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.

Bahia Honda Key

Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is pretty centrally located in the middle of all the Keys, so I often will get a cabin in the location. Give me an advantage to go east or west for the early morning and sunset shots.

Anne’s Beach

Anne’s Beach

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

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

Key West

Key West

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.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

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.

Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It is the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas, and is composed of over 16 million bricks. The building covers 16 acres. Among United States forts, only Fort Monroe in Virginia and Fort Adams in Rhode Island are larger.

Cannon Beach

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.

Cannon Beach

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.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Seal Rock

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. I’ve used the Seal Rock location on most trips as a camping spot. RV camp site is located directly across the highway from Seal Rock, with direct access to the beach.

Seal Rock
Cape Kiwanda

Cape Kiwanda

Cape Kiwanda is located near Lincoln City. This area offers a lot of different situations to photograph and is kinda tricky to get around.

Cooks Chasm

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.

Bandon Beach

Bandon Beach

We flew into Portland late in the evening and drove all night to Bandon Beach. We arrived there about 3am.

Brookings Oregon

Harris Beach and Lone Ranch Beach, Brookings Oregon

We drove on to Brookings as we were staying at Whalehead Beach Resort.

Cape Sebastian – Hunters Cove

Cape Sebastian – Hunters Cove

This was the area I was saving for the perfect sunset.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse was a location off hwy 101 just outside of Florence.

Panther Creek Falls

First up was Panther falls on the Washington side. A steep slippery decent into the valley presented us with challenges since this waterfall had two sections. And upper more picturesque series of cascades, then an even more dangerous decent to get to the base of the lower section.

I had a few Darwin moments here as I was setting up for one of my shots at the water’s edge and almost went over the second 150 foot waterfall. But my guardian angel was there looking out for me. I am sure he has gotten impatient with me over the years, but he has never let me down yet.

GPS locations:
Latitude 45.86727 N
Longitude -121.82864 W

Panther Creek Falls

Fall Creek Falls

I was able to hit this location the same day. Still exhausted from the hike to Panther Creek Falls, this hike was a little more of a challenge. I had the bright idea to climb the steep hillside covered in dead pine needles which gave no footing at all, and used dead plants and tree branches to climb above the falls, then just slide my way down the hill to a perfect perch I saw to capture this perspective of this waterfall.

Problem was going to be getting back up, but I wanted this shot first and would worry about getting back up when I was finished. One wrong slip and I would have fallen down the gorge onto nice jagged rocks below.

This was my second Darwin moment of the trip, but again, my guardian angel was there with me. An older couple was below watching me and was waiting for me to come down to let me know how crazy I was and then wanted to see the shot I took that I risked so much to get. It was one of my favorite shots from the trip. During the shot, a hint of sunlight came through the clouds and it made all the difference.

Fall Creek Falls

The Oregon Waterfalls along the Columbia River

The Waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge were much more accessible and easier to reach with a small amount of hiking in some locations.

Top of the list on the Oregon side was to photograph Punch Bowl Falls. Here we would get to view two waterfalls on this hike. From the cliffs edge on the trial to Punchbowl Falls is a waterfall called Metlako Falls.

Following on up Eagle Creek to Punchbowl falls, the total lengthen was 3.8 round trip.. Elevation gain was only 500 feet. When we had reached Punch Bowl Falls, to get the best vantage point for the photo, I went wading into the river. We were there during heavy spring run off so the water became painfully cold after standing in the water for over 45 minutes.

Punch Bowl Falls
Proxy Falls Oregon

Proxy Falls

One of my other favorite waterfalls in the Oregon Cascade region is Proxy Falls. The one way loop trail located in the Three Sisters Wilderness, travels through open lava fields and dense forest, offering views of two different waterfalls. Proxy Falls is one of the most frequently photographed waterfalls in Oregon and rightfully so. You will have to endure heavy mist issues while down below getting that low angle shot, so bring water gear to help cover the camera and a cloth to constantly wipe it off. This waterfall is just over 226 feet.

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

Took a few weeks to explore the waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge as well and more waterfalls in the Cascades of Oregon and far eastern Washington.

Flew into Seattle to meet up with a fellow photographer and we headed towards Portland. We had an ambitious route planned to hit as many waterfalls as possible. And instead of starting the trip off at a slower pace and work our way into more a more intense pace, we hit the ground running and went to the most difficult waterfalls on the Washington side first.

We kept up a pretty intense pace hitting different waterfall locations every day, sleeping in a van and never staying in one spot for more than a day. We kept up the pace for almost two weeks and were exhausted by the time we had finished. But it was one of the most successful trips to day as far as capturing outstanding photographs.

Wahclella Falls

Wahclella Falls

The falls consist of two falls, dropping 48 and 79 feet through a narrow gorge covered in moss. The river below it is full of boulders also covered in moss and is one of the most picturesque scenes along the Columbia River Gorge.

Burney Falls

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Mcloud Falls, Hedge Creek Falls and Mossbrae Falls

Flew into Sacramento and headed north on I-5 just past Reeding and then took hwy 299 to hwy 89 to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Here is a link to their website to help you plan your own trip. http://www.burney-falls.com/

I drove all night to get here before sun up since I knew there would be no cloud cover. I typically will never shoot waterfalls during sunny days so it was either beat the sun or suffer taking crappy shots after spending a lot of money on airfare and a rental car.

I arrived at McArthur-Burney Falls around 4:30 am just as the morning sun glow was coming up over the horizon. I pulled out the bag for some of the warmer clothing but forgot them at home and did not pack any of it. .So I was stuck in t-shirts and shorts. I took one shot from the parking lot, then hurried down to the waters edge to start shooting.  It was a little after 5.a.m when I started shooting.  So I had enough light to emulate a cloudy day. I had to work fast as there was a race against the sun to get all the shots I wanted. As I made my way down the easy switchbacks down to the waters edge, I saw where I really need to be. And this would require hoping over slick lava rock covered in slime. From one end of the shore to the other I was able to do this without busting my ass and getting the camera wet.

There was the constant battle of keeping the camera and lens dry and the wind and mist was constantly blowing right at me. Eventually I saw a better shot that ment it was time to wade into the water for a series of shots. I do not know how cold the water actually was. But I was wading in there for over 15 minutes and it was so cold it became painful. Like a million needles sticking in me. I had to get out of the water for just a bit to warm back up. But at this point, I could see the sunlight hitting the tips of the trees. Back into the water I went to get the last few shots I could before I know I would be dealing with hot spots and even more bracketing for each shot.

As the sun eventually beat me, I decided to work with it and keep shooting. Some of these images would take up to 8 shots to combine later in photoshop. There is just no way to take one shot and get the full dynamic range even on a cloudy day. I think over all these last shots with some of the sun coming through turned out pretty good.

As I left McArthur-Burney Falls, the park was still closed. There was no envelope to pay my entrance fee. But I did see one of the rangers in the visitor’s center getting things ready. So I knocked on the door to let her know there were no envelopes and I needed to pay. She was happy I made sure I paid and we started talking a lot. Since I told her to keep the change and donate it to the park, she ended up telling me of even more waterfalls in the area I could go explore that I had not even heard of. She gave me a map with easy directions and off I went to the waterfalls around McCloud. Going to have to say the lady who is the park ranger at McArthur-Burney Falls state park is one of the best I have ever talked to.

McCloud Falls

McCloud Falls area

41° 15.399’N 122° 1.806’W

These are the coordinates to the turn off from hwy 89 to see Lower, Middle and Upper McCloud Falls. Just follow the road and you will see signs telling you where lower falls is located. Then back track and go see Middle and Upper Falls.

I first headed on to lower falls. I knew the sun would give me a lot of problems but that just ment a lot more post processing when I got home. Seemed like I ended up taking 8 different exposures for every one picture I took. All of these waterfalls have easy access to them and you can pull right up to the over looks. But there is a trail you can take that will lead you to each waterfall.

The whole area is known as the McCloud River Loop in the Shasta National Forest. If you are coming from McArthur-Burney Falls, set your odometer to 0 and at the 35 mile mark is the sign into this area. It’s a pretty big sign so you can’t miss it. B on the lookout for Ash Creek Station and you know you are getting close. Lots of places to pull over and camp in this area. I saw mostly fishermen while I was here and only two other photographers. As a side note, this area is on private lands and is very well maintained so make sure you stay on the trail so you do not trespass onto their lands.

Mossbrae Falls

Lots of info out on the net to get to Mossbrae Falls in Dunsmuir, Siskiyou County. But I’ll give you the gps coordinates on where to park and where the falls are located. You will turn and head west on a road called Scarlet Way from Dunsmuir Ave and drive on over the bridge. Once over the bridge, pull over and park. Scarlet Way turn off gps coordinates are 41° 13.713’N, 122° 16.563’W. This road turns into Cave Ave. then Simpson Ave. but it is the same road.

As mentioned all over the internet, you just follow the trail tracks for a mile until you come to the old rail road bridge. You will see the trail easily off to your right just before this bridge. During my time I was there, on a Saturday, 4 different trains passed by. So be listening and get off the tracks when they come through. In some spots there is not much room for you to stand as it passes by. The bridge itself actually has a catwalk so if you are on the bridge, you have a safe place to stand.

Mossbrae Falls is only about 50 ft. high, but about 150 ft. wide. The water cascades from springs down the moss-covered canyon wall, and down into the Sacramento River, creating the effect of many waterfall streams falling into the river.

I had planned to go see Mossbrae Falls in the morning. But since I found out about the waterfalls near McCloud, I ended up here during the late evening and sunset. I took a few shots while the sun was still hitting the falls, but just 30 minutes later, the sun went behind the hill and I had nice even light for photography.

It was fairly crowded while I was there, as to be expected over the 4th of July weekend. But I was still able to get plenty of shots I wanted since people were coming and going. At one point I had the place to myself for about 20 minutes.

Tangle Falls

Tangle Falls

Tangle Falls is along Hwy 93 (Icefields Parkway). This waterfall is dramatic in it’s multitiered cascade that’s about 114 feet tall. It’s right off the highway and the easiest to see. Just outside of Banff as you enter into Jasper National Park a bit. This will be your first stop as you visit the numerous photo locations within Jasper National Park. I was lucky enough to photograph this waterfall during fall colors. It actually was snowing off and on during my trek into Jasper from Banff that day. Get here first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.

N 52° 16.035 W 117° 17.197

Johnson Canyon

Johnson Canyon

Some of the best waterfalls of the Rockies are located in Banff and Jasper National Park. Inside the Mountains Photo gallery, I have placed two maps there for people to download the best photography spots within these two parks. My favorite waterfall in Banff happens to be in Johnston Canyon in an area where you need to climb down below the overlook. It’s really not named but on the Johnston Canyon trail map, it is the waterfall between Upper Falls and the Lower Falls.

The image to the right is the actual overlook. You will need to back track a little and look over the edge to see the trail where others have gone down. It’s not very difficult at all for the extra effort to get the shot.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls

Located in Jasper National Park, Canada. It is accessible by a short drive off the Icefields Parkway that connects Jasper and Banff National Parks. The Sunwapta River where the waterfalls are located are just past the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge at coordinates 52.532310, -117.645551.

Iguassu Falls, Brazil – Iguazu Falls, Argentina (Iguazú Falls)

There are more than 270 falls in an area where cliffs and islets are scattered in a half moon shape. In guarani language, the term “Iguazú” means “great waters”. It was discovered in 1541 by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and established in 1984 as Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  The Brazilian spelling is Iguassu and the view from the Brazilian side is panoramic. Concrete walks start in front of the Hotel Das Cataratas and zig zag their way down until coming to the boardwalk that takes you to the end of Devil’s Throat for a view back into the “throat”.

The Spanish spelling is Iguazu and the view from the Argentine side is mainly “up-close and personal” with walks along the tops of the falls, along the bottom of the falls and to the very edge of the back of Devil’s Throat.The falls can be reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls: Foz do Iguaçu in the Brazilian state of Paraná, and Puerto Iguazú in the Argentine province of Misiones.

We stayed in Foz do Iguaçu on the Brazilian side at a hotel called San Martin which was only 500 meters from the park entrance. I do not recommend this hotel due to the poor staff that runs this hotel but that is another story. We stayed there only because of the close location to the park even after reading the numerous negative feedback this place has received.

iguazu falls

The climate of Foz do Iguaçu is sub-tropical, with two seasons; one humid and hot in the summer and another, dry and cool, in the winter. We were there in the winter month of July and the temperature was a perfect 70 degrees. A perfect break from the humid 110 degrees we have during the summer months in Texas.The city’s annual average temperature is 23.8°C (74.8°F), but can be as high as 47°C (117°F) in the summer (highest) or as low as -5°C (23°F) in the winter (lowest). The average in the summer is 26.5°C (79.7°F)and in the winter 15.4°C (59.6°F).

Many people have asked which side I liked the best. For me as a photographer you should not neglect seeing each side of the falls. As mentioned above, the Brazilian side has all the panoramic shots.

iguazu falls

The Argentina side has all the up close and personal shots. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice if you skipped out on either side.

The parks are not photographer friendly though. They open up at 8am and close at 6pm. So forget getting that crack of dawn shot. And unless you go in the winter time, you will not be getting that perfect light for sunset. I was pushing it getting my shot and the park ranger eventually ran me out of the park. I was the last one to leave. I did not fly thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to take crappy shots with poor light. So I had no problem pushing it right up past closing time.

If you want to avoid this you will have to splurge and spend the extra money and stay at the Sheraton on the Argentina side or the San Juan Hotel with in the park on the Brazilian side.

iguazu falls

I will do this next time I go. And I do plan on going back. My trip to Iguazu Falls this time was a gutsy one. I rented a car and drove from Sao Paulo to Foz do Iguaçu. Took us around 19 hours of driving mostly single lane highways and over $100 worth of toll roads. Brazil does not have a rail system like America so they have crappy semi trucks clogging the highways that you will be fighting with over the entire trip.

My advice is to fly into Foz do Iguaçu and rent a car there if you want the independence of driving yourself to the Argentina side. Otherwise you will pay dearly for a taxi and it will also cost you time.