Florida Backroads: Silver Springs State Park, Florida

silver springs, florida, state parks

Hey All,

I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted here on my blog. I’ve been pretty busy without a day off since about September 14th shooting Epcot’s International Food And Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. Today (Tuesday, October 11th, 2016), I managed to grab a day off and head up to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL.


Silver Springs has been around a long time. But for various reasons, the Florida State Parks took it over and made it one of their 176 Florida State Parks about three years ago. My take on it all? Well, not bad. Kinda like an oasis in the middle of the city (area) of Ocala, FL. Much of the structures / buildings still remain from the old days. They’re in pretty good shape aesthetically. But they look pretty dormant. Some are still occupied and operating. But there weren’t a lot of folks within them That’s about the ONLY not so positive news of this post. The rest of my park experience is as follows.



I honestly can’t remember the last time I was at Silver Springs Park. However, compared to what I experienced today, which was very VERY peaceful, serene, quiet and relaxing versus what I seem to vaguely recall on my last visit “X” number of years ago.


The staff members were extremely pleasant and communicative. They (the staff) also told me there are plans of expansion starting with the boardwalk trek on the right hand side as you enter through the main gates. Supposedly, the boardwalk will connect to some of the islands out in the middle of the beautiful blue waters.


I didn’t take a voyage on one of the Glass Bottom Boats due to time constraints. But even from the shore(s), you can see some of the underwater vegetation and blue decor. Very pretty!


I also came across many picnic areas as well as a collection of rocking chairs, covered (shaded) sitting areas, some overlook docks – even an outdoor amphitheater (pictured below) making it all very nice for a casual day visitor as well as a photographer kinda person like me :).


So would I recommend this to a friend as a “must see?” Honestly, probably not a “must” see. However, if you’re in the area or want a peaceful escape for a day, then it’s most definitely worth the visit. They have a restaurant and snack bar. But only the snack bar was open during my visit. Not sure if they’re open daily – or if the restaurant is in operation. But if you’re like me when you visit places like these, I prefer a picnic type lunch anyway.

Peace – Mike T.

After The Fire

florida, forest, state parks, fire, prescribed burn, nature, wildlife
Post Prescribed Burn

Not sure if everyone is aware, but various organizations in the U.S. such as The National Forest Service and others pretty regularly perform what’s called a ‘Prescribed Burn’. This is when a designated section of forest or woodland is intentionally set on fire for various reasons (i.e. – getting rid of dead wood, dead grass, eliminate specific growth so as to make room for new living vegetation etc…). This photo is that of a post prescribed burn in one of the State Parks here in Florida. Quite honestly, I never really thought of shooting the aftermath of a burn. But while out hiking in the woods over this past summer (2016), I came across the area pictures within this picture. What made this shot interesting to me was the lighting being so great! It really highlighted as well as shadowed the details in the picture – so good in fact that I was able to shoot in black & white (not post production converted but actually SHOT in black & white). Since then, I’ve actually been out searching for a similar post prescribed burn area to try and shoot. No luck so far though :(.

Peace – Mike T.

Can You See The Dinosaur?

florida, lake, dinosaur, nature, wildlife, forest, woods
Hidden Dinosaur

So there I was, hiking in the woods at one of the Florida State Preserves. I came upon this small pond in the middle of no where. The lighting was pretty good, nice colors and sky, hence, I thought I’d set up and grab a few shots in the hope that one of them would be good. I ended up getting lucky in that I captured a few photos that were in the ‘good’ category. However, it was after I completed the processing & editing of this shot I noticed what remotely resembled a dinosaur (sorry, I’m not a paleontologist so I don’t know the species) in the right side of the photograph. Can you see it?

Peace – Mike T.

Street Photography: Aspiring (and good) Singer / Songwriter

guitar, street musician, busker, neil diamondI was in the downtown area of Celebration, FL awaiting to do a portrait shot for a client. While waiting, this young man walks up, sits down on the steps (which overlook the lake in Celebration), takes out his guitar and starts singing & playing. I waited for a few songs to pass judgment being a muzoid myself (and a snob I guess LOL). A few songs pass and I realize I’m caught up in the music. Translated: This kid is good! He played some cover songs as well as original. The covers were fine. But I liked his original songs better. This confirmed the boy was good and I chose to sit and listen until I HAD to leave. Being of an older generation, my all time favorite is and has been Neil Diamond (mostly his earlier stuff and the acoustic stuff from 2005-2010). I realized after listening to about 2-3 of this guys original tunes that he was playing in a distant old time Neil Diamond chord progression. I surmised that this is why I liked his stuff. I think I might actually go back there and try and catch his sidewalk busker act again. And next time, I’ll even get his name (DUH!) and try and give this singer / songwriter some free PR.

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: Melbourne Beach, Florida At Night

florida, ocean, atlantic ocean, Melbourne beach, full moon
Melbourne Beach, FL At Night

Greetings All,

Picture this: The sound of the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing on the shore. A warm summer night wind blowing just enough to cool ya’ down from the Florida heat & humidity. The sound of a seagull or two off in the distance. And all you can see are moonlit shadows of folks walking the beach off in the distance. And highlights glistening off the waves lit by the moonlight – the only light source anywhere around.

Sound like a dream or the beginning of some story? Well, I suppose it could be. But that scenario I just tried to paint in your mind’s eye was exactly how it was when I created this picture last night.

I’ve been to Melbourne Beach on Florida’s east coast many a time. Most visits were during the day or at sunrise. But while thinking of my next Florida Backroads ‘path less traveled’ to showcase, I remembered being at that beach once at night shooting a full moon rising over the Atlantic. By the time I arrived last night (Sunday, August 14th, 2016), the moon was well into its course across the night-time sky. But as it turns out, this was perfect to help illuminate the beach and the ocean. This photograph I was able to create shows the bright moon overhead shining down on the sand & water. Only thing I can’t include in this photo are the sounds of the waves, the wind and that one lone seagull.

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: Cedar Key

florida, cedar key, gulf of Mexico, cape cod,
Cedar Key, FL

(see photo gallery below)

As many of you know, I began a project last year I called, “Florida Backroads.” Florida Backroads is all about the natural Florida, the paths less travelled in the sunshine state. Basically, anything EXCEPT the major theme parks and attractions – with a few exceptions such as certain smaller attractions that have been around in Florida since the dinosaurs (so to speak lol). Not bashing theme parks here. I still work as a freelance photographer for Disney and a few others. I’ve just always been more of a purest and naturalist. I hail from old New England and have that heritage instilled in me. Henceforth, mother nature, wildlife and similar have always been my first loves.

All that being said, I made a trip to a place folks have been telling me for years to go check out: Cedar Key, FL. Cedar Key is located northwest of Gainesville, FL on the Gulf Of Mexico. It’s not quite in the Pan Handle section but close. In my humble opinion, Cedar Key is definitely one of those “Florida Backroads” places. As I drove into the town, I was so taken aback by the quaint charm and old fashioned look & feel. As I said above, I hail from New England. I spent a lot of time on Cape Cod, Massachusetts when I was younger. Cedar Key reminded me so much of Cape Cod it was uncanny. But it was still visibly / noticeably different as you can see by the photos I captured for this blog post. It’s kinda like being in the movie, “Jaws,” but with out the man eating great white shark ;). The architecture is classic, old ‘Jimmy Buffet’ style. You just wait for someone to bring you a Margarita and a cheeseburger (in paradise). The townsfolk also remind of New Englanders in that they may not have that classic southern style hospitality. But they sure do have the approachability and kindness as well as a genuine-ness characteristic also resembling that Cape Cod personality. For the short time I spent there (About 3-4 hours), I was stopped by at least 4-5 people or couples who just wanted to chat and ask me why I had 3 cameras hanging around my neck and shoulders. But after I answered them, they just started conversing with me like we already knew each other previous to my coming to Cedar Key. When I work at Disney, you come across that scenario constantly. But (and I hate to say this) when I’m outside of Disney on the surrounding city streets, let’s just say that doesn’t happen too often.

If you’re a fisherman or love seafood, ya’ well – you need to come here. You can fish off the docks or go out in a private chartered boat – and not the big commercial style boat. They still have the “Captain Quint” style wooden boats built for just a few. And those rigs are all very seaworthy, too by the way.

Even the Florida summer heat that I hate so much (which may sound odd being a Floridian for 20 plus years now) isn’t as bad as in Central Florida. The trade winds blowing off the Gulf Of Mexico make it nicer and bearable. The humidity also tends to be lower as well. I know I keep making reference to New England and Cape Cod. But – – – it’s like a rare hot Cape Cod day in Cedar Key.

I think if I retire and STAY in Florida, Cedar Key would be one of only two places I’ve ever visited that I’d consider living. The other place, by the way, is Micanopy, FL. I’ve done a blog post on Micanopy in the past and plan to do another one soon.

Peace – Mike T.

Illuminations: Reflections Of Earth

disney, epcot, illuminations, reflections of earth, fireworks, pyrotechnics, lasers
Illuminations: Reflections Of Earth – Grand Finale

So I found myself at Walt Disney World / Epcot again last night (gee, what a surprise 😉 ) doing another test shoot for something a little down the road. After I finished the work (if you can call what I do work – PA-LEEEEE!ZE! 🙂 ), I met up with a working compadre of mine who led me down to a sort of special place usually reserved just for Guests. But he told me there weren’t very few Guests at this location and asked if I’d like to make some pictures of, “Illuminations: Reflections Of Earth” – Epcot’s night time spectacular. I hadn’t shot that show in a LONG time and I had a little spare time on my hands so I said, “sure.”

disney, epcot, illuminations, reflections of earth, fireworks, pyrotechnics, lasers
Illuminations: Reflections Of Earth

These photos were just two of several that I managed to capture decently. I love photographing pyrotechnics and lasers!!! 🙂

Peace – Mike T

Dixie Lake – Black & White

dixie lake, florida, nature, wildlife, black & white, sunset
Dixie Lake Sunset – Central Florida

Color photography is just fine. BUT – over all my years of shooting, I’ve come to favor Black & White photography a bit more. Problem is (and I’ve learned this the hard way over time), not everything looks good in Black & White. Colors have to be proper and coincide with the lighting. Contrast has to be right etc… When it comes to Black & White photography, I have two idols or mentors: Ansel Adams and a gentleman named Clyde Butcher. Pretty much everyone has heard of and knows who Ansel Adams is/was. Clyde Butcher I call one of the most famous, unknown masters of environmental photography in the country. He’s based here in Florida down around Big Cypress Preserve which has become known as ‘The Western Everglades’. His images have been a tremendous influence and teaching for me. Clyde will sit for days at some locations just to capture that ONE image. I’m not sure I have the patience to sit THAT long :).

Although my favorite place to be (and to shoot) is in a mountainous area (White Mountains of New Hampshire, Great Smokey Mountains etc…). That being said, I do manage to find beauty in the wetlands here in Florida.The picture contained herein this blog post is one that I shot at Dixie Lake (central Florida) using what I whimsically (but with respect) call ‘The Clyde Butcher Method’. 🙂 I made the picture just before sunset but with the sun behind me this time around.

Clyde Butcher says he shoots everything in Black & White because it creates a “one-ness.” Further, he teaches that everything – including human beings – are connected, created a similar “one-ness.” I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to that and it makes perfect sense to me. Hence, the reason I especially like to shoot as much nature shots as possible in Black & White. Thanks Clyde Butcher and Ansel Adams!

Peace – Mike T.

Street Photography: Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 – Post 2

dogs, dog walk, swans, lake eola, ornaod, florida, nature, wildlife,
Canine Investigators

As I stated yesterday here, I had a second shot I managed to create while doing some street photography on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016. To refresh, I found myself in and around downtown Orlando in the late afternoon. After walking through several areas of ‘O-Town’, “The City Beautiful,’ I ended up at my favorite downtown area – Lake Eola. This shot I will admit was a lucky shot because I was walking and never stopped while I was shooting. I was strolling along the walkway around the lake itself. This gentleman in the shot was walking his two dogs in front of me. The animals were quite well behaved. But them for some reason when they saw this particular white swan (lower left of the photo), they both became so intrigued that their ‘walker’ had to stop and let then investigate a bit. Me, being the class clown at times, could only imagine or hear in my head what the two canines were saying to each other: “I dunno – it’s got a long neck and a yellow snout – whadda you think it is?” “I dunno – I’ve seen things like this on that big black box in the living room with the bright pictures that talks all by itself before.”

Anyway – you get the gist.

Peace (and love to all animals) – Mike T

Street Photography: Tuesday – July 26th, 2016 – Post 1

street photography, diversity, culture, afro american, asian, international, communications
International Diversity At Its Purest

I found myself in downtown Orlando late this afternoon (Tuesday, July 26th, 2016). I started venturing in and around the ‘City Beautiful’. Here’s just one of the pictures I made while in my artistic, creative, street photographer state of mind (Another one to follow tomorrow by the way).

The is my favorite of the day – probably of the week or month. I generally don’t shoot people when I’m on a street photography ‘mission’. But the message it ‘screamed’ to me was too good not to photograph. I actually had an entire blog post & story written and ready to publish here. But then it hit me. Ya’ know that old expression ‘picture is worth a thousand words‘? Well, I think this photo of the African-American gentleman sitting and chatting with this family visiting from their country (I know this as I overheard them chatting – not eavesdropping I swear lol) says it all. You fill in the blanks or make your own story about this photograph.

Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: Crystal River, FL

crystal river florida, florida, nature coast, boating, lakes, rivers, nature, scenic
Crystal River Preserve State Park

Yesterday – Saturday July 23rd, 2016 – I had reason to be in a town called Crystal River, FL. I should set the record straight right off – there IS an actual river known as Crystal River. But today’s ventures didn’t quite lead me to those more natural areas along that river. Nonetheless, I found Crystal River and the surrounding communities to be quite a charming surprise.

Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park

I live in the central Florida area (Walt Disney World and other attractions area). It’s my belief that when you live in an area such as I do, you become a little blind or perhaps the better way to say it is more subliminally focussed on your surroundings. Most places you look in and around central Florida, there’s something or other connected or related to Disney, Sea World, Universal Studios Orlando etc… But when you get away from that and out of the area, it’s like a whole new or different world that plays out before your eyes – or at least in my case it does.

Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park

Traveling west on State Route 44 driving away from Interstate 75 is what I like to refer to as ‘beautiful nothingness’. Just acres and acres of undeveloped land, saw grass, palm and other beautiful trees, lakes, ponds and swamps – nature at it’s purest. Things you’re a little hard pressed to find in a highly developed, busy tourist zone like central Florida / Orlando area. Then, when you enter a small to medium size town like Crystal River, it’s like (this is hard to put into words) small town America, but with palm trees and the other aforementioned additives. Just relaxing, country-like & stress relieving!

Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park
Crystal River Preserve State Park

These are just a few pictures with captions I managed to capture & create while I was there strolling around the area. Most of these photos I shot inside Crystal River Preserve State Park.

Definitely worth the trip if you want a quick and easy escape from city life and theme parks!

Peace – Mike T.


Florida Backroads: Bok Tower Gardens

bok tower gardens, florida, lake wales, Edward  W Bok, carillon, singing towerIf there was a way I could LIVE in Bok Tower Gardens, believe me I would! I’ve written a blog post plus photos a few years ago about Bok Tower Gardens. Bok is located in a semi small town in Florida called Lake Wales. To give you some perspective, Lake Wales is about 35 minutes south of the intersections of Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 27. To further that, it’d be about 45 minutes to an hour (+/-) from Walt Disney World.


My Florida Backroads project is all about the natural beauty of Florida or history / heritage, hence, Bok Tower Gardens fits in because – – – it was built by Edward W. Bok – an immigrant from The Netherlands – back in 1929. Mr. Bok’s purpose in creating this beautiful place was to say thanks to the American people for welcoming he and his family when they came from their homeland and treated them so well. So ya’ see, there’s not only real history here that connects to Florida, Bok Tower Gardens is also a ‘Florida Backroad’ or escape from the stress and anxiety of day to day life. Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark as well. Edward Bok also constructed a giant “Singing Tower” encasing a 60 bell Carillon. The Carillon still gets played daily giving visitors a free concert they can enjoy with a picnic lunch on provided benches or on a blanket spread on the lavish and extensive grounds.



The photos I’ve captured within the post are nice (if I do say so myself LOL). But …


…no mater how many times I’ve tried, the majesty and sheer size of the tower itself can’t do justice or compete to the standing or sitting in front of the real thing. So y’all just have to make a trip Bok Tower Gardens (and not, I’m not on commission to say or advertise the place <wink>).

Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, FL, 33853, ph – 863 676 1408.

Peace – Mike T.