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The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same. In some respects anyway.

Although much has changed physically since my last visit to Ponce Inlet, what attracts my photo taking has remained pretty much the same. Unlike my first visit I am completely healthy and strong. Well, strong is a relative word, but you get my drift. Furthermore, this time I have an arsenal of cameras, a Honda Pilot instead of an adorable blue Mini Cooper, and years of practice. That said, I'm not sure any of the photographs I took yesterday are one iota better than what I took with my handy Panasonic FZ8. Let's see what you think....

Leaving the house with what I thought was adequate time to make it to Ponce Inlet for the sunrise, the skies were that gorgeous shade of inky blue with clouds just becoming visible as I drove along I-4. Around 6AM I began to see the streaks of light amongst the blue meaning sunrise wouldn't be too far behind. Hmmm.....I know, I'll take SR44 to New Smyrna Beach,  which I'm pretty sure I can make in the 39 minutes until the official sunrise. With light traffic the drive was smooth as silk. Those familiar with the area will recognize how the road curves to the right just as you are nearly beach side. It was there that I took the turn to the left, hoping I could find a parking place pronto, so as not to have driven for an hour for nothing! Was I ever lucky, pulling into the grass alongside the Holiday Inn!

Mostly Florida beaches are flat, with very few landmarks to improve on the composition of a landscape photograph. Of course, the sand, sea, and sky are all gorgeous, but to have a successful landscape photograph, you really need something in the foreground to draw the eye forward. Plus, if at all possible the horizon should not be in the center which sometimes is easier said than done. Don't say I never taught you anything about photography!

So, I grab my new Nikon with the zoom lens, (probably a mistake in hindsight), and my Olympus with the 20mm lens attached. By now I'm in a hurry. Look what I found?
Wonderful crisscross of dunes with vegetation! Perfect, right? Guess what? The photo above was not taken using the big money stuff, instead my iPhone. Indeed, after taking some with the other cameras, I remembered the phone, running back to the car and snatching it out of my handbag. I told you I had an arsenal with me!

Actually, it was so cloudy I was wondering what kind of shots I would get, but as it turns out, clouds were good, otherwise, shooting into the bright sun is very tricky indeed. Soon thereafter, the beach started coming to life with walkers, joggers, and bike riders.
Notice that color of the sky as it will come in to play a little later in the day. From there I drove onward towards the actual town of New Smryna, parking my car at the town marina, which is in front of what appeared to be the site of an old fort.
Indeed, it was a fort, but for the life of me I couldn't find the actual name! However, I eventually found a plaque stating that the original settlers from the Old World lived nearby, in 1768, the largest single attempt at colonization by the British Crown. Apparently, things didn't go so well, but eventually the town stabilized, particularly after Mr. Henry Flagler built the railroad. Now you know.

Orlandoan's are divided in their beach loyalties. Some, like myself, opt for Cocoa Beach, mostly because of proximity, but there is definitely a case to be made for those who prefer New Smryna Beach. Any beach town in Florida counts tourism as one of their main industries, with high rises all along the coast, both hotels and condominiums. There was a time though when highway US 1 was the main thoroughfare, carrying passengers from Maine to Miami. As such, while driving the last 25 miles to Ponce Inlet I saw loads and loads of old motels which dot the highway from, as I mentioned, Maine to Miami. I pulled into a Dairy Queen parking, which sported a great old fashioned neon sign atop the building, to take this shot of what once must have been quite the place.
Believe me, currently, there is little charm to save! The drive was pleasant and speedy, with river views on my right.

Long before you actually get to Ponce Inlet you can see the lighthouse in the distance because it is taller than everything else.
Depending on how you look at it, the 10 AM opening time of the lighthouse is either good or bad when you've arrived in town at 8:30 AM. I used the time to roam around a bit, driving down some of the tiny little sand roads shaded with beautiful tree canopies.
Because of my previous visit I had an inkling about what to visit, including their little marina where I took this photograph of a pelican, all the while thinking of my brother Pat who has an affinity for them.
This visit there were only two, unlike before when loads of them gathered around the docks--must not have been any fish around yesterday to cause a congregation. :) While on the subject of birds, I saw a few of them yesterday at the Marine Science Center, located around the corner from the lighthouse. As I was walking up from the parking area I heard a bird call with which I was unfamiliar. Who knew there would be two bald eagles in rehab at the Seabird Rehabilitation Center? Pretty sure this is my first time hearing the call of an eagle, which as any birder knows, is the first step in finding birds.
Remembering how exactly to focus on something in a cage was the tricky part, some attempts were more successful than others! Several beautiful owls, woodstorks, hawks, and various shorebirds were all in wonderfully clean and spacious cages. One of the little owls was missing an eye!! How sad is that?

Finally, the lighthouse opened and your favorite blogger went up to the very top, all 175 feet, in a long-sleeved linen blouse. Say what? What was she thinking? Well, while drinking hot tea from my travel mug, I was a bit of a slob, allowing tea to dribble down my chin and onto my white top. Lots of dribbles in fact, leaving me with light brown trails against a sea of white. Not a pretty sight. I'm getting lazier and lazier about my appearance, but even I draw the line somewhere! I'd packed the clean shirt as a bathing suit coverup, however, I put it into service for my trip into the lighthouse. After paying the $5.00 admission fee, I took the photo posted earlier to give you an idea of the scale.

During my last visit I was still recovering my strength after a long illness, so the 203 steps were a bit of a problem. Not so yesterday, I am most happy to report! Cooling breezes and a lovely vista are the gifts that await those who do make the climb.
By golly, there is the marina facing the Halifax River! The history of Ponce Inlet is quite fascinating if you are interested. The views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are just as spectacular. Going down is a piece of cake, although one does feel the need to hang onto the railing.
Although I was a little sweaty going up, there were Dads who carried their children both up, and down, who were sweatier!

From there I entered the beachfront park which was absolutely gorgeous. I've never been on such a long boardwalk over high and plentiful dunes.
I somehow missed this area during my last visit, but oh my, no visit to Ponce Inlet is complete without a stop! According to the link above, a few years ago it was the 9th most beautiful beach in the country and I can see why.
Super wide, super beautiful! Those folks with their cars on the beach? Smart move because as I said the boardwalk was long, not to mention a tad hot on bare feet! Because there is a jetty, there are quite a few surfers,
along with fisherman, and families. I couldn't help but notice this little red-haired fellow crawling to his Momma. Brought back some fond memories of days spent at the beach with our little ones!
Across the dunes, across the wide-wide beach, and onto the jetty for me. Oftentimes when I see a scene I think to myself, "now this will make a great shot." Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm not.
Dramatic for sure, but I'm not confident I captured it as well as someone else might have. Hmmm.....

One feature to love about the new camera is the ability to take shots rapid fire, which is just what you need when you're trying to catch the sea crashing on the rocks, which by the way, I'm wondering where they get such gigantic rocks to form jetties. Anyone know?
A man and his adult son from Kentucky asked me if I was getting any good shots to which I replied, "I sure hope so!" When you travel, albeit fairly close to home, you always hope something will come of it, but in reality, most of the time that is not the case at all. We shall see what the customer has to say about my efforts which are not posted on my blog because of obvious reasons. Similar yes, but I'm no dummy, I'm not giving the good stuff away for free!

Hot dog if after wading through the surf, I didn't head about halfway back on the wrong boardwalk, which if you're thinking, that is a pretty dumb thing to do, let it be known that they are not numbered and look pretty much the same!  Getting in my car for the journey home I was very glad indeed that I'd gotten up at 5 for a beautiful trip to the coast.

Remember that reddish sky in the morning? Let me refresh your memory:
 We all know what that means don't we?  Indeed, it poured on my drive home!
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