Posted by: kerryl29 | May 8, 2017

The Florida Experience: Side Trips

The primary focus of my photo trip to Florida was my time in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.  My secondary focus–which I haven’t discussed much to date–was my time spent on Jupiter Island, about 90 miles north of Miami, at Blowing Rocks Preserve and Coral Cove Park.  But from my bases–first in Florida City and then in Jupiter–I took one side trip each.  I spent a day while based in Florida City down in the the Florida Keys.  While in Jupiter, I spent the bulk of my single full day there at Riverbend Park.

Coconut Palms, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

On my third day in Florida City, after photographing in the Everglades first thing in the morning, I jumped on US-1 and made the trek into the Keys.  After stopping at Lower Metecumbe Key to photograph pelicans for about an hour, I reached Bahia Honda State Park, on Bahia Honda Key, late in the morning.

Trade Winds, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Bahia Honda Key is about 3/4 of the way from the mainland to Key West; it’s at least a two-hour drive–assuming no stops–from Florida City.  The island is dominated by Bahia Honda State Park, a small, but pretty tract that wraps around the west side of the island.  It’s one of the few spots in the Keys with a publicly accessible beach.  I was on coconut palm watch on my excursion and found a good number of very nice specimens at Bahia Honda.  While the day started out cloudy–and remained so into the afternoon–it began to clear by mid-afternoon and I took advantage of that fact as I scouted my subjects.  While it was quite breezy I tried to use that fact to my advantage as well.

Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

The dominant fieature at Bahia Honda is a decrepit rail bridge, a structure that was built more than 100 years ago and fell into disuse when it was battered and partially destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.  The structure was initially converted for use as the roadway that eventually became US-1 in the late 1930s but was replaced by a new causeway in 1980 and hasn’t been used for transportation–or anything else–since.  It’s possible to walk out on part of the bridge–I did so myself–but not very far as barricades have been constructed due to concerns about structural viability.

Bahia Honda Rail Bridge at Sunset, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

By mid-afternoon, I had wandered around pretty much all of the park, but decided to hang around until sunset.  It had turned into a very pleasant day–mid 70s F with a very nice breeze–and I just decided to wait for the good light.  I wandered around and did something I almost never do:  took advantage of the park’s concessionaire and sampled the gift shop’s hand-dipped key lime ice cream (highly recommended); the woman working the counter was apparently in a good mood and gave me two scoops (each the size of a middling alpine peak) for the price of one.

My copious scouting had revealed two particularly noteworthy–to my eyes, anyway–spots from which to photograph sunset.  The attraction to both was the ability to utilize a palm tree for foreground interest, with the bridge (and sky) in the background.  The more appealing of the two to me had a particularly nicely shaped palm.  After strolling around for a few hours, sunset approached and I set up at my preferred location.   It was still quite windy so I had to do what I could to ratchet up the shutter speed to freeze the palm fronds.

Bahia Honda Rail Bridge at Sunset, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Once the sun went down completely, the best color in the sky fell directly behind the bridge–to the extreme left of the image you see above.  So I returned to my second compositional option, which would allow that area of sky to dominate the background.  But it was sufficiently dark by the time I got to this spot to be unable to generate the shutter speed necessary to include a palm tree in the composition, so I reluctantly moved forward on the sand and omitted the palm.  I settled for sky, bridge and sky reflection in the water.

Bahia Honda Rail Bridge at Sunset, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

My second–and final–side trip came on my last full day in Florida.  After spending sunrise on the beach (more about my experiences at Blowing Rocks and Coral Cove in the next post) I was looking for somewhere to spend the middle of the day.  When I was scouting at the beach on the afternoon of the day before, someone I ran into there asked me if I’d been to Riverbend Park.  I told him I wasn’t familiar with it and he told me it was well worth a trip with my camera and told me how to get there.  Turns out it was only about five minutes from where I was staying.  With a mostly cloudy day staring me in the face, I looked forward to checking it out.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Loxahatchee River, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

The focal point of Riverbend Park is the Loxahatchee River–which has been officially designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.  It is indeed highly photogenic.  Riverbend overall is very, very nice, with miles of well-maintained hiking and cycling trails that meander all over the park’s 680 acres and wind around the river, various tributaries and small lakes and forests filled with a variety of palm species and slash pine.

Palmetto Closeup Black & White, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Mexican Palmettos, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

I ended up spending roughly seven hours hiking and photographing.  Many of my Riverbend photos include water and most of those involved the Loxahatchee.

Loxahatchee River Black & White, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

But I also photographed from the edge of Cow Pen Lake.

Cow Pen Lake, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

When not near water, I found my attention grabbed by the trails themselves.

Reese Trail, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

I also pulled my macro lens out at this park, on several occasions.  In addition to the Palmetto closeup depicted above, I was intrigued by the patterns and details of the thatch palm trunks.

Thatch Palm Closeup, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

I also ran across a very interesting and extensive clump of maidenhair ferns.  It was fairly breezy, which made photographing the ferns difficult but I waited for lulls and ultimately accomplished what I set out to do.

Fern Forest, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Fern Forest, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

But ultimately, I found myself turning, inevitably, back to the river.

Loxahatchee River, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Loxahatchee River, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

I highly recommend this park, administered by Palm Beach County, to anyone who happens to be in the area.  It’s a real gem, and quite different in terms of subject matter than any of the other places I visited during my time in South Florida.

Loxahatchee River, Riverbend Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Next time I’ll relate my experiences at Blowing Rocks and Coral Cove.


  1. Just when I think I’ve found my favorite in the set, I scroll down farther and find yet another gem. At the moment, But, much as I love the photos, it was the key lime ice cream that really caught my attention. I make all my own ice cream (and we eat a lot of ice cream). I’m going to hunt for a recipe and try this.

    • Thanks, Ellen.

      Much as I like ice cream I almost never eat it. That occasion at Bahia Honda was the last time and I honestly can’t recall when the previous time was. But key lime…I thought it was worth a try…and it was. If you find a recipe for making it, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it.

  2. WOW! That picture of the sunset is absolutely stunning! 🙂 Thanks for all of this information about your Florida travels – it is definitely on my list!

  3. It was fun to see your photos of the wind-blown palms. I’ve been having to work with higher shutter speeds the past month, since 20-25 kts of wind has been the norm, and when I realized I’d actually “frozen” the motion of white prickly poppy petals, I was both astonished and pleased. The experience makes this post even more enjoyable and understandable.

    I enjoyed seeing the swamp lily, but my favorite photo is of the Mexican palmettos. Your post has brought to mind Texas’s Palmetto State Park: an idiosyncratic place apparently filled with dwarf palmettos and a semi-tropical feel. The San Marcos river flows through it, so I think it would be worth exploring — and it’s much closer than Florida.

    • Thanks!

      The shutter speed necessary to freeze blowing plant life is variable…depends on wind speed, the subject matter itself and the amount of available light, of course, in addition to the chosen aperture and ISO. With the same aperture/ISO that typically allows me to freeze foliage–think oak and maple leaves–I was unable to come close with the palm fronds that day at Bahia Honda. I needed (roughly) another 1.5 stops.

      It’s always a good idea to take some quick samples and check, by zooming in on the LCD screen, to ensure that you’ve achieved your goal re sharpness.

      • That business of checking in the field is one lesson I have learned. And I never delete anything until I get home and see the photos on the computer screen. If something is remarkably bad in some way, I always look at the settings, and compare it to a better photo. A lot can be learned that way.

        • If you’re taking the time to learn from your own shooting experience you’re way ahead of the game.

  4. […] areas–Blowing Rocks Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property, and Coral Cove Park, like Riverbend Park, a publicly owned area administered by Palm Beach County.  The two locations lie about a mile […]

Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: