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:
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.
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.