Mike Thomas’ “Florida Backroads” Photo Art Exhibit Coming To Bok Tower Gardens!


Greetings Everyone!

First off, hope y’all had great Holidays! Also hope everyone is making their way through these frigid and snowy conditions on the east coast (and elsewhere, but I’m on the east coast and experiencing Florida’s version of a cold snap).

OK, let me get right to it. If you’ve read my blog over the last several years, you know I’ve visited Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida many times. I LOVE this place for many reasons but mainly because of its serenity, beauty, peacefulness, attachment to nature, the size (250 acres) and of course, the 205 foot ‘Singing Tower’ itself (click the Bok Tower Gardens link here or below for in depth details on the ‘singing tower’, the surrounding gardens and more). You can also find some wildlife, tons of butterflies fluttering all around you (and these offerings are all truly wild and not in a sanctuary or similar). Best of all, Bok Tower Gardens is on the National Historic Landmark Registry Listing – meaning it’ll be there for a long, LONG time!

Above and beyond all the aforementioned, Bok Tower Gardens offers to their Guests an art exhibit that runs pretty much year round. The artists / exhibits are switched out every few months or so. I saw this exhibit section for the first time at their Welcome Center dating back about 5-6 years and have always thought how I’d love to have my work on display there since it fit the theme (nature, wildlife, Florida). Well guess what? I was offered the opportunity last spring to be the featured artist for one of these exhibits! (YAY! WOO HOO! lol :))

My exhibit entitled, “Florida Backroads,”will begin its run on January 19th, 2018 and finish on April 26th, 2018. All items on display will also be for sale (FYI – any items purchased will remain on display until March 26th, 2018 … at which time the buyers will then receive their photographic art pieces).

In addition to the exhibit, Bok Tower Gardens has me doing a ‘Meet The Artist’ type welcome on January 24th, 2018 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Refreshments will be served during those times and of course yours truly will be in attendance to casually chat and answer questions about my work as well as photography.

Hope anyone and everyone can make it to Bok Tower Gardens between January 24th and April 26th, 2018. Again, the display is inside The Bok Tower Welcome Center. The exhibit itself is free. However, admission to the massive grounds and gardens is required. Below, please find the address and web site link for Bok Tower Gardens:

Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, Florida 33853 – 863 676 1408

I’ll update this blog with more information as the opening date draws nearer. I’l also post additional updates as the exhibit progresses.

Thanks for stoppin’ by neighbor!

Mike T.

Monument Of States

wwii, ww ii, world war ii, pearl harbor, monument of states, kissimmee, fl, disney world


Today being December 7th, 2017, the date marks the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I wanted to post about something – anything – different but related directly to ‘that day in infamy‘. I remembered doing another photo shoot in the downtown historic area of Kissimmee, FL, a town that borders The Walt Disney World Resort, just to give geographical reference. The monument or this post has nothing to do with Disney. Anyway, while doing the shoot I mentioned, I recalled seeing a very unusual monument in this section of town called, “The Monument Of The States.”

Upon further research regarding this unusual monument, I discovered that this structure was the brain child of Dr.Charles Bressler-Pettis. Dr. Bressler-Pettis’ idea was to have every one of the United States send a rock significant to the respective state to him. He would then use these rocks within the construction of The Monument Of States. The reason behind it all was to create or display a symbol of patriotic unity in the early, dark days of World War II just after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Dr. Bressler-Pettis sent out a letter to each of the governors of every state requesting a rock from each respective state. The response to his request was phenomenal and unanimous. All 48 states (at that time) complied and became a major part & contributor of this project.

If you look closely at some of the pictures herein, you’ll see what I mean. Each little section is labeled or named and has a rock (or something similar) within it. Over time, more rocks and placards were added to the monument. You’ll see offerings from Canada, Africa and more in the monument (and in a few of the photos).

The Monument Of States was created in 1942. Here it is 76 years later and it’s still standing! As a side note, the monument did have a facelift of sorts in 2001 making it look even better and due to incidents at around that time frame, have even more significance.

If should ever want to go see this thing in person, the address is 300 East Monument Ave, Kissimmee, FL. It technically resides in Lakefront Park at the aforementioned address.

To all who perished and to all who survived this day in 1941, you’ll never be forgotten by this photographer / writer!

Pray for peace everyone! Thanks for stopping by! And most important, thank you to every U.S. Military Person who is or has protected all of us from harms way. God Bless All Of You and your families!

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

“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.

An Early Morning Visit To Mount Dora Lighthouse, FL

lighthouses, florida, mount dora florida, nature, landscape, mariner, boating, lake, water, ocean


lighthouses, florida, mount dora florida, nature, landscape, mariner, boating, lake, water, oceanFor those reading this who don’t know (and I understand that’s probably most of you – especially those who don’t live in Central Florida), there’s this beautiful, quaint old town called Mount Dora. Roughly north of Orlando, Mount Dora is home to old fashioned streets, diners, shops and more. There’s also a lake in the downtown area that’s pretty vast. Many a watercraft can be seen cruising the large lake.

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There’s a marina that’s also big enough to warrant a light house. Yep – that’s right. Small as the lighthouse is, it is a working lighthouse. I’m not sure if it’s on the National Registry of Lighthouses or not. But it does serve a purpose for mariners to heed the shore line of that portion of the lake that’s home to the marina. I’ve been meaning to get out to Mount Dora for some time now to shoot the lighthouse (and some of the town and its folks – but that will come in another post later). The area where the lighthouse stands I found to be a very peaceful, serene place, especially in the earlier part of the day like when I was there at about 8:00AM. The wildlife / birds aren’t overly plentiful. But they’re around and some will pose for pictures – like this guy :).

As I said above. there’ll be at least one other post coming about the town of Mount Dora. But in the meantime, if you’re ever in that area and enjoy old time, small town, down home look & feel, ya’ gotta check out Mount Dora, Florida :).

Peace – Mike T.

AFTER Memorial Day

florida, military, army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard, national cemetery, cemetery, Bushnell florida

As you might have surmised by the title of this blog post, this is about not forgetting those whom we remember on Memorial Day. In other words, I waited purposely until the day after Memorial Day to create this post. It’s sorta like when lots of folks go and work in the soup kitchens right at Christmas or Thanksgiving time. Yes, it’s admirable for anyone to go and do charitable work. But in conversing with some homeless folks, one of the common denominators they agree on is that after whatever Holiday comes and goes, those folks I talked to say they feel forgotten (again). They’re not bitter. It’s just that for some reason, people feel charitable and giving at the Holidays. But not so much after. Now before anyone gets upset or takes issue with me, I’m NOT saying everyone who helps out in the shelters and the like falls victim to this mentality or behavior. Nor am I knocking anyone who has the decency and kind heartedness to give of themselves. But with society and times changing constantly, trends just seem to take some folks’ thoughts and actions away from doing good things or remembering the fallen, the forgotten, the homeless etc… That’s the basic premise in posting this article immediately after Memorial Day 2017.

So to get back on track as to what this post is about, I have a question for you the reader: Did you know that there was a National Cemetery in Florida? I’ll adit it – I didn’t. I thought the only notable National Cemetery was Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

I was searching on the web for things I could go and pay tribute to via my photography. I found several celebrations within a 1 to 2 hour drive of my location in Central Florida. But the one that jumped out at me was this National Cemetery up in the town of Bushnell, FL. For various reasons, it was going to be a real stretch for me to get there on Memorial Day Itself. Hence, the idea of ‘AFTER Memorial Day’ came to fruition in my brain. What I discovered when I got there was pretty astounding!

Arlington National Cemetery is approximately 625 acres with about 400,000 interned there. Florida National Cemetery is approximately 512 acres with 129,000 interned. Arlington was established in 1864. Florida National Cemetery was established in 1988. Let that sink in just a bit. Spanning about 150 years, Arlington has managed to have 400,000 buried therein. But Florida National Cemetery in just shy of 30 years has managed to welcome home 129,000. Pretty high ratio.

Florida National Cemetery is in a very rural area of the Sunshine State. The landscape is nothing short of beautiful. American Flags line all the roadways on both sides throughout the property. It’s very evident the staff take extreme care in monitoring and beautifying the land.

I’m well aware that it may be considered a little off beat to even do a blog post on a cemetery. But given my flag-waiving Patriotic beliefs and my deep set appreciation and recognition for our Military Personnel, to me it’s not that obscure. Especially if it brings the needed attention to educating in any way possible what our fallen Military heroes have done to allow ALL of us to do what we do every day in this still great United States Of America!

If you have reason (or not), make a trip out to Florida National Cemetery. It is, dare I say breath taking and will set your Patriotic heart & soul afire. Florida National Cemetery might not be as big as Arlington. But it’s every bit as majestic and emotional!!!

God Bless all our fallen Military people. You will never be forgotten by this blog writer!!!

Peace – Mike T

Somedays, Ya’ Just Get Squirrels

nature, wiuldlife, squirrels, lake louisa state park, florida

I ventured out to test / try and repair some problems I’ve been having with one of my cameras. I went to one of my favorite nature places – Lake Louisa State Park here in Central Florida. In the past, I’ve been able to capture (in pictures) great wildlife such as deer, eagles, osprey, gators and more. But today was just one of those days that kinda reminded me of an old John Denver song, “Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stone.” Today, all I was able to capture on the nature trails and/or by the lakes were these little critters.

squirrels, nature, wildlife, lake louisa state park, florida

Not a bad thing I guess. But I probably could’ve poked my head out my front door and captured similar :).

Peace – Mike T.