Dutton Island Preserve: A Video Welcome

Sea Oats and Serenity

A moment’s respite was just that: a moment.

It was a gorgeous, if unseasonably hot day, and I meant to have more time looking at beachlife through the lens and breathing in some fresh, sea air. Time is precious and I so wanted more of it, to do what I will, rather than adhering to a schedule. I yearned to meander with camera in hand, at the eye, practicing, always practicing, for the only way to pictures that move my soul, is through practice.

I love the iPhone, we all know that, but when it intrudes on the precious few minutes I have for photography or writing, I admit to feelings of resentment. Today, the closest I got to the beach was the sidewalk, the bordering berm of sea oats, nature’s barrier to storms and surge. We’ve passed another year without a hurricane beating us up; the dunes remain strong and beautiful. Lovely autumn, you came and went, and now we have Indian summer: the air conditioning is on again but nevertheless, I had a lovely beach respite on last Sunday afternoon, and I know autumn will be back, soon.

And for just a few moments late this afternoon, I gazed out at this

until the iPhone startled me from a reverie barely begun.

But I had a few moments outside and for that, I was glad.

The American Red Cross Station

It sits facing the water where Beach Boulevard meets the Atlantic Ocean. The iconic whitewashed building with its bright, true red Red Cross lettering has been there, in its current iteration, more or less since 1947. The Life Saving Corps are made up of paid staff, and volunteers who give their time to keep people in the water safe.

I had about a half hour to kill late this afternoon, and as always, I was drawn to the coast. I had only iPhone with me to document the moment. Pictures seem to either evoke a story, or enhance it; and  what beaches resident doesn’t love this building?  Even if all you’ve ever done is drive or walk past, there is something classic and reassuring about this station.  Surely it’s been photographed or painted thousands of times over its history, which is ninety-eight years old.  Yep.  In 2012, the American Red Cross Life Saving Corps will have been in existence here at the beach for one hundred years.

When I ambled around the front of the building this afternoon, the telephone camera pointed this way and that, an affable lieutenant offered me a tour.  Young and friendly, we chatted about the place, the paid and volunteer staff, and the last ocean rescue he personally was involved with (three years ago).  The orange-red lifeguard chairs were pulled from the beach; as it was after five o’clock they were readying to shut down for the day.

It was another gorgeous autumn afternoon, during the golden hour, when the dropping daylight sun made everything soft and golden, the sky so blue and the water so gentle.  Today might have been a ‘green flag’ day, though he said they rarely post the green (implying a ‘safety’ that one should never take for granted, this being the ocean and all).  Gentle waves broke at the shoreline.

I peered up at the guy in the watchtower.  He really was using binoculars to scan the water as far as he could see, for anything amiss.

I watched families use the complimentary hose to rid themselves as much as possible of the inevitable beach sand, before getting into their cars and go home. The station pulls out the hose, and a shallow plastic bucket so that people can rinse themselves, their feet, and shake the beach sand from their towels. It’s all very informal and backyard-like.  I liked that.

I saw two wide-tired wheelchairs, for beachlifers who need their wheelchairs on the beach.  Most disabled people in wheelchairs find it very difficult if not impossible to navigate the soft sand so the Red Cross offers a trade: your chair for theirs.  Just bring it back when you’re finished, take your chair (don’t forget to rinse off!) and be on your way.  So file that one away in case you or a friend who isn’t able-bodied longs for the beach.  Park somewhere near the American Red Cross Station, and chances are, you’ll be set (but if it was me, I’d call ahead).  I saw two such chairs.

Naturally they offer tours of the station which I declined because I didn’t have the time or my camera.  But I enjoyed chatting with the guy in charge and plan to come back soon for a real tour of this iconic station.

Macro Monday October 25

Challenging one’s self photographically is a challenge and sometimes, a frustration.  However, I’ll continue to show these macro photos because I’m committed to personally stretch myself creatively, to work on effectively composing and capturing the the things that catch my eye.  Not altogether pleased with this week’s offerings, I’m carrying on with Macro Mondays because I know that one of these weeks, someone will look, and see pure magic, even if that someone is only me. I’ve shot one or two of those utterly perfect photos in my nascent photographic career; my lens is certainly capable of doing so, and  therefore, as in most every endeavor, doesn’t practice make for perfect?  Every striving, I present this week’s images.

Caveat: if you like an image well enough, click on it to enlarge it so that it occupies your entire screen if possible. In macro photography, we’re honing in on the details, and the smaller images that fit within the blog’s format don’t do macro photography justice.  Even the mediocre ones are enhanced by a closer look!

Come Home When the Streetlights Go On

We loved playing outside after dinner on school nights; we were told to come back when the streetlights came on. We had a great neighborhood; similar to this one, but a suburb of an urban area; not coastal, as I longed for in my dreams.  When I’m feeling down, I have to remind myself that some dreams do come true.  Look where I get to live: it’s the beach, y’all.   At least the grownups in the family appreciate it; someday the children will realize where they spent their childhood, and how fortunate they were to grow up in a community like the beaches.

How great it is to be able to go outside after dinner and walk to the beach, check out the  seascape, the deeper into autumn we progress.

Tonight I made my way to the 19th Street beach access. There was a breathtakingly saturated pink western sky but I simply wasn’t positioned to take advantage of it, so I turned my face eastward. I listened to some people playing acoustic guitars on the deck outside a modest oceanfront house.  I watched the moon in the still-blue sky.

I nodded to people come and go up and down the sandy path to the beach, some with their dogs.  I sat on the nice wooden bench that the 19th Street beach access offers, and stayed put until dusk became twilight and twilight became night.

Then, the streetlights came on and it was time to go home.


Atlantic Beach Mid-Week Market

Today I finally stopped at the Wednesday afternoon Mid-Week Farmer’s Market hosted by the city of Atlantic Beach on the lawn at the Adele Grage Center.  A smaller version of The Beaches Green Market in Jarboe Park on Saturdays, the Atlantic Beach Mid-Week Farmer’s Market is worth coming out for: fresh produce, local vendors, a playground right there for your kids, so you can let them run about while you chat up the merchants.  There was a folksy guitarist entertaining a small group of kids enthralled before her on a blanket and the music added just the right touch of bohemian ambiance that a small farmer’s market really ought to have, to complete the experience.

Honestly? It’s small enough that you can walk through in just a few minutes’ time, but oh my gosh, it’s just so lovely out that you’ll want to linger.

The produce is so colorful, the growers are passionate about their products.

A few minutes’ respite of outdoor weather might just stretch into a half hour or more and why not?  Life’s hectic enough, and if you’re lucky enough to pass by the Adele Grage Center every day and haven’t yet stopped to check it out, now’s a great time to do it.   If you’ve got the time to walk or ride over, booyah for you but however you can, a visit to the mid-week Market in Atlantic Beach is just another reason to love where you live, spend some time outdoors, and come home with something good to eat.

Held Wednesdays from 4-7pm; Adele Grage Center, 7th St. between Ocean and East Coast Boulevard; Atlantic Beach.

This Weekend at the Beach

It’s fine Fall weather; what we’ve all been waiting for, furthermore, it’s Friday.  It’s time do do a little exploring!

Sometimes we get so busy with our ordinary lives we don’t take the time to explore the lovely places close to home.  The ‘we’ I refer to would be me, so the other afternoon I took a detour on my way home, and stopped in at Dutton Island Park.

One of eleven parks maintained by the City of Atlantic Beach, Dutton Island Preserve is described by the city as a passive park, with walking trails, a canoe launch, picnic tables.  You can rent canoes and kayaks there (good to know, for those of us who don’t own ‘em), but if all you want is a feeling of being away from home, this cooler autumn weather is the perfect time for walking in the woods, or going all the way to the edge of the island.  There, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the intracoastal waterway and a quiet dock to cast your line.

I’ve been there twice already this week: once during the afternoon, with the sunlight glinting through the tall trees in the woods,

and a second time at sunset, where the view was spectacular, and  the no-see-ums were swarming.  Well, it’s marshland, after all, and even if some small part of me was shrieking for pesticides, it was a picture perfect evening.  See?

I recorded a video that’s frankly unfit for public airing since the cameraman was laughing the entire time as I was a bit over the no-see-ums and was quite clear about that on the video.  I was just kidding about sending in pesticides too!  I love nature; I just don’t like bugs in my nose, hair, and lipgloss.

Still, I think we can agree that it was a chamber-of-commerce sort of sunset, wouldn’t you say?  I’m glad we were there to see it and I plan to take my out of town guests kayaking from Dutton Island, and explore the intracoastal waterway, a little bit of paradise, close to home.

All New Macro Monday

And those are my offerings for the week.  I love macro photography, but it can be quite challenging as I am learning.  But I’m hooked, and I’m determined to improve.  I intended to make these photos as large as possible for macro photos must be viewed in a larger format in order to really be appreciated.  So if a particular photo strikes you, click on it to make it larger.  It makes a big viewing difference!

Macro Monday

Inspiration:  Not found, not so much.  Effort:  A for trying.  Photographer: undaunted.
Here are pictures that limped to the finish line:
Ooops! This beachlifer is officially OUT of free Blogger storage and has had to purchase more so that she can continue to regale you with minutiae and mediocrity with the occasional brilliant photo or post thrown in.  So… Macro Monday is being delayed until payments can be confirmed; please stand by.  Your wait time may be up to twenty-four hours.  So please, don’t hold your breath.


In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about creative inspiration.  It’s no surprise I’ve exceeded my allotted space here on Blogger.  I’ve already filled my hard drive and have had to buy a second external hard drive, all filled with images.  I might not buy the kids’ requisite, overpriced school pics every year (please consult your yearbooks to see what you looked liked in your second grade uniform, kids.) For a girl who has more than 25,000 jpegs on her hard drive I’m just a bit insulted that the photo studio who  shall remain unnamed (but seems to have a monopoly on all the area schools, both public and private) doesn’t even give us a choice of this picture or that one, and then bundles it into some exorbitantly priced “package” making me feel like Their Bad Mother when I let months go by without making the buy – but look!  I have 19,000 pictures of them on this external, or the other.  There’s certainly no shortage of pictures of my kids, and backed up well.

I even offer them their own photo shoots, but they eschew that (who  wants their mom taking their photo again) and even when I resort to forcing them to be my practice subjects, naturally the attitude seeps through the lens and while I have captured plenty of lovely pictures, I’m building my portfolio by shooting other people; children or adults.  I have one model in particular who stares right through the lens with that blank but pleasant look on her face; a face that I could never pull off without someone asking me, “Are you all right? Is something wrong?”  I think it just comes naturally to some people, certainly models have it, and if you have it, you can learn to work it.

I photographed a lovely family on Saturday afternoon, collecting hundreds of images they’ll enjoy choosing from.  Each time I do this I get new ideas on how to  engage small children in photo shoots; with very small children who can’t sit and pose, candids are the way to go.  I was very happy with the outcome of the family photo shoot.   The subjects were wonderful to work with; the venues, perfect.  Howell Park drenched them in a saturated green backdrop, while the beach provided that magical mixture golden afternoon light, and an azure sea and sky, the surf breaking with just enough white foam to provide the perfect horizontal contrast.  I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.

I love nature photography in macro.  A good macro / portrait lens has been the best addition to my camera bag and every time I pull the camera out my heart lures me in search of small images worthy of that extreme close up.  Today, it was just breezy enough to keep moving my subjects and therefore my results were merely fine, but not spectacular. I want to feel that catch in my throat, that internal leap of excitement when I view my uploaded photos, and lately, in macro, it hasn’t happened.      I hesitate to post them,  but post I will, for it’s the only way to keep myself challenged; although I do hit the ‘publish’ button with less enthusiasm than I did that first time I published a set of macro shots from the garden.  It had rained; there wasn’t any wind; the raindrops were hanging like a single tear was shed from the nascent bud of a June agapanthus.

That’s what keeps me coming back for more.  The memory of that picture.  That’s why I know I can do it.

Hoodie Morning at the Beach











Hoodie weather has arrived at the beach. 






 For those of us not jogging in the morning, an early morning temp of  sixty-four degrees has me eagerly sliding my arms into my snug black hoodie over shorts and a tee shirt.  Children who rue the heat of summer and claim to long for a snowy climate are now complaining about the chill.  For me, the delicious season is here: fall fashion weather.  

I’ll never forget our affable realtor, the least cheesy realtor I’ve ever met, describing this climate when I’d called from the snowy and gloomy north, inquiring about life at the beach; the winters in particular.


“Winters here are Fall fashion weather,” he told me, a transplant from my region himself.  ”You can wear your sweaters and boots and fall clothes, but you don’t have the hassle of snow, slush and gloom for eight months of the year.”

I liked the sound of that.  And now it’s here. At least, the hoodie-in-the-morning-weather part. The rest is coming, and I can wait. 





I still  yearn for one more day at the springs, swimming those cool, clear waters (and who knows, I might just get one more springs day in yet) Fall has arrived at the beach and I’m happy to put on my morning hoodie and go out to behold the beauty of autumn dawning at the beach.

Despite the snarling child in the seat behind me, annoyed that I stopped at the beach for a few minutes in lieu of waiting in an empty school parking lot for twenty minutes until school opened for business, I ignored her attempts to  change my mind,  and stood in the cool morning breeze and took these snaps.

Then I drove her to school and happily deposited her and her mood on their sidewalk.  At least one of us enjoyed this spectacular morning.








All the pictures were the same photo with different iPhone applications.  Photos were taken two blocks south of the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

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