Man The Cannons! – St. Petersburg, Florida

It’s always interesting to see who wants to go where in my photography field trips. Most people like to stay within the city. This makes it convenient for everyone, but it can get stagnate photographing the same place over and over again. I like to suggest going to Tampa, Orlando or Naples. The reaction I get is people think that I have five heads. I guess their cars only run within the county lines. However, there are a few students that are interested in going out of town for a day of shooting. This past year, I had such a case.

I had one student that had no problem going anywhere and buying equipment that he thought that would make his job easier. The place that we decided to go to was Fort DeSoto in Tampa, Florida. As the name implies, this fort was built during the Spanish American War. The price of admission is almost free. If you have to cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, that’s a $1 and you have to cross one more bridge that is .35 cents. This is right on Tampa Bay and is a great place to go swimming, fishing and picnicking.  They also have camping facilities if you wish to bring your RV and stay awhile. There are two concession stands that offer hot dogs and hamburgers if you don’t want to bring your lunch with you.

It’s neat to see how everything was operational back then. They have kept it all as it was, all of the cannons, ammunition, firing and planning rooms are still on display. In one of the rooms, there is reading material that explains it’s role in the war and how the facility was used. Since Tampa Bay was the first big port coming up the Gulf of Mexico, it was heavily guarded to ensure that any unwanted vessels didn’t make it past into the United States. Today, the bay is a very busy place with commercial ships coming and going on a regular basis, but the cannons are not operational so the captains don’t have anything to worry about.

Who Wants To Pull The Pin?

Here is what one of the cannons look like. They were designed to shoot over the wall. There are four of these, two on each end of the fort. It must have been something to hear and see one of these things going off! This is a HDR shot. As some of you may already know, I’m not into the “artistic” look of HDR, I like the realistic look. This was shot later in the afternoon and this was an appropriate lighting condition for HDR. I also wanted to get all of the detail of the cannon walls as well as all of the detail that is on the cannon itself. The source images were nine bracketed photos, one stop apart. I use the +4, +2. 0, -2 and -4 for my images. I processed these in Photomatix and did some post in Photoshop. At this point I have abandoned Photomatix for my HDR merging and I’m now using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro. I like this tool much better as it gives me a more natural look and it has the advantage of the U-Point technology.

You’re Fired!

Being a photographer instructor, one of the perks is you try and get people to do things that might be a little out of the norm for a “learning experience”. I wanted to see if I could get the cannon operational again…just for a few seconds. I wanted to see what it would look like as if a cannon ball would be coming out. Here is what I did, having a Nikon with all of the Creative Lighting System (CLS) parts this allowed me to try a couple of things. I wanted to stick a flash in the tube and have my student look into the barrel. I used a SB800 for the flash and a SU800 Commander Unit to fire the flash wirelessly. We took a couple of test shots and at first we couldn’t get the flash to fire. With this system you need line of sight. So we fiddled with the placement until the flash fired. At this point, we had a crowd gathering wondering what the hell we were doing. He stuck his head close to the barrel opening and I took a few. This turned out to be a rather cool image. Some kids that were hanging from the top were sticking their heads in there as well so we took a few of their photos. I did make one mistake though, during the “technical difficulties”, I forgot to put a Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel on the flash. The original photo has white light coming out instead of orange. I made the correction using Nik’s Vivesa 2 plug in. This was literally a 15 second fix; you gotta love their products.

To Build A Bridge

We traveled around the fort and we came to the end most point. As we approached the end of the road, in front of us was a beautiful scene of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This bridge is pretty massive, it out spans the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. The length of the bridge is almost 30,000 feet. It’s quite impressive when you are going over it to see the view. When I was going to college in Tampa, I used to cross this bridge two to three times a week. As we were setting up our tripods and getting our gear around, there was a fisherman wading out into the water. This was perfect, I could use him to help anchor the photo (pun intended) and also to show sense of scale. I photographed this with a narrow aperture to make sure that everything would be in focus.

At the end of the day, we came back with some great photos; tummys full of hot dogs and we all learned something. If you are in the Tampa area or are going to be driving through, it might be worth stopping and seeing what this great federal park has to offer.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


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