A Golden Gator & Genetic Memory

Big Cypress Golden Gator

So often when I visit a rookery or a refuge to photograph birds someone will stop and ask me where the alligators are. Seems the average sightseer is a great deal more interested in the primitive lizards than their lovely feathered neighbors.  I guess a certain childlike fascination with ancient lifeforms is undeniable! After all, part of what draws me to the swamp is that it is a time portal I want to walk through.  Who can really enter into the subdued light beneath a stand of cypress trees and not feel a surge of curiosity or anticipate the discovery something undefined but oddly familiar?   Maybe we can just chalk it up to some sort of Jungian genetic memory?  We are only remembering a world encoded into our genome; a world which we are never really ready to relinquish or relegate to insignificance despite the fact we spend our days in the air conditioned space between four walls!   Oh my gosh, if Jurrasic Park were real. I have to confess, I’d clone the dinosaur DNA myself!!  For many of us the sight of the tough hide and disinterested gaze of  our local lizard, Alligator mississippiensis, is as close as we will get to the ancient call of the forest primeval!

The golden gator is the result of some filter play and I thought my favourite gator scene and gator faces below help give a textural sense to Big Cypress and the Big Lizards! All were taken in the Big Cypress Preserve area off of the Tamiami Trail near Ochopee.

Gator Moss - The Swamp Primeval

More than any other gator picture I have taken, this one took me right through that portal out of my time, place and space.  Sometimes a scene is just a gift and this was one of those times….light streaming through the cypress dome filtered by evocative spanish moss onto an alligator so perfectly posed and reflected that I could not have wished for more.

American Alligator Eyelid and Skin Texture

Alligator’s actually have two types of eyelids. The eyelids shown above are of skin and close top to bottom like a human’s. I’ve always liked the ruffly edge that the upper lids have in Alligators. The other eyelid is the protective nictitating membrane which covers then eye when the gator swims and allows clear vision. 

American Alligator Profile

This friendly specimen is just having a lovely time sunning among the wildflowers. Another feature of the eye that seems a bit different in each individual is the folds around the eye opening which for some reason I find attractive.

“Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man…….. no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.”
Charles Darwin



~ by Judy on May 14, 2013.

19 Responses to “A Golden Gator & Genetic Memory”

  1. …. Nothing beats time in a cypress swamp! Although you were shooting gators, you captured the flavor of the swamp perfectly. … And speaking of gators, I think we are so fascinated with them because a) they could easily eat us for lunch, and b) they choose not to do so. They give us the same thrill as a really good amusement park ride – they look really dangerous, but are just big, reptilian pussy cats. Our feathered friends are beautiful; but they don’t trigger that primal adrenaline rush.

    • True about the danger/adrenaline rush angle! I am just the same as everyone else and get a kick out of being around them too. Even if I don’t want to take another alligator picture when they are around I can’t help myself!! I’ve been surprised a few times by the presence of a gator I did not initially see, I respect them enough to always want to know where they are relative to me. The reptilian pussy cats can pounce. I had been accustomed to seeing them lolling harmlessly in the sun until one January we decided to explore Lake Okeechobee. Huge alligators actually lunged at our inflatable as we floated a long the rim canal shooting birds. Prior to that, my husband had put the boat onto the inner shore of the canal so I could take pictures of some limpkins on foot. That was before knowing there were large, aggressive gators there and after the lunging I retreated from that practice for the rest of that visit.

      • …. Gators instinctively avoid adult humans – but they have to recognize that a human is present first. Your inflatable probably looked like something tasty (two otters swimming side by side?) from below. A canoe might look like a rival gator. There have only been a handful of fatal gator attacks in Florida over the last half century – but it’s still wise not to press your luck!

      • Good thought that maybe it was the boat and not the humans in it that they were interested in.

  2. Well you know how much I admire and appreciate our big nosed reptilian friends! Tremendous photos of these cool guys in a terrific setting.
    I have found that people are fascinated by alligators and around here they stop traffic. Well, sometimes literally but everyone always wants to see them for sure.

    • I am amazed by the ones you are taking pictures of..not just your talent but I never fixated on the Carolinas as being ‘gator’ states. Not sure what I thought, Florida Evergades, Louisiana Bayous or Georgia Swamps..but there you are with these wonderful marsh gators!!

  3. I love the filter on that alligator… So very ethereal and lovely. And above all else: his home! You’ve captured it so perfectly and beautifully. Absolutely divine. Now I want to go. Now. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment on the filter treatment. I see the color filters sometimes on book covers and I tend to like the kind haunting and ,as you say, ethereal feel they give to an ordinary scene. The golden gator scene was too busy for my liking so I converted it to a black and white and adjusted it so the gator stood out more. Darkened the water some so the distracting things in it were lessened. Then applied the bi-color filter with blues and golds, added a touch of glow and viola…a golden gator!! Glad you liked him!!

  4. You have been nominated for the Best Moment Award. Go to http://jeaninjackson/awards for info. Cheers !

    • Thank you for keeping my blog in your thoughts when this award came ’round! It is always nice to be thought of and I appreciate it.

  5. i have had several gator encounters in louisiana and never realized how fast they can move! as always, your images are amazing. you need a much larger audience!

  6. (or deserve a much larger audience!)

    • Lisa, undoubtably one of the nicest things you could have said!!!!
      And, oh yeah…gators can move!! Easy to get used to them sitting around sunning like a lazy lizard…but best to be observant!!

      • i once caught a catfish while casting from the cypress-lined bank.. a gator emerged from the water hyacinths and started chasing the catfish! i ran sideways up the hill, pulling the fish as the gator continued in pursuit! a male friend was watching from afar and he said, ‘i swear you’re crazy!’

        there was no way i was going to lose my good rod and reel!

      • Totally funny!! I gather the gator didn’t catch up to fish, rod and reel or woman!! Great story!! 🙂

  7. Wow, these pictures truly transport you through time! So amazing!

    • Oh thank you…glad you felt it too!! Since we can’t all live in the forest or swamp, I guess it does not feel like ‘real’ life but does throw us back. Even though in reality we have our feet in two worlds and that in itself should be valued.

  8. We don’t have any swamps, but we surely do have alligators. This time of year, they show up in the most unexpected places – alongside freeways, on front porches, in subdivision ponds, in swimming pools. There seem to have been fewer reports of misplaced gators this year, no doubt due to an easing of the drought that left so many bayous and streams bereft of water.

    When I first went to bayou country in Louisiana, what I found most distressing was the ability of alligators to be RIGHT THERE, and yet invisible. I’d be walking along a bank and suddenly one would head into the water with a great splash, and I’d never seen it. I’m getting better at finding them, though. When I went to the wildlife refuge last time, I saw many, many more than ever before, especially ones lounging along the bank. I think it was my eye that had changed, not their behavior.

    But I didn’t see a Golden Gator! I have to come here for such treats. And that second photo, with the reflection, is amazing.

    • Oh I know!! It is very easy to walk along and totally miss them…until you either see them with a start very close or hear a splash. Jimbey above is right in that they seem to want to avoid us, you just can’t assume anything..after all in the wilderness we are the visitors.

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