Tag: sea turtles

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.

 

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

Eating Cookies, Looking for Crocodiles

_tsl7253The title is no joke. That’s exactly what was happening in my world this morning before diving at Cenote Carwash. Except I wasn’t eating the cookies….but I was quite interested in the crocodile. For more than one reason.

_tsl7274It’s been years since I’ve been cenote diving in Akumal, Mexico. After participating with Connie LoRe’s Cave Dive Mexico for several trips, there has been a break of six or seven years…or maybe more.

_TSL5656My attention in diving has turned to working with my Nikon D800 in an Aquatica housing. I’ve had great joy photographing dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, sea lions, manatees and other marine creatures and have enjoyed every second of it.

I was looking for an autumn trip and nothing worked out with the destinations I was considering….Bonaire, Baja. Nothing. The idea of a trip was released and up went the hands one morning, “I give up. If there’s a trip…show me!” Within a couple hours the idea of returning to Akumal surfaced. And before day’s end, it was booked.

_tsl7324It’s the first time I’ve been in an overhead environment with my big camera rig. That’s why I chose to cavern dive in open water gear rather than cave dive. Task loading in diving happens when you add elements to a dive….overhead environment, big camera kit and I’m still relatively new to sidemount cave diving having switched from back mount a couple years ago. Just didn’t want to mix all of that up.

_tsl7319Daniel Ortega Moran is the guide Connie picked for me and I understand why after diving with him today. He’s a cave instructor, cave guide and has a warm, inviting personality. It made for a wonderful day and by the second dive, I was beginning to get the lighting right with my strobes and the hand-held HID cave light I use.

_tsl7432Granted, there was use of Lightroom’s magic in adjusting the lighting during processing but that’s the digital darkroom these days. And those skills are just as important as neutral buoyancy and untangling your regulator hose when it gets tangled in the strobe cord.  Just sayin.’

_tsl7463It’s thundering off shore as I sit and gaze out into the choppy ocean. Excited about three more days of fun diving and playing with the formations, lighting, and camera settings. And of course being under water underground.

_tsl7231A sea turtle nest hatched right beside the patio here last night but sadly a raccoon or similar creature and his buddy ate the babies. No tracks made it to the water. And yes, I am here unwinding from a very eventful sea turtle season in Alabama and thought I’d come here and let all of that go for a few days. But no.

_tsl7483The lesson of the day is this: You cannot escape what you love. Sea turtles and cenote diving in Akumal are just two of those ‘things.’ There are more for certain.

When’s the last time you ate cookies while looking for crocodiles? Hmmmm? That’s exactly what I suspected.

——

Thank you Daniel for enduring the strobe flashes and letting me practice lighting techniques on you. Your patience is infinite.

 

 

Yes, You!

Yes, You!

_TSL6602I have struggled for a very long time with acknowledging the value of the work coming through me. People say, “Wow…love your work!” and I’m like….What work? 

Over the past ten years I haven’t held a regular job…you know where I punch a clock and sit at a desk and fade until Friday. Since young adulthood I promised that if circumstance allowed, I would give myself completely to the work that wanted to come through me. I would do it and forgo the ‘security’ of a regular paycheck. And then it happened.

Simone Lipscomb 6352A land sale gave me the opportunity and I leapt into the Unknown, following up on that promise. Yet I have struggled with the value of the efforts put forth. There’s not a lot of financial payoff and so I find myself stumbling with it at times. But not always. There are moments of complete clarity and I release the fear and ego’s cynical voice and surrender…and walk forward….fly forward on wings of light.

We are so conditioned in our culture to assign value to work based on money. It has been a struggle to continue creating books, photographs and paintings, not because I don’t want to but I wonder….am I wasting resources by following my wild heart? Many other questions arise that lead me to doubt the Vision that calls me forward in perfect trust and love. Sometimes there’s doubt. Other times….those wings of light grow bigger.

Simone Lipscomb 6354Today a story popped up on my Facebook feed from my friend Christiane Pelmas. She so eloquently writes about value of who we are and what we bring to this wounded world. Here’s a bit of what she shared:

“How do we become people who perceive a greater story unfolding, of which we are an inextricable part? In order to see the web of wholeness and healing, we must have the capacity to acknowledge our value. If we cannot, or do not, acknowledge our value, we walk around like the living dead…..We all must know our value, our important and humble place in the order of things. We must know that we matter to a larger story. If we do not acknowledge that we matter, we throw a wrench in the whole extraordinary process, that relies, so very simply, on the fact that all things exists, and thrive, in healthy relation and relevance to each other.” Christiane Pelmas.

_TSL6139The next time you wonder if you make a difference on this planet, stop and know….You! Yes, YOU! are part of the greater whole and like Christiane reminds us, “we thrive in healthy relation and relevance to each other.”

YES!

 

Work With What You Have

Work With What You Have

_tsl7170The moon was supposed to be in crescent phase. No clouds were forecast. I was ready to play with stars!

So the moon was half full and there were clouds. And there was wind which made sea oats blur with time exposures. But moonlight illuminated the snow-white sand and the clouds provided an interesting addition to some images. And waving sea oats provided an element of flow to the stillness of the heavens.

_tsl7169As I stood on the beach adjusting shutter speed, ISO, f-stop and focus, I thought how wonderful it is to be surprised in life. As I counted to 25, 34, 41….I considered the joy that can come from working with what we have, not necessarily what we want. The photographs looked really nice in my LCD screen so as I stood there, under the multitude of stars I thought, Who cares if there are clouds and the moon makes photographing the Milky Way challenging or even impossible? Isn’t it awesome that the sea oats are dancing?

_tsl7187If we always have exactly what we want, how would we learn to be creative? Anyone can take the formula for astrophotography and make a decent shot. But what if conditions are simply not conducive for the sought after goal? Give up and go home? Or play?

Life is like that. We wish for events to turn out as we envision but it’s not always like that. And in the end, sometimes it’s even better. I aimed my camera and counted off the seconds with the shutter timer over and over. This morning a shooting star awaited me. Never expected that….but what a nice surprise.

_tsl7193More than anything though, the night of photographing stars finally helped me illustrate the feelings of wonder and awe I experience when monitoring sea turtle nests under such amazing celestial beings on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

“We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.” (Rolf Gates) And sometimes we yell with joy, “WOO HOO!!!”

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Pretty Work

Pretty Work

_TSL6105I heard the phrase, pretty work, echoing in my fatigued brain as I was crawling into bed at 1am. It was a busy night on the beach. My life coach has used the phrase for as long as I can remember.

What a night!! But this was last week, the night before Hermine brought us high tides and surf….and nothing else. But that’s for later in this tale.

Nest B25 was ready to tarp and I went as a tarp helper and to take photographs of sky and waves. I helped dig the trench and release 17 babies from the previous night that had been in ICU. Magic. Beautiful sea turtle magic.

_TSL6840I was leaving because the nest wasn’t that busy, it was my third night in a row of sea turtle work and three other women were there. But just as I got to the car, my friend got a call that babies were under a house nearby.

Cathy and I ran and met Jan and another seasoned team member. Tourists had found them every freaking where. We didn’t know the source of the turtles. I was putting them in my shirt (basket made from shirt) and they were tickling my belly. We were finding turtles almost to the road. Cathy and I found about 14. Jan found some. Jim did as well. Tourists put about 50 in the water. I tracked and tracked and finally found the nest. Just a little sink hole in the sand almost at waters edge with high surf. I helped Jan excavate it and we had almost a complete boil. And every turtle was within three or four feet of water and they went to house lights. We figure 70 made it to the water.

_TSL6931Stop a moment and think about that. The hatchlings were only a very short distance from the Gulf of Mexico and they chose to go to lights under houses, street lights….every single track went away from the water towards lights…or death. If the tourists had not found them and helped us we would have possibly never known the nest hatched due to rising water from Hermine.

The nest had been marked as a false crawl earlier in the season. That mama surprised us with her ability to conceal her nest among her tracks.

We were leaving that wild experience and got a call that Ken monitoring another nest had turtles emerging. The three of us ran down to B24 and helped oversee the babies journey to the sea. The tide was coming up high. Really high. We broke down part of trench after they boiled due to tide and waves.

SL21HThe next morning brought heartache. I arrived by 6.30am to help with B22 which was flooded. Two teammates and I found 61 perfectly healthy hatchlings with their egg sac completely absorbed (meaning they were ready to swim into the Gulf). Unfortunately they had drowned. We had permission to excavate the nest due to the impending flood and the sounds that had been heard for two to three days prior to the storm (meaning they had hatched and had not emerged from the nest). It was determined that we could wait until the next morning….but it was too late.

SL21DWe know that every turtle counts when a threatened species is involved so a loss like this hurts deeply. And we potentially lost eight nests due to flooding and erosion from the storm…the storm that wasn’t even close to us and produced maybe three drops of rain here. Only three of our remaining eleven nests remained dry and unaffected by the storm. That’s just in our 3 mile stretch of Laguna Key team’s beach.

It has been a record year for sea turtles across the southeast. At the beginning of the season, when we knew the female loggerheads were about to break Alabama’s record, I suspected we would have a storm. Somehow they know.. the mother turtles know. Of course that’s antidotal and biologists might scoff at the connection. But even in just the five season’s I’ve been a sea turtle volunteer I’ve noticed this trend.

SL30AThe day of the storm was exhausting…emotionally and physically. After four hours sleep from the previous night’s wild goings-on, the excavation of the drowned hatchlings and another team member and I surveying a section of beach for nest damage…and getting ‘lost’ due to the rising tide and waves…I was ready to rest. We all were.

SL21J
Searching for hatchlings in a flooded nest.

So many people compliment the work we do. It’s work of our hearts. Not everyone on the team participates at the same level due to work commitments, time constraints or simply lower interest levels. But those of us who are there no matter what, who lose sleep and exhaust ourselves, who wade through nasty, foamy water to dig out dead hatchlings as the waves wash underneath….who get screamed at by local homeowners who can’t grasp the need to walk near their property to access the beach….we cry, we laugh, we save sea turtles, we lose sea turtles….those that stick with it and dedicate themselves to these precious sea friends…we do pretty work. Even though it’s not always pretty.

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