Known as “the real Florida,” Florida’s State Park System celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. With more than 150 state parks, Florida is the nation’s only two-time Gold Medal winner for best park system. Oscar Scherer State Park, located six miles south of Sarasota, has 15 miles of trails through pine- and oak-filled flatwoods that are home to animals like the Florida scrub jay, an imperiled species located only in the Sunshine State. Bald eagles and ospreys nest here in winter. Other wildlife includes bobcats, gopher tortoises, white-tailed deer and alligators. You’ll also find waterways for canoeing and kayaking. The park is located near the town of Osprey on U.S. 41 (which runs parallel to I-75 in this part of the state). There are plenty of places to stay in the area, but the park has more than 90 RV and tent campsites. Take a short drive from the park to the nearby beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, where you’ll find an abundance of shorebirds, osprey and eagles. Another beautiful state park, also noted for its wildlife and birds, is Myakka River State Park, located 36 miles to the east.
Average winter temperatures vary from 50º to 75º F. Summer is hot and humid, with typical temperatures from the low 70s to the mid-90s. May through August is the rainy season. Rains are generally short and intense and occur almost daily. That said, there’s almost always at least some sunshine on most days, which makes Florida an interesting location for atmospheric imagery during inclement weather.
In addition to dramatic landscapes, including beautiful sunrises and sunsets, this area of Florida is suited for bird photography. The opportunity for bird photos is exceptional, especially during the migrating seasons. To get your best results photographing birds, a 400mm or longer lens is almost a necessity, and the longer the better. If your camera has a burst mode, leave it on all the time and use center-weighted or spot metering. The burst mode is needed for birds in flight, and if you leave it on, you’re always ready. In wooded areas, high ISOs are necessary because trees block the sunlight. Under certain situations, a flash also can help, especially using a Better Beamer or another flash extender, which boosts flash throw, ideal for use with long telephotos.
The best time to visit most Florida state parks is from October to March, when there’s a variety of migrating birds to be found throughout the state, but especially on the east and west coasts. The early morning and evening are the best times to view wildlife, and the best time to catch fog rolling through the trees draped with Spanish moss is in the fall when the sun is just rising. The newly cool night temperatures settle on the still-warm water of South Creek, creating a natural soft-focus effect in the mist that reflects the rising sun through the trees.
Contact: To learn more about Florida state parks, visit www.floridastateparks.org.
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