Lately I've been making it a goal of mine to explore my local area more. Perhaps you find yourself in the same situation as myself. I've lived here in Central Florida for 12 years now and realized that I have yet to see so much of my state. I recently came to the painful conclusion that I've only seen by my best estimates 20% of what the state has to offer photographically speaking. Florida is a large state much like California and there is a lot to see. So, I've made it a project really to get out one day a week if possible and go somewhere new that is within 90 minutes of home. This opens up so many possibilities. On this last trip I drove to Juniper Springs which is about an hours drive East of town down highway 40 headed towards Daytona Beach. Not knowing what to expect, I took all my camera gear and tripod as well as swim trunks as it was due to be a hot day. Juniper Springs is located in the heart of the Ocala National Forest which is mainly arid and full of scrub pine so I had no idea what I'd see or even how long I would be gone. In my mind I thought I'd be in and out in only an hour or two but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. There are a series of trails within the park that lead through the semi tropical forest. The first one that all visitors come to is the main spring and this is where the majority of visitors stay. It's a popular swimming hole with some of the clearest water I've seen on the East Coast.
However, if one is feeling adventurous enough there is a boardwalk path behind the spring that takes visitors through a winding path along Juniper Creek as well as through the forest and ends at Fern Creek Spring. Most people will never see this as it's a short 15 minute hike but the end is worth the work. On this particular weekday morning I found myself alone in this jungle paradise. Among the life around me were gators sleeping in the spring alongside turtles. At one point a lone turkey walked in front of me as he fished the creek for food. The scenery was stunning and the quiet solitude that enveloped me was almost too much. It's been a long time since I've heard that much silence in the outdoors. At Fern Creek I tried out some new HDR techniques which I am pretty happy about all in all and also realized that when shooting anything with water in it, a polarizer filter is a MUST. Fortunately, I brought them and was prepared for what I got. In the end I stayed almost the full day as I brought my swim trunks and went for a couple of swims in the main spring. Planning for the unexpected I brought a lunch and a book too to make this a perfect day. This was a learning experience. I'm beginning to see that by exploring your local area, you discover a piece of yourself. If this is only one of the MANY springs in the area, then I cannot wait to get out and explore them all.