Faith and I just returned from a week on the beautiful Gulf beaches of Pinellas County. We timed this vacation perfectly as we arrived the afternoon after the first cool front of the season pushed through the state. The temperature was perfect, the humidity was low, and with the breeze off the Gulf of Mexico, you almost needed a light jacket in the mornings and evenings. Almost.
One of the activities I look forward to during this annual vacation is the opportunity to drive down to Fort DeSoto and take advantage of all the wildlife and beautiful scenery there. Fort DeSoto is about a 2.5 hour drive from home, but just about 40 minutes from where we stay at the beach. That makes it very easy to get there early for sunrise and take advantage of the golden light in the morning. And that’s exactly what I did.
One of the images that I have always wanted to capture was the sun rising between the towers on the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The Sunshine Skyway connects St. Petersburg with Bradenton and Sarasota on the other side of Tampa Bay. There are only a few weeks during Fall and Spring when the alignment of the sunrise and the bridge gives you the opportunity to capture this image while standing on land. I did a little research to determine where I needed to be and I got a fairly decent image. One of the disadvantages of having the cool front come through is that there were no clouds. In fact, we didn’t see our first cloud until Wednesday. I would have preferred some high clouds to add some interest to the sky, but it was hard to pass up the fabulous temperatures. (Click an image to enjoy a larger view).
I probably should mention at this point that I feel very lucky to have captured this image. This is a 3-frame +/- 1 HDR and considering the circumstances surrounding the image, I’m quite pleased. One of the photography tools you need to capture a sunrise/sunset, and certainly an HDR image, is a good quality tripod. I have one of those…but it doesn’t do any good when you forget it and leave it back home. I can’t count the number of times I’ve hauled my tripod to a destination and not used it. But the one time I NEED my tripod, I leave it in the case back home. I realized I had forgotten it after we arrived Saturday afternoon, and while I considered driving 2.5 hours to get it, then driving back 2.5 hours, common sense finally prevailed. I’d have to make do without.
I also learned another interesting point while shooting the sunrise. At this time of the year, the sun doesn’t necessarily go straight up. Take a look at this second image and you’ll see that the sun is farther to the right of the towers even though I hadn’t moved from my shooting position. The sun is currently moving farther south each day as we head towards winter and I didn’t take that into consideration. I couldn’t see the towers through the viewfinder because the sun was so bright, so I assumed that I was still perfectly aligned. Well, I was certainly surprised when I started processing the images. That’s a tidbit of information to keep in mind next time.
So now that I’ve learned some lessons on getting the sunrise right, I’m ready to apply them the next time I can get over there. Next I’d like to try for a full moonrise between the towers. That should be pretty cool, especially with the bridge lights illuminated. That will require a long exposure and I’ll definitely need a tripod for that.