Fine Art From The Gulf Coast
The scenes on the Gulf Coast of Florida are worthy of being made into a Fine Art Print. There are white-sand beaches, calm reflecting waters of the Gulf of Mexico, lighthouses, sunsets at the Naples Pier, and Sea Oats at Lido Key. My favorite has to be sunrise lighting up the summer storms offshore. The Florida Gulf Coast really does have it all.
Visiting and Photographing the Florida Gulf Coast
Let’s talk about why the Florida Gulf Coast is so strikingly different from the Florida East Coast both to visit and to photograph.
The difference with the Atlantic coast
The sand is very white in comparison to the tan-colored sand on the east coast. In addition, the white sand doesn’t seem to be nearly as hot to walk on. You’re generally photographing sunsets as compared to sunrises on the Atlantic Coast.
The water of the Gulf is much calmer than the water in the Atlantic Ocean. The waves are very small, and the Gulf can seem almost more like a lake at times. This is great for getting reflections of various objects.
The beaches at Marco Island are wide and flat, but there isn’t much else there photographically than just a beach photo. Moving north from there takes you to Naples, Florida.
Naples has the Naples Beach Pier and some pilings from the old pier from years ago. Both make excellent subjects at both sunrise and sunset. When possible, I like having something extra in the photo than just the sand and water.
Fort Myers has the Fort Myers Beach Pier. A great time to be there is sunset as you can also enjoy the goings-on at the Estero Blvd restaurants, shops, and street artists. It can be quite a scene.
Just west of Fort Myers is Sanibel Island, with its famous seashells on the beach. There is a photogenic lighthouse on the south end, and if you like to photograph birds, there is the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Winter and early Spring are good times to be at the refuge.
In the Sarasota area are Siesta Key and Lido Key. For whatever reason, Lido Key seems to be far less crowded than Siesta Key. Lido Key also has some very attractive small sand dunes with sea oats. Early morning is a great time to have the sun rising behind you light up the dunes. In the summer, offshore thunderstorms make for an impressive addition to the scene.
There are also some possibilities at Fort Desoto near St. Petersburg, but I have not found them to be that much better than the location south of there that I have already mentioned. It may be that I just need to spend more time there.
North of St. Petersburg, the sandy beaches give way to rocky and mangrove-lined shorelines. I have explored the areas around Homosassa, Crystal River, and Cedar Key, but have just not come away with anything that I feel worthy of being Fine Art. Maybe someday I will.
The Florida Panhandle
The Florida Panhandle is known as the Emerald Coast because of the aqua colors of the Gulf of Mexico in the shallow waters of the coast. Beginning in St. Marks and west from there, the coastline returns to white-sand beaches.
A favorite for me is the St. Marks Lighthouse. Shooting from the marsh grass on the east side, the lighthouse lights up beautifully when the light of the rising sun hits it. The water offshore is shallow, calm, and has amazing reflections of the clouds. They are some of the best I have ever seen.
The rest of the locations on the Panhandle are similar to each other with white sandy beaches. Grayton Beach State Park is good and the Navarre Beach Pier with its nearby sand dune provides a wide range of photographic opportunities.
December is the best time to be at the Florida Panhandle, as the sun is rising and setting from the south of east and west. This allows you to photograph both sunrise and sunset on the same coastline!
I’m sure there is quite a bit I have left out, but I wanted to share what my own experiences have been. As a Florida resident, I will probably be back to learn more about the Florida Gulf Coast.
Fun Facts About The Florida Gulf Coast
Florida has almost 800 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Photographs of beautiful sunsets are possible from many locations and landmarks.
As someone who has spent their entire life in Miami, I am familiar with our exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes. With many hurricanes coming from Africa and through the Caribbean to get to Florida, those of us on the Florida East Coast have always felt like we were the most at risk.
However, looking at Category 3 and stronger hurricanes since 1950, six have made landfall on the Atlantic Coast or the Florida Keys. Eight have made landfall on the Gulf coast with three of those being in the Florida Panhandle. Most recently, Hurricane Michael devastated Panama City and Mexico Beach in 2018 with 140mph winds.
These storms can dramatically change an area that is routinely photographed. Landmark trees, docks, and piers may be destroyed. The erosion of beach sand can substantially change the look of a beach. Photographs that were routinely taken may no longer be possible.
For history buffs, Fort Myers is home to the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Sarasota is where you can see Ca’D’Zan, the restored former home of John and Mabel Ringling, of circus fame.