There is a barrier of dunes that run the length of Anna Maria Island. Plants grow in the dunes and as a result, protect it from the onslaught of the sea.
It’s incredible how nature comes up with devices to protect one thing from another. The forces of nature are regularly at war, and the results of the conflict create a boundary that, in this instance, we call a beach.
Sometimes I like to get down into the trenches with the troops. In this case, I found a path through the dunes at Manatee Beach. People came to enjoy the sense of peace and tranquility. However, as summer approaches, it will invariably bring new storms that test the resolve of these little dunes. May they hold fast and secure.
When I hear the word dune, I think of the desert, but these along the Florida beach are a different variety. Unlike the shifting sands of the Sahara, these are covered with plants and are meant to hold their shape in a storm. They are what keeps us from being washed away completely.
If you look carefully through the top of the dune, you’ll see orange tape marking a sea turtle nest. Scores of volunteers comb the beach for nests, erect barriers, and take careful notes over the incubation period. Once hatched, they’ll dash for the water so as not to be eaten by birds. Only a few survive to adulthood; it’s a rough start to what will hopefully become a long life in the sea.
Nothing is permanent, yet everything is trying to hold on. The dunes and turtles are both pitted against the forces of nature. Perhaps the tension in the environment is what produces the beauty on earth. It seems that elemental pressures are a creative force. Without them, we’d all be washed away and overrun with too many sea turtles. On second thought, you can never have too many sea turtles.
I’ve been avoiding it, but on Wednesday evening I went to Bradenton Beach to see the spectacle for myself. If you haven’t heard, Florida is in the middle of a massive red tide. So I drove to the beach, and as expected, was greeted with the smell of fish washed up on the shore. Maybe because of the breeze, it was not as bad as I feared. After a few minutes, I relaxed and let it fade into the background.
I came primarily to take pictures of the sunset because red tide or not, when the atmospheric conditions are right it’s still astounding to see. However, as I walked along the beach, something seemed out of place. I struggled to put my finger on it as I continued and then it hit me. It was too quiet; there were no birds. All of the gulls, pipers, and pelicans had either succumbed or escaped, and there was not a single one on the beach. The lack of avian sounds and activity left me with an eerie feeling. That was the moment it hit home.
I am heartbroken, of course. I rationalize to myself that we are moving through the worst it, but that we will make it to the other side. The conditions that allow the algae bloom will eventually cease, and the fish, birds and sea mammals will, in time, return. I’m glad I went, and now I know that I will go again because I think it’s important to witness it first hand, not just from TV. People are avoiding the shore, and the beach is empty in more ways than one. As for myself, being there to hear its silence is in some way, essential.
Last night I made it to the beach for sunset and to take a few photos. Lately it’s been a little cold here which keeps people away from the beach. Now by cold, I don’t mean cold-cold, like you guys get up north. No, I mean cold for us, like maybe I should wear a sweatshirt, …or maybe not.
I’m being facetious of course, I’m perfect aware of the fact that I don’t know what cold is. Nevertheless, my kinda cold keeps the locals away from the beach so that I can get these empty beach shots. In summer it’s a whole different ballgame.
This is Holmes Beach, which is between Manatee Beach and Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island. You can drive for miles either way and it’s just one little beach town after the next. That’s why so many people come down in in winter; to get away from the cold-cold and enjoy a little beach weather, even if I do think it’s cold.
Here is a simple image I took from the dunes at Lido Beach. I was part of a last minute rush by locals and tourists alike to get to the beach and watch the sunset. There was no convenient parking so I double-parked and walked over to the dunes to take this. Not really a smart idea but it worked; at least this time.
It looks like I was on the dunes but I was on a path; it’s not good to walk on the dunes because it wrecks the plants. The plants preserve the dunes, which in turn preserve the islands during a storm. The island in this case is Ledo Key, which is one of my favorite places in Sarasota because I usually get nice pictures whenever I come here.
Anyway, when I see these sunsets I go into full photography mode. What should be a serene experience is a little more stressful. I like to think it’s the good kind of stress, creative stress. That’s usually followed by the satisfaction of having captured a good sunset. Somehow I manage to survive these frequent episodes; at least I did this time.
This is another image from Bean Point at the tip of Anna Maria Island. There is no parking and so the only people that show up here are those living or staying within walking distance. That’s why it’s one of my favorite places for photography at sunset.
A continuing theme for me is to use clouds in an image to represent proportion and scale. So typically people or manmade subjects become small in relation to the clouds and surrounding environment. The purpose is to draw attention to the scale of nature around us. For me the message is one of reintegration into our otherwise ignored surroundings.
Only after I became a photographer did I even begin to notice things around me, such as the formation of clouds. Now I look at the world different from before, I see our existence in relation to our environment. That provides a sense of perspective, something to glimpse a grander scale of things. Without that we tend to focus on small things in front of our faces without ever looking up. It’s like zooming out on a map; we begin to seem insignificant. But of course we are not, it just seems that way.
Here I’m standing on a hill at Emerson Point which is a preserve not far from home. The funny thing about it is this is the highest point around. Can you imagine living in a place where the ground rises no higher than a palm tree? Having grown up in California I can say it takes some getting used to. For one, I find it a little disorienting when I don’t have a mountain range for bearing. The only thing I have is the direction of the sun, but that only works when it’s low in the sky. When I get turned around I always repeat in my head, “The sun rises in the East”. I’m a modern day Daniel Boone.
These hills along the coast are referred to as dunes. They don’t look like dunes because they is typically only one by it self and covered with plants. Also, to me they seem to be made of dirt, nonetheless they are referred to by the park rangers as dunes. Perhaps they have a high concentration of sand.
So unless I stand on a dune, I don’t have a strong idea of what the land looks like. That probably adds to my challenges with orientation, but I’m getting better at it. I can always use the compass app on my iPhone, not to mention Google Maps. So as long as I have cell converge I’m good.
Planting seagrass like this protects the beach from erosion of storms. Communities up and down the coast of Florida are always looking for ways to preserve the beaches. In some places they dredge up the sand from just beyond the shoreline and place it back on the beach. That’ll last for a couple years depending on the storms and then it needs to be done again. Plants are a natural approach, only they are usually used to protect only the entrance to the beach which usually involves some type of dunes like these.