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!
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.
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!
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..
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 Sur.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
On a trip to explore the coast of California last year, 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!
Update: This photo was featured on May 2, 2011, as the Photo of the Day by the online photography magazine, Light and Composition Magazine. See the photo online and vote for it as a contestant for the Photo of the Month for May 2011.
This sunrise was captured at the Kitty Hawk Pier on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is one of many wooden piers that dot the coast of the Outer Banks and like all of the weathered piers along that section of the coast, it has a story to tell. Built in the 1950′s, the Kitty Hawk Pier was once the northernmost public fishing pier in the Outer Banks. While the wooden pilings have withstood many storms over the years, the force of Hurricane Isabel proved to be too much.
On September 18, 2003, Hurricane Isabel made landfall near Drum Inlet along the Outer Banks as a category 2 hurricane with top winds of 105 mph. Once a category 5 hurricane, Isabel had thankfully weakened but still caused unprecedented damage to the Outer Banks. Hatteras Island was cut off from the mainland for two months when Isabel created a new inlet, dubbed “Isabel Inlet” before it was closed and the missing portion of highway 12 was restored. Thousands of homes were lost, roads were destroyed and countless feet of fishing piers were lost to the Atlantic. The Kitty Hawk Pier lost approximately 300 feet from it’s end, but the pier house remained intact. Old pilings can still be seen where the pier used to extend further into the ocean. The owners were not able to make the repairs needed at the time and sold the pier with the adjacent land to a national hotel chain. The developers chose to repair the remaining portion of the pier and refurbish the pier house to use it for events at the hotel. The brand new hotel debuted in the spring of 2006 with it’s very own pier, offering fabulous views of the beach at Kitty Hawk.
Since I mentioned the beautiful light at sunset at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in my last post, it didn’t seem fair not to share a photo of it. Those familiar with the area will immediately recognize the historic US Coast Guard Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station and the Bonner Bridge in the background. The Herbert C. Bonner bridge connects Hatteras Island to the mainland and spans Oregon Inlet, a major waterway allowing access to the Atlantic Ocean for scores of fishermen. One of the first sights you see as you travel south on the Bonner Bridge towards Pea Island is the Life Saving Station. Built in 1888, the building was abandoned by the Coast Guard for a location on the north side of Oregon Inlet along the sound in 1988. The historic building sat vacant and in disrepair for twenty years before it was renovated in 2008 in spectacular fashion restoring it’s former beauty.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to visit the Outer Banks recently to visit family and had just enough time to take a few photos. The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was my destination for sunset photos. The warm orange and pink light towards the end of the day on the sand dunes was near perfect against the crisp blue Atlantic Ocean in the background. It was very windy that day, but now that I think back, I don’t remember a day that I’ve been to Pea Island when it wasn’t windy. That wind whipping through the sea oats and around the mighty sand dunes makes wonderfully intricate ripples in the sand like no other place I’ve been. The ripples in the sand alone add great contrast to the natural setting of the beach, but because some of the sand at Pea Island is black, those designs become more exquisite.
Any trip towards the south end of Nags Head results in a quick stop at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center for me. Those trips started when I was growing up and my family spent lots of our free time in the Outer Banks. My dad has always loved fishing, and may have fantasized about having a boat every now and then. I’m not sure if the draw to the marina was to look at the boats or the day’s catch, but it was a fun adventure whatever the reason. When we visited, it was always late in the day, just in time to catch the charter boats coming in from a long day of fishing in the Gulf Stream off the coast. After hours of fishing on Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills getting flounder and spot, it was really exciting to see tuna that seemed as big as I was laid out on the dock as the charter captains cleaned their boats. Now that I’m older and my husband has a fishing boat of his own, I have a new appreciation for the boats at Oregon Inlet, and am still in awe of the fantastic catch they bring in each day. On my most recent trip to the Outer Banks, I was in search of a few sunset photos at the Pea Island National Refuge and stopped into Oregon Inlet on the way back north. The colors of the boats against the pink light of the approaching dusk caught my eye, and a snapped a few photos.
Growing up in Virginia Beach meant lots of time at the beach for my family. Just not any beaches in Virginia. Odd? Not if you ask the locals. With thousands of tourists descending upon Virginia Beach each year, the Oceanfront long ago became a tourist mecca with high-rise hotels and condos, loads of gift shops and trendy bars and restaurants. Locals looking for a more low-key experience would venture towards the less crowded beaches miles away from the hustle and bustle of “the strip”. For those that truly wanted to get away from it all, however, the Outer Banks of North Carolina was the place to be, and still is today. Referred to as “OBX” often, the Outer Banks offer miles and miles of natural beaches, and really allows you to relax. My family was fortunate enough to own a cottage in Kill Devil Hills when I was growing up, and we spent nearly every weekend there and usually a week or two in the summer. This photo is of Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills, where I spent many early mornings learning to fish.
Striped hermit crabs are one of the more common hermit crabs seen along the beaches of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the Southeast. Most often I’ve run in to them when I thought I’d found a perfect shell to add to my collection, only to find it was already occupied. While they are aquatic crabs, striped hermit crabs are quite hardy and can survive on shore for several days. Just like their distant cousins the shrimp and lobster, these crustaceans have ten legs. Only their first three pairs of legs extend their shells, while the other two pairs have the important job inside of holding on to the shell. This striped hermit crab was residing in a crown conch shell when it was photographed at Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin, FL.
If you’ve been a reader of this PhotoBlog for long, you’ll know that Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, Florida, is one of my favorite places. After moving to the Tampa Bay area several years ago, my family frequented local tourist beaches until we eventually stumbled upon Honeymoon Island. We have been hooked ever since, and it appears we aren’t the only ones. According to the Florida Audubon Society, Honeymoon Island was the most popular park in the state of Florida for 2010 with 1,043,336 visitors. To give you some perspective, this is nearly 300,000 visitors more than the second most popular park in the state. With it’s pristine beaches and natural setting, I have a feeling that Honeymoon Island will continue to rise in popularity.