The St. Johns River near Sanford and Deland

Intro / Description

At 310 miles, the St. Johns is the longest river in Florida.  It’s one of the few rivers in the US that flow from south to north.  Near Orlando it forms the dividing line between Seminole and Volusia counties, and it’s a favorite destination for fishermen, boaters, and folks on jet skis.  It should be a favorite destination for photographers, too.

A beautiful place to catch some fish

Vince invited Tom and I out on his boat for a photo expedition a while back.  We finally took him up on his offer  a couple of weeks ago.  We were up early, put in near the I-4 bridge right around dawn, and motored north.

There’s a rule of thumb about sunrise and sunset.  The rule of thumb is that there’s no rule of thumb telling you when the good colors / conditions will occur.  You have to hang around and keep making photographs until you’re sure the show is over.  The next photo is a good example of this rule (or is it a lack of rules?):

The St. Johns River near Blue SpringsThe St. Johns River near Blue Springs

When we first got out on the river around sunrise (~7am), there was some color in the sky, but nothing spectacular.  About an hour later the conditions were quite different and much more photogenic.

This image is a 5 frame panorama that I merged in Photoshop. I made the exposures hand-held from a moving boat, so they weren’t aligned all that well.  In post, I first ran all 5 RAW frames through Lightroom and adjusted several  parameters  identically, including color balance, lens profile, and camera profile.  Then I moved to Photoshop to do the merge.  After that, I worked on it a little more to take a small curve out of the shoreline, and then used Topaz Denoise 5 to selectively reduce the residual noise that you could see in the full res version.  The last step was to add a duplicate layer and run it through Topaz Adjust 4.  Back in Photoshop, I modified the transparency of the resulting layer and the strength of the Topaz filter.  I also selectively erased portions of the Topaz layer until I liked the result.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  We saw many kinds of birds and several alligators.  But the wild life doesn’t like power boats very much.  We had a hard time getting close to any of the birds, and alligators would see or hear us coming and submerge long before we got close to them.   If you have time, you might try coasting in from a longer distance – but that could take a while and we didn’t try it so I can’t tell you whether it will help.  You can also look for alligators on docks.  They don’t seem to be as skittish when they’re out sunning themselves.  In fact, they seem quite friendly.

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

Gators always smile at you, but this one was even waving!

Tripod/Monopod: They won’t do you much good on a moving boat, so save yourself some trouble and don’t bring them unless you’re going ashore.

Lenses:  The boat motion will also make hand holding a long lens difficult, so don’t bother bringing really long glass either.  Instead, carry your wide angle lens and maybe a short telephoto or zoom.

Best time to visit:  Early in the morning on a calm day before the other boats show up.  The water should be calm,  undisturbed, and very scenic.  And you can get some photography in before it gets too hot.

Calm, dawn light

Other:  There are several places to stop and eat along the river.  If you want to grab lunch ashore, do some research first.  Also, if you don’t have a friend with a boat, don’t let that stop you.  Nearly every marina we passed had pontoon  and house boats for rent.

By the way, if you’re visiting Florida you may not know that it’s probably not a very good idea to swim in the river.  The alligator in the photo above was about 5 feet long.  It (along with some much larger relatives) lives in the river.  We also occasionally have people  infected with water-borne diseases (such as amoebic meningoencephalitis), although that usually occurs in lake water.

Summary

We had a great time and were very grateful to Vince for taking us out.  I got a photo or two that I really like.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157624991879878/with/5010338576/
Website: N/A
Address / Phone: View in Google Maps
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Very scenic.  If you have a boat, go!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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