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Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is composed of 7 islands approximately 70 miles west of Key West. It also contains and protects about 101 square miles of marine habitat. The most notable landmark of Dry Tortugas, however, is Fort Jefferson. It was thought a good idea to have the fort to help protect the straits connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Construction began in 1847 and continued on through the Civil War, but was never fully finished. It served as a prison during the Civil War and its most famous inhabitant was Samuel Mudd, an American physician who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

I had been wanting to get to the Tortugas for years and finally planned a trip this past December. I timed it for the full moon, so I could try some night photography. I booked a two night camping trip and got all my gear ready.

The trip started with 25 mph winds and made for a rough boat ride. I took the Yankee Freedom over, from Key West. I paid to have a kayak ferried with me, which never was launched do to wind. It also clouded over and I spent 2 days waiting for the wind to subside and the sun to come out. Snorkeling is supposed to be great down there, but with all the wind, visibility was pitiful. Just at sunset on the second day, the clouds began to break and I made sure to take advantage of it.

The clouds also stayed sparse enough for me to get something including the moon, or at least the light from it.

I went to sleep a little less nervous about a failed trip and awoke for sunrise. It didn’t amount to much but I knew what I wanted to do with the warm early light.

Although this image is iconic of Ft. Jefferson, I felt this light was pretty rare to capture. Most photographers are day-trippers and are never on the island when the light is this good. I camped for 2 nights and finally got this on the third day. Lucky me!

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