Arthur R. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Photography Project


Edited by Claudia Farren, Comments Under Photos are by Charles O. Slavens

This photo montage comes from Charles O. Slavens who lives near the Arthur R. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge located in western Palm Beach County. These images are frame grabs from several videos featuring fish and wildlife in the refuge. The captions are his own observations from long hours of filming. His work on the project started in November of 2013 and is on-going.


“The camera is near the bottom of the pond looking straight up. The small fish are most likely bluegills, who often follow gators hoping they will stir up some food.”


“A bluegill following an alligator.”


“In the background, on the right, is an anhinga, which is high on the list of water creatures I want to capture in video. When they travel through a school of fish they appear to be surrounded by a force field about two feet across. I’m assuming that the fish have set that as just outside the strike zone.”


“A bluegill near the surface on a sunny day.”


When the blue tilapia cruise through the area they follow generally repeated routes. Here I placed the camera in a pathway on the bottom looking upward.” (Blue tilapia, nonnative, are found throughout Florida.)


“This is a bullhead (catfish), which is usually near the bottom. I placed the camera in a narrow pathway and pointed it upward. This was during a period of little rainfall and the water level was very low, which makes it very cloudy.”


“A largemouth bass. The perspective is exaggerated because of the wide angle lens. It’s rare for one of these guys to get this close to the camera as they tend to lay back and watch the activity. I’ve witnessed only one attempt by one of them to grab another fish . . . the fish got away.”


“Kind of rare for a shiner to get this close to the camera. They’re fast swimmers and are not interested, unlike the bluegills who routinely bump up against the lens.”


“The sunfish here also is not all that interested in the camera and tends to hang back.”


This is a juvenile sunfish. I’m interested in the entire life cycle of these critters and do a lot of my photography in shallow areas that I call the nursery. If he wandered out another 20 feet into the pond he’d make a nice snack for a largemouth bass.”


“Florida softshell turtle.”


Biography of Charles O. Slavens:

I bought a camera in a pawn shop while stationed in the Army in Texas where they had a darkroom on the base. I’m completely self-taught. I bought 100-foot rolls of black-and-white film and loaded my own film cassettes. I devised little photo projects wherever I  happened to be stationed. I didn’t know it at the time but I was developing an eye for street photography, which remains a major interest. Some of the photos I shot during that period are still part of my portfolio.

When I got out of the Army in San Francisco I drove across country to New York City to pursue a career in photography. Photographically, it looked like the most exciting stuff happening in the big city was in fashion.

As a fashion photographer’s assistant, when I wasn’t on the set, I was in the darkroom learning and perfecting various printing techniques and refining my sense of composition. After a while, I began to see that the culture surrounding the fashion industry was not where I wanted to be. While still at the studio I took film production courses at NYU and switched over to filmmaking. I worked for various film producers as a cameraman/editor and eventually began soliciting my own clients.

Today, I’m retired and do photo and video projects about subjects that interest me. I went digital and started shooting wildlife and nature shortly after I moved to Florida in 2004. I like to zero in on a subject and examine its habits in detail and I prefer shooting in areas that are not heavily trafficked by people just out for a walk.

The Video Project:

The fish video idea first popped up in November 2013 and it is on-going. We’ve all seen tons of footage about life in the sea with oceanic fish swimming in crystal-clear water. The problems facing a photographer in a marsh-water system are different.

Because there’s not a fast moving current, any debris that is kicked up does not quickly go away. So, you have to find another way to put your camera in the water. Over the last several months I’ve developed various rigs for doing that.

The other problem is that you cannot see what is in the camera frame. I’m using a GoPro which has a wide angle lens. In addition, you cannot judge reliably from above the surface what might be in front of the camera. So, I just turn the camera on and leave it on for various periods of time. The camera’s position in the water and the direction in which it may be pointed will be determined by which fish I’m tracking at that time.

The fish still photos [seen above] are low resolution video frame grabs. This camera is shooting at about 1/30 of a second, which is very slow for stills. When making these little photos I try to compensate for the inherent focus problems by processing the frames in Photoshop. In the video they’ll seem to be in focus because of the nature of “persistence of vision”.

The water in the swamp is heavy with particulate matter, most of which you can’t see. This is deceiving because it looks clear from above the surface. But all that invisible stuff changes the color temperature of the water drastically and the deeper you go the more monochromatic your scenes become. Depending upon the location, depth and weather, the scenery can look like black-and-white film that’s been dyed greenish-yellow.

You’ll get more Audubon-like images if you shoot with the sun behind you. The dramatic stuff comes from the sun behind the subject . . . just like above the water . . . same rules apply.

I hope to finish my fish videos by the end of summer.

Below are links to other video projects. I think there are about eight (8) nature video and some other videos on different topics. I think VIMEO is probably the least cluttered. If the links don’t take you directly to my page, just Google, in quotes: “Charles O.Slavens”.


Two New Exhibits are MUST-SEES at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee

By Claudia Farren, Communications Consultant

Do you live in Tallahassee or are you coming for a visit this spring or summer? The Museum of Florida History has two new exhibits, the Springs Eternal exhibit and The Lure of Florida Fishing that you won’t want to miss. Florida’s springs are suffering from pollution and loss of flow. John Moran’s exhibit, Springs Eternal, hopes to influence citizen behavior and public policy through his photographs of both pristine habitats and those that are not so pristine anymore. The Lure of Florida Fishing exhibit is a fun walk-through of sport fishing history in our state. Sport fishing has enticed fishermen and tourists to the Sunshine State since the nineteenth century. In 1885, tarpon were traditionally taken by harpoons. When an angler caught one on a rod and reel, the first “Florida fishing craze” was born.


The Springs Eternal exhibit is currently showing at the Musem of Florida History at the R. A. Gray Building, 500 S. Bronough Street in Tallahassee.

Florida outdoor photographer, John Moran, has been photographing his favorite Florida springs for 30 years. Through his photographs presented at the R. A. Gray Building near the State Capitol, he has documented the progression of too many of our Florida springs as they have turned from pristine jewels to ones polluted by algae and mats of weeds. This process has been fed in large part by nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients contained in the run-off from storm drains, fertilized lawns and septic tanks. Some springs even suffer from a loss of flow due to overpumping from the underground water supply, made worse by a running drought in Southeast. Levy Blue Spring was closed to the public for Spring Break in 2012 due to low water levels. Convict Springs on the Suwannee River and Poe Springs on the Santa Fe also had record low flows in 2012. Moran says on one of his display boards, “This project is a visual celebration of the springs we were given, a meditation on the springs we could lose, and an invitation to the people of Florida to fall in love with our springs all over again, mindful that the choices we make today foretell the Florida of tomorrow.”


Algal bloom at Devil’s Eye Spring, 2012, Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Algae tints the water green and weeds cover most of the white sandy bottom.





“Here in Florida, we need a new way of thinking and doing for the next 500 years – a mindset of environmental patriotism that defines wellbeing in terms larger than dollars.” – John Moran


With his photos John Moran hopes to bring an understanding of why our springs are in decline and inspire all Floridians to find effective, timely solutions. Mr. Moran has partnered with Lesley Gamble and Rick Kilby to bring together scientists, hydrogeologists, cave divers, business owners, artists and advocates through the Springs Eternal Project to restore our springs and aquifer.

The Problem:

Pollution, groundwater over pumping and regulatory neglect are ruining our springs.

Some Solutions:

  1.      Use less water in your daily life.
  2.      Grow native and use less chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  3.       Visit a spring.
  4.       Volunteer or donate.
  5.       Contact your elected officials. Tell them you want clean water. Not green water. Ask for tighter controls on groundwater pumping, more effective curbs on nutrient pollution, and greater protection for  sensitive land nearby.

   6.      Stay informed.


To see more of Mr. Moran’s photos of Florida’s beautiful springs and how you can become part of the solution explore The “Springs Eternal” exhibit was previously on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. All photos are from the exhibit.


The Springs Eternal photographic exhibit is showing at the Museum of Florida History in the R. A. Gray Building, 500 S. Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL. 850-245-6400. It runs through May 30, 2014.


Florida Wildlife Federation Clean Water Initiatives  Florida Wildlife Federation’s Clean Water Policy and links to Clean Water related articles.

Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign  The Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration is a positive vision to inspire people to work together to create a new water ethic, find solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems and send a clear message to our water managers that the people of Florida demand clean water.

 Florida’s Water and Land Legacy The campaign to protect Florida’s most cherished waters and natural areas. The Amendment gives Florida voters a direct opportunity to keep drinking water clean, protect our rivers, springs and beaches and restore natural treasures like the Everglades—without any increase in taxes.

Proposed Rule Would Close Gap in FL Water Protection  March 27, 2014

The Obama administration has proposed a new rule to clarify which types of water have Clean Water Act protection.

Silver Springs No Longer the World’s Biggest First Magnitude Spring


Also showing at the Museum of Florida History . . .

The Lure of Fishing exhibit spotlights the history of sport fishing in the Sunshine State from the late nineteenth century to the present with artwork, historic photographs and over 100 artifacts. One wall has twenty-two paintings by William Aiken detailing individual species of fish from the early twentieth century. You will see fish mounts, deep sea fishing rods, reels including a Hendryx casting reel circa 1900-1919, vintage tackle and coveted trophies from the West Palm Beach Fishing Club and the Metropolitan Miami Fishing Tournament. There are even photos and stories of some of Florida’s most famous fishermen – baseball great Ted Williams, author Zane Grey and of course, Ernest Hemingway.


The mighty tarpon was the first game fish to attract large numbers of tourists to Florida.

Florida has a long history of lure making. Some lure makers formed large companies; others set up working space in their homes and made lures for their friends. Frank and Linda Carter of Tallahassee loaned their lure collection to the museum. It spans from 1908 thru the 1940s.


Back in the good ol’ days, fishing line was made of cotton, silk or linen and had to be dried between fishing trips. If the line was used in saltwater it had to be rinsed with fresh water before drying. The line was wrapped around a line dryer to dry.



Be sure and play the Wii game that helps you learn the proper technique to reel in a fish. Or, use the touch screens in the next booth to learn how long it takes trash in Florida’s lakes and shorelines to decompose.

Throughout the spring and summer the Museum of History will host educational programs to accompany the fishing exhibit. The Joe Budd Aquatic Center will host a hands-on presentation, “Where Fishes Live: Habitat and Anatomy. Tom Knowles will lecture on the Long Key Fishing Camp that opened in 1908 and touted some of the “best fishing in the world.” Also scheduled is a cooking demonstration by Chef Justin Timinieri, of the Florida Department of Agriculture. Other speakers are renowned Florida fishing and outdoor writers Doug Kelly, Terry Tomalin, and Mark Sosin. Schedule of Events.

Come visit Tallahassee’s Museum of Florida History and learn why Florida is named the “Fishing Capital of the World.” The Lure of Fishing exhibit will be on display until August 26, 2014.

About the Museum of Florida History: The Museum of Florida History is part of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs and is located in the R. A. Gray Building at 500 S Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday and holidays, noon to 4:30 p.m.  Website.  Phone: 850-245-6400. Free parking is available in the garage next to the R. A. Gray building.



Wildlife Corridor Expedition Event at Bok Tower Was a Huge Success

On February 15th, Florida Wildlife Federation, Ancient Islands Sierra, Lake Region Audubon, Bok Tower Gardens and the Polk County Cattlemen’s Association co-sponsored a major event highlighting the epic trek from the Everglades to the Okefenokee by Elam Stoltzfus, Carlton Ward, Joe Guthrie and Mallory Lykes Dimmit – 1,000 Miles in 100 Days. The trek by kayak, horseback and foot sought to illustrate that a major wildlife corridor still exists (due to public land ownership and large cattle ranches), but is in jeopardy and needs to be protected. The event was held to publicize the trek and to raise money for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment (FWLL) Initiative.

The Legacy Initiative is now in the process of gathering petitions to place an amendment on the 2014 General Election Ballot. The amendment would dedicate for twenty years one-third of the net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents to a Land Acquisition Trust Fund which Florida desperately needs to acquire, improve and manage watersheds to improve water quality and quantity in its springs, rivers and aquifers. Dedicating existing revenues to this goal is prudent and imperative both for our economy and quality of life.

The event sponsors and several individuals donated funds which offset all costs.  In addition, thirteen local businesses and individuals donated items, ranging from original works of art to a guided kayak tour, for a silent auction which raised over $2,000 for the FWLL initiative.

Requests to attend this free event reached maximum capacity (225) within a week following its announcement.  Unfortunately, more than a hundred late responders had to be told “sorry the event is sold out.”  As attendees enjoyed beverages and appetizers provided by Bok Tower, they viewed and bid on items in the silent auction, and networked with people from different organizations and discovered much common ground.

Following welcomes to the event by Bok Tower president, David Price, and FWF director and event organizer, Bob Taylor, Senator Rick Dantzler summarized the need for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Initiative and told the audience how they could help make it a reality  The subsequent presentation by trekkers Stoltzfus and Ward was informative and well received. As the evening drew to a close David Price reflected that bringing these diverse groups together for a common goal proved to be a successful concept and that we should make occasions like this an annual event.

Although a planning committee had spent the last three months organizing this event, everyone agrees that Florida Wildlife Director and Sierra member, Bob Taylor, was the driving force. Congratulations and many thanks to Bob.

Frances Howell-Coleman

Follow this link to find out more about Florida Water and Land Legacy Initiative and how you can help!

Bob Taylor

Elam Stoltzfus and Carlton Ward

Bok Tower Gardens President, David Price

Senator Rick Dantzler