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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Search Of...

Lessons learned while looking for pitcher plants in northern Florida

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Digital Horizons: In Search Of...
Lesson Two: Don’t drive blindly through dirt road “puddles.”

Even if I could get cell service, how the heck would The Auto Club get back here and find me? I knew I had no choice but to walk back to the main road. Strains of banjo music from Deliverance began to go through my head. I started walking. It was still light, but at this rate, would I get this car out by dark? I had no idea how far I really had to go. An old car came slowly down the road. That made me a little nervous, but it just was loaded heavily with kids. They stopped and were very friendly, felt bad for me, told me the road was only a couple of miles and headed off.

Back to walking. I had too much time to think and wondered if I had been wise leaving my camera gear in the car. Would there be anything left if someone found the car and no one was there? Then, up ahead, a group of four-wheel-drive trucks were coming my way. I was hesitant. Help? Or...?

They turned out to be a bunch of great young men and women out to “play” in the mud and water on the roads. This sort of play was exactly why the water I had gone into was deep and full of mud. The good news was that they had a towing strap! So I hopped in back of one of the trucks (up high with big wheels and lifted suspension). They carefully made their way down the road and stopped at my stuck car.

I think they had three thoughts. One, they felt sorry for me. Two, they thought it was kind of funny that this “tourist” had gotten stuck looking for pitcher plants—“Why, they’re all over, just down the road.” Three, the young men thought this was an interesting challenge.

We all waded in. There was much discussion, especially since no one could find something to attach the towing strip to. Then, success! There was a solid ring for this purpose, but at the front of the car. One of the big trucks slogged through the other side of the water and almost got stuck, too! It was really deep on that side. I was lucky I hadn’t gone over there.

They pulled the car out, but now it was on the wrong side of the hole. We all decided that I could drive on some grass at one side and then dip into the hole at the end where it wasn’t deep and get out. And that worked.

I profusely thanked these gracious people. I still thought that they thought this was a funny situation and a challenge well met. They refused any offer of money.

Lesson Three:
A reminder that good people come in all ages and all locations.

But I missed a digital lesson.

Digital Horizons: In Search Of...
Olympus E-3
Lesson Four: One reason digital is so great for photographers is that there’s no cost to take pictures. I regret that I never took a group portrait of these young people and their trucks.

The next day, I went to the Apalachicola National Forest Service office and talked with the folks there. I found out exactly where the pitcher plants were located, and I bought a national forest map. I had some things to do that day, but the following day, I was up early in search of pitcher plants.

This time, I found them—yellow pitcher plants. They’re truly amazing plants when you see them growing out in the wild. They look like big pipes for a pipe organ, sounding a siren song for insects...and crazy photographers.

The plants look great from below, which is why the Olympus E-3 worked so well for this sort of photography. The tilting, swiveling live LCD lets me see what the lens is seeing and I don’t have to lay on the ground. This is the way of the future for digital SLRs. Canon and Nikon both have live LCDs, but LCD operation is a little clunky, and the screens are anchored to the back of the camera, but it’s a start.

Later, I found a whole bunch of yellow pitcher plants and parrot pitcher plants literally beside the road. Plus, there were dew threads, a kind of sundew, mixed in—a bonanza of carnivorous plants within 100 feet of the road.

And I found more friendly people. A state highway patrol officer pulled up when he saw my car on the shoulder and this strange man kneeling down in the grass next to it. He saw the camera and smiled, telling me he wanted to be sure I was okay.

All in all, it was a good trip. And I got my pitcher plant photos without being too damaged by their siren call.

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