Happy #sharkweek from the Everglades. Though most people talk about the crocodiles and alligators found in this system, it’s also home to myriad sharks. Since the Everglades boasts the largest contiguous stand of protected mangrove in the hemisphere, it’s able to raise adorable litters of pups like this juvenile lemon shark. In their youth, lemon sharks depend on the tidal mangrove flats for prime foraging habitat. Two hours before I made this photo, this scene was completely dry, exposed to the sun and wind. As the tide came up, the sharks came in. Swimming with these little lemons was easily one of my favorite experiences in the Everglades. #everglades #noworneverglades #senditsouth @evergladesfoundation
There’s a reason why Florida Bay is called the “emerald gem” of the Everglades. These subtropical waters are home to hundreds of square miles of submerged prairies leading to a profusion of life from gamefish to crocodiles to islands of nesting birds. Although beautiful on the surface, Florida Bay has suffered from decades of deficient freshwater inputs, leading to hyper saline conditions, algae blooms and sea grass die-offs. Restoring the Everglades by sending more freshwater south will help heal this system, the reefs that adjoin it and protect the drinking water supply for over 9 million Floridians. #noworneverglades #senditsouth #everglades @evergladesfoundation
American white pelicans soar above wetlands on their wintering grounds along the Louisiana coast. These coastal wetlands are critical for numerous wintering and resident species, and restoration efforts from the BP oil spill are still underway. Shot for @audubonsociety
The canvas of tidal zones is always changing, which is good enough reason to keep coming back. This scene played all kinds of tricks on my eyes and does even crazier things when viewed on a screen. Enjoy!
Photo bombs on my camera traps have come in all forms: bears, squirrels, limpkins, rats, hogs, opossums, and bobcats. The best ones, the most benign ones, however, are always the raccoons because they don’t spray my camera, they don’t chew on my equipment and they usually come in cartoony close to scratch their curious itch, gifting me little gems like this. Thank you, raccoon, for not being a toothy bear. Now, kindly move on so I can photograph otters. #oldgrowth #swamp @corkscrewswamp
I serviced a camera trap last night in Beidler Forest and once finished was planning to just pack up, but the light broke so I stuck around. I’m glad I did. Water levels are low now, which has revealed all manner of new groupings of knees and buttresses I hadn’t noticed before. A little fill flash, polarizer and 10-second exposure and then this. Unfortunately, my camera was set up for long exposures because a few minutes after this a family of 5 otters swam right up to me. Check out my IG story for that clip. #oldgrowth #swamp #swamplife
In the summer, dragonflies grounded by dew from their evening respit wait for the rising sun to warm the wet prairie before taking to the wing. #oldgrowth #swamp
It must have been slim pickings for this anhinga in the western Everglades but I really wish it wasn’t eating gambusia, we need every one we can get. Gambusia are also called mosquitofish, because they feed on loads of aquatic larvae, though judging by the swarms around my head, they miss a few. Another fun fact, the genus name Gambusia is derived from the Cuban Spanish term gambusino, meaning "useless," which we now know is totally unfair to this little mosquito-vacuum. I almost didn’t shoot this scene because it was harsh light but then I noticed what the ripple patterns in the water were doing. Man, I love this place. @corkscrewswamp @insidenatgeo #oldgrowth
When you talk a big game because you know your homie has your back... Nesting season is underway in the Everglades for the American alligator and by the fall, the swamp will be teeming with adorable vocalizing hatchlings. Fortunately for them, their mother stays close by because hatchlings can be depredated by raccoons, fish, birds and other alligators. #swamp #oldgrowth @insidenatgeo
*Series 8 of 9* Whether it’s for the trees, the birds, insects, orchids, or stunning canopies, @peter_houlihan and I have been extremely lucky to get to study and explore just a few of the facets of this ancient forest. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has become a second home, which has only been possible through a crucial partnership with those who care for this subtropical gem and the trust they generously give us. If not for the staff and volunteers at @corkscrewswamp @audubon_fl who lovingly manage, interpret and steward this place, we would not have stories to share. When you go to public protected lands, it’s important to remember that land conservation does not happen in a vacuum—that there are people dedicating their lives to keeping these wildernesses in the public trust. 🙏🙏
*Series: 7 of 9* An orchid bloom, however beautiful, is only one part of the equation for understanding pollination ecology. For six years @peter_houlihan worked in remote sections of Fakahatchee as a card-carrying blood donor to the swamp angels, light trapping until late in the evening during the sweltering summers. This technique of illuminating a white sheet with bulbs that emit various wavelengths attracts nocturnal insects and helps biologists get a feel for the entomological composition of an area. In The Everglades’ swamps, however, it proved to be a lost cause: six years and not a single giant sphinx moth. When I proposed the idea of hauling a 60lb generator out in the field to give it a go, that maybe Corkscrew would be different, there was, understandably, a lingering doubt. But, we knew at the very least it would make for some compelling images. The conditions were perfect; a lightning storm rolled in from the west as Peter studied the small insects arriving in droves at the sheet. Then, out of nowhere, like a stealth bomber on a collision course, a massive shadow hummed across the sheet followed by a shriek of “GIANT SPHINX!” Peter sprang into action and trapped the enormous moth, whose wingspan averages 5-7 inches and whose tongue is nearly twice the length of its body. It was remarkable and once secured, we sat panting in disbelief.
(2 photos) After only a couple hours of sleep the night before and getting up early for first light, @peter_houlihan and I brought out the hammocks for a late morning nap during the harsh light. Once we saw how the scene looked, it was a pretty easy decision to return and #hangthemoon. The best plan is to always leave plenty of room for adventure. #swamp #swamplife
I’ve slogged through some incredible wetlands and swamps over the years but this Old Growth project is showing me sides of the southeast that leave me speechless. @peter_houlihan and I managed a handshake with the oldest cypress swamp in the world this weekend in North Carolina and it’s safe to say we’ll be back. The knees were taller than me! @insidenatgeo #oldgrowth #swamp
My mom calls this nest box her “Hare BnB” 😂 #florida #kanapahaprairie
Just as the skies are starting to get interesting, I’m leaving the east coast for a first-time visit to Alaska with @hannahdstone, @woodzenworkshop and @428joyce. I love this time of year here, but the whales, glaciers and otters are calling and I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of lightning and dramatic skies when I come back. Wish us luck!
I’m ready for storm season and the seemingly impossible color palette on the Everglades horizon. Florida Bay is called the Emerald Gem for a good reason and it really shows off in the summer. #everglades #florida
Yesterday was #worldotterday and not sure how I missed that boat but I’ll be damned if I don’t share my love for these water dogs. I’ve had some wonderful encounters with them the last year in the #oldgrowth sloughs of Corkscrew Swamp and Beidler Forest. I even dedicated a special “otter cam” to track their comings and goings. While out with @stbedard a couple of weeks ago we watched a large otter face off with a 4-foot alligator. Getting face time with these curious wetland specialists feels like a gift.
During the dry season, box turtles have free range of the bottomland floor in Beidler Forest, foraging on opportunistic emergents, until the water returns. #oldgrowth #swamp #swamplife
Because you all seemed to like the vulture yesterday, here’s a glimpse of a black vulture you rarely get to see. One of you asked how they nest... well, oddly enough Black vultures don’t make nests like most birds, instead, they’ll lay their eggs directly on the ground. I’ve only seen one in all my time in the Everglades and it happened while slogging through Fakahatchee Strand. I didn’t actually see it first, it was the smell that betrayed its location. When I got closer I heard a hissing, which usually means something interesting. Parting the ferns, there was a smelly little fuzz ball, ornery and mean-muggin. By far it was the least adorable nestling I’ve ever seen, but you know, still cute in its own rotting-carcass-bath kind of way. I doubt I’ll ever see something like this again. The swamp never ceases to amaze. #everglades #florida #vulture
Black vultures get a bad rap in the Everglades. They’re known to tear apart rubber seals on windshields and doors within the National Park and when approached they make unflattering grunting and hissing sounds. But, they’re also one of the best recyclers we have, feasting on large and small, filling a crucial role in the complex web of life. Beauty can be found anywhere if you know how to look. #everglades #vulture #florida
The skies are heating up, which means exciting weather patterns are on the way in the Everglades. It’s good for landscapes but no bueno for camera traps and my equipment that sits out for months on end. #everglades #florida
Tidal currents meander through the flats and creeks of Florida Bay within Everglades National Park. I can’t count the times I boated this section and I never grew tired of the views. #everglades #floridabay
Warm spring days are meant for lounging by the water, just ask these guys. While shooting a story for Audubon magazine about the nesting boom in the Everglades, I couldn’t resist asking my pilot Gary Lickle to fly over Lake Okeechobee to see the gators stacked up on the shore. Drones are great tools, but nothing beats holding a camera in your hand out of a doorless helicopter with a trusted pilot. #everglades #alligator #aerial #onassignment
“Midnight Oil” - I’m thrilled to have an image awarded as a finalist in the @bigpicturecomp among some breathtaking and groundbreaking photographs by friends and colleagues with @ilcp_photographers. The Art in Nature category isn’t one I frequent but I thought this photo would be a perfect fit if the judges could grasp what’s really going on in the image; I was afraid they would think it’s a bad attempt at a double exposure. While slogging back through the ancient sloughs of Beidler Forest one evening, I noticed something catching the light on the surface of the water; it looked like oil. Anaerobic bacteria decompose plant material in swamps and release iron, sometimes leading to a rainbow effect on the water. This beautiful patch looked like a moon, so I aimed my camera to only include the reflection of the trees to complete the illusion. A big thank you to @fstopfoundation @nanpapix and @audubonsociety who have supported this Old Growth project. #oldgrowth #discoversc #sc #beidlerforest
Here’s to the outliers and those who refuse to sit still... I empathize. #birdsofinstagram
Birds are nesting, fish are spawning and greenish rat snakes are on the prowl in the swamp. These snakes are perfectly adapted to thrive in bottomland forests. They can swim and they can climb tall trees to search for prey. It’s always a treat to see them gliding through the metallic reflections cast on the water. #oldgrowth #snake #swamp #swamplife #discoversc @beidlerforest
If you’re allergic to poison ivy like I am, this photo might make you nervous. But, if you’re like me and torn between a love of frogs, fun perspectives and a miserable rash, then you might find a way rationalize rolling around in this caustic plant to capture an in-situ moment. I paid for this two days later, big time. Short sleeves was a bad decision. #worthit #discoversc #exploresc #swamp #swamplife #oldgrowth @beidlerforest
Nearly every year on the edge of my peripheral vision I catch a cryptic but unmistakable pattern in the woods. They lie so still and are so well camouflaged I’ve come inches away from stepping on one, which would have erased any good karma points I’ve accrued over the years. Mothers will leave their fawns in a safe place while they go forage. A fawn will instinctively sit still for hours on end until its mother returns to avoid predation. Seeing a newborn fawn in the woods like this is like finding treasure. The arch of emotions across a two-minute encounter is generally thus: primate surprise, silent screaming elation, adolescent curiosity, simmering guilt and paternal adoration followed by acute separation anxiety. Totally normal. Despite their white markings, it’s remarkable how well they blend in to their surroundings. I worked for over two hours setting up a camera trap just twenty feet from this newborn without knowing until I left in the opposite direction to avoid triggering my camera. Ironically enough, the camera trap was for deer. Swamps are the best. @beidlerforest #deer #fawn #swamp #exploreSC #oldgrowth #swamplife #discoverSC
Spring in the old growth is magical. Tupelo trees drop their flowers which float along the black water and after a short rain, everything pops. This 1,800-acre tract is the largest stand of virgin cypress and tupelo swamp left in the world, providing us a glimpse of how much of the southeast used to look before industrial logging forever changed the landscape. Thankfully this property was protected by @audubonsociety and @nature_org in 1969 and is now a sanctuary owned and managed by Audubon at Beidler Forest. #oldgrowth #swamp #cypress #exploreSC #discoverSC
Happy Earth Day, everyone! It’s my greatest honor in life to pay homage to the myriad landscapes, wildlife, and people who make this world so fulfilling. I hope you took the time to get outside today and give a nod to the generations before us who helped lay the groundwork for the wild places we get to enjoy. I did, but I forgot to wear sunscreen and now I’m seriously sunburnt. Why have you forsaken me Earth?!
My heart goes out to those families and communities in Sri Lanka who suffer from the senseless and cowardly attacks this weekend. I’m still in disbelief that such a pernicious form of hate could take root in the soils of this peaceful island. #srilanka
Happy Everglades Day everyone! Today is Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ birthday, and she was one of the best examples of how a single person can help create and inspire a national movement to protect something important. I think she’d be proud knowing so many of us have picked up her torch and continue to fight to restore this national treasure. #everglades #florida #wetland
In the early morning light on the Louisiana coast, shorebirds scurry and forage along the tidal line.
The “gettin there” is usually the fun part. With unpredictable and choppy gulf conditions, we chartered a plane that could land on the water and then taxi onto the Chandeleur Islands via float. I infamously get sick on small planes, boats, and even when at the top of swaying trees (sorry to everyone who has been next to me or beneath me while I learned these lessons), and have since equipped every bag that I own with Bonine, because I also never say no to any one of these activities. Shot for @audubonsociety #onassignment #aerial #louisiana #chandeleur
Portrait of a tern on Elmer’s Island, Louisiana. Oddly, the bird did not fly away as I approached along the shoreline, just sat there calmly at the edge of the surf. I was surprised that it let me get so close without so much of a wing flap. But when a wave approached and lapped at its body, it flapped awkwardly and I noticed it had an injured wing. I called the park manager to come and take it to a rehab center. I hope this little guy is back to flying and foraging again, terns are one of my favorite coastal species. #audubon #bird #louisiana #conservation #onassignment @ilcp_photographers
Shorebirds forage in a tidal creek along Louisiana’s coast. I was gifted a late morning fog that drifted in helping to create this soft and spacious mood, which I desperately needed for this shoot. Because of water levels and weather conditions, I had a tough time finding birds for this assignment, as they were hanging out on flats far off the coast and out of my reach and not visible on aerial flights. Of course, as it often is, the last day proved fruitful and I found some compositions to help bring this story some visual relief. Check out the latest story in @audubonsociety magazine about Gulf restoration efforts following the BP oil spill settlement. #audubon #onassignment #birds #louisiana @ilcp_photographers
The most recent issue of @audubonsociety magazine is out, which highlights a story I shot on Gulf restoration efforts after the Deep Water Horizon settlement, written by Rene Ebersole. This was a really fun shoot, flying over the massive wetland complex of the Louisiana coast in a Havilland Beaver float plane to land on the remote Chandeleur Islands. It was also very stressful because the list of objectives for this piece was fairly long for four days of shooting, requiring that I hauled a lot of different equipment for each task: studio strobes, multiple camera bodies, basic kit, drone, three tripods, 600mm lens, computer equipment and a duffel of accessories and clothes. Where’s an assistant when you need one?! Still, small price to pay to get to see these gorgeous islands in the winter morning light. Louisiana, I will be back. #aerial #louisiana #onassignment #audubon @ilcp_photographers
Small adventures with my friends in the backwoods and swamps of Florida is what first inspired me to pick up a camera. I just wanted to show people the wealth of wilderness that was all around me, because our southern brand of outdoors is so poorly understood and represented. Those early years set the tone for seeing my childhood backyard as not just a place for recreation but of deep inspiration and purpose. I get a lot of questions from people asking how they can get started in photography and my answer is always the same: the best thing you can do is shoot where you are. Show the world your world, use every creative tool you have to make us care, and eventually with time and practice your unique voice will stand out, loud and clear. Thank you @natgeoadventure @natgeo @tandemstock for the feature of my self portrait! #adventure #hanganywhere #hammock #swamp #swamplife #florida
On the largest osprey nest I’ve ever seen, three well-camouflaged chicks wait for breakfast to arrive in the Everglades. On many of the isolated islands of Florida Bay, birds can nest on the ground without the fear of mammalian predators. This particular nest was likely originally built on top of a mangrove that collapsed beneath the weight of sticks. Instead of picking a new tree, ospreys continued to add to the existing structure until it resembled a massive beaver lodge sticking out of the ephemeral wetland. #everglades #osprey #florida
It was a cold night in #yeahthatgreenville but worth the chills to watch the lunar eclipse. What a show! #lunareclipse #bloodmoon #moon #night
I’ve never regretted waking up extra early for the good light, even when clouds obscure the sunrise and color. This morning was not one of those latter mornings. To make this shoot extra easy, I slept right next to it and just had to roll out of the hammock to set up the 10ft tripod from my kayak. #swamp #lovefl #florida #everglades
An osprey arrives to its nest with a freshly foraged stick. In a setting like this, I could stay for hours.
A bobcat takes its own portrait in the upland backcountry of Corkscrew Swamp. These beautiful cats have been frequent visitors to my camera traps as they hunt for rabbits and small prey at night. Although I’m after bigger cats in the Everglades, it’s really fun to see the diversity and number of animals that frequent these trails. #everglades #oldgrowth #florida @corkscrewswamp Camera trap support with @fstopfoundation
Thrilled and honored to announce that I’ve been awarded the Philip Hyde Environmental Grant from @nanpapix. The grant will go towards my efforts to tell the stories found within the remaining Old Growth swamps left in the southeast. These ancient flooded forests remind us what the southern landscape used to look like and how it functioned before industrial logging removed the centuries-old trees. #oldgrowth #swamp #swamplife #everglades #florida
It’s starting to get pretty chilly on the east coast, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see it in the conditions I photographed last year. When the bomb cyclone hit and dumped five inches of snow in Beidler Forest, the largest remaining stand of old growth cypress and tupelo swamp, I had to go. Southern swamp blanketed in snow was a combination I’ve always wanted to see and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time while underway on a project documenting the remaining old growth swamps of the southeast. Thank you, weather gods! Stay tuned this year as I continue to explore these ancient forests. #bombcyclone #swamp #exploreSC #oldgrowth @ilcp_photographers
Egrets and vultures share a roost in a cypress stand, illuminated by a rising moon. This is from one of my favorite camping trips, paddling and sleeping in trees with good friend and the always-down @joeguthrie8.
Jayasundara Dissinyake owns an 85-year-old tea plantation on the outskirts of the mountain town, Ella. Sri Lanka, formally called Ceylon, has long been famous for its tea. The leaves are hand-picked, where only the top three leaves of each stalk make it to the processing plant. Typically this work is done by women, but at 65 years old when the workers didn’t show up during the holidays, it was on Jayasundara to get it done. To pick all of his plants, it will take two weeks. #srilanka #tea #ceylon
Happy New Year everyone! If you’ve been following the stories on Instagram then you know I’ve been loathe to post on my feed. This is because I don’t have a laptop, which means I’m not getting to fine tune any of the images from the RAW files, I’m just putting them straight on my phone. For those who aren’t photographers, I’m being picky because I don’t get to do my nerdy photo things. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about that. Here’s one of my favorite mornings while climbing Little Adams Peak with @hannahdstone in Ella, Sri Lanka. We were lucky to share the summit with three Buddhist monks who added some extra color to an already stunning scene. #srilanka #buddhism #mountain #travel
Found high atop the sky islands of Mozambique, agamas occupy and defend their rocky outcrops. Pictured here, an agama’s dorsal scales glow like the serrated ridges of some distant mountain chain. Photographed for #BINCO and @WWF