Ant lions and spiders and snakes, oh my.  Sometimes these can be pretty scary creatures, but some local students got the opportunity to see them differently through their camera lenses.

Recently, seventh and eighth grade students from Cypress Lake Middle School and Sanibel School boarded Tarpon Bay Explorer trams for photo trips along Wildlife Drive in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  Tarpon Bay Explorers naturalist Don Parsons, a professional photojournalist and nature photographer, acted as both guide and teacher providing the students with hints about getting the best out of everything from cell phone cameras to point-and shoot types and even higher-end complex cameras.

Parsons helped them look at their subjects differently encouraging them to take close ups of crow’s foot grass, sea grape leaves, bugs and even big ugly spiders.  They learned characteristics of different species to help them interpret them in photos and even how to play with lighting to achieve different effects.

The students’ photos will be entered into contests at each school.  Bank of the Islands sponsored the Sanibel School group and Edison Bank sponsored Cypress Lake’s students’ contest.  There will be at least three winners at each school and the banks will award savings bonds and medals to the winners at special ceremonies to be held in December.  The winning photographs will then be on display in the banks’ lobbies for the public to enjoy. The trams and instruction were provided by Tarpon Bay Explorers. To learn more about the many tours offered by Tarpon Bay Explorers at the Refuge, please call 239 472-8900 or visit

“There was a bit of the eeeeeuuuwww factor showing. For some of the kids this was the first big spider they’ve seen, but overall good reactions to the insect world.”, Tarpon Bay Explorers tour guide Don Parsons observed.