Being a documentary photographer means photo stories present themselves at random times, including while waiting for takeout at an eclectic restaurant called Havana Spice in the city of Homestead, Florida.
I need to be ready to shoot them at the drop of a hat. This is exactly why I carry my compact Fujifilm mirrorless camera in my car at nearly all times.
So here are some photos I took in the span of about 20 minutes while waiting for some delicious Cuban cuisine.
To see more from the Sunshine State, check out these other blog posts from Southern Florida linked below or click here to see everything we have in the archive and shop.
Our story this week features Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana.
Carved by glaciers millions of years ago, this park features some of the most unique topography in Indiana. Walk with us through the ravines and sandstone gorges to see what this park has to offer.
Please share this post with a friend who appreciates things like photography, nature and art. When more people see and share our stories, we’re able to produce more stories for you to see and share. Funny how that works!
Have you been to Turkey Run State Park? Leave a comment👇🏼! What’s your favorite trail? Do you like the ladders or do you prefer to steer clear?
If you’re into the great outdoors, be sure to check out these other posts.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Where are some of your favorite places to explore? What type of human interactions with nature do you encounter? Tell me in the comments!
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!
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.
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 is sponsored by the Indiana Railroad. Their signature red locomotive travels overhead throughout the entire exhibit.
Had enough trains yet? No? Here’s a few more…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Parkon 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!
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?
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…
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.
“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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Here are links to some of the places featured in this post…
This past weekend was the grand opening of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. I stopped by on Sunday evening to check out the scene. It’s a beautiful setup with the Palladium in the background. The iceskating is affordable, and there are special deals on Wednesday and Thursday, so be sure to check out the website for details: https://www.carmelchristkindlmarkt.com
Here a few shots from my brief visit. I’ll be back soon to do a full shoot for Hamilton County Tourism, so I’ll be sure share those later this winter.
The woodworker is Christian Werner, a master craftsman from the small town of Seiffen, Germany. He travelled to Carmel for the opening weekend in 2017 to demonstrate how he creates animal figurines.
If you’re looking for more recent images from Carmel Christkindlmarkt, you’ll want to join our mailing list because we shared an exclusive view of the gorgeous Glühwein Pyramid, added in 2018, and a mouth watering image of a Raclette with our newsletter and we’ll be sure to let you know when those images go live in the future.
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 Indianapolis holiday events posts from 2018. Click the image below.