December 16, 2014

Florida Trip - 2014

A few weeks ago I wrote that I was planning a spur of the moment trip down to Florida to spend some time with some friends who live on the Gulf of Mexico. I really didn’t have any time restraints other than the fact that I didn’t want to hit any snow on the return trip, mainly because I was towing a trailer with my bike on it and that could be tricky. Other than some semi-minor car problems, I made it down safely in a couple of days.

My buddy also rides a Harley, and is officially retired, so I knew we’d be out on our bikes quite often and I was looking forward to that.  Also, getting out on the bikes also gave me a chance to scout out some potential photo sites because I really wanted to get out and do some shooting on this trip. I have a special set-up so I can carry my DSLR while riding, but I also have a pocket sized camera, a Canon G15 which takes pretty good photos itself and is much easier to carry on the bike. The camera also has a hotshoe (which is useful for off camera flash) and the fact that it shoots in RAW makes this my camera of choice when I’m out on my bike. I shoot totally RAW so the G15 works great for me. 

For quite a few years I had lived on the Gulf myself and I had always loved the sunsets. I really wanted to try to get some nice sunset photos on this trip, preferably the type with palm trees or dunes in the shots, and my friends even lived close to really nice beach.   
Also, my buddy is a spitting image of St. Nicholas and has had a side business for many years dressing up as Santa and delivering toys over the Christmas season. He hinted that he would really like some new photos of him and his main Elf in costume while I was down there, which he knew would be no problem. His main Elf is also his girlfriend and I told him I’d gladly shoot them in costume. What I really wanted to shoot was a nice beach shot of the two of them, maybe at sunset or something, but neither of them were really interested in that idea. 

The first evening I went out to shoot some sunset shots it was a pretty breezy evening. Usually I like to bracket my sunset shots to create HDR’s, so my first series of shots had quite a bit of ghosting in them. There just happened to be a couple of newlyweds on the beach that night and I offered to send them a photo if they’d pose for me while I clicked off a few frames. I asked them to look toward the ocean and hold hands, which they gladly did for me. When I get a chance to get people in my shots I usually introduce myself and hand them one of my business cards and tell them what I’m trying to do and then offer to email them a couple shots for their help. Most of the time people are happy with that and will pose for me.  

Over the course of my vacation I found quite a few of those typical touristy type places to shoot and I actually got quite a few shots I liked. If you’ve been into photography for as long as I have you know that sometimes some of your best shots are when you just happen to be in the right place at the right time with a camera. One afternoon while out riding with my friends I caught a glimpse of a nice little waterway that I thought would make a nice photo. Fortunately, I had my G15 with me (but no tripod) and I knew I couldn’t capture all the shadows and highlights in a single shot. Normally I would have bracketed and created an HDR, so I knew I’d have to improvise. After I download the shot, I make two extra copies of the main shot and name them shot_1, shot_2 and shot_3 to simplify things.  Then I open all three in Camera RAW and I adjust each separately to make my own series of bracketed shots.

I usually take shot_1 and over expose one stop and take shot_3 and under expose one stop. Shot_2 is the one correctly exposed and I only tweak that a little (usually). Sometimes I might need to adjust them a little more, but most of the time this works fine. After I do this, I bring them into Photoshop, Nik or Photomatix to create an HDR, and then bring them into Photoshop to finish them off. After playing around with them for a while, I can usually get a photo that I’m happy with. Check out my home-made HDR shot.

One weekend, we took a ride to a Harley dealership that had “Bad Santa” and his elves there for the day taking photos with customers and their kids. Like I usually do, I went up to a couple elves and handed them a card and offered to email them a few photos if they would help me get a few photos of me with one of the elves.  One of the elves offered to take the photos and after a quick lesson on how to operate my camera, she took a few shots of me with another one of the other elves. The Bad Santa that the dealership had there couldn’t hold a candle compared to my buddy so I had him pose with the elves also. That’s me and Bad Santa's Elf in the shot above.

As luck would have it, I was able to have my Thanksgiving dinner with my friends this year which was really nice. My buddy is also a very good cook so that made it even better. The weather was very nice that day and we were all able to go out for a nice ride on the bikes after dinner. You’ve got to love Florida huh?

What started out as a 2 or 3 week trip eventually lasted over 5 weeks.  It was really nice spending the time with my friends but I knew eventually it would be time to go home, back to New England and the cold weather again. I’d been watching the weather daily so I wouldn’t run into any winter storms or heavy snow in my travels, plus I like to plot out my trips on Mapquest so I don’t hit any major cities or rush hour traffic anywhere. The whole trip was 1650 miles door to door, which was over 25 hours driving time total. Fortunately I planned it out pretty good and I didn’t run into any bad weather or bad road conditions anywhere and I didn’t have any car problems on my trip home. Truth be told, it was a great little vacation but it was nice to get home and sleep in my own bed again.  But seriously, I can’t wait to do it again!

As always, remember to keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography