South Florida and the Florida Keys Landscapes
Dallas to Key West
The journey was a 27 hour drive from Dallas to Key West. I tried to break this up a little by stopping at a beach near Jupiter and shooting the blowing rocks near Coral Cove State Park. I shot sunrise here but there was a storm approaching so over all I was not happy with the shots. This caused me to stop back here on my way home and shoot it again for sunset.
From here it was only 3 hours to Key Largo. I broke the trip in half spending part of it in Key Largo, the rest in Key West. I felt this would give me a break in getting to some of the more remote and photogenic smaller Keys not many hear about. I shot at several locations near Key Largo. Half way between north and south Key Largo was a nice spot I found for the first morning shot. The sunset spot I found was near a bird sanctuary that gave me a great view of the bay side. Next morning I drove to a place called Anne’s Beach south of Islamorada and Lower Matecumbe Key. But I was great with a rain shower here as well and would come back to this spot on my way to Key West.
We had planned to snorkel on a tour out to the reefs and see the sunken statue of Christ of the Abyss. But visibility was reported to be poor and the water was too rough in the area and the tour was cancelled. So we headed to the Everglades National Park and spent the day here and waited for sunset.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is a pretty large area. I already had two locations picked out if this became my back up plan and headed to a small lake for sunset. Was greeted with one of the best sunsets I had ever seen with the sun setting behind a thunderhead and sun rays beaming out through it. Sometimes on a trip, just a shot like that alone makes your whole trip worthwhile, but I would find sunsets and could formations like this to be more common in the days ahead.
Lots of wild life was here at the park. I was also spending a lot of time photographing the numerous types of water fowl located here, as well as the back side of Key Largo.
Next morning we were up at 3am so I could be back at Anne’s Beach for some night shots and sunrise. These turned out much better but both days here have their own mood to them. From here we made our way on to Key West. But along the way, I was exploring the back areas of the other Keys I had picked out for sunrise and sun set shots. Keys I scouted along the way were Bahia Honda Key, Spanish Harbor Key and Big Pine Key. These three Keys were my main focus for the following days for at least sunrise.
The first sunrise from the time we arrived in Key West was located on the ocean side of Big Pine Key. I scouted out where I needed to be using Google Earth then went and found what was waiting for my at the coordinates I had plugged into my gps unit. I was not disappointed as the area was littered with mangrove trees to be used as foreground subjects during sunrise.
Spanish Harbor Key
Spanish Harbor Key and Bahia Honda Key were also my focal points of interest for the remaining sunrise shots. Each morning I would get up at either 3 or 4 am to drive out to my locations for the sunrise shoots. I would then would be expected to go straight to the beach all day to hang out with the wife. She was usually just getting up as I arrived back at the hotel from my hours of being out waiting for the perfect light. So I just would sleep then during the day on the beach
The remaining days for sunsets were shot at different points of interests around Key West. Unfortunately we endured some of the local tourist attractions and I actually wasted a sunset evening at Sunset celebration Point near Mallory Square. But even then it was hard to complain. I got some unique shots I would normally never have taken with sailing ships as silhouettes against the setting sun.
Other great spots for sunset in Key West were Smathers Beach and the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. In my photographic opinion, the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is the best spot as well as the cleanest beach in Key West. They just have hours of operation and run you out after sunset. I typically avoid places like that as I like to shoot on into the night. But I got several great sun set shots here.
So here are my tips for you if you plan to head to Key West. If you are a photographer, Stay at the far eastern end of the Key. We stayed at the Double Tree Hotel and it was great for me since I could get out of Key West in a hurry to get to my locations at the other Keys. Tip number two, do not drive. Rent a scooter or take the numerous shuttles that will take you to the main tourist spots around Key West.
Parking is hard to find and the place is very congested with other people driving around. Tip number three, know your surroundings. There are some not so pleasant places in Key West where drug activity and hoodlums hang out waiting for dumb tourists. Unfortunately, one such place is right near the lighthouse. At night, this is not a safe spot. During the day it is pretty safe. But I was determined to photograph the lighthouse at night and just paid attention to my surroundings.
Tip number four, don’t drive all the way across country to Key West. It’s 27 hours from Dallas and I wasted two days I could have been shooting. So I say fly in, rent a car and then go explore the other Keys.
Tip number five, stay out of Key West and go to the more remote Keys for some nice solitude. I am by no means a people person and I hate crowds. So my time alone around Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda Key were the most enjoyable times I had. Otherwise I was in a foul mood having to deal with all the other tourists. I guess I am this way since I have spent the last 12 years hiking alone most of the time in the desert canyons of Utah and other mountain areas.
The Everglades National Park is a pretty large area. I already had two locations picked out if this became my back up plan and headed to a small lake for sunset. Was greeted with one of the best sunsets I had ever seen with the sun setting behind a thunderhead and sun rays beaming out through it. Sometimes on a trip, just a shot like that alone makes your whole trip worthwhile, but I would find sunsets and could formations like this to be more common in the days ahead. As always, I am always willing to share my photo shooting locations. So follow me on Facebook or feel free to shoot me an email about any questions you might have for your own trip to the Keys.
Oregon Coastline Seascapes and Landscapes
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
On two different occasions I made my way to Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport Oregon. On Wed. morning I headed out way before the sun was due. As I got there it was apparent that my sunrise would be a disappointment. But it was still so dark I could not really tell.
I climbed down the stairs along the cliff to the shore and then climbed a rock to compose my shot. It was then I could see a huge wall of rain coming my way. I pulled off several shots and it was becoming lighter outside and then could tell I was about to get really dumped on.
I packed up the gear and climbed down from my rock to beat it back to the car in time but no luck. It was a down pour by the time I reached the stairs. Made it to the car all wet and was a little disappointed but waited to see if it would pass. 30 minutes later I could see a break in the clouds out west and then it was showing this could really turn out to be a cool shot. Not my pinks and magenta’s I am usually after but it looked promising.
I walked back down the cliff, high tide was coming in and cut off my path to the rock I was on so I set up on the shoreline and got the second image. That sunrise actually turned out good and I took several shots for the remaining time the rest of the morning.
The second attempt was sunset. They close the park at 7pm. I was with Tim and Ray, my photography buddies I met up with that day and we were pretty upset about it but tried to make the best of it. I ran back down the stairs to the shoreline to try and get a good shot but knowing I would not get that perfect light after 7 I knew it would not be great. I ended up shooting a series of shots and blended them together for the look I wanted later in photoshop.
On a side note to get around the BS park closing for the perfect sunset time. When you turn on to NW Lighthouse Dr., take your first left of NW Agate Way and go to the end of the road and park. You will then have to walk at least a few miles to get to the beach below the lighthouse where I took my shots. You can also by pass the $7 dollar entrance fee they do not deserve for closing the area down for other photographers and anyone else who wishes to see a great sunset location. Goole map it so you can get a better idea on where to park and walk. You will still for the most part walk along the main road into the park. But will not have to worry about them closing the gate on you and your car.
Cannon Beach is so over shot I was also going to blow this place off completely. But with our trip schedule, we needed to be close to Portland the night before we were to fly out so this was our last stop.
We hung out for the rest of the day in Ecola State Park and went into the small town for some food and drinks to wait on the sunset.
This night turned into the second best night as far as dramatic clouds and perfect light. So again, If I am going to be stuck shooting a scene that has been shot millions of times, I could not have asked for a more unique evening. Took some great shots here of Cannon Beach and other coastal areas along Ecola State park.
Seal Rock was initially a back up location for me to photograph. And am I glad I found and decided to shoot this place. It is not visited as much as the other locations and the evening sky was pretty good for our long exposures. Tim, Ray and I stopped by here a few times and had some great luck with the light and clouds. Great spot with large rocks off shore and smaller rocks I climbed onto during high tide to compose my shots. I have quite a few of them in the gallery. This is just north of Yachats and takes about 15 minutes to get there.
Cooks Chasm and Devil’s Cauldron
Cooks Chasm and the Devil’s Churn area is a great location. Not the typical sea stacks you are accustom to seeing along the Oregon coast. It is located south of Yachats by Cape Perpetua scenic area off U.S. 101. Numerous tidal pools are located in this area at low tide. The rugged rock formations are tricky to walk on and you need to be careful the closer you get to the edge. Sneaker waves caught me off guard several times as they crashed around me. I had great cloud formations that day for my sunset shots. This was also the time I split the evening up and drove to Heceta Head Lighthouse about ten miles away further south.
Cape Kiwanda is located near Lincoln City. This area offers a lot of different situations to photograph and is kinda tricky to get around. On the south end you are greeted by a large sea stack and rugged inlet rocks to compose your shots. But to get to the real action you will need to climb over the large sand dune to get to the other side of the park.
Here you will be greeted with huge waves battling the coastal rocks. You slip here, you are a gonner. Even though we were being pretty careful as we photographed the waves coming in, I had set my gear up a few feet behind me as I was taking pictures. A huge sneaker wave came crashing over the spot I was located. I had enough time to grab my camera but the wave took my small backpack and threw it into a tidal pool. Luckily I down sized what I was carrying with me and it only contained some filters. Normally I have my larger camera back pack with me containing everything and this could have turned into a disaster and ruined a lot of expensive gear.
The shot above looks nice and peaceful but this is the shot I pulled off just after the huge wave came through. The 30 second exposure is misleading as to the waves fury here. This location was probably the most dramatic for wave action I saw on the whole trip since I was so close to the edge.
We flew into Portland late in the evening and drove all night to Bandon Beach. We arrived there about 3am. I wanted to get the first light there and did not feel like spending money for a hotel for a few hours. So we slept in the car at the Face Rock parking lot and set the alarm for 5:30. Then drove to the beach access parking lot as the morning glow was just starting to appear. I was hopeful for some really pretty skies. But as it turned out, the morning fog was dominate that day. Still got some good shots I think, but could have been better. I was planning on stopping here a few days later for sunset on our way north. But that turned into a rain day.
Harris Beach and Lone Ranch Beach, Brookings Oregon
We drove on to Brookings as we were staying at Whalehead Beach Resort. A great place to stay since it is just outside of Brookings and centrally located for the trips along the coast from Brookings to Cape Sebastian. We spent three nights in this area. I got up at 5am every morning for the sunrise shots and was shooting well into the late evening for sunsets. During the day I spent my time hiking around looking for the next spot for the photoshoots.
Harris Beach in Brookings was first up for that days photo shoot. It’s a great places with a lot of rocky coastline to photograph. It was still a cloudless sunset but the colors turned out great for that evening.
Very easy access to the beach from the parking lot. This was something I was thankful for considering I was shooting the Washington coast in May and had quite a few hikes to do to get to each location. Most of the areas along the Oregon coast have very easy access.
Lone Ranch Beach was my sunset spot for the next day and is an area I will be going back to. It’s just four miles north of Brookings. Very rugged and jagged rocks all along the beach area. A bit of hiking and wadding into the surf from the area I explored. But there is also a trail to take above the shoreline that goes on for several miles. You could easily plan on shooting three different evenings here to cover the area well. Which is why I will be focusing more on the southern area of Oregon more on my next trip.
Cape Sebastian – Hunters Cove
This was the area I was saving for the perfect sunset. I had my weather report printed off for the trip and the Monday evening was supposed to be partly cloudy. The weather was changing and rain was moving in sooner the forecast. I made plans to change my schedule a bit and decided to shoot this for a sunrise and then go back for sunset that day. Glad I did. I at least got a decent shot for that morning. But by mid day the sky was cloudy and rain moved in and ruined the sunset. Our next day called for use to leave the area and head north. The plan was to shoot Bandon again but it was till raining. My back up rain location was to head to Kentucky Falls. But the wife was getting sick and she would either have to stay in the car most of the afternoon or hike the trail in the rain. So we moved on north as we were scheduled to stay in the town of Yachats the next three days.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse was a location off hwy 101 just outside of Florence. It’s the most photographed lighthouse in the world and I did not plan to spend much effort on it. My sunset for the following day was to be spend along the Devil’s Churn and Cook Chasm area. I spent the better part of the late afternoon in this area. It was the best sunset evening of the whole trip. Perfect dramatic clouds and thunder heads in the distance made for almost perfect shots. As the light was starting to fad, I packed up the gear and drove as fast as possible to the Heceta Head Lighthouse. These images I captured I am very pleased with. Beautiful dramatic light with rain shafts falling from the isolated rain clouds. If I was going to spend time photographing a subject that has been shot to death by millions of people, I could not ask for a better evening doing it.
While we were staying in the town of Yachats, I was to meet up with two other photography friends the next day. A few mornings later we all drove back here and photographed it in the morning. We got up before 5 am to get here before the sun came up. We were greeted with beautiful magenta skies that morning and had near perfect conditions for this morning’s shoot.
Northern California Coastline Seascapes
Traveling California Pacific Coast Highway 1
I got to travel the northern section of the Pacific coastline over the 4th of July week and weekend. I had way too many spots plotted out to see than I could possibly cover, which is the case on most of my trips, but sometimes they serve as back up locations. Luckily for the most part I had some great skies to deal with for sunset and sun rise. I had several clear nights, with no moon, to get some great Milky Way shots.
My starting point was to fly into San Francisco and head north. I spent too much time shooting night shots of the city. My first morning shot was to be of Bowling Ball beach. As I took a break and plotted my route, it said it was a three hour drive from my location and it was just past 2:30am. Sunrise was at 5:30ish. So I had to make that 3 hour drive a two hour drive. Luckily bending the speed limit law just a bit, I made it there just in time. The coordinated and directions to Bowling Ball Beach are 38.868897, -123.653358.
You will see two signs that say park pointing south on the west side of the highway. There are two trails here. One that looks official with a historical marker and one by the more northern parking sign. Make sure you take the trail that is near the more northern parking sign to get to Bowling Ball Beach, otherwise, the trail closest to the bridge will take you to the coastline and you will have to round a cliff that is covered in sea weed and not very safe. Also, check the tide tables and plan your sunrise or sunset shot to be at low tide, or these rocks will be under water.
My second location for sunset was to be around the Mendocino Headlands. Several natural arches to be photographed here. But they are mainly overlook positions. I typically like to be right up to the waters edge for my shots.
Next location was north of Bodega Bay at a place called Goat Rock State Park. There are several cool rock formations here as well as another natural Arch. It was here I also took my first Milky Way Shot since I drove all the way from Mendocino to get here for sunrise. Did I mention I went three days without sleep? Ended up getting a great sunrise shot here. Then I headed to Bodega Bay and shot at several locations along the way. There are so many, I really could have just spent the whole 5 days I had just in this area. After I spent time in and around Bodega Bay, I jetted all the way south of San Francisco to McWay Falls.
My arrival at McWay falls was probably the worst possible time to go see this coastal waterfall, July 4th weekend. Horribly crowded and cars were parked along the highway for over a mile. But I got lucky and came upon a spot right by the trail that leads you to the overlook. Going on my third day with no sleep, I arrived during the crappy part of the day for photography, so I kept my parking space and went down and shot this in infrared. Then went back to the car and took my much needed nap before sunset.
After my sunset shot, I waited around for over three hours to take my night shot. I took a shot at dusk to help with combining the night exposure with the Milky Way later when I got home to process the image, to give me much more detail of the waterfall.
From here I drove to up Big Sur to Pfeiffer Beach to shoot it at night and paint in the rock formation with a high powered flashlight. I got this shot just in time, because 45 minutes later the clouds started rolling in. I waited around for sunrise, but by this time it was completely overcast. I took the tunnel shot during this time and then drove up to the local store to stock up on some food and water for the day. I knew this place would be packed during the day and would never find a parking place, so I picked my choice to park and finally got several hours of sleep as I waited out the day for sunset. Turns out, I had great conditions for sunset, nice clouds, great light and the heard of people had thinned out.
The GPS coordinates for the road to Pfeiffer Beach and the Arch is 36.24019, -121.77725. It’s Forrest Route 19S05 or Also called Sycamore Canyon Road. It’s also called Sycamore Monterey Beach as well on google maps.
After sunset I drove to Santa Cruz to shoot sunrise and sunset at several spots I had picked out. The place has two arches as well as an area of rocks that look like waterfalls when the waves crash over them.
The sunrise was pretty good for the first arch I shot but then quickly turned into an overcast morning. The GPS location for the first arch is 36.951698, -122.031396 and is just west of Lighthouse Point Park which is actually a Surfer Museum.
The sunset shot I chose for the waves that look like waterfalls is on up the beach area along West Cliff Dr. at GPS coordinates 36.95091, -122.043257. There are several outcroppings here that give you this effect so take your pick. But be careful during high tide. The rocks are covered with moss and seaweed in a lot of areas and you can easily be swept away off these rocks. I was approached by a nice local lady and she warned me of this and that the current and undertow here have taken many people out to sea and they have died. So just passing on the friendly advice I was given.
After taking this shot I drove fast to get another shot of a different arch at Natural Bridges State Park. I might as well call this arch Bird Shit Arch, since it is totally covered with it. But it’s still a great shot if you time it right.