Monday, September 13, 2010

The right gear at the right time

I just spent Labor day weekend in Southwest Florida and had a chance to visit some of the beautiful beaches that the area has to offer. I was particularly captivated by Turner Beach in Captiva Island, a nice beach for shelling and fishing... and taking pics.

Most of the beaches in the area are nice and give a great chance to admire the sun setting, but after visiting and shooting many sunsets I’ve came to realize that I need more foreground elements in my pics to really make them stand out. There are a couple of beaches with piers and vegetation that help compose an image, but I think my favorite by far is the rock jetty at Turner Beach in Captiva Island. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most inaccessible for me to visit when I come to the area on business; particularly now that the summer is almost over and the day’s keep getting shorter.

At the tip of the reef... there's a fisherman in the splash zone

Captiva is about an hour an a half drive from the office, which means that in order to catch a sunset in Captiva now (at the time of writing, the sun sets around 7:30 pm) I would need to exit the office around 5:30 pm, drive straight to Captiva without stoping for dinner and hope that the weather is nice. Considering most times I’m sharing a ride with another co-worker that is not interested in skipping dinner just to catch the sun setting, it pretty much makes it impossible to get there in time.

But this time, I had the chance to go with a little more time during daylight just to realize that I didn’t planned it right at all. I arrived during the heavy heat and sun time of 1:00 pm hoping to shoot all day until sundown. Big mistake. The heat and the sun were harsh... not as bad as Houston though, and the fact that I could get my feet on the ocean helped. But then, I decided to go to the rock jetty... first wearing sandals... wet sandals... wet slippery sandals. Let’s just say it wasn’t my brightest moment. I almost slipped and crashed into the rocks (along with my camera!!) but fortunately managed to recover my balance and I was able to calmly go back to drop of the sandals... but I wanted to go to the tip of the jetty... so I manned up and took the task barefoot.

Barefoot there was virtually no slipping with the rocks, but there were occasional rocks that had been eroded into sharp shapes witch made it hard to put your weight on and there were also some rocks that, somehow, where hotter due to the sun than others. Still, I was having a blast... I stepped a few rocks, and I shoot some pics... in burst mode because the waves were crashing and I wanted to catch the water splashing... the rock jetty couldn’t have been more than a fifty feet long, but it took me almost 40 minutes to get to the tip where the waves were crashing and a guy was fishing... and just then, when a series of big waves were crashing against the rocks producing some great looking splashes it happened... my camera wouldn’t shoot anymore... I’ve filled my memory card and, in my confidence in myself, I’d left the camera bag (along with my memory cards) safely back on the beach.

That's all the way I had to go... barefoot

So... wrapping up the story... I head back to the beach, replace my memory card and went all the way back to the tip of the jetty (this time it only took me about 3 minutes since I didn’t stopped to take pics at every rock) but the waves were calmer then... and it was time for me to leave... so I just shot a couple of snapshots and... head back.

The lesson here? I lost a lot of time (and caused myself a lot of unnecessary pain and annoyance) because I didn’t planned it right. I already knew Captiva from before... I knew about the rock jetty... I knew that you should always keep an eye on how many pics you got left... I knew the time I wanted to shoot at Captiva was at sundown... and yet, at that time... I completely blanked.

Fortunately... you can always learn from your mistakes (isn’t that the whole point of making them?). Two days after that, I planned a second trip to Captiva. This time it was timed to arrive there about 30 minutes before the sunset, I was wearing sneakers, I got my tripod with me and a fresh memory card and a backup with me. Also, Izildur tagged along for the ride and I think I got better results:

Sunset on the jetty

In the end, I think I enjoyed both experiences. I learned from both and they were fun, but I do believe I got better pics the second day; but don’t take my word for it! Here are the links to the sets of the First and Second day, so you can be the judge.

So anyone reading this post has a similar story or tip on being prepared? Please, share in the comments.

‘Till next time,


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