Florida Landscape Photography by Andrew Vernon

Evening Vista - Stunning Clearwater Beach Sunset

Landscape, PhotographyAndrew VernonComment
Evening Vista - A stunning sunset over Sand Key Park near Clearwater Beach in Florida.

I ran for this photo! We're talking, a full out - camera bag swinging - mad dash from one end of the beach to the other in order to catch this shot during some of the best light I have been able to photograph in quite some while. It occurred to me that maybe it isn't normal for a photographer to go running across a local beach with his gear wildly in tow, mainly because of the looks I was getting from a number of people who didn't seem to notice the explosion of colors and light that had just happened. I just laughed and said 'pretty incredible sunset, huh?' while I ran past. Oh well! I always wonder if any of those people will somehow stumble across my photo from that night and maybe realize how pretty that sunset actually was. Maybe, they'll make the connection between the sunset they got to see in person, the wide-eyed running photographer and this shot. Regardless, they're lucky to have seen it.

I was lucky too! This time of year keeps me pretty busy in my portrait studio doing high school senior portraits. Like, 80 a month. I don't mind it really! Seniors are fun and the work is creative, but it means barely any time to get out and create some new landscape work. So, when a massive day-long line of thunderstorms fried all of the electronics in a friends house, had my apple tv shooting sparks according to my wife, and easily cancelled my evening outdoor portrait session, I was hopeful that things would clear long enough to let the sun peek through before setting. It sounds cliche, but storms almost always yield the prettiest sunsets. Some of my most colorful sunset photos include things like having to tie my gear into a trash bag to keep it dry, being the only one on the beach because the weather is from a tropical storm, or having to guard my eyes from all the sand that had been picked up by the strong winds. So, I was hopeful!

Getting to the beach, it didn't seem like it was going to happen though. The sky had very little definition and was a dull grey color. Boring. There was a small strip of sky between the horizon and the clouds though that promised a small chance of the sun making an appearance. Sand Key is a pretty big beach though, and betting that the sun wouldn't be out, I headed to the north end of the park for some long exposures of a piling and the jetty that are up there. The photos came out ok but really weren't anything that had me super excited. I took a look back though and realized that little strip had changed colors and it seemed possible that things were taking a small turn for the better. The scene was warming up and the sky was picking up definition as the sun slowly transitioned from backlighting to skimming across the bottom of the clouds hanging over the beach. Still, it wasn't anything spectacular. We get lots of sunsets around here and while I was glad that maybe I'd get a hint of color for my long exposures, it still seemed like little else, if anything, was going to happen.

Then in what felt like a 30 second period, everything changed. The sun moved completely into that window above the horizon and it's warm rays lit up the ceiling with light that felt so golden in contrast to the grey that had been in place all day. The stupid piling is very small and would definitely not hold it's own as a foreground element against such a colorful sky, so I thought of the lifeguard shacks that are down the beach. They're a brilliant red and contrast well against a colorful sky as you can see in a similar clearwater beach sunset photo of mine called Guardian. The window the sun was in felt incredibly small and with how quickly it had appeared, I was nervous it was going to disappear, so I grabbed my gear and ran for it! A quick run followed by a lens and filter change later and I was taking this photo!

My photos from this night are some of the most colorful photos I have ever seen come straight out of camera. Cameras are notorious for creating slightly dull landscape images that need some color pop before they begin to appear like the scene I had seen, but these photos... They didn't need to be touched. The color that night was just amazing! This photo is a 13 second long exposure taken at F11 and ISO 200. This is one of those photos that you just HAVE to see big at some point... The detail in the color, sand and lifeguard stand is just beautiful. I'm thankful I got the chance to photograph it.

If you would like to purchase a print of Evening Vista, please click here.