Birds, Photography, Key West, Whatnot

The Vodka House

People just call it the Vodka House.

It's on the 1000 block of Watson Street in Key West, just off Truman, on the opposite side of Bare Assets strip club. I don't know anyone who's seen it and not been gobsmacked.

It is an entire house decorated in lit up empty vodka bottles. There are several sizes of bottles used in the display, but they are all the same label: Skol.

It shows some serious dedication, not just to the hours of ingenious design and execution, but to the drinking of one type of vodka. Skol is not exactly a top shelf brand.

People tend to pull up on bikes or in cars, get out, and stare for a few minutes. Then usually say something like, "Wow. Just wow." At least that was the pattern when I was out there they other night, taking pictures.

At one point one of the people who lived there came out and someone said, "Your house is beautiful, but that is a terrible vodka."

The person who lived there gave a pretty good argument about how Skol is a much better vodka than more heavily marketed brand like Absolute. He also said he could make a much articulate argument in favor of Skol if, you know, he was sober. Then he bid everyone goodnight and retreated indoors.

They've been decorating the house like this for two or three years. I believe the passed out Santa is a new addition for 2013.

There's a For Sale sign on the building, so I worry it won't be there next year.

But either way you should see it if you can.

Nothing better than when people find the beauty that everyone else overlooked.

Detail photos below.

Spoonbills, the Lower Keys and Rona Chang

Over Under 5237 I went on a short road trip up the Keys with Rona Chang a few weeks ago.

Rona is a photographer and was an artist-in-residence at The Studios of Key West in October. I accused her of being a street photographer, but she said no, she is a landscape photographer who wants people in her landscapes. You can see her (very cool) stuff at

This is my favorite of her shots.


It's from her series Moving Forward, Standing Still (Part 1).

She shot a good number of images when she was here, and this is a gallery of her Key West and Lower Keys images.

I think these are two of the highlights.


Anyhow, the first place we stopped was Boca Chica. We walked down to the stone-and-driftwood hut, then down to the salt pond. The salt pond is usually good for birds, but being there with a landscape photographer, I left my 400mm lens in the car and only brought my stubby 50mm and my Holga lenses. I think I muttered something about how this would ensure that I would see a really great bird.

And then at the salt pond, there was a young Roseate Spoonbill standing on a snag above a Great White Heron, a handful of Willets standing like movie extras in the background. And I spent a few minutes cursing that I left the big lens back in the car. I said something out loud about how if I had the big lens I could get right up the nose of that spoonbill. I might have even said it loud enough for Rona to hear.

So I took a few frames with the fifty, just to document the experience for myself, feeling ill-prepared and incompetent, like I'd missed a moment.

But then, back home, processing the images, I came across the one above. Stopped me in my tracks a little bit.

A landscape, peopled with birds.

You'd think hanging around with a photographer who shoots landscapes peopled with people this would have been an obvious thing.

You'd think having spent so much time with Rafael Galvez, who obsesses on painting birds in their natural environment (and who does very great things with that obsession), this would have been an obvious thing.

Lesson for the day: Take lots of shots, stop obsessing on lenses, figure it out later.

We made it all the way up to Marathon, where we unexpectedly crossed paths with the Marathon Homecoming Parade. I wondered what kind of school holds their homecoming parade at two in the afternoon in the hot weeks of October. Rona wondered what exactly a homecoming parade was, as apparently they don't have such things in Manhattan, where she went to high school.

Anyhow, there are a few of my other photos from the trip below. But trust me, go look at Rona's.

"Rona/Rocks" by Mark Hedden.

Lower Keys Road Trip (8 of 12)

Lower Keys Road Trip (1 of 1)-3

Lower Keys Road Trip (1 of 1)-2

Lower Keys Road Trip (12 of 12)

Lower Keys Road Trip (11 of 12)

Lower Keys Road Trip (1 of 1)-5

Lower Keys Road Trip (9 of 12)

Lower Keys Road Trip (7 of 12)

Lower Keys Road Trip (6 of 12)


Four! Thousand! Peregrines!


The folks at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch at Curry Hammock State Park just hit a season count of 4,000 Peregrine Falcons for this season – more than have ever been seen during a single season anywhere else in the world.

Congratulation to Rafael Glavez, who runs the project (and saved it from the ash heap of data collection a few years ago). Also congratulations to Kerry Ross and Rachel Smith, who were the full time counters this year and some very fun folks to hang around with.

I did a piece on the count and the Peregrine Migration for WLRN, the public radio station in Miami, which you can read and/or listen here:

Birdwatchers In The Keys On Alert For Nature's Speed Demon | WLRN.


You can also read more about the Florida Keys Hawkwatch at their blog.