"Morning Glow"
"Morning Glow" is a photograph from my "Waterfalls of North Carolina" collection.  What a beautiful morning it was that day, as a cool rain fell across the fallen red and golden leaves flanking High Falls.  As I paused and took in the amazing detail before me, I began to think about how I can convey what I am seeing to the viewer of my image.

This falls was named properly as it truly is a high falls.  To show this, I knew I had to include the man made architecture at the top of the falls.  The wooden structure gives the falls a sense of scale and really shows the viewer the height and power that is before them.

The final piece of my vision for this image was to show the color and glow of the rain covered autumn leaves.  This is where photography meets art.  This is what separates a snap shot from creative inspiration.  I hope you are inspired by what you have seen, and I thank you for sharing this experience with me.

Canvas Prints

Metal Prints

Deluxe Prints



Shop this Image >
Browse All >
Proud member of the Carolina's Nature Photographers Association

Subscribe to My Newsletter

* indicates required

Copyright ©  2019 Matt Cuda Nature Photography, All rights reserved.
Happy Holidays!  Click here for your limited time FREE Ebook from Matt Cuda Nature Photography

Another great year at Matt Cuda Nature Photography!  This year was certainly the year of firsts as far as species photographed.  I was able to photograph several species which I had never even seen in the wild before.  As is my tradition, this article will take a look at what I think were my best images for the year.  I hope you enjoy it!  I start with #1 being my best image.

#1 - Fluffy Eurasian Eagle Owl, CRC, NC
March 30, 2019,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 300mm f4 L, 300mm, f4.5, 1/500, ISO 1000

During an event at the CRC, I was able to capture this image of a Eurasian eagle owl, who was fluffed out to the max.  This is one of the serendipitous moments where God is smiling on your day.  This guy was so fluffed out, in fact, that I had a hard time keeping the fluff in the frame!

#2 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Forsyth County, NC 
June 6, 2019,  Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C, 252mm, f13, 1/1250, ISO 8000

Hummingbirds will almost always make my top ten, as I love to photograph them.  This guy posed perfectly against the pink flower background for this shot.  I love the wing position and relationship of the subject to the flowers.

#3 - Blue Morpho Butterfly, Butterfly Garden
July 27, 2019,  Sony A7 III, Canon 100mm Macro, 100mm, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 4000

Although macro is not my forte, I do love to photograph insects when I can.  This image, with its slight tilt and extreme sharpness always pulls me in for a closer look.  It is for that reason that it made the list.

#4 - Mountain Lion, NC
Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 300mm f4

I didn't have all the meta-data handy for this one, so I apologize on that, but I fell in love with this image of a mountain lion in black and white.  I love the engagement of the subject with the viewer.  I always look for eye contact from my subject.

#5 - Florida Alligator, Merritt Island, FL
November 16, 2019,  Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600mm, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 320

Gators are a common presence in Florida, so it is important to find an uncommon or engaging way to present them to the viewer.  This alligator, again is engaging the viewer with an eye to eye contact.

#6 - Elk in Fog - Cataloochee, NC
September 15th, 2019,  Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600 C, 238mm, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 2500

Wild elk make a great subject and I particularly like them in partial fog.  This beautiful specimen has the perfect turn and his front leg up.  This makes the image more interesting and engaging to viewers.

#7 - Cattle Egret Eating Lizard, Merritt Island, FL
November 17 2019,  Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600 C, 421mm, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 3200

The perfectionist in me didn't want to put this in the top 10 because of the head turn and the junk in the lower portion of the background particularly.  However, when I have a situation where there is high action and good technical quality, I know it can be a real winner.  The bottom line is that I love the subject here and I just couldn't leave it out.

#8 - Snarling Red Wolf, NC Zoo
December 21, 2019,  Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600 C, 600mm, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 2000

There are days when captive animals are just on fire as photographic subjects.  You can't depend on it, but it will happen.  This pair of red wolves were fighting over some meat and the alpha (pictured below) was winning.  Here you see him in full snarl while looking back toward the beta male.

#9 - Springtime Dark-eyed Junco, Forsyth County, NC
Spring 2019, Canon EOS R, Sigma 150-600 C, 531mm, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 1000

I made this image while testing the Canon EOS R.  This junco was perched so perfectly on this blooming plum tree.  The blooms really accentuate the bland nature of  her feathers.  

#10 - Anhinga with Speared Fish, Merritt Island, NC
July 17, 2018, Canon EOS 7D Mark II,  Sigma 150-600mm 516mm, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 800

Again, the perfectionist in me did not like the head turn, but I decided this image had enough action to make the top 10.

I hope you enjoyed this years top 10 list.  I encourage you to do the same with your images as it is a great practice to help you decide what you did right and what you need to improve on for 2020.

My Website: http://www.mattcuda.com

Stock Images: https://www.artvisions.com/cuda/


To purchase any of my prints please use the following link:

You may also contact me directly to purchase prints: matt.cuda@mattcuda.comBe
Almost every year, I take a trip to Florida to photograph the amazing birds and local wildlife.  Florida is abundant with birds at most any time of the year.  Winter and spring seem to offer the best opportunity, but you simply can't go wrong there at any time.

There were several differences on this years trip that are worth noting.  First, I tested the Canon EF 600mm F4 L II lens.  Secondly, I tested my new Sony A7 III body, and finally, my brother accompanied me to take advantage of all the wildlife and help build his portfolio.

Day 1 - Blackpoint Wildlife Drive (Late Afternoon Scouting)

For those who follow my photography, they will know that I like Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  It is a easy 7 mile drive that winds its way through a portion of Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge.  The cost is $10 per day, but I opt to pay for the $29 yearly pass.

The afternoon on day one was cloudy with a fair amount of birds.  The water levels were high this year, causing less birds due to the flats being flooded.  That is just part of the game. You never know how the conditions will be, and even with poor conditions, good photography is possible.  Below are several images taken on our first scouting trip.

A little blue heron perched in the grasses along the marsh edge.
(Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600 F4)

Wild boar are starting to become commonplace in much of Florida. They are often thought of as pests because they are not native to Florida. However, they are still wildlife.
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600 @ 313mm, MC-11 Converter)

Day 2 - Merritt Island/Blackpoint Wildlife Drive (Morning)
My brother and I departed our hotel early, grabbed some DD coffee and arrived at Merritt Island to be met with more cloudy conditions.
The good thing about cloudy conditions is you can shoot all day. The bad thing is you have low light, so that means higher ISOs and white backgrounds in flight shots.  Below are several images from day two.
A white ibis flying over the marshes
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600 @ 468mm)

A Florida alligator mostly submerged
(Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600mm F4 L II)

A stunningly beautiful example of a little blue heron.  I don't think I have seen one with quite this coloration. My only wish is that I didn't cut off his foot.
(Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600 F4 L II)

Day 2 - Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary (Afternoon)
We decided to head down to Vierra Wetland for the afternoon, but upon arrival, we discovered the roads were closed due to damage from storms.  I was determined not to be defeated by weather, so I made a decision go to the Helen and Allen Cruickshank Sanctuary and check on the scrub jay population.

We walked to the usual location to find the birds, made a couple calls and several came in close and landed on nearby branches.  It is not uncommon for folks to feed the jays, even though it is against the rules in the sanctuary.  Because of that, the jays are very friendly!  They were so friendly on this visit that they landed directly on our heads!  Of course they were waiting for us to feed them, but I always respect the rules at the sanctuary.

My brother, Rick with a jay on his head and on his lens

Florida Scrub Jay
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600)

Day 3 - Back to Merritt Island
With all the closings, it was becoming difficult to find birding opportunities, but we pressed on and made the best of a difficult situation.  The good thing about Florida is that even when areas are closed, birds can still be located.

Cattle Egret Eating a Lizard
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600)

We worked the morning hours of blackpoint and worked through some dark overcast conditions.  Even with these issues, we were able to take some fairly good images.  Probably the most fun we had, on this day, was following a flock of cattle egrets down Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  We followed them as they hopped from bush to bush consuming lizards.  For those that don't know, cattle egrets will often follow cars as they stir up dirt.  This causes their prey to run and they can snag them.  We laughed and laughed at these little buggers.

White Ibis Coming in for a Landing
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600)

On this day, we were also able to get into some birds in flight action.  The severely overcast conditions made it difficult to get the best shutter speeds, and so I had to really crank the ISO up to get some shots. 
Day 4 - Back to Merritt Island
Day 4 had us scratching our heads on where to go next.  Since the previous day had led to some interesting shots, we decided to go back to Blackpoint.  We arrived and began to immediately shoot.  However, soon, they closed down Blackpoint on us for maintenance, and I was fit to be tied!  I have never seen so many roads and refuges closed at one time.  There seemed to be almost no good reason for it.  I knew exactly what they were trying to do.  They were trying to squeeze money out of the gov't by saying roads were closed due to hurricane damage.  However, in talking to locals, I found out that the roads were actually in good condition.  That is sad!  Before they closed the roads, we did get a couple great images.

Green Heron Perched in the top of a Bush
Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600mm F4)

Eastern Phoebe
(Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600mm F4 L II)

With another road closed, we decided to make a quick run to Port Canaveral on the off chance we could photograph shorebirds and pelicans.  We arrived there about 1/2 hour later and had to pay stupid money to get in.  Nice park, not many birds in range to photograph.  There was an interesting juvenile reddish egret, ruddy turnstones and a ton of pelicans way out on part of the jetty that no one can get to.  Below are a couple images from Port Canaveral.  I think that next time I will pass on Port Canaveral.

Juvenile Reddish Egret at Port Canaveral
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600)

Ruddy Turnstone at Port Canaveral
(Sony A7 III, Sigma 150-600)

After that somewhat disappointing side tour, we headed back to Merritt Island and worked some of the other back roads. I have had little luck with some of the hunting and fishing roads on Merritt Island, but we did manage to find a red-shouldered hawk donning the lighter Florida coloration.
Probably the most interesting find at the end of day 4, was a female raccoon we discovered and were able to photograph.

Mother Raccoon Searching for Food
(Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 600 F4 L II)

Although we did a little more scouting during the week, that was really the last day of shooting.  This year's trip was difficult and frustrating in many ways, but was still astounding!  I don't think I have ever seen as many behavior opportunities and unique species as I did on this trip.  I look forward to what next year will bring us!  I didn't get bit by any fire ants this time, and we even got eyes on a bobcat!

I don't generally recommend micro-stock agencies, but if you are just getting started and want to see how the business works, sign up using this link and I get a little kick back:  https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Matt+Cuda?rid=1927511&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ctrbreferral-link