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May 13, 2017
Recently, I had someone tell me that they feel like I am constantly posting photos from new interesting locations. Goodness sakes, I hope that’s true! I get bored with locations. Especially if the weather is similar on visits to a specific spot. It got me thinking though, about my favorite tampa landscape photography spots and exactly how many there actually are. Turns out, while there are definitely more, I have 6 spots that have turned into my go-to locations when I decide its time to shoot a scenic or two.
Sand Key Park
Sand Key is probably my absolute favorite place to go locally. It offers a really diverse range of settings from vintage looking fields of sea oats, to some gorgeous white sand dunes or a nice big rock jetty for long exposures. The easiest way to get there is to take West Bay or Ulmerton Rd out over the intercoastal onto Gulf Blvd. Hang a right and the park will be one of the last things on your left before going over the big bridge to Clearwater Beach. (If you end up in Clearwater Beach, you went too far north) The only thing I don’t like about this park is that regardless of when you go, it’s $5 parking. This is a phenomenal deal if you’re planning on hanging out at the beach all day, but a slight rip-off if you show up 20 minutes before sunset which happens to be when the park closes. :-/ The machines take cards though which is nice!
Clearwater Beach is another place that can give you a bunch of options all within walking distance. About as far south as you can go on Clearwater Beach, you’ll find a big rock jetty, some sand dunes with really photogenic sea oats and these old pier remains that lend themselves perfectly to long exposures. Head north on the beach and you’ll find the more touristy area and a concrete pier that photographs really nicely. In between the two, there are some relatively interesting lifeguard shacks and most likely, a few goofy tourists. It is pay parking but not as expensive as Sand Key. Usually, it’s hard to find a spot by the pier near sunset. I’d recommend heading to the south parking lot near the jetty. These parking lots take credit cards as well, and let you pay based on time instead of a flat fee like Sand Key.
Sunset Beach is at the very south end of Treasure Island. I like driving on the beach, and live north of Treasure Island, so I usually end up crossing over the John’s Pass bridge and driving south on Gulf Blvd. At the end of the main part of Treasure Island, you’ll reach a light where you can go straight and cross a bridge off of the island, or turn right onto W. Gulf Blvd. Turn Right and keep straight till you see the beach parking and some boardwalks out to the beach on your right. The parking lot is paid, but the machines take cards and allow you to pay based on the time you plan on staying. There are two rock jetties, some gorgeous wooden board walks and plenty of sea oats. You can usually also plan on seeing surfers if the waves are up, paddle boarders and only a handful of people. Of all the places I enjoy going, I always see the least amount of people on this beach. The first jetty is just a tiny bit north of the main parking lot and the bigger of the two jetties is a decent walk south. There’s always interesting waves or currents to photograph (especially with long exposure) at the south jetty because it’s an oddly shaped pass between the intercoastal and the gulf.
Redington Long Pier - Redington Beach, FL
Redington Long Pier is my favorite pier in the area to photograph. It’s wooden and has a very cool old appearance to it. It photographs extremely well. I used to go here more, but in all honesty, the owners are extremely difficult to work with. They really only want you to park in that huge lot if you are planning on using the pier (which is reasonable). There’s a portion of the pier that leads over the beach from the parking lot out to the bait shop. It’s a really cool photo op of the bait shop with the gulf in the background but even if you don’t visit the bait shop or go out onto the rest of the pier, the owners require you to pay to be allowed to stand there and snap a photo (slightly ridiculous) When you go in to pay, they do offer a price break for people who just want to walk on and not do any fishing, but be aware that if you want to pay with a card, they have a $10 purchase limit and since the walkon price is $3, you’ll be buying lots of snickers bars to make up the difference. (Been there, done that. Absolutely ridiculous) The answer to all of this? On the side of the street just outside the parking lot, there are parking spaces which are free and public parking. Park there, and instead of walking into the parking lot, look for the sidewalk that is just on the right side of the parking lot (if you’re facing the pier) That sidewalk leads out to the beach right next to the pier and honestly, my favorite shots are wider-angle images from the beach looking up towards the pier anyway. Wish the people were kinder to work with. You can find the pier south of the Park Blvd bridge and north of the Madeira Beach bridge.
Old Pilings on Madeira Beach
Madeira Beach (near John’s Pass, north of Treasure Island) - I don’t feel like enough people visit this beach. It’s a fun little spot and some of my favorite sunset images are from here. Drive south on Gulf Blvd from Redington Beach, headed towards Treasure Island. The little park is the very LAST right turn before you go over the bridge. It’s literally at the foot of the bridge. Turn right and then follow the little road around to the left and you’ll end up in a small parking lot to the right of the bridge. There’s a jetty with a small pier type thing on the end of it. There are usually a few fisherman that are fun to include in photos and they’re usually willing to hold still for 30 seconds or so if you mention you’re doing a long exposure. There’s also some EXTREMELY photogenic wooden paths and sand paths that are tiny, but I have lots of photos from them. They’re just pretty. :-) Last I checked, this parking lot only takes quarters and I don’t remember even seeing a change machine so come prepared. If you don’t have change, park in the parking garage at John’s Pass and there’s a sidewalk which walks out to the beach under the overpass. The parking garage offers more methods of payment.
Sea Oats on Pass-a-Grille Beach
Pass-a-Grille - Last is a slightly bigger area, and it’s the furthest from where I live in Largo, but worth the Drive. Head south on Gulf Blvd and when you get to the Don Cesar, keep heading south instead of going east at the light. You’ll end up out on this little peninsula type thing with some cool piers on the intercoastal side, and cool wooden boardwalks with sea oats and a small jetty on the gulf side. When I feel like driving, this is usually where I go. It’s paid parking, but the machines are the newer ones that take cards or quarters.
There are definitely lots of other spots in the area that can yield great photos, but these are my favorite. I’ve been to each of them at least 5-10 times and will continue to go back. I see huge value in learning a certain number of local locations well enough that you can check the weather, wind, skies & wind direction to quickly get an idea of which location may provide the best photography on that given day. Don’t be afraid to visit the same location multiple times. Go in different weather, at different times in different seasons. Challenge yourself to create a unique image each time you go.
Know of any cool Tampa landscape photography spots that HAVE to get mentioned? Share them in the comments!
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