Upcoming Infrared Class... and a Florida Trip Report

April 25, 2023  |  Central-West Florida
A massive oak tree sprawls overhead, backlit by the bright Florida sun.

Guess who’s teaching an infrared photography class on KelbyOne.com! We just wrapped an exciting week of filming on location in Myakka River State Park, and in the super cool KelbyOne production studios. We had a blast and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished class. The entire team, and Scott Kelby himself, were extremely lovely. There’s nothing better than working with an ace team at the top of their field who also know how to have fun.

If you’ve wanted to try out infrared photography but don’t know where to start, my class will point you in the right direction. We’ll walk through the equipment needed, talk about the best subjects for drumming up maximal infrared magic, and cover basic and advanced post-processing techniques. My goal is to give anyone and everyone a solid but uncomplicated foundation for making dreamy infrared images. All you need is a little practice. Lucky for us, that’s the fun part.

So when’s this class coming out? Soon! Trust me, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops the minute I have a date for you. I will even personally email you if you want to add yourself to the list here.

A scrubby pink tree catches glints of sunlight in its foliage at the Myakka River State Park.
Sunlight glints off a petite pink tree at the Myakka River State Park.

So what is there to photograph in west-central Florida? A lot, it turns out. I only wish I’d had more time to explore the different types of wetlands and forests of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. At Myakka River, stunningly beautiful live oaks are draped in airy Spanish moss. Tiny little resurrection ferns cover the trees like a coat of fur. Usually brown as they lie dormant during dry weather, resurrection ferns spring to pure green life within a few hours of a rainstorm, changing the look of the entire forest. These neat little ferns can live one hundred years, cycling through their spontaneous green-for-one-day shows. I happened to catch them at their greenest green, and spent a couple of hours ‘after class’ photographing them in various infrared wavelengths.

I had a secondary agenda to the class filming on this trip: I wanted to meet an alligator in the wild.

I’d never seen one of these giant reptiles in person, and they’ve always been the stuff of legends. I understand they’re a relatively mundane part of life in Florida, but coming from California, I find them the utmost exotic, thrilling creatures. Their intimidating size – often over 10’ – juxtaposed with their huge, exaggerated grins, is a beguiling combo.

An alligator shows off its pearly white grin while draping itself over a log on the river.
Am I pretty? I feel pretty.

You do not have to go very far out of your way to find an alligator in Florida. There are small (and large) wilderness parks everywhere, with raised boardwalks that allow visitors to explore the edges of wetlands at a safe distance from these, as it turns out, extremely common and ever-present apex predators.

You can be sure I used a super super telephoto lens to visit with them at the tiny John B. Sargeant Conservation Park. As with any wild animal with a massive jaw full of razor-sharp teeth, you want to give them a lot of space, but they generally seem unbothered by respectful human observers and photographers.

A funny thing I noticed is that you almost never see alligators move. They lie perfectly still for hours, basking in the sun or cooling themselves just below the surface of the water, like actual bumps on a log. In fact, one alligator that I passed on the way into Myakka River State Park was still in the exact same spot at the edge of the water when I left eight hours later. But sometimes… you turn away for just a half a second, and when you turn back, that alligator you were watching is gone. And then it magically reappears in a slightly different location or pose a minute or two later. You didn’t see it go there, it just turned up in between blinks. They’re like a bunch of cartoon animals playing Red Light, Green Light. It’s a little unsettling, and I wonder if they do it on purpose to confuse potential prey.

Anyhow, through a powerful lens, you can see that the alligators are actually observing you right back. They act all casual and cool, but internally remain on high alert. Don’t let their absurdly wide, toothy grins fool you.

Posted in Trip Report, Class.