There are times when I’m driving around and I notice things that I would like to stop and investigate further. As Murphy would have it, I’m usually in route to teach a class or on some kind of mission and don’t have the time at the moment. One of the most important pieces of equipment that I carry in my camera bag is a notebook and a pen. This way, I can make notes to myself for ideas later. Yes, I do have an iPhone, which has a voice recording memo app, but this is one of those things that I do better with old fashion paper and pen. This is a great way to keep from getting “bored” in your photographic hobby or career as it keeps your eyes open to different possibilities. (Just be sure to also keep an eye on the car in front of you as well!)
I have lived in this subtropical peninsula since 1988, and Boca Grande is such a place to find all kinds of nooks and crannies for photography goodness. Boca Grande is known to most for two things, first is the historic lighthouse at the end of the island. It’s quite something to see and is in great shape. The other thing that Boca Grande is known for, at least in the Charlotte County region is “shelling”. The shells that are on the beaches at Boca Grande are intact and are beautiful and vibrant. They haven’t been stepped on until they have turned into shell dust. Also, every time that I have been out to the beach, it’s never crowded. I inquired about this phenomenon and I was told this, “People don’t want to pay the $6 bucks to go over the bridge and pay another $3 to use the park services.” OK, so if I understand this, if I pay a total of $9 to have access to some of the world’s most expensive real estate and I can lay out like bacon in frying pan and not be bothered….sign me up. This is a great place to take the family or visitors when they come to visit.
I have had the opportunity of teaching a couple of classes at the Boca Grande Art Alliance earlier this year. I met some great folks and learned some facts about the island and it’s neighbors, past and present. I also hosted the 2012 Worldwide Photo Walk at this location. During all of these activities, there is always something that has caught my eye. One in particular was a plain white lighthouse. It wasn’t so much the actual lighthouse that caught my eye; it was the erosion of the entrance door. I’m always on the look out for stuff that is really old, rusting and has character. This can be a challenge in Florida as soon as something is more than ten minutes old, it gets tore down and they pave a parking lot for a new mega mall. (If anyone has and great suggestions for these kinds of locations, let me know, PLEASE!) As luck would have it, I was either teaching class or hosting events so I wasn’t able to look at this location more closely. I decided one day to play hooky and J.D.I. (Just Do It)
To prepare for the photos, I took my 18mm-200mm lens and my 12mm-24mm just in case. I had no idea what I was going to run into so I wanted to be prepared for anything. I pulled into the parking lot and I was in luck, there were only a few cars so there was plenty of parking. Not more than 50 feet away was the lighthouse that I had driven by so many times. I fitted my camera with the 18mm-200mm and I was off….until I looked through the viewfinder and realized this wasn’t going to happen, at least not with this lens. Back to the car I go and swapped out the lens for the 12mm-24mm. I held the camera up to my eye and it was then a grin that came across my face as if I was in the drive thru at a Krispy Kreme.
The foliage was grown up around it quite a bit and I was moving around the structure looking for an angle where I could get the whole thing in and not have palmetto city covering it either. I took some extreme wide angle close ups, but I wasn’t feeling it. I then realized that it was time to go for a hike…across the road. Since this is off-season for the island, this was a no brainer. With camera and tripod in tow, off I go (hey, that rhymes!) I looked through the viewfinder and bango, this was perfect. I set the camera up to take a bracketed series, as I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out. This thing is jet white with rusted colors all over it against a blue sky. I wanted to take this to black in white, as that is what I saw in my noodle from the beginning, but it still needed detail in the whites. In post I ended up adding a red filter to get the sky darker as to put the focus on the lighthouse.
The main thing that attracted me to this was that it was elegant but old and in disrepair. As you can see, it has “1927” on the door face. I had no information about this lighthouse, as far as I knew this was the address. After doing a Google search for “1927 Boca Grande Lighthouse” I was flooded with info. This is called the “Boca Grande Entrance Rear Range” lighthouse. The short story from what I read was that it’s original location was in Lewes, Delaware and was built in 1881. Due to the shifting shore it was dismantled and shipped via railroad to Miami where it eventually made it’s way to Gasparilla Island. It was reassembled in 1927 and was lit in 1932. When the captain lined the ship up using the front and rear lighthouse, he knew he was in the middle of the channel. Pretty cool stuff, since I know nothing about boating.
As I mentioned previously, it was the metal that drew me to this structure. I wanted to get some close ups of the actual entrance as this is where the most erosion has seemed to have taken place. As with the other photos, I mounted the camera on a tripod with an electronic release. I took nine bracketed exposures and the histogram told me that I had captured all of the light in the scene. When I got back to the office, I merged these together in Exposure Fusion and used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to do the black and white conversion.
While I was out there, it would have been against some photographer’s law not to stop at the historic lighthouse. Granted, I have hundreds of photos of this place and wasn’t really in the mood to add to that collection. Instead, I wanted something different. I saw some old dock braces out in the water. I was told that these were left over from FPL. I tried doing some research, but came up with a goose egg. Maybe someone can fill us in at the comment section below on what exactly these are. Again, no one around, but being the short minded fellow that I can be, I walked the long way around the beach to get this photo. Forget the Tread Climber; just walk down the beach for a while!
The water is so clear and is actually that turquoise blue that you see on all of those Bahamas commercials. This was shot in the same fashion as the others. Since the water is so clear, I didn’t even need a circular polarizer to cut through the water.
Now that I’m out of breath and parched it was time to head into town. One of the many popular places to take photos is Banyan Tree road. I have seen wedding folks, engagements, families and everything in between having their photos taken at this spot.
I too have many photos of this location, however I was on the lookout for something different. Not to mention that there was a family getting their portrait taken and I didn’t want to intervene with the production. Also, the photographer was using one of those cameras that shall not be named that had a white lens! (Here comes the hate mail!)
I was looking at the roots and it looked as if there were waves of wood. OK now I have officially lost it apparently! This time I set the tripod up so it was only a few inches off the ground. I wanted to get the view as if the roots were coming at me. This was bracketed as well. During this time, I’m hunched over with hands and knees on the ground trying to get what I want…in front of the folks who are trying to get their photo taken. Granted I’m at the other end of the street so I’m not in their way, until…I have a strange feeling in my pants. I look down and it was then I realized that I apparently kneeled in an ant highway. It wasn’t long I must have looked like someone who escaped from the psycho ward and I was punching myself in the legs trying to kill however many ants were in charge of defending their turf while not hitting anything vital. I’m in open view of people and ripping off my pants really isn’t an option, not without an indecent exposure charge anyway. After what seemed like an eternity, I must have got them all. With legs on fire, I decided it was time to get into the car and head home before they took me to the padded room.
At the end of the day, Boca Grande is a great place to take photos and learn about some history. I have also parked the car in downtown and walked around the neighborhoods. One could come up with a whole portfolio on just the gates, windows and doors, as they are all very photogenic. The next time you are in the area, stop by and spend some time. There is plenty to do and tour, but most of all….take an extra set of PANTS WITH YOU!
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean