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pine island shooting

You don’t see it coming. He says it is. But you? You can’t see a thing.

The day has been stunning, the kind that rattles around in your brain for years. Quiet times near the water’s edge will remind you of it for years to come. Crystal clear skies mean the sun has beaten down on you all day. South Florida skiesAnd muggy! But those aren’t the things that will fire the old synapses down the road. Living and working in south Florida, you’ve grown accustomed to the heat and humidity.

No, it’s certainly not the weather.

“It won’t be long,” he says. “Really, you sure about that?” you question his authoritative tone. But you’re trying to be respectful. He is older, after all.


Chances to get away and just kick back are few and much too far between. So the mere thought of a day on the island, tooling around, taking pictures has had you smiling days in advance.

Old and heavy, the camera is made of metal — of all things — and built long before cameras knew how to focus themselves. But no matter. With the right touch, your trusty old Nikon makes beautiful memories.

And you knew, of course, just driving around the island would be fun. After all, the little two-seater is looking so fine. Brilliant, glossy red and shining more than it ever did in the showroom. Windows down, top back. Sunshine, bring it on.


At your first stop, you wonder, were all the tales just too tall? But you’ve heard it over and over, there has to be something to it. Then you see one. First, just circling. Now diving, and, yes, he’s got it! Up out of the water, fish struggling against mighty talons. But there’s no battle. Some lucky ones may escape the diving grab, but this fish is about to be breakfast. While adjusting his grip in mid-flight, he transports his trophy home. And while the nest is huge, without the meal-laden bald eagle leading your eye, it could have easily been missed.

So you witness, first hand, two bald eagles taking turns feeding their recently-hatched offspring. eagle landing on branchMom soaring high overhead, scanning the waters. Dad diligently standing guard over the youth. Later, you record the changing of the guard when mom returns, and their roles are reversed. What a magnificent bird! The graceful flight belies its size, and you sense the power of every stroke of the enormous wingspan.

The show is every bit as inspiring as you had heard. The symbolism of the bald eagle is not lost on you, and after many, many shots you leave with your patriotism a notch higher, and awed by such a rare sight.


It’s a dirty, smelly job, but he does it without complaining. And in a way freshly swabbed boat deckthat you know he could do it in his sleep. Fish remains over the side. Nets in boxes. Ropes on hooks. Soap. Water. Brushes. Hoses. Yeah, this guy is a veteran at this. He seems to have a ‘just get it done’ attitude. And he does. Nice that he’s letting you tromp around his property, too.

“Look,” his raspy voice takes your focus off shooting for a minute. “See it, right there.” So, you stop. You look. See what? Maybe he’s cleaned that boat one season too many.


Stop number two. you’re starting to question your judgment on this one. Good pictures, okay. Great pictures, fine. But alligators? Up close and all too personal? Maybe you’ll get lucky and not see any. Besides, look at the thickness of those mangroves. Even if there are alligators around, what are the odds? But before you can ponder your chances, your answer is staring you in the face.

Now, you’re no judge of these things, but this guy looks to be ten, maybe twelve feet. The zoo is where you’re supposed to see creatures like this, right? But no, not you. You want pictures. Well, there he is. Take the shot! No, not this time. He may be twice your size, but it seems somehow you’ve spooked him. Well, there. You came. You saw. Now, what’s next on the island agenda?

But halfway back to your little red car, a friend has decided to stop and investigate the commotion. Now, she may be smaller than her brother, but you’d rather not measure just for clarity’s sake. And all seven or eight feet are gloriously basking in the midday sun, seemingly daring you to test her resolve. Well, no thank you. So maybe you can just wait it out. But it’s like a game of cat and mouse. You, of course, are the mouse. Besides, how many ‘cats’ are around here? And what if she makes the first move? Pictures? What pictures? Who’s dumb idea was this in the first place!

After an eternity — two, three minutes at least — she ambles off to join her brother. And you, well, you move yourself without delay back to something with sheet metal and doors and an accelerator.

Okay, so you were too chicken to set the gear down and dig that big camera out. But so what. The images are emblazoned forever in your brain, and you left with your fur intact. All things considered, not a bad shoot.


Although you’re starting to notice the effect the sun and the wind has had on your face, there’s still light left. So you press on toward the island’s western end. Sunsets are almost always spectacular in this part of the country, and you know the whispers of clouds above will likely make for a few more slides that are worthy of prints. Who knows, maybe even enlargements if you get it just right.

Now, time to find the best spot to watch that giant red sphere slip into the cool of the Gulf. And there it is! The perfect vantage point: the water’s edge, the tall grass and the fishing boat — an ideal silhouette to frame your shots. Oh yeah, the fishing boat, the house. This is somebody’s property! Well, just ask permission. What do you think, they'll have alligators?

As you park, you see a figure moving near the boat. Yes, someone’s out there, maybe working on the boat. You watch him working as you approach, trying not to startle him. That probably wouldn’t help. With a slight clearing of the throat, you ask, “I was wondering if I might take a few pictures of the sunset out here?”

Looking up slowly, and to your great relief, he nods and says, “Help yourself.”

With a similar economy of words, you express your gratitude. About thirty minutes till sunset — just enough time to plan where you’ll shoot from and get in place.

“Couple things you might want to know,” the fisherman offers. “Oh?” you reply, curiously.fisherman, great blue heron

“If you’re quiet enough, there’s a big heron over there. Might make a nice picture.” Wow, this is a great find. And good advice — the great blue heron is huge, but timid and elusive.

“Thanks. What’s the other thing?”

“You might not get the sunset in.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“Big fog rollin’ in. Soon.”

Having lived here for years, you know there can be some pea-soup conditions on occasion. But, look, it’s clear. Well, okay, a couple of tiny clouds. But a “big fog” soon? Right. The sun’s dropping; time to work on the first tip.

Tiptoeing ‘over there,’ you spot the great blue. You can hardly believe your eyes. She’s huge, at least four feet tall. And thanks to his advice, you actually manage a few shots before she spreads her giant wings and lifts off.

Bald eagles. A great blue heron. The impending glorious south Florida sunset. What more could you ask for? Now, back to your chosen location for the sunset shots.

“It won’t be long,” he insists. He’s still talking about that “big fog,” but you’ve got shots to make.

“Really, you sure about that?”

“Look. See it, right there.” You look up, but nothing. Besides, you’ve got to get that wide angle lens back on the Nikon if you want these last shots. So you make the switch. Double check the lens. Oops, a smudge. Clean that. Camera on tripod. Into position. And—

“I can’t believe it.” The words escape your mouth, and yet the fisherman knew it a long time ago.

Sure enough, as the sun gets about this close to the horizon, there it is. At first it just looks like a slight blurring of that line where the sky reaches down to touch the water.

But right before your eyes, it grows. And grows quickly. Rising now, up off the line. And as the sun continues its journey toward the water, you really can’t believe its speed. Like a train coming straight at you. Deceptive at first, then suddenly it’s upon you.

So there you stand, the fisherman and you. He, not at all smug in the accuracy of his forecast, and you, astonished by the same.

Sure, you missed shooting the sunset. But you gained a little wisdom in the process.


walking by the water's edgeThe day was stunning. No doubt quiet times near the water’s edge will remind you of it for years to come.