Lofton Creek

Posted on February 1, 2015

Before Morning - Lofton Creek

Before Morning – Lofton Creek

My inaugural paddle on Lofton Creek. I passed the boat ramp many times traveling on A1A always with a great deal of curiosity. The morning air was 42 degrees with no wind. Forecast said mostly cloudy but there were only a few clouds on the horizon. As I unloaded my boat I was excited. It has been a while since I paddled in a new place. The creek is wider than Durbin or Julington and the water was very still. I wanted to arrive 30 minutes earlier (this always seems to be the case) and the sun was getting ready to make its presence known. For the first 10 minutes the sun was still behind the trees. It was dark and quiet. Soon the sun rose and illuminated the trees. Then a few clouds started to roll in. Winter mornings are distinctive with cool crisp air and blue skies. I’m going to miss these times when the dog days of summer return.

Mixed Hardwoods - Lofton Creek

Mixed Hardwoods – Lofton Creek

I paddled north from the Melton Nelson boat ramp for about 3 miles. There are a few houses and docks along the first 2 miles. Beyond Rte 200A the creek is pristine. I dislike seeing development on the creek, even if it’s tastefully designed. A total destruction of the landscape. I don’t understand why the construction of permanent structures is so important to people with riverfront property. Isn’t there a responsibility on the part of the owner to preserve the natural quality of the area? If you want to avoid the docks, there is a small launch area off of Rte 200A. You can see this point on Google Maps just west of the bridge over the creek. Next time I may launch from there.

Winter Creekscape - Lofton Creek

Winter Creekscape – Lofton Creek

With the wider creek there were fewer overhanging trees and a more open feeling. As I paddled further upstream the creek narrowed and became more intimate. There are several old growth cypress trees along the way. One in particular was huge, and I stopped to marvel at its resilience and grandeur. At one time the creek was covered with these trees, and for some reason this one survived. How inconsequential one becomes when in the presence of these ancient living wonders.

Ancient Cypress - Lofton Creek

Ancient Cypress – Lofton Creek

My intent is always to proceed until fallen trees block passage. I had been paddling for 3.5 hours and I figured I had a long paddle back to the launch, so I turned around and left the rest of the creek for another day. The sun was further up in the sky (it was 11:30) and I just enjoyed the cool weather and took a slow pace home. I was hoping to have a current to assist me but it seemed like I was always paddling against the flow…how does that happen? I met 3 other paddlers along the way, otherwise I saw no one else all morning.

Winter…no, early Spring on Big Davis and Julington Creek

Posted on January 13, 2015

Early Spring at the Cathedral of Nature - Julington Creek

Early Spring at the Cathedral of Nature – Julington Creek

Today I went fog chasing into the creek and to my surprise the creek was absolutely clear. There was heavy fog everywhere except the creek, go figure. Must be the temperature of the water or something. I was so disappointed. I made the best of the outing and found different conditions from my last time here in November. The landscape has turned ito a palette of grays, browns, and greens. Gone are the yellows and oranges. Bright green for the new growth, dark green for the existing evergreen plants. The tide was low and as I crossed several dead tree limbs going upstream I thought about the water levels on my way back. Several areas are pretty clogged so make sure you are not at dead low tide when you head upstream. I came to several familiar areas (like Cathedral of Nature) and remembered how completely green everything was. I find the transparency of the landscape revealing of both the trees and the areas beyond. It’s interesting to look “deep” into the forest. I can now see why there are so many mosquitoes in the summer!

Autumn Holdout - Julington Creek

Autumn Holdout – Julington Creek

New growth is appearing everywhere on the trees. I did find one lone maple with red autumn leaves. The warmth of the creek must really confuse the plants. I know it confused the fog. Winter appears to be officially over as far as the creeks are concerned. We are having some cool weather but nothing below freezing yet. I’ll still be chasing that elusive foggy morning in the meantime.

Green Dusting - Big Davis Creek

Green Dusting – Big Davis Creek

Hints of Spring on McCullough Creek

Posted on January 4, 2015

The Entry

Entry to McCullough Creek

Originally I had planned to paddle Tocoi Creek this morning but when I arrived I realized that the tide was out and the water levels were probably 16-18 inches below the high tide mark on the trees. Tocoi is a narrow creek, so water depth is important to navigate the fallen branches and water hyacinth. So I decided to go a few miles south to McCullough Creek to see what I could find there. Based on my previous experience, a fallen tree had prevented much progress upstream and unfortunately I found that same tree. The trip was short and uneventful. The first 100 yards of the creek are the most picturesque with several large overhanging trees. There are two docks that I passed, one with built in sofas. It was really sad to see this on the creek. I should have read my notes from my previous trip but now I will remember if I come back, bring a saw. It was still an enjoyable morning.

New Growth

Spring growth – McCullough Creek


Tree branches – McCullough Creek

The evidence of spring was everywhere and most of the trees were showing some sort of new growth. Still a long way to go to get to the greens of summer. Here is a comparison of an image from June to one from today…big difference.


June 2014 – January 2015 Comparison

Is it Spring on Thomas Creek?

Posted on January 3, 2015

Lifting Fog

Lifting Fog on Thomas Creek

It’s January 3rd and the last time I checked, we are somewhere in the first part of Winter, right? Well, how come there are flowers on the maple trees? Today was 83 degrees, a record high. Some trees are still dropping leaves, others are pushing out new ones. For the most part the landscape looks bare but there’s a lot of new life ready to explode. And we haven’t had a day below freezing yet! The trip to Thomas Creek is about 45 minutes from the house. I woke up later than planned and as the sun rose I could see that there was fog in the low areas. In fact I was concerned that it may be too foggy to photograph…wishful thinking! I arrived at the boat ramp at 7:45, the sun was making an appearance and then the fog lifted. It’s amazing how quickly the area cleared out. You could see the blue sky suddenly appear as the remnants of the fog moved away. I was so disappointed. 30 minutes could have provided enough time to get a few shots in the creek, but this will have to wait until next time. The fog continues to elude me!

Bare Tree Reflections

Transparency – Thomas Creek

Thomas Creek is an ideal paddling experience. It is long, winding, and free from a lot of obstructions. I was fortunate that some clouds came in and provide some ideal conditions for photography. I was prepared to continue my series on the FL winter landscape but the appearance of the spring growth was a big surprise. I’m looking forward to the next transformation.

Lifting Fog

Winter Morning on Thomas Creek

Spring Growth

Hints of Spring – Thomas Creek

Durbin Creek 4 – Early Winter

Posted on December 20, 2014

Winter's Presence

Winter’s Presence

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.

Creek Cloud Line

Creek Cloud Line

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.

Inside the Corklan Branch

Inside the Corklan Branch

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.

Creek Tangles

Creek Tangles

Autumn on Big Davis and Julington Creek

Posted on November 17, 2014

Sunrise Mist on Big Davis Creek

Sunrise Mist on Big Davis Creek

It’s been a few weeks since the kayak has seen any water. I arrived at the St. Augustine Road launch a little before sunrise and saw that the Spatterdock has largely died off allowing a clear path up Big Davis Creek. I was excited. There was some lingering fog on the water and plenty of very large spider webs. I paddled for about a half mile and was turned around by two big trees blocking access. As I turned around I noticed that my light had changed. I much prefer side/backlight. The frontal light was bright and not creating the landscapes I was looking for. There were still lots of leaves on the trees although the overall color had definitely changed. I found a small tributary stream and made my way as far as I could. I was surrounded by autumn color.


Surrounded by Autumn

As Big Davis ended I made a right onto Julington Creek. Some familiar scenes were in the process of transformation and it was nice to see some colors other than shades of green on the trees. By now all of the fog had burned off and the sun was trying hard to make its way into the creek.

Fall Colors

Fall Colors on Julington Creek


Fallen Branch – Julington Creek

The turnaround on Julington Creek comes quickly and soon I was on my way home. Autumn has definitely left its mark on the landscape and I look forward to the changes ahead.

Blue Sky Reflections

Blue Sky Reflections on Big Davis Creek


Deep Creek 3 – Hints of Autumn

Posted on November 11, 2014

Autumn Highlights

Autumn Highlights – Deep Creek

It’s almost mid November and most of our northern friends have seen the change of seasons. We are just seeing some changes around here, mostly maples and some other hardwoods that tend to dump their leaves at the first sign of cold weather. There are plenty of leaves on the trees but there has been a lot of leaf loss as can be felt by the amount of light now available to shoot. Deep Creek is always a good place to go because you are guaranteed to have a nice long paddle without a lot of deadwood or obstacles. There are actually two parts to the creek, upstream (east) and downstream towards the St. Johns (west). I always like to head upstream to see how far I can go. We paddled for at least 2 miles before things started to get messy and finally a big log turned us around. We covered a part of the western route too but the sun came out in full force and put a damper on the shooting party.

Liquid Gold

Fallen Leaves – Deep Creek

With the additional light I noticed the reflections more and tried to work these into the compositions. The sun is also much lower on the horizon which helps a lot. The visual experience is still all very new to me especially with the changes in the color palette. I’m continuing to shoot with a wide angle zoom (24-70), with most images made between a 45-55 mm focal length. I’m particularly enjoying the absence of bugs and 100% humidity, which makes for a very pleasant paddle.

Sky Pool

Sky Reflection – Deep Creek

Yellow and Green

Yellow and Greens at the turnaround – Deep Creek

Autumn Paddle on Durbin Creek

Posted on November 1, 2014

Autumn Reflections on Durbin Creek

Reflections of Autumn on Durbin Creek

Signs of Autumn from the kayakToday almost didn’t happen but I desperately needed to break my long hiatus and get out on the water. Cold, wind, and sun were in the forecast. The temperature today was 48 at the launch site with 30 knot winds. I know the tops of the trees were going crazy but the creek stayed relatively calm. Gray kindly let me sit in the boat while he pushed me in since I did not have my waterproof boots yet. I was dressed in several layers with my North Face ski jacket on the outside. Florida boys get chilled easily! As we started the paddle my first impression was the slight yellowing of the leaves. The deep, dark greens of summer were gone, and so were the mosquitoes and flies. More light entered the forest and I immediately rejoiced at being able to set my ISO lower. The creek was also running high, as in prior weeks a healthy amount of rain had fallen. We saw some small side streams that we didn’t recognize.

For the first mile, you could hear the big machines clearing the trees for a new subdivision. I could even smell the diesel fumes. The development (called Julington Estates or something like that) is part of the huge complex that has taken over Race Track Road. There is no stopping them, and the housing recession only temporarily halted their goal of leveling every forest in St Johns County. If I see a dock emerge on Durbin Creek from that development I will be seriously upset. They are getting very close to the boundaries of the wetlands.

Durbin Creek is well maintained, and we knew that the big hyacinth clog under the power lines (at about 2 miles) was cleared. We don’t know if someone came in and sprayed or if they physically removed the vegetation, but it was so nice to be able to paddle through. We went another half mile before turning back. I was very happy with the images from the trip. I’m also trying a few B&W conversions. Normally I would not have gone out on a cloudless bright sunny day, especially one that was both windy and cold. But this goes to show that you need to just show up to make things happen.

Egret on Durbin Creek

Egret on Durbin Creek


Autumn Morning on Durbin Creek


Creek to Sky – Durbin Creek

Awards for Streaming South

Posted on October 3, 2014

I am pleased to receive 3 International Photography Awards for a submission of 5 images from Streaming South. The awards are Professional Category Honorable Mentions in Editorial: Environmental, Fine Art: Landscape, and Nature: Landscape. The IPA is a juried competition sponsored by the Lucie Foundation. Over 27,000 submissions from 104 countries compete in 69 categories for the ultimate prize of International Photographer of the Year. I’m happy that the series received some validation for the work so far, and hope to continue building the series over the coming year.

IPA Certificate 2014


IPA Awards 2014 - Submission

McGirts Creek

Posted on July 19, 2014

Sunrise at Ringhaver Park

Sunrise at Ringhaver Park – McGirts Creek

I arrived at Ringhaver Park at 6:20 hoping to get a good start on the morning. A previous scouting mission revealed an alternate entrance to the canoe launch path at the end of Morris Road. I unloaded and attached the wheels and started hauling the boat. The path is paved but it is about a 20 minute walk. I arrived at the launch point sweaty and tired, but the sun was rising and I could see the orange glow against the purple sky. A few clouds too, much to my satisfaction.

Morning Stillness

Morning Stillness looking North – McGirts Creek

There’s nothing like a “fresh” creek, still and silent, ready to receive my boat and the start of the day. As I paddled out of the small cove into the main creek I could see that McGirts (or is this still the Ortega River?) is a formidable body of water. I had to stop to take it in, me being the only person as far as I could see. The sun continued to rise as I started my journey upstream going south.

West Bank

Along the West Bank – McGirts Creek

Power Lines

Power Lines – McGirts Creek

I passed under some power lines and stopped to photograph. From the Google map I knew that the creek didn’t narrow down until Collins road, which was a good 2.5 miles. The current was light, and I started a good rhythm, stopping intermittently to grab a shot. Soon I passed what turned out to be the only house/building on the creek. It was an obnoxious compound, with a large dock, screened swimming pool and porches, and lots of glass doors looking out on the water. A large lawn, fences, and several No Trespassing signs completed the site. Two large black dogs started barking as I paddled by, a most un-welcomed sign. Maybe some nice people live here, but certainly they are completely unsympathetic to the creek. I wonder why they were the only visible water front property I saw, perhaps they got some special permit to build a monument to humanity. I’m glad the rest of the creek wasn’t spoiled by development.

The creek started to narrow and around 9:00 I could hear the sound of traffic. Around one more corner and I could see the Collins Road overpass. I love going through these “tunnels” except for the occasional large spiders that seem to love it under there. I could definitely feel the current now and was working to keep the boat going south. Between Collins Road and I-295 is a nice stretch with lots of overhanging trees. My problem was that the current was keeping the boat in constant motion and I really needed an anchor point to frame a shot. The occasional downed tree limb offers the best place to steady yourself for the moment it takes. The creek was too deep for the anchor pole.

McGirts Creek at the intersection of I-295

Overpassing Nature – McGirts Creek at the intersection of I-295

Most of the I-295 construction is complete and I stopped to admire the massiveness of the highway above. The exit ramp itself is three lanes, in addition to 3 lanes of the interstate in each direction. It was close to high tide and I was able to easily touch the bottom of the structure, another foot and I would be crouching down. I stopped for a while in the coolness taking some interesting shots and listening to the rumble of the traffic. I thought that most people passing over had no idea they were going over such a beautiful creek and if they did notice anything they probably thought this was a drainage ditch.

Primeval Forest

Primeval Forest – McGirts Creek

From this point the creek narrowed more and became twisty, my kind of landscape. Each creek seems to have its own “signature” and McGirts seemed to be more primeval than most. The gnarled trees covered with air plants added to the ambiance. I reached the Blanding Blvd. overpass and again these glimpses of civilization stood in stark contrast to the wildness of the creek. The intersection of Blanding and I-295 is probably one of the busiest roadways in the city. I’m amazed that the planners saved the flora and didn’t just cut it all down.


Black Hole – McGirts Creek

Just past Blanding a large tree had fallen and blocked the path. I was disappointed. I’m sure the next section was special and one day perhaps I will return. I started back this time with the current. Nice to be gliding along with an occasional paddle to steer. Interesting how the light from another direction can change a scene. I prefer a back-side light when doing these types of landscapes. Makes the layers of foliage separate. Near I-295 there was a small side stream that I explored. As I retraced my steps everything seemed familiar and I made good time passing under Collins Road and then continuing upstream to the lone residence. The was a large tree with yellow leaves that caught my eye. Around 11:00 I heard the sound of a speedboat and a jet ski roared by. They were followed shortly thereafter by 2 other boats, happy to be going full throttle on the creek. I don’t think they realize that their wake can really mess with a kayak. I grumbled to have to share the creek and knew that my time was up. Having 4 hours all to myself was a treat.

I passed under the power lines and knew the canoe launch was close. No one was there as I approached. I pulled the boat out of the water, attached the wheels, and mentally prepared myself for the long portage. It was not fun, but the nature trail is shady and filled with some great trees. I was soon at the car and was a happy camper when all was secure and the a/c was on.