Cardinals at Fort Wilderness

We are officially on the road! The initial setup and preparation of the camper took a lot more time and energy than I ever thought. What we needed, how to set it up, how to tear it down, how to drive with it, how to deal with mud…

These last couple of weeks were filled with so much rain. Our entire summer was pretty dry this year, but the first two weeks in our camper lead to worst case scenario situations. Storms, rain, everything wet, and tons of mud.

We’ve already stayed at three campgrounds. This was great but we’re still so close to people. Fort Wilderness was perfect, but more like glamping. It was a great place to get started but I can’t wait to do some real camping/boondocking.

Although the parking lot campground wasn’t the most adventurous, it was nice to have a place to plug the camper in and figure out how to work the plumbing.

While “glamping” at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, I had a memorable moment with two birds. So memorable I wanted to document it. Thanks for taking the time to read:


I want to remember this feeling not because it’s so uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I want to remember this feeling because it’s not what I expected, but now it seems so obvious.

As soon as I saw the bright yellow bird land just 10 feet away, my feet were already in motion running to grab my camera. I knew I would use my 200 to 500 mm telephoto lens because I wanted to get those close-up details of this Cardinal’s gorgeous colors.

As soon as I clicked the first shot, I knew I forgot to look at my meter.

I shot my ISO up to 1600 without even hesitating. There was no way I was going to capture these beautiful red tones and his black pearl eyes without some help.

When we are outside enjoying the sun going down, our eyes adjust to the circadian rhythm of the sun at a natural speed. Meaning we don’t notice it getting darker because our eyes continually have the ability to see the details even in lower light.

I was reminded of this while sitting under our tent behind our new camper at Fort Wilderness Campground. We’re here for a week testing out everything before we head out on the road for some more serious camping. Not much wildlife here, but these tiny birds gave me my first sense of excitement to pick up the camera.

The more and more aware I became of this moment, the more I realized I had to become even more aware!

Now it dawned on me that though he wasn’t moving off that one branch, he was fluttering his wings, flicking his head and chirping. His whole body was moving at a speed I couldn’t possibly focus on no matter how close I was. That means I need to boost the shutter speed.

Then I came across more lighting issues. The balance of photography is such a game…just like life itself.

The last element that hit was the catch light in his eyes. Now that I had my settings right or as close as I could, I was staying as steady as I could and the only other thing to do was wait and stay focused. Not just with the camera and my finger pressing halfway down on the shutter button, but with my own eyes and my other senses too.

Awareness is key in any photographic moment, but it’s the most important in those moments when you are in the natural world trying to fit inside the comfort zone of something else- in this case it was this beautiful red cardinal.


The ability to shift from total awareness to intention on camera settings takes practice. It’s hard at first but becomes easier the more you do it.

And just when I thought the moment was over, this sweet Cardinal’s girlfriend decided to take his place on the branch for another photo opportunity.

As we embark on the rest of our journey, I want to remember this moment because we will be coming across way more nature and fleeting moments like this, soon. 

For now we are wrapping up in Florida and on our way to visit Jim’s brother in Georgia, then Nashville and Chicago here we come!

Here’s a recap of all the places we hope to visit in the next 4+ months. Scroll down for a map of our route too! 

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Nashville, TN
  • Chicago, IL
  • Madison, WI
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Badlands, SD
  • Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Mt. Rushmore
  • Cluster State Park, SD
  • Devil’s Tower
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Tetons National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Spokane, WA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Olympic National Park
  • Mt. Rainer National Park
  • Oregon Coast
  • Portland, OR
  • Crater Lake, OR
  • Redwoods National Park
  • Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Great Basin National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce National Park
  • The Wave
  • Lake Powell, UT
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Aspen, CO
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Santa Fe, NM
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Joshua Tree, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Baja California (Mexico)
  • Austin, TX
  • Tilghman Is, Maryland (Danielle’s Home Town)
  • Belmar, New Jersey (Jim’s Home Town)
  • New York City (To Ring in the New Year!)

Cross Country Road Trip Route

Check out the map below that includes our planned destinations and routes! Use the icon in the top left corner to turn on and off different layers on the map.

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Look out for more coming soon, give us your best camping advice and road trip tips in the comments below. And share this story with others you know who want to live in wonder always. 

See you on the road soon!

-Danielle

Do you know of an epic photo destination? Tell us in the comments and maybe we’ll add it to our journey.

To kick off this trip, and give you the inspiration to live life on your terms, here’s a summer sale:

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jill

    Safe travels as you embark on an adventure of a lifetime. 🙏🏻❤️

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