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Welcome to my videos!

There’s an old saying in the business that a video is worth a thousand photographs. Okay, I actually just made that up. But you can’t feel connected to the water without some video footage, plus souping it up with a little narration and guitar playing in the background. If you listen closely, you can also hear the campfire.

Hope you enjoy!

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Fog flow
The ghost of sheet flow past

Morning fog in Florida …

Can sometimes be very thick.

Not to be confused with sheet flow

Other times it hovers just over the surface like a blanket that burns away rapidly in with the rising sun. That’s what happened this morning. The thing about fog: It’s really hard to photograph, especially without good camera equipment and a lot of patience. In this case I just hopped on the guard rail and tried to campfire the ephemeral layer of moisture while it was still there, and in doing so also watched it slowly fade away. Five minutes later it was completely gone.

Gutters of our youth
And why we return to watch it flow

There’s nothing better …

Than the flow of water, even in a gutter.

Why gutter flow is important

I take that back. I mean “especially” in a gutter. Why? Call me a child of the suburbs perhaps. But for me growing up as a pre-teenage kid, to this day I can still remember having fun watching (and racing) leaves in the gutter after a good rain. Another favorite activity was damming up the water to watch a pool form behind the leaves, and also expanding the makeshift levee to pool the water halfway across the street only to punch a hole in it and watch the water water flow. Simpler times they were, simpler times. Those days may have passed but I’m reminded of them every time it rains and I go to the gutter to watch (and listen) to the water flow.


Foggy Glare
A thousand points of glare

There’s no bigger challenge of adulthood …

Than the “day in and the day out.”

East bound into the sun

Living in Naples Florida and driving into the Big Cypress Swamp everyday, that means a lot of fog and a lot of glare. I would mention the traffic in town, but most of my commute is on the sparsely traveled Tamiami Trail. As much as I enjoy the commute, at times I wonder if I’d do better on the night shift. That way, I’d have the sun behind my back on they way in (during he late afternoon) and on my return drive back in time I’d have the morning sun shining towards the west in my rear view. Again, that’s a minor complaint. The morning fog and glare are just part of the Big Cypress charm.


Wading bird delight
Why wading birds love fire

By definition …

Wading birds love water.

Video filmed along scenic Tamiami Trail

But in addition to wading through the shallow swamp, could they just as much (if not more) like the fire, too? Evidence from a recent prescribed burn says “yes.” The reason? My first guess was that the egrets were sick of sushi and wanted some charbroiled (or flash cooked) fish. But after further inquiry with a biologist, they suggested the birds were flocking to the higher visibility afforded by the charred landscape. Or in other words, it helped them see the water better, and the critters they were foraging for.

In a nutshell, the swamp is a flood and fire adapted ecosystem in which every square inch of flora and fauna depends on a goldilocks dosage and return interval of water and fire. So goes flood and fire, so goes the swamp — and the wading birds.

bobby angel

The Tony Doctrine
And why its the new Art of War

We begged Tony before he left:

“Please write everything down.”

Bobby Angel’s exclusive interview on the song

The problem? Tony was more a man of action than long-winded with his words. The proof? As Exhibit A, I point to his farewell address. It was three sentences long. And three sentences that reverberated, too. The reason of course was that Tony spoke softly and carried a big stick, although not even that threadbare expression properly describes it correctly. The thing about Tony was that he possessed the unique trifecta of (1) leading by example, (2) never being afraid of a solo mission (no matter how perilous he always had a way of making it safe), and most of all (3) being a team player. Time spent with Tony was always time well spent. I remember many days sitting on Tony’s couch saying “yeah, we should get out there (and look at that issue) some day. “Let’s go now,” was always his predicable response. Tony knew the fine art of seizing the day whatever it took. That’s probably the core essence of what The Tony Doctrine is all about.

As for the big question: Will it ever be written down? If and when that happens, it will be the new Sun Tzu’s Art of War on my bookshelf. Check out the Bobby Angel interview in the interview above to find out more.

Time to Retire
A farewell song for Tony Pernas

First the bad news:

Tony Pernas is retiring.

Bobby Angel’s retirement ballad to Tony Pernas

The good news is he’s right around the corner. And without supervisory responsibilities, that frees Tony up to do what Tony does best — solo missions into territory that only Tony knows how to find. Some people talk about the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades (KOE) ecosystem. Well, Tony’s canoed it, and not just over time, actually all at once, and somehow after the multi-week odyssey managed to gain weight. Other feats: There are too many to count, and all confidential. Do you need a fish? Tony can get you a fish. Any fish. But only if its in season because here’s the real secret behind Tony’s success. He’s a person of great character, high energy and knowledge of navigating in the backcountry that rivals the early pioneers.

The song tries to touch on a fraction of his feats, but is also incomplete, and — here’s the real inside scoop — also destined to rapidly get outdated as in the weeks, months and years ahead as Tony embarks on new adventures near and far. My guess is when its all said and done it will be worth another song, possibly two!

animation 101

Puddle paradise
The case for walking through them

Usually, if you can …

You walk around a puddle.

Puddles are trending (according to this hydrologist)

Not in the Big Cypress Swamp down in south Florida. The reason? The puddles are too big to avoid. As for waders, they don’t work. I remember one trip when I decided to where them. My pants became soaking wet rom sweat to the point that I regretted putting them on at all. The truth is — socks eventually dry, and boots do, too. More about my field boots: They don’t last long. Water is the enemy to leather my local cobbler has told me. As if I had a choice. The only way to get from Point A to Point B in the swamp is to embrace the puddle and go straight in. Socks never feel good getting wet at first. The good news once they get wet a who new world opens up. Walking through a puddle in the Big Cypress is one of the great (if also misunderstood) joys of life.

animation switch short

Looking back on Eta
Last year's game changer

Today (or is it tomorrow) …

Marks the one-year anniversary of Eta.

Playlist of videos (i.e. plural) I took during Eta

You know it’s a Big Rain Day (BRD) if you pause a year later (even two, or three) to think back and reflect on its size and extent. Eta was a big as it was unexpected. All signs were pointing to an early and deep descent into winter drought. Not only did Eta give the swamp an extra boost, its bounty from Eta fell just as the regional evapotranspiration machine was shutting down. That gave the water staying power, too. Or rather, slow-flowing power. Where does water go when you get that much water in the swamp? Answer: Nowhere fast.

The storm reminded me of Hurricane Mitch back in 1998. It too instantly reset the swamp clock to peak sheet flow time. Actually, Mitch may have been the bigger of the two. But they are more similar than different and should go down as the twin November game-changing storms of note.

Optical illusion swamp
Where appearance and reality morph

The swamp is full of optical illusions …

Or do they actually reflect a deeper reality?

Photograph of optical illusion no. 1

Take for example the oval groves of cypress trees called domes. They look like hills, but they are actually the low spots in the swamp. It’s the adjacent pinelands (foreground) that mark the high and dry ground. But the domes are also where water depth is tallest. So if you’re a fish or a bird or an alligator, the tallest depth of water coincides with the center of the hill-shaped domes.

Narrated video of optical illusion no. 2

Then there’s the case of the optical illusion you see in a helicopter flying over a fully flooded swamp. The reflection from the below reveals the strange effect of trees moving at a fast clip backwards and the mammoth clouds staying put (see video above). Of course, in reality we know it’s the clouds that are on the move (from hour to hour and day to day) whereas the trees are rooted down in one place. But over time, as the years and decades pass, the forest below is in fact on the move. Habits shift, retracting and expanding in, in response to the seasonal dosage and return interval of flood and fire on the landscape.

I‘m not saying that optical illusions are right or wrong. All I’m saying is that they hint at the deeper reality of the swamp.

Ochopee Bound
Same old swamp, always worth sharing

My philosophy when I fly:

Take as many photos (and video) as I can.

Narrated video flying over Western Big Cypress National Preserve

The reason? I think I learn as much from what I see up the air as I do processing the photos (and videos) back on the ground. Yet there’s also the reality that most of the photos (and videos) we take never see the light of day. With so many people taking so many photos, one’s left to wonder if their worthwhile sharing at all?

For me it’s an emphatic yes, but only with this caveat. They say a picture is worth a thousand words (and video possibly another thousand more). But what good is a photo or a video without explanation of what it’s about, why it’s important and the subtleties it hides?

That’s where the narrative comes in handy. Maybe essential is a better word. This film may not win an Oscar, but I guarantee somebody gives it a thumbs up.