Posted by: kerryl29 | March 1, 2021

The Story Behind the Image: Long Pine Key Sunrise

There is a section of Everglades National Park known as Long Pine Key.  In Florida, for those unfamiliar with the lingo, a “key” is an island; hence the Florida Keys, a string of islands arcing out from the south Florida mainland into the Caribbean, that ends at the aptly named Key West.  In that regard, Long Pine Key is a bit of a misnomer, but only a bit.  The name really refers to the broad area surrounding Long Pine Lake, a fairly small body of water that does contain–ta da!–a small island.  This, technically is the aforementioned “key.”  In general parlance, however, Long Pine Key is the area of the park, including the lake, that houses an old growth forest that includes an enchanting stand of slash pine.  It may seem counterintuitive to think of coniferous growth in south Florida, but there it is.

When I took a photo trip to Florida four years ago (February, 2017), the opportunity to spend time in the Everglades was the principal motivation.  On the day I flew into Miami, I thought I’d have time late that afternoon to slip into the park and scout some potential sunrise locations.  But due to an interminable wait for luggage and a rental car, followed by a nasty traffic jam, it didn’t happen.  The sun went down as I made the drive to Florida City and by the time I arrived at my lodgings, it was dark.

As a result, I was going to have to hit the ground running the following morning.  When I got up and out the next day, well over an hour before sunrise, there was a fair amount of fog present.  This, I would learn very quickly, was to be the case most mornings.  I made the rather lonely drive to the park’s entrance gate, paid my fee (which got me a weekly pass), and made my way on the main road, still in the foggy dark, toward Long Pine Key.

Why this location?  I had read that this was a potentially good sunrise spot; it also wasn’t far from the park entrance (only about 10 minutes).  There’s a campground on the southeast side of the lake and a day use area on the west side.  I drove to the latter, for several reasons; first, I didn’t want to disturb the people in the campground at that early hour.  And second, I wanted to be facing the rising sun, not with my back to it.  Any concerns about inadvertently capturing the trailers and RVs in the campground, which was, after all, directly in my line of fire, was eliminated by the presences of the obscuring fog.

The ambient light slowly started to improve and I began to look around the area in earnest, in the hope of setting up for sunrise, which I eventually did.  It was an okay display, and I captured what I could, but after the best of it was done I made a much more thorough scout of the area, because I knew that I’d be back on subsequent mornings.

And so I was.  Several times.  And on one of those mornings, with a slightly thinner morning fog, I was ready.  On a dead calm morning–and, truth be told, every early morning I spent at Long Pine Key was dead calm–the rising sun pierced the fog and cut through the gaps in the mature slash pines on the east side of the lake, creating a memorable sight, punctuated by the “god beams” produced at the intersection of sunlight, fog and trees.  I was lucky enough to be there, camera at the ready.

Long Pine Lake at Sunrise, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida


  1. This is truly beautiful…the adjectives to describe the light are in the realm of “luscious.” I like the angled line of the tree tops and their reflection that create more energy in the image than would lines parallel to the edges of the frame.

  2. Glorious!

  3. I’ve made one trip to the keys, in June 2016, and I wish I had known about this absolutely magical spot.

    • Thanks, Gary.

      I just want to clarify, Long Pine Key isn’t in the Florida Keys, it’s in Everglades NP, on the mainland of South Florida, south of Miami. I’d estimate that it’s about 20 miles, as the crow flies, northwest of the causeway to Key Largo, and much farther than that as the car drives.

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