Becoming beachcombers

ENGFL3-8120512Crystal has heard me say it many times: I’m not a beach person.

It’s nothing against the lapping waves and white sand, either. It’s beautiful. It’s relaxing. But, given the choice of a vacation, I would probably head for the mountains or a town I’ve never visited as my first choice.

But, when our missionary friends Jay and Jan were furloughed in their native Florida from Argentina, we decided a road trip to visit them was in order.

And, I have to admit – I’m glad we did.

Mostly for the chance to reconnect with them. I remember holding their eldest daughter just hours after they welcomed her into this world. She is now nearing college graduation and preparing for medical school. Their two sons and youngest daughter are now adults, either entering or nearly completing college.

We all met at Manasota Key, which is near Englewood, FL. Our condos were an easy walk to the beach; stepping outside, you could hear the waves crashing against the shore. Just hearing the waves was relaxing, helping to melt away the stress of the 16 hours of drive time.

Our agenda for the week consisted of walking to the beach. There really weren’t plans beyond that.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Jay did have his mind set on kayaking nearby Stump Pass State Park, with the hopes that a manatee might be spotted in the waters. We rented tandem boats and paired up for a morning of paddling.

The pass leads into the gulf, and the confluence of waters proved too much for our kayaks, but we did pull out and explore the stumps and dead trees around the shore. Jay – an avid diver – took his diving gear to see if the gulf waters had cleared from recent storms. The water was actually a bit clearer, allowing him to nab a large crab to show us.

Paddling through the pass, two of his children spotted a manatee which actually swam underneath their boat. None of the rest of us spotted it, but we were circled by a curious dolphin who would periodically surface for a fresh breath before submerging again.

Through it all, though, Crystal was intrigued by the sky. Every evening, we made the short walk to the beach to watch the sun sink into the gulf. Every night was a different show, with clear skies from previous nights giving way to cloud formations that made for a variety of colors in the skies.

I packed my mirrorless Olympus OM-D E-M5 as a lightweight travel camera, along with 12, 17, and 45mm lenses. I also brought a recently-purchased set of Cokin graduated neutral density filters to control the difference in exposure from the bright skies to the dark waters.

Even though we would have been watching the sunsets without the camera, I wanted to try to capture the moments of beauty that we experienced there. I also caught other beauty, too – I took a few portraits of my beautiful daughters!

We even got up early to witness a sunrise, despite being followed by a great blue heron that Sarah named Kevin. I played with the camera’s black and white settings to try to capture the billowing white clouds that were producing storms off the coast, hoping to channel the work of Florida photographer Clyde Butcher in the process.

Seeing the beauty, along with being able to unwind and float in the waters and let cares from the real world drift away, made the time we spent with our friends very much worth the time and effort involved in getting there.

Returning home, I mentally began reflecting on what life must be like living along those waters. I wonder if there are any photographers needed in Englewood?

Maybe I’m a beach person after all.



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