Mother Nature At Her Finest

So there I was – at a place called Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL. Yes, I’ve posted a few blog articles on this gorgeous, peaceful, nature abounding place before (and more to come). I was there taking care of some “business”. And by the way, the “business” I speak of is pretty darn cool ;). There’ll be a separate post announcing some very exciting news for yours truly and whomever else wants to be a part of it all. But that post / announcement won’t be here (on this blog) until Friday (day after tomorrow, August 17th, 2917).

Anyhoo – back to where I got off track lol. While I was out walking in the gardens at Bok, I was astounded by the amount of butterflies and bumblebees hanging out in those gardens today.

It was almost like an enclosed butterfly sanctuary – but – without the enclosures ;). It was all wild, fluttering wings of both butterflies and bees. Scary to some who have an aversion or fear of bees perhaps. But to this photographer, I was right in my wildlife, nature element.

The pictures herein are just a few of what I captured out there today. So de-stress by looking at these photos and imagine you can hear those wings all ‘a-flutter’. 🙂

Peace – Mike T.

Magic And Memories: Farewell To Two ‘Old Friends’

This post is about change, moving forward, embracing the future and sadly, saying farewell to two of my most favorite and nostalgic attractions ever at The Walt Disney World Resort.

disney, epcot, univers of energy, further world, ellen energy adventure,
photo by Mike Thomas Imagery 2017

Upon my second visit to Walt Disney World was in 1984, two years after EPCOT Center opened. Among the many rides and attractions, one that became my favorite: “The Universe Of Energy.” I thought it was THEE coolest ride ever. It was powered (and still was up until today – the final day of operation ever) by solar panels on the roof. It had moving theater cars that moved sections of an entire seated audience in and around the show / theater. The main focus was on energy, how and where it came from dating back to the dinosaur era. The attraction also contained many audio animatronic dinosaurs, too. All around very cool ride that in it’s day was so advanced and high tech. It remained a nostalgic favorite all through the years even through several changes spanning the 35 years of operation. Well, I believe it was George Harrison that used the line in one of his songs (or maybe it was an album title – don’t remember and it’s not really the point), “All things must pass.” The Universe Of Energy’s time has now come and gone. As of Sunday August 13th, 2017, the attraction loved by so many is no longer. The Walt Disney Company has decided to shutter the doors to make way for a brand new attraction. Exactly what and when that new ride will debut is not fully clear yet.

greta movie ride, disney, walt disney world, Disney MGM Studios, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Now, as if that weren’t enough to break this old heart today, another major attraction that opened with the (then) Disney / MGM Studios Theme Park in 1989, “The Great Movie Ride,” has also been closed permanently  by Disney in order to make room for another new attraction themed around none other than Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I coincidently was there for the grand opening of The Disney / MGM Studios Theme Park on May 1st, 1989. I didn’t plan it but it just happened to turn out that way. I was there as a Guest and not working oddly enough. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed AT FIRST with this park. About 3 years later after some major additions and expansions, it was a different story and my feelings changed. That park was now pretty darn cool! That being said, there was one attraction that I fell in love with the first time I rode it on May 1st, 1989. Yes, it was The Great Movie Ride. Disney had just introduced 3rd (I believe) generation audio animatronics. The characters in the ride (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, James Cagney and more) were so life like with their moves it was almost creepy – but great! There was also a human interaction as the Disney Cast Member that ride with you in your theater car told a story as you travelled ‘through the movies’. At one point, the Cast Member would either get thrown off the ride at (fake) gun point and later, everyone got to experience some ‘magic’ as that Cast Member would reappear in another scene / portion of the ride. I could go on and on. But alas, The Great Movie Ride saw it’s final trip around the theater Sunday August 13th, 2017. 🙁

To all the Cast Members, technicians, Imagineers and everyone else that helped keep that attraction running and made us all feel like we were part of the movies, an incredible heartfelt THANK YOU! I get it when it comes to growth, progress, change etc… Walt Disney’s dying words to his brother Roy were, “Don’t let my parks become a museum … change, grow and update forever.” Nonetheless, it really does put a lump in my throat seeing these two classic attractions go away.

Here’s to the future – whatever it may bring all of us!

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: A Cloudy Sunset & Turtles

Yep, you read the title correctly :). I ventured out today (Friday August 11th, 2017) in the late afternoon. Just one of those ‘have to get outside’ days. Well, silly me overlooked the fact it was Friday afternoon / evening. The traffic was terrific! So I puttered along until I was getting close to one of my favorite spots, “Lake Louisa State Park.” I know – I shoot there a lot. But there’s just SO MUCH in the park and always something new. Today, as I was driving towards Dixie Lake (one of the 5 lakes within the park), I looked to my left and saw a few of the local residents puttering along at a much slower pace than I was. I immediately exclaimed, “DUDE!” (have to be a Finding Nemo fan to get that one LOL). I stopped, got out of the car and captured the two pics of these two turtles pictured herein. “Radical, shawe!” 😉

When I got to Dixie Lake, I walked down the pier to the waters’ edge. There I found a non typical Florida sunset as you see in this shot below. The contrast and dynamics the huge clouds created made for a pretty nice and different shot. Enjoy!

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course, Of Course

horse, mr.ed, florida, pasture, water, dip, pool, equestrian, farm

There are times when I have some preconceived notion of capturing some unique, funny or just different type of shot. I head out looking for it often times – actually, MOST times never come across it. Then there are days I throw the camera in the car, head out for a joy ride, perhaps pick up a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks coffee and just drive down some old country road – – – and come across “Mr. Ed” taking a dip on a hot Florida afternoon :). This poor guy was just too hot in that Florida sun but managed to find some relief.

My parting words – especially to any aspiring photographers: Get in the car, put it in drive and just GO! Ya’ never know what you’re gonna find.

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: Flagler Beach / Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

beach, ocean, atlantic ocean, florida, flagler beach, armband beach, dayton beach, ponce inlet, lighthouse

There’s a 30 mile stretch of scenic coastline on the east coast of Florida between Daytona, Ormond and Flagler Beaches. I’d never set foot on it before and I thought it might make a nice Sunday, go shootin’ & explorin’ kinda drive. Truthfully, the scenic portion of this venture was in fact pretty. But in keeping with theme of ‘Florida Backroads’, it just wan’t ‘backroad-zee’ enough. But I did manage to find a few places to click off a picture or 20. They pretty much speak for themselves. But just to be absolutely clear,

the light house shots are that of Ponce Inlet Light, located at the southern most tip of Daytona Beach. This time around I shot with a hefty telephoto zoom versus my usual wide angle. Kinda neat to see those folks up there that climbed this lighthouse (the tallest one in Florida by the way).

I’ve climbed this thing in the past. But it was pretty crowded being a weekend day and I figured I didn’t wanna invest that much time that day. Oh yah, and I probably would’ve needed an oxygen bottle at the end of it all, too LOL :).

The “Flagler Beach” water tower, well, speaks for itself. But with the green vegetative foreground and the nice blue sky, I thought it’d probably make an OK shot. And the beach shot – – – well – – – the only problem with taking almost any beach shot is that they all look the same for the most part: sand, water, sky. Granted, beautiful and relaxing. But from a photographers stand point, difficult to make each shot look that mush different. But I still liked the look and feel of it. I love the feeling any ocean shot brings!

Thanks for stoppin’ by.

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: My Friend & Author Rebekah Lyn

So if you’ve read this blog at all, you know one of – if not my biggest passion – is the natural beauty and lesser known roads of Florida. Fairly soon, there’ll be lots more coming about all that but that’s another blog post for another time. THIS article has to do with one of my best, long time friends, Rebekah Lyn. Rebekah is an author with 4 or 5 books to her credit thus far. Of late, she’s been working on another new one. Release date has not been confirmed at this point.

Recently, I had the honor to be asked to shoot the cover photo for this new book. The shoot itself went great, albeit, it got VERY hot very quickly. But we were all only out in the blazing Florida summer sun for about 2 hours. Well, I certainly don’t wanna give anything away about the new book – including the actual final contenders for the cover picture. However, while I was out there with Rebekah, I managed to click off this ‘generic’ shot in an area near the Space Coast. Hence, part of the reason for this blog post.

The location I was shooting that day was near Kennedy Space Center on the east coast of Florida. The combination of that, plus shooting for Rebekah’s new book reminded of one of her recent books I really enjoyed, “Jessie.” So here’s the shameless plug for my friend & author Rebekah Lyn ;), check out the particular ebook I just made mention of by clicking the link to Amazon below.

Thanks for stoppin’ by,

Peace – Mike T

You’re Just Everywhere, My Deer

deer, bambi, nature, wildlife, lake louis sate park, state parks, florida

Well I guess this must be show off or modeling season for deer here in Florida. Everyday I’ve gone out shooting for the last week or so, I’ve managed to come upon between 3 and 6 deer a day – including this great capture above (if I do say so myself lol) I was lucky enough to photograph of a mama and baby deer. Certainly no complaints, mind you.

Maybe I’m finally learning the tricks of when the best time is to go photograph these non camera shy beauties – like this cute ‘peek-a-boo’ shot above :). Ahh, mother nature!

Peace – Mike T

Florida Backroads: Merritt Island Wildlife Preserve

Florida, nature wildlife, wildlife preserve, merit island, kennedy space center, cape canaveral, canaveral national seashore, birds, blue heron, egret,

Merritt Island Wildlife Preserve is basically near and / or part of the Kennedy Space Center property over on the east coast of Florida. I’d been there only once before with a good friend of mine who – for the second time today – gave me a great grand tour. This is the part(s) of Florida that I have passionate love for. It reminds of a southern version of where I grew up and lived for all of my younger life in New England – specifically, The White Mountains of New Hampshire. So what’s the connection you ask? The beautiful pristine, almost untouched natural beauty of the land Yes, New Hampshire has high mountains while Florida does not. But the same nature based, peaceful serenity I’ve always found up there in the mountains I can find in places like this wildlife preserve.

While touring around Merritt Island Preserve, I managed to capture several wildlife shots as well as a pretty large scale wildfire that was creeping up on the property line of the preserve. It actually may have been on some of the property/ Was far enough away I couldn’t tell. Nonetheless, this wildfire was huge! But even though it was a destructive force, it still made for an interesting and beautiful photo. I certainly don’t mean to make light of this and I surely hope there was no personal injury or property loss.

I definitely plan on making more trips over to Merritt Island Wildlife Preserve. What you’re seeing (and hearing about) herein this blog post barley scratches the surface of what this area has to offer.

Until next time – Peace,

Mike T

Mike’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure – Final Day

Don’t y’all hate when it’s the last day of a vacation or trip? Yah, me, too. But today is bittersweet. Of all the days I’ve spent here in The Great Smoky Mountains, today (Wednesday June 28th, 2017) was THEE best for pictures and sightings! Yee Hawe, indeed! 🙂
smoky mountains, great smoky mountains, great smoky mountains national park, bryson city NC, steam trains, railroad, railway,
I started out in Bryson City, NC with a visit to The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Much as I DO like train rides, I didn’t venture over there with the intent of riding. I wanted to take my own photos of the railroad and a few of Bryson City itself But more than just that, there are several trestles where the GSMR Trains cross – one of them not too far from the downtown depot. I’d hoped to get a few good ones of the train traversing the bridge. But as luck would have it, I captured about 10-12 GOOD ones – so rare for even the best photographers. It was too hard to choose which ones to put herein this blog. Therefore, I just posted one herein. The rest I plan on including in another post which will contain a slide show video. More on that later.

After the railroad shots, I headed over once more to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just after entering the park, I ran into a traffic jam. I knew tis either meant a car accident or a wildlife sighting. I got lucky – it was a herd of elk on the side of the road as well as crossing the road. Must’ve been about 20 of `em. Again, YEE HAWE!!! 🙂

As if the herd of elk sighting wasn’t enough, I drove about another 3 miles down (well, UP) the road. What do I spy there you ask? ANOTHER 2-3 elk. Luckily, there was a small roadside turnout where I could stop my car. I jumped out and clicked off about another 50 shots of these beautiful animals grazing in the high grass.

Did it all stop there? NO I SAY 🙂 I headed to a place called Newfound Gap Overlook. The plan was to stay long enough to capture a sunset. This was at the suggestion of a friend of mine, Alta. The idea was good and I had every intention of staying another hour or two to make this happen. But my luck began to run out, The clouds kept growing and thickening all around the gap and beyond. So I made the best of it and shot about 2-3 different locations (including Newfound Gap) in long exposure with a neutral density filter (which lets you take long exposures in the middle of the day etc…). One of them I’ve included herein this post. However, I will admit there are several more that are ‘fine art’ quality and will be a for sale item at a later point (as are several other shots I’ve shot over the last few days … hey I like y’all and wanna share some of these images, but I gotta save some to offset the cost of these trips LOL).

AND THEN – – – As I was about to depart the park for the day, I was finally able to locate one of the roadside attractions I’d been looking for the last few days. It’s an old fashioned, historic Grist Mill. I got there a little late in the day and the mil itself was already locked up. But again making the most of it all, I captured several pictures of the Grist Mill and the grounds. I included one for now in this post.

Anyhoo – that’s about it from the Smoky Mountains. Headed back to Florida tomorrow (Thursday). I may do a recap video slide show in the next few days. We’ll see how that pans out. Wanna make sure I have enough shots to make a short video worthwhile.

Thanks for stopping’ by and following these last few posts about  mIke’s Great Smoky mountains Adventures! 🙂

Peace – Mike T.

Smoky Mountains Adventure – Day 2

“In every walk with nature, humankind receives more than is sought” – John Muir

great smoky mountains, smoky mountains, cases cove, wildlife, nature, deer, elk, mooseWell, today (Tuesday June 27th, 2017) was one of those ‘outa sync’ days. Meaning – my timing was off, mother nature was off, even the wildlife was off :). Lots of driving through and around the mountains but I just couldn’t make more than a few good photos happen. But it’s really hard to be that unhappy while up here in this beautiful place!!! And that ‘outa sync’ thing … well … I guess it isn’t 100% accurate anyway as you can see by the four pictures herein this blog post.

While visiting Cades Cove (within The Great Smoky Mountains National Park), I chose to drive the 11 mile scenic loop. For those not familiar, this driving loop encompasses a vast area in Cades Cove where all kinds of wildlife are known to live, come out and feed etc… But here’s why I reference that ‘outa sync’ thing. Even though I saw a mother bear and two cubs, they were so far into the forest, trees blocking my shot, plus it was rather dark where they were, hence, no photos of that little family :(. I also saw what I believe was a fox that came prancing right in front of me. By the time I had my camera at the ready, he / she was gone in the high grass and into the woods . I mean it was really cool to see the two aforementioned. The memories will live in my brain and my heart & soul forever. I just wish I could’ve shared those visions here via my photography. Ahh well.

There were plenty of places to shoot more majestic scenery of these spectacular mountains (see the two photos herein).

And of course the two shots of the two elk (or moose – not sure 😉 ) atop this page helped make up for anything I might have missed for whatever reason. And by the way, those shots (of the elk/moose) were taken right alongside the roadway as I was leaving Cades Cove.

Well, that’s about it for tonight. Hopefully more pictures to share after tomorrow’s big adventures :).

Peace – Mike T.

Mike’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure – Day 1

“Going to the mountains is going home” – John Muir

smoky mountains, north carolina, maggie valley, gatlinburg, cherokee, tennessee, pigeon forge, dolly parton, blue ridge parkway

I’ve planned and attempted several time to make a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains. I cancelled once due to a projected forecast of heavy rains for like 5-6 days in a row. The last time I chose not to go due to the massive & destructive wildfires they were experiencing. But this time around, I just said to heck with all that, booked it about 3 days before my departure (from central Florida) and just went. God shone down and made the weather perfect for my adventure.

And a big adventure it’s been so far. I can’t explain it. It’s more of a feeling inside my soul. But in just one day (and night) I’ve spent here, I fell like … I dunno … like I’ve taken a step back in time, but in a good way. So many past emotions, experiences and peaceful moments. More on all that stuff in another blog post ;).For now, please read on and view the rest of today’s ‘select shots’.

So here I now sit in my hotel room at the ends of day 1 (which began for me at about 6:30 AM) just in time to watch the sun rise over the mountains. Side note – didn’t get any shots of the sunrise TODAY as I didn’t realize until it was too late that I was basically on the ‘wrong side of the mountain’ for that. But here’s hoping for tomorrow or one of my other days I’ll be here. I managed to visit many of the beautiful and historic areas or venues throughout The Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as some bordering views just outside the park along The Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are lots of old, historical heritage locations like these last two shots in and around the mountains here. The plan is to visit them over the next 2-3 days. Once again, more on all that in more / other blog posts.

 

These pictures are just a few ‘teaser’ images. At the end of this trip, I’,planning on putting many more photographs on this blog (and elsewhere – i.e. – Instagram (@MikeThomasImagery) etc… For now, enjoy these and let your mind wander into the peace & QUIETNESS of these wonderful mountains!

 

Peace – Mike T.

“Pan American Flight From The Past Now Arriving…”

airplane, jet, propeller, pan american, airliner, airport, international flight

So there I was – driving home from the small Florida town of Mount Dora Wednesday morning (see other blog post on that one) after shooting the Mount Dora Lighthouse and some bird wildlife. I look over to my right and I suddenly feel like I’ve stepped back in time. I see this airplane (and I use that term intentionally – not jet or jetliner – look at the propellers on this baby) parked on one of the taxi ways. I then noticed an entry / exit to the airport where this plane is. I swerve (carefully of course) off the main highway and into the airport. I find a good spot to capture this shot with a very long lens (so I don’t have to drive out on the taxi way with my car …. yah, THAT would’ve ended well I’m sure ;)). I’m not sure if it is in fact an actual Pan Am airplane or some sort of converted plane that the owner just painted the logo and the Pan Am colors on to. Regardless, I thought it was a pretty good find. Made my day :). Perhaps I’ll go back out there, talk to whomever and try and get permission to go right to where the plane is parked and grab some even better pictures. We’ll see :).

Peace – Mike T.