The drive from Charleston to Florida was a bit intense, with thunderstorms and heavy downpours throughout the day making driving difficult at times. It’s been almost 30 years since I’d been to Florida, and my first whose partial purpose was photographic. The first stop was Washington Oaks State Park just south of St. Augustine where there was supposed to be coquina rocks on the beach, and I looked forward to photographing them with the surf crashing through them. My navigation brought me to a spot that was definitely not Washington Oaks however!
It turned out to be the first of several navigation snafus during the trip that had to be overcome. Luckily, someone told me how to get there, but when I arrived, the road to the rocks was gated and closed because of damage from October’s Hurricane Matthew…the same one that damaged and closed Botany Bay and Hunting Island in South Carolina that our group had hoped to photograph. A seemingly disastrous start! But as luck would have it, someone told me about another place just north with the same rocks called Marineland Park. So off I went and found a beautiful place with rocks as far as I could see, with so many spots to explore and the weather still threatening with black clouds coming and going adding dramatic skies to the photos. At one point, I even had to take shelter in the car a while a storm roared through, but afterward that same storm provided a great sky for the rocks that were lit by the late afternoon sun.
When another storm came through, I packed up and headed for my first experience using Air BnB (excellent, by the way), and the navigation took me right there, taking almost an hour, which was much more than I thought it would be when I booked it, so I calculated my time to get back to Marineland for sunrise the next morning. Going back however, the navigation took me a different way and it took only twenty minutes!! Snafu number two!! I could have slept in a bit longer! Not much of a sunrise though as there were still clouds around from the storms and tornado watches overnight. But as the sun rose higher, it broke through a bit and created some God beams over the ocean that added an additional element to the photos.
The next part of the trip was mostly for visiting, an uncle in Daytona and some friends I hadn’t seen for years in Tampa and Venice, and another one I hadn’t seen in almost 40 years! He was in Sanibel Island that offered both sunset and sunrise opportunities, but no clouds for either, so not much came of it. It was great to see these folks and wished I could stay longer, but I had to head home and decided to break up the trip with a stop at Amelia Island and Fort Cliff State Park just north of Jacksonville. Navigation snafu number three led me to a dead-end road nowhere near Amelia Island!!! I finally had to get out the trusty map to figure out where I was and how to get to the Island. It caused me to lose a good part of the afternoon before sunset and just managed a few shots of the ocean and dunes before the sunset fizzled out.
I had hoped it would light the storm clouds over the ocean, but it just never did. Next morning turned out to be mostly cloudless except a line along the horizon, so not much came of it, although I did have someone stop by and chat with me for almost the entire time I spent on the beach. Then it was back to the hotel (yes, hotel) to grab breakfast and begin the 7-1/2 hour ride home.
The trip certainly wasn’t my typical photo adventure of remote locations and solitude, but it was fun to actually interact with people, sleep in real beds and eat real dinners in restaurants, a complete departure from most of my trips. But this was not solely a photo trip where I am completely immersed in the landscape and experience a tangible connection to my surroundings every waking moment. Nonetheless, the trip was very satisfying on, for this trip, several fronts.