I’m a Florida Native, so you’d think that I would have been riding an airboat all my life! Not so, I’m more of a tomboy princess. But my cousin Mike, who’s also a Florida cracker, was out riding an airboat with his Dad before he could ride a bike. So, this year, the year of extreme photography, when he suggested we go out for a ride, I was more than willing and really excited about getting out on the water to shoot Florida from an entirely new perspective.
Mike has a hunting camp in Okeechobee, and along with riding airboats all his life, he’s an excellent hunter, fisherman, and an exceptionally patient and inspired guide. The last time I’d been out fishing with Mikey was in 1986. That time, we headed out at 2am to catch snook, one of the best tasting fish on the planet. It was a warm summer night, which was in complete contrast to our airboat ride. I remember thinking how peaceful and serene the water was back then, Mike knew exactly where to go, winding through the canals behind million dollar mansions, out to the Intracoastal that parallels A1A in Fort Lauderdale.
For the airboat ride, we woke up before dawn and got dressed in layers of clothing, a lot of layers because it was 35 degrees out on the water! I think it was the coldest morning ever in Florida ! I’m surprised it didn’t snow. We put in on Lake Okeechobee, and headed out to a marshy area where the airboat was back in the reeds, keeping the platform still enough to set up my tripod to photograph a beautiful sunrise. As the sun came up, so did the wind, so on top of being cold, there was a wind chill factor which made it feel like it was zero degrees out.
We then headed out in search of sandhill cranes, colorful mallards, roseate spoonbills, and great blue herons. The thrill of speeding across the water was intoxicating, turning and sweeping back and forth across the Lake, scaring up all kinds of birds. It was a beautiful morning. I shot about 600 photos that day, and only a few turned out, mainly because it was so windy. The birds weren’t very happy about the cold weather, either, hiding in the brushes, or flying high in the sky. So, I guess I’m going to have to go back again, and hopefully it won’t be so darn cold out!