Where to Photograph in the Everglades

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A guest post By Cliff Kolber from www.kolberphotography.com.

Cliff Kolber_Sanctuary.jpg
The Florida Everglades and other wetlands cover thousands of square miles between the east and west coast of Florida. Everglades National Park is the centerpiece of the region, but there is a long list of other great places to explore and photograph. Here are seven of my favorite destinations for bird and landscape photography in South Florida. Some are well-known while others are obscure or out-of-the-way. They are all well worth the effort and should result in great fun and great photography. More details on Loop Road and Pahayokee can be found in my website under the Newsletters tab.

The list is by no means all-inclusive but it does give you a rich menu of some great places to visit. Bring your longest lens (at least 400mm) for bird and wildlife photography along with a quality tripod and you should have a successful trip.

The best time to visit is during the South Florida winter, from November through early April. Birds are abundant, the weather is pleasant, and mosquitoes should be few and far between (hopefully). Winter is also the dry season; it rains very little during these months. In some of these locations you will see alligators and possible encounter one on the road. Let them have their space. Alligators are more afraid of you than you of them.

Loop Road

Cliff Kolber_Loop Road.jpg

I love this road. It’s my favorite. Loop Road travels 26 miles through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve. Ten miles are paved and 16 miles are unpaved and not well maintained. High clearance vehicles do best on this road. Very unfortunately, the National Park Service recently closed the unpaved portion until May, 2010 for repairs. But the paved portion is still open and worth the trip. Loop Road intersects U.S. 41 at a bend about 40 miles west of Miami and then again another 15 miles west on U.S. 41. There are many culverts and ponds on both sides of the road and you should find an array of wading birds, alligators and other wildlife. I sometimes shoot from the car window so that I don’t spook the wildlife. Use a bean bag or improvise with a shirt or towel to stabilize the lens on the door. After spending some time on Loop Road you’ll understand why this is a favorite destination of mine. The best time to shoot is morning.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Located in suburban Delray Beach on Jog Road, Wakodahatchee Wetlands was created about 10 years ago and has become a prolific bird sanctuary featuring herons, anhingas, purple gallinules, bitterns, limpkins and more. Access is via a boardwalk which can vibrate slightly when others are walking near you. So be aware and shoot when you can. But it’s well worth the effort. Best time is to arrive within an hour after sunrise.

Cliff Kolber_Green Heron 9.jpg

Shark Valley

Shark Valley is a magnet for wading birds and photographers. It is part of the Everglades National Park and is located about 35 miles west of Miami on U.S. 41. You’ll find a large variety of wading and other birds, most within 50 feet of your lens. Shark Valley opens at 8:30 am but you can walk in before that. If you do, park your car along US 41 but avoid the “no parking” zone or you WILL be ticketed.

Cliff Kolber_Purple-Gallinule-3.jpg

Pahayokee Road

Cliff Kolber_Pahayokee Sunrise 2.jpg

Pahayokee road is a great sunrise location in Everglades National Park. You’ll be shooting toward the east and using cypress trees for silhouettes against the rising sun. The results can be spectacular. Take the main road in Everglades National Park about 10 miles until you see a sign for “Pahayokee Overlook”. Turn there and park within 100 yards of the main road. You can shoot from the road, or if the water level is low enough you can wander into the sawgrass for different perspectives and trees to use in your composition.

Cliff Kolber_Pahayokee sunrise4.jpg

Anhinga Trail

Cliff Kolber_Anhinga.jpg

After shooting sunrise at Pahayokee road, it’s a ten minute drive back to the Anhinga Trail which is close to the main entrance to the park. This is one of the most popular locations throughout the Everglades for bird photography. Wading birds, anhingas, gallinules and cormorants are very tame and easily approachable. Anhingas nest in the winter and chicks can be seen in the nest around February and March.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve

The Fakahatchee is sometimes called the “Amazon of North America”. It is a hundred square miles of swamp and forest with huge strands of cypress and tropical hardwood hammocks. The entrance is 2 ½ miles north of U.S. 41 on S.R. 29, which is about 65 miles west of Miami on U.S. 41. You’ll explore the preserve by car on Janes Scenic Drive, an 11 mile unpaved road that cuts through the heart of the region. There are several walking trails that extend from the road into the depths of the preserve. Check with the ranger or online to determine which trails are open. You’ll find an array of subjects to photograph: swamps, hardwood hammocks, orchids, bromeliads, alligators, birds and wetland plants and flowers. This is an unmaintained, rustic area with a rich diversity of tropical wilderness and wildlife.

Cliff Kolber_Swamp Lily_DSC_2644.jpg

Turner River Road

Turner River Road is about 60 miles west of Miami on U.S. 41. You’ll see a sign that says “SR 839 – HP Williams Roadside Park”. Turn north there and you’ll be on the road. It’s a gravel road that stretches 20 miles north along a canal, but the best photography is along the first few miles. You’ll find an abundance of wading birds, anhingas, cormorants, alligators and other wildlife. The best time for photography is late afternoon when the sun is behind you, lighting the far side of the canal which is on the east side of the road.

Cliff Kolber_lunchtime.jpg

There you have it – A few of my favorite locations for bird, wildlife and scenic photography in the Everglades. Be careful out there and remember that you’re merely a visitor in the home of the wildlife. Enjoy the outdoors, tread lightly, and “pack it in, pack it out” – don’t litter and don’t damage anything.

About the Author: Cliff Kolber is a nature and travel photographer and writer based in Miami, Florida. He and his wife Doris have created a spectacular portfolio of images and articles from around the world, specializing in the Florida Everglades, the American Southwest and Antarctica. Visit Cliff’s website at www.kolberphotography.com.

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  • I live miles away from florida, so I won’t comment on the locations given – but I do have a question about your photo’s. Did you sharpen them much? Because almost all of them look oversharpened, some even have halo’s :O .

  • Shokinen

    Last March, I had the chance to go in the Everglades (in live near Ottawa in Canada) on our last day trip. We did a cruise in the Caribbeans with Carnival and our last stop was in Fort Lauderdale around 8:00am. Problem is our flight was around 10:00pm… so we had some times ahead of us. We decided to get a tour in the everglades including a ride on an airboat. I took so many shots that day hehehehe.

    See 2 of my favorite shoot of this awsome day.

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2571/3885554857_6fc6903d41.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2659/3885553329_8397ed851d.jpg[/img]

  • Loop Road is a great place to photograph wildlife minus the crowds, but access is trickier. If you want easy wildlife shots, then the Anhinga Trail is ideal…but you will be with LOTS of other people. 🙂 Great post and great photos!!

  • Dave

    Thanks for a great article. I’ve been to most of the places, but not all. I’ll try to hit them on my next trip! I prefer the first couple weeks in April, or the end of March, because that is breeding season and the plumage on the birds is at it’s best. I’ve also been able to shoot a lot of young birds still in the nest.

    The alligators will not go after you unless you happen to get between a mother and her young. [img]http://www.greatdances.net/daves/travel/florida2008/Big%20Cypress%20&%20Everglades/slides/IMG_2669.JPG[/img]

  • Dave

    Sorry I forgot to reduce the size of the photo. Not sure if I can fix it now, or not.

    Anyway, here’s the full story on this photo. I’d been at a Moose Petersen talk a few days before visiting Shark Valley. Moose had said that no time in his 30 years of wildlife photography had he ever been threatened by the wildlife. He said he’d never been attacked, charged, or even bluff charged. So, I’m standing in a break in the sawgrass, along the canal in Shark Valley. I’m shooting this large alligator swimming down the canal. The ‘gator turned to look at me, then went back to swimming. He turned again, and this time he started swimming straight towards me. The first thing that came to mind was exactly what Moose had said, but I got out of there anyway! The alligator stopped exactly where I’d been standing. It was then I realized, I’d been standing in “his” spot. The sawgrass had been beaten down by him.

    BTW, this photo was not taken with a telephoto lens. I got brave and walked back to within about 6-8 ft.

  • xemena

    Great article, I will have to get out to those places listed. The photos are great! And NOT overly sharp! Green Cay Wetlands is also a great place for wildlife too. Just a couple miles from Wakodahatchee on Hagen Road.

  • WENDELL UNDERWOOD

    THANKS FOR THE INFO AND THE GREAT PIC. I WILL BE IN FL BEGINNING JAN, DO U HAVE WORKSHOPS OR CONDUCT TOURS?
    I LIKE YOUR STYLE. I AM TRYING TO IMPROVE MY PHOTOGRAPHY & WOULD APPRECIATE SUGGESTIONS ON EDUCATION. I AM LOCATED IN VERO BEACH

  • Chris

    Shokinen,
    My wife and I just got back from Fort Lauderdale Sunday and we did the same tour. Great photos…I managed to get some of the same show.

  • Another great way to see and photograph the Everglades is to take a canoe trip out of Everglades City. Either day or week trips are great.

  • rabin

    The article is good and all, but please remove that watermark from the pictures. It makes photos ugly, seriously. Believe me, noone’s going to steal your pictures. We have better things to do!

  • Jerry

    wow. these photos are incredible and thank you for sharing all this information about special places in the everglades. I’m assuming that you aren’t putting the REALLY special places on the internet so I too like Wendell would love to take a tour or workshop with you. is that something you offer?

  • Really good tips. When I was a kid I practically lived next door to the everglades. But before digital photography I only took documentary and holiday snaps. It was the infinite “film” of digital that allowed me to start shooting animals. Unfortunately, I now live in MD and my folks moved to Tampa. Still, now that I’m into bird photography, I’ll have to make a trip out there.

  • Jerry and Wendell,
    we do offer guided photography trips into the Everglades. Contact us and we’d be happy to set something up with you.

  • Thanks for saving me the time of searching for good Everglades shooting locations. I live a few hours north, but will be visiting the area soon. So far my favorite wildlife shots have come from Myakka River State Park, a great place for out of water alligator photography:

    [img][/img]

    I don’t look forward to having to battle crowds at the Everglades though, that’s why I left Japan because not only were there lots of people just looking, there were always tons of other photographers already taking up the best spots!

  • Polo

    Thanks for the interesting article! I live in Ft Lauderdale, so I’m close enough to get out to the EVerglades whenever I want. For this particular shot, we were traveling north to south through the Glades and were practrically swamped in our car by this monster rain storm! We pulled over to the side where there was a marina, and tourist area. The place was closed due to the storm…but I managed to get a few photos. [img]http://www.myshutterspace.com/photo/everready-everglades[/img]

  • Ken

    Very nice article! These are places even locals don’t often visit, e.g. the Loop Road. I suggest bringing a wide lens for pano shots of the wide open glades, as well as a macro lens for bugs and plants. You’ll never run out of things to shoot.

    Florida Panthers have even been spotted on the Loop Road.

    You can also find old abandoned cars and machinery off the road sometimes.

  • I along with two of my associates will be shooting in south Florida on Nov. 27. May use some of your suggestions. Thanks.

  • peter kovak

    I was once in Florida, 5 years ago, for almost one month, during the right season, and exactly the last two days, planed to be spent in the Everglades, were a disaster – heavy rain with wind ! So it’s gonna be next time (don’t know exactly when, sorry !!!)

  • Murray Schwartz

    I live in South Fl & have visited The Delrey area as well as Flamingo Park in Davie which is loaded with all sort of nature.
    American Orchid Society of Delrey has a wonderful park of Orchids & excellent displays.
    Murray Schwartz Kings Point Camera Club Tamarac Fl

  • canfield.. enjoy! we were in the everglades today and hopefully the weather, wildlife and birds will be as good next week!

  • hal mooney

    A RealMan photographer would never take pictures from a BOAT!
    In the water! Wading around in the water! And no sissy waders, either!
    Just you and the wildlife, up close and personal. HA!!

  • Very impressive Photographs!!
    I have yet to make it to the Everglades these are great tips thanks for sharing them!

  • Bill Powers

    Really superb photos. Unfortunately, as already pointed out, the watermark does indeed detract from the images.

Some Older Comments

  • Bill Powers January 5, 2010 10:41 pm

    Really superb photos. Unfortunately, as already pointed out, the watermark does indeed detract from the images.

  • MarcusAdkins December 2, 2009 09:32 am

    Very impressive Photographs!!
    I have yet to make it to the Everglades these are great tips thanks for sharing them!

  • hal mooney November 21, 2009 12:15 pm

    A RealMan photographer would never take pictures from a BOAT!
    In the water! Wading around in the water! And no sissy waders, either!
    Just you and the wildlife, up close and personal. HA!!

  • Cliff November 21, 2009 11:56 am

    canfield.. enjoy! we were in the everglades today and hopefully the weather, wildlife and birds will be as good next week!

  • Murray Schwartz November 21, 2009 01:35 am

    I live in South Fl & have visited The Delrey area as well as Flamingo Park in Davie which is loaded with all sort of nature.
    American Orchid Society of Delrey has a wonderful park of Orchids & excellent displays.
    Murray Schwartz Kings Point Camera Club Tamarac Fl

  • peter kovak November 20, 2009 05:50 pm

    I was once in Florida, 5 years ago, for almost one month, during the right season, and exactly the last two days, planed to be spent in the Everglades, were a disaster - heavy rain with wind ! So it's gonna be next time (don't know exactly when, sorry !!!)

  • Canfield Photography November 20, 2009 12:19 pm

    I along with two of my associates will be shooting in south Florida on Nov. 27. May use some of your suggestions. Thanks.

  • Ken November 20, 2009 04:29 am

    Very nice article! These are places even locals don't often visit, e.g. the Loop Road. I suggest bringing a wide lens for pano shots of the wide open glades, as well as a macro lens for bugs and plants. You'll never run out of things to shoot.

    Florida Panthers have even been spotted on the Loop Road.

    You can also find old abandoned cars and machinery off the road sometimes.

  • Polo November 20, 2009 04:25 am

    Thanks for the interesting article! I live in Ft Lauderdale, so I'm close enough to get out to the EVerglades whenever I want. For this particular shot, we were traveling north to south through the Glades and were practrically swamped in our car by this monster rain storm! We pulled over to the side where there was a marina, and tourist area. The place was closed due to the storm...but I managed to get a few photos. [img]http://www.myshutterspace.com/photo/everready-everglades[/img]

  • Jason Collin Photography November 19, 2009 06:35 am

    Thanks for saving me the time of searching for good Everglades shooting locations. I live a few hours north, but will be visiting the area soon. So far my favorite wildlife shots have come from Myakka River State Park, a great place for out of water alligator photography:

    [img][/img]

    I don't look forward to having to battle crowds at the Everglades though, that's why I left Japan because not only were there lots of people just looking, there were always tons of other photographers already taking up the best spots!

  • Cliff November 19, 2009 12:24 am

    Jerry and Wendell,
    we do offer guided photography trips into the Everglades. Contact us and we'd be happy to set something up with you.

  • Eric Mesa November 18, 2009 10:45 pm

    Really good tips. When I was a kid I practically lived next door to the everglades. But before digital photography I only took documentary and holiday snaps. It was the infinite "film" of digital that allowed me to start shooting animals. Unfortunately, I now live in MD and my folks moved to Tampa. Still, now that I'm into bird photography, I'll have to make a trip out there.

  • Jerry November 18, 2009 08:44 pm

    wow. these photos are incredible and thank you for sharing all this information about special places in the everglades. I'm assuming that you aren't putting the REALLY special places on the internet so I too like Wendell would love to take a tour or workshop with you. is that something you offer?

  • rabin November 18, 2009 07:22 pm

    The article is good and all, but please remove that watermark from the pictures. It makes photos ugly, seriously. Believe me, noone's going to steal your pictures. We have better things to do!

  • Dick Beery November 18, 2009 08:55 am

    Another great way to see and photograph the Everglades is to take a canoe trip out of Everglades City. Either day or week trips are great.

  • Chris November 18, 2009 08:29 am

    Shokinen,
    My wife and I just got back from Fort Lauderdale Sunday and we did the same tour. Great photos...I managed to get some of the same show.

  • WENDELL UNDERWOOD November 18, 2009 08:15 am

    THANKS FOR THE INFO AND THE GREAT PIC. I WILL BE IN FL BEGINNING JAN, DO U HAVE WORKSHOPS OR CONDUCT TOURS?
    I LIKE YOUR STYLE. I AM TRYING TO IMPROVE MY PHOTOGRAPHY & WOULD APPRECIATE SUGGESTIONS ON EDUCATION. I AM LOCATED IN VERO BEACH

  • xemena November 18, 2009 08:09 am

    Great article, I will have to get out to those places listed. The photos are great! And NOT overly sharp! Green Cay Wetlands is also a great place for wildlife too. Just a couple miles from Wakodahatchee on Hagen Road.

  • Dave November 18, 2009 04:32 am

    Sorry I forgot to reduce the size of the photo. Not sure if I can fix it now, or not.

    Anyway, here's the full story on this photo. I'd been at a Moose Petersen talk a few days before visiting Shark Valley. Moose had said that no time in his 30 years of wildlife photography had he ever been threatened by the wildlife. He said he'd never been attacked, charged, or even bluff charged. So, I'm standing in a break in the sawgrass, along the canal in Shark Valley. I'm shooting this large alligator swimming down the canal. The 'gator turned to look at me, then went back to swimming. He turned again, and this time he started swimming straight towards me. The first thing that came to mind was exactly what Moose had said, but I got out of there anyway! The alligator stopped exactly where I'd been standing. It was then I realized, I'd been standing in "his" spot. The sawgrass had been beaten down by him.

    BTW, this photo was not taken with a telephoto lens. I got brave and walked back to within about 6-8 ft.

  • Dave November 18, 2009 03:39 am

    Thanks for a great article. I've been to most of the places, but not all. I'll try to hit them on my next trip! I prefer the first couple weeks in April, or the end of March, because that is breeding season and the plumage on the birds is at it's best. I've also been able to shoot a lot of young birds still in the nest.

    The alligators will not go after you unless you happen to get between a mother and her young. [img]http://www.greatdances.net/daves/travel/florida2008/Big%20Cypress%20&%20Everglades/slides/IMG_2669.JPG[/img]

  • Sarah November 18, 2009 02:49 am

    Loop Road is a great place to photograph wildlife minus the crowds, but access is trickier. If you want easy wildlife shots, then the Anhinga Trail is ideal...but you will be with LOTS of other people. :) Great post and great photos!!

  • Shokinen November 18, 2009 02:27 am

    Last March, I had the chance to go in the Everglades (in live near Ottawa in Canada) on our last day trip. We did a cruise in the Caribbeans with Carnival and our last stop was in Fort Lauderdale around 8:00am. Problem is our flight was around 10:00pm... so we had some times ahead of us. We decided to get a tour in the everglades including a ride on an airboat. I took so many shots that day hehehehe.

    See 2 of my favorite shoot of this awsome day.

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2571/3885554857_6fc6903d41.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2659/3885553329_8397ed851d.jpg[/img]

  • Danferno November 18, 2009 12:42 am

    I live miles away from florida, so I won't comment on the locations given - but I do have a question about your photo's. Did you sharpen them much? Because almost all of them look oversharpened, some even have halo's :O .

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