For the last two years, the first weekend in May has been spent running around Churchill Downs providing Derby coverage. As for most years of my life, however, this weekend has been spent running around the downtown area of my hometown, Fernandina Beach, FL, at the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival. Due to a family commitment, I was scheduled to be in Florida on Derby weekend, and so I began planning some special coverage of the 50th anniversary of my hometown festival, thinking about some new ways of portraying this event that I have attended numerous times as a participant. As with most things, however, even the best-laid plans can be scrapped by rain, and we had way too much of it in Northern Florida this weekend!

shrimpfest13One traditional event that remained on the schedule was the dual pirate invasions, preformed by members of the Fernandina Pirate Club, a local philanthropy group that raises money through various presence at other Island events. One group of pirates “invades” the downtown waterfront, usually by shrimp boat or other craft, while others fight back from the docks. While this event is usually seen by festival participants from the shoreline, I was able to secure access to accompany the “enemy” pirates onboard the “Island Girl” shrimp boat to shoot them setting off their canons. Technically, it was rather easy to capture the photos – one second exposure and wait for the fireball to come rushing out of the muzzle. Finding and maintaining good angles to shoot from on a working shrimping vessel was the tough part. Navigating the many hanging nets, chains, motors and pulleys – in almost pitch dark – was the hardest part of making the photos. I came back to shore with a decent angle in time to shoot a family watching the fireworks.
Setting this up was based on establishing and maintaining relationships. Many folks who watched me grow up on Amelia Island know that I work as a photographer “somewhere else,” and welcome me into various events when I return home to visit my family. Others know me as that photographer that shows up in town every once and a while. Either way, though, these relationships are key in telling the stories of my hometown and maintaining my connection with a place I love dearly.

Alison and Trent enter the reception to koi family and guests. (Photo by Michael Whitman

Congratulations to my sister and new brother-in-law on their wedding yesterday afternoon! It was a beautiful day and a wonderful event. A big thanks to Jenn Guthrie for working around a remote camera and strobes, which allowed the perspective shown above.

This was the second time that I’ve used the recently-produced Canon 8-15, the fish-eye zoom that creates circular images within full-frame cameras. We strapped one to the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the start of the 2012 Kentucky Derby with good results back when the lens was still in its infancy. For me, the focus of 8mm lens like this has been for group shots or for emphasizing community; the fisheye perspective, too, works so well for subjects too large for the frame or for enclosed spaces. I’ve not seen many good examples of landscape photos make good use of the perspective.

In a way, though, this particular perspective is that of two men who were remembered at this wedding – the fathers of both the bride and groom. Perhaps I’ll continue this shot for my brother’s wedding and, eventually, for my own. We’ll call the series, “Doug’s View.”

Michael Whitman | Fernandina Beach, FL


Messing Around – Saw that a full moon was on the books the night that Nashville caught the outer winds from Hurricane Sandy. Thought process: find a parking garage and something to put in the frame.

Posting this is really more about admitting a mistake: time-lapse projects made with lenses primarily developed for still photography have to be shot with the lens wide-open. Otherwise you get the flickering that is visible in the tower light. At first, I thought it was inconsistent light from the sodium-vapor illumination mid-way up the structure, but the wake-up-the-next-morning processing revealed the mistake on my part. Won’t do that again!

Michelle, Parker, Haley, and PJ at Montgomery Presbyterian Center in Starke, FL. (Photo by Michael Whitman)

On a recent trip home, I had spent days visualizing some cool images for the Brobston family, who I’ve known since I was in college. We passed a Hobie 16 hull that I’d sailed on once in my youth, and I saw the lighting potential in the moment that produced this photo. At some point I’ll stop pre-visulaizing photos and just go with the flow.