Southern Florida (pt 1); Sanibel Island


Standing on Blind Pass Beach looking out into the Gulf of Mexico. Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200. 1/250 sec @ f9.

I have been to Florida about 10 times in my life, but it was always to the same destination, The Great Mouse House. So venturing way south of there was going to be a new experience for me and one that I hoped would offer some great photographic opportunities. I have decided to break this post up into several parts due to how diverse this trip was. Let’s begin with the main destination… Sanibel Island.

Over this past winter we decided that we needed some beach pictures for our portfolio, so it was decided that Southern Florida seemed like as good place as any to get some beach shots since nothing says summer and the beach like palm trees! We settled on heading to Sanibel Island which


The main sign as you drive across the bridge over the Causeway into Sanibel.

is located on the Gulf of Mexico in Southern Florida. Sanibel Island is widely known (to many other than myself) to be the “Shelling Capital” of the US as people flock here from all over to hunt for sea shells. As I stated I knew NOTHING of Sanibel before this trip, but I did a lot of research in the months leading up to it which had me both excited but worried because with all of my searching I found very little in the way of great photographs from Sanibel other than a lot of touristy images and thousands of “shells on the beaches” shots. So I began to wonder if we had made the right decision to go there, that was until trip got to be weeks out and I changed up the keywords I was using in my search and got totally inspired by what I found (that story will be in part two of this series).


The main office of Castaways Cottages.

We stayed at Castaways Cottages which was located on the northern end of Sanibel Island. Little did I know when I booked this in March how opportunistic it would be for me photographically in late July since it is within walking distance to the bridge between Sanibel and Captiva Islands. These cottages are OLD FLORIDA!! I was talking with the owner one morning and he said they were built around the 1940’s, and they looked like it. They room/cottage we had was small, but it was clean and in its own way it was rustic and charming, which after a day or so we found out we really enjoyed. My wife’s only complaint was our uninvited room guest, a small lizard snooping through one of the cupboards over the microwave… boy did she scream and the lizard never returned ~ LOL!

Once we settled in from the drive we headed to the beach, which was my first time seeing the Gulf of Mexico in person. The winds and tide were bad, especially the Red Tide which had me coughing as I found it a bit hard to breath outside a few times. Nonetheless I was excited as the weather forecast had clouds and rain around for most of the week.

A little insight to my artistic mind on this trip… I had gone from wanting to capture gorgeous colorful sunrises and sunsets in the months before we went on this trip, to wanting to focus more fine art photography in the details of the beach as this trip got closer. So my mindset was in a monochromatic place as I began my search for images and wouldn’t you know it the color was just too good to pass up, so I actually was able to balance both while there.

I won’t bore you with anymore backstory and move right on to the images to hopefully get you excited in making a trip south.

**One note before you move on… all these images are exposed manually. IMO this is the only way you can bring out the color and create the image you want. I never shoot on any program mode with my DSLR’s, and only rarely will I when using a P/S. Now onward to the images….

This image was one that I had preconcieved before heading to Florida. I love seeing old structures or things in the water as they add such a nice subject of interest. By using the Lee Big Stopper it helped smooth out the water to allow the details of this old pier to shine through.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 14-24. 1/15 sec @ f20. Lee Big Stopper for the water. Blended image for cloud details.

This next image just happened as I was walking to the cottage from the beach disappointed that I had missed a moonrise over a palm. I looked up and saw the colors pop in the sky. I have always loved Palm trees since seeing my first one way back in 1974 and capturing a silhouette of one with THAT sky was magical!


Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200 f/4 lens. 1/250 @ f5 handheld.

This next image was another that I was in search of while on this trip. I found this marina early one morning and I had the whole marina to myself as I moved from scene to scene. A lesson here, getting up early really pays off ESPECIALLY at the beach so you don’t have to clone out people from your shots.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 24-70. 1/13 @f/5. Tripod.

This image is another that was just there waiting for me to photograph it. I was actually waiting to see what the sunset was going to look like and had my camera safely away to keep it from getting blasted with too much salt air when this family just stopped.. I quickly unpacked the camera and put it up to my eye, and waited for a few other beachcombers/shell hunters to pass before grabbing this one shot.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200 f4. 1/2500 @ f/14.

This next shot is another that just happened, but in some ways was one I had envisioned way back. I was actually driving around early one morning photographing the Sanibel sign not even thinking about any sort of beach sunrise pics when I saw some color poking through a tree line. I ran over and began wildly shooting different comps of this as I knew that I would only have a minute or two before the light was gone.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200 f4. 1/500 @ f/11.

This next image was one that I had wanted since planning the trip. I have always loved the Florida Clouds, or as Jimmy Buffett puts it…Floridays. So with my mind locked on looking for contrast and seeing these clouds as we were driving over the Causeway I knew I had a golden opportunity for a few photographs.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 24-70. 1/200 @ f/10.

This next image reminds me that while back home I need to get out more before and after storms as that is when the magic happens.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 24-70. 1/100 @ f/5.

I think this next image shows that Golden Hour can look dramatic even in monochromatic.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200 f4.

Speaking of drama, this image is one that speaks volumes IMO.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 24-70.

When I was younger I used to travel to the Outer Banks Beaches of NC, and I was spoiled by those lighthouses. So when I saw Sanibel Light in pictures I wasn’t that impressed and actually was thinking about passing up any visits to it. That all changed after a visit to a local art gallery one afternoon which inspired me to make an attempt at a shot from here. So early this morning I got up and ventured to the other end of the island and captured this shot. I now have a new appreciation for this lighthouse.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 14-24. 5 sec @ f/4. I had to time this shot to capture the light cycle.

Now for two of my favorite shots from Sanibel Island. The first being a early morning capture from the banks of Captiva Island, and the second being a sunset I wasn’t looking for, but one I will never forget.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 14-24. Looking towards Sanibel with the Gulf Of Mexico at my feet.


Nikon D800 + Nikon 70-200 f4.

Thank you for reading this post. I will be adding part two very soon.



4 thoughts on “Southern Florida (pt 1); Sanibel Island

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