Friday, May 14, 2010

Coastal Photo Expedition: Part 4

On Saturday morning I woke up around 4:30 a.m. to get an early start on my 60 mile drive up to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

I arrived at 6:30 a.m. just before the sunrise, and parked at the information center to get, well...some information. It turns out they didn't open until 8:30, so I signed in, grabbed a map and headed back to my car.

All the while I was hearing this strange noise. It was this loud, deep roar like a big truck engine starting, except there wasn't anyone else around so that hardly seemed likely. I walked over to the edge of the parking lot overlooking a small pond, and I soon realized where that noise was coming from.

There was a big alligator laying in the pond - the first one I had ever seen in the wild! After a few minutes, he reared up out of the water, opened his jaws and let out a deep rumbling roar! It was slightly unnerving to say the least. Apparently Aransas NWR refuge is filled with alligators.

There is a 16 mile paved road looping through the northern end of the park, and as I drove along I came to a nice overlook. The sun was just rising, and I stopped to get some photos.

I continued along the road with the windows rolled down so I would be ready if any critters showed themselves. If I slowed down, I immediately became very popular with the local mosquito population (there must have been millions of them!), so I just kept moving. Along the way this pretty doe paused for me to take a portrait.

I was several miles into the auto-route when I spotted this big lumpy thing in the road ahead. Stopping, I scoped it out through my lens and, sure enough, there was an alligator - just waiting for me to take his picture! I parked a ways off to give him some space, and slowly approached where he was lying. After taking a few shots, I realized I would need my tripod for extra stability, so I went back to the car to get it, came back and took several dozen more photos. I was able to adjust the tripod to give me a really low angle, and then used Live View mode and focus zoom in Manual focus mode to confirm that I had his eye perfectly in focus. Then, it was just a matter of adjusting the aperture to give me sufficient depth-of-field so his nose would also be sharp.

I wasn't as close as these photos make it appear. The whole time I stayed 25-30 feet away.

It was such a treat to find such a cooperative gator and to get my very first photos of such an amazing creature! I was just about ready to go give him a hug...just kidding.

Here is some of the scenery I saw along the rest of my drive.

And here is a photo of the Wild Turkey I saw on my way out of the refuge. It would have been so cool to photograph a gator eating a turkey, but you can't have it all!

1 comment:

Jess said...

AWESOME pic's benji!Wow! A real alligator eh? That's cool. When my parents went to Florida they said that there was a sighting of a MONSTER of an alligator just roaming through the streets. *chuckle* Ya, pretty bizarre. :)
Looks like you're having fun down there, keep the photos coming, they are really enjoyable!!!