Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bringing One Home for the Swamp

Or,  I guess, it's more like bringing TWO home for the swamp.

As many of you know, I'm working on a large scale project regarding swamps. Or, as I like to call them, America's redheaded step children. Historically and currently, our swamps have taken the backseat when it comes to the PR of American landscapes. Viewed as mere blemishes on the land, they have carried the scarlet letter of haunted wastelands and general impediments to civilization ever since our ancestors arrived from Europe. It seems that so much of the public disdain for these vital ecological areas comes from negative publicity and the lingering hangover of our manifest destiny mentality.

My goal is to give a new face to swamps. I want everyone to paddle through the braided channels of a cypress slough. I want them to seek out the blackwater like they seek out the ocean. I want our swamps to have a second chance at winning back the respect and adoration of the public.

Received a Highly Commended from the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year contest this evening. 

So, today is a small step in that direction. This evening at the Natural History Museum of London, England, winners were announced for the 2010 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest. Tens of thousands of images were submitted from all over the globe to compete for top spots in several categories. One of my images taken during a stint working in the Francis Beidler Forest in South Carolina was awarded in the category Animals in their Environment. I am so honored to be among the commended artists, but more importantly, I'm thrilled for the chance to bring the beauty of this landscape to millions of viewers. Follow this link to see other images from the competition. 

I have known about my placement in this competition for quite some time now and have been itching to tell you but was under strict instructions not to mention anything until the 21st. Officially and legally, the cat is out of the bag.

Received Highly Honored in the Windland Smith
Rice International Awards 

As if it couldn't get any better, I received one more bit of good news. The Windland Smith Rice International awards in conjunction with Nature's Best Magazine notified me that another one of my images taken in South Carolina placed in their contest as well. Just as competitive, this contest receives over 20,000 images worldwide and the winners have their images framed and hung on the walls of the Smithsonian for five months. Not only will these images help to put the Francis Beidler Forest on the map, they will be my catalysts to changing public opinions of our beloved swamps.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Apologies

A male goldspotted killifish (Floridichtys carpio) in full breeding colors.
This guy was about an inch and a half long.

Following the blog titled “Silence of the Fish” I received many emails and comments offering condolences that I spent my summer rummaging through piles of rotting fish. Well, sort of. More than a few of you said in so many words that this was my punishment for getting to work in the Everglades, and I that deserved all the nauseating hours as if it were some form of penitence. Perhaps karma is at work here, and just in case, I’m going to clear my record.

While the Day 2 fish are the fun story to tell, there’s another truth I’d be remiss not to mention. Clown gobies, rainwater killifish, flagfish, and sailfin mollies are some of the most beautifully colored and intelligently designed animals I’ve ever worked with. I’m in awe of how intricate and simplistic they are in their form and function. How can the prey base of an ecosystem, the bottom feeders, be so elegant and yet so unfortunate? It just goes to show that a lot of time has been put into building this web of life; a lot of natural selection, and millennia of adaptations.

So, this post will be my homage to the bottom of the totem pole, the unsung heroes of the Everglades. 

Diversity is beautiful.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sing it Loud!

Double rainbow over the Everglades

We were so close to calling our helicopter pilot yesterday and telling him to meet us at 9:00 AM instead of 7:00. Sometimes, all I want is another hour of sleep, to ignore the buzzing alarm which sounds at 4:00 AM for our helicopter sample days. Then I realize how much is at stake. This morning mother nature summoned the whole congregation and belted out to the heavens. How fortunate we are to be surrounded by such unpredictable beauty.

Torrential rains over Shark River Slough