The Panhandle has been my home for most of my life and the older I get, the more fun I have looking at – and photographing – it in an “up close and personal” manner.
There is great fun in “really seeing” something for the first time and being surprised by just how beautiful it is.
The slideshow above was photographed by Beth at Alligator Point, not too far from where David Kimbro is studying oyster reefs, and many of the photos are of salt marshes, such as those studied by Randall Hughes. So I knew when I saw them that they would be a great fit for this site.
You may know Beth Switzer as Executive Director and on camera personality at The Florida Channel, and before that on WFSU-TV. I was surprised, after years of watching and occasionally working with her, to discover that she liked to photograph nature. What’s not surprising is that she has forged a connection with the natural splendor of our area. Those of us working in broadcasting in the panhandle end up seeing a lot of the area, and meeting a lot of the people. It’s impossible to work in TV here and not love it here.
We’re two months into “In the Grass, On the Reef,” and so far the winds have been kind to Randall and David’s sites in St. Joseph Bay an Alligator Harbor. When Deepwater Horizon exploded, we stepped up production on the project thinking that oil would arrive at any moment, and that we should get as much footage as we could before it hit. Now, the more I go to these places, the less I think about oil while I’m there. I hear about it on the radio as I’m driving to and from the shoots, but then I’m walking in water, planting my tripod in mud to get a steady shot of a periwinkle climbing a blade of cordgrass, or trying to see through my lens a stone crab that looks only slightly different than the oysters surrounding it. In those moments, it just doesn’t feel like it will happen. I know it will most likely happen, but it never feels like it will.
One of the pleasant developments of doing this has been having artist features like the one above. So far we have had photographers and musicians, and we are talking to some writers as well. We want to hear from artists in any medium who depict or are inspired by the coastal habitats of the Forgotten Coast. Photographers, painters, musicians, writers: share your art with us! You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, as always, comments and questions are welcome.
Today we feature a song by Hot Tamale, “Crystal Gulf Waters.” In lamenting what we may lose if oil inundates our coast, Craig Reeder and Adrian Fogelin evoke some of the areas in which we are interested on this blog. And while the song tackles a heavy topic, it does manage to end on a hopeful note. The video was created by Craig:
The following is a short essay by Craig where he explains a little about why he was compelled to write “Crystal Gulf Waters”.
Craig Reeder Singer/ Songwriter
When the oil spill occurred, I wanted to write a song that would give voice to the feelings and emotions of everyone affected. And even though the song is about the Gulf of Mexico, it took me back to memories of sailing Biscayne Bay when I was a teenager in a tiny little boat. The water was so crystalline, I could see every plant and creature on the bottom, and I’ll always remember the beauty of the gently swaying grasses growing by the edge of the salt marshes. As the waves rolled by, they swayed with an almost musical rhythm, a rhythm I still feel in my dreams and memories.
Now we are all learning how critical those salt marshes are to the entire ecology of the Gulf, and it is sad to think how the damage will spread from one ecological niche to another, eventually affecting nearly all the life of the Gulf, including not only the creatures like oysters, pelicans and crabs, but extending also to the human beings that depend on the fishing industry, people who are likewise a piece of the fabric of the Gulf. When I think back to visiting places along the Gulf like Alligator Harbor and St. Joe Bay, places of pristine nature and crystal clear water, I feel like we are now saying a farewell to all these scenes as we once knew them.
I thought people’s feelings of helplessness needed someplace to go, and I know music is a powerful, cathartic vehicle. The melody came to me quickly, probably an echo of early folk songs from people like Woody Guthrie and Stan Rogers, songs that delivered simple human emotions and socially conscious messages. When the first draft was complete, I turned it over to my singing partner, Adrian Fogelin, who happens to be an award-winning author, and she completely transformed the song by bringing it home on a soaring note of optimism for the future. That’s the kind of hope we all need now.
If you are a musician living in our general area and you’re interested in having us use your music on our video posts, or any kind of artist with works inspired by Florida Gulf environments interested in sharing with us, contact us at email@example.com. To submit materials (like CDs), you can write to:
Rob Diaz de Villegas
1600 Red Barber Plaza
Tallahassee, FL 32310
And, as always, we encourage your comments or questions:
John Spohrer is author of Forgotten Coast, which collects years of photos taken in habitats along the stretch of Florida’s Gulf coast from which the book derives its name. We wanted to talk with him to get a different perspective on the ecosystems with which we’re most concerned: those in the grass and on the reef. John, who is also a Master Naturalist, talked to us about how he photographs the smaller critters on our coasts (like fiddler crabs) and why it’s important to have wild places in Florida.
larval shrimp, such as this one photographed by John Spohrer, often reside in salt marshes
This is the first of what we hope will be many conversations with artists inspired by the richness of our coast. There are many talented people taking photographs, writing essays, painting landscapes, and writing songs about these ecosystems and reminding us why we love these places.
The music in this piece was provided by the Mayhaws. The song is “When I’m Dead,” an environmental ballad. We will as much as possible feature music from local musicians, look for a musicians page on this site soon.
We want to hear from you! We welcome any musicians, photographers, or other artists who work in salt marshes, oyster reefs, or in the Forgotten Coast in general to share your work with us. Add your question or comment below: