Florida Keys Photo Trek

My new years resolution was to become more prolific this year and photographic in-between art festivals.  Last year, I spend too much time printing and matting and not enough time shooting.  When I photograph something new and create a print, I can display the first edition immediately watch reactions from judges and the general public alike, which has been a big help progressing as an artist and finding my audience.

The Florida Keys were the first of my adventures.

For nearly 5 days, I drove, hiked, and kayaked the state parks in one of Florida’s most well known tourist destinations – the type of places I usually avoid.  I love shooting beaches without footprints or signs of humans, where I can use an ultra-wideangle and find no manmade objects in the background.  The keys has become so overbuilt, however, that not getting at least a sliver of a bridge in the back from even a remote island is getting harder; so I compromised during this trip and focused more on foreground and mid-ground compositions.

The Photographs: The Florida Keys

I returned several times to Bahia Honda State Park and a small unnamed island at sunrise and sunset to capture  some interesting tones and lighting.  I took these back in January (its now April), and I’ve gotten an overwelming response at the last six art festivals.

Bahia Honda State Park has a wonderful beach to walk and kayak along, and was perhaps the most authentic, natural feeling area in the Keys.  In fact, it has some of the only naturally growing beach palm trees I had seen during the whole trip.  I took this photo with a few second exposure to show movement in the water:

Bahia Honda 1, Monroe County, Florida Keys by Richard Auger
Bahia Honda 1, Monroe County, Florida Keys by Richard Auger

The Long Drive to Paradise

The last time I traveled to Key West, I lived in South Florida and the drive wasn’t so bad.  From Orlando, it took nearly 8 hours total.  The Keys reminded me of Sanibel Island in Captiva, Florida (blogpost here) –  a paved paradise with lots of fun things to do.  Nearly every square inch of Key West now has a building on top; amazingly, I managed to spot even more construction on some of the last virgin land.  I’ve traveled many miles throughout all of Florida in a short period of time this year, and I’ve noticed a growing theme – either new buildings being constructed, or an environment already bulldozed with malls and homes.

After arriving to Key West, I checked out Ernest Hemingway’s house, and worked my way backwards to reshoot spots I had scouted earlier in the day.

Florida State Parks: The Keys

Thank goodness for all the beautiful parks that the State of Florida has set aside as preserved park lands.  With my yearly park pass in hand, I stopped at nearly every single one in a day to roughly scope them out, such as John Pennekamp, Dagny Johnson Key, Long Key, Curry Hammock, Bahia Honda, and Fort Zachary Taylor State Parks.  They were all beautiful and majestic, and brought memories of my scuba diving day-trips back in middle and high school.

The sun was hot and intense during the day, without a cloud in the sky; so I spend my time scouting, kayaking, and enjoying the days until some clouds moved in.  I camped at the parks, and kayaked along the island shores.  My goal here was to focus on shooting coastlines and waterways, as part of my ongoing ‘Florida 67’ project.

The Photographs:  The Unnamed Island

While kayaking along the bridges in the keys, I hopped from island to island and came across this gem.  I returned 4 times for different sunsets and sunrises.  I became obsessed with two majestic lone mangroves on opposite shores.   The island was surrounded by a dead coral reef and rock formations, which gave this location and array and textures and tones.  On my last sunset shoot, I finally nailed the two shots below with my Mamiya 7ii and  Ilford SFX200 infrared film, which toned down the bright, but colorful sky behind the mangroves.  Both mangroves had an interesting lean, and it took a good hour of study to find the right angle and composition.

Unnamed Island 1, Florida Keys. Mamiya 7ii, 43mm f/4.5, f/22. Ilford SFX200, DDX. B+W 092 Infrared Filter. Photo by Richard Auger.
Unnamed Island 1, Florida Keys. Mamiya 7ii, 43mm f/4.5, f/22. Ilford SFX200, DDX. B+W 092 Infrared Filter. Photo by Richard Auger.
Unnamed Island 2, Florida Keys. Mamiya 7ii, 43mm f/4.5, f/22. Ilford SFX200, DDX. B+W 092 Infrared Filter. Photo by Richard Auger.

Return to Orlando: Lessons Learned

I was tired and very tan after shooting in the Keys for about 5 days, and it was time to return and prepare for the next art festival.  It was getting very late and I was far too tired to continue driving, so I stopped in Palm Beach at a relatives house, and then stopped to photograph Blowing Rock State Preserve, and then drove home to develop 15 rolls of 120 film.

Three months later, these new photos have become some of my most popular among collectors.  For years, I had avoided shooting ‘typical Florida’, but I learned that even the touristy spots are part of Florida’s vast and complex ecosystem; and I should still give them some attention.

10 thoughts on “Florida Keys Photo Trek”

  1. Richard, I enjoyed seeing your work at the Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville last weekend. These Infrared filtered images are just grand, and they are outstanding in the way you’ve created such a beautiful formal quality for your landscape scenes. I would enjoy keeping posted about your work and where you’re showing it.

  2. Richard, I used to live in/ on Big Pine Key. I love the black and white pictures. The one thing I have noticed since I have moved away is the keys as much as it has been developed it still amazes me to see all of the various wild life around every bend. I may have moved but I still come back every year to see old friends and to find new things to love about the Florida Keys.

    1. Thanks Frank, sorry to respond to your comment so late here. I would have loved to live in Big Pine Key, must have been awesome. I’m glad your still finding new ways to appreciate your old home. The picture at the top was my second best seller of the art show season this past Spring; its seams that all Floridians have a powerful reaction to photos of mid and lower keys. Even with development, its amazing how prolific wildlife still can exist in the keys. I’ll be going back there again either in September or the winter, stay tuned for more photos!

    2. I was planing on going back myself this year. However due to prior comitments I had to cancle my trip for this year. I will be “going home” next year in August for a few months. I am considering on buying a decent camara to showcase my trip on my walls at home.

  3. Great shots, did you find any problems with sharpness reduction set at f22, as i am in the process of learning the ropes with the 43mm lens and ive read many places that at f22 you run the risk of diffraction problems.. Your photos look really sharp.

    1. Hi Alan, diffraction at f/22 is less of an issue with medium and large format cameras, as the larger film plane does not put as much demands on lens resolution. While 35mm and digital lenses can really fall apart at f/22, the 43mm still holds strong for landscapes. I’ve used f/22 for almost every image and blow them up to 40×50 and they look nice and sharp. For a 43mm lens shooting landscapes, there is a trade off, as you may lose depth of field if you go below f/16. Good luck with you’re new lens!

    2. Thanks so much for your reply. That’s helpful to know. It seems there are few flaws to this lens after all. Keep up the great work its very inspiring.

      I am currently working out the best way to scan. When u studied at Art school I used a Nikon 9000ed but no longer have access. Right now I am considering shelling out for the plustek opticfilm. I don’t want to take up much more of your time as you have been helpful already, but if you could give me some info on how you go about scanning, ie do you scan yourself then get a drum scan ?

      Thanks in advance.

      Kind regards

    3. Alan, no problem. The Plusteck Opticfilm is not all that great. Unlike the Nikon 9000ED, the plusteck cannot autofocus, which will give blurry scans. Don’t waste your money on the plusteck. I own a used Hasselblad/Imacon Flextight 848 scanner, which is close to a drum scan. On a budget, I recommend owning an Epson 750 and sending your best film to a drum scanner. I offer a low cost scanning service if you live in the USA.

    4. Thanks again. Yea the lack of auto focus did put me in doubt, although the mental money people are asking for discontinued nikon units it beyond a joke.

      The Imacon would be great but I live in Japan. I had considered going the epson route, but drum scanning adds up.

      It’s getting harder for film shooters I guess. Ill maybe just get the epson then. Thanks for your help.

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