Tag Archives: Fernandina Beach Florida

River Sunset

sunset, Amelia River, Fernandina Beach FL

River Sunset.

Sunrises and sunsets captivate me. No two are ever the same. That’s why I often head to downtown Fernandina Beach, FL to photograph the sunset during our winter stay.

The river setting proves an excellent place to capture a sunset’s beauty both in the sky and in the reflection on the river. The near silhouettes of boats and docks also add to the framing and composition of the photo. Of course, the clouds play a significant role in defusing and deflecting the light, creating an array of brilliant colors.

“River Sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

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Filed under human interest, Photo of the Week, photography

Wandering my own secret garden

hooded mergansers, Egan's Creek Greenway

A lovely couple (Hooded Mergansers).

By Bruce Stambaugh

My guess is we all have at least one. You know. A place you can go to be alone with the world. You declare it as your personal retreat.

It could be your man cave or your sewing room. It could be a remote waterfall miles up a winding trail.

Your place of refuge might be a park bench or even a busy city street corner where hundreds of people pass by with no notice of you. Still, you’re at peace.

Others find solace sitting on the shore of a farm pond or pulling weeds in the family garden patch. It might be an art museum, or for that matter, even one particular painting that mesmerizes you.

I find my inspirational solitude in many venues. During the winter months, I recharge in a three-mile stretch of marshland called Egan’s Creek Greenway. The stream itself runs north through the middle of Amelia Island, Fla., where my wife and I migrate as snowbirds.

Though it’s a public domain, I claim Egan’s Creek Greenway as my private secret garden. The town’s parks and recreation department maintains this sacred place. Lots of folks, locals, tourists and snowbirds like myself, frequent this marvelous reserve.

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Their intrusions don’t bother me at all. In fact, part of the joy is meeting new friends who enjoy the same open space delights. The Greenway is a multiple-use resource.

When I go there, I wear my hiking shoes. I also don my birding vest to squirrel water, snacks, binoculars, a note pad and birding checklist. I also drape a camera around my neck. It’s my way of documenting each and every visit. Get the picture?

Palm fronds are brown from frost or wind damage. Deciduous trees stand bare. Grayish Spanish moss dangles from limbs high and low. A variety of bird species devour the deep blue berries of the cedar trees and the ruby red ones on sparkleberry bushes.

Subtle hints of spring appear even in February. Silver and red maple buds sprout crimson against the live oaks’ perpetual green. The dormant marsh grass stalks show mint green at their bases.

Even in cooler temperatures, people run, jog, bike, walk and bird along the greenway’s well-worn paths that parallel creeks and channels, and crisscross the marsh. On weekends and holidays, the place is abuzz with activity, human and otherwise.

Still, I stroll this paradise in search of whatever finds me. I frequent the Greenway alone, and with my wife, with friends, with family, with strangers. I don’t mind sharing this beautiful secret.

Each trek there unfolds anew with different characters. The results are the same.

On any given day, I can hear Navy helicopters on test flights over the Atlantic. Train engine whistles echo from the town two miles away. None of this interferes with my enjoyment.

A river otter munches on plants in one of the rivulets. A red-shouldered hawk sits on a snag, its harsh call contrasting with its feathery beauty. Gangs of American robins madly chirp when disturbed by a bossy pileated woodpecker.

A plump rabbit and a skinny doe nibble grass only feet away. Alligators and painted turtles soak in the afternoon sun as neighbors.

Gray catbirds gobble the sparkleberries while cedar waxwings down their namesake’s fruit. Scores of yellow-rumped warblers dart in and out of the thickets, plucking insects. Eastern phoebes sit and bob their tails.

Me? I just smile inside and out, thankful for my secret, sacred sanctuary.

Egan's Creek Greenway

Walking the Greenway.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under birding, birds, human interest, nature photography, photography, travel, writing

Industrial sunset

2016-01-21 19.22.36

When shooting photographs, I usually try to exclude anything that might be distractive to the main subject of the photo. However, I do make exceptions from time to time. This sunset scene on the Amelia River in northeast Florida fit that bill.

The glowing lights of the active paper mill accentuated the warm and cool colors of the clouded sunset. The gray clouds matched the venting steam of the mill’s smokestack. The orange reflection of the security lights balanced that of the setting sun’s on the river’s quiet waters.

“Industrial sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

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Filed under architectural photography, nature photography, Photo of the Week, photography, weather

Friends of friends become your friends, too

friends, birthday celebration

Friends Ruth, Don and Ken before Gail arrived for the surprise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

I contemplated the circuitous route of just how I happened to be sitting beneath a party canopy in this Ontario, Canada couple’s backyard. It’s a long but enjoyable story.

It all started when my wife was 14-years-old. Of course, Neva wasn’t my wife then. We married young, but not that young.

Neva accompanied her youth group to a church conference in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1964. With hundreds of teenagers from around the U.S. and Canada attending, with the teens assigned to sleep in homes of local folks.

That’s where Neva met Ruth. Ruth’s family hosted Neva. Neva and Ruth connected right away, and they kept in touch. Seven years later, Ruth and her husband, Ken, attended our wedding in northeast Ohio.

They returned to Ontario. We set up shop here. We all began our careers and started families. We visited Ken and Ruth once when our daughter was just two. Now her youngest child is five. Time melts away, doesn’t it?

With the internet, texting, email, and online chatting science fiction, correspondence via regular mail diminished over time. Life got in the way of our long distance friendship.

About 20 years ago, that unexpectedly changed. Neva saw an advertisement for a tour. She called the toll-free number and guess who answered? Ruth.

friends meeting

Meeting place. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Their personal connection was restored. Ken and Ruth have visited us here in Holmes Co., and we’ve returned to their place in Kitchener. We even vacationed together once. Sometimes we meet in between.

When Ruth learned that Neva and I had become snowbirds to Florida’s Amelia Island, she mentioned that their across the street neighbors also wintered there. That’s where our life circle began to expand.

Ruth exchanged contact numbers with their neighbors and us, and the result was pure magic. In February 2014, we arranged to meet Don and Gail at a coffee shop in Fernandina Beach, the island’s only town.

Before the first sip of coffee, the four of us were yacking away as if we had been lifetime friends. Gail was born in England and still has that lovely disarming accent that is as genuine and gentle as she is. Don was from Bermuda and carries that notorious island swagger with him still, even though he’s been a Canadian now for years.

We chattered like teenagers at a soda shop. It didn’t take long to discover that both Don and I had been volunteer firefighters. As if that wasn’t enough to cement our friendship, photography and nature were also common hobbies.

Having been to Bermuda a couple of times ourselves, we knew many of the locales they mentioned. Don shared stories from his childhood until the present.

true friends

Gail and Neva. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Gail and Neva got along famously, too. While Don and I were off shooting too many photos, our wives were happy just to shop, browse thrift stores, or sit and share. They clicked like childhood friends.

A carpenter by trade, Don was intrigued to learn that the wood industry was king in our county. Over the next month, we would take day trips together, go out to eat, or just play dominoes. That pattern repeated last winter.

That brings me back to sitting under the canopy. We surprised both Don and Gail by crashing her surprise birthday party.

For that little coup, you can blame Ken and Ruth. That’s what lifelong friends do for one another. They help create other equally robust friendships.

That’s the thing about friendship circles. They enrich your life.

friends

Friends. © Don Brown 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Pippi Longstocking comes to life on Amelia Island, Florida

Villa Vilekulla, Pippi Longstocking

The real Villa Villekulla. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Art often imitates life. It’s more unusual to have it happen the other way around.

On Amelia Island, Florida, art and life have harmonized, especially for one particular children’s fictional character, Pippi Longstocking.

Pippi Longstocking was the brainchild of Swedish children’s author, Astrid Lindgren. She wrote a series of adventures about Pippi that have been read and reread by adoring youngsters around the world. The books have been translated into 64 languages.

Pippi books have been so popular that Hollywood had to join in the fun, too. Several versions of Pippi Longstocking movies have been made.

In 1988, an Americanized version of the original Swedish story was made into a movie, which was filmed entirely on Amelia Island. Island tour guides like to point out various locales where scenes from “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” were shot.

Lighthouse cottage, Pippi Longstocking, Fernandina Beach FL

The lighthouse cottage where Pippi threw the bottle into the ocean.

Most of the scenes were filmed in or near Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s only city. The only seashore scene, which was very brief, was filmed just down the beach from where we have stayed on vacation.

When our three grandchildren visited us in Florida near the end of January, they wanted to see some of the locations as depicted in the movie. They had seen the movie, thanks to Nana, who had it on videotape from her teaching days.

Nana packed the tape so the kids could review the various locations in the movie. They watched the light-hearted film, and we were off on our Pippi tour.

Since the setting of much of the book and movie was in Pippi’s dilapidated house, the Villa Villekulla, we headed there first. In previous years, the house looked much the way it appeared in the movie, unkempt, disheveled, and badly in need of a fresh coat of white paint.

Imagine our surprise, and the grandkids’ disappointment, when we found the house being remodeled. A distasteful olive green siding replaced the weathered white clapboards so prominently featured in the film.

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It was evident that the remodeling project was a work in process. The owner had replaced some of the windows of the Victorian-style home. Others were boarded up.

We later learned that the beloved house had been vandalized, purchased, and was being restored with the purpose of giving tours. In the movie, the villain tried repeatedly to obtain the home by deceit so the old house could be demolished and replaced with a moneymaking scheme.

The grandkids were disappointed to learn that the big tree in the side yard where Pippi and her neighbor friends so often played was the convenience of the producer’s imagination. They discovered how movies are produced.

We visited Centre St. in the quaint downtown area, where most of the movie was filmed. The ice cream shop was actually the oldest saloon in Florida. The building Pippi flew her bicycle by just happens to house a toy store named “Villa Villekulla.”

One puzzle remained, however. Where were the orphanage scenes shot? I found the answer after the kids left. Those scenes were filmed at a private school just north of Centre St. Ironically the old brick building originally had been a home for orphans.

When the sun broke through, and the temperatures warmed, our grandchildren’s attention turned from fantasy to reality. They played on the seashore in front of the lighthouse-shaped home where Pippi threw the bottle with a message in it for her father.

Imagination and reality met on the beach. Our grandkids couldn’t have been happier.

Pippi Longstocking, pink sunset

A sunset just the way Pippi would have liked it. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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After the rain

raindrops on berries, color contrasts

After the rain. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The gray, rainy day drove our little group into the local history museum. We enjoyed our 90-minute tour but were ready for a tasty lunch from one of the excellent restaurants in historic Fernandina Beach, Florida. We exited the museum and discovered the rain had stopped, at least for the moment. As I turned the corner of the old brick building to head to the car, these bright berries quickly caught my eye.

I loved the way the glistening raindrops, ready to drip, made the berries shine. Their fire engine red brightened the dull day.

“After the rain” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Seaside musings help while away winter

breakfast on the beach

Snowbird breakfast. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

A Bonaparte’s Gull landed in the salty water near where the grandfatherly gentleman stood focused on his seashell mission. The man didn’t notice the majestic bird still in its winter plumage. Instead, he gazed downward as the nearly calm ocean lapped at the shore.

Like so many other beachgoers, this human being searched for treasure. He pursued colorful shells, starfish, and shark’s teeth uncovered from their sandy hiding spots by the steadily moving waters.

The ocean glistened in the late morning sun, still not strong enough to fend off the cold north wind. That didn’t deter the gem hunters.

The joggers or walkers, often with a dog or two attached to leashes, also plied the sandy shoreline. The canines either forged ahead or got pulled along.

Click on photos to enlarge them.

At sunrise, the Black Skimmers fed in their fashion, beaks skimming the water’s surface for seafood fare. Later they huddled on the warming sand, preening, resting, readying for their next expedition.

The magnificent Northern Gannets displayed a different approach. They flapped their long narrow wings, black tips contrasting sharply with the rest of their ivory feathers. The gannets sailed and circled. Once spotting their targets, they dived kamikaze-style into the ocean where they sat and swallowed their catch.

The Brown Pelicans mimicked the gannets in style but lacked the grace. The bulky birds sailed on the breeze until they spied their meal, then hurled themselves head first into the water. Their steam shovel-like bill had scooped in their prey before the birds righted themselves and downed the fish.

Trawlers trailed giant nets up and down the waters offshore snaring shrimp and fish. Scores of gulls, terns and gannets swirled madly behind the boat, hoping to catch any escaping seafood.

The ocean itself had split personalities. Sometimes tranquil, sometimes angry, the waters either licked or pounded at the shoreline depending on the ocean’s mood. If gale force winds accompanied high tide overnight, the gritty beach yielded.

What once was a gentle slope to the sea had had a makeover in the new moon darkness. The sunrise beachcombers had one, two or even three terraces to step down to the shore for their strolls.

Black Skimmer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Black Skimmer. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Helicopters shuttled to and fro from a nearby Naval base just the way a pair of Ospreys zipped and hovered above the beach. The main difference was the birds weren’t practicing. For the Ospreys, a successful hunt meant survival.

Tiny Sanderlings scampered along the shore, too. Probing for nutrition, they zigzagged along the foamy sea edge as it ebbed and flowed.

Youngsters tossed a few gulls bits of bread. It didn’t take long for the boys to wish they hadn’t.

Shore fishermen cast their lines far out into the water, letting their live bait attract the fish they sought to reel in. Until then, they stuck the handle of the rod into a sturdy holder secured in the sand and took a seat.

Others only wanted to warm themselves in February’s sun, using the backs of their beach chairs for windbreaks. They read or were content just to be.

When the waves occasionally called their names, locals dressed in wet suits carried surfboards, waded into the water, and paddled out for the perfect wave. When they got a good one, they rode it until the curl collapsed.

In dawn’s golden light, pods of dolphins coursed the waters for their breakfasts. Their bobbing dorsal fins foretold their way. They were mesmerizing to watch, a model of all activity along a winter’s beach.

full moon, Belt of Venus, Atlantic Ocean

A full moon rises above the Belt of Venus on the eastern horizon of the Atlantic Ocean caused by the sunset on the western horizon. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Introducing a few of the people I’ve met along life’s path

gathering of friends, Fernandina Beach FL

We recently gathered with friends in Fernandina Beach, FL. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

There can be no mistake about it. I enjoy meeting new people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the guys and gals I already know. I like them, too, and the stories and friendships we share.

Of course, I love my family. They mean the world to me. I hope they think likewise.

I find there is just something personally memorable about meeting strangers who so willing and so easily engage in conversation. It might be the only one we have, and then we all move on. Then again, happenstance encounters might lead to endearing bonds. You never know unless you take a risk.

I’m glad for folks who feel the same way. Otherwise, life wouldn’t nearly be as sunny. To be sure, traveling takes away the home field advantage for everyone. We’re all standing on neutral ground.

Dick Stambaugh, Marian Stambaugh, Bruce Stambaugh, parents

My late parents, Dick and Marian Stambaugh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I attribute my willingness to smile and greet others to two factors. One was my gregarious father, who knew no strangers. He enjoyed exploring nature and history, and the fear of asking was never a fault. Tact, however, didn’t seem to be in his repertoire. People liked him anyhow.

The other is my intense yearning for learning. And the only way to satisfy that is to listen, look, read, ask and explore. Hopefully, I mind my manners in the process.

Travel enhances the desire to gain new understandings. It also has afforded plenty of opportunities to meet and know many fine folks. A few of them come to mind.

While visiting San Antonio’s world famous River Walk, I casually asked a local police officer where the best place to eat lunch was. He deferred, saying he wasn’t permitted to make recommendations.

sunrise, Grand Canyon

Sunrise at Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon, AZ. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.

I reworded my question. “Where are you going to eat lunch?” I asked. He told me, and we waved to each other as he walked in.

We found a young ranger equally helpful at Grand Canyon National Park. When he finished his talk, I asked him where the best place was to view the sunrise.

The wise young man looked around, leaned in and whispered, “Shoshone Point.” We weren’t disappointed the next morning.

When vacationing in Fernandina Beach, Florida, I kept seeing the same woman evening after evening taking photos of the sunset over the town’s harbor on the Intercostal waterway. We talked, shared about photography, and the next thing I knew Lea had invited me to her home for a camera club meeting.

photography, Fernandina Beach FL

My friend Lea being Lea. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I can tell we’re going to be photographic comrades for a long time.

More than 30 years ago, Neva and I attended a church conference in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We stayed in an old brick farmhouse of a very gracious guest. We hit it off right away, despite my lame attempts at humor. I especially loved Mary’s tasty and colorful meals. We’ve been friends ever since, even attending her wedding. Now we love her saint of a husband just as much as Mary.

photography, friends

Impromptu photo situations are my favorite with friends. © Bruce Stamaugh 2015

Several years ago, Neva and I met Sharon, a nationally syndicated columnist, at a book signing in Toledo of all places. We hit it off right away and have been communicating and encouraging one another’s writing ever since.

These are but a few examples of the many, many kind people we have met along life’s meandering path. I’d run out of ink if I mentioned everyone.

Besides, you know who you are. Thanks so much for being our friends.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Light upon light

oil lamp, sunlight, sunrays,

Light upon light. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

My wife and I and some friends of ours from Ohio were visiting Ft. Clinch in Ft. Clinch State Park in Fernandina, FL during a “Living History Day.” A volunteer in era-appropriate Civil War attire was eloquently sharing about the old fort’s infirmary when this oil lamp caught my attention. The morning sunlight warmly played upon the lamp and the table on which it sat. The white-washed brick wall, with some original mortar showing through, served as an appropriate backdrop. The setting made for an impromptu capture without me being too rude to our guide.

“Light upon light” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Heading Home

fishing boat, sunset, Florida

Heading home. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

This recent sunset over the Amelia River, Fernandina Beach, FL was stunning all on its own. When this family fishing boat cut across the foreground heading home for the night, it gave the photo even more contrast, depth and meaning.

“Heading Home” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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