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Fine Art In The Florida Keys
What makes up the Florida Keys and why do their landscape photographs capture your attention?
The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands and provide countless views of spectacular blue/green waters, which make for beautiful photographs. True Florida Keys fine art photography is defined by the way it captures the feel of this tropical paradise. This could include photographs showcasing iconic Florida coconut palm trees or fine art prints where the blue water meets the skyline as the sun rises.
I grew up in Florida and spent hours on the water. Today, I love being out on the coast taking pictures of the waters and the ocean. The smell of the fresh salt air, the sound of the waves hitting the shore, the beautiful beaches, and the stunning rocky coasts are all reasons that bring me back again and again.
But as I share in my article, Eight Challenges of Coastal and Seascape Photography, taking pictures of seascapes is not always “a day at the beach” as the expression goes. There are some challenges to capturing quality fine art photographs on the coast.
What is so special about photos of the Florida Keys? It is the vastness of the sky and the ocean waters –where blurry reflections of clouds in crystal-still waters create a soothing watercolor effect, which makes for a stunning photo. Fine art Florida prints can also capture the drama provided by Mother Nature during storms.
The question photographers are always asking is “Where are the Best Locations For Nature Photography?” Over the years, I have discovered some of the Florida Keys' most iconic photography spots and they often involve piers. It is somewhat easy to create an Instagram-worthy photo but how do you photograph a pier to create a fine art landscape print? A Florida Keys pier photograph needs to focus on the horizontal lines of the pier and the horizon—using these lines to guide the viewer’s eye and help focus attention. That is part of the attraction of pier photographs – they carry you across the photograph….. from one side to the other,
My Florida Keys Fine Art photography captures the spirit of the Florida Keys—the colors, the beauty, and makes you want to be there.
Visiting and Photographing the Florida Keys
I’ve been a South Florida resident my entire life and have made many visits to the Florida Keys. My grandfather was actually born in Key West in 1892, with his mother having to take a boat to get there as the medical facilities there were superior to the ones in Miami. I have a sincere fondness for the Florida Keys.
Driving to Key West in the 60s and 70s was totally different than it is now. The original road bridges were built on top of narrow railroad bridges, as it was a train that went to Key West before cars. There was barely enough room to pass oncoming traffic, and the bridges were in bad shape and needed constant repairs.
However, it was far less crowded and much easier to get around. Today, the Keys are not an easy place to photograph. The vast majority of the coast on any of the Keys is either private houses or resorts, neither of which want you on their property taking photographs. If you do find an open spot, you may very well have large power lines to contend with.
I really enjoy the Florida Keys, and I am not one to be deterred from finding a nook or cranny here or there from which to photograph. The ultimate for photographing the Keys would be to have a small boat to trailer behind your car and launch from various locations. There are many public boat ramps from which to do this.
There are two ways to get to the Keys from Miami. The main road is US1, which runs all the way to Key West. You can also take Card Sound Road, which takes you past some views of Card Sound before joining back up with US1 in Key Largo.
At the north end of Key Largo, is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The coral reefs just offshore in the Atlantic Ocean are famous for underwater photography of the reefs, fish, and other aquatic life. The Park is a great place to base your expedition for photography of the reefs.
On the ocean side, just north of Tavernier, is Harry Harris Beach and Park. There is a beach there, and they are open from sunrise to sunset. They do charge a small admission fee, but it is one of the only places you can photograph on the ocean side in Key Largo.
South of Upper Matecumbe Key and Islamorada is the Indian Key Fill and Tea Table bridges. There are areas to park here with some nice views. There are some power lines on the bayside, but those can be taken out of the photo in post-processing.
Just south of Lower Matecumbe Key is Anne’s Beach. Before Hurricane Irma, there was a nice lone mangrove that was an iconic photo. The hurricane destroyed it, but the beach still has other possibilities and plenty of places to park. In a recent trip, I photographed one of the dead trees against a dark sky there.
Continuing south is Long Key and Long Key State Park. There is very good beach access here. Although the Park doesn’t open until sunrise, there can still be great photo opportunities if you arrive then and get to the beach.
On Little Crawl Key is Curry Hammock State Park. The beach there has many possibilities, and it is next to an area across from a property with a large number of palm trees. Sunset was my preferred time of day to shoot there.
In the area of Marathon, Florida, there are two oceanside locations. There is Sunset Park on Key Colony Beach and Sombrero Beach west of there.
Bahia Honda State Park offers good sunset opportunities of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. There used to be some very iconic palm trees there, but they all got taken out by Hurricane Irma. There is great color in the water and other photo opportunities, but you might have to look a little for them.
In Key West, the most popular photographic spots are Fort Zachery Taylor State Park and Smathers Beach, both on the south side of the island. Most of the rest of the island is pretty crowded with limited opportunities.
One final location is Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park. It is on an island about 70 miles west of Key West and has a storied history. There are special boat tours that will get you there. One recommendation would be to plan on a day with calm seas.
There is so much to see and do in the Florida Keys. There is fishing, snorkeling, boating, camping, sightseeing, and, of course, photography. Like anywhere, it takes a little time to get to know the Florida Keys and get a feel for what you want to photograph there, but I highly recommend it