Coastal Scenes

Story Behind the Photo: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach, San Francisco

When I made plans to travel to San Francisco for the first time, Baker Beach was at the top of my list for places to visit. As a huge fan of Ansel Adams, I had long admired his photos from Baker Beach of the Golden Gate Bridge. After a long day of traveling cross country with layovers in every time zone in between, my husband and I landed in San Francisco about two hours before sunset and made to Baker Beach just in time for this shot.  As one of the most internationally recognizable symbols of San Francisco, this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge is one of my favorites from that trip. We are planning to head back to the area this fall, and I might just have to visit Baker Beach again!

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Story Behind the Photo: Afternoon Storm

Afternoon Storm on the Gulf of Mexico near Dunedin, FL

Thanks to the sea breezes from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts that converge over the Florida peninsula and usually push westerly, storms pop up most afternoons along the west coast. On this day in early July, my family had been enjoying an afternoon with friends anchored just offshore at Three Rooker Bar at Anclote Key Preserve just west of Tarpon Springs, FL.  Around 3:00 pm, the sky started to cloud up and typical rainy season storms started to approach the Gulf from the east. Since the line was too long to outrun, we ‘battened down the hatches’ and prepared for the impending rain. The storm only lasted about twenty minutes and was by no means violent, but the cloudy skies beforehand made for some amazing photos.

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Story Behind the Photo: Sea Kayak

Sea Kayak, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

This weekend we are expecting highs in the upper 80′s and plentiful sunshine before our typical afternoon thunderstorms. With such warm temperatures, the only ways to stay cool are to be on the water or in the air conditioning!  Many people will be out this weekend in their kayaks getting some great exercise while enjoying the water like only they can. With little water needed to float and virtually no impact to the sensitive sea grass beds in along our shores, kayaking opens a whole new world that few others can reach. A favorite destination for many kayakers are Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks. The mangrove lined coves along the sound side of the islands are only accessible via kayak and are teaming with wildlife, making them a must see.

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Story Behind the Photo: Pacific Sunset

Pacific Sunset, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

My family and I just returned from a fabulous vacation in the San Diego area and are still talking about what a great trip it was! My husband and I have been to California several times, but this was the first trip for our daughter and she finally saw what we’ve been raving about.

The weather was positively refreshing with highs around 70 degrees and far less humidity than we are used to at home in the Tampa Bay area. By far, our favorite spot was La Jolla Cove, just north of San Diego. The coastline is beautiful with miles of rocky cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are a few sandy beaches tucked here and there, and plenty of tide pools to explore at low tide. In addition to all of the beautiful views, there are harbor seals and sea lions that seemed to be at every turn which totally delighted my daughter. It will come as no surprise to most of you that  I just loved seeing the stunning sunsets each night.

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Story Behind the Photo: Monterey Peninsula

Monterey Peninsula along the 17-mile Drive, Monterey, CA

The 17-Mile Drive along the Monterey Peninsula winds through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, California. Touted as one of the most scenic drives in the country, the views absolutely lived up to their reputation. The rocky coastline hints at the uneven rocky surface below that help make the sea look especially restless here. Every now and then between the crashing waves I was able to catch a glimpse of a few sea otters  bobbing up and down and marveled at how adept they were at navigating those rocks. In addition to the treacherous shoreline, it was an extremely windy day when this photo was taken, making the waves seem particularly spectacular.

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Story Behind the Photo: Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron at Marina in Palm Harbor, FL

After a recent fishing trip, my husband was filleting his catch at the marina before heading home for the day. This always draws quite a crowd…not people admiring the catch for the day, but shorebirds hoping for a snack. The feathered opportunists, this little Blue Heron, a few Brown Pelicans and a Great White Egret, were all watching intently looking for any chance that they might have a free lunch. While the pelicans are a given at any marina along the Gulf, Little Blue Herons are a treat to see. Little Blue Herons are small herons that are easily recognizable because they are as named, all blue. That is unless they are juveniles. In their first year, Little Blue Herons are actually all white. This heron is the only species to have such a dramatic color change as they age to adulthood.

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Story Behind the Photo: Pigeon Point Light Station

Pigeon Point Light Station, Pescadero, CA

On a trip to explore the coast of California, my husband and I took our time driving south along the Pacific Coast Highway taking in the scenery. While I expected Big Sur to be beautiful, I was just as taken with the beautiful rocky shoreline between San Francisco and Monterey. Pescadero especially was beautiful, with Bean Hollow State Beach as a stand out thanks to its “pebble beach“. Another beautiful spot in Pescadero is at the Pigeon Point Light Station. When we turned towards the light station from the highway, the parking area was full, so we drove a little further along the coastal road looking for a place to turn around. While we meandered along the winding road, a huge mass of Ice Plants appeared that seemed to go right up to the Pacific Ocean itself. I decided to get out and snap a few photos, and then turned to see this beautiful view of the light station. As it turns out, this view from our remote stop in the road was much better than anything I could have had from the parking lot at the light station itself. Every now and then a detour is a good thing!

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Story Behind the Photo: Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

Taken at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, FL, this is likely my single favorite photograph in my collection. Many of you will recognize this photo as I use it as a “signature photo” of sorts on several social media sites and on this PhotoBlog. It was taken back in August of 2007 on a stroll from the main beaches around to the pet beach on Hurricane Pass. There were typical afternoon thunderstorms in the area, and the building clouds are really what got my attention that afternoon. This spot right were Hurricane Pass meets the Gulf of Mexico was the perfect location to capture the golden sea oats in the foreground with the beautiful blue sky and striking white clouds above.

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Ten Favorite Photos of 2011

Elizabeth Brown Photography

Now that 2012 is underway, it’s time to take a look back at a few favorite photos from 2011. The highlights of my year included two trips with my husband, one to the Southwestern US and one to Puerto Rico. Both were new experiences for us, and both left us wanting more.  My favorite photos from the Southwest are by far those from Antelope Canyon. While not the most serene to actually visit thanks to the many tourists and photographers, the photos from that visit amaze me every time I look at them. The expanse of the Grand Canyon was breathtaking, and I was really surprised by all of the trees and the surrounding forest. I’d always imagined the surrounding area to be desolate.

While the Grand Canyon was on my bucket list, I must say that I fell in love with Bryce Canyon. The intense colors of the hoodoos against the blue sky was simply beautiful, but the most memorable was the quiet  serenity of our day there.  We’ll be back for sure with much more time to explore. On a completely different note, Puerto Rico was a fantastic getaway, and surprisingly easy to get to. The ability to be in 2500 feet of crystal clear water in only a 20-minute boat ride was amazing! My favorite spots were the rain forest at El Yunque and streets of Old San Juan with the beautiful architecture and brilliant colors.

As usual, it was hard to narrow my favorite photos down to only ten this year. There isn’t really any rhyme or reason for why these photos are my favorites, but there is something about each one that I love. Enjoy the photos and have a wonderful 2012!

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon, near Page AZ.

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park, UT.

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park, UT.

La Coca Falls, El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

La Coca Falls, El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

Upper Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ.

Ponderosa Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.

Ponderosa Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.

"Garita' along the city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"Garita' along the city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Powell Point. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ.

Powell Point. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ.

Agua Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Agua Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Spanish Colonial Architecture in Old San Juan. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Spanish Colonial Architecture in Old San Juan. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ.

Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ.


Story Behind the Photo: Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach, FL

This week is the big trip out west to see what seems like another planet compared to the white sandy beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. I’ve spent the last few days reading more and more about the destinations for our trip and am excited about all of the opportunities for awesome photographs. While I’ve been worrying about how in the world to pack for 37 degree nights and 85 degree days, I started to think about all of the people across the country that would be heading here to my neck of the woods for their vacation and wonder if there is someone in Arizona planning a trip to my local beach. If you are out there, I hope you enjoy it…the weather will certainly cooperate for beautiful photos, but it will be hot and humid! This photo is of Clearwater Beach, FL, a very popular tourist destination in the Tampa Bay area.

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Story Behind the Photo: Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park

It’s hot out. More than half of the country is experiencing August-like temperatures in the beginning of June, leaving many to wonder where ‘spring’ went. Many of these places were in the 70′s not that long ago and managed soar right past the 80′s and settle in the 90′s this week. It has been hot in Florida for weeks now and every day there are hints that rainy season is due any day now, but isn’t here yet. So for those of you sweltering in the heat, a beach picture from Caladesi Island. As my husband likes to say, when it’s this hot out, there are only two places to be: in the air conditioning or in the water!

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Story Behind the Photo: Sunset

Sunset, Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

I have some really exciting news…my parents are moving to Florida! Let me clarify – not just to Florida, but to my little city, only 2.4 miles away! Only for a short period of time a few years ago have I even lived in the same state as my parents since moving out of our family home to go to college. We’ve all moved several times since then and until today have been 1000 miles apart. To say that I am delighted that they are moving here would be an understatement!

My parents are under the impression that they will get to relax and enjoy the “Florida Lifestyle” when they get settled here. I don’t know if they realize how much my husband and I have planned for them when they arrive. My husband is looking forward to having my Dad as a fishing buddy every weekend until the fall. While the boys are busy, I plan to take my Mom with me to all of my favorite photography spots and we will surely see many sunsets like this one from Honeymoon Island State Park. However we all end up spending our time, it will be fantastic to be spending it together and I can’t wait! Now if I can just get my brother and sister-in-law down here..

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Story Behind the Photo: Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

While summer doesn’t technically start until late June, it has felt like summer here in the Tampa Bay area for weeks now. With highs in the low 90′s and little rain to speak of, it’s been sweltering! The combination of these above-average temperatures and Memorial Day in just a few days means area beaches will be busy this weekend. Any beach in our area is beautiful, but my favorites are Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park. Honeymoon Island is the busiest state park in Florida, so I have no doubt that it will be full of sunbathers enjoying the cool waters of the Gulf. Caladesi Island will also likely be busy this weekend, but since it is only reachable by boat it should be a little less crowded. If you haven’t made your mind up yet about weekend plans, perhaps this photo will help. This photo was taken at Caladesi Island State Park a few years ago in late May and is likely what you can expect there this weekend. Happy Memorial Day!

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News: Another Photo Featured as ‘Photo of the Day’ Online ~ The Lone Cypress

The Lone CypressAs I mentioned recently, several of my photos have been selected as a Photo of the Day for Light and Composition Magazine. See the latest photo, “The Lone Cypress” featured on Saturday, May 17, 2011.

This photo was featured on May 4, 2011,  here in the PhotoBlog. “The Lone Cypress”  is also now entered as a contestant for Photo of the Month for May 2011. You may vote for it by visiting the link below and ‘liking’ through Facebook, ‘retweeting’ through Twitter, ‘liking’ on StumbleUpon or by making a comment.

Photo of the Day | May 17, 2011 | The Lone Cypress by Elizabeth Brown


Story Behind the Photo: The Lone Cypress

Lone Cypress on the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey, CA.

The 17-Mile Drive along the Monterey Peninsula winds through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, California. One of the most recognizable landmarks along this drive, and quite possibly the most photographed tree in the world is the Lone Cypress. Set atop its perch above the Pacific Ocean, the Lone Cypress is thought to be roughly 250 years old. The tree is special not just because of its location, but because it is a Monterey Cypress which is listed as Threatened by the IUCN. Once found in large forests along the California coast, the Monterey Cypress is now only found on the Monterey Peninsula. Now supported by a stone wall and cables to prevent it from falling into the ocean, the hope is that the tree will remain a local landmark for many years to come.

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Story Behind the Photo: Avalon Pier

Avalon Pier, Kill Devil Hills, NC

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are a relatively remote, and very seasonal band of barrier islands along the Atlantic Coast. Heavily reliant on tourism, many of the hotels, restaurants and shops close up for the winter when visitors are few and far-between. On my last visit in January, these seagulls at the Avalon Pier were just about the only signs of life on the beach! As the signs of spring start to show and more visitors begin venturing back into town, the sleepy little towns of the Outer Banks start to come alive, and by now are back in full swing. With beautiful weather this time of year, it’s a great time to visit and enjoy the beaches and local flavor before the summer rush brings oodles of tourists!

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Story Behind the Photo: Pea Island

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Hatteras Island, NC

While looking for a photo for today’s blog post, I ran across this one from the Outer Banks and knew it was the one I wanted to share. The setting may look familiar as I previously posted a photo with the historic US Coast Guard Oregon Inlet Lifesaving Station and the Bonner Bridge from a different location. Although the shots are similar, I love that this one incorporates the beautiful ripples in the sand that seem to be everywhere on Pea Island. Thanks to some naturally black sand and the low angle of the sun, the ripples in the sand added  great texture to the foreground. That January afternoon was a cold and windy one, but it was worth the numb fingers and wind-chapped lips to capture this image.

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Story Behind the Photo: Montara State Beach

Montara State Beach, Pacifica, CA

Finding Montara State Beach was a happy accident. My husband and I were heading to Half Moon Bay State Beach, about an hour south of  San Francisco along the California Coast when we discovered it. After driving for several miles along the Pacific Coast Highway and seeing breathtaking views, I was anxious to find a place to stop for a few photographs. Then came the small parking lot just to the south of the beach  with only a couple of empty spots. It was a very chilly and exceptionally windy day so I didn’t dare venture down to the beach, but did get this great shot from the parking lot. This was one of the first times that I really was able to experience what the California Coast is all about and I was hooked.

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Story Behind the Photo: Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay State Beach, Half Moon Bay, CA

It was nearly two years ago to the day that I first laid eyes on Half Moon Bay State Beach on the coast of California. My husband and I had decided to take a trip to San Francisco for a week and explore, not really knowing what we would find. A friend that lives in the area recommended that we drive south along the coast to check out Half Moon Bay, and  I am so thankful she did! It was on this short trip south of the Bay Area that we got our first taste of what the California coastline was like. That lone afternoon planted the idea to return again to California to drive the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where I fell head-over-heels for Big SurClick here to buy a print and view the entire collection


Story Behind the Photo: Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstones, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

I had the opportunity to see plenty of Ruddy Turnstones on my birding trip to Caladesi Island last weekend. While the two in this photo were easy to spot, there were others that were nearly impossible to see. Camouflaged to perfectly match the sea grasses that had washed ashore, there were dozens of Ruddy Turnstones hiding in plain sight. They feed on small insects and crustaceans along the shore line and can be seen picking through washed up sea grass and turning over rocks to find them, hence the name “turnstone”. While trying to get a few photos of Western Sandpipers, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye and it turned out to be several Ruddy Turnstones digging through the sea grass. Once I realized what to look for, I saw them everywhere!

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Story Behind the Photo: Sanderling

Western Sandpiper, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

As I mentioned earlier this week, I had a very successful trip photographing shorebirds at Caladesi Island last weekend. While it looked beautiful out with lots of sun and hardly any clouds, what you can’t see in the photos is how very windy it was. I don’t know how fast the wind was blowing, but it was strong and steady enough to really kick up some waves and make the Gulf look like the high seas! The good news was that I was fortunate enough to have both the sun and the wind to my back as I walked to the far northern end of the island.

Not wanting to ruffle their feathers, most every bird I encountered was facing me as I walked, and the lighting was great. Since most of the birds were most comfortable walking into the wind while they fed along the shore, I was able to quietly sit in one spot for quite a while and have several birds walk right by me, unconcerned with my presence. This was especially helpful in trying to photograph skittish Sanderlings, like the one featured here. Although my camera (and everything else) was covered in salt spray by the end of the day, the strong wind seemed to help me get some great shots, so I was thrilled with how the day turned out.Click here to buy a print and view the entire collection


Story Behind the Photo: Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

My husband, daughter and their favorite fishing buddies will be getting the boat out this weekend to go fishing for the first weekend in months. They are hoping that the water has finally warmed up enough for the fish that have been so elusive all winter to have returned, ready to be caught for dinner. This means I have a day all to myself, and I’m ready for the beach! I haven’t had the opportunity to get to the beach since the weather has warmed up in the last few weeks, and Saturday is looking like the perfect day for it. I’m debating whether or not to take the camera…if I don’t, it will most certainly be the most beautiful day in the history of beach days, but if I do, I might not get to that book I’ve been really anxious to start. We’ll see how the mood strikes me tomorrow, and I may or may not have photos to share next week! This photo was taken at Caladesi Island State Park, one of my all-time favorite beaches.

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Story Behind the Photo: Sunrise

Sunrise over Tampa Bay from Safety Harbor, FL

Last weekend I was fortunate to have some wonderful friends come visit for the weekend. As with all good friends, we picked up right where we left off, not remembering how long it had been since we’d seen each other last. In our travels for the weekend we managed to cover a lot of real estate in the Tampa Bay area, trying to go the scenic route as often as possible so they would get a feel for the place we call home. Since our friends live on Florida’s east coast, they are already accustomed to living close to the beach and having palm trees in abundance  so I wasn’t sure that we’d see anything all that different than they are used to. That’s when we drove through the always-charming little town of Safety Harbor, and they were instantly envious.

With a prime location on Tampa Bay that includes a marina and pier plus all of the shops and unique eateries along Main Street, it really is a friendly town and is always a hit with anyone who visits. The pier offers a fantastic view the Tampa skyline in addition to opportunities to see lots of area wildlife including an occasional manatee or two. This sunrise photo was taken from the Safety Harbor Pier located at the Municipal Marina last fall.

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Story Behind the Photo: Sea Kayak

Sea Kayak, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

This weekend we are expecting highs in the low 80′s and plentiful sunshine. Whether it’s taking in a spring training baseball game, an afternoon stroll at a local park or a trip to the beach, it’s a great time to be outside in the Tampa Bay area. With the gulf temperatures still nice and cool, there are some great breezes off the water making it perfect weather for boating of all kinds. Many people will be out this weekend in their kayaks getting some great excercise while enjoying the water like only they can. With little water needed to float and virtually no impact to the sensitive sea grass beds in along our shores, kayaking opens a whole new world that few others can reach. A favorite destination for many kayakers are Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks. The mangrove lined coves along the sound side of the islands are only accessible via kayak and are teaming with wildlife, making them a must see.

Click here to buy a print and view the entire collection


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