Road Trip – Pensacola

Thursday December 5, 2019

Late Autumn mornings in Georgia are somewhat brisk with pretty, but short sunrises.  This is from my backyard.
We left around 8:30am Atlanta time.
Both the NCR and CODA buildings are quite nice, I’m sure they’ll film some movies there one day.
We made it to Pensacola, FL around 3:30 our time, which only gave us about 2 hours of daylight (darn time switch).
This is our coughing/napping assistant.  I miss my old Honda Civic and it’s crazy gas mileage.
The first stop was the Waterfront Thrift Store.  I pass by this place all the time going to the beach, but never went in.  I found myself a pair of $2 sunglasses! (Well $5, after I donated the rest to their food mission).  This is a really big thrift store! With 3 sections, clothes in the front, housewares and tech in the middle, and furniture in the back.  Sadly no vintage film cameras or anything, just a couple really old huge VHS camcorders.
The view from the back of my brother’s place on Santa Rose Island.  You’re looking north towards Alabama.  There’s ton of fish (and even dolphins!) in the bay, and an artificial reef about a 1/2 mile to the west.
The week prior, it was a lovely 75 degrees.  This weekend was a lot chillier, in the high 50’s.
These houses are so nice.  You can also picnic and grill out in the back.  One time earlier this year a nice fisherman gave us two red snapper that we threw right on the grill, no seasoning needed.
The wrap around balconies are pretty spacious.  A lot of people could hang out there, or in the summertime sleep under in a tent.  This part of FL doesn’t really have any mosquitoes due to the constant salt water tides and the breeze.
Besides film, I think I’ve shot this umbrella with every unique digital camera that I have.  It’s a good test subject, vibrant blue under the Florida sunshine.
I really like the pastel blue of this house. This was shot with a Sigma SD14.
This time around I really used the Canon 5D classic as my main.  It’s a native ISO 100 camera, but in FL there’s always plenty of light.  Canons just produce prettier softer pictures at the beach as opposed to Nikons I’ve found.
So on this skinny island, the sun rises right on the east and also sets on the west end of the island.  We had a little less than an hour before sunset.
It was way too cold to be swimming.
All it takes is a walk across the street and you’re at the Gulf of Mexico.  The sand dunes you’re not supposed to climb one due the amount of wildlife that call those spots home.  These pastel tones are pretty close to what I remember.  Next time I was thinking about shooting film, but to be honest digital is more than good enough.
It’s a different feeling being at the beach in what is essentially winter time for the rest of the northern hemisphere.
Wide open Canon 35mm f/1.4 at the beach has a nice look.
Subject placement in relation to the horizon is always a composition concern at the beach.  But hey, we’re not here to focus on art, just hang out, eat food, and take pictures like the good old days.
It’s crazy how another decade is right around the corner.  To me, all of the 2000’s has really been the same, gone by in an instant.  I tell young people all the time, take as many good pictures as you can in your youth, you’ll never fully maximize the time given.  I guess it’s the lesson we all have to learn for ourselves.
Here are those $2 sunglasses I bought from the thrift store.  Can’t believe I’ve been going years without any.  I’ll buy lenses for these cameras, but not even my own eyes, that’s crazy. 😉
If you’ve never been to this part of FL, the sand is super soft.  It was a bit too cold to be taking off the shoes and enjoying the feeling of sand through the toes (in some parts of the beach it feels like flour).
Not that it matters, but today we rolled with: Canon 5D Classic with 35mm 1.4, 2 Sigma Foveons, D750 and 50mm 1.2, and Fujifilm S5 with a 17-55mm 2.8.  Oh and more toys in the extra bags.
f/1.4 at the beach isn’t best for technical photos, but that’s not the point.  I of course shot another image stopped down, but it didn’t look as dreamy.  This is how I’d like to remember this spot.
Taking pictures at the beach during sunset is a real rush.  You can see the game clock dwindling in real time.  The color and contrast changes by the minute and you have to deal with clouds and exposure challenges.
Backlight portraits with the setting sun is a different look, but our cameras and eyes really can’t process that exposure latitude.  Circling around the subject to get the warmth of sunlight falling on a subject is a bonus during golden hour.
The sun hid behind a cloud, but a “bad” sunset in FL is still much better than the ones back home in Georgia.
So many more books to be made.  I guess I could make one about the beach, putting those old photos circa 2003 with the ones from now.  That’s either a crazy long amount of time, or not really, depending on your perspective.
All those young person problems we had back then, they really mean nothing in front of these relentless waves.
I asked a nice passerby to take our picture.  You can always tell an “amateur’s” shot because they tend to always put the heads of people in the center of frame.  It’s a coin flip with people, some have composition sensibilities and will work the scene, other’s just snap without any pretense.  In the end, it’s just some pixels of a memory and I like this photo.  That’s all that really matters.
When photographing at the sunset, always consider the other direction.  The colors are often better.  All these were from different cameras, with different color choices, white balances, etc, but unique and valid in their own way.  Who’s to say which color is the most authentic.
Going to dinner, we parked next to this lovely baby blue Figaro.
This car and its color really is made for the beach.
Peg Leg Pete’s I really recommend.  I’ve eaten here several times now and it’s always been good.
House Salad with Ranch Dressing
Oysters and Sauce
Blackened Tilapia and Pasta with Marinara sauce.  You can also order extra Garlic bread for $.40 each!!
Dinner was great! Time to call it an evening.

Friday December 6, 2019
On Friday morning we got up at 5:30am CST.  I checked the sunrise/sunset website and it predicted a nice one this morning.
It was a bit chilly, but not too bad.  The beach ball area was the closest so I thought it would be good to shoot there first.
The vibrant pinks and reds was pretty crazy.
As early as I get up, you’ll never be the first on the beach I’ve found.  There’s always someone willing to get up even earlier to catch the sunrise.
It took a few minutes for the sun to rise and the rays glint off the bottoms of the clouds.
It really is like performance art in a way, the colors shifting as if someone was adjusting a big computer monitor.  Different exposures on the cameras can produce some wildly different results too, like this one from a Sigma.
This image reminds me of a painting.
The gray clouds soon covered up the rest of the sunrise, so we went down the other side of the island to Navarre Beach.  This neighborhood has some pretty eclectic home designs.
Breakfast was at the Ruby Slipper.  I highly recommend this place as well, either in Pensacola or New Orleans.  The food is good and the portions plenty.
My light breakfast, chicken salad on toast with a bowl of fruit.
St. Charles Chicken Eggs Benedict
After a nap, we acted like normal tourists.  There’s a graffiti bridge in Pensacola that is an odd photo attraction of sorts.  The art on it is a bit too random for me, and definitely not on par with the wall art in New Orleans (or even some parts of Atlanta).
This spot does have some good vantage points though. There’s the bay, some tall grass and a hill that the railroad track goes over.
We were going to the lighthouse to take pictures, but mere hours before we got there was that awful shooting that took place at the military base.  Such senseless craziness even in a slow paced retirement community like Pensacola.
The gate to the base was closed off, but we did get to stop by another thrift store at the intersection.  Somebody got a nice backpack for $6.
Since two of us were under the weather, we decided to get Pho at the Vietnamese grocery store/restaurant.  The food there is quite good and affordable.  I don’t normally order pho even in Atlanta, but this really helped.  This P1 was only $6.99.  They also sell spring rolls, 3 for $3 and pork buns $6 for 4.
The broth is a bit sweet (which I like) but the main thing is it doesn’t taste instant or greasy like it does back home.  50+ pho places in Atlanta, and they are all outclassed by this place in Pensacola.  Shame on you ATL.
The also have this thing, I forget the Lao name for it, but ours sometimes has coconut in it.  This one had the same stuff that is in a pork bun.
Again, the sun sets so early this time of year so didn’t have time to chase the sunset on this day. Plus it rained and was cloudy.
Passing through Gulf Breeze is the famous Pensacola Beach sign.  This one is a modern replacement of the old one.  You can get a good shot of it from the parking lot of a hotel right as you turn onto the bridge.  It’s a bit tough with the power lines, and the nature of the LED’s not going off at the same time.  Wish I’d taken a good photo of the original sign back in my younger days.
Time to call it an evening!

Next Post is our trip to New Orleans
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