Tag: Gulf of Mexico

Rainbow & Dolphin

Rainbow & Dolphin

Photo-bombed by a great blue heron on a time exposure…I actually like it.

There are no guarantees with clouds and light at sunrise…or anytime. But for me to actually plan to be at the beach before sunrise and thus load my gear with the correct bracket attached to my camera, for tripod use, the night before…I admit I was expecting something wonderful.

One could possibly say I am a bit spoiled. I live twenty minutes from the white-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. What some people thrill at seeing once a year I see every day if I choose. So granted, I have no reason to complain.

But the light was really sickly this morning. Seriously, I might have mumbled more than once. It was yellowy, pale, cuckoo light and I was expecting orange, red, salmon….anything but snot yellow.

Honestly, I woke up in a weird mood. I might have hissed at the car driving 25 mph when I was trying to hurry. Just sayin’….I wasn’t in my best happy space.

After over an hour walking and shooting and thinking it was a complete waste of effort, I stopped and had a serious talk with myself. What’s happening, Simone? You’re at the BEACH! This is your happy place. I paused a moment and realized my mind had been wandering…wondering…about the future. I was so caught up in fear-based musings I was missing the present moment.

I just wanted to take something more than frustration from my time on the beach, I whined. Nature always gifts me with a little jewel to ponder and take with me….Okay, so what do I need to do? I know I’m caught in a mind-spin. 

A very clear inner voice said, Be gentle with yourself.

Oh, yeah. That. I thought. (Sigh).

A chant came to mind….I will be gentle with myself, I will love myself for I am child of the Goddess. I started singing out loud as I walked and glanced up from the sand to see a rainbow blob hanging over the end of the long fishing pier. Hey, that’s cool! That’s a nice gift!

Rainbow blob

I stopped and watched the glowing colors for a while as I continued singing. Suddenly a dolphin appeared. It was swimming offshore and as I strengthened my voice, it made a bee-line for the shore where I stood. Okay, I get it! I get it! Be gentle with myself, love myself and just…WOW!

I stood and watched the dolphin surfing in waves breaking over the sand bar for a while and began clapping a rhythm of joy and celebration. Thank you for the reminder! Thank you sister!

It felt as if the dark, snot-colored clouds lifted as I walked with rainbow and dolphin energy surrounding me, lifting me from distraction to being fully present with the beauty all around me. I received the gift, but first had to find the present.

…And with some extra processing in Lightroom I came away with some images that I didn’t hate. You never know what gifts await when engaging with the eternal now moment.


We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected

We’re All Connected….We’ve often heard the phrase but I wonder if there’s much pause to consider it. Really consider it.

Recently I was invited to embark on a morning’s exploration into the Mobile Delta. As I was riding in Jimbo Meador’s custom made eco-tour boat with my friend Brenda, I thought about the idea…the fact..that we are all connected as the enormity of the Delta unfolded.

The cool wind eased the early June humidity as we skimmed along the surface under the Bay Way, the nearly eight mile bridge that connects Baldwin and Mobile counties. To the south was Mobile Bay and in every other direction stretched the massive delta, second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta. I imagined the massive amounts of water coming through the rivers that make up the Delta…Tombigbee, Alabama, Mobile, Middle, Blakeley, Tensaw, Apalachee, Raft, Spanish. Reaching far into Alabama and neighboring states, everything that happens in watersheds north of the Delta, happens here…ends up in Mobile Bay…the Gulf of Mexico…the Atlantic Ocean…and will eventually circulate in ocean currents all over this water planet.

The 500 plant species, 300 bird species, 126 fish species, 46 mammal species, 69 reptile species, 30 amphibian species and any human that consumes these species is affected by what happens north of the Delta. Pollutants, toxins, fertilizers that create nutrient blooms, introduced invasive species, drought, floods….all of these things impact all life in the watersheds below it.

Brenda removing the balloon from the water.

Past Blakeley State Park we found a mylar, helium-filled (well…at one time it was helium-filled) ballon someone had released. Luckily this one didn’t end up in a leatherback sea turtle’s gut or the string wrapped around a great blue heron’s legs or around osprey’s wings. This was a simple example of how what one person does somewhere else affects life…or has the potential to negatively affect other life. (Please blow bubbles…don’t release balloons).

It might be easy to forget this biodiverse area is impacted by anything as it’s so vast. It’s 45 miles long, 6 to 16 miles wide, 300 square miles with 20,000 acres of open water, 10,000 acres of marsh, 70,000 acres of swamp and 85,000 acres of forest. But the water–the lifeblood of our planet–originates far, far away from the coastal wonder.

The drone of insects, the rusty, laughing voices of common gallinules and croaking bull frogs serenaded us after we stopped in the Tensaw River. Dragonflies flitted and landed all around us. Alligators sulked by dropping underwater if we spotted them. Such richness of life was present and all due to the interconnectedness of life, not just in our coastal community, but throughout our entire state and into others as well. These thoughts drifted in and out as I photographed and then sat quietly absorbing the magic of mud, water and sky.

Jimbo Meador, guide at 17 Turtles Outfitters

Humans have a tendency to claim ownership, to protect territory…mine, mine, mine. But this isn’t a logical or intelligent way to view life on this planet. Who’s to say what life form is more important than another? Or what area is more worthy of protection than another? We are so keen on dividing and labeling everything that we often forget the complete and total Oneness of all Creation. This, I propose, is our greatest failure.

I suggest two cures. One, go out into a vast area near your home…wherever it is…and ponder the water flow, the life that exists and how it is connected to other areas. Secondly, take time every day to stop outside and feel your feet on the ground and breathe, connecting the sky and the earth through you. Take five minutes a day and plant yourself on the Earth.

The only way we will find success, joy, peace….is when we understand fully that we are all connected. Take it outside everyday for five minutes…or more…and see what changes occur in your life.

In Love with the World

In Love with the World

There can be a tendency to shut down as we move through life. Experiences that generate fear are at the bottom of a closed heart. In a Course in Miracles there’s a very famous quote that says, “What is not love is fear.” This seems more true with each passing day.

When I documented the Gulf Oil Spill for a year I found myself unable to function very well in almost every other aspect of my life because I was so traumatized by what I saw and experienced. At the time my closing down was a self-preservation tactic. And so it is, especially with childhood trauma or in times of disaster or immediate loss. We close down to be able to function.

It took a week with like-minded people under Joanna Macy’s guidance for me to begin to unravel the tight shroud of protection I had woven around myself.  A week of learning and healing with Joanna and 30 other folks dedicated to working on helping the planet was a jump-start back to an open heart and more effective living.

Life has rocked along since then with major life-changes occurring including a move back home from the mountains of North Carolina to the beloved Gulf Coast. Since returning home I worked five seasons as a sea turtle volunteer and helped in a manatee rescue near my home. I’ve written and produced three books and am working on two more now. I have traveled and visited with humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions and manatees. I’ve visited the Sea of Cortez twice. But even with all the creative energy experienced, it has felt like there’s something missing.

I’ve spent time exploring the missing piece and have gradually come to realize that my time as a ‘hermit’ is coming to an end. I’ve hidden from the world, in a way, and spent time in deep contemplation and while that’s good, I have kept the world at arm’s length. It can be a crazy, schizo world after all.

The planet is working very hard to balance itself.  Increasing temperature and pollution is accelerating changes that were long and slow in the past. We’re seeing the climate change in one lifetime in what should take millennia and seeing species go extinct daily. Cancer rates are outrageous because of toxins humans have added to the environment. It’s a lot to take in and process….especially if you are one inclined to enjoy sanity. Thus, the withdrawal on my part.

So after this extended time of retreat I find myself wanting to move out into the world. And one of the ideas that has presented is traveling throughout our beautiful country sharing my body of work about the beauty of the Ocean of saltwater that surrounds all land forms on this water planet…the perfect metaphor for the Ocean of Love in which we all exist.

A little teardrop camper, a vehicle to pull it and me and Buddy visiting places and people….connecting Ocean-to-Ocean on this amazing continent. Video presentations, workshops and book sales are just the beginning. Look for it some day. I want to spread love and light and champion the amazing Ocean planet on which we live and encourage people to join together in understanding and connecting with each other and nature. Why? Because I am in love with the world, after all.

Buddy Experiences Moonlight Madness…Painting
Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

My Nikon had been sitting on my desk since the Florida Springs dive trip. I felt so bad for it, all alone…waiting for a play date, I decided to do my Sunday morning beach walk this morning since Sunday was rained out. It was before 5am when I ran upstairs and grabbed my camera and tripod. Cool. The tripod bracket is already on the camera. That will save time.

When shooting sunrise, I like to begin while it’s still completely dark. With long exposures very nice effects result. About half way to the beach I wondered why my tripod bracket was on the camera. When did I use the tripod? Not on the dive trip. Hmmm.

The sky was still subdued but there were pink clouds mocking me as I hurriedly drove the last few curves on Highway 135. By the time I ran to the water’s edge most of the pink was gone. Whatever, I’ll just do some long exposures with the rough water…that will be nice.

When I attempted to attach my camera to the ball head on my tripod I noticed the plate on my camera was actually for my underwater housing….NOT the tripod. Well    just    freak.

I played with purposely moving the camera and had such fun.

Not to be deterred, I started shooting and balancing the camera on the tripod for long exposures and they did okay. No big deal…just not as long as I wanted.

About 10 minutes into the shoot I realized I hadn’t cleared my memory card…my large memory card that was nearly full. And for some reason, Lightroom and my D800 don’t play nice when I don’t want to import everything on the card. And with images that are very large in size….jeez. I didn’t want to even think about the fussing that would go on between the Adobe product, the Apple product and me later. Gawd. Next time I think about shooting, I’ll pack everything the night before….duh.

Too late now. Light was brightening and that’s not what I want when playing with motion and color and wide angle.

I finally had enough concrete and geometric fluffy water shots so put my tripod in the car. I could at least get in a good walk on the beach.

The rough water of the past few days had deposited huge amounts of plants from Mobile Bay along the beaches. I felt bad about leaving my usual trash bag at home for collecting garbage but there was so much plastic and other human-created debris I could have filled up a pick-up truck…or small dump truck. (I did remove plastic bags and a mylar balloon….deadly items for sea turtles and other animals that might eat it).

Regardless, I played with my 14-24mm lens. Each time I use it I remember how much I enjoy the lens…its beautiful crispness, the ability to get very close to objects for interesting wide angle shots. It was a sweet reminder.

I could have given up after leaving my bracket at home or paused to erase (one-by-one) the many photographs from diving weeks ago so I wouldn’t lose the ones already taken this morning….but then missed the perfect light. However, I worked with the circumstances that presented and came away with not only a nice walk and a few good images, but with a valuable reminder: Work with what I have, celebrate the day regardless.

Perhaps too often I allow the glitches of the day define the day. No need to do that. Keep squeezing the day for every bit of sweetness I can find.