I cannot hear about Cocoa Beach, Florida without thinking of Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman in I Dream of Jeannie. The genie/astronaut based romp took place in Cocoa Beach as Major Nelson’s job kept him soaring out of, then, Cape Canaveral. I loved that show as a kid, although I did often wonder how a genie who had lived for thousands of years could be so naive, especially about her own evil twin…Jeannie (yes, they had the same name).
Well, I got to see Cocoa Beach with my own eyes this past weekend. My friend, Eric, decided to have his birthday party out there on Saturday, so I thought it might be an opportunity to do a little photo making. I googled the area for the places not to miss and the very first one was the Cocoa Beach pier. Well, I love the ocean and a good pier so that piqued my interest, but it crossed my mind that sunrise with a pier might be pretty nice. Of course, sunrise an hour away would mean waking at 4:30. I don’t really do that. So…
It turned out that Brooke had to work until around midnight on Friday and then be back at work on Saturday at 8 am. No MI-5 time for us that night so I looked into a cheap hotel room. Man, did I find one. Fortunately it was inexpensive, too. I made the drive out straight after work on Friday since I’m already on the east side of Orlando. I drove straight to the pier to see what was what…you know, get the lay of the sand… (sorry) As it turns out, and unbeknownst to me, good friends from Orlando were having dinner on the pier at the very time I was walking out to the end. “Missed it by that much.” (Get Smart…from the same era as I Dream of Jeannie).
I went to bed around 11 as I still needed to be up by 5:30 in Cocoa Beach. Still not my favorite. I recall nearly rolling over and going back to sleep the second time an alarm went off. The second time was my alarm, btw. The first was the room alarm clock which some joker decided to set for midnight. May he survive the curses I brought down upon his house.
By 5:40, when I was out the door, there was already some light in the eastern sky and I thought I might have waited too long. Sunrise was at 6:30 and I’d thought a half hour would be enough time to catch the early illumination. Fortunately it was just barely starting when I arrived…still almost fully dark, or as fully dark as it could be with that super moon going down in the west.
In the pier parking lot was another photographer with his tripod set up, capturing that super moon. We did a silent nod to each other and I headed for the beach. I ducked under the closest end of the pier and crossed to the north side of it. A couple was out snapping each other with a smartphone, barely able to make each other out in the dim skies. Between them and me was a good sized heron, trying to pick up a fish and eat it. For whatever reason it took several tries for him to finally pick it up and get it into its gullet. People didn’t seem to bother it at all. The couple were almost taking photos with it and I eventually got within about 8 feet to snap a few myself.
A few small fishing boats started to cross within maybe 200 yards of shore and, well out toward the horizon, a cruise ship was heading into Port Canaveral. The fishing boats were most just outlines, but the cruise ship’s lights made it hard to miss.
Off to the south and north, some color and light began to work into the clouds. There was a large storm directly offshore to the east so it was probably a little thick there for the light to penetrate. Flashes of lightning kept erupting from the storm but I never seemed to be able to capture it. Make sense. By the time it registers on my eyeballs, heads to my brain, and a signal is sent to my finger to press the shutter button, that flash of lightning is long gone. Still, the skies were brightening and more color started pushing into those horizon ends.
I took a lot of photos during that time. I was experimenting like crazy with shutter speeds, apertures, and ISOs. The slow changes to the sky let me try multiple ways to capture the same thing. Some worked well. Some, not so much.
By now there were starting to be a few joggers on out with us. Fishermen began collecting on the pier. Birds came hungry from their nests and began to circle the pier, looking for scraps. I moved under the pier and started to shoot out through the pilings. Great colorful clouds lent themselves as contrast to the dark wood and shadowed water. There were too many scenes to shoot, but I ran through another set of changes, wide/close, dark/light. I could have shot under there for a while, but one of those hungry birds apparently found enough to eat that he relieved himself on my shoulder. Blerg…but at least it wasn’t my head or camera.
The heron was still out on the north side of the pier so I went back out to photograph it more. It was pretty compliant for an untrained wild bird and I was able to get a few photos I think I’ll like when I get to editing them. The thunderheads to the east were starting to break up a bit and some color began pushing through there. The skies above were turning more toward their daytime hues and let me start shooting with a more closed aperture for depth of focus.
I headed down to the south side of the pier and started shooting the length of it stretching from shore into the sunrise. I’d just been there a few minutes when a yellow-orange orb began forcing itself through breaks in the offshore storm clouds. As the sun was rising a little to the north of the pier, I was glad I’d decided to get this vantage point. By now things were getting quite bright, and the colors went from the midnight blues and deep oranges to the sky blues and bright yellows. I was now in the company of dozens of joggers, bikers, photographers, and one guy with his metal detector.
I’ve only gotten to a few of the photos so far, and I know that many of the experiments didn’t work out, but it was another chance to get out and make pictures and I got to capture some of my favorite things. The ocean. Piers and docks. Sunrise (actually sunset is my favorite because it happens at a Godly hour rather than an ungodly one). And I got to visit the real city of the imaginary I Dream of Jeannie.
Oddly, about 5 hours later and 5 miles south, on another stretch of beach, I saw that same metal detector guy sweeping the area. I wonder if he’s ever found a jewel encrusted gold bottle…[envira-gallery id=”2121″]