Orlando & Central Florida
I may be heading down to Orlando for a few days in mid-November, and I hate Disney World. My wife is attending a conference, so I was thinking of doing some shooting while she's otherwise occupied, maybe birds, but not necessarily. I was kind of interested in trying to get to Merritt Island NWR, but it seems that portions of it are closed due to hurricane damage.
So what's interesting and currently accessible in central Florida that isn't an amusement park?
Not having lived in the area, but having visited it over the years, I find the natural springs thruout the area to be my favorite places. Wekiva Springs is pretty close by. Sanford is also an old town up on the St. Johns River on the north side by I-4.
Some places I'm familiar with -
Hand of Man at his best:
1) Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales - beautiful setting on highest point in Florida peninsula
2) Leu Botanical Gardens in near Winter Park - formal & informal gardens
3) Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern College in Lakeland
1) Blue Spring State Park, Orange City
2) De Leon Springs State Park, Deleon
Also check out Clyde Butcher's Living Waters-Aqautic Preserves of Florida that includes nearby natural places to visit.
If you can get away for most of a day, I find Cocoa Beach to be quite attractive in a retro way. Many parts of the area appear to be stuck in the '70s...good fodder for a photographer. Cape Canaveral is just north of there, and worth a visit even if you don't intend to shoot anything there. (The missle park alone is worth the drive, in my estimation.)
I second the recommendation for the Blue Springs State Park. During my stay in the Melbourne area (3 months back in the mid '90s) it became one of my favorite day trips.
If you're a Salvador Dali fan, St. Petersburg has the Salvador Dali museum. A pretty extensive collection of his work from the height of his surrealist days through the end of his life. Well worth a day if you like Dali at all. When I visited there it was a large, open space inside; people who've been there more recently tell me that it's now divided into galleries to allow for more exhibition space. But the collection is very extensive and well worth the time if you decide to drive toward the Gulf Coast.
Enjoy the trip...lots to do in the area if you're willing to drive a bit.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
You'll be in my neck of the woods!
Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
Blue Springs in nice, there is a good hiking trail with lots of variety of the Florida scrub and some wetlands as well as a spring, an historic house, and a boat tour of the St. Johns River. It can be crowded at times but should not be bad right now. I was there last weekend to do some shooting and it was quite nice. $5 entrance fee if I am not mistaken (I have a state park pass so I don't know exactly, but it wont be over $5).
Leu Gardens is great for flowers. It is an historic estate and the gardens cover the entire grounds. Lots of different stuff, plus you can heckle the wedding photogs, (just joking!). Nice place and not expensive, $4 I think.
Bok Tower is also a botanical gardens, but is a bit of a drive from Orlando. A couple of hours if I remember correctly. It is very nice, has a huge carrilon (bell tower) and lots of scenic vistas.
DeLeon Springs has an historic sugar mill and a boat tour on the weekends that will give you lots of chances for birds shots. Just let the boat 'captain' know what you want to see and he will point things out. Otherwise he defaults to alligators. There is a nice trail there too, but not as much opportunity for vistas.
It's not the best time for nesting birds or the Alligator farms would be great. During the nesting season you can get right in there and nab some fantastic shots without the need for a telescope on your camera.
Rollins College, in Winter Park, has a very nice campus with lots of opportunites for building shots. Most of the buildings are historic and have an interesting design.
There is also St. Augustine, which is a bit North of Orlando, but offers many opportunities for historic subjects, nice, closed streets loaded with shops, and some nice views of the intercostal waterway.
Stay away from Daytona Beach and Downtown Orlando though. Not too many opportunities for photography unless you do street stuff.
If can think of anything else I'll let you know.
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Thanks folks, and keep 'em coming! I'll print out everything before I leave.
I've discovered that while I'm down there, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival will be going on in Titusville, so I've registered for two field workshops with Milton Heiberg and Joanne Williams on the mornings of Nov. 18 and 19 respectively, and that leaves the afternoons free, if I'm not too exhausted (they run from 5:45-10 a.m., and it looks like we're staying about 55 minutes from Titusville).
The workshops are pretty affordable--$35 registration for the festival + $60 for each field workshop, and there are other events, some free, some for a fee from Nov. 16-20. Lots of digital stuff, but both of the instructors seem to have at least some sympathy for film, judging by their websites. Since I'm not really familiar with the area and only have a few days, I figured that whether the workshops are good or not, that's the easiest way to find the birds. Here's the website for the festival, if anyone wants to meet up there--
While I don't know the workshops hosts, that festival is usualy very nice. My wife and I have been to it many times and I would suggest any of the field trips if you have time. Most of the trips they do are worth while and there will be lots of birds here to see at that time. For birds, that will be your best option by far.
If you want to take the time to visit one of the coolest "roadside attractions" you'll ever see in Florida, try taking yourself to Barberville in Volusia County. Here's a description:
My wife and I all but actually did slam on the brakes when we encountered it. We burned a ton of film.
David--you could try Washington Oaks Garden, it's a state park a little bit south of St Augustine. I don't know what it's like this time of year, but it has these fantastic living oaks, and the park is really interesting. last time I was there, my wife & I shot a bunch of konica infrared in 120, and we got some really interesting shots of the moss on the living oaks etc....and the spiders and the whole sort of tropical atmosphere. Maybe Randy or Wayne could fill you in on the place now, it's been a few years since I made it down there to that part of FL.
David, let us know how the trip comes out. I'd like to hear about what you found.