Florida Photo Hot Spots

Florida Photo Hot Spots

Florida has so much to offer nature photographers, with freshwater springs, tannic swamps, pinelands, mangroves forests and expansive shorelines with barely another soul around. In this guide to Florida photo hot spots, I’ll share some of my favorite destinations across the state.

The Florida Keys are an outdoorsman’s paradise. A string of tropical islands off the southern tip of Florida, they offer miles of turquoise-water-lined shores. The lower keys, getting closer to Key West, offer more undeveloped land. This provides abundant options to shoot without trespassing, and state parks are one of the best for that. Curry Hammock, Long Key and my favorite, Bahia Honda State Park, all have camping and many photographic subjects. A landscape photographer can choose from mangroves and palms, to docks, beaches, bridges and rock piers as foregrounds. The many static subjects surrounded by water are perfect for adding a 10-stop neutral density filter and getting some long exposures, smoothing out the water and blurring the clouds.

Smathers Beach in Key West offers the tropical look of coconut palms in white sand. Wildlife abounds, including fiddler crabs, birds and iguanas. A real treat are the endangered and dwarfed Key deer. Inhabiting the lower islands around Big Pine Key, they offer many unique photographic opportunities as they graze on mangroves and the wrack line of the beach. Add in an average width of less than a mile, and it doesn’t take much travel time to go from a sunrise to sunset shooting locations, which means more time for piña coladas during the harsh midday light.

Another amazing trip is to Dry Tortugas, just 70 miles west of Key West. You can take a ferry or sea plane and spend the day, or primitive camp, alongside the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas. The snorkeling and diving are also superb, so if you are an underwater photographer, make sure to bring your gear. Topside also offers migratory birds and beautiful scenes of the bluest water contrasting with the red brick. If you take the sea plane, you can also shoot aerials during the flight.

Florida Photo Hot Spots: Everglades National Park

The transition from pineland to prairie makes for easier compositions in Everglades National Park.

When people think of South Florida, and Miami in particular, I doubt the 1.5 million acres of the Everglades, 700,000 acres of Big Cypress National Preserve or the 170,000 acres of Biscayne National Park pop in their mind first. It’s amazing to have so much wild and protected land less than an hour away from a major metropolitan area with more than 5 million people. The Everglades has a vast amount of biodiversity in its plant life and wildlife, a subtropical wetland offering bird, wildlife and macro shooters an endless supply of subjects. And though it might take a little more work compared to the majesty of the Tetons, the open prairies and stunning summer skies are just as beautiful. As a landscape photographer, I see the Everglades in the visually different landscapes: the open, wet prairies, the pine rocklands, the dwarf cypress out in the open, the larger cypress of the domes and strands, the mangroves and the salt marshes near the coast. This lends a portfolio diverse in subjects while also avoiding cliché and oft-shot icons

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