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Posts Tagged ‘Lake Monroe’

“When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman.”
Life on the Mississippi written by Mark Twain

Many years ago I read where a National Geographic photographer said some of his best shots were from returning to the same location at not only different times of the day, but different times of the year. Then I learned that bigger movies and commercials had location scouts whose main job is to find great locations for various productions. Reading all the searching that the producers of Cast Away did to find the island for Tom Hanks to be stranded on is how you capture the magic.

When I was a teenager and just learning photography I went to Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida to take some pictures. I was hoping to take photos of sailboats but instead found some people doing hang gliding. Sanford is flatland country so the hang glider would stand on the edge of the shore and his hang glider was connected to a boat by rope. The boat would speed away and eventually pull the hang glider into the sky.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, after a few successful launches I was situated behind a hang glider who for whatever reason did a face first nose dive into the sand. Broken nose, blood, people crying—the whole deal. I was shocked, but got off a few shots. Not sure where they are now, but it was my “Welcome to photojournalism” moment. An editor for the Sanford Herald inquired about using some photos and a couple years later I become a photojournalist with the Sanford Herald at 19.

I was at the right place at the right time.

Fast forward a few decades and on Saturday I returned to Lake Monroe. Maybe just 50 yards from the great hang gliding flop, I saw a vision emerging in front of me. An old steamboat coming towards me. I just had my iphone and knew I couldn’t get a close shot of it so I ran over to some palm trees to have something to fill the foreground. I cursed there being a light in the corner of the frame. I could have cropped or Photoshopped it out, but once I shifted the photo to black and white I thought it added a nice design element.

So while this isn’t the shot I thought I’d get when I drove to Sanford Saturday, I did drive there with my visual antenna alert to capturing the magic if it came my way. I made note of the time and imagine I’ll return some day with my Nikon and a video camera to get an even better shot and some footage. Who knows, maybe when I return I’ll get the steamboat and a hang glider in the same shot. (Though I’m not sure anyone hang glides there anymore.)

The 21st century doubling for the 19th century

P.S. Long before the pandemic—even long before airplanes and cars—people used to travel to Central Florida via steamboats. My understanding is back in the late 1800s wealthy people in the North East would take the train south to Jacksonville, Florida and board a steamboat on the St. Johns River. They would head south on the river that flows north. They would stop in towns along the way and look at the scenery unlike anything they could see in New York or New England. Imagine an era before the internet and even television and being a Manhattan socialite and seeing your first manatee or alligator. Exotic stuff. (You can ride this steamboat by contacting the the St. Johns Rivership Co.)

I’m not sure that era has ever been captured in a movie, but much of the St. Johns River is visually untouched from what it was like in 1875. About 15 years ago I did shoots on the Amazon and Rio Negro rivers near Manaus, Brazil and it reminded me much of trips I’d had on the St. Johns River. So the St. Johns River can double for South America as well.

And lastly, Lake Monroe is part of the St. Johns River where painter Winslow Homer used to love to leave his Maine home and studio in the winter and fish and paint in and around Enterprise, Florida which sits across the lake from Sanford, Florida.

Winslow Homer painting ”St. Johns River” (1890)

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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