TERRA CEIA - Steve Nesius stood in front of his neighbor's house early one morning, pointing a 400mm lens at a pelican in Terra Ceia Bay, waiting for it to take off.
"You feel the no-see-ums yet?" Nesius asked.
He joked that he once donated a pint of blood to the biting insects while shooting a sunrise down the street.
Nesius is an accomplished photojournalist who still takes freelance assignments, but he likes finding subjects closer to home.
Three times a week, he walks or rides in a golf cart around his neighborhood, photographing wildlife and landscapes. He said life is connected to water, and so are his images.
Nesius grew up in Melbourne Beach and learned how to surf when he was 15.
After high school, he tried college for a year and didn't like it. So he moved to California and worked as a carpenter, surfing as much as he could.
Nesius started taking pictures of his friends surfing, which led to an interest in photography. He came home to study photojournalism at the University of Florida.
His first job after graduation was at the Leesburg Daily Commercial, a small daily just south of The Villages. "It was a great paper, they used photos well."
After two years in Leesburg, Nesius spent the next 10 years working as a picture editor for the Associated Press in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Nesius missed shooting, so in 1997, he returned to Florida to become a freelance photojournalist. His wife, Janet, is a St. Petersburg native, and they wanted to be closer to family.
In the last 20 years, Nesius has covered rocket launches, political conventions, hurricanes, mass shootings, Major League Baseball, the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup. He provided logistics for Reuters during the Haiti earthquake, and his photos have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world.
Nesius also takes his camera with him during morning walks around his home on Terra Ceia, an unincorporated part of Manatee County just south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The neighborhood is surrounded by 1,932 acres of Terra Ceia Preserve and Terra Ceia Bay. It is home to pelicans, herons, egrets, hawks, alligators, armadillos and beautiful sunsets.
He started selling prints from his walks and now travels throughout the Southeast, attending art festivals and gallery shows.
On one of those walks, he noticed a neighbor renovating a home built in 1912. The neighbor had removed exterior siding and was going to burn the wood. He thought to himself, "I bet some of that stuff can make some nice picture frames."
He asked for scraps and made his first distressed wood frames in his garage shop. Now all his frames are handmade from salvaged wood. The most popular ones come from the laundry room ceiling of the recently relocated Belleview-Biltmore Hotel.
He likes that some of his oldest passions - carpentry and photography - are coming together.