Bonita Springs Florida

Bonita Springs, FL is located on the Gulf of Mexico between Fort Myers and Naples. I’ve been going down to visit since my wife Courtney started taking me there around 2005.

As a professional photographer since 2004, there’s no “vacation” from shooting (mostly because it’s not work), so I’ve built up a pretty good catalog of images of Bonita Springs and the surrounding area.

This is the first time I’m sharing a comprehensive post about what it’s like to visit the area. These images date from 2010 to 2019.

The Beach

bonita-springs-florida Barefoot beach
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bonita-springs-florida

Wildlife

Bonita Springs is a great place for wildlife. Egrets and gopher tortoises (pictured below) are plentiful. Manatees are visible if you take a boat through one of the many inland bays. And while not native, I couldn’t resist a photo of feeding the giraffes at the local zoo.

Local Color

Florida is a colorful place and Bonita Springs is no exception. This section of images isn’t really any particular category other than to capture the look and feel of the area.

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Barefoot Beach

Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs is a beachfront community of homes and condos just south of Fort Myers. It’s bordered by a nature preserve on the south. The beaches in the community are private, but nature preserve is open to the public for a small fee during daylight hours. Barefoot Beach Preserve has its own photo story you can see here.

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bonita-springs-florida
bonita-springs-florida

Safari Golf

“Which day are we going to Safari Golf?” is one of the first questions asked when we announce the dates of our annual (+/-) trip to Bonita Springs. It’s not the newest & slickest mini-golf place in the area, but it’s definitely the most charming and it earned its place in our hearts.

I have probably 6 or 7 years of Safari Golf photos, but I’ll limit it to just a few to give you the flavor. After a few years of visits, we ended up talking to the owner and found out he was an Indiana native before heading south and ultimately opening this little spot in paradise. Maybe that’s why we connected with this place to begin with: we could sense the Hoosier in it.

The Club

We’re fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time at The Club at Barefoot Beach. What’s better than having drinks, food and more drinks brought to your chair on the beach or by the pool? The answer is nothing.

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bonita-springs-florida

Royal Scoop

Royal Scoop has some of the best ice cream anywhere. ANYWHERE. No trip to Bonita Springs is complete without at least 5 visits to Royal Scoop. Don’t be discouraged if the line is out the door. They are one of the few places I’ve been to that staff their restaurant appropriately, so the lines move quickly.

To see more local stories, check out my posts on Barefoot Beach Preserve and Bonita Skies. If you’re into the tropical vibe, be sure to see the stories about the Florida Keys.

Looking for more Florida photos?

barefoot beach preserve bonita springs florida

Disney World

Everyone remembers their first trip to Disney World, right? I certainly do because it was only a few years ago and I took a bunch of photos. Through these images, I’m looking to capture the feeling of taking a trip and experiencing a new place.

This is neither a guide to visiting Disney World nor a chronicle of my family. Though my wife and kids pop in from time to time, there are just as many people in these photos that I’m not related to.

Travel with us as we start at Indianapolis International Airport and head to Orlando, Florida to visit Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom.

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Magic Kingdom

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EPCOT

At EPCOT at Walt Disney World, I mostly found myself shooting the Spaceship Earth Geodesic Sphere from different perspectives all over the park. I find it interesting to take something iconic and find a unique way to view it.

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disney-world-spaceship-earth
disney-world-spaceship-earth
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The Monorail

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disney-world-monorail

Animal Kingdom

disney-world-animal-kingdom giraffes
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disney-world-animal-kingdom gorilla

What’s your favorite Disney Memory?

Have you been to Walt Disney World? If so, did these photos remind you of anything specific from your trip? Let me know in the comments.

Did you capture an image you’d like to share? Tag me on social media or send it directly. I’d love to see it.

Interested in more from Florida?

barefoot beach preserve bonita springs florida

Barefoot Beach Preserve

A walk through native landscapes

Humans and nature are inextricably linked and I work to show that when I shoot nature and landscapes. Walking through Barefoot Beach Preserve in Bonita Springs, FL is an interesting experience.

As I began down the trail, a thicket of native plant life surrounded me. But as I progressed, I noticed more and more signs of human life.

The images below reflect this progression.

Into nature

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barefoot-beach-preserve-florida
barefoot-beach-preserve-florida

An unexpected visitor

While shooting some detail shots of the plant life, I happened to catch a small creature on the leaves. I didn’t notice it when I took the original image, but while editing I found it and cropped the second image to get a better view. Wish I noticed that when I was taking the photo! I could’ve gotten some even better images of it.

“It was a shock to notice the construction through the trees, a building rising from the earth.”

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barefoot-beach-preserve-florida

Walking down the trail at Barefoot Beach Preserve, feeling completely immersed in nature, it was a shock to notice the construction through the trees, a building rising from the earth. That moment snapped me back to realize where I actually was, and that unless you’re traveling to the most remote of places, humans are always present having some sort of an impact.

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Shell yeah

When the trail reached the beach, dozens of retirees walked the surf picking up shells or just the morning.

I felt that all of the human interactions were important to document with my camera. I want to create a visual record of our world. Viewing images and drawing my own conclusions from people, places and moments in time is what pulled me to photography, and what I aim to do with my work.

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barefoot-beach-preserve-florida
barefoot-beach-preserve-florida

Where are some of your favorite places to explore? What type of human interactions with nature do you encounter? Tell me in the comments!

To view some other images of images of Florida nature, check out my post on state parks in the Florida Keys.

Need more Florida?

100 Acres at Newfields

On a warm day in January, we stop by 100 Acres at Newfields with the kids. If you’re not from the Indy area, Newfields is the campus that contains the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 100 Acres is part nature preserve, part modern art gallery.

The best part of visiting 100 Acres at Newfields (to a parent) is that kids are welcome to interact with the art. My kids definitely take full advantage of that!

Enjoy the warm winter weather vibe! What’s your favorite part of 100 Acres at Newfields? Leave a comment below.

If you want to get out of winter all together, check out these photos from the Indiana Dunes from last summer. The post features the state park, which is now surrounded by the nation’s newest national park!

Moonshine Store

I first learned about the store in Moonshine, Illinois from some random magazine about living in and/or visiting the Midwest that was lying on the coffee table of my in-law’s house about 3 or 4 years ago. Word had it that this tiny place (population 2) had one of the best burgers in the country. Well, it took a few years, but we finally made the visit.

We drove from Indianapolis (about 2.5 hours one way) for a day trip in January because what the hell else are you going to do in January in Indiana?

Learn more about the Moonshine Store from Bill Geist on CBS Sunday morning. The video looks like it’s from the 90’s. Don’t be fooled, it’s from 2003. 16 years later the store looks exactly the same. That’s a selling point.

So is it one of the best burgers anywhere? Definitely! Just be sure to plan for an early meal because the Moonshine Store opens at 6AM and the grill is turned off precisely at 12:30PM.

Check out the Moonshine Store facebook page for more information.

Jingle Rails 2018

jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis

You see model trains a lot during the holiday season, but nobody does model trains like the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. Jingle Rails is their annual train display. Models travel through famous local scenes and national landmarks from the American West. You’ll find downtown Indy, complete with a scale model of the Soldier and Sailor’s Monument, lights and all, along with Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s also Las Vegas, Yosemite, and new this year: Route 66.

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The Men of Jingle Rails

Equally as interesting as the trains are the old men who are really into it. I happened to notice one gentleman making a repair, so of course I had to take a moment to capture it…

jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis
jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis

Indiana Railroad

Jingle Rails is sponsored by the Indiana Railroad. Their signature red locomotive travels overhead throughout the entire exhibit.

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jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis
jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis

Had enough trains yet? No? Here’s a few more…

jingle rails eiteljorg indianapolis

Thanks for visiting our Jingle Rails coverage for 2018. We were there last year as well, so you can check that out here: Jingle Rails 2017. I work to take new angles each year.

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season.  Click the image below.

indianapolis holiday photography

Christmas at the Zoo

Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Next up for our holiday events is Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis.  This is always a great event at the Indianapolis Zoo because in addition to Santa’s Village and lights throughout the zoo, a lot of the animals are out and about and available for visits.

Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Santa’s Village

Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Bicentennial Pavilion houses Santa’s Village which includes Santa’s house, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus, reindeer, a mirror maze and more.

Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tunnel of Lights and Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The tunnel of lights at the edge of Santa’s Village is a popular spot for portraits and selfies (above).

Santa’s Study

Santa's Study at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Christmas at the Zoo is one of the best places around to visit Santa.  He has a very tastefully appointed study in the village.  This Santa has nailed the classic Santa look and he’s very good with the kids, as you’d expect.

Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center during Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Follow the lighted walkways to visit attractions like the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.

Visiting the animals at night is a great part of Christmas at the Zoo.  Max, a three-year-old orangutan, was kept up late by visitors, but his mom did her best to get him calmed down and back to sleep.

Oceans

Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Cownose Ray exhibit.

The oceans exhibit is a popular spot during the cold weather.  It’s close to Santa’s Village and a good place to come in and warm up for a bit.  The kids enjoyed these cownose rays (above) because they look like they’re smiling.  The California sea lions (below) like to swim laps, passing as close to the glass as possible.

Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sea lion exhibit.
Santa's Village at Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Christmas at the Zoo is a must-do for families in central Indiana.  I recommend arriving early to enter Santa’s Village right at 5:00.  That way you can do the Christmas activities with little to no wait and spend the rest of your evening just walking through the zoo, enjoying the lights and animals.

For more Christmas at the Zoo, check out my photos from last year on this blog post.

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season.  Click the image below.

2018 Holiday blog posts by Zach Dobson Photography

Reindeer Ride: Bright Night

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Reindeer Ride: Bright Night is part of Nickel Plate Express, a train in central Indiana that runs between Atlanta and Noblesville.  Throughout the year they offer a variety of themed rides.  For Reindeer Ride: Bright Night, Gaylor Electric fitted the entire length of the train with LED lights.

Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night
Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night

The ride is very comfortable and each group is seated seated together either in an upper deck or in the dining or lounge cars. You can purchase hot cocoa and beer or wine and every passenger gets a reindeer cookie from our locally famous Taylor’s Bakery.

Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night

Santa makes an appearance as well. A decorated caboose remains stationary so guests can visit before or after their ride.

Passenger tip: if you’re going on the 7pm train, arrive a little early because you will overlap your Santa visit with passengers just finishing up their 5pm trip.

Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night
Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night
Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night

One of the cool things about this holiday activity is the chance to sit and visit with friends and family.  When you’re out running around all season staying busy, Reindeer Ride: Bright Nights provides a welcomed chance to relax.

We sang carols led by the staff though out the trip. Our kids each got a craft to take home. Needless to say, the Reindeer Ride was a hit with our four kids currently ages 9, 7, 4, & 2.

Nickel Plate Express, Reindeer Ride: Bright Night

If you’re into holiday experiences with trains, also check out my post about Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Museum.

Have you taken a trip on the Nickel Plate Express Reindeer Ride yet? Or if you’re not in Central Indiana, do you have a holiday train ride planned for the season?

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season.  Click the image below.

2018 Zach Dobson Photography holiday blog posts

Newfields Winterlights 2018

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This week we visit Newfields Winterlights in Indianapolis, now in its second year.  With over 1.5 million lights, this is THE light display to see.  Newfields is the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the surrounding grounds.

In this post I talk about photographing in the difficult lighting conditions we encounter at this time of year.

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Winterlights Before Sundown

When you think of light displays, you probably think of nighttime.  However, if you wait until total darkness to start shooting, you miss out on some great opportunities.

The above photo shows the Lilly House during Newfields Winterlights.  This image is made after sunset, during what’s known as the “blue hour”.  A couple benefits of having the ambient light left in the sky in this photo is that it throws some additional light on the primary subject (the house) and it adds some subtle color and texture to the sky.

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Let Lights Stand Out After Dark

Once it gets completely dark outside, I like to take the opposite approach I talk about in the last section.  I embrace the contrast of the lights against the darkness. In the photo above I found a line of sight where I have lights filling the frame at varying distances from the camera.

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Bokeh, Bokeh, Bokeh

For the uninitiated, bokeh is the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photo.  People often ask how to achieve that “blurry background” (see photo below), but bokeh can occur in the foreground as well (see above photo).

People often assume that you need an expensive lens for this, but that’s not exactly true.  The two most important factors are a lens with a wide aperture (f/1.4, 2 or 2.8) and the distances between the camera, the subject and the background.  The foreground should be close to the camera and the background should be a good distance away.

For the image below, I am standing a few feet from the subject, shooting at a low aperture (f/1.4).  As a result the background has a nice blur.  For the above image I am standing just a couple feet from the lights in the foreground.  My focus is on the tree in the background that is about 50 yards away, again shooting at a low aperture (f/2.8).  A telephoto lens heightens this affect.  For the image above, I’m using a 70-200mm lens at 200mm.

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The image below, inside the Lilly House at Newfields Winterlights, shows how you can use both a foreground AND background blur in the same photograph.  This image is shot with a 24mm lens at f/1.4.

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Underexpose Holiday Lights

I typically underexpose images with holiday lights.  That means I make the images darker than what the light meter recommends, so the image appears somewhat dark on the camera screen.  If you go the opposite direction, you risk the lights being overexposed.  When that happens, you lose the subtle detail in the lights and you can’t get them back.  Sometimes overexposure is an interesting affect with holiday lights, but it’s better to do it purposefully.

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Embrace the darkness of interior spaces.  Expose for the brightest point and underexpose at that.  Don’t use flash! Tape it shut if you have to.  Flash will kill all the subtlety of warm winter lighting.

If all you have is a lens with a high minimum aperture (~f/4 or higher), well, I suppose your best bet is just shoot at a high ISO (1600, 3200) and see how it goes.  If you have just a little bit of money to spend, there are a few options of lenses you can get to make low light photography easier.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 for $125 (new)
Canon 35mm f/2 for $240 (used)

Happy Holiday shooting! 

Extra Credit & Extra Newfields Winterlights

How do you photograph the same thing more than once?  Check out my Newfields Winterlights post from 2017 to see how the images compare.

indianapolis-newfields-winterlights

2018 Holiday Events

As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.”  So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season.  Click the image below.

Indiana Pacers Premium Experiences

In October I was commissioned to document the Indiana Pacers premium experiences.  They want to give fans looking to purchase tickets a sense of the available spaces during a game.  It was fun to get a first-hand view of all the awesome areas throughout Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.

In this post, I’ll talk about how I find good subjects, use available light, and layer images.  These are three aspects I take into account in order to be able to tell a client’s story. 

Indiana Pacers Party Suites

Finding Good Subjects

Another of the Indiana Pacers premium experiences are the Party Suites (above). This photo (and every photo from this shoot) was completely un-staged and un-rehearsed.  These are real fans enjoying a Pacers game.

While shooting, I look for a combination of factors to be able to get this type of shot candidly.  Good natural light and a location that give sense of place is typically where I start.  Then I look for subjects who seem engaged.  At a sporting event, this is usually people who are cheering, laughing and/or talking with friends.  

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In the above photo, select fans have the opportunity to line up as the players enter the court for high fives.  For this image, I focus on one person to show their experience.  I chose this kid for a couple reasons. One, his smaller size is a nice contrast to the larger players. Secondly, he seems to be in awe of the moment.  Because of the low angle, the viewer can see things on the kid’s level, including how large the player’s hand is in comparison to his own.  The other hands in the image provide depth of field and form a frame around the kid, drawing the viewers eye to him.  Yes, these are all things I’m thinking in the moment I’m taking the photo.

Using Available Light

The Lightbound Cafe (above, left) is an Indiana Pacers premium experience that’s a courtside club: a full-scale bar with plenty of draft beers and pub food.  For most shoots (including all photos in this post), I work only with available light.  This serves two functions.  First, it allows me to document a scene without disturbing the subjects.  Secondly, it retains the atmosphere and ambiance of a location.  The images better reflect what it’s actually like to be in the space.

Indiana Pacers fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Layering

The theater boxes in the Lexus Loft (below) are super spacious with all-inclusive gourmet food and drinks.  My goal with the shot below is to use layering to show the space of the theater boxes themselves while placing them in the context of the arena as a whole.  That way you can experience the view you have while seated in this space.

In my view, there are three different layers in this photo. For one layer, the focus is on the court, which is your focus when you sit in these seats.  The second layer is the crowd as a whole.  I shot wide here to show the full size of the arena and give a sense of the entire fieldhouse.  The third layer is the theater box in the foreground.  The wide perspective and my close proximity to the box highlight its size and space.  As a result of these layers, a more complete story is told in one image.

For aspiring photographers, read my post about how to improve your sports photography.  If you’re a sports fan, you can check out more action at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in these posts about high school basketball and wrestling state finals.

Choose Your Own Indiana Pacers Premium Experiences

After checking out all the Indiana Pacers premium experiences, I’d have a hard time choosing one for me, personally.  While courtside has amazing action, the food available in the suites and clubs is definitely a draw.

Click here to see the Indiana Pacers premium experiences website with my photos.*

*Note: Not ALL the photos on the Indiana Pacers premium experience site are mine, but based on what you see in this post, I’m sure you’ll recognize the images I shot.

Museum of Science & Industry

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Our third featured partner for our Chicago weekend is the Museum of Science & Industry.  This giant museum on Chicago’s south side features more hands-on exhibits than you could possibly do in one day.  This is a favorite spot for families because of all the interactive exhibits for kids.

chicago-museum-science-industry
chicago-museum-science-industry

MSI is currently featuring a special exhibit titled The Science Behind Pixar. This was great for all ages because it ranged from very simple, building-block-type activities for young kids, to computer animation displays for older kids (and adults).  Personally, I really enjoyed the concept art (see below). 

SkyDeck Chicago

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Last week we were in Chicago for a three-day visit. While there, we partnered with SkyDeck Chicago for some unparalleled views of the city from the top of Willis Tower (originally Sears Tower).

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SkyDeck is located on the 103rd floor of the tower at a height of 1353 ft.  Glass boxes known as “The Ledge” protrude from the sides of the tower, allowing visitors to step out over open air. 

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The Ledge is definitely cool, but equally so are the 360° views of the entirety of Chicagoland.  With Lake Michigan and a host of other famous architectural landmarks clearly visible, it’s an awesome perch to take in the city.

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Chicago

Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town.  I can’t say what that means, but if Frank Sinatra sang it, then it must mean it’s a groovy place.  Recently I spent a few days touring the city and documenting the sights.  This post features the sights on the streets.  You can also check out posts on SkyDeck (the 103rd floor of Willis Tower) and the Museum of Science & Industry.

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In the Financial District on South Wacker Drive.

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Beneath the Cloud Gate, AKA “The Bean”.

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In the Gold Coast neighborhood, downtown.

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Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile
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Oak Street Beach
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Thanks to our partners at The Talbott Hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood of downtown Chicago for sponsoring our stay while we toured the city for a few days.

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chicago-downtown-talbott-hotel

Viva Nashvegas

Hats, boots (buy one get two free) and neon signs.  This was my initial impression walking through downtown Nashville, Tennessee, known by locals as “Nashvegas” (thanks for the insider info, Val).

The images in this post offer a QUICK glance of Nashville.  We spent one night and approximately 20 hours in town.  With four young kids in tow, you won’t see the inside of a bunch of honky-tonks, but you will see what we saw: the outside of a bunch of honky-tonks, lots of boots (buy one get two free), street artists and giant wings.

Nashville was dubbed the “Athens of the South” in the 1850’s due to the high number of educational institutions and its arts scene.  So, naturally, it only made sense to build a full-size replica of the Parthenon for its Centennial Exposition in 1897.

I like to think the Parthenon of Ancient Greece had vendor tents outside selling gyros and wine.  Prove me wrong.

The scene outside the Nashville Parthenon.

The full scale replica of Athena in Nashville, TN.

Sun Diner is a Sun Records-themed breakfast joint in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee.  Good food.  Good atmosphere.  Open 24 hours.

“What Lifts You” by local artist Kelsey Montague in the trendy area of Nashville known as The Gulch, is a ready-made Instagrammable spot for tourists to get dolled up and look like their cutest sightseeing outfits have sprouted wings.  Or, if you’re me, get dolled up and take photos of people taking photos of people sprouting wings.

So that’s that!  Go see Nashville.  It’s pretty cool.  I should mention, even if you’re traveling with young kids like we do, you can hear plenty of great music from the street (above, left) and there are a number of kid-friendly music venues like Wildhorse Saloon (above, right).  Oh and don’t forget to buy some boots (buy one get two free).

If you’re interested in licensing for these or any other images from Zach Dobson Photography, please contact us. And be sure to subscribe to see our latest content as it’s released as well as get some cool extras we offer only to our closest allies.

Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the border of Tennessee & North Carolina, is the most visited National Park in the United States with over 11 million people in 2017.  That’s almost twice as much as the second most popular park, the Grand Canyon.  I didn’t know and I bet you didn’t either.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We visited the Smoky Mountains in late July, along with about a million other people. But that is just a rough guesstimate on our part. July & August are the busiest time of year for the Smoky Mountains and even then it was well worth it!

This National Park includes expansive prairies, soothing mountain scape and charming historical settlements. When the GSMNP was created in 1934, many of the settlers left their homes and businesses and those buildings have been preserved by the park.  Southern Appalachia was also home to the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed by the US government and the NPS shares some Native American history throughout the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park black and white

Clingman’s Dome is the highest peak in the Smokies at 6,643 feet. It’s the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The wonderful thing about this summit (and National Parks in general) is that it is unusually accessible. We were able to drive up the winding Newfound Gap Road until the last half a mile and then we hiked the last half a mile up a VERY steep trail to the top. From the observation deck we were rewarded with 360° views of the Smokies. 

I really enjoy photographing the visitors to public spaces as much as the scenery. I think its magical to have so much of the natural landscape preserved for generations to experience. I’ve attempted to share a little of the Great Smoky Mountains here and I hope you get inspired to get out and explore!

Visiting a national park with children means spending some time traveling by car in order to see as much as possible on a short visit. We spent only one day in the Great Smoky Mountains and managed to see Cades Cove (a valley on the western side of the park), made the very long and somewhat treacherous drive up Newfound Gap Road then hiked up to Clingman’s Dome (the highest point in the park), picnicked with a bear near Little Pigeon River (this was exciting but unintentional – NEVER approach a bear!) and explored the settlement surrounding the Cable Grist Mill.

If you want to see an image of that adorable baby bear be sure to join our mailing list, because we shared the image in our latest email as well as a FREE DOWNLOAD of the gorgeous Smokies.

Great Smoky Mountains sun rays

Finally, I’m excited to introduce another new element to our blog: video.  I’ve embedded a time-lapse from Cades Cove and some soothing footage of the grist mill below and you can see Clingman’s Dome and Little Pigeon River on our new YouTube channel as well as subscribe to see our latest videos as we release them.

The details included in this post are from The National Park Service website which is a great resource before & during your visit. If you’re interested in licensing for these or any other images from Zach Dobson Photography, please contact us. And be sure to subscribe to see our latest content as it’s released as well as get some cool extras we offer only to our closest allies.

Indiana Dunes

UPDATE: As of February 15, 2019, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is now Indiana Dunes National Park!  This post feature photos of our trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park, which remains as-is, but will now be surrounded by a national park.

With sandy beaches and cool, clear water, Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan is a popular destination for Hoosiers and Chicagoans alike.  On a 93-degree summer day, it’s a hot spot to take the family for swimming, cooking out or just basking in the sun.

Although the areas in the state park near the main parking lots can get pretty crowded, there are 25 miles of Lake Michigan lakeshore in Indiana, so there are plenty of secluded areas as well.

Check out the scene in the photos below then start making your plans for a visit!

indiana dunes state park historic building
indiana dunes state park historic building
indiana dunes state park beach
indiana dunes state park visitors
indiana dunes state park swimmers
indiana dunes state park beach walkers
indiana dunes state park swimmers
indiana dunes state park view of the dunes from water
indiana dunes state park families enjoying
indiana dunes state park
indiana dunes state park
indiana dunes state park creek
indiana dunes state park view
indiana dunes state park lifeguard
indiana dunes state park swimmers in water
indiana dunes state park families in the water
michigan city bridge
buoys on wall
indiana dunes state park

If those pictures got you in the mood for more fun in the sun, maybe you’d like to see some pictures from the Florida Keys (one of our big family road trips in 2018) or if you’ve already been to the Indiana Dunes this summer, maybe you’d like to consider an adventure in another favorite Indiana State Park: Turkey Run.

Been to the Dunes lately? What’s your favorite spot to enjoy them?

Happy Birthday, America!

One of the things I enjoy most about shooting this time of year is the diversity of people that come out to celebrate America’s independence.  It’s a great reminder that we all love this country and we all are welcome here.

Here’s a slideshow of some of our favorite images celebrating America…

A handful of these images are available to order as prints on our online shop. 20% of proceeds will benefit Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis.

For more patriotic inspiration, check these out:

Refugees in Indiana

Carmelfest

Oklahoma City

Midtown Plaza Court – James E. McNellie’s Public House.

We took a quick road trip with the family to Oklahoma City to shoot some work for a client.  While we were there, we did some exploring of the downtown area and the Midtown neighborhood. Both areas had a lot to see and do.  Here are a few favorite images from a couple days in Oklahoma City.

Downtown OKC – The Devon Lawn & Band Shell
A view of downtown Oklahoma City from Midtown.
Bleu Garten features an array of food trucks and adult beverages.
Elemental Coffee on North Hudson Avenue.
With a rooftop bar, restaurant and bowling, Fassler Hall is a popular spot in Midtown.
Kaiser’s Ice Cream in Midtown.
Ice Cream Sundae at Kaiser’s in Midtown Oklahoma City.
Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City.
Dust Bowl in Midtown. It’s bowling, people. Clever.
A lounge-like atmosphere inside Dust Bowl.
The rooftop of Packard’s New American Kitchen in Midtown with a great view of the OKC skyline at dusk.

Key West

“We seceded where others failed.” That’s the motto of The Conch Republic, the nickname taken on by Key West when they declared independence from, then war on, the United States in 1982.  Key West does not disappoint! It has an amazing mix of scenery, history, food, drinks, entertainment and more.

Our four kids traveled with us on this road trip from Key Largo, to Key West and then back up through Marathon and Islamorada. Every link we have listed here was a worthy adventure for the whole crew. We browsed through shipwreck artifacts in the Shipwreck Museum and met all the Hemingway cats. We chatted with roosters while we dined and enjoyed street performances nightly in Mallory Square. The food in Key West is profoundly good and a couple of places we visited more than once (ahem, Glazed Donuts).

Key West is remarkably walkable: we strolled west to east and back a number of times during our visit. Our stay at the Margaritaville Resort was awesome. The location can’t be beat and we woke up to a new cruise ship outside our window every morning.  If you haven’t made a trip to the Keys since you had kids, you’re missing a whole different island.

Here are some links to a few of our favorite spots…

Margaritaville Resort
Glazed Donuts
Ernest Hemingway Home
Amigo’s Restaurant
Garbo’s Grill
Shipwreck Museum
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Croissants de France

Thanks for visiting The Florida Keys with us! Be sure to join our mailing list to see our latest documentary projects.

Special thanks to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council: www.fla-keys.com.  For more of the Florida Keys, take a look at our posts dedicated to the state parks of the Keys and the greater Keys. And be sure to check out the online print shop, where for the whole month of May 2018 we will be donating 20% of our shop’s proceeds to help hurricane relief efforts in the Florida Keys.

More Florida right here.

Florida Keys State Parks

The Florida Keys State Parks are some of the most fantastic in the country.  Here are some of our favorite shots from the following parks:  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo), Bahia Honda State Park (Big Pine Key), Curry Hammock State Park (Marathon) and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Key West).

An interesting fact about the Keys (which I didn’t know in advance) is that due to the coral reefs, shoreline erosion doesn’t happen in most areas and therefore there are very few natural beaches.  Bahia Honda is widely regarded as the best natural beach.  The Loggerhead Beach on the Atlantic side was closed at the time of our visit due to damage from Hurricane Irma, but Calusa Beach on the bay side was open and really nice.  Loggerhead is slated to reopen at the end of June 2018.

While some parts of the Florida Keys State Parks are being restored because of Irma, there is still plenty of beauty to enjoy. Please go and support them! They use the funds to help their restoration efforts.

Looking for more Florida?

The Florida Keys: Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon

We spent about ten days driving from the mainland to Key West and back and spent a couple of days each in Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon. The upper, middle, and lower keys’ communities offer coral and rock beaches and blue green waters popular for fishing.

Islamorada-Fishing-Florida-Keys

The Florida Keys are made up of around 1700 islands and many lie beyond the famous overseas highway. However! We loved every minute of this scenic drive. This stretch of America bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other is worth the time to witness.

Robbie’s Marina on Islamorada is a must-see where you can buy buckets of fish to feed huge tarpon (and sea gulls). Fish Tales Market and Eatery on Marathon had innovative and delicious seafood. We had a classic relaxed keys stay at the Coral Bay Resort with the friendliest guests who return year after year to enjoy their beach front property.

Islamorada-Boats-Marina

For our first post from the Florida Keys, we are sharing images from the communities of Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon. Posts about the amazing State Parks of the Keys as well as an extensive gallery of images from Key West are coming soon!

Islamorada-Florida Keys
Marathon-Florida Keys-pool-beach

Here are links to some of the places featured in this post…

Robbie’s of Islamorada
Fish Tales Market & Restaurant
Bud ‘n Mary’s Marina
Coral Bay Resort

Islamorada-Florida-Keys-Fishing-Boat
Sunset. Islamorada, Florida Keys.

Thanks for visiting The Florida Keys with us! Be sure to join our mailing list to see our latest documentary projects.

Need more Florida?

Visit Bloomington

I love Bloomington!  As a student at Indiana University, Bloomington became the first home that I chose myself.  And even (nearly) 15 years since I last lived there, it’s still one of my favorite towns anywhere.

I was thrilled in 2016 to collaborate with Visit Bloomington on a cover story about the renovations at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall for their visitors guide.  Last fall we took on a broader look at Bloomington in two parts. For Part One, I scoured the streets of Bloomington checking out everything from restaurants and bars to trails and public art.

Part Two is top secret and will be released in early May.  Follow Visit Bloomington on Twitter (@VisitBtown) and Instagram (@visitbtown) to see the news first hand.