The kitesurfing trip that wasn't:
Last month Stacey, some friends and I took kitesurfing gear, photography equipment, and 6-week-old baby Pike to South Texas to kite and photograph in warm water for 10 days. I'll get it right out of the way. This trip did not go as planned, but we had a blast anyway.
What went wrong? The weather. This time of year South Padre Island generally gets nice steady warm wind from the south along with lots of sunshine. The first day on the island was perfect and we all kited until we lost the light to a magnificent sunset. As I landed my kite, I grabbed my little Sony A6300 mirrorless camera out of the rental van's console and captured the above image of my friend Celeste bringing her kite in. I'm so glad I did. It was the only good kiteboarding photo I would take.
The next day overcast rolled in and the wind died. Over the next nine days we drove up and down the island looking for wind to kite. Sometimes we'd feel a bit of breeze and go out only to sit drinking cold beer and waiting.
Things could have been worse of course. Mainland Texas was slammed by horrific thunderstorms and Houston suffered deadly flooding.
Beaches, bikers and birds:
The sun came out late in the afternoon most of the days and it was hot. To beat the heat and the boredom we all headed over to the Gulf side of the island and found a ton of fun things to do. We showed Pike the ocean for the first time, did a little yoga (with and without PBR) and even bodysurfed under a full moon.
With no kitesurfing happening I turned my photographic attention elsewhere. I knew that there was a big Harley Davidson festival scheduled while we were on the island and I thought it would be a fun chance to photograph some interesting people and culture.
Like the wind, the "Beach-n-Biker Fest" was a touch disappointing. The mainland flooding and threat of thunderstorms kept attendance low and most of the action happened out of sight in a convention center. I did get a chance to practice panning with a slow shutter speed as lone bikers rode through town though.
I've always loved how panning (moving the camera) with a slow shutter speed focuses the eye on moving subjects and helps me convey a sense of speed, motion and depth in a two dimensional still image.
One day we took the advice of one of my On1 Plus Coaching students and visited the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. What a great piece of advice. The center has a number of great exhibits, a high tower that affords guests a view far up and down the coast and a series of boardwalk wetland trails and blinds to observe a diverse array of wildlife. If you find yourself in the vicinity and enjoy birding and/or nature photography make sure to visit.
We saw some great birds including egrets, herons, ducks, cranes, pelicans and tons of grackles (my favorite South Padre bird). Despite a long fruitless search we missed the baby alligators that had been sighted the day before. We also loved learning about South Texas's famous naturalist and wildlife advocate of yesteryear the Turtle Lady of South Padre: Ila Fox
Was the trip what we had hoped for and imagined? No. Would I have carted 250 pounds of checked camera and kite gear along with us all over again? Well... The answer is yes, but I would have left the heavy underwater housing at home.
I learned a couple of big lessons on this adventure. The first is to always take advantage of good light when you have it. I'm so glad that I grabbed that shot of Celeste with her kite under that gorgeous sky the first night. I was tired and wet, but I dropped my kite, secured it, raced to the van for the camera and ran back to get the shot. I didn't know we wouldn't have more wind or another sunset like this during the trip.
The second lesson is the value of having a small high quality camera accessible at times like this. I wasn't planning to do much photography this first night and I'd left my big photo bag at the house. If I hadn't had the little Sony A6300 handy, then I would have a small grainy cell phone photo of this instead of a very clean, enlargeable and high-resolution image of one of my favorite kiteboarding scenes. Look for a post about my Sony mirrorless thoughts in the near future.