Beyond the BackyardFort De Soto

Sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach

Rich and I did an overnight trip to Fort De Soto over Labor Day weekend.   I got to do one of my favorite things: photograph sunset at Fort De Soto’s North Beach.  It’s so beautiful there.  I love the white beach and the unspoiled coastline.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought it was great.  We came across this writing in the sand:

Fort De Soto Beach
Fort De Soto Beach

We had our off-Friday before the long weekend, so we headed to the beach on Thursday afternoon in order to avoid the holiday crowds.  I was happy to find the beach deserted except for dozens of Sandwich Terns and Royal Terns.  There were lots of juveniles in the flock, all begging to be fed.  Mom would basically stand there and ignore them.  After they pestered her enough, she’d fly off and encourage them to go fishing with her.  Sometimes it worked.  Often the juvie would stay back on the beach, pouting!

Sandwich Terns
Sandwich Terns

The afternoon light on the beach is so sweet.  I waded into the ocean in order to get the right angle for the shot of the terns above.

As the sun started to set, I put on my wide-angle lens and looked for sunset shots.  After our last good hurricane, a bunch of trees were cut down and the stumps remain on the beach.  I thought this stump was pretty in the foreground…

Sunset on North Beach
Sunset on North Beach

I turned around and saw this Black-bellied Plover, just back from his nesting grounds in Alaska.  He still had his black belly!  I’ve been on a quest for a Black-bellied Plover in full breeding plumage, and I’ve tried for several springs to find one with a perfect black belly before they migrate to Alaska.  I didn’t expect to find my blackest in September!

Black-bellied Plover
Black-bellied Plover

As the sun slipped below the horizon, I ran around with my wide-angle lens.  I love the in-camera HDR on the 5D Mark III!  Although with these images, I found that I preferred to do the tone mapping myself in Photomatix.  There was enough of a breeze that the software had trouble aligning the HDR images, so I ended up doing the tone-mapping using just the mid-tone image.  I thought it did a pretty good job.

Sunset at North Beach
Sunset at North Beach

I found a nice clump of sea grass for what turned out to be my favorite sunset shot of the night:

Sunset on North Beach
Sunset on North Beach

As the sun went down, the birds started a feeding frenzy out over the ocean.  Literally hundreds of terns, gulls, and pelicans were flying back and forth, scooping fish out of the water.  They made such a joyful noise as they flew!  While I ran around with my big cameras, Rich took out his iPhone and did a sunset video of the birds.

Sometimes the best colors of sunset are half an hour after the sun actually sets.  This was one of those nights.  We stood watching the birds’ feeding frenzy, and I started shooting silhouettes as the birds flew in front of the colorful clouds.  It was a really exciting half hour of photography.  My 5D is really good at autofocus, even at late night, although I missed the reach of my crop-sensor cameras.  My favorite shot was of this pelican diving into the ocean.  He made a really big splash as he grabbed his fish!

Pelican Dive at Sunset
Pelican Dive at Sunset