From The Archives: Rainbow Springs State Park, FL

waterfall, stream, river, florida state parks, rainbow springs state park

In preparation for an upcoming change of my social media & online presence, I was going through some photos I’d taken in the past – looking for some new cover and profile pictures etc… More on all that soon. THIS photo I guess I’d forgotten about. I captured it at Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida. This place is one of the very few locations in Florida where you can see a natural waterfall. Granted, this shot is an off shoot from one of those falls – more like a stream. Nonetheless, pretty. Thought I’d share for your relaxing, peaceful, escapement (is that a word?).

Peace – Mike T.

The Tree Of Life In The Early Morn’

disney, animal kingdom, tree of life, nature, wildlife, theme parks
“The Tree Of Life” – Disney’s Animal Kingdom (photo by Mike Thomas)

I don’t often post many “Disney” shots anymore – especially of the Disney Icons that everyone and their brother posts on Social Media daily. Nothing against Disney or anything like that. I’ve just spent so many years there shooting that I ended up having more desire and feel the need to be more creative and profound with shots I take out in the wilds of Florida (and elsewhere ;)). BUT – I was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this morning doing a very early morning shoot for Disney. After I finished up with that work, I was strolling by The Tree Of Life as I headed out. It was just one of those quick, inspirational moments where the lighting was just great (sun still on the rise even though the park had opened to early morning Guests), the (blue) lights inside the tree were still on from the night before and the sky had mostly blue color but with streaks of clouds running across it. All this added up to and produced a wonderfully detailed and colorful photograph. Enough words – the photo speaks for itself. I’ve said it before but – I wish they were all this easy :).

Peace – Mike T.

`Twas The Night Before Christmas

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays y’all 🙂

Several years back, I recorded this classic and heartwarming, nostalgic tale for various purposes. I’ve posted it every year since on Christmas Eve. So go get the little ones (and kids of all ages) and listen to this as if you were listening to an old fashioned radio broadcast. You remember radios, don’t you? ;). Enjoy!

Peace & Good Will To All!

Mike T.

60 Seconds Of Christmas Trees

(see video below)

So there I was, sitting at my computer catching up on some work when a post appears about Sea World Orlando from an old buddy. Then it hit me: I’d purchased an annual pass on a good deal from Sea World about 51 weeks ago and never activated it. I looked up the E-Ticket PDF and it said it would be expiring in about a week if I didn’t activate it. So I hopped in my car and drove over to Sea World. On the way I thought perhaps I’d go in and take a few pictures of the Christmas decor – specifically, the Christmas trees they put out on / in the water. I’d only seen pictures of them but had never seen them up close. In fact, it’d been about 10 years since I’d been to Sea World as a guest.

So to jump ahead, I did all the aforementioned. I parked myself – cameras & tripod at the ready near the beautiful Christmas trees that appeared to be floating on the water with even more beautiful reflections glimmering `neath the trees (Hmmm? Sounds like something out of “The Night Before Christmas,” don’t it lol). Anyhoo – below is a collection of some of the shots I was able to capture and turn into a picture(s).

Sit back, relax and escape a little of the potential stress, hustle & bustle that can take away joy at this time of year.

Peace – Mike T.

60 Seconds Of Peace

Greetings All,

(see video below)

I know – it’s been forever since I’ve posted here. I love my life & career. I also love and am proud to say I work a lot with The Walt Disney Company photographing (plus a few other multimedia things). But the fall is my busiest time of the year straight through until December 31st, then I get another break for a bit :). Anyway, not trying to make lame excuses. Just stating facts as to why I haven’t had much time to post on the blog.

Today, Wednesday Novel,her 16th, 2016 marks my first full day off since the Epcot International Food And Wine Festival came to a close a few days ago. Hence, I headed out to do an errand or two. Then I just said to heck with it – I’m just gonna get back in my car, start it, put it in drive and step on the gas. Where I’ll end up, I had no clue. Well, as it ended up, I found myself in the area of one of my favorite of the 176 Florida State Parks: Lake Kissimmee State Park. One of the reasons I love this particular park is because it’s so far out there that after you enter the park and end up in the ‘center’ of it all (about 3 miles in), the only things you can hear are the birds chirping, the gentle wind blowing, the wildlife making noises in the woods and the brush. You can’t hear any planes, trains or automobiles at all. It’s so peaceful. The stress just rolls right off as soon as I start hiking around the wooded trails.

I managed to photograph quite a few pictures. No wildlife today, but a lot of pretty, peaceful pics. Instead of posting some of them here, I decided to try something I experimented a few weeks ago with on Facebook. I put together a very short (about 60 seconds – hence the title of this blog post) slide show video coupled with some old-time music that I played / recorded for a CD of mine (from the musical side of my career) a few years ago. Hope it helps you find some peace & tranquility!

Peace – Mike T.

60 Seconds Of Peace from Mike Thomas Productions on Vimeo.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 :).

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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.