Sunrise and Sunset at Chastain Beach

Jaw-dropping South Florida 

I headed south from Kissimee, Florida, on Sunday under low, lead gray skies after wrapping up work on a Bassmaster event last Sunday. It wasn't a very promising day, but I decided to head to the Atlantic coast and look for some opportunities to shoot scenes without including the sky.

I made a couple of stops, but didn't find anything that really thrilled me.

Everything changed about 3 p.m., however, when the clouds suddenly began breaking, and the promise of a colorful sunrise arose. I began searching for somewhere I could create print showing an iconic South Florida sunset, but it proved difficult. I drove up and down the road between Stuart Beach and Bathtub Beach, but I feared I wouldn't find a scene that would offer a compelling foreground.

And then I walked to the edge of the St. Lucie River at the Chastain Beach access point. I almost walked away, but then I noticed a small space between the mangroves that line the river. I stepped into the little space and found the perfect setup.

My plan was to use my Sigma 14mm Art lens to create a panoramic view of the river, with some of the mangroves anchoring the frame on the right.

I created "Sunrise Over the St. Lucie River" an hour later. The light on the mangroves and the river was just incredible moments before the sun slipped below the horizon.

After finishing up there, I packed away my gear and walked across the sand dune onto Chastain Beach. I found a large rocky outcropping overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that I thought might be a great place for the next morning's sunrise. I eased around the rocks and came across a natural bowl full of seawater and shells.

It was the perfect foreground element.

I walked back onto the beach an hour before sunrise the following morning, and I had it all to myself. I carefully picked my way to the bowl of water, which reminded me of a cauldron, and set up by Benro Mach 3 carbon fiber tripod.

My vision for the print meant including the waves that were pounding the beach, so I turned to my Nikon 24-120mm lens set at 24mm. This lens would provide a nice, wide view of the rocky outcropping while ensuring the pounding surf still played a prominent role in the composition. The cauldron of water was placed in the lower left-hand corner of the composition to anchor the photo.

All that was left was to wait for the sun to break over a cloud bank on the eastern horizon.

It was amazing when sun finally broke over the clouds, with golden light sweeping across the ocean. The waves were beautifully lighted, and the rocks were wonderfully contrasted against the highlights of the ocean.

I titled the resulting print "Sunrise at the Cauldron."

An hour later thick clouds returned, but I didn't care: I drove north knowing I had created two iconic prints from South Florida!