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.

Lake Eola – Orlando, FL: “Stand With France”

france, stand with france, red white blue, lake eola, orlando florida, bastille day
Honoring France – Lake Eola Fountain – Orlando, FL

For those that don’t know what or where Lake Eola is, it’s this beautiful lake with a park that surrounds it all. My guess is it’s about a mile walk around the lake. Pretty good size. I’ve photographed at the lake quite a few times but it’s been at least 2-3 years since I’ve done any night photography there. Earlier today, one of the local news stations here in Orlando announced that Lake Eola officials would turn the colored lights in and around the giant fountain in the center of the lake red, white and blue as a tribute and honor to France after the horrible tragedies that occurred during their Bastille Day celebration before. So I ventured downtown Orlando about 9:00 PM Friday night (July 15th, 2016) to see what I could capture in pictures. Here is one of the shots I was able to create.

Pray For Peace – Mike T.

Florida Backroads: Dundee, FL

DSCF7630I set out on a mission earlier today – to go photograph more of what I call Florida Backroads – or perhaps, the roads less travelled – anything BUT Them Parks and Attractions really. So about 30 minutes south of me is this little town called Dundee, FL. I’d driven through there many a time heading to various south Florida destinations. You basically travel south on U.S. Highway 27 heading south. Dundee is about 25 minutes south of the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 27.

DSCF7636As I said, I’d never really been IN the town itself. There’s a sign on Hwy 27 that says, “Historic Dundee Station” just after you cross the line into Dundee. Today, I finally decided to check it out. The town itself is truly old fashion, quaint and charming. They have a hardware store combined with a feed store. You actually pull your truck or car up to a wooden platform loading type dock to get your supplies. A few old style churches dot the horizon as well. There are a few ponds or lakes surrounded by houses that look they were built back in the 1950’s +/- but in good shape. And a beautiful park with a lighted walkway all around the blue inside the park.



One of the highlights in the historic area is an old railroad station, now turned into a museum. The museum itself wasn’t open today (off season don’t ya’ know – only open Tuesday and Saturday I believe it said). But it made a nice place to shoot a few pictures and give just a little feel for what the town is like.

DSCF7647If you have the time and you’re passing through someday, take 5 minutes off the main highway and check it out. Grab a pop or soda at the feed store (which I suspect was once also the General Store – just my opinion). Maybe get out & stretch the legs and walk around the beautiful park / lake in the middle of town.


Peace – Mike T.

“Bruce Springsteen.” Do I Have Your Attention Yet?

bruce springsteen, epcot, disney, american gardens theater,
“Bruce In The USA” Tribute Band

Sorry for the cheesy headline. But I wanted any and all Bruce Springsteen fans to take a quick look. If you ARE a Springsteen fan of any degree and are around the Orlando / Walt Disney World area (Epcot in particular), you really oughta come out and catch one of the new tribute bands at Epcot’s, “Sounds Like Summer Concert Series’ shows. The band is called, “Bruce In The USA.” I base how good a tribute act is by closing my eyes and listening. If it sounds like as well assignees a little rush of excitement or a quick chill, then they’re GOOD! This band surpasses that. They are GREAT – in particular “Bruce” looks, acts, moves, sounds like Bruce Springsteen! No kidding here. I’ll go out on a limb and say these guys are one of thee best, if not THEE BEST tribute acts I’ve seen anywhere, not just at Disney.

I stayed beyond my ‘work time’ just to catch another show and to take some pictures for myself (hence where the pic within this post came from). I just watched and listened in amazement thankful for being ‘Born In The USA’, reliving some ‘Glory Days’ as I watched this ‘On Fire’ act. They were just ‘Born To Run’ on 12 cylinders down ‘Thunder Road’. From the time they hit the stage there was just ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’. And to think, I was fortunate enough to see them as they visited ‘My Hometown’! They left nothing to question – no “Brilliant Disguise’ or any kind and no one left with a ‘Hungry Heart’ for sure. I still have chills. Quick, somebody ‘Cover Me’.

OK, I’ll stop for now :).  Go check `em out if you can. You won’t be disappointed!

bruce springsteen, epcot, disney, american gardens theater,
“Bruce In The USA” Tribute Band

Peace – Mike T.

A Peaceful Night

I don’t know about any of you, but my head and heart needs anything to do with peace and tranquility right about now. And I wish it for you and anyone else in this (still) great country. I have lots of feelings, beliefs and if I let myself, lots to say about recent events in America. But I really don’t wanna do that here on this blog. No matter what, we all need a little escape now and then no matter what the circumstances. Part of my photographic pursuit and mission is to capture anything that will take us away and perhaps even derail us if only for a moment in time. This picture I made a few months back holds not only that peace but is also reminiscent of the list fee I left behind up in the mountains of New England. Clear skies, lots of stars, sometimes a bright beautiful moon, crickets and other nocturnal creatures singing their song. I’d love to say that streak in the sky (of this photo) is a shooting star. But alas, it’s just an airplane cruising through the picture I was creating. It’s about a 30 second exposure so it comes across as a streak of light across the sky.

More to come. But for now, I wish us all a peaceful day or night.

Peace – Mike T.

“Magic And Memories” – Defined

One of the four blogs I’ve Benn doing over the last 5-10 years was one all about the ‘magic and memories’ being created daily at The Walt Disney World Resort. And as a little ‘tongue-in-cheek’ side note, the title of my blog came into being several years before the (now renamed) projection show on Cinderella Castle called, “The Magic, The Memories, And You.” Just didn’t want anyone thinking I copied them . Anyhoo – the purpose of the Magic And Memories blog was nothing more than a pictorial journey and sometimes a lesson on the beauty, majesty and often times undiscovered beauty in and around WDW. So to welcome and make my Magic And Memories followers comfortable, just wanted to state that the blog hasn’t totally gone away.  Here are a few photos from that blog as well as a few new ones. It’s my feeling that no explanation is really needed for any or all of these pictures. Enjoy – and please subscribe to or at least bookmark this site (see upper left of the page).

Aerial's Under The Sea - MK
Aerial’s Under The Sea – MK
Fireworks Over Prince Eric's Castle - MK
Fireworks Over Prince Eric’s Castle – MK
"In The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room" - MK
“In The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” – MK
"I'm A Real Boy" - MK / Parade
“I’m A Real Boy” – MK / Parade

All photos are taken by yours truly. All were taken on my own time, henceforth I own all the rights to the photos themselves. Please DO NOT use these photos in any way without asking my permission.

Peace – Mike T. 🙂