Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier and Sunset Photography Tips

Fort Myers Beach – A Great Spot to Capture a Sunset

Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier at Sunset
Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier at Sunset

Let’s face it.  Sunsets with nothing more than miles of blank ocean to the horizon and then a ball of sun dropping into the sea are boring as hell.  Imagine a small child’s drawing of said sunset.  Not much better than the square house and lollipop tree crayon rendering.

Sunsets as an experience are wonderful with cocktail, glass of wine or beer in hand and your skins slowly feeling a sunburned memory of a fun filled day at the beach.  But as a photography subject, many a snap shot fails to capture the feeling of the moment.

As with any good landscape, the artist seeks to find strong elements for a complete composition of foreground, middle ground and background.  Too often snaps of a sunset have nothing but background which is why they fall flat in the intrigue, substance and interest levels.

Taking Fort Myers Beach as an example, the fishing pier makes a great point of interest for fantastic sunset photos.  Located on the western coast of Florida, this region of Florida makes for great sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.

The trick is figuring out where the sunset will occur, finding a great foreground to add interest to the shot, set up your tripod and hope people stay out of your way, bracket your exposures and don’t forget to manual focus before you lose the light because your autofocus might not work in low light.

Also stick around after the actual sunset to get some amazing colors in the sky that only occur AFTER the sunsets.

See all of the Fort Myers Beach area photographs and artwork here –

General Sunset Photography Tips

Sunset Photography cheat sheet
Sunset photography cheat sheet

I like having my camera on a sturdy tripod for sunsets.  Take a exposure reading off the sky, set up your camera in manual and shoot away.  Look at the results in the LCD screen and examine the histogram.  Adjust your setting and fire away bracketing your shots to cover a wide exposure range.

Keep in mind that to create a stunning sunset you’ll need some great clouds.  A blank sky is going to be boring and often the sunset gets lost in low hanging clouds on the horizon so be prepared to revisit the same spot several times during your stay in the area.  Also stick around after the sun goes down in case the sky opens up.

Also take your white balance off of auto WB and put it on Daylight.  Auto will adjust for the warm tones and take away the colors you came to see!  Play around with the WB setting if you want to intensify the colors.

What to know when shooting in snow

Tired of dull, gray snow scenes? Having trouble taking bright, white snow photographs? Here is what to know when shooting snow!

Early cameras did not have built in light meters. You either had to guess at the exposure based on previous tests or later using a handheld light meter. It was easier when using a flash bulb such as on a press camera you see used in the movies because the exposure with a flash bulb is based on distance – basically the time it takes for the light to bounce off the subject and come back to the camera.

Eventually light meters were included in the camera design. But the most important thing to remember about light meters is that are measuring the object they are pointed at and are trying to calculate the exposure to represent the subject at what is known as 18% gray.

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As the majority of snapshot with cameras are people and assumed Caucasian or Asian skin tones, the camera manufactures assumed that most of the time photographers would want to expose for this 18% gray tone.

This means that every time you take a picture of something that is not 18% gray or in that range, the exposure is most likely to be over or under exposed.

Take a picture of a 18% gray wall and it will correctly expose as 18% gray. Take a picture of a white painted wall, white wedding dress or snow and it will come out underexposed or gray.

Take a photo of a black wall or a black frying pan and it will come out overexposed or gray instead of black.

This is why its important to understand how to use your exposure compensation controls on your camera to purposely under expose or over expose your scene to get the right exposure.

Over expose to get white snow, under expose to get true black scenes. You have to “fool” or “trick” your build in exposure meter to get the right settings.

Another method would be to shot a 18% gray card and then enter those setting into the camera in manual mode. Or use a light meter to take the ambient light measurements. Rather than metering reflected light, this setting on a hand held light meter measures the light falling on the scene.

Why 18% Gray?  Is it really 18% or more like 12%?  Does it really matter?

The story goes that Ansel Adams came up with the “18% gray” figure. Back in the hay day of film photography he was developing the zone system and needed to define a “middle gray”. It was a judgment call. Eventually, the idea caught on, but film and camera companies picked their own middle gray. It is a fun fact that your digital camera probably uses something more like 12% gray as middle gray.

Whatever the number, the idea behind middle gray is not that is “reflects 50% of the light”. Or even that “it is half way between absorbing all light (pure black) and reflecting all light (pure white)”. It has to do with your perception.

Your eyes are logarithmic detectors. That is, if a source gets brighter by a factor of 4, it will only seem brighter by a factor of 2 to you. If it increases by a factor of 32, it will only seem brighter by a factor of 5. If it increases in brightness by a factor of 128, it will only seem 7 times brighter to you.

The above are not the actual numbers. As you can imagine, measuring how bright things seem to people is very tricky, and varies from person to person. The important thing is that it is this weird logarithmic nature of your eyes that keeps middle gray from being 50%.


  1. How to use a gray card to determine exposure

Set your camera to manual shooting mode. Select the ISO and aperture you wish to use for your shot.

Set your camera’s metering mode to Spot Metering. This will allow the camera to read a very small area only, helpful if you only have a small gray card. You only want it to read the light off the reflector only, not the entire scene.

Set your focus point to single and choose the center one. Your camera will meter the same place it focuses.

Aim your camera at the gray card and press the shutter button part way down to take a reading. Looking in your viewfinder (eye piece) adjust the shutter speed until it gives you a reading of “0” (zero).

Take a test shot of the model (or subject) and the gray card similar to the one above. (You’ll be able to use this in part four below also.)

Review the histogram – you should have a perfect exposure with the gray card and all tones falling in the correct zones.

Bird Photography on the Cheap

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Seems like photography enthusiasts drift toward bird photography at some point in their lives. They are either a birder who wants to capture their life list in photos or a amateur photographer who is looking for a great subject that gets they out of the house. In either case, most of these would be bird photographers come to me with questions about how to improve their photographs. Namely they want to product photographs of the quality they see in their birding books and in National Geographic magazine.

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The problem lays in trying to compete with professionals who write off insanely expensive cameras and glass and will stalk their subjects for three weeks in some exotic location paid for by the magazine. This is why as a photographer trying to make a living on their work, I don’t want anything to do with bird photography. The quality long lenses can cost $5,000 to $25,000 and the top cameras can cost over $3,000. That’s a lot of equipment money to try to make a profit on and the market for bird photography is over-saturated and not even all that in demand in the first place. Low demand and high costs of equipment. Not a good formula for turning a profit.

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And then there is the travel costs. Unless you have a lot of exotic birds in your backyard, you will have to travel to find them. A birder friend of mine recently took a cruise to South America and the Galápagos Islands. She had a great time and added something like 900+ birds to her life list but also came back with a lot of blurry bird photos. But I disgress…


Bird Photography on the Cheap

Birds are tiny!  They represent a small fraction of your total view.  With your eyes you might focus in on the birds and disregard the surrounding but when you take a photograph of them, you realize how small they really are compared to the overall landscape.  So you are going to have to get close – either physically or optically.

So you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on long expensive lenses like the Canon EF 600mm that costs about $10K.

Tip One – Buy a lens aimed at the photo enthusiast market instead of the professional level lens such as this Sigma lens.  You can also rent lenses to test them out or while on vacation although renting a lens isn’t cheap,  It can cost hundreds of dollars to rent a huge lens.

Tip Two – Get a bridge camera with a built in long lens.  These are birders favorites as they provide plenty of zoom at a low cost.

Tip Three – Get closer to the birds.   This is the cheapest way to get close up photos of birds,  Set out some food and hunker down in a blind and wait for the birds to come to you.  You can photograph the birds with shorter range lenses if you are closer to them.

Tip Four – Crop in your photos.  Just because you see a photograph of a bird in a magazine and it looks like the photographer is right on top of the bird doesn’t mean they didn’t crop the photo.  Birds are tiny, crop in for maximum impact.

Tip Five – Create a feeding station and put plenty of perches around for more natural photographs.

Seven Inspiring Still Life Photographs

Pear Still Life by Edward M. Fielding
Four Aces by Edward M. Fielding
Four Aces by Edward M. Fielding

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Farm Fresh Eggs
Farm Fresh Eggs by Edward M. Fielding

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Coffee Art Print
Coffee artwork for home, office, kitchen –

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Music Lover Poster
“Music Lover” is a fine art photograph featuring a violin and a tulip embracing.

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Apple Still Life by Edward M. Fielding
Apple Still Life by Edward M. Fielding

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Keeping Time by Edward M. Fielding
Keeping Time by Edward M. Fielding

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Fine Art for the Home and Office

Amazing artwork for your home!

Looking for a dynamic, scene stealing artwork or photograph for your home or office? Check out my portfolio of over 4,500 image from around the world! –

Amazing artwork for your home!
Amazing artwork for your home!

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Watercolor version of “Autumn Splendor” by Edward M. Fielding – artwork based on an original photograph taken in Norwich, Vermont during peak foliage season right across the Connecticut River from Hanover, New Hampshire and Dartmouth College.  The fine art photograph version is below:

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All about Eggs! Photography with Eggs

Photographs with Eggs

With Easter coming up soon, let’s talk about eggs!  Eggs make a great still life subject matter or accessory because 1. they are a familiar every day object full of emotional weight  – memories of great breakfast feasts with the family perhaps or just your favorite meal of the day and 2. they have symbolic weight as birth, reborn, renew, awakening, life and other connotations. 3. They have a nice simple, pleasing shape to work with and can be used in multiples, on their own, in the shell, out of the shell, raw, cooked, decorated and more – versatile props indeed!

See all of the photographs with eggs here –

Eggs in a Vintage Wire Basket
Eggs in a Vintage Wire Basket –

This photograph of eggs in a vintage wire basket in a barn was actually created in my basement studio.  Over time I gathered the elements of the shot including a vintage wire egg gathering basket,  hay, an old garden spade and some farm fresh eggs from a co-worker who has chickens.  The set was constructed from weathered rough boards to look like the inside of an old barn and the scene was lit with strobes.

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Breakfast Sandwich is actually one of my best selling stock photographs but has also sold as wall art.  Its a bagel sandwich with scrambled eggs, cheese and thick cut, locally smoked bacon.  Its a family favorite for special mornings!

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The nest is actually a sculpture made from wire and the eggs are carved from stone.

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Farmer Dog guards the hen house, keeps the foxes away and helps out by gathering eggs.

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This colorful shot of dying Easter eggs is another popular stock photograph of mine.

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I borrowed a family heirloom antique kitchen scale from an old college roommate of my wife’s for this still life of the scale with baking supplies – eggs and flower in the background.  Its a popular as a kitchen wall art.

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This Easter Bunny Card photograph features and adorable little Easter bunny and decorated eggs.

Can’t get enough of your own farm fresh eggs in your area?  Try Nest-spresso!

Are you really getting all the lens you paid for?

Believe it or not – the lens you buy might not really the focal length you think it is – your 200mm lens might only be 135mm! Your 70mm lens might be 45mm! Does your lens have focus breathing? This video shows why it happens, how to test if your lens has it, and how to fix it.

Zoom lens design is the art of combining lens elements to create a lens that works in a variety of focal lengths. A zoom or telephoto lens is a full of compromises as the designers work with attempting to maximize performance across the range of focal lengths as well as dealing with issues such as weight, length, portability, easy of use, price point etc.

Basic optical theory means that the lens elements have to move closer and further from the lens to be able to focus on objects near and far. In some designs the lens actually gets long or shorter ie. you can see the movement. In other designs this movement occurs within the lens but this type of design is a compromise which robs the actually zoom abilities from the lens. So you end up with a lens is not getting the subject as close as you think it would based on the infinity rating.

5 Examples of Abstract Photography

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Like abstract painting, abstract photograph chooses to isolate shapes, lines, color, divorced from reality and boiled down to the very essence of a sensation or impression.  The difference is painting starts with a blank canvas and adds elements whereas in abstract photography the photographer uses a camera to isolate and subtract from reality.

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Finding shapes, patterns, detail and composition from the larger world and eliminating all sense of context and meaning other than the pure sensation and tension created by line, texture, light, dark, color and perhaps movement.

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Abstract photography, sometimes called non-objective, experimental, conceptual or concrete photography, is a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world and that has been created through the use of photographic equipment, processes or materials.

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An abstract photograph may isolate a fragment of a natural scene in order to remove its inherent context from the viewer, it may be purposely staged to create a seemingly unreal appearance from real objects, or it may involve the use of color, light, shadow, texture, shape and/or form to convey a feeling, sensation or impression.

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The image may be produced using traditional photographic equipment like a camera, darkroom or computer, or it may be created without using a camera by directly manipulating film, paper or other photographic media, including digital presentations.

WOW vs. HoHum Photography

Vintage Tractors artwork

WOW Photographs vs. HoHum Photographs

I had a recent discussion with some Fine Art America photographers about WOW photographs vs. HoHum photographs and if it made since only to upload your WOW photographs for sale to the public.

What’s a WOW photograph? Well, basically any photo that grabs peoples attention. Something that makes people stop and take a look in this modern world of image overload. A WOW photograph is  captured and of a subject matter that is interesting and unique.

  • HoHums are scenes that that have been shot a million times and don’t offer anything new.
  • HoHums are shot in 12 noon with harsh over head light while WOWs are shot at sunset.
  • WOWs look good as thumbnails and grab attention.
  • WOWs are a unique way of looking at a iconic subject.
  • HoHums are background noise, WOWs are the main event.
  • HoHums say “look I saw this”, WOWs take you there.
  • WOWs make you want to go somewhere and take the same shot.  HoHums make you wonder why the photographer even brought the camera to their eye.
  • WOWs are determined by the photographer and the buyers.  Not all WOWs are landscapes.  For someone looking for artwork for their diner, the gleam of bacon on a mouthwatering breakfast sandwich might be the WOW they are looking for.
  • HoHums have been seen a million times.  WOWs bring a different take on the subject.
  • WOWs favor the well prepared photographer and the busy photographer always looking for the next WOW subject.

The group concluded that while HoHum photographs might sell once in a while, usually because there is no other competition yet in the category but WOW photographs will sell over and over.

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This sunset shot of a lobster pound in Clinton, Connecticut is a good example of a WOW shot. A great detailed subject with lots of interest to people who live near the ocean and shot during a beautiful summer sunset. It has sold multiple times.

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This steam train dream concept shot is a created WOW because of its uniqueness and well crafted drama. It has sold multiple times.

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Even food photography can be taken to the WOW level with good composition, preparation and lighting. This shot of balsamic roasted onions has sold over and over as a stock photography image.

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WOW photography takes advantage of composition, lighting and subject to create a since of drama and intrigue.

To Get to WOW You Need to Shoot a lot of HoHums

I shoot a lot of HoHums. Every photographer does. Even Ansel Adams, who shot all the time considered 12 images to be a good crop for a year.

But the HoHums typically either get trashed, sit on the hard drive or maybe become stock photographs. The WOWs are the images that grab ones attention from just a thumbnail in Abobe Lightroom. They are the ones that get the extra attention of post processing in Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and perhaps even OnOne Perfect Effects.

HoHums are practice.  HoHum photographs are for learning what not to do.  HoHums are experiments.  HoHums get you comfortable with your equipment.  HoHums are training.  HoHums are neccessary so that when a WOW opportunity presents itself you are ready to capture a WOW.

Now the Catch 22 on online selling is that you need enough product in your store  to attract buyers.  Online selling deals with the concept of Long Tail retail and marketing – i.e. having a deep inventory of products to appeal to a diverse market.

If you only upload the 10 WOWs you’ve achieved so far, you won’t have enough inventory to attract anyone to your portfolio, so you have to upload some photographs that are to exactly going to knock the socks off anyone.  But as long as they are not utter trash its ok.  Keep the quality consistent even if the subject matter might not be earth shattering.

The problem newbies have is they haven’t shot enough to pick out the best.  Probably they are not ready to sell to the public but they want to and thus start uploading utter crap that only turns off buyers.  Better to wait until you have a few WOWs under your belt before leaping into the world of selling your work.

Just keep in mind that you are not offering your work in a vacuum.   You are competing with all of the WOW photographer created by professional photographers.  You have to bring your A game if you want to WOW buyers.

Tornado by Edward M. Fielding
Once in a life time WOW moments like this can only be captured if you are prepared. Art Prints

Can I make a living at this?

Can I make a living selling my photographs online?

In danger of sounding like the overgrown fifth grader, PeeWee Herman, my response has to be “I don’t know, can you?”

I can’t predict people’s future or have any idea of someone drive to succeed.  When someone asks “can you make a living licensing stock photographs from microstock sites” or “can you make a living selling artwork or photographs from PODs or Print On Demand sites” the answer has to be – “maybe”.

Some people do very well on stock photography sites and fine art sites like Fine Art America, Pixels, Red Bubble and Society6.  Some sell  enough to make a living at it even if its a modest one.  Then again some sellers live in third world counties where the cost of living is low.  Or they have a very spartan existence and eat ramen noodle three times a day.

The idea of living off of one’s artwork or photography buy simply uploading a few images and then kicking back on the beach is a fantasy.  Any photographer I’ve seen that has been successful has had to really hustle to make a living – they shoot weddings, they shoot events, they teach workshops, they shoot non-stop.

Alamy recently had an interview with a photographer that reached $250,000 in sales but that was after 15 years and uploading 27,000 images into his portfolio.  27,000!  Imagine finding, creating, processing and uploading that many images.  Imagine the time and effort involved.  Its not easy!  It takes dedication and working at it every single day to find worthy subjects.

From what I’ve seen, most photographers starting out in the game thinking they are going to make some money with their camera tap out the depths of their imaginations with garden flower photographs.  If garden flowers are the best you can come up with, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Then there are the landscape photographers who dust off their cameras a few times a year when they are off on a holiday.  They stand in the National Parks next to hundreds of other vacationers getting the stale Kodak moment shot and then expecting to retire on the results.  Hate to break the news to you but very few people make a living as a landscape photographer.  Unless you have a sales force and chain of galleries in vacation spots like Peter Lik or magazine assignments from National Geographic and Outside Magazine, you probably will not be making a living as a landscape photographer.

To make any real money with your camera, you have to shoot people.  Learn to make people look good and you’ll make money with your camera doing portraits, senior portraits, weddings, fashion, etc.

Then there are the gadget hounds.  The guys with the latest and greatest cameras and lenses.  You know the guys who spend more time on the camera forums arguing about which lens is the sharpest than they spend actually taking pictures.  These guys spend all of their disposable income so they can have bragging rights the next time they are on vacation.  They are busier looking at people’s camera straps then the vistas before them. They are the ones who wander up to you while you are trying to compose a show with “I see you have the Canon X123” and try to get you to talk about camera gear.  The working photographer has no time for this, they are busy working!

If you decide to go professional with your photography, every purchase counts.  When you are in business for yourself every lens has to pay for itself.  The hobbist can buy a macro lens and play around shooting insects in the garden but the professional has to ask – what is the market for ugly bugs?  When will I make back the hundreds of dollars I just spent on this lens?

The best advice I can give is to do your research.  Here are a few books to get you started.