Although I have lived in Florida all my life, I pursued landscape photography in other states and countries assuming I could scenes in Florida anytime I wanted. There always seemed to be a mountain, desert, rocky coast, fall color or some other scene or feature that I did not have in Florida that took priority.
Through the years I had spent some time shooting on the Florida Atlantic Coast beaches or inland lakes, but I was missing the big thunderhead clouds that rise up in Florida in the summer. Every year I would say to myself that this was the summer I was going to shoot those scenes. Then, I would get distracted by the summer “monsoon season” in Arizona and Utah and head out there to capture storms over the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park or somewhere else.
I finally made the commitment to stay home this year to try to achieve my goals here in Florida. I live not too far from Everglades National Park, so I decided to begin my summer efforts there. Over the years, I have made many trips to the Everglades and found it a difficult place to photograph landscapes. There isn’t an abundance of color in the trees or vegetation, so the sky is a huge factor and that’s where the big summer clouds come into play.
This year, I scouted specifically for a scene where some big clouds combined with a specific group of trees would say “Everglades”. I wanted to shoot the scene with early morning light. I found the trees I wanted and then just had to return a number of times hoping for the right clouds. Finally, after many trips in the dark before sunrise, I saw the rainstorm building to the south, the direction I wanted to shoot, and headed to my spot. The clouds moved into position and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
My next goal for the big summer clouds was storms offshore on the west coast of the Florida, the Gulf Coast. I like the white sand of the beaches in the Sarasota area, so I headed there and scouted for the best location. The beach at Lido Key was hands down the winner.
My daily routine was to check the radar an hour before sunrise. Almost every day during my week there, I would see storms building up offshore. The sun would rise in the east, not blocked by clouds, and light up the beach and offshore storm clouds. It was so cool to see this happen almost every morning.
A real bonus at Lido Key was the small sand dunes with sea oats. They gave the beach an additional feature and character that I really liked compared to just having the white sand beach by itself. There were endless possibilities with the little dunes.
After my success in Sarasota, I had another scene on my mind for this time of year. I have made several attempts at photographing the Naples Old Pier pilings before, but the results were never what I wanted. I was having luck with the morning storm clouds, so I stopped in Naples on my way back home.
When I arrived in the semi-darkness before sunrise, it didn’t look too promising. There was only a tiny thunderstorm offshore. I almost packed it in, but I was not in a hurry, so I waited. Storms can build quickly here, and this one did just that. It was gorgeous. I wanted it to be in line with the pilings, but that was just getting greedy. They were off to the side, but it resulted in a nicely balanced composition.
There was another area that had been alluding me in Florida. Near Sebring, Florida is Lake Jackson and Highlands Hammock State Park. Many years ago I used to go there for weekend camping trips. We would hike in the Park and swim in the lake. I was always enthralled by the boardwalk in the swamp and I felt compelled to capture that feeling with a photograph. I found the one place on the edge of Lake Jackson where a sunrise photo would be worthwhile.
As a South Floridian, I have spent my share of time in the Florida Keys. With the summer storms still brewing, it was time to add this area to my summer project. I based myself in Islamorada and began my exploration of photo opportunities. They are few and far between as most of the shoreline consists of private houses or resorts, with No Trespassing signs. I do not violate those.
I wanted to capture the “feel” of the Florida Keys. I captured a variety of scenes of Palm Trees, found a beautiful lone mangrove and even got lucky with a dawn thunderstorm. I have some areas yet to photograph there, but they will wait for another trip. I was thrilled with what I was able to accomplish so far.
It was great to finally take the time to photograph the summer scenes in Florida. I don’t know why I waited so long. Now that I have had some real success, I can’t wait for the next summer of opportunity.