I remember sitting on my eggplant purple couch, in a panic, opening the Nikon box. As usual, the parts of the box, packaging and manuals went on the floor, as I quickly admired my prize. Click, click, click as I attached the new 18–135 lens and two- yes two SD cards. The D7000 had a whopping 16 megapixels and was weather sealed too! It was one heck of a camera. Now, I knew that I was just about ready to go “Pro.”
The next day we headed out to Matanzas Inlet - a favorite local spot for birds, and cool beach scenery too. Of course that day happened to be cloudy, windy, drizzly and cold… well - cold for Florida anyway. No matter, we toughed it out and hiked out amongst the dunes. What a rush - a faster FPS and a deeper buffer! I was in wildlife heaven! OR SO I THOUGHT.
Time flew by and soon it was January. I still remember the first morning asking Mary if she wanted to go to a new place with me - Merritt Island. “I hear it’s pretty good," I said to her “Maybe we should check it out.” She agreed, as usual… (Mary’s biggest flaw is that she loves me too much) and off we went.
There’s no place like it on earth - at least the earth I’ve experienced so far. Coming over the Max Brewer Bridge (yes, I even know what the dang bridge name is) is still a thrill and a call back to a million memories before. We drove onto the preserve and fortunately went right to the visitors center. A kind volunteer broke out a map of the whole place and told us about “Biolab Road” and “Pumphose Road” and a dozen other great places. He told us if it was our first time - we absolutely had to check out Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. It was Five Dollars a car, and was the best place on the preserve.
On my way out I noticed a sign for driving tours - conveniently one was happening the very next day. I filed it away, just in case this place really did live up to all the hype. Spoiler - we came back the next day. And the next weekend. And the following weekend. We explored every nook and cranny of the preserve. Always stopping by the visitors center to check to see if any rarities were spotted.
Fast forward a few weeks to another cold, windy, drizzly day not unlike I mentioned earlier. Undeterred, Mary and I were off to our (read: my) favorite destination - Black Point Wildlife Drive. We arrived on the drive just after 9am, and promptly slowed our car down to a crawl, like we always do. Half hanging out of our windows looking for birds, or really any sign of life. If you’ve been there before - you know the pond - but if not, as you’re driving along with impoundments and marsh along your left, you eventually come to a large bend in the road with a large open water lake on your right side. Just prior to the lake is a good place to park and the lake used to be, in it’s heyday, one of the best spots for ducks.
Unlike most trips - I didn’t pull off and get out, instead I kept driving. Why? There was another car parked just a bit further up with a photographer taking pictures. I wanted to chat, so I thought I’d be friendly. I still remember the car - a white Nisan Pathfinder, with a custom license plate that spelled out Nikon. Well - I just had to talk to this guy, he shoots the same brand I do. So being the goof I am, I pulled up behind him, hopped out of my pickup and walked around to the front of the Nisan where he was standing.
That was the first moment I ever saw it. So huge, covered in Neoprene and sexy as all get out! A huge 500mm Nikon prime lens. Until that day, I had never seen something so big and glorious before. I sauntered up to the gentleman there and began taking pictures along side him. “Nice Lens!” I commented. I was playing it super cool (or so I thought,) but the guy could clearly see I was salivating.
“Wanna check it out?” he said. “Be still my heart” I thought. I went over to his lens - mounted on a sturdy gimbal head and carbon fiber tripod and looked through the eyepiece. “WOW!” I thought… I’ve got to get me one of these. We chatted for a while, and he even let me hold the lens. I was in LOVE! He, of course, had a pro camera bolted to that big beautiful lens (probably a D3s or D4 at the time) and even a flash with a better beamer too. SO COOL!
Thus began my next obsession… big glass.