It’s late December but still quite warm in Florida. Late Autumn is strange here, the leaves start to change in mid-November and it seems like there will be changing leaves on the trees until early spring. For the most part, the maples, beech, and ash are all losing leaves, and the landscape has transformed to a mix of browns, oranges, and dark greens. A big difference from the greens of summer. It’s much brighter due to the loss of leaves, so the look of the creek is more heavily influenced by the light. I still prefer the overcast, mostly cloudy skies that may bring just a hint of sunlight. This provides a much longer day to be shooting.
I started at the Bartram Canoe Trail launch off Racetrack Road at sunrise (7:20). The sky was filled with beautiful soft white clouds and the sky was a deep blue. Being alone has its advantages. I enjoy the peace and quiet of an early morning paddle. There’s nothing like it. As the sun fills the creek with light, you can hear the birds. On a calm day there is silence in the trees. I made my way past vaguely familiar views as the leafless trees take on a new characteristic. I scan for new compositions and find that the reflections in the water are particularly striking. I think this is because of the quantity of light and stillness of the water. As I set up for a shot, for the first time I notice how my own presence creates ripples in the water. Even if I anchor and wait in stillness for several minutes, each small movement I make moves the boat just a hair, and this sends a field of waves into the frame. As I paddle I am “ahead” of the wave and can see many incredible crystal-clear reflections. But when I stop to setup for a shot, I can never be still enough to keep the water absolutely still. I’ll be working on stillness techniques for sure, as I am continually intrigued with the nature of the reflections.
As I started paddling I started to notice the droning of the land clearing machines working on several large subdivisions off of Racetrack Road. Not only was the silence of the morning broken but the smell diesel fumes permeated the air. My deep concern was the closeness of these developments to the creek, and if the home owners were granted dock access to the creek. This happened recently to some estate sized homes built on Bishop Estates Road. Although several hundred yards from the creek, these homeowners were granted permits to build long boardwalks through the wetlands and build a dock to anchor their boats. Nothing distracts more from a pristine creek than a dock with a motorboat. I can’t understand how these permits get granted, but like anything else, those with money can buy the rights to just about anything they want.
During the summer the area around the power lines is clogged with water hyacinth and Spatterdock. Since the winter has killed most of the vegetation, the creek is clear throughout. I did a quick detour to explore Corklan Branch, a small tributary. These side streams are always fun but normally you can’t get very far before being stopped by fallen trees. I paddled out about 4.5 miles and then decided to turn around. It was now noon and I knew I had a long paddle back to the car. The day was perfect and I enjoyed seeing the continuing transformation of the creeks as the seasons progress. As we move into winter, more leaves will be lost and the creeks will take on their most lifeless appearance, signaling the coming of spring.