Monday, November 22, 2010


  In my last post I featured some photos from my trip to Bok Tower Gardens.  The estate connected to the gardens features an amazing semi-circular stone alcove, about 8 feet high. Tiny little plants and moss grow on the stones and in the center is a very small pond maybe six feet across surrounded by moss on which were sitting these cute little frogs.

  Being there made me feel like I was in the middle of on of my favorite books as a child, The Secret Garden. 
This place had such a peaceful magical feel to it!  The light was very low there and I used my tripod to get these shots. I now see shooting wide open was a mistake as I would have liked to get more detail from the moss and rocks surrounding the frogs. Lesson learned for next time!

  I have never come upon a bunch of frogs like this. When I lived in Maryland all I ever saw were lumpy toads. These guys are much cuter. They were very quite and didn't seem to mind me being there though I couldn't get quite as close as I might have liked without them jumping in the water.

  I think I like this last one the most as it kind of looks as though he is perched on the frog version of a cliff!
There is nothing more fun then coming across an animal I have not yet had the chance to photography like this!  I look forward to my next trip to Bok Tower to improve upon these and soak up some of the magical vibes there!  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bok Tower Gardens Revisted

 Today I returned to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida-about 1.5 hours from Tampa. I went for the first time last April. It is a truly beautiful and magical place. 50+ acres of gardens and nature paths, the signature tower which looks down upon orange orchards and beautiful 1930s mansion you can tour. The house was closed this visit as they are decorating it for Christmas. I have not toured it yet but may return to see the results. If I lived closer I would become a 'member' and go there to simply absorb the beauty and energy of this wonderful place. There is also a gift shop and a nice little cafe on the property.

  As pretty as the Tower appears here there is much more to it than there first appear. There are animals carved into it that you do not notice unless you look closer. Also the 'support' piece for the sundial is shaped like a snake. The tower contains a library and bells which ring out throughout the day.  Behind the tower is a small lake featuring these amazing lily pads.

  I'm afraid this photo does not adequately depict how amazing these looked. Green with hot pink sides. From far away I was not ever sure if they were natural!  The lighting was not ideal for me to capture them the way I wanted to.

  Here in black and white you can see the detail on the sides of them. Really amazing. There are also 2 swans that live here but I didnt get a great shot of them this time. They are a lot of fun to watch.

  I really love this shot of a piece of iron work next to the tower. Its one of those photos I can just look at for a long time. It is always a goal with my photography to capture images that hold the viewers attention for more than just a glance.  The rest of this post features a variety of Sunflower photos I took while there. 

  One of the best pieces advice I can give to those interested in photography is take lots and lots of photos and have patience. There is often so much more there then meets the eye. Be willing to take the time when approaching flowers like this to try different angles and compositions. Many of these were taken on my tripod.  Often the slightest change in angle or height makes a big difference.

  This is one of my favorites and I took it with my 100mm Macro lens of the back of the flower. I would not have thought to do this a few years ago. I love the green part that most people never look at.

  This particular flower captured my attention because it seems to be slightly heart shaped. I love that it has not fully opened yet. Again it is a photo I could explore with my eyes for quite some time.

How amazing does the inside of this flower look? The detail stuns me. I am equally as in awe of the texture of the petals.  I love flowers!

  I was hesitant to do a black and white/sephia but I really like this one. The detail in the petals is especially striking here.  Simple is good.

  Finally this is my 'sun' shot. It reminds me of the sun with rays shooting out from it.  So beautiful!  I have some more photos from my day at the gardens I will feature in my next post.  I took some really cool photos of some cool little frogs that were hanging out near a magical pond near the mansion.  I will be adding a few of these sunflower photos to my new shop on where you can purchase some of my very best nature/art photos!  My shop is here  I list most items as either 11x14" prints or 16x20" ready to hang 'stand outs' but other sizes are of course available as well. This is a great site make up of home made craft and art items by other small business people all over the world! There is also a similar site called, similar concept but with food items.
   I highly encourage a visit to Bok Tower Gardens, an extremely beautiful and peaceful place!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scooter the Chef

  It has been some time since I took any photos of my neighbors dog, Scooter. As you can see he is one of the cutest dogs ever! He is very photogenic, sweet and patient though not too happy about wearing this outfit.

  My community had a vendor fair event where I was able to set up a table to promote my photography.  Scooters owner was helping out the man selling food there and Scooter was the mascot ha. He sat there for several hours and did not try to get the hat off! He is such a sweet little dog. I could tell he wasn't too thrilled with the whole idea though!

  Scooter is a popular dog here. He loves to go on walks and chase tennis balls on the tennis courts here as well as chewing on sticks.  He is a very lucky dog and everyone loves him of course!

  I think he needs to be a professional dog model as it is amazing that he will actually stand still for you unlike a lot of them. How cute is this?

  I hope I get the chance to take some Christmas themed themed shots of him. I love photographing dogs and would really like to get more work in this area. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anna Maria Island

Today I have a few photos to share of the Pier at Anna Marie Island Florida. The weather here in the Tampa area is absolutely amazing right now!  My friend and I ended up driving there yesterday. Just walking around in perfect weather with the beautiful sky and water was amazing. It is easy to get used to a lot of the natural beauty here but yesterday really wowed me.  The above photo is of the end of the Pier where there is a restaurant and people fish.

  I love catching people unaware like this. Also red shirts always look amazing next to the water here!
While walking the pier we observed some men fishing with nets, I had never actually seen this done before!

  The water is so clear and relatively shallow here that you can see when a group of fish are about to pass by. They simply wait and toss the nets.  I do not know much about fish. One man said they were salmon, another mullet. They all looked the same to me!  I had mixed feelings about it though. Yes it was interesting to watch but when they bring the fish up they let them simply flop around on the pier which to me seems cruel. I don't like to watch anything suffer.  I suppose it is either this or be eaten by a bigger fish!

  This last photo was my favorite of the day, the angle and the texture of the wood make it very interesting.
One reason for driving out this way also is that I get to pass by my favorite frozen custard place, 
Sweetberries on Manatee avenue near Bradenton. It is so good! It is an old fashioned kind of place and also has great sandwiches. Wish I had thought to take a photo of it. My favorite is vanilla custard with Blackberries mixed in. Tasted even better on such a beautiful day!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Self Realization Center Los Angeles

  Hello!  Today I am sharing a few photos I took visiting the Self Realization Center in Los Angeles. It is a very beautiful and peaceful place. Ever since reading Autobiography of a Yogi I have wanted to pay it a visit. Here are a few paragraphs from the official website explaining the purpose of the center:

For more than 85 years, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) has been dedicated to carrying on the spiritual and humanitarian work of its founder, Paramahansa Yogananda, widely revered as the father of Yoga in the West.
SRF is a worldwide religious organization with international headquarters in Los Angeles. As expressed in the Aims and Ideals formulated by Paramahansa Yogananda, the society seeks to foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse peoples and religions of our global family, and to help those of all cultures and nationalities to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit.

  There is a beautiful trail winding around the lake on the property. There are beautiful gardens planted all along it. It actually reminds me a bit of the lake in my community which is my favorite place to go meditate/reflect/commune with nature. It doesn't have all of these amazing flowers though!  
  My friend and I arrived only an hour until the center was to close for the day so I did not have the time to take as many photos as I would have liked. The building with the windmill houses a chapel. There are also 2 gift shops on the property which sell the various teachings of Yogananda.  I highly recommend Autobiography of a Yogi, it is a fascinating story and contains a wealth of wisdom.

  Part of the book talks about Yoganandas visit with Ghandi.  This shrine contains a portion of Ghandi's ashes.

  This photo was taken from the other side of the lake the shrine is located behind the archway. The lighting on this area was horrible at this time of day so I had a hard time capturing what I wanted to here.

  There are separate gardens dedicated to the worlds major religions. Here are photos of the Jewish and Christian Gardens, there are also ones dedicated to Islam and Hinduism.

  Here are a few photos I took of the beautiful flowers at the center. This is a beautiful, peaceful, inspirational place and I am really glad I got to see it!

  The center is free to visit and is open every day except Monday. You can find out more information 
here.  If you are ever in Los Angeles looking for something a little different to see check it out!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Santa Monica

  I'm back with more pictures from my day in the Venice/Santa Monica area. After wandering Venice Beach for a while I made my way north to the Santa Monica Pier, walking on the beach itself for the last part of my journey.

  I am not sure why but I find myself fascinated with the seaweed and plants that get washed up on the shore when I walk along the beach and am always compelled to photograph them. The light was beautiful this time of day making them look more beautiful to me.

    I walked up on the Pier and captured this fun shot looking back on the beach.

    I really love this area. About 2 blocks in from the ocean is the 3rd Street Promenade which is a shopping area a few blocks long surrounded by natural beauty. In the 2 years since I have been to the area they have built a 3 story open air mall at the end of the Promenade called Santa Monica Place. It is amazing. The 3rd floor is all restaurants and overlooks both the rest of 3rd Street from one side and the ocean from the other!
Here are a few photos of it and you can learn more by clicking the link above.

  This is exactly the kind of thing that I think they should build where the struggling Baywalk shopping area is in St. Petersburg. It is about the same distance from the water. I have been to several amazing outdoor malls in California including this one and the Grove and whoever it was that developed them should really come do their thing in the Tampa/St Petersburg area!
  I will end this post with this photo of a very fat bird living the life in Santa Monica. This may actually be one of my favorite bird photos ever!

My next post will feature photos from the Self-Realization Center founded by Paramahansa Yogananda near Malibu. His book Autobiography of a Yogi is on of my favorites and it was wonderful to visit this beautiful and inspirational place.
Stephanie :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Venice, California Part 2: Venice Beach!

 Venice Beach. A beautiful place filled with a wide variety of sites, sounds and people. It was peaceful there on this Friday afternoon as I wandered around soaking in the scenery.  I could not help but be reminded how amazing this world is,and what and incredible variety of people we share the planet with. I love to go to places where everyone is having a good time and soak up all of that positive energy.

  There is no shortage of things to do at Venice Beach as it is so much more than your average beach area. Here is the 'muscle beach' area where you can work out in the open. There wasn't much going on in this area at time I was there so sorry no body builder photos!

  Moving on there are hand ball courts and then basketball courts as seen here. The views are spectacular all around, the ocean, the mountains and the characters that wander the board walk of touristy stores.

  There is also an area for skateboarders to practice their tricks. I spent some time watching them with the scenery of the ocean off to the left and mountains straight ahead. Living in Florida I really miss seeing mountains and cliffs like they have by the water in California. I could probably have sat in one place all day and not gotten bored watching all that goes on during the day here.

  And yes, people bring their dogs here also. Here are a few photos of some of them. These are some lucky puppies that get to take their walks here!

  Why this last one was so sad looking I do not know! He seems to live in an apartment overlooking the beach! I can only guess he wished he was out running on it instead of being trapped on the balcony!

  There are also people riding bikes of all kinds and jogging. No shortage of ways to have fun here!

  A young man approached me asking if I would buy his small book of poetry and stories for a few dollars. They are all about love and being positive so I told him I would buy one if he let me take his photo. His name is Funwi and here he is.

  So of course Venice is known for the colorful people that hang out there. The second to last photo in the banner at the top of my blog was taken of one of these people about 5 years ago, the first time I visited Venice and too my amazing here he was still on this day! He plays the electric guitar on roller skates.

  Venice really gets hopping on Sundays where there are a wide array of artists and street performers along the boardwalk area. It was nice to see it during a more peaceful period. The weather was perfect and there were enough clouds around to give me some nice filtered light.

  From Venice Beach I next walked further north to the Santa Monica Pier. I will share a few shots from that part of my day in the next post.  Be sure to find time to visit Venice when you visit Los Angeles, it is not to be missed!