Posts Tagged With: Dry Tortugas National Park

The Florida Coast – From the Treasure Coast to the Dry Tortugas

Starting last February, for seven months I managed a construction project in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Before leaving Colorado for this assignment, I knew full well that I’m a mountain man at heart but looked at the South Florida project as an opportunity to explore a region I would normally not spend more than a few days time while on vacation.  Knowing this was very much a short term assignment, I made it a point to get out with my camera often.  I was especially spoiled since my apartment in Boca Raton was only a few miles from the beach!  So, quite often, I’d set my sights on the beaches of south Florida for my photography.

Even though I often frequented the the beaches that were within a short drive, mainly Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach, I did take pictures of the coast as far north as St. Augustine.  But, my favorite images were taken in Southern Florida.  One memorable trip was when I went backpacking into the Everglades from the Flamingo area to Clubhouse Beach on Florida Bay and was nearly eaten alive by ravenous bugs in the process.  Another favorite place I visited was Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park where I camped for nearly three days and took my favorite image while in Florida.

I did quickly realize beaches are popular at all times of the day!  This posed a challenge for me because I usually prefer “nature” photos that do not show any human presence and purposefully don’t often include people in my images.  Living on one of the most densely populated stretches of coastline in North America, removing all human presence from my images sometimes proved to be an impossibility.  However, I did learn that sometimes what makes an image is by including that human connection.

Photographing the ocean also proved to be quite challenging.  On the Atlantic Coast, shooting sunrise means you are looking directly into the sun, causing scenes with very high contrast that makes controlling the exposure of images very difficult (for example, you have a really pretty sky, but the ground is totally black.  Also, the ocean is a very dynamic beast.  The difference between high tide and low tide can completely change the look and feel of a location.  Waves are ever changing; sometimes calm sometimes wild and crazy, changing from one extreme to another if what feels like a matter of minutes.  I learned an expensive lesson at Blowing Rocks Preserve near Jupiter, Florida when I was hit by an unexpectedly large wave that soaked some of my camera gear and caused several hundred dollars of damage!

Living and frequently shooting the Southern Florida Coast proved to be very challenging and definitely put me outside my comfort zone as a photographer.  But ultimately I learned a lot from my experiences in Florida and was able to take away some of my favorite imagery.  Even though I’m not destined to live the “salt life,” I understand and appreciate why many people do…

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The Splash Zone – Blowing Rocks Preserve – Jupiter, FL

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Witches Brew – Boca Raton, FL

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Moonrise at the Pier – Deerfield Beach, FL

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Sunrise at the Pier – Deerfield Beach, FL

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Mudflats to Infinity – Clubhouse Beach – Everglades National Park

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Twilight Blues – Delray Beach, FL

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Florida Bay Blues – Everglades National Park

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Serenity Now – Boca Raton, FL

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Surf’s Up – Boca Raton, FL

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Gone Fishin’ – Boca Raton, FL

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Starburst Sunset – Clubhouse Beach, Everglades National Park

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Colorful Calm – Delray Beach, FL

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Morning has Broken – Boca Raton, FL

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Serpent’s Tongue – Boca Raton, FL

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The Moat Wall – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Categories: Hiking, National Parks, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dry Tortugas National Park

In January, I was asked to manage a 6 month project in south Florida.  Living in the Rocky Mountains and being an avid skier, moving to a sub tropical climate in the middle of the winter was honestly a hard decision to make.  In the end, I decided a short term move to Florida would make a great adventure.  Before moving down to Boca Raton, Florida, I researched outdoor activities and attractions in the area and it became immediately clear that a visit to Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park was on the top of my “to do” list.

I always thought the end of the Florida Keys was at Key West; well, the roads end there, but seventy miles further west sit the Dry Tortugas, the true end of the Florida Keys.  On Garden Key, sits the massive Fort Jefferson; the third largest coastal defense fort in the United States and, with over 16 million bricks, the largest masonry built structure in the Americas.  Although accessing the fort is very easy thanks to the Yankee Freedom ferry, access at my favorite times to photograph, sunrise and sunset, is a bit more challenging.  With the Yankee Freedom arriving at the island each day at mid morning, and then leaving mid afternoon, an overnight stay was in order.   As luck would have it, very limited primitive camping is provided on the island and I booked a two night stay in the first week of June.

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The Moat Wall – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Upon arriving on the island, I began running around scouting locations to come back to and photograph when the light was better.   I was immediately drawn to this small section along the moat wall where the original brick pavers were still covering the top of the wall (most of the top has been “restored” by pouring concrete in place of replacing the brick pavers).   I noticed this stretch of moat wall pointed due west, and knew the sun would set at the end of the wall, making for a powerful image.

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The Parade Ground – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

The parade ground of the fort is 18 acres.  At the height of the fort’s use, nearly two thousand soldiers and their families lived on this parade ground.  During and after the Civil War, Fort Jefferson was used as a prison, even housing the conspirators of the Lincoln assassination.

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Endless Arches – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Over 16 million bricks were used to build hundreds of arches throughout the fort.  All of these arches make for countless photographic opportunities,

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Hidden Alcove – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

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Coaling Dock Ruins – Dry Tortugas National Park

Everything man made on Garden Key is in one state of decay or another.

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Brick Beach – Dry Tortugas National Park

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Historic Decay – Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Although the fort takes up the majority of Garden Key, there are two beaches that offer spectacular snorkeling.

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South Beach Twilight – Garden Key, Dry Tortugas National Park

I must say, after spending two nights on this very small and remote island, I was ready to get on the ferry, take a shower, and head home.  However, I already would love to go back.  Even if you only have time to do a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, go and see it!  You will not be disappointed!

Categories: Architecture, National Parks, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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