A couple of weeks ago, I posted the above and below images on my blog. I was in Gainesville, Florida, at the time I took the photos. My friend, Ernie, was meeting me there within a few days to do some wildlife and landscape photography. The day before Ernie arrived, I photographed the mother and young gator in a rarely seen and photographed behavior.
I returned to Virginia, and Ernie stayed in Florida for three more weeks photographing wildlife at a number of refuges and parks. Little did I know that Ernie was on the hunt for a similar gator image. As a guest contributor to my blog, Ernie explains his success in the below article.
Guest Article by Ernie Sears:
I first saw Steve’s mother and child alligator image as an email attachment sent to me a few days before I was to meet him at Paynes Prairie State Park in Florida. Like everyone else I know who has seen the image, I was blown away. It is an incredible image, the kind you might see in National Geographic. Right away I wished that I had taken it. It is perfect in every way, except that I was not the photographer who made the once in a lifetime shot.
As you may have picked up from Steve’s previous blog posts, he and I shoot together often. We share advice and experiences, and yes, there is a bit of friendly rivalry. It doesn’t happen often, but I do get a kick out of it when I get a better shot of a subject than he did. But how was I going to top his great gator shot?
Steve and I shot at Paynes Prairie, Cedar Key, and Crystal River State Park during the three days that my wife and I were in Gainesville. Steve captured a bison image that was much better than mine. I got lucky and got some bald eagle shots that were better than his. Good “keeper” shots, but nothing that special. Paynes Prairie has hundreds of gators – but none with a baby on its mother’s head, at least while I was there.
My wife and I left Gainesville and headed for Captiva for two weeks of exploring refuges and preserves in Southwest Florida. I will not say I was consumed with getting the gator shot, but I did check the dark tannin stained waters of every swamp, pond, and ditch wherever we went searching for the prize shot. I was hoping that lightning would strike again and I could get what was becoming my holy grail.
I found and shot a pair of outlandishly beautiful painted buntings, wood storks, ten of the heron and egret species, warblers, ducks, eagles, sandhill cranes, spoonbills, hawks, owls, 30 other species of birds, deer, butterflies, wild horses, snakes, nine-banded armadillos, turtles, and more. And I saw a lot of gators, but not a single baby, let alone one taking a ride on mom’s head.
It was also getting a little dangerous – for people in my way. At Six Mile Cypress Slough, I thought I heard someone say they saw baby alligators on the shoreline I had passed on the lakeside boardwalk. Without thinking of anything except getting the shot, I charged back on the one-way boardwalk, even though it was filled with a busload of people from a retirement home. Those walkers and wheel chairs take up too much room on the narrow walkways. No one was hurt, but my wife had to repeatedly apologize for my rude behavior. Of course there were no baby alligators to be seen.
We left Captiva and moved on to Lake Kissimmee State Park in central Florida to continue the quest. No luck there either, so it was on to St. Augustine, our last stop in Florida. My last chance to get the mother/child gator shot. Would I be successful?
It did not start well and I was about to give up, when I remembered that St. Augustine is the home of the mecca of gator lovers – the Alligator Farm! Here you can find hundreds of American Alligators including a rare albino gator. But how would I get one with a baby on its head? As you can see from the images below, it turns out not to be that hard at the Farm, if you think outside the box a little.
Now please excuse me. I need to go sit by the phone. After seeing these images I am expecting a call from National Geographic.
Click here to visit Ernie’s websites: AmericanWildBird.com and FromWaters Edge.com
Stephen Tabone: You can tell from the above article that I have a very special, talented friend with a great sense of humor. Thank you Ernie.
I have recently been reviewing images from when Ernie and I explored and photographed for three days in the Gainesville area. I will be posting some of those images in a blog article I am expecting to complete this week. It was a very good three days.
All of your photos are fabulous – I am so blessed that you share them with folks at large ( such as me)!
I tried leaving a comment to your friend, but something went awry – I am not sure about his photos – they look weird but are probably great and beyond my uneducated eye. I am still so impressed with your photos – why you are still an amateur and not earning your way with them is beyond me. You’re as good as, or ever better than, most of the Nat’l Geo photos I see and I don’t mean that as idle flattery .
I had planned to be long gone from Pr Wm RV Park but ran into a CC problem and am still here – totally frustrated, especially with FedEx who were supposed to have my replacement CC card here today and decided that the address wasn’t accurate (it was!) and took the package with my new CC back to Alexandria. USAA isn’t happy with them and will be following up on Monday, and I’m furious with them – my friend in Texas says there is a reason for all this – I hope she is right and that God has plans that mean I’m supposed to be here and not there!!!!! Anyway, I’m in D7 if you get curious about who in the world this old bat is! I have to admit that I’d enjoy putting a face to this correspondence. I saw a hawk yesterday when I was walking Preston (my dog), but it was so far away that I could begin to identify it. For all I know, it was an owl – very quiet flight, dark back, but I am only a beginner in identifying raptors.
Finished the Ivan Doig book tonight I was reading – highly recommended “Sweet Thunder” a novel about 1920 Butte, Montana and the labor union vs Anaconda Copper Mining – he is one of my favorite authors and is responsible for sending me back to college to finish my degree. I read his “Dancing at the Rascal Fair” and afterwards, couldn’t find enough books at our local library about the immigrant experience to satisfy my interest/curiosity, so called him for author/title suggestions, and then (he suggested Moberg), but finally, I went back to school.
So enough – I’m trying to relax enough to get to sleep (brandy is supposed to be helping with that…) Take care
Sue Coulson firstname.lastname@example.org
“Sleep in peace, God is awake”…Victor Hugo
Thanks for sharing your amazing photos and the belly laugh at the end!!! Hope to run into you two again soon.
Tara, one of the things that I did see on this last trip was many more digiscope shooters. Your influence is spreading! Ernie
Very entertaining article, haha! Great shots, Ernie!
Great picture of the baby sitting on the mom’s head!