The Power of Portability

A green anole peeks out of from its hiding place on the porch

One of the things I love about the Canon 100-400mm lens is its portability. I was visiting family in Georgia for a few days and brought it along just in case there was a chance to use it, and I got that chance when I saw this green anole on some equipment on the porch. It often stayed fairly hidden but I was able to watch as it caught and ate an insect and drank rainwater that had collected in the base. Seeing the anole brought back a lot of memories, it was my inability to photograph the anoles and other wildlife while a summer intern in Florida in the mid-90’s that motivated me to upgrade from a point-and-shoot to my first SLR. I wouldn’t see them much after that, though, as I moved to Oregon when I graduated and we don’t have them here. I also appreciated the close-focusing and image stabilization of the lens, it’s really quite adaptable and let me get some pictures of an old favorite.


A view of the rear foot and tail of a western painted turtle

While watching this sunbathing turtle, the way its rear feet and tail were stuck into the water reminded me of an anchored boat. In truth I don’t know if it could reach the bottom with its feet or if they were just dangling in the water, as it was firmly positioned on a partially submerged log and needed no anchor.


An American alligator lies mostly submerged in Huntington Beach State Park

I spent the summer of 1994 on the eastern coast of Florida and, as an animal lover, was delighted to discover a nearby wildlife refuge, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. There was much to love about the park but it was the alligators that drew me back again and again. Yet my only camera at the time was a point-and-shoot which wasn’t well suited to the task. I wasn’t into photography at the time and regardless couldn’t afford a better camera.

I returned to school in the fall and in January was surprised to receive a check from Motorola, a bonus (a rather nice one) from my time as an intern. I was on fellowship by that time and had already budgeted my expenses for the year so I decided to treat myself to my first SLR, a Canon Rebel with a kit lens and an inexpensive telephoto. My wife bought me a bird guide and thus began my foray into photography.

But I didn’t return to Florida the next summer and instead stayed at school to concentrate on my doctorate, and the next year I finished my degree and moved to Oregon. So it seemed my chance to photograph alligators had come to a close.

But when my mom and stepdad retired they moved to South Carolina and during a family reunion in 2005 my brother and I headed out before sunrise to a nearby park, Huntington Beach State Park. We photographed the sunrise on the beach and then went back up towards the lagoon, with freshwater on one side and saltwater on the other. My time in Florida came flooding back. There were egrets and herons and cormorants hunting in the marsh. And alligators! So many alligators! I was also able to see them again the following morning before it was time to head to the airport and return to Oregon.

This time, with alligator pictures.