Smacks Bayou

Lightning Fine Art Photography St. Petersburg Florida Snell Isle Composite

Lightning over Smacks Bayou, Snell Isle, St. Petersburg Florida fine art photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 17.1 secMy after dinner twilight walk with Kiki was thwarted this evening by rain and lightning.  So after going back inside I mounted my Nikon to my tripod to see if I could get lucky and capture a few bolts.  Of course the lightning was striking much more frequently when I was out with Kiki than when I was actually out with my camera, but with some patience I finally got enough lightning in a shot to fill the frame.  The image above is a slight composite of two images to add just a bit more lightning.  

Rainbow over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida HDR

Rainbow as seen from Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRI rushed home from a networking event to pick up Kiki and get our usual evening dog park time in before an imposing storm on the horizon passed by.  Basically, as soon as we got to the dog park a deluge opened up.  After even a huge live oak could not provide adequate shelter, we headed back home.  Naturally, as soon as we parked the rain stopped and the sun was out.

The storm that birthed this rainbow did wash out dog park time, but at least I got to make this photo - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRSo back on went Kiki's collar and leash as we headed out for a walk.  That is when I saw this rainbow appear vividly over Smack's Bayou.  Still we walked on and I let Kiki run around in a soccer field (see lower right corner of the above image for where we were earlier).  I just hoped the rainbow would stay visible by the time we got back.

There was actually a double rainbow visible shortly, but not possible to capture by this time - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRIt did.  So I mounted my Nikon onto my tripod quickly and was able to make the above photos.  I could see a double rainbow with my eye, but getting it to come out in a photograph was not possible due to a number of factors.  Still, I was glad that even though our usual plans got washed out, at least I was able to add another rainbow photo to my archives.

First Sunrise of 2013 Snell Isle Smacks Bayou St. Petersburg Florida New Years

The first glimpse of the first sunrise in 2013 over Smacks Bayou in St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/60th tripod mounted with cable releaseI once again woke up early to photograph the first sunrise of the new year, which is somehow already 2013.  Last year was a little more spectacular as I made the big effort to drive out to Ft. Desoto and use the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as a background.  This year I just took a few steps off my back patio to make these images of the sun rising over Smacks Bayou in the Snell Isle area of St. Petersburg, Florida.

The first sunrise of 2013 reflecting on Smacks Bayou Snell Isle Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/200th tripod mounted with cable releaseThough there was a ripple across Smacks Bayou this morning, a decent reflection from the rising sun could still be seen.  There were only a few low clouds in the sky, so in this case I found the water to be more interesting and made the foreground dominant in the framing of this shot.

A quiet and beautiful first morning of 2013 in Snell Isle Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/200th tripod mounted with cable releaseIt is always worth it to wake up early and photograph the sunrise.  Did you get up and see the first sunrise of 2013?  Did you have your camera with you (I hope!!)?  Share your first sunrise photos in the comments below.


Where to put the horizon in landscape photographs

When composing a photograph, especially a landscape shot, everything needs to be considered, and that includes where to put the horizon.  By where the horizon is placed in the frame determines much of the overall impression of the photo.  One simple way to help with horizon placement is to follow the rule of thirds, by that I mean placing the horizon in the lower or upper third of the frame often results in an appealing shot.  

The horizon dead smack in the middle, not a very exciting shot.Without any formal photography training, most of the time picking up a camera and making a landscape shot of sky and water would result in the above image with the horizon dead centered.  Unless there is some kind of cool reflection or vertical symmetry, this results in a boring shot.  The photographer has not chosen which to feature more of in the frame, the sky or the water?

Placing the horizon in the upper third showcases the foreground.In the above shot the horizon is placed in the upper third of the frame, showing that the photographer chose to feature the water.  Putting the horizon in the upper third highlights the foreground.  So you have to ask yourself, is the foreground nicer than the background?  If so, compose with the horizon in the upper third.  However, for most water shots here in Florida, including the one above, the water is not as beautiful as the sky so the shot can end up looking like a lot of brown with a peak of blue at the top.

Putting the horizon in the lower third often results in the best Florida landscape compositionFinally the horizon is placed in the lower third showing more of the beautiful afternoon sky and less of the nondescript water.  This framing showcases the best feature of the shot, the sky, and just enough water to let the viewer know it is a waterfront shot.

So when framing your shot, decide what you want to feature, and then place the horizon accordingly.  

Super Moon or Perigree Moon Over St. Petersburg Florida May 5 2012

Super Moon or Perigree Moon May 5, 2012 over Smacks Bayou St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/8 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR mounted on Induro CT214 tripod with cable releaseWhat is sure to be one of the most photographed subjects of the year is the so-called Super Moon or Perigree Moon that rose in the twilight sky tonight on May 5, 2012.  Luckily for me I had a good vantage point of the Super Moon right from my back patio allowing me to make the HDR image above.  I chose to center the moon between two palm trees.  Uncharacteristically, I did not try any other compositions, so I hope I wake up tomorrow still liking how I framed this shot and not regretting trying a simpler framing!

Did you photograph the super moon tonight?  

Sunrise Dawn Sky Over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St Petersburg Florida Fine Art

The sunrise dawn sky over Smacks Bayou as seen from my back patio - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/60th handheld 

 Every morning I am outside, briefly around 6:30am.  It is almost like clockwork, but it is not my clock that keeps this schedule, rather it is Kiki's.  She wants to go out to pee then quickly come back inside to eat breakfast, then we both go back to sleep until a more sane time to fully wake up.  At this time of year (April) this morning ritual coincides with late dawn just before the actual sunrise.  In the approximate 2-minutes we are outside I usually look at the horizon through not quite wet enough contacts and note what color can be found in the sky this particular morning.

Yesterday the water of Smacks Bayou was particularly calm producing a fairly clean reflection.  My senses were of course not fully functioning, but after feeding Kiki her breakfast I did go back out to make a few handheld photos of the above scene.  I should have been using a tripod of course, but I did not have the ambition or coordination at that moment to fumble with putting on the tripod plate, etc.  I think what I will do to remedy this is already have my camera mounted on my tripod before I go to bed, so should the dawn sky be particularly beautiful, all I have to do is step outside, compose and click the cable release letting the gear do most of the work for me.  

Vivid Florida Waterfront Neighborhood Twilight Palm Trees

The best part of living in Florida, its sunset & twilight views - Nikon D300 with Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D @ f/8 ISO 200 10 sec on Induro CT214 tripod with Nikon MC-30 cable releaseIf you are a photographer living in Florida, very likely you will, at least at first, be most drawn to photographing the magnificent twilight and sunset skies Nature provides on a daily basis.  The time of the transition from day to night is my favorite part of the 24-hour day cycle.  I have a fantastic view of this from my back patio, but to be honest, I do not take advantage of it enough.  In summer with the later sunset time, it is easier as I often take Kiki for our evening walk between 8pm and 8:30pm.  Now back in regular time, with sunsets coming before 6pm, our walks are in all darkness, but those provide stargazing opportunities.

Vivid twilight photographs are not difficult to make.  All you need are:

  • a western view (or eastern if clouds available to reflect twilight)
  • a sturdy tripod
  • the correct shutter speed to pull the most color from the sky

The DSLR and the lens used do not matter that much.  The sturdy tripod eliminates problems of camera shake resulting in blur.  The correct shutter speed eliminates exposure problems, but since you are using a very long exposure, there is a wide range of choices depending on one's desired results of a brighter or darker twilight image.  So unlike many other types of photography, the margin for error in twilight shooting is far greater than say a sunset portrait.

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