Beach Vacation Photography

Seagull in flight
One of my better attempts at capturing fast-moving seagulls.

my FreeBSD “devil bag”
We took out first “family vacation” in two years this week as a simple road trip to Port Aransas, Texas.  I’ll do my best here to keep this from being just another typically boring “vacation post” though by trying to stick to the entertaining stuff and leaving out the gory details! As a photographer, one of my main goals was to take some photos, particularly on the beach (duh)!  The interesting thing here is that this was the first time I’ve taken my fancy DLSR and lenses out on a beach and was a little concerned about exposing my equipment to all that blowing sand and spray.  One precaution I took and which worked very well was – “zip-lock” bags! I didn’t want to even take my camera bag out on the beach, so I just took my camera with the 40mm prime pancake in one bag and my 90mm macro in the other, with both in my “FreeBSD” beach bag (aka my “devil bag”) that I got at an Open-source conference years ago (see image above).  I was careful switching lenses facing away from the surf (out of the wind) and managed to avoid getting any more than the normal dust-speck or two in my camera.  Except for a few “fish-eye” shots and a couple of zoom shots of ships in the distant harbor, I was able to do all my “beach shots” with either the 40mm pancake (very compact and handy) or my 90mm macro.  I also highly recommend a polarizer for most beach shots.
Sunrise at the Beach
I made myself get up early for a sunrise shot.  The bird was a bonus!
The one thing I had not prepared for was the effects of extreme humidity! As soon as I would walk outside my cool air-conditioned condo, my viewfinder and lenses would immediately fog up so bad that I could not see anything useful.  I would wipe them off only to have them re-fog up immediately.  I had to wait several minutes while my gear warmed up outside before being usable.  What did work well was mostly keeping my camera and lenses in the bag outside on the locked patio deck when I was inside (we were upstairs).

I ran into another amateur with a DSLR attempting to capture her friends in a portrait and had the opportunity to introduce her to the concept of “fill flash” by telling her as I passed by with my camera to “use flash”, to which she asked “why?”.  I explained that it would fill in the shadows nicely on their faces.  I didn’t do any flash portraits myself as my family is very camera-shy.

My view (this week)!
Going for blue sky, green water, ships and people here.
The first day was the best because we had good blue skies with a few puffy and wispy clouds to work with without as much haze as we had later.  The nearby harbor provided some good colorful (orange and white) ships for a nice background to the ocean.  One specific goal I had was to get a few good freeze-frame shots of seagulls and any other local birds.  The 90mm came in very handy for those and I did manage to get a few decent ones.  I took out some leftover pizza crust and quickly attracted a good flock of them.

The last evening, I parted ways with my family to hang out with a friend from high school who is now a local on the island.  She surprised me with a tour out to the bay where there was abundant cattails, birds and even an alligator, which actually made a brief appearance.  She said that for years she had been trying to actually capture a glimpse of it but had not, but it appeared while we were shooting.  As I said she surprised me in that I had failed to bring my bag, but only my camera with my 40mm standby on it.  I was so wishing I had had my bag with me so that I could’ve used my zoom on the gator, but had to settle for a distant, highly cropped capture.  Oh well, we did see it and it wasn’t a bad shot of it’s head above water! Thanks again, Janet, for the awesome tour!

Actual roadsign in Texas
Actual road-sign on the “Austin Autobahn” (Texas 45 Toll road).
We took the scenic route down there via U.S. 77 and rode the ferry boat to the island, but took the interstate back.  One interesting little tidbit was that most of the way back the speed limit had been raised 5mph to 75, and on the new tollway around Austin, it is 80mph!  I think it should be renamed the “Austin Autobahn”.  On top of that we still saw someone pulled over (must’ve not been wearin’ seatbelts).  Yet another reason I love Texas!  All in all, I had a great time.  I always enjoy the beach and spending my time listening to my tunes or talking with my wife while constantly slathering sunscreen on myself as I sit under a shaded umbrella with a T-shirt on; and only occasionally removing it to go out and surf the waves with my “boogie-board”.  Avoiding sunburn has always been a constant battle for me as my skin will literally catch fire if I stay out unprotected on a beach for more than about fifteen minutes.  I presume this is due to having a lot of Irish heritage.
Another fast-action attempt on a low-flying seagull.
Aransas Pass Ferry
Sunset with the Aransas Pass Ferryboats in the foreground.
Port Aransas, Texas
Ships leaving the harbor appear as shadows in the morning sun.
Gulls amongst Box turtles
Seagulls and box turtles in the lagoon where we stayed.

Other interesting flotsam that has washed up this week:

Nocturnal – Scenes of the Southern Night, Western Australia and Chile,  by Colin Legg, on Vimeo.
Today’s Quote:  “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
by “Txman”, from:  “They Don’t Make Hate Like They Used To“,
American, July 18, 2012.

Change shell properties with Linux shopt command
by Surendra Anne, The Linux Juggernaut, Aug. 9, 2012.

OStatic’s Updated Collection of Free Resources for GIMP Graphics  by Sam Dean, OStatic, Aug. 07, 2012.

Best Buy saved by open source thinking?
by Phil Shapiro,, Aug. 6, 2012.

Navigate the Universe with Celestia!
by Bill Toulas, World of, Aug. 6, 2012.


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