banyan tree

Banyan Trees on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg

The two famous banyan trees on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR on tripod with cable releaseThere are banyan trees throughout the downtown St. Petersburg area and nearby surrounding areas, but no banyans are as famous or more photographed than the two trees above located right on Beach Drive NE.  As large as they are, they always seem to appear all of a sudden to passersby who often audibly gasp upon seeing them.

I first photographed banyan trees in the St. Petersburg downtown area back in August 2011 when walking back to my car after a meeting I passed by this pair.  

Photographing the famous Beach Drive NE banyan trees is rather challenging.  Their large branches and wide trunks create deep shadows and on one side of them is always a row of parked cars not making for the greatest background.  The angle of composition I chose was the only one I could find that included almost no man-made objects in the shot.  I used my Induro CT214 tripod with all the legs collapsed, shooting from just about a foot of the ground.  I chose to make a 9-exposure HDR image in order to get detail from within the trunk shadows as well as in the bright sky above.

Canon 7D 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson in St. Petersburg Florida with Amy

Amy with her Canon 7D & 430 EX II Speedlight in front of a famous downtown St. Petersburg banyan treeI met Amy on a rather warm spring St. Petersburg morning for our first 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson.  Amy has been doing paid work with her Canon 7D for sometime, but was looking to learn from our lesson some of the very practical tips and tricks for how to make better photographs that are not found in books, videos or even in a photography classroom.  Since I am a self-taught photographer with years of expeirence I have a lot of real-world photogrpahy practices I can share with my students to not just improve the final results of their photographs, but how to make it easier to produce a good photo before ever pushing the shutter.

Amy had been shooting in "P" mode on her Canon 7D after receiving some bad advice from another photographer.  With her experience and with the subject matter she shoots I told her she should be shooting in manual mode exclusively, which is where we set our exposure dials for the entire lesson.  To further polish her professional way of shooting I turned off the "beep" on her 7D when getting a focus lock which is a most unwelcome sound when photographing in a quiet setting.  Then I showed her my very stable way of shooting by placing the left palm under the lens and shooting from a near sideways feet apart position allowing for both elbows to be against the body for support.

We finished the lesson at one of the two famous banyan trees in North Straub Park.  We started using her Canon 430 EX II Speedlight on the camera as she usually shoots, but then moved to using the Canon 7D's built-in remote flash trigger ability to get the speedlight off camera.  

I look forward to seeing how Amy applies all the things we practiced and discussed today in her future work.  If you live in or near Plant City, Amy's photography website can be found here.

Banyan Trees of Cape Coral Florida Rotary Park

Banyan trees in Rotary Park Cape Coral Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th

This year I have started to look for and photograph banyan trees on purpose.  The trees above are not from my current home of St. Petersburg, Florida, but from my distant past home of Cape Coral.  I chose this unusual composition and framing purposefully by positioning myself so that the background tree would be clean (not overlapping the foreground tree).  I wanted to exaggerate the distance between the trees as well to create in my mind a duality.  To me, the foreground tree is how one sees a tree in actuality, while the background tree is how one sees a tree in one's mind.

Nikon D300s DSLR Photography Lesson St. Petersburg Florida with Ron

Ron with his Nikon D300s & Nikkor 28-300mm VR lens under a banyan tree in downtown St. PetersburgOn the first somewhat chilly morning of the year I met new DSLR Photography Lesson student Ron at my usual spot in downtown St. Petersburg.  Ron has two Nikons, the D300s and the D90, as well as a bag full of all Nikkor lenses (what Nikon brands its lenses).  He shot with film cameras before and knew what photography terms like aperture, ISO, bracketing, etc meant, so in our lesson I showed him how to apply and use them in the DSLR world.

Ron had been shooting in aperture priority mode which is fine.  However, he never changed his aperture so I can only guess all his shots were at the largest aperture for whichever lens he was using at the time.  I started the lesson with giving him an in-depth tour of the menus and buttons on his D300s since I am extremely familiar with it from shooting with a D300 for years.  

Throughout the lesson I got to learn about what an interesting life Ron has lived.  He currently runs a super successful home pet sitting & walking business that he said has him (and his wife) working every day of the week!  If you need a pet sitter contact me and I will pass your info on to Ron.

We concluded the lesson with a photo critique of all the dog photos Ron takes of his pet sitting clients as well as his other photography interests.  I was impressed with his mural and graffiti photo collection focusing on the central St. Petersburg area.  I look forwad to seeing Ron again soon for our next lesson.  

Banyan Trees of downtown St. Petersburg appreciation

Banyan Tress in downtown St. Petersburg - 7-bracket HDR @ f/11Recently I have had to answer the question of why I live in St. Petersburg to a couple of different people.  It would be better to say why I live in the specific part of St. Petersburg I do:  Snell Isle & the Old Northeast.  That I can answer easily:  because of the trees.  The neighborhoods here are covered in large trees of many different varieties.  

The banyan trees in the above photo are in a non-descript part of downtown on a not so often traveled sidestreet.  There are much larger banyan trees on Beach Drive that get lots of attention.  As I was walking back to my car from a small photo job I came across these banyans and thought I should make the effort to photograph them and show some of the hidden beauty of the city I live in.

Banyan Tree roots in downtown St. Petersburg - 7-bracket HDR @ f/11Luckily the photo job I had to do required a tripod so I was able to make HDR shots of the banyan trees.  I used the tripod on the shortest leg settings, requiring me to sit on the ground for both shots, which is fine with me as I like the slowness using a tripod requires for making shots.

What trees are there in your neighborhood and why do you live in the city you do?

External Flash Nikon SB-600 DSLR Photography Lesson in St. Petersburg

Making use of the excellent columns at the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. PetersburgJust three shorts days after her first DSLR Photography Lesson, I once again met Linda in downtown St. Petersburg.  In that time she had gotten some new gear, a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight!  She wanted to be able to make portraits of her family when they visit her from Minnesota.  So with the SB-600 and her still new Nikon D3100 we practiced on the front porch of the Museum of Fine Arts how to take advantage of the directional aspects of her new external flash.

The top of the SB-600 can swivel around and angle forwards and backwards.  I told Linda my preferred method of bouncing the flash for the most part is in this order:  a wall behind me, a wall to the side of me, the ceiling.  Then we tried each way from the same spot and Linda could see the benefits/disadvantages/differences of each bounce direction.  

One of the famous banyan trees in downtown St. Petersburg provides a shady backdrop for portraits.

I also continued to teach her how to read and understand the histogram displayed on the back of her Nikon D3100.  With the very useful "show highlights" menu option enabled, any blown out areas of the image flash on the display alerting us that we need to adjust settings or flash direction to produce a properly exposed image.  

Linda has already booked her third lesson!  I look forward to building on what she has already learned in the lessons over the past week. 

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  • Historic Round Lake Park St Petersburg Florida

    Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 handheld 3-bracket HDRWhen away from home and packing a lunch, it is always my preference to consume it outdoors.  Back in June I needed just such an outdoor spot for four lunches.  To my fortune Historic Round Lake Park, a hidden gem of St. Petersburg, Florida, was just a block and a half away.  The small park was all alone, so I was happy to befriend it along with the squirrels and birds.  The small round "lake" itself was not much of note so I did not even photograph it, choosing instead the grand Live Oak above whose shade I gladly sat in.

    Royal Palm Trees -- handheld 3-bracket HDREven though I have beheld them for decades, Royal Palm Trees still hold an exoticness to me.  This triple cluster of Royal Palms in Historic Round Lake Park were of uncommon height.  It looked to me they were each racing each other to the sun.

    Banyan Tree of Historic Round Lake Park -- handheld 3-bracket HDRNow that I think about it, for such a tiny park it is home to some magnificent trees.  Decorating the eastern half of the park is the expansive Banyan Tree seen above.  Like many other Banyan trees in the area, it has been defiled by fools seeking their name to be known of that as a defiler of nature.  I apologized to the tree for these slights.  Trees are very forgiving creatures.  

    Visit the park yourself for lunch:

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