Self Portrait

June 24, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I first chose the name Real Florida Photo  as the domain name for my website and as an alias for social media to represent my photography. In no time, the name stuck and permeated my life in the real world as well. At a New Years Eve party, a friend introduced my wife and me to some of her friends saying, "...this is Jennifer and Real Florida Photo." It's true. Whenever I have an issue regarding photography, I discuss it with Real Florida Photo. It is the Superman to my Clark Kent.  From here on out, these blog entries will be about all things photography so, I thought to pass the torch, I would perform a self interview.

A narrative device that always works so well.

But then, I read the article 21 Signs You're a Cocky Photographer over on the PetaPixel web site and thought maybe a self interview was going too far. So, instead, I took out the questions from Morgan Lee to Real Florida Photo, and am just telling my story. This time, from a photography perspective. To tone it down a notch, I merely titled this entry the double entendre, Self Portrait.


Oh yeah. That's perfect.


Early as I can remember, my first camera was a Polaroid Instamatic. A few years ago, I would have had to explain what that is. Now instant film is all the rage again.

Polaroid Instant CameraPhoto Credit:

                                                  have just blown $1 of your allowance money.

Even back then, that film was crazy expensive. Especially for a ten year old kid.


But I was a kid. Star Wars, the very first one ever, had just come out and my friends and I would have fake sword fights with flashlights and I would photograph that or my toy space ships on a very dark blue blanket on the bed. When the film developed I would draw laser streaks on them with magic markers to make the flashlights look like light sabers and the spaceships to look like they were shooting laser cannons at each other. I want to say I showed early promise as a fine art photographer, but, that's what I did with my first camera.

My first "real" camera was the Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic.

My first "real" cameraPhoto Credit : Wikipedia By Ppro at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5,


When I was little, my grandparents traveled all over the world. That's the camera my grandfather took with him to document all those adventures. From safari in Africa to the Taj Mahal and the pyramids of Egypt. That camera in its brown leather bag meant adventure to me. He gave it to me my senior year in college to use to build my theater set construction portfolio telling me it would get me started and I could upgrade to a "more modern" camera later. I didn't realize it at the time, but, with the necessity of having to get pictures of sets and using it in day to day life, that's the camera that really taught me the basics of photography. I never had any reason to get rid of it.

Honestly, I was never a great photographer using it. But it being stolen did start Real Florida Photo. We were moving and our apartment was robbed before we had moved all of our stuff out of it. It was proven to be an inside job so the apartment complex gave us a nice chunk of change for the camera and a bunch of CDs that were taken. I took some of that money and got the latest greatest digital camera at the time; the Sony Mavica MVC-CD 500.

Sony Mavica Photo Credit:

A five megapixel wonder that contained a mini-CD burner to record the pictures right in the camera. 

Sony Mavica MVC CD 500 Rear ViewGoodbye film! This CD technology will last forever! Photo Credit:


That is the camera I really cut loose on. A good portion of that was family photos. My family being my wife and, typically lots of rescued dogs and cats.  But I started photographing our new home town of Mount Dora. I made photograph cards for family and friends. I photographed our town to show off to my grandfather in California via e mail. a few of those photographs transcended the times and are still on Real Florida Photo today including the Mount Dora Lighthouse at Dusk.

Mount Dora Lighthouse at DuskMount Dora Lighthouse at DuskTaken in very low light. A big influence on my artwork is the oil paintings of the old masters from the past few centuries. One look they do beautifully that I love is the sun setting or rising in the background with the foreground lit just right so details can be made out bathed in the low light of the sun on the horizon. It's not easy to do in one capture in photography without the foreground becoming just a dark silouhette. A lot of photographers make this work to a point with HDR, which is overlapping several photographs of the exact same capture and then they're laid one over the other in post processing so the light is evened out. I just generally don't care for the look of HDR. But when I can get it to work in one exposure, I love it.

My favorite photograph I ever took with the Mavica, though, is Entering Lake Harris From the Dead River.

Entering Lake Harris From the Dead River.Entering Lake Harris From the Dead River.


Real Florida photo did not exist quite yet. But the Mavica was definitely when photography transitioned over to self expression and depicting the world around me with an artistic aspect. Real Florida photo actually began when I photographed an old florida rose stand. More specifically a small building built to resemble an orange.

Me taking an intimate portrait of an Old Florida Rose Stand

I was trying to come up with an identity that would be inclusive enough for me to grow as a photographer but definitive enough to define my style. We had recently moved from Orlando. Not the nice part. The inner city part where helicopters flew over the apartment complex every night with spotlights swooshing back and forth, a lot of gunfire in the background and K-9 units regularly chasing armed suspects through the back yard. On top of that, my day job was (and still is) working in the themed entertainment industry. Living almost 40 miles north of Orlando, in rural Florida, gave me a whole new outlook on Florida I had never considered before. I wanted to know it better. I saw easily dedicating the rest of my life to solely depicting in photographs the unique history and culture of this one-of-a-kind state.

And I made a tagline...

Early Business CardFrom the back of my business card when I was instead of .com I photographed anything I could think of. 

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill DeLeon Springs State ParkThe Old Spanish Sugar Mill DeLeon Springs State Park Historic buildings.

Old Florida FarmhouseOld Florida Farmhouse Sentimental looks back at Florida's past.

Dock on Lake DoraDock on Lake Dora Even holiday events.

Rainstorm on the 4th of July ParadeRainstorm on the 4th of July Parade

Anything to try to catch the nature of this diverse state. From wildlife...

Heron in Tall GrassHeron in Tall GrassHeron in Tall Grass Taken, once again, at my favorite spot between Palm Island and Grantham point along the shore of Lake Dora. This Great Heron is not at all shy and, I would swear, is the same Great Heron I have been photographing for the past four years. He's a great subject and seems to love to have his picture taken. ~Morgan the wilderness herself.

Florida: The Land That Time ForgotFlorida: The Land That Time Forgot It was the proverbial learning to play the violin in public as I went along. I switched back and forth between digital and film. Tweeted and, later, posted everything I did on FaceBook. Massaged the Real Florida Photo website. I never really developed a style. None that I could discern anyway.

A few hits turned into a couple thousand hits. My wife teasingly called me a "hit whore" because I would check social media constantly to find out how many people had viewed my photographs. I would later learn this has little to do with success as a photographer. I was also clumsy and inconsistent with my social media outlets. 

Then, one weekend, I made a day trip to the small almost non-existent town of  Weeki Wachee. Sat in a chair in a theatre carved into the very earth facing an enormous glass wall that gave an underwater view of a natural spring, and took a series of photographs that, to this day, is a record breaker for Real Florida Photo.

Mermaids of Weeki Wachee


A series of photographs that would be viewed worldwide by hundreds of thousands of people. 

So began my foray into the fine arts world and trying to figure out exactly what I was doing anyway. Hear of all of my embarrassing mistakes with gallery shows, exhibitions, and self book publishing next week, right here, on Real Florida Photo.


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