Who is Stingray Tom?
I’m a photographer, historian and writer.
I got my first camera when I was 7. I’ve been taking pictures ever since and I’ve been doing historical research for over 30 years.
Historical research goes hand in hand with writing. I’ve got one book published (Orlando’s Historic Haunts), I’ve written for magazines and researched and written for the Internet since 2001. I’ve also been a lecturer around the state for years.
I’ve been exploring Florida since the 1970s. I started out with a love for natural Florida and remarkable human creations such as Kennedy Space Center and Walt Disney World, grew to love the early tourist attractions and the quirky towns, then fell into studying the architecture of small towns, early human sites, and so much more. Each and every year I set out to explore dozens of locations that are new to me as well as old favorites. I haven’t been everywhere, but my list of visited places gets longer each year.
A day for me might be looking for gopher tortoises in a state park, documenting a cemetery, randomly exploring a few dirt roads, horse trails or foot paths, interviewing someone about places I should visit, looking for forgotten architectural gems in a small town and hanging out with horses or cattle.
Why Stingray Tom?
I love stingrays. Rays of all kinds are different from any other animal. While related to sharks (their skeletons are cartilage, the substance that also lets you wiggle your nose & ears), they are significantly different. Substantially two-dimensional, they glide through the ocean and smaller waterways like one powerful and flexible wing. They’re not top-predators like many of their shark cousins, most either catch small fish or scoop up shellfish and crush them with flat, boney plates. The largest rays, mantas, that can reach 7 meters in width, eat only plankton much like the largest whales. Rays date from the Jurassic period some 56 million years ago.
The state of Florida is hugged by ocean, gulf and bays as well as a vital string of barrier islands and keys. The islands create a buffer area of estuaries, lagoons, inlets and harbors that are perfect for some two-dozen species of rays. Even the giant manta can be seen exploring our larger harbors.
Stingrays are a good analogy for a successful Florida traveler. They’re always looking for new places to find food, find safety and meet others. They leave most other animals alone. They have an unhurried lifestyle predicated on the fact that food is generally plentiful and there’s not a lot of worrisome predators.