Ft. Desoto Park

3rd Annual Florida Beach Halfathon at Ft. Desoto Park 2012

On the return leg of the halfathon - Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/6.3 ISO 400 1/800th shutter priority on monopodI had the opportunity to work with a team of sports photographers to photograph the 3rd Annual Florida Beach Halfathon at Ft. Desoto Park in St. Petersburg, Florida recently.  I really like photographing these types of running, triathlon events as they present unique challenges.  The first is being in kind of an "assembly line" mentality for shooting.  The same subject comes by often, and for a long time.  Can you stay focused shooting the same shot over and over especially after a few hours of standing outside in Florida?  To do this I adapt the mindset of ever trying to perfect the shot of the runner.  This keeps me focused and engaged and of course always trying to produce better photographs.

body paint was a popular form of expression for runners - Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/2.8 ISO 2000 1/500th shutter priority mode on monopodOne thing that I find interesting is what the runners choose to wear, what messages are they promoting and how do they express themsleves while running, especially when they see the front of my lens approaching.  The runner above was covered in St. Patrick's Day themed body paint (which was the day before).  

Taking time out to pose for the camera! - Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/2.8 ISO 800 1/500th shutter priority mode on monopodMany runners waved or gave some kind of sign and flashed a smile when they past me, like the woman above.  There were of course many more smiles on the way out than there were on the way back in!

All ages participated in this halfathon - - Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/2.8 ISO 800 1/500th shutter priority mode on monopodOne major shooting challenge was the fact that due to Daylight Savings Time happening the weekend before this halfathon, the race actually started well before sunrise in near complete darkness!  We were not allowed to use flash either so shooting wide open at f/2.8 and maxing out ISO at 3200 still was not really enough for the first few runners.  Really the problem was the auto-focus finding anyone in such darkness moving so fast, plus the exposure challenges.  Slowly the sun started to rise and slowly ISO could be dropped to reasonable settings.  

I enjoyed photographing this event and was surprised to be cheered on so much by the runners who often also said "thank you!" to me as they past.  When I could I shot out, "thank you for running!"

Andrea's 3rd DSLR Photography Lesson - Ft. Desoto with her dogs!

Lilly & Mindy were the models for this DSLR Photography Lesson at Ft. Desoto Park in Saint Petersburg

This was my first time to teach a DSLR Photography Lesson at Ft. Desoto Park, a nice change of scenery on a finally warm, true Florida day.  This was my third lesson with Andrea (1st, 2nd).  She was not alone during this lesson as she brought her dogs, Lilly (above left, very energetic, a good kisser) and Mindy (above right, contemplative, purposeful).  During our first two lessons Andrea showed me some photos she made of her dogs, and I suggested ways to improve them, but there is nothing like actually practicing it during a lesson.  

Photographing a fast running dog in harsh Florida sunlight can be a challenge.  I stressed to Danielle that dialing in the right settings is important, but just as important is positioning yourself with your back to the sun as much as possible and trying to photograph your dog from a non-straight-coming-at-you angle since it is more of a challenge for any DSLR to get a focus lock on a subject coming directly into the lens.  To also compensate for the strong sunlight we set our exposure compensations to -0.7.  

 Making a portrait with two dogs can be quite the challenge, and you never know when someone else will pop into the shot!

In the end Andrea was able to get an especially good shot of Lilly running and a nice portrait of Mindy resting in some shade.  Our fourth lesson is already scheduled and we will focus on much easier subject matter - landscapes, with an eye on composition.

Andrea is absorbing a lot of photography knowledge well, all things considered, and it was real fun to have her dogs with us during the lesson!

Mangrove Coast of Ft. Desoto Park

This felt like an old childhood "hiding spot" under the canopy of this mangrove tree in Ft. Desoto State Park

Before settling in for a full afternoon and evening of football, I felt it important that I head out in the morning to be around a bit of quiet nature.  The Arrowhead Trail at Ft. Desoto Park is a short one, only about 1.5 miles long, but it is little trafficked and has a few of its own small, secret beaches.  Mangroves claim most of the coast along the edges of the peninsula the Arrowhead Trail follows, but there are a few openings that I fully intend to return to in the spring and use as private swimming holes.

 I have always been very curious about these organic deposits in otherwise clear water.

The first time I came to this area it was low tide and there was a good length of beach.  It was high tide this time, however, so the beachhead was limited to just a few spots.  Still, there was enough space to stand and gaze out over the intercoastal waterway in peace with only a baby horseshoe crab for company, who politely did not make a sound.

One of nearly countless spots on Florida's west coast that would make for great, scenic kayaking