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Photo Locations Around Georgia & Neighboring States

William H. Wiley , Oct 27, 2005; 04:08 p.m.

I would appreciate any information regarding the possibilities for wildlife ? nature photography around Atlanta in late December. I have 3-4 days to rent a car and take pictures in northern Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama or South Carolina.

Are there any wildlife refuges or parks in those areas that have wildlife or are particularly photogenic? A couple of years ago in March I had a great trip to the Savannah and Hilton Head National Wildlife Refuges, but I don?t know what birds will be in those areas in late December.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks, Bill Wiley (www.wmwiley.com)


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Ken Dunn , Oct 27, 2005; 09:11 p.m.

May want to check into Cumberland Island, a wonderful place managed by the National Park Service. I try to go there at least once a year,and thinking about taking my boat there about that time of year, maybe we will see ya! Also there is the st augustine alligator farm in northern FLA that is really cool, lots of birds.

Laurie M , Oct 28, 2005; 12:59 a.m.

You might also want to consider Okefenokee Swamp/Stephen Foster State Park. http://gastateparks.org/net/go/parks.aspx?locationid=22&siteid=5

Larry H. - Atlanta, GA , Oct 28, 2005; 09:25 a.m.

If it is wildlife you want, south GA is where you want to go. Specifically, the Okefenokee NWR is the place to be, as mentioned above. And in late December, it will be quite comfortable for you, chilly for the gators ;-) Birdlife, mammals, snakes, gopher tortoises, etc. Plan to do a lot of canoeing, as most of the Okefenokee is Wilderness Area. Falcon publishes a good paddling guide. But keep your fingers crossed that you can get reservations to camp on some of the platforms.

Other photogenic place in S. GA are Cumberland Island (actually any of the Barrier Islands besides Jekyll, St. Simons and Tybee Islands), Providence Canyon SP, Bond Swamp (Nature Conservancy land I believe), St. Augustine Aligator Farm (yeah, I cheated, that's in FL) and the Altamaha and Ogeechee River bottomlands.

If you have a very long lens, in Central GA at the Piedmont NWR, you can find the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, but getting a good picture will be very, very difficult. There are bald eagles along the Ocmulgee River near Macon.

In N. GA, about the only wildlife easily seen are the deer at Red Top Mtn. SP. There are plenty of black bear in the mountains, but I have never been so lucky to see one there. By far, the most photogenic landscape venue in N. GA is Cloudland Canyon SP in extreme NW GA. But you can make good landscape photos anywhere in the N. GA mtns. Lots of waterfalls and cascades everywhere.

William H. Wiley , Oct 28, 2005; 09:46 a.m.

Thanks for the response. Alligators would be a new subject to photograph, as I'm used to bears, elk and birds. What unique shots can you get of alligators besides two eyes poking out of the swampwater?

The website provided by Laurie leads to other good info, so thanks for that.

Sounds like there are a ton of places to go, just a matter of what I'm looking for and how far to drive. Maybe I should extend my stay. Again, thanks for the information. It's really great to be able to share info on the internet. Bill

Larry H. - Atlanta, GA , Oct 28, 2005; 03:39 p.m.

Bill, every square millimeter on an alligator is interesting. It just depends on how much is showing and on your guts (don't be stupid, don't underestimate how far they can move how fast, and don't harass them). Take your longest lens and zoom in on body parts if they are out of the water. Remember, you are too big for them to eat, so unless you bother them, they leave you alone. Also, a canoe looks like a damn big alligator to them, so they won't pick a fight with a bigger gator. I gladly took my twins there a few years ago when they were about seven. My wife was more scared of them than my kids.

In December, hope for a sunny day. (We were there in February or March.) Then, they will be out on the banks sunning themselves. If it is cold and overcast, they will be in the water. But if you catch one swimming from a canoe, you will be rewarded with a good shot.

Laurie M , Oct 28, 2005; 04:01 p.m.

Larry is right, every part of a gator is interesting-The texture and pattern of the skin, the line of the mouth (big toothy grin), and of course the eye.

While alligators don't typically feed on humans, you still have to exercise caution when you approach them, especially the ones that are habituated to human presence. In some instances, due to being fed by people, they do view people as a food source. These can be dangerous. They can go from looking comotose to ferocious in a fraction of a second. Or, one may even approach you like a begging squirrel. Here in Florida, there are several inicidents per year of gator attacks. It's almost always by a gator that's been fed.

It's important to use commmon sense when shooting them. Make sure you're never between them and their avenue of escape. Never feed them. Don't elicit a behavior (considered harrasment). At a recent visit to Okefennokee, I comfortably stood about five feet away from a gator basking on the boat ramp. The moment the gator indicated discomfort (just a slight adjustment in her position), I backed off and she returned to her slumber. Just be aware of very slight movement, gaze, etc. Don't approcach one quickly or aggressively. They'll typically let you know what their acceptable "social space" is. It will vary depending on the alligators exposure to people.

I have a few photos of gators in my wildlife folder. If memory serves, two were shot at Okefenokee.

Rob Murray , Oct 28, 2005; 11:52 p.m.

Scratch the deer at Red Top Mountain park, there used to be many and good shots could be had but there were too many and the park reduced their numbers from about 400 down to 40. Was there last weekend, none were seen...http://www.gon.com/rtop104.html

Larry H. - Atlanta, GA , Oct 30, 2005; 09:01 p.m.

Thanks Rob, for setting me straight about the deer at Red Top Mtn SP. I am glad to hear they thinned the herd. When I was last there, the deer were begging and looked scrawny.

Bill, Laurie is right. Be VERY aware of the body language of gators! You will enjoy the Okefenokee. It is much less well known than the Everglades, and I am happy to let it stay that way. Maybe we shouldn't have told you. ;-)

If you do not mind captive animals, there is a place south of Atlanta called Noah's Ark that would get you good shots of some interesting critters.

William H. Wiley , Oct 31, 2005; 09:43 a.m.

The Okefenoke (sp?) sounds interesting. My dad took me there when I was about 3 years old, but I wasn't exactly into photography at that time.

Thanks for the advice. This might turn out to be a good trip. The big challenge is to fly to Atlanta with all my gear and keep it in one piece. The airlines aren't exactly accomodating to photographers with 600mm lenses and other assorted paraphenia.

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