Every photographer has a checklist of shots they want to do. Sometimes we get ideas, sometimes we see a picture that inspires us. Some of us keep a list, some of us keep pictures. Throw a few photographers with mutual respect and different styles and viewpoints into a car for a road trip and you have all the ingredients for an adventure. There’s only one rule: everyone gets a chance to stop if they see a shot they need to grab. Last weekend I jumped in the car with a couple friends, internationally renowned wildlife photographer Robert Wicker and David Langdon of Blue Jacket Photo. The afternoon before we went to Melbourne Cameras to get all our sensors cleaned. We left central Florida around 3am for Cumberland Island National Seashore, took the first ferry at 9am over to the island and got up close and personal with the wild horses.
Not knowing what other wildlife to expect, we naturally over packed, bringing extra camera bodies and huge zoom lenses that ended up not being used. We hiked with backpacks, our tripods and 500mms slung over our shoulders in the freezing cold and had a blast. I even got to explore the interior of the ruined remains of Thomas Carnegie’s 14,000 square foot Dungeness mansion, something very few people get to see from the inside. We took the 2:45 ferry back to St Marys and stopped to plan our next moves over lunch.
When in Rome do as the Romans do. St Marys, GA is a tiny little town in major financial trouble since their paper mill closed down. I can relate to this being from Brevard county, America’s Space Coast. In December 2010 Forbes Magazine named Brevard County the worst place in the country to get a job. 8 months later the Space Shuttle program ended triggering several thousand layoffs and the local economy imploded sending Florida skyrocketing to the highest foreclosure rate in the country. I always make a point when I travel to avoid chains: chain stores, chain restaurants etc. St Mary’s survives from Cumberland Island’s tourists and the nearby Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. We agreed local cuisine was the right choice and selected a great Greek restaurant, Riverside Cafe, the only place in the waterfront town that was not strictly seafood and open in the middle of the afternoon. When we ordered our lunches they even offered us free beers! Apparently any lunch order over $8 comes with a free beer!
Daytona’s infamous Bike Week had just started that day so we made our way back south with a stop in St Augustine to drop off an order to a customer. We passed an antique carousel and I HAD to get this merry-go-round shot out of my head and onto “film”. I’ve been wanting to do this one for a long time and there are none to be found anywhere near me. Following our one rule of the road, we stopped at the J&S Carousel in St Augustine’s Davenport Park and I went to work. Apparently wild hoses weren’t enough, I rode the merry-go-round about 20 different times like a little kid as I tried out all different angles.
Time lapse motion blur of Merry-Go-Round carousel horses
We got back on the road and hit The World Famous Iron Horse Saloon, one of the main bars where Daytona’s Bike Week travelers like to congregate. I went up on stage and shot Mustang Sally, the newest major band to come out of Nashville. They did some cover songs, a couple original songs and had a blast messing with the huge crowd. They will be playing this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards along with several other major shows.
Being the gearhead I am, I couldn’t wait to get out and shoot the steel horses to finish the night. The place was packed making it nearly impossible to get good bike shots as they were all parked close to each other but not in enough of a row to make a shot that way. Being a custom car guy myself I knew all I had to do was ask an owner if I could find them, so I waited and grabbed a group of 3 beautiful customer Harleys as they were coming in and parking and got them to park in a more secluded area. As I was shooting pinhole long exposure HDRs I was photobombed by a major national centerfold model who asked not to post her name, and in traditional Bike Week fashion she had to flash the camera. In less than a minute I had 30 people with cell phone cameras out standing over me so we broke away and caught up later to arrange a couple real photo shoots.
It was a couple days without sleep and a lot of road food I will have to work off at the gym but I won’t be needing any horse shots for a while and whenever we go out on the road we always come back with great pictures and a story to tell.