The Pier

Photography Tip - using leading lines in composing your shots

The lines of the curb act as leading lines to the main subject, The Pier - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/500thUsing leading lines is one of my favorite composition techniques.  In the photograph of The Pier above, everything points to the main subject drawing the viewer's eye across the full length of the frame.  The entire foreground of the photograph uses the curb as a leading line to the focus of the image.  If there was no curb and just black pavement, then having such a large empty foreground would be a waste of space in the frame.  However, using the curb as a leading line adds another element of interest to the photograph besides The Pier itself.  

Additionally, I used a titled axis composition style to add yet more interest to an oft photographed St. Petersburg landmark.  

Nikon D7000 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson at The Pier in St. Petersburg Florida with Patricia

Patricia aims her Nikon D7000 at a pelican out on The Pier during our second DSLR photography lessonFor our second of four 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons I met Patricia on a pleasant Florida winter Saturday morning and headed out to The Pier to photograph pelicans and whatever other surprises we may find there.  For this lesson Patricia used her Nikkor 70-300mm VR lens exclusively on her Nikon D7000.  I recommend having all your gear setup and ready to shoot as you approach a location, so even before we got to The Pier I went over the recommended settings to use with a 70-300mm lens for birds & other small, distant subject matter.

During this second lesson we also focused more on composition, in particular not necessarily always framing things at right angles.  Sometimes, a tilted axis composition style can added much needed pizazz to an otherwise common shot.

St. Petersburg Florida Skyline at Twilight Fine Art Photography

St. Petersburg Florida waterfront skyline in vivid twilight - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5 sec tripod mounted with cable release

Each time I go out to the top of The Pier to make waterfront skyline images like this of downtown St. Petersburg Florida, I think it may be my last since The Pier is scheduled to close in May 2013.  As you can see, its closing will be a great loss for photographers and anyone who enjoys a great vantage point for looking at the sunset over a cityscape.

Finding the last light left over St. Petersburg Florida fine art photography - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5 sec tripod mounted with cable releaseThe Pier is five stories tall with an open roof allowing for the making of clean shots (i.e. not shooting through window glass).  It is often a quiet spot, especially on a weeknight, providing an opportunity to watch the sunset in peace as twilight then night takes over.

Nikon D3100 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson St. Petersburg Florida with Jason

Jason using his Nikon D3100 tripod mounted for some long exposure shots on The PierWhile it is still open and still standing, I will still be using The Pier as a great location for my 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons, and really cannot imagine what it will be like to not have it available come May 2013.  Friday evening I met Jason with his Nikon D3100 in downtown St. Petersburg.  He specifically wanted to practice long exposure night photography, which is fine by me as it is one of my favorite kinds.  We made our way out to The Pier and got setup on the open roof viewing area.  This type of photography of course requires a tripod because as by the end of the lesson we were using 30-second exposures, and even while there was still plenty of light in the sky (but no sun), exposures were in the 1 to 2 second range.  

In a way, night photography is kind of simple: put camera on tripod, leave shutter open, done.  Of course there are things that can be done to improve one's night photography, especially related to placement of the horizon and exactly how long to leave the shutter open.  These were the things we focused on mostly during our night photography lesson.  I look forward to seeing Jason's future long exposure shots!

The Best St. Petersburg Florida Photography Locations

LOCATION:  THE PIER ROOFTOP  (currently unavailable due to Pier closing, but base areas may still be open)

The single best spot to shoot non-beach sunsets in St. Petersburg.  Each evening offers a different kind of light and a different kind of shot.  You can get an unprecedented view of the skyline and cityscape, or use a telephoto lens to shoot individual buildings, to long exposures to get light trails of cars driving to and from The Pier.  It is simply the best spot to shoot from in all of St. Petersburg for any kind of shot.  The railing on the roof is high, so a tall tripod is required to be able to shoot over it.  Plus, The Pier is scheduled to be demolished in summer 2013, so get there while you can!

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Need a good brick wall to photograph a model in front of?  Then right next to Jannus Live in downtown St. Petersburg is a great one on 2nd Street North between Central Ave and 1st Ave North.  The sidewalk in front of it is wide allowing for plenty of space to setup lights and still let passersby get by.  Bonus:  there is also a cool double-door at the end of it.

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It may seem like all beaches along Gulf Blvd running north to south of Pinellas County are the same.  They are not.  Pass-A-Grille Beach is the very last of them, at the southern most tip of Pinellas County.  Such it is somewhat of a forgotten beach.  You can often find it empty, espcially outside of summer months.  The beach is long and mostly narrow allowing for super wide panorama images to be made.  Sea grass grows between the sidewalk and sand (see above) making for a good foreground subject, or a background in and of itself.

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St. Petersburg Florida waterfront scenes fine art photography

Waterfront view from North Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 3-exposure HDR

According to the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Florida has the third largest continuous waterfront park system in all of North America (behind Chicago & Vancouver).  I believe it is the best thing about St. Petersburg, by far.  It is totally unique to the Tampa Bay area, and really anywhere else on the west coast of Florida.  

A small rainbow over the St. Petersburg Pier - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/200th tripod mounted

You can walk along water for pretty much as far as your legs will want to carry you starting on Coffee Pot Blvd following going all the way down North Shore Blvd.  I have walked its entirety, but only in pieces.  Of course the most notable landmark one will see along the way is The St. Petersburg Pier (above).

Downtown St. Petersburg bathed in a pastel sunset - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRIf you can time your waterfront walk so that it ends at dusk at the top of The Pier itself, well then you may just be treated to a spectacular sunset view like the one above.  In the right weather, there is no more pleasant way to spend a few hours in Florida than walking through St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront parks.

The St. Petersburg Pier Night Light Reflection Florida fine art images

Click for larger version of The Pier night light reflections available for fine art print or commercial license - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 4.3 sec tripod mounted with cable release 

The Pier of St. Petersburg, Florida presents at this time a unique opportunity for local photographers.  It is by far the city's most recognizable landmark, but it is scheduled for demolition in one year's time.  A part of me does not necessarily believe in the end it will be razed because what is slated to replace it, a structure called "The Lens," is so preposterously fantastic I cannot imagine such a thing existing just off the modest St. Pete waterfront.

The odd shutter time of 4.3 seconds for this shot is due to shooting in bulb mode.  I took a test shot and then based on feel kept the shutter open how long I thought it would need.  A more scientific way would have been to use a stopwatch, but for exposures of only about 4 seconds a rough estimate counting in your head is good enough.