REMINDER – GO TO THE NEW WEBSITE

•April 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hey there.  I wanted to remind those of you still checking this site that I have created a new site that includes my blog.  Click here to see the new site.

Please subscribe to the new site if you want to receive regular updates. Here is a link to the latest blog story posted today.

Sorry for any confusion, but this blog will no longer be updated.

Hope to see you over at the new site.

Jimmy

New Website!!!

•February 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Exciting news (at least for me it is)!  I recently launched a new website with the help of a very skilled web designer named Scott Rouse.  As you will see, my blog and its associated photos now take center stage.  I thought this would be a good way to keep my most recent work out in front of viewers.  You can also search my image archive and purchase select prints.

Please accept this invitation to take a look around the new site.  Content will be changing more often so please check back regularly.  If you enjoy what you see, please subscribe to receive updates and pass a link on to a friend or two.  Until next time, take care.

Jimmy

Slow down and LOOK!

•January 25, 2011 • 20 Comments

Hello everyone.  I hope 2011 is off to a great start for each of you.

I recently completed an interesting assignment for the upcoming issue of Bay Soundings, a quarterly news journal covering Tampa Bay.  Last Fall I contacted the journal’s editor to propose a photo essay documenting the small creatures living in seagrass beds around the bay.  Much is already known about how important this ecosystem is for the overall health of Tampa Bay and many other saltwater estuaries.  Seagrasses produce food and serve as important habitat for a huge number of species at some point in their lives.  According to research conducted by the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Station at Ft. Pierce, “a single acre of seagrass may support as many as 40,000 fish, and 50 million small invertebrates.” (link).  In addition to the significant variety and mass of life they support, seagrass beds are also an important indicator of the overall health of coastal waters because of their sensitivity to water quality changes.

Despite their obvious importance there is a relative lack of photographic documentation of seagrass systems.  My proposed focus for this project was to make as many images of the animals I saw while visiting two specific sites in Tampa Bay.  Originally thinking that this was a relatively straightforward assignment, I told myself that I would need as few as three good days of shooting to capture sufficient imagery to accompany the essay.   Upon entering the murky 55º water, I quickly learned that capturing compelling images of anything in this environment would be challenging.

Unfortunately, the water was noticeably colder than normal for this early in the season (just in time for my first visit:).  That was bad, but at the top of the list of negatives was the apparent lack of life that was readily visible.  Perhaps it was the complete lack of feeling in my extremities affecting my ability to concentrate.  More likely it was the skillful use of camouflage by many of the area’s residents.  Regardless of the cause, the ongoing viability of this project seemed highly questionable.  After two trips to both project sites I had exactly zero useable images!  I also felt a little skeptical that there would be a turnaround anytime soon.

After some initial distress over my self-imposed misfortune, I decided that it was time to change basic tactics.  I realized that in my eagerness to cover as much underwater territory as possible I was overlooking many of the important details of this amazing world.  I began noticing some erratic movements among the seagrass that appeared out of sync with the prevailing motion.  By focusing on a specific area and the irregular movements I began to see some of the hidden life that was all around me.  It was interesting how quickly the project progressed once I was able to really concentrate on looking for details.  I am now fully convinced that this principle has meaningful bearing on many other areas of life.

Here are some photos from the collection, I hope you enjoy and I hope all goes well.  Until next time, take care.  Jimmy

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Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

•December 21, 2010 • 23 Comments

Hello everyone.  This is possibly my last blog post of 2010.  Things have become somewhat hectic around here as Cindy and I do our best to take care of our very sick dog, Merle.  It’s extremely hard watching such a rambunctious little guy succumb to time.

Last night between 3:15 – 4:00 am I was out in the backyard watching the total lunar eclipse slowly cross the western sky.  It was a perfectly choreographed display of light and shadow and a nice way to remember the close of this year.  Here are some images from the show:

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Merry Christmas + Happy Holidays to you all and best wishes for 2011.  Thank you for checking in during 2010.  Hope to see you here again in 2011 and until then, take care.

Jimmy

Manatees – the face everyone loves, sometimes too much

•November 28, 2010 • 14 Comments

Hello Everyone.  Happy Holidays to you and your families.

Cindy and I recently had the pleasure of hosting a visit by some of our dear friends from California.  Since a few of them had never visited Florida, we wanted to make sure they experienced some of the more unique offerings of the Sunshine State (NO, not Cafe’ Risque).  One of the experiences near the top of the list was a visit to Crystal River for an afternoon of snorkeling with endangered West Indian Manatees.  Crystal River is one of the few places in the United States where swimming with West Indian Manatees is permitted, although it is heavily regulated.  I am aware that “manatee tourism” has its fair share of detractors out there.  Because we humans sometimes do very stupid things, harassment of manatees by misinformed swimmers has been very well-documented over the years (click here for some sad examples).  One of the largest problems related to human harassment is that it can lead to behavioral changes in manatees which can increase their risk of harm.  Behavioral changes like avoiding the warm freshwater spring sanctuaries where humans regularly visit can expose manatees to a host of other threats such as an increased risk of boat strike, hypothermia or even starvation during cold winter months.  This added stress is hardly needed since most manatees in the wild already have scars from earlier encounters with boat engines and propellers (apparent in a few of the images below).

Although somewhat controversial, I am also unaware of any scientific consensus that the practice of passively observing manatees in the wild needs to be banned.  Because of the “grey-area” associated with this pursuit I made sure we used a reputable guide who was knowledgeable about manatee biology and behavior and who also demonstrated a history of leading responsible eco-tours.  Coupled with the fact that half of our group were veterinarians, I was comfortable that we would follow the rules during our time in the water.  I also liked that our guide quickly showed a thorough understanding of recent regulatory changes designed to enhance the authorities’ ability to enforce existing rules to protect manatees (click here if you’d like to see an editorial on the new rules).

While in the water we observed about 30 different manatees.  The group included several mothers with young calves and we felt fortunate to see a lot of them sleeping and eating during our time in the water.  I know that everyone in our group gained a new level of respect for these amazing marine mammals.  Having participated in my own encounter, I now believe that one tangible benefit of allowing passive observation of manatees in the wild is the increased respect for these mammals that such interactions can help foster.

Please consider taking an affirmative step to help save some Florida manatees by donating to an organization that is working to improve their future.  One such group with whom I have worked is Sea to Shore Alliance.  You might remember my earlier blog post about a manatee rescue they handled (click here to see that earlier post).  Every dollar helps!

Here is a link to a short video from the day and below is a slideshow of a few of the day’s images.  Hope you enjoy!

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Tom Robertson need not worry…

•November 5, 2010 • 10 Comments

Hey there.  Happy Friday and I hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons.

While Cindy and I were in out in Missoula last year we had the good fortune of meeting a lot of wonderful people.  One of whom was Tom Robertson.  Tom is a teaching assistant at RMSP and a professional photographer specializing in cycling, running and other assorted endurance sports, among other things (I highly recommend taking a peek at Tom’s Website because I think his images are remarkable).  He somehow consistently captures light and motion in ways that I often struggle to simply understand.

Tom’s work recently came to mind when I tried my hand at photographing a cycling event.  Over the past several months Cindy has trained for a century ride near Gainesville called the “Horse Farm Hundred.”  She was riding as part of a team of veterinarians from the University of Florida’s vet school.  I went along as a lowly spectator and thought I’d photograph the team with which she was riding to keep myself occupied.  Despite some minor anticipation of a boring day, the race was instead a refreshingly enjoyable event to watch.  Another non-participant spouse and I rode around in a chase car and photographed the riders from relative comfort.  The best moment of the afternoon came when we got ice cream and stood roadside waving as the team rode past us around mile 85.  Quite a slap in the face:)

For those of you who read my last post, photographing a cycling event, much like aerial photography is out of my comfort zone.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the day, I also quickly realized upon editing that I have a lot to learn before I present any competitive threat to the likes of Mr. Robertson!

Nonetheless, here is a slide show for your viewing pleasure.  I hope everyone has a great weekend.  Jimmy

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The Learning Zone

•October 27, 2010 • 10 Comments

Hey there.

I hope everyone has been well since the last post.  Sorry for the delay in updating the blog but time always seems to find new ways to make itself increasingly scarce.

The learning zone is a concept an instructor at Rocky Mountain School of Photography named Kerri Rosenstein covered with my group during a rather profound introductory lecture on the life of an artist (btw, Kerri is not only an engaging instructor, she is also an experienced gallery curator and an incredibly talented artist working in a vast array of media and you can see some of her work here).  The gist of her discussion was that we learn and grow most when we purposefully step out of our comfort zones, wherever in life they might exist.   Equally applicable to many facets of life, the discipline of seeking out one’s learning zone as often as possible is a helpful way to avoid sinking into complacency.

Guess what, lately I seem to have allowed myself to settle into a new comfort zone with underwater photography.  As a result I have noticed feeling less inclined to pick up my camera unless I intend on being in the water.  Fortunately a recent call from a friend helped to greatly diminish this building complacency.  Sarah Walters is a marine biologist working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  She invited me to join them on an upcoming aerial fish survey and offered me one of three research seats on a chartered Cessna.  I’d be in the plane with the pilot and two other FWC biologists who would be spotting spawning aggregations of “bull” redfish while directing FWC boats toward the fast-moving schools by radio.  The crew on the boats would then try to capture as many of the fish as possible, implant tracking devices, take tissue samples, among other scientific matters very much over my head.  My job would be to simply document what I saw as best as possible.  Piece of cake, right?  Excited by the opportunity to photograph the research from a low-flying propeller driven aircraft I quickly jumped at the offer.  After making arrangements to join them later in the week at a local airfield I began considering the challenges of aerial photography.  This type of photography includes a host of technical considerations and I was not entirely convinced I even knew all the issues I would face. Nonetheless, I brought along my most suitable camera and lenses and shot like I knew what I was doing.

Several hours passed before we first spotted any redfish.  In the meantime we spotted several schools of cownose rays as well as multiple sea turtles and dolphins.  However, once we found schooling redfish the action quickly turned on and we could clearly see sharks, dolphins and other local predators feeding along with (and likely on) the redfish.   After being directed to the schools by radio (which is not as easy as it sounds) the fortunate researchers on the boats then got to try their hand at landing one of the bulls via hook and line.  If you’ve ever caught one, then you understand what an exciting proposition that opportunity represents.  Watching the FWC crews fight these fish (often 1+ meter in length) was definitely an envy inducing event despite the perfect seats we had to view the action.  For some odd reason I felt that they were the lucky ones that day.

Nonetheless, I had a great time flying around with Alison and Kyle of the FWC and our pilot Bill.  They were great company for the 4 hour tour in a cramped, vibrating, bouncing, glare-filled little aluminum can.  Thanks again FWC people!

Here is a link to a short video of our landing and below are some images from the day.  Hope you enjoy.  Jimmy

FWC boats following us in the Cessna

Schooling Cownose Rays off St. Petersburg Beach

FWC Boats getting close to the action

FWC boats chasing the action

Redfish feeding

FWC crew member angling a spinner shark

The Don

Egmont Key

FWC catch and release of redfish

Bean Point, Anna Maria Island

 
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