View Full Version : LF photography in the Tampa area?

Mike Lewis
9-Nov-2006, 21:48
I will be in Tampa, Florida next week on business. I finally decided to take my Linhof and stay in the area through the following weekend. I thought about driving up to Cedar Key, which I visited long ago; also thought about driving down to Sanibel Island instead. Anyone have any ideas for LF landscape photography in that area? Although I'm a native Floridian, I grew up in the Panhandle, so I need help with this one. Thanks.

Brian Ellis
9-Nov-2006, 23:41
I lived in Tampa for most of my life. It isn't the ideal area for landscape photography. However, the first place I'd go is the rapids in Hillsborough State Park. The entrance to the Park is just off U.S. 301, about 10 - 15 miles north of the intersection of Fletcher Avenue and 301. The park entrance is on your left as you're heading north, there's a sign or two in advance. Go to the entrance booth, pay the fee, get a map. The rapids are shown on the map and are easy to find. The Park opens around 8:00 and closes at sunset, I preferred the late afternoon, the Park's hours aren't conducive to morning photography and there's a gate at the entrance so you have to wait until they open.

Another possibility is North Beach at DeSoto State Park in Pinellas County. You'll have to get a map that includes Pinellas County (the county across the Bay from Tampa) to get to the Park, I can't give you directions. At the point where the entrance road to the Park dead ends you'll see a sign to North Beach, turn right, and drive on that road all the way to the end, a drive of maybe 10 minutes or less. Go to the very end of the big parking lot and you can walk to the beach easily. Just to your left as you get to the beach itself there is an interesting area depending on what the tide has left, or you can walk all the way around the edge of the water for probably a half mile or more by turning right. The only catch is that you really need to get there early, right around sunrise. The parking area has a gate that may not be open that early but it doesn't matter, you can park by the side of the road at the parking lot and walk to the beach.

If you're into old buildings at all there's a very interesting area in Pinellas County called Heritage Park or Heritage Village, Heritage Something. I used to go there a lot, the County has moved a bunch of old historical buildings to the Park, an old school house, railroad station, residences, that sort of thing. Again, I can't give you directions but if you Google for Heritage and Pinellas County I think you'll find information and a map. It's about a half hour drive from downtown Tampa.

Another place that I liked a lot for architecture is the old Henry B. Plant Hotel, now the main administration building for the University of Tampa. It's just a minute or two west of downtown Tampa off of Kennedy Blvd. Anyone in Tampa can tell you how to get there. The building is interesting from both the outside and the inside. The hotel was THE place for wealthy yankees around the turn of the century and it's great for photography if you like opulent Florida turn-of-the-century architecture. Except for students milling around, the building is usually pretty much deserted on weekends, especially Sunday mornings, so you can walk anywhere inside without being hassled. If you explore, especially around the upper floors, there's some really nice interior stuff. Plant Park is across the street from the main building, it's a nice small park, you might see some foliage or other landscape-type things there and you can walk east across the park down to the Hillsborough River and photograph downtown Tampa such as it is from across the river, also the old bridge that's right there.

Lettuce Lake Park off of Fletcher Avenue, a couple miles east of the University of South Florida, occasionally has some interesting things if you like central Florida foliage.

I don't know much about Sanibel or Cedar Key. I've been to both places but they're a long drive from Tampa - Sanibel is at least three hours, I'm guessing Cedar Key is about the same. I'm not aware that either place is especially good for landscape photography. Sanibel is a big area for shell collectors and of course Ding Darling Reserve right nearby is a mecca for bird photographers but that's not what you'll be doing with your 4x5. I haven't been to Cedar Key in years, there used to be a quaint old hotel there but that's about all I remember about it.

I'm sorry not to be able to suggest more landscape locations but there just isn't a whole lot of specific locales in that area for landscape (one reason why I'm now in Oregon).

If I can provide any more details or directions or if you have any questions feel free to send me an email, just be sure to include something about Tampa photography in the subject line, I delete almost all my email except from names I know.

10-Nov-2006, 07:48
Hi Michael,

I go to Sarasota every year. There are a number of places in the Sarasota area.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Sarasota Jungle Gardens are nice but a little cramped. Not many people were at the Jungle Gardens when I was there. Nice areas with alot of beautiful foliage at both and birds (flamingos, parrots, etc) at the Jungle Gardens (near the airport and worth a trip if that is what you like to shoot).

Myakka River State Park - south and east end of Sarasota. Wilder landscape, many alligators.

John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Expansive grounds with gorgeous botanicals, statues, a huge banyan tree, etc. Right on the intercostal waterway across from the airport. Go early as alot of people may be there later. They have a cafe for food. Definitely worth a trip.

You can spend a couple hours on the same day at 2 or 3 of these sites as they are all pretty close to one another (except Myakka Park)

Have fun. I am heading there in March and can't wait.


Brian Ellis
10-Nov-2006, 09:21
Jackie - Were you able to use a tripod at Ringling? The last time I was there they wouldn't allow tripods to be used except in the garden outside the mansion and maybe there only because the guards couldn't see you. I don't know whether that's a firm policy or whether I just happened to run into a jerk guard though I suspect it's a policy. I do know that in the gardens behind the art museum (adjacent to the Ringling Estate itself) tripods are prohibited (or were last time I was there about ten years ago). I had to leave mine at the check-in counter.

10-Nov-2006, 09:47
For landscape photography in Central Florida I don't think you can do better than Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota (10 miles East from Interstate 75). Open from about 8 AM to dark, and this is a good time of year to visit. Fantastic Live Oak trees.

10-Nov-2006, 10:55
I was there earlier this year and yes, I could use the tripod in the gardens. I did not go into the museum itself.


10-Nov-2006, 14:01
If you're going to be around on Saturday, Nov 18, then Clyde Butcher is having a book signing and darkroom openhouse at his gallery in Venice. Definitely worth a special trip from tampa. Check his website for details.

George Stewart
10-Nov-2006, 14:08
Try the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located near Naples.


John Brady
10-Nov-2006, 17:33
Hi Michael,
I live in Naples; it’s probably further than you want to travel. But if you did I would recommend some areas to the south east, such as Big Cypress preserve, Fakahatchee Strand or the Ten Thousand Islands.

Bill’s recommendation for Clyde’s gallery is a good one. Clyde is very generous with his time and will stop and talk with you about his photography. Also seeing his very large prints on display is worth the trip. If you had the time, he has a gallery on US 41 between Naples and Miami that is very cool to visit. Currently he has a new exhibit of recent work from his Apalachicola river project on display there.

Send me a message if you want any further information on this area.


Mike Lewis
10-Nov-2006, 18:22
Thanks to all for your responses. A special thanks to Mr. Ellis for his lengthy, detailed post. I will follow your recommendations. I had looked up Clyde Butcher's gallery in Venice; now I know about the signing on the 18th, thanks to Bill. I'll try to make it down there.