5 Tips for Shooting Florida Landscape Photography
Today we have 5 Tips for Shooting Landscape Photography in Florida. As most of you know Florida is pretty much as flat as it gets. Our highest point of land is 345ft above sea level in Britton Hill, quite the summit! Florida actually has the lowest state high point in the US! I mean FLAT lol!
All this flat terrain comes with some pros and cons, like anywhere you go! Pros such as we get every last bit of sunrise and sunset with nothing to obstruct the light and cons such as trying to create depth in a photo where the backgrounds just kind of fade away. So in this blog post I will give you 5 tips to help you shoot better landscape photos in Florida! Lets get started!
TIP 1 - PREPARE
Know where you are going to be shooting. West coast or east coast? Seascapes or woodland? Florida has a lot of different ecosystems and each one offers it’s own set of unique challenges.
If you are shooting Seascapes make sure know where the sun will be at what time. The most colorful skies are usually in the direction of the sun just before sunrise or just after sunset before blue hour. That doesn’t mean it will, but most of the time the most intense color is in that general area. So be ready for the sky to light up in any direction, but definitely lock down a composition in the general direction of the sun. So on the east coast of Florida - sunrise is out to the ocean. And on the west coast of Florida sunset is out to the ocean - know what your shooting and choose wisely! I usually get wet feet too so wear water shoes, bare feet or flip flops. I prefer water shoes as I like beaches with rocks and they protect my feet while still allowing me to get them soaked.
If you are shooting woodland be ready for lots of bugs and mosquitoes. Wear long sleeves and pants, even in the dead of the summer. You will sweat, but trust me - it’s much better than the alternative. My routine is hat, pants, t-shirt and then a lightweight fishing shirt (UV protection, light weight dri-fit, stretchy material) over the t-shirt. Seems to be the best combo for me, if you don’t wear the t-shirt underneath the mosquitoes can still reach your skin through the fishing shirt. The I use 100% DEET bug spray on my neck and hands. Im normally all hippie natural products, but not bug spray…Only DEET works. Yes it’s poison AF - that's why the mosquitoes won't touch you lol. Your call.
TIP 2 - HAVE MULTIPLE COMPOSITIONS READY
Scope out a few compositions that are facing different directions in case the light goes off in any specific location. We get a lot of clouds and cloud movement, especially during storm season, so the light could fire off in any direction at anytime. It's really fun because it is so dynamic and ever changing. So being prepared with a few compositions in mind can yield a great shot you may not have expected. So like I mentioned in tip 1 have your main composition locked in, but also have a few spare compositions you can quickly work with in several directions. You never know where the light will hit and that is part of the fun shooting landscape photography in Florida.
TIP 3 - CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE - CREATE DEPTH IN FLAT ENVIRONMENTS
If there is one thing that can be a bit more work for the Florida landscape photographer - it's creating depth in a scene where there are not copious amounts of backgrounds to work with. This is why I love to shoot low, shoot high and downward, use forced perspective or any other perspective techniques to create interest, flow and depth to a scene. In the example below of the Coquina Rock and orange sunset - I placed my camera and wide angle lens as low and as close to the rocks as I cloud get (11 inches away - the minimum focusing distance of my lens, 14mm Samyang 2.8). This filled the frame with the rocks and made them look much larger than they actually are. They are only about 2-3ft from the ground. So using forced perspective as well as a low perspective I was able to create flow and depth to this otherwise tough to photograph scene. This also gives me a unique look to lot of these local locations and it provides a fresh view of otherwise heavily photographed areas.
Keep in mind when you are this close to a subject that you will need to heavily focus stack to ensure front to back focus. Your depth of field gets tiny when you get this close, even at f11 or higher. The below image consists of 8 images for the focus stacking. Some say that is too many, but this is what I do to get these results. I've tried many times with less and it doesn't come out as crisp. If I get too many shots, no big deal just delete the extras.
TIP 4 - BE READY TO MOVE
Florida has some amazing and crazy weather. And with crazy weather sometimes comes epic landscape photography conditions. The best shots are on the edge of the storms with big shelf clouds, lightning, rainbows or sunshine lighting up a huge storm face. With all this in mind it can be very beneficial to be able to chase the storms and fronts around. So be prepared to be mobile and have some locations in mind if a big storm rolls through. What I like to do is use the My Radar app, get in my car and get out in front of the storm cells. This does make composition much harder as you are constantly trying to pivot into the right position and you never know where you will end up. That also makes it very fun and changeling though and in the summer this is a daily occurrence. Huge storms roll through every afternoon and in addition to long sunsets, this makes for some truly amazing and unpredictable landscape photography conditions.
As I always say, in Florida the clouds are our mountains.
TIP 5 - NEVER LEAVE EARLY
With all the wild weather and fast moving storms you never want to leave until blue hour is completely over. Or if you are shooting sunrise - be sure to get there extra early before blue hour even starts. I can't tell you how many times I thought it was all over only to see the most amazing color and textures in my rear view mirror. It ends up with me screaming out of the window shaking my fist lol! After a few of those you never want to get burned again - so make sure you stay until the very end because this is Florida and you never know. I've seenit go almost completely dark and then BAM this reflected light finds it's way through and illuminates the clouds for a few fleeting minutes.
In the example below it had been raining non stop and then right before sunset the clouds just broke enough for some sunshine to sneak through, and I got a great shot. And as I was just about to leave right as then sun went down another crack through clouds allowed the sky to explode with pinks on the blue hour scene.
I hope you enjoyed these 5 tips and related discussions about shooting Landscape Photography in Florida, the Sunshine State! If you have any questions or comments please drop them below in the comment section! Happy shooting!