When I’m racing against the clock to get as many pictures as I can, there’s always a point when I know I should finish, but can’t help getting one last one. That explains what happened here; the light was almost gone, I was walking back to the car, and noticed this one last composition.
In a recent post, I mentioned there is an attractive aesthetic about the lifeguard stands on the beach. Maybe it’s the idea of a structure positioned before the ocean. I suppose it could be almost anything, not just a lifeguard stand. But I digress.
When I’m taking photos, no matter how many or how few I make, I ALWAYS end up with more than I need. However, on this night my ratio of hits to misses was remarkably slim. I was lucky, had the right timing, or a combination of the two. Regardless, I was on a roll, and I’m glad I got this one last one.
The lifeguard stands at Miami Beach are these funny cartoon-like structures. Whoever designed them has a brilliant sense of humor; each one is cut out from an active imagination and looks like something from a Disney movie.
When I was here a couple of months ago, they had started rebuilding each stand. There was an area roped off in Lummus Park where new stands were under construction. Perhaps they replace them every five or ten years. With the storms in summer, they need to be extra sturdy.
If you look close, you can see a couple more of these down the beach; each is unique with a different color and shape. Living near the beach lifeguard stands are a common subject for me; they are like little houses. I romanticize them in my pictures, but I think they provide only the barest of necessities for the lifeguards that sit inside all day long keeping a keen eye out for trouble.
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.
Lummus Park runs parallel to Ocean Drive in South Beach. I was riding a bike here and taking photos in the middle of the day. I usually prefer to go out when the light is softer, but I thought to myself, what the heck.
The summer sun in Miami Beach is relentless, so I saw quite a few people walking with umbrellas. As for me, I made sure I had an umbrella in my drink. I figure if I collect enough of them I can use them for the sun.
For this shot, I lined it up and waited for the ladies to walk in the scene. It’s an easy technique, and I use it a lot when I do street photography. I suppose this is a street photo, although part of me wants to call it a beach photo. It really doesn’t matter; it’s just my analytical side working overtime.
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.
Sometimes I feel the urge to try and articulate the main idea behind my pursuit of photography. For whatever reason, this photo seems to evoke that in me.
Here is a picture that portrays an idyllic scene along the beach. Maybe we project ourselves into the scene. In doing so, we may walk on the shore with the vastness of the sea on one side. The expanse is an enigma. The longer we look, the less concrete our thoughts become. Our legs move as our minds begin to wander.
Rationally I like taking photos of idyllic scenes, yet, in doing so, I also attempt to capture something less rational. I aspire to capture scenery or people in the landscape that hints at something more elusive.
This idea is why I keep coming back again and again. Ironically, I try with images to evoke thoughts or feelings of something that cannot be seen by our eyes. To do that I may include space for the scene to breath, and then I hope that thoughts will fill the void. When that happens, my desire is satisfied, and perhaps yours is just beginning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is my favorite type of simple scene. In my opinion, it depicts a moment of solitude, maybe even inspiration that comes from nature. Rather than write something philosophical, any meaning or interpretation are best left to you, the viewer.
I get asked a lot about what kind of photography I do. The short answer is that I do different types of photography. But a better question is what type of photography I love the most. For that my answer is simple minimalism like this. Something uncomplicated that evokes thoughts, emotions or introspection.
However, I’m using a trick by placing a person in the image. If there was no person, you would simply be an observer of a nondescript scene. But when a person is placed in it, we involuntarily project ourselves into the scene. For whatever reason, it’s in our nature to do that and we do it all the time. Advertisers have used this knowledge for decades to manipulate us. I’d like to hope and think my motive is a little more benign.
This is Ocean Beach from Point Lobos in San Francisco. My wife and I were having dinner at the Cliff House restaurant when the colors started changing and, as usual, I had to excuse myself from the table. There’s no getting around the fact that the spouse of a photographer is long-suffering.
It’s interesting how the people on the beach are evenly distributed. Have you ever notice how crowds of people seem to mimic fluid dynamics? Here they’re evenly dispersed like little water molecules on the sand. You can see this phenomenon when you view crowds from a distance. At a certain level, people follow the laws of physics. We observe the same behavior in traffic patterns which is then used to model highways and ramps.
In a previous post and similar picture from this beach, I compared the grains of sand to stars in the universe. It seems that whenever I look at this scene I’m reminded of the order of things, and how that order repeats regardless of the scale. Food for thought from someone who can’t sit long enough to eat.