I was surprised when we arrived to find the parking lots absolutely packed. Sometimes there are weddings and other family events held there, so we assumed there would be a contained group of folks and we could head for the dock out over the river (a year old addition). But, no--- alas the place was swarming with portrait photographers dragging families and holiday props and ladders and reflectors and tons of gear into every nook and cranny of the park for the ritual of the annual holiday family portrait session. I've never seen anything like it, short of the swarms of birders who show up every spring at the native bird rookery at the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm. This was an eye opener and a mind-changer for me... The porch of the house had at least three separate sessions in progress with young women hanging over the railing holding signs reading "Ho", or wearing Santa hats or elf ears... every bench in the park was stuffed with adorable families facing their 20-something photographers while attempting to control impatient pre-schoolers.
So we hit the trails, looking for a bit of peace in nature -- that lasted for about 100 yards before we ran into more of the same. The out to the dock, which was dotted with couples, families and their photographers, edging in for the best views, light, and angles.
So we left.
Call me a purist, but for me, photography is about art. Yes, these young, ambitious shooters are performing a service to a market that wants that service. They are making some money -- hopefully they are having fun. That said, it struck me full on in the face that this is not what I want to do with my photography. I have long been drawn to nature, especially to my river and the solitude of the surrounding Florida nature. Commercialism isn't my thing. I do my photography to immerse myself in the beauty and wonder of nature. To advocate by imagery on behalf of preservation of those decreasing pieces of my state that draw us here to begin with. To escape the pressure and stress and routine of my professional non-artistic career. I recognized then and there that I am a documentarian of the land, and will probably never be a commercial photographer shooting family portraits or weddings (though I have done both, and enjoyed it). It's a Zen thing for me. Let go of your pre-conceived notions of what you should be, and become what you must be.
This is one of the few photos I salvaged from that trip to Alpine Groves:
Falling: Autumn in Northeast Florida
You can find a gallery of my photos of Florida's beautiful Saint Johns River HERE