Hometown Mangroves

This section of mangrove is within walking distance of my home in Palmetto. I think it’s interesting how the roots appear chaotic, yet the structures create a fortification against the erosion of the land.

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Hometown Mangroves

A section of the mangroves in my hometown of Palmetto, Florida

Half of Florida would be washed away if not for mangroves; they are an excellent example of how life evolves to overcome. It also seems like an example of order versus entropy, the seemingly disorganized root structure is well suited to ensure it, and the land survives in place.

other images of mangroves from the gallery

What you see here is an HDR image composed of five exposures. The mangrove roots were dark, so I blended an overexposed frame for that. The sky was bright in comparison, so I combined an underexposed frame for that. In the end, my seemingly haphazard approach to composition resulted in something slightly more enduring. It is my very own example of order from chaos. Perhaps that is what I should call mangrove photography. Or not.

South Beach Pier

I was down in South Beach for a couple of days, and the first thing I did was walk over to the pier. Looking back at the land seems to help me set my bearings.

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South Beach Pier

The setting sun silhouettes a walker on the South Beach Pier

It was my first time to this spot; however, I’d seen it from cruise ships in the past as we sailed in and out of the Port of Miami. Now that’s it’s summer most of the ships are in Europe. With the hotter weather, the Miami Beach area is in low season. For me, it’s the best time to visit because prices are low and wait times are non-existent.

more monochrome from the gallery

I came here to take photos, so I just wandered around. It’s hot, but you expect that. Ice cold refreshments are at every turn, so it’s easy to stay hydrated. I drank twice my usual amount of water without even noticing. Even so, I prefer to be out in the morning or evening. This photo is the evening of the first day as the sun sets over the Miami downtown section.

Big Cypress National Preserve

I just returned from driving the Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s a twenty-four-mile dirt road through the heart of some of the most stunning landscape in Florida. As a landscape photographer, I was in my element and overwhelmed at the same time. There was just too much to take in, but I tried.

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Big Cypress National Preserve

One of my many stops along Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve

 

Living in an urban area, I find only scraps of nature as I look for it among the sprawl. So when I get the chance to emerge myself among hundreds of square miles, it’s a good thing. It took me nearly five hours to travel the road because I stopped every quarter of a mile. A bike would have been faster. But, alas, I was in no hurry.

more images of nature in the gallery

This image is from one of my dozens of stops. It’s the reflection of the cypress trees in the swamp. As I stood there taking photos I could hear the bullfrog-like bellows of alligators all around me At first, it’s unnerving, but you grow accustomed to it. In reality, alligators prefer to mind their own business. At least from their bellows, you know where they are, and they know where you are; which is as it should be.

Lens Flare

The other day I went to Bean Point on Anna Maria Island to capture this image. I didn’t notice it at the time, but there is quite a lot of lens flare. Nerd that I am, it got me wondering about the optics that produced it. Might another lens to create a different effect?

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Lens Flare

A typical sunset from Bean Point on Anna Maria Island

Nevertheless, the photo was taken at f18 at its normal to get a starburst at that aperture; that’s how we get the star effects on street lights at night. However, this looks like a combination of starburst and lens flare, and that’s what made it a little unique, at least for me.

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The main reason I used such a small aperture was to get an extended depth of field; meaning I wanted everything to be in focus, from the plants up close to the clouds. Using a high f-stop number is a way to get that, however, because it restricts the amount of light coming in, you may need a tripod lest your images come out blurry from camera shake. In this case, the effect is like a splash of light; which goes to prove that happy mistakes happen all the time.

So Many Stories

I’ve heard it said that eventually, everyone passes through Times Square. There’s no way to describe it unless you’ve been there; it’s electric.

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So Many Stories

The stories we tell with pictures are a form of virtual reality

Last week I was talking about telling stories with simple images at the beach, but this is an example of a subject that’s the polar opposite of serenity and sunsets. Regardless of the scene, success comes about by framing an image in a way that allows the viewer to enter it and muse about what is going on.

more urban exploration in the gallery

If you want to tell stories with your photos, it doesn’t matter what the scene is. It could be a beach, a farm, a city or anything in-between. I find that having a sense of depth draws us into the scene. We start at items close up and then wander around establishing distance and placement. It happens so fast we don’t notice, but crafting scenes are what makes photography so enjoyable. It’s a subtle version of virtual reality based on immersion. If we are, even for an instant, immersed in a photo, then we’ve experienced a form of virtual reality. Stories when told by a picture or a book, have always been a way to experience a different reality.

Making Up Stories

This image is an example of the kinds of things you’ll see just by showing up to a location and observing. It’s not staged, yet it has receding elements: a girl, a bird, and a sailboat, not to mention the evening sun. The objects are receding, and from a compositional perspective, that’s pretty cool. Let me explain.

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Making Up Stories

There were other objects and people around, but I positioned the frame to simplify the image. Unconsciously our eyes are drawn from the close-up objects to those far away, and in that split-second traverse, each observer (you) creates a story. I refer to “story” a lot in my images, but what I mean is the musings of an observer (you). When you muse, you automatically make up a story. That makes me the story-teller, and now I’ve connected with you. It’s pretty simple really, and it’s the idea behind stories in photographs.

favorites in the gallery

We can create stories in different ways; for me, it often involves simplifying a scene and engaging the viewer. But each person is different, and we could take a complicated scenario and do the same thing, there are no rules. My photos at the beach are simple, but I also like busy city streets with a lot of things to explore. (In fact, I’ll post one like that next week.) But I digress. When taking photos, you want to tell a story. No matter where you are, you can compose the shot in such a way that when I see it, I make up my own story.

Beach Bums

If I had a nickel for every one of these shots on the beach at sunset, I’d be, well, …sitting by the beach at sunset. But that’s what people do here, so I take pictures of it. When in Rome (or Florida as the case may be), you do as the Romans do.

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Beach Bums

A typical scene from Manatee Beach in Florida

Switching topics for a moment, I have a lot of lenses for my cameras. Some are expensive lenses designed to operate under demanding conditions. While I use them in specific settings, I use an older cheaper lens for my landscape photos. I guess my point is, for my favorite type of photography, I’m happiest when using the inexpensive equipment.

The reason I mention that is to say that photography should not be about the equipment. Any fool can buy a camera and take a picture; “yours truly” is a case in point. But framing an image that creates a story, that takes imagination. That can be done with any camera including the one on your phone. Everything has its use, but I think that when you are creating images, the best piece of equipment is between your ears.

beaches from the gallery

So there you have it, a little bit of photography advice from someone who’d rather be a beach bum. If you take that, and a handful of nickles you can buy a nice cup of coffee.

Hot Summer Nights

Last year I was in New York City on the hottest three days of the year. It was unbelievably hot and the only thing to do at night was to walk around Times Square in the pouring rain.

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Hot Summer Nights

A hot and steamy night in the rain at Times Square

I should be used to the heat from Florida, but it was no easier. Nevertheless, the rain and lights created fantastic photo opportunities that are entirely different than those I get back home. A nice effect is how the rainwater creates a reflective sheen on the pavement.

more street photography from the gallery

Taking photos at night in a city is a matter of experimentation. With a camera, we have several choices to make. A wide aperture combined with a high ISO allows a type of street photography without a tripod. However, with a tripod, we can take longer exposures if we want to capture light trails. In this case, I just wanted to capture images of the scene without special effects. For me, the most exciting thing was watching people out having fun in the rain; which by the way, was what I was doing also.

Down by the River

After a rainy day last week the wind died down in the evening. When that happens, the water in the river becomes smooth like glass, which is the perfect time to take pictures. I made this near my home in Palmetto, just off the road next to the bridge.

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Down by the River

A section of the Manatee River from the Palmetto side of the bridge

This scene is an HDR image made of four frames with different exposures. By combining frames, the greenery and sun appear without either appearing blown-out. I use Aurora HDR from Skylum to process my HDR compositions. After mixing the frames, I usually make three or four additional adjustments to get it just the way I want it. I may also process it in Luminar which is another tool from Skylum.

more from Palmetto in the gallery

This area is a little section by the river that few people notice. It’s next to a major road that thousands drive by each day. As for me, I believe a photographer should work close to home as a way to practice seeing the familiar with new eyes. Seeing something new in the usual, or looking at it from a different perspective is a useful skill at home and abroad. So if you happen to be driving to work and see me standing by the river, now you’ll know why.

Tunnel Trail

I’m always looking for new scenes so capture and so once in a while I’ll go to the park in the middle of the day. I prefer the mornings and evenings when the light is softer, but being open to possibilities, even in the middle of the day, is a good idea. Showing up is half the battle, and once at a location, I’m open to interesting scenes to photograph.

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Tunnel Trail

This is a section of the trail at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, Florida

For this photo, I was walking along a path that had a canopy of brush on either side. When some folks rode past on bikes, I noticed the tunnel effect and took a photo as they receded. It’s another variation on the leading line theme that’s so popular in photography.

more images from Robinson Preserve in the gallery

This stretch of the path causes a little sensory deprivation because the sides are thick with growth and you can only see in two directions. That feeling was heightened one evening when I happened to be walking here as darkness closed in. The effect of being in a darkened tunnel caused my sense of hearing to become heightened. Before you know it, I could hear every little sound in the bushes. At that time of day, all the nocturnal animals begin to stir. It was no surprise that I started hearing sounds emanating from the brush all around me. My imagination started working in overdrive as I wondered what might pop out on the trail in front or behind me. Nothing happened of course, but that’s maybe why I decided to come back here in the middle of the day.