Some Monochrome Madness – Florida Style

•May 21, 2017 • 10 Comments


Any who have been out to sea on vessels large or small
know those days of natural near monotone sea and sky. Times when
the horizon is barely perceptible and despite dark clouds
and cast shadows there is blinding white brightness and brilliant
water shine.

I enjoy delving into the world of monochrome images from time to time, whether pure black and white, sepia or any other mono-toning choice. Sometimes the natural contrasts and textures of an image cry out to be toyed with in this fashion and other times it is a trial and error experiment in conveying mood just to see what can be made of a thing. Leanne Cole in her beautiful and educational blog has been encouraging photographers of all experience levels to remember the values of black and white and to see what may be done with an image with that in mind through her weekly Monochrome Madness posts. Just an encouragement to play a little with those nuances in our often over saturated world of digitally enhanced color. In can be beautiful and it can also tire the mind and senses. So remembering the textures of black and white without the distraction of color can enrich our perceptions of textures and shapes we barely acknowledge when enjoying the brilliance of color. For this reason, as we all need reasons and deadlines, I wanted to participate in Leanne’s project with a few monochrome contributions.

These are some I played with from various boat rides around south Florida two of which I shared on Monochrome Madness. So check out Leanne’s blog here and enjoy. Her low light, slow shutter speed color images are quite amazing and her area of Melbourne, Australia offers so much in interesting natural and man-made architectures.  Any who have not yet done so, do check out her site!


This is one is a contribution to Leanne Cole's 
Monochrome Madness. I liked the stillness of it yet with the
hidden power as the cloud formation builds. We have
great clouds in Florida.



This contribution to Monochrome Madness was under the
theme of Motion. I thought is a double whammy with the speeding
wake and the windswept clouds. Never a dull moment in sea or sky
boating around South Florida.


This swirling mass of clouds was interesting to shoot, but full
of the kind of potential that has you thinking of ways to 
direct your vessel to avoid any direct consequences. The limited clear
 space ultimately closed in. It was a great day on the water though.


Thanks Leanne for an excuse to play with some black and white clouds.


Adult Wood Stork Portrait with Canvas Texture

•April 30, 2017 • 22 Comments


I had planned on working with some of the other species from my last shoot but before moving on from the Wood Storks, I was attracted to this handsome adult Wood Stork image with its lovely late day lighting.  While I first planned to crop tightly for this image, I liked its body position relative to  the branches and just treated it as a whole. This did mean getting rid of some distracting elements so that the lovely light and texture of the bird were the main focus. My one concession to art in this one was the addition of texture layers just to give it a canvas look.  I find when I visit the rookery, the light in the beginning is not the same as just before sundown, and I often find myself stopping at the same nests just because the light is prettier. Luckily the birds are pretty cooperative about the whole thing.

Hope everyone’s weekend was relaxing as the work week looms!!




Thriving Wood Stork Colony

•April 29, 2017 • 7 Comments


As a follow up to Friday’s little exhausted wood stork chick, I’ve gathered a few other images from the rookery visit to show a little more of this amazingly thriving colony! Wood storks have been downlisted on the Endangered Species list here in Florida, something we can be grateful for as it means this interesting and elegant species is doing very well. I can remember when I did not know what a wood stork was and any view of one when I finally did know was very distant and few in number. I’d stop the car on a roadside swale if I ever spied one of these large wading birds fishing in a canal. To be able to watch them raise their families is a treat!!

The image above is yesterday’s chick with it parent at the nest. There is a sibling there as well.

Another wood stork nest with three siblings. I particularly
liked the leg foot hold on the chick to the upper right.

I admit I am fascinated with bird's feet. This just
a closer up view of that foot hold pose.

Here we see yet another nest and this shot demonstrates
the reverse knee bend of the wading birds (at least
as compared to humans). The white streaks you see
down the legs of wood storks are urates, a combination of
urine and feces which they squirt upon themselves for
cooling. This habit starts right away.

I often say that if I could paint the birds I would and not having that
talent...I take pictures. This is just a little bit of play
with some photoshop water color brushes to give a painterly
feel. The image was converted to black and white first and masked.
Color was added back in selectively on the face of the bird,
 the leaves, branches and the water color brushes were used to 
splotch the blue sky back in with a painterly look. This is only
for what it is worth as I have lot to learn if I want
a photograph to actually look like a painting.


TGIF – Baby Wood Stork Says it All !!

•April 28, 2017 • 12 Comments

Baby Wood Stork Says it All!!

It’s Friday!! A long exhausting week of sibling rivalry and food getting. At the end of a long, hot Spring day with remnants of daylight filtering in to brighten green leaves and fern around the nest, this Baby Wood Stork says it all. I can hardly hold my head up myself!!







Purple Gallinule and its Aquatic Snacks

•April 14, 2017 • 9 Comments


Purple Gallinule strides the broad leaves of the aquatic 
Fire Flag plants of the wetland and uses its long 
yellow toes effectively for the tight rope walk necessary
to get to the delicate lavender blossoms it so loves to 
dine upon.

Wood Storks were not the only birds to watch last Saturday at the rookery and the pond apple tree islands were not the only habitat to watch for wildlife. So while the wood storks dominated the upper realm, there were several Purple Gallinules doing their tight rope act on the slender flower stalks of the Aquatic Fire Flag plant sprouting from the floor of the wetland. Shown in this post are images of this brilliantly iridescent relative of the Common Moorhen, the prettiest swamp chicken as I’ve put it before!! Sorry no recipes here today!! The wetland was particularly beautiful with every possible shade of green punctuated by the indigo and purple flowers of the aquatic blooms.


The delicate Fire Flag blossoms.




Twin spires of Pickerel weed.


Lush Florida Wetland!

May the images of spring bring a sense of freshness, beauty and new life as we celebrate Easter.



While I have been away the Wood Storks have taken over the rookery!

•April 13, 2017 • 19 Comments


Wood Stork dozes the afternoon away keeping its chicks nice and warm.

Last Saturday marked my first trip to visit the rookery at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray this bird season. Life does get in the way sometimes and I was longing for a little respite and Mothers Nature’s help in leaving the hurried world and my worries behind. For years I visited and wished that the shy Wood storks which tended to return each season out here to the more distant islands would get more comfortable with the spots within my camera range. About three years ago (maybe 4) there was some disturbance in the outer areas with the plants, overgrowth, insects and necessary maintenance. That year the first of this very large species of wading birds set up housekeeping closer in. It was truly exciting to see for the first time, baby Wood storks. Since that time, regardless of the far off places, the Wood storks have come to dominate the rookery while raising their very hungry chicks. I did not see Great Blue Herons and other species in as great numbers as usual, maybe it was just the timing as the Great Blues do tend to nest early and the chick of theirs I noticed were fledglings or nearly so. In nature anytime nature or disruption of habitat forces changes something gets displaced…maybe everyone else has scooted over to make way for these interesting giants.

I find this species to be dramatically regal and would point you to other posts I have made about them over the last couple of seasons for a little more information on them than I have presented with these images.

Baby Wood storks feeding sequence443 pounds of fish and it shows Its wood stork nesting season A cute preen


Wood storks have most assuredly taken over the rookery. This 
image shows two neighboring nests with diligent parents and young.


An attractive pose of an attentive Wood stork parent
watching over its chicks in the colony.

This young fellow stretches its wings while having a chat
with its sibling.


An adult wood stork stands atop its pond apple tree
nesting island preening and showing off its pretty pink
feet and stylish black toe nails.

Truly good to be back in the land of the Wood Storks and look forward to the change of occupancy when the White Egrets and Louisana Herons settle in.


Eulogy as a thank you – remembering my Mom

•March 18, 2017 • 14 Comments

Ann Lastayo - portrait of a young woman

My Mom passed away on January 17th this year at the age of 87 after a long battle with progressive dementia. She died peacefully, loved by family, in a very natural order of things. Birth and death are equally natural and a graceful goodbye is something to cherish. I debated whether to share this on WordPress but in the end have decided that it is ok (or at least a compulsion that can’t be denied) and perhaps something said here might help someone else as they deal with the death of a parent. Besides the finality of loss and the hole it leaves in your life, there are the details of a Memorial Service and eulogies to be given. Quite gratefully I report that my youngest sister, Lynda Gail, handled the arrangements with the funeral home and the order of events for the service. My job was working on a selection of photos to show my mother’s very full and interesting life as the daughter of a military officer, military wife and mother, and as an artist.

I have always had a fear of public speaking so even with a very intimate memorial with mostly family and a few friends I felt the weight of responsibility as if being oldest and giving the first of the eulogies meant I had to do more or say more.  Jerry Seinfeld, put the fear of public speaking in a humorous light when he said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” On the responsibility part a very good friend gave me the best advice on the matter saying that my mother’s life was a mosaic and that I was just a part of that mosaic. Keep the talk to a few points, not too long, and that all the other family members would fill in the picture and that I don’t own it!! This was very freeing for me because this is a moment in life when we all should feel free to just say what touches our hearts out of an entire life where there are so many directions you could go, so many stories you could tell. So I did, I said just what meant the most to me, those memories that just always stuck even though I was barely aware of it…it was just life. Oddly, when I stood up at the podium with its nice light and microphone and my words before me, with the first sentence all my fears seemed to dissolve and I enjoyed talking about my mother. This post will be a little long as I feel compelled to share my words to Mom. I can’t say it serves as an example but maybe. Don’t be afraid of your eulogy as memorials are a celebration of life and a eulogy is one last chance to say thank you.

Mom’s Eulogy

Mom was always my biggest confidence booster and being a nervous public speaker, she is seeing me though one last oral report.

My mother was beautiful, intelligent, talented and full of life. Her laugh was so beautiful and musical it could literally light up a room. You wanted to be near it. She loved her friends and she loved art and after high school chose to attend fine art school instead of the traditional university approach. Having the soul of an artist she had a wonderful perception of color, proportion and composition and saw the beauty around her. I feel in some ways she was a woman, like many in her generation, caught between those who chose careers and those who chose family. She could have done many things. As her daughter, I am so grateful that she chose marriage and motherhood and poured her creativity, intelligence and passion into loving Dad, raising her children and balancing the demands of being an Army wife. I am thankful for the wonderful childhood she gave me. I cannot imagine a greater gift.

As alluded to before, I confess to not having been the most confident child during my school years and Mom was always there for a pep talk and to build me up. She would tell me to hold my head high, shoulders straight and walk down the halls like I owned the world. She’d tell me that with God’s help I could do anything.

When so many complain of parents who only listen with half an ear or are just not altogether there for them, my mother was a very present, astute parent. She was always available for quizzing me for chapter tests in school, listening to an oral book report, and bouncing off ideas. She bailed me out in grade school when I had an assignment to write a poem animating an object. At my wits end, she came up with the idea of describing the roar and long neck of a dinosaur only to end with the hungry beast being revealed as our humble family vacuum cleaner. I remember it as being very clever.

Mom’s sense of art was always an inspiration for me to create. I drew birds and copied horses off of book covers. When we lived in Florida I sat outside with my sketch pad and drew palm trees. Mom was the best critic on all my efforts. One time I wanted to do an artistic female nude and got my hands on a Playboy magazine. Mom was not upset with me over this, not in the least, and just grabbed her pencil and showed me how to improve the drawing with her obvious skill with human anatomy and classical training from art school. I think when she fixed that pencil sketch I got my first real inkling at how good she was.

Besides, school work, Mom’s astute understanding of human nature was applied directly towards my boyfriends. Much to my annoyance, when it came to motives and character flaws, she was usually right. I was clueless and she was a good guide. I do remember in my early dating years sitting at the foot of her bed when I returned home from a date telling her all about it. I can tell you I had friends quite stricken by this idea. I was amazed and sorry to know that other people had mothers they couldn’t talk to. Mom was my supporter and my confidante.

As our family moved from base to base every two years or so, my civilian friends would often ask how I could have school spirit when I’d been in a place for such a short time. My happiness and security were completely the result of having a solid core of support and love at home. My family was my home, it didn’t matter where we were. The fact that we would move in a couple of years for me was an exciting change to look forward to, not an emotional disruption. That could only happen when the family unit is strong. Even when my father was off at war serving his country overseas and in harm’s way, Mom was there to keep us centered. Life was normal and things ran along as they should. She really didn’t let us kids see if she felt stressed or worried when he was away and she never passed along any anxieties to us kids. I look at myself and wonder if I could have done the same. She conducted her role with such grace.

Our saddest time as a family was over the loss of my baby sister, Susan Leigh, at the age of 6 months due to a heart defect. We all loved her so much that Mom and Dad turned sorrow into joy giving us baby Lynda Gail. I can still remember them announcing that Mom was expecting. Around 16 and still clueless, I looked over at Mom and said “you are pregnant again?”! She just laughed and replied, well not “still.” She could lighten a serious mood and see the fun in things.

No matter how old we are, our parents are always our parents and we are always their kid. I can remember one visit to Merritt Island a few years back when I was excited with my first digital camera. One of my plans was to do a photography day of route 192 which had some Old Florida spots to take pictures of before they dissolved into the past. So Raymond and I got up early to leave quietly without disturbing Mom or Dad, and there they both were in their pajamas at the front door seeing us off with a canteen of water and some sandwiches like we were children heading off to day camp. The vision of my elderly mother in her feminine soft robe handing me the water is indelibly imprinted. It was so cute.

Lynda Gail writes romance novels and this led directly to one of my favourite memory scenes with Mom. Mom was always a reader of historical romance and mysteries and loved a good plot. So one beautiful afternoon, with soft light streaming in the living room windows, Mom, Ginger and I found ourselves sitting around brainstorming on romance novel scenes with Lynda Gail. All the while twirling and nibbling on strawberry string licorice while we talked. Just four women having fun being women. That was the best.

When Mom and Dad retired to Merritt Island, my mother turned her love of painting to China Painting, and joined a group of women who loved the craft. Mom’s last few years were marked with progressive Dementia and Memory Loss but her interest in compositions and painting never waned. Even when she became unable to see a project to completion, she kept inspiration all around her in the form of calendars of beautiful birds and magazines with images of brilliant flowers, still life scenes, and trade publications for porcelain artists. She was always planning compositions and that occupied her mind. I would show her my latest bird pictures utilizing my iPad where she could stretch and move the image around to suggest best composition. Invariably she was right on. We spent many hours in her last years talking art and looking at compositions. I truly miss having her to share creative ideas with.

One of my last memories of Mom at La Casa showed me that there were still lessons my Mom and Dad could teach me. It was dinner time and Dad and I were sharing time with Mom in the dining room. She was sitting in the wheel chair at one of their circular dining tables after the meal. Dad pulled out his tattered, well- loved favourite book of poetry from the pocket of his cargo shorts and began to read her a poem. I felt as if I was watching them from afar and was reminded how dearly we love to share the things we love most with the people we love most and that we need to let them. I also remember showing up and Mom saying,’ Judy, where have you been?’ and being so pleased that this frail woman who raised me still had me in her mind despite everything.

Above all, Mom loved her family. Advanced dementia was marked by thoughts of her parents being alive, and sometimes her mind was occupied with looking out for the arrival of her young children. Parental love both received and given was so deeply imbedded in her being.

To you Mom, I say thank you for all that you poured into the person I am, for building me up and never tearing me down, and for a solid stable childhood I can forever draw from.

Now you reside with the angels and dip your brush into the colors of the stars and paint on a heavenly canvas the wings of angels.

I am deeply blessed you were my mother and miss you dearly.





Ann Lastayo Howard - her desire to create
never waned - this is from November of 2015 at 86