Beach time has arrived!

Sunrise at the Cauldron

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Take a trip to beach with these beautiful prints

The chill of winter is quickly slipping away, which means summer is right around the corner. And that means it's time to head to the nation's beaches for some surf time.

My travels have taken me to beaches across the Gulf of Mexico and up the East Coast, and it's always amazing how beautiful these sandy and rocky stretches can be.

Especially when a sunrise or sunset casts that beautiful soft light across the surf.

Take my February 2022 trip to Florida's Chastain Beach. I was working some Bassmaster events in Central Florida, and decided to drive down the Atlantic Coast to see if I could find some interesting scenes.

That's how I came across the wonderful rocks of Chastain Bean, a surfing hotspot just north of Jupiter Island. I knew instantly those rocks would provide wonderful foreground elements, but it took a little searching to narrow down to the best option.

I was walking across a massive rock formation when I saw what looked like a cauldron filled with sea water. It was amazing, and I instantly decided this would be the foreground for a sunrise photograph the next morning.

Before heading to a hotel, however, I crossed the road to a small beach along the St. Lucie River and set up to capture sunset. The mangroves lining the river added a true Florida feel to the final print.

The print, titled "Sunset over the St Lucie River," is one of my favorite photos from that trip. Scroll down to see this beautiful print!

I woke up early the following morning and headed out to ensure I was set up on Chastain Beach for sunrise. There weren't many clouds overhead, so I wasn't sure what to expect; I just hoped sunrise would provide a nice glow.

My 14mm Sigma Art lens was the perfect tool for the composition. It allows me to showcase that cool bowl of water while still including the beach and pounding surf in the background.

As the sun topped the horizon, golden light streamed through the mists created by the surf. The rocks took on a purplish color in the morning glow, and there was just enough light to show off the shells in the bowl of water in the foreground.

The final print (above) perfectly encapsulated the feel of Chastain Beach!

Sunset Over the St. Lucie River

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Gulf Coast magic

During the same trip, I used a couple of free days between Bassmaster events to drive over the the Gulf Coast's Cedar Key. A buddy recommended I check out this quaint little clam-producing hamlet, but I had no idea what to expect.

It was magical!

Cedar Key overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, and it unlike any Gulf Coast location I've ever seen. The mud flats reminded me more of the upper East Coast than the Deep South. Clam beds dotted the muck when the tide was out.

I only had one night there, so I drove around until I found a nice sunrise location for the following morning. I then set my sights on being set up to showcase the mud flats during the evening's sunset.

It wasn't easy to do. I drove all over the island and the nearby mainland, and just couldn't quite find what I was looking for. I hate being rushed, and desperation soon set in. 

Fortunately, I saw a little sign for a nature trail along an old train trestle. I parked and hiked into the mangrove forest to see if there were any likely scenes.

A fallen old pier caught my eye through the mangroves, so I pushed through the trees to find a beautiful flat dotted with trapped water. Clam beds were scattered over the scene. And I would be facing the sunset.

I checked into a hotel with a smile on my face, confident I would soon be enjoying a wonderful Cedar Key sunset.

Getting onto the old pier was pretty dicey. It was flat in the muck, and the boards were in advanced states of decay. But I was able to set up without too much difficulty.

I used my Nikon 24-120mm f/4 set at 24mm to pull in the entire scene, anchoring the composition with a nearby clam bed that pointed into the center of the frame. A ribbon of water traced through the mud from the bottom right corner of frame, adding another visual line leading into the scene.

And then I waited.

An hour later, the sun dipped behind the horizon without so much as touching the wispy clouds above with light. However, I held tight, knowing there was still time.

Almost 20 minutes after sunset, magic happened. For a scant 5 minutes pastel colors spread across the sky and were reflected in those pools of water in the mud.

I knew I had a wonderful print when I packed up and headed back to the truck. Even falling into the mud when a board cracked beneath my feet didn't dampen my excitement.

Low Tide at Cedar Key

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I wrapped up my time in Cedar Key the following morning with a beautiful sunrise over a bay just off the Gulf of Mexico. A leafy mangrove tree surrounded by clam shells provided a great foreground element as the rising sun painted the clouds on the horizon.

The final print, "Cedar Key Sunrise," really captured the beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast.

I can't wait to go back when I have more time to really dig into this wonderful area!

Browse my full Florida Collection >>

Visit to Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach Sea Monster

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It always amazes me  how diverse a beach can be. Sure, there's usually sand, but oftentimes there are other wonderful elements that really make each beach unique.

For instance, Georgia's Jekyll Island features one of the coolest beaches along the lower Atlantic Coast. It is covered with dead oak trees that have fallen victim to the eroding beach.

This beach, known as Driftwood Beach, is one of several boneyards scattered from Florida to South Carolina. 

There are parts of the beach that a literally choked with fallen trees, forcing one to climb over and through these skeletal remains.

And the salty air has created wonderful patterns of the tree grain. It's just a wild place.

I showed up when thick clouds covered the sky, so I decided monochrome was the way to go. I created several beautiful prints of these once majestic oak trees. It was almost a surreal experience.

This is another place I have to make time to shoot again. I want to be set up for sunrise over this crazy beach.

View all the Driftwood Beach prints >>

Rocky Maine Beaches

Sunrise at Boulder Beach

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And then there are the rocky beaches of New England. It's been a dream of mine to photograph the Maine Coast, so I was filled with anticipation when my wife and I drove there last year.

I was absolutely blown away by the beauty I found. No, the beaches aren't covered with white sand. Yes, they are absolutely gorgeous!

These rocky beaches are like nothing I had experienced to that point. I started out shooting the amazing Portland Head Lighthouse, showing a couple of vantages of the rocky shore. My guide on this quick foray was Maine photographer Rick Berk, who has years of experience working the East Coast.

However, my biggest goal was to shoot Acadia National Park's Boulder Beach. This iconic location is covered with boulders of all sizes worn smooth by the crashing surf of the Atlantic Ocean.

We arrived at the beach just before sunrise, and I almost ran out to set up. In fact, I was so excited I forgot to put on my boot spikes — and was soon flat on my back after my feet slipped on the slimy rocks.

Lesson learned.

I used a Lee Filters Big Stopper neutral density filter to allow me to shoot a 157-second exposure, which created a ghostly feel as the water moved in and out of the rocks.

Even more eye candy was added with the rising sun lighting up Otter Cliffs in the background.

It was a great way to begin our first visit to the Maine Coast!

Check out my full Maine Collection >>

Sunrise at Ocean Path

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