Thursday, August 20, 2009

On route 46, drive-by photography at 60 mph

The above photo illustrates the manner in which I decided to shoot: speeding along with one hand on the wheel and my right grasping the camera, using my left steering arm as a stabilizer. This was a totally unintentional, lucky shot, as I was simply trying to photograph the truck with the storm clouds in the background. Instead, I captured my reflection quite clearly, which isn't bad considering both vehicles were traveling about 60 mph.

There are moments when there's just no spare time to stop to smell the roses, or, in my case, to photograph something that catches my eye. That was the case Monday as I hurried to my cousin's birthday celebration in Longwood, which is in Seminole County just north of Orlando.

Avoiding the highways for the sake of a more leisurely journey, I drove my car on State Road 46, which trails through more rural regions from Mims in northern Brevard County, across the St. Johns River and through Sanford, where the main attraction is the airport. Along the way, some photogenic weather phenomena popped up.

The westward-leading road is desolate in most areas. Much of the surrounding land consists of wetlands created by the St. Johns River, Florida's longest river that flows lazily north to Jacksonville. Last year, Tropical Storm Fay flooded a bridge that spans the northern end of Lake Jessup, which is fed by the St. Johns. When driving along the roadway at nighttime during alligator season, it's easy to see airboats with bright spotlights shining into the swamp.

Signs at the mouths of dirt roadways advertise airboat tours, and a few entice passersby with the promise of "authentic Florida cooking," whatever that is. Aside from an intersection in Geneva, a town of a few thousand people, there are few places to gas up along the way.

Without the time to stop to photograph any of this, I did my best without even slowing down. I rolled down the window, pointed the lens quite indiscriminately and fired away.

This photo wasn't even cropped. I surprised myself by keeping the camera quite level as I clicked away while driving over a bridge across the St. Johns River. This horizontal cloud column appeared over Puzzle Lake, then dissipated a few minutes later as I continued to drive westward. Though it formed and dried up quickly, I don't think it was moving or rotating with any rapidity. None of the storms I saw Monday were very severe.

As I neared the end of my time on State Road 46 and was approaching Orlando Sanford International Airport, something caught my eye: a plane flying toward a rainbow that was shooting out from a storm cloud. (Yes, this is a rainbow: Though it appears to be a sun dog, or parhelion, the arc did extend off to the right of this image and toward the ground.) With my handy-dandy 18-200mm lens attached to my camera, I zoomed to full power and fired about three shots. This is the best. I'm sure the driver behind me was wondering what the heck I was doing.

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