our plans were altered significantly by tropical storm Camile and our national disaster. We finally got back to our home in the Washington, DC area and when the shock of the disaster started to ebb, we planned another house hunting trip to Florida. We found some homes that appealed to us in many ways but there was a feeling that they all were missing something. Finally, the realtor suggested we look at lots. After chasing all over the area, we finally found a lot that was perfect.
The lot sits on a fresh water canal that winds for approximately three miles through Palm Coast and features a small lake about 300 yards to the north. Another feature of the lot is that the property directly across the canal is a preserve. The view was wonderful and appeared to be a perfect location to photograph wildlife We fell in love with it and purchased the lot immediately.
Shortly after our purchase, we cleared a twenty foot wide access to the canal, but left the areas on the left and right of the clearing in a natural state. We did some thinning to the natural area which gave us room to plant: hibiscus, plumbagos, Mexican petunias, geraniums, bottle brushes, and many perennials. We constructed our house so that we had a screened in back porch across the back of the house which gives us an area that allows us to eat outside while enjoying the fauna and the wildlife. Vegetation grows prolifically here in Florida and as a result we have over fifty varieties of flowers, ten varieties of palms, pines, and numerous other trees. This pleasant environment is enhanced every day by some type of wildlife coming on the scene. We have seen a bobcat, alligators, several varieties of turtles, large carp, catfish, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and an abundance of beautiful birds. The variety of birds that we have seen range from small birds like the blue jay to anhinga, great herons, great blue herons, little blue herons, green backed herons, moor hens, and ducks. Although we are about three miles from the ocean, we even had a pelican spend some time on our dock. The beauty of this nature all around us enthralled us and we became heavily involved in wildlife photography in general and bird photography specifically. In addition to the birds that frequent our canal, we are fortunate to have an alligator farm in St. Augustine, just twenty miles away. This farm has an area in which photographers can walk on a platform out over a swamp that has become a habitat for breeding birds. The alligators provide protection to the birds from ground predators and are a favorite nesting spot for many bird species. Our association with the farm allowed us to become better educated as to the identification of the birds that frequent our canal and provided an awareness of the habits of these birds.
In closing, I must say that this has been a truly wonderful experience and an ideal location for photography—everyday is a new treat. We truly love our Florida backyard.
All of the photographs on these pages were taken with a Bogen 3221WN tripod and an Arca Swiss Ballhead except for those in which the 500 mm lens was used. A Wimberly head was used with the 500 mm lens. All of the photographs were taken in the late afternoon when the sun was behind the camera, no flash was used The alligator photograph is interesting in that every attempt to photograph him had been for naught because he would submerge whenever he saw me. This day, however, he did not see me set up on the dock until the last minute and I was able to capture him swimming toward me before he submerged.