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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Receding waves on Amelia Island

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Long exposure of waves at a fishing pier.
A fishing pier on Amelia Island, Fl.

LOCATION: Fishing pier at Julia's Oceanfront Condo, Amelia Island, Fl.

EQUIPMENT: Canon EOS 6D | EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM | Manfrotto tripod | Breakthrough 3-stop Neutral Density Filter

THE STORY: Never, ever regret getting up early.

Not when it comes to image making.

I'd forgotten that truism for a long time. Family, jobs, stress, age, all of it made hitting the snooze alarm and sleeping an extra 15, 30, 90 minutes so tempting.

During a Spring visit to Amelia Island, a laid back stretch of beach and beautiful homes in northeastern Florida, that temptation was as strong as ever - to forego any ambition about waking pre-dawn for the sake of making an image.

As I contemplated in the dark, laying in bed, the whisper of ocean waves seeping in through an open window, I remembered something I knew years upon years ago.

Never regret getting up early to create an image.

Within half an hour, I was walking in the dark, cold sand wrapping around my bare feet, hauling a tripod in one hand and a backpack full of camera gear over my shoulder. A small ribbon of orange light wrapped the eastern horizon, and along a sandy path in the dunes, tall grass waved their welcoming hands to say "good morning" and "we're glad you're here."

Caffeine from good coffee may help us wake up. But nothing stirs our consciousness nor our well-being quite like being outside, a fresh Florida breeze, and the possibility of creating one great image.

My destination was a fishing pier. My aim was a long exposure.

During those times, I must confess, I would miss my wife and children, knowing as the sun would begin to peer over the horizon, the boys would be stomping down the stairs of our rented condo, hoping to watch SpongeBob Square Pants and eat cereal, their hearts and minds full of anticipation for a vacation day spent in the waves.

It's an paradoxical place to be, sometimes, a parent who's also a photographer.

We want to create something that our families will love, something they will treasure for years, an image printed large that captures a moment in time of a place they will remember.

Frame it, hang it, gaze upon it, feel the warmth of memory as our eyes search the image, a longing to return permeates, so does a gratefulness that we were ever there and were able to experience that beach, that island, with each other.

To create that image, though, requires us to sacrifice an hour, a morning, a day with our spouses and children. Our heart wants to stay close to them, wrapped in the security and contentment we know as family.

But we also want to create something for them and for ourselves. And so we parent/photographers go.

Not for long. Just long enough to create an image we haven't created before and to give it as a gift to those who wish to see and experience it.

Our spouses. Our children. Visitors to a website. Potential editors. Other photographers. Future strangers we'll meet and to whom we'll show off a portfolio.

We may have created the image, but the person seeing the image actually experiences it. Images are meant to stir a feeling.

So plant a tripod in the sand, compose the image so the pier leads our eyes toward the horizon, and watch the slow, alluring dance of morning light.

Never forget that getting up early to make an image is giving a gift to yourselves and to others.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can email him at


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