Larry Treadwell  

A View from the Past by Larry Treadwell

November 2023 - A View from the Past

About the Image(s)

Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70mm lens
This is a blend of 2 images.
The foreground was shot @ ISO 250, f5, for 5 seconds. Illumination was supplied with Lume Cube 2.0 Waterproof lights mounted on a 7 foot light stand. Tripod. Much bug spray.

The sky was captured with the same camera and lens @ ISO 2000, f2.8 @ 8 seconds

The subject is the Ted Smallwood store built in 1906 on Chokoloskee Island at the southern and western end of Florida. The island is one of the 10,000 Islandsv chain. When the store was built is was the only location for dry goods and mail pickup for over 100 miles in any direction. Today the building is a museum and contains many of the original items that were for sale. The store is listed in the National Registry of Historical Buildings. The current caretaker is the great granddaughter of the original owner and builder.

To reach the building from the Florida mainland one must travel either by boat or by a 34 mile causeway that during King Tides may be partially underwater (it was). The store is at the southern most tip of the island and while the back of the store has a floating dock to accommodate canoes and other boaters, the front is reached by the only road onto the island. There is a small parking lot but the area is surrounded by dense groves of mangroves. I am positioned with my back against the encroaching trees and there is no other position in which to stand.

My sole purpose for this trip was to capture the Milky Way over the old store. This cannot be done other than in the fall of the year. Earlier in the year the Milky Way takes on a more horizontal position in the sky and due to the surrounding trees it is not visible from the front of the store (the position from which this shot was taken. The shot was pre-planned using Photopills to pin point the position of the Milky Way. I arrived at 3 p.m. to checkout everything and used the Virtual Night Sky feature inPhotopills to find the perfect position. Because of the dense foliage the front area of store is almost dark by 5 p.m. so I knew I would need to artificially light the store and thus brought my Lume Cube lighting system. I used two cubes and stacked them on a lightstand set to about 7 feet high as I wanted to keep the under side of the store in the dark. The first shot was taken after the sun was below the horizon and the blue hour was in progress. I had to wait until the blue hour started because I didn’t want any of the warm tinted light to wash across the Gulf of Mexico and tint the water visible behind the store. When the sun set there was almost no breeze, and no humidity (very rare for Florida) so the sky was crystal clear and I have never seen a blue hour sky so beautifully blue. After getting the first shot (5 tries to get it right) I had to wait for the Miliy Way to rise. It first appeared slightly to the left of what is shown here. Sunset was 7:08 p.m. and the Milky Way was in position by 8:45. I had to work quickly as the Milky Way was only free of the trees for a few minute due to the movement of the earth.

After taking the two shots they were blended in Photoshop to obtain the final image. Of note, I usually shoot the Milky Way with focal length of no greater than 28mm. for this I shot at nearly 35 mm simply because of the composition restraints. Now I’m glad I did. The longer focal length made the Milky Way larger and thus the Black Horse is more visible (Diane, think of this being just for you). Of note, there is some blue around the top edge of the store and you can see some blue in the water behind the store. This blue is due to the remaining light from the blue hour. Because the Milky Way rose early the deep blue colors in the sky and water had not as yet faded to full night.

An Important side note: The population of Chokoloskee is small, but very poor and uneducated. The nearest school is 43 miles away. They live in ancient trailers and primarily fish for a living both selling their catch and relying on their catch for a large portion of their diet. While I was setting up on this Friday night about 30 people including children who appeared walking up to the story through the mangroves. These were the locals who were coming to the store for two reasons. They set up on the floating pier behind the store and began fishing and crabbing for their dinner. They also told me they often come to the old store on clear nights to just sit and watch the Milky Way float across the sky. . As they caught crabs they put them in pots and boiled them. We talked and they told me stories about the old store (the great granddaughter was part of the crowd). They insisted that I stay and join them for dinner. I tried to pay them for the crabs and they would accept no payment. Instead I offered to send a framed print of the shot I have submitted this month. I eventually made 8 prints one for each family and one for the store then had them shipped to the store. Nights like this make my photography so much more meaningful. I enjoyed the company (and the food). I’ve received a phone call from each family to thank me for the print. I’ve also been invited back next spring when the Milky Way will be arching over the 10,000 islands. The locals say it is beautiful hanging over the Gulf. I’m looking forward to another crab dinner and hearing the story about the murder that took place under the old store 80 years ago. Sitting on the pier with these people was like going back 100 years in time to a much more simple and friendly time.

This round’s discussion is now closed!
13 comments posted

Barbara E Miller   Barbara E Miller
(Group 5)
In looking up something else on this site I came across this fascinating story of Chokoloskee Island. Although your image is superb, the story behind it is so well worth the telling. Thanks for sharing this Larry, although I live in Florida I had no idea of these islands. I can imagine how much your generosity to them of the framed pictures must have meant   Posted: 11/04/2023 15:07:03
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It was a special moment and it felt like I was lost in a time warp. But the people were wonderful and I have a photo that will always bring back those memories and isn't that what photography is all about?
  Posted: 11/05/2023 18:49:43

Michael Jack   Michael Jack
This is a great story which adds so much to the image itself. Having read your past experiences, I think you should do a book about your photo experiences.... I have started using PhotoPills and find it amazingly useful. To get the Horse Nebula in that position about the building is very nicely done. I think I may want to see the end of the building on the right to complete the image, but the exposure, technique, and result are well done. Love the old Coke sign.   Posted: 11/15/2023 17:36:00
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
I'm afraid you are going to have to live without seeing the rest of the store on the right. If I tried to show it all you would see is a pair of red and white striped Port-o-Johns.

I do conduct an annual lecture series at the four regional libraries in my county each January where I tell photo stories and show images. Been doing it for years, with a year off for Covid.   Posted: 11/17/2023 19:48:16

Bill Peake   Bill Peake
Larry, that is a spectacular image! The Milk Way just pops out and the stars are nice and sharp. The illumination of the store is perfect. One of the best astro-photography images I've seen. That's quite a story to go along with it, too!   Posted: 11/15/2023 17:47:51
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks Bill. This one took some serious planning.   Posted: 11/17/2023 19:49:00

Diane Ferdig   Diane Ferdig
I love this image! And thank you for the black horse 😆. I had no idea about the black horse until you mentioned it in my image. I think the next time I shoot the Milky Way I will do a composite as my foreground was so noisy. I will have to wait until next July to November though. In the meantime, I'll get out and do what ever night photography I can. Any recommendations to prepare me? Great story of your night shooting this. What memory for you. And great generosity on your part.   Posted: 11/15/2023 17:51:31
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Now every time you see the Milky Way you'll look for the black horse. Composites work best so you can get that foreground to show and it give you more ti me to enjoy the night while you wait for the core to show up. If you want some practice try doing star trails   Posted: 11/17/2023 19:43:12
Diane Ferdig   Diane Ferdig
I will look into doing star trails!   Posted: 11/18/2023 13:27:01
Michael Jack   Michael Jack
The Black Horse is part of the Milky Way core which is only visible during part of the year. Apps like PhotoPills gives you times and locations when the core is visible.   Posted: 11/18/2023 18:46:03

Barbara Gore   Barbara Gore
Larry, I love this story and your generosity. Connecting with the local folk is the best part of a photo outing. The use of the lume cubes (such a great tool) added that perfect kiss of light to the foreground and store. The stars are pinpoint, the vertical MW core hovers nicely over the store, and the clear visible Dark Horse nebula is bonus! I'm impressed with the MW brightness using an 8 sec exposure/ISO2000. Is this because it was still early in the night or the focal length? I use the NPF rule and my exposure is usually 13-15 sec with an ISO range between 3200-6400.
The simple post processing gives the scene a natural, rustic feel which helps me to further imagine time gone by. Fantastic image!   Posted: 11/21/2023 08:06:08
Larry Treadwell   Larry Treadwell
Thanks for the very kind comment. As a rule I usually use a wider focal length, but in this instance I was trying to keep unwanted junk out of the image like port-o-toilets on the right side of the store and several old tires there were dumped on the left. I was also confined by the trees and the position of the Milky Way if I wanted it above the store.

Sometimes (rarely) Florida skies the can be totally free of humidity and they then can be unusually bright and amazingly clear. This was such a night. I usually shoot at 3200 but here the 2000 worked. In post I did increase the whites and that made the stars a bit brighter.

And I really do love my Lume Cubes. They are so much better than using flashlights. :-)   Posted: 11/22/2023 15:26:00

Arne Skinlo   Arne Skinlo
At first sight, I thought this was a scene with AI sky replacement. I should, of course, known better; that is not your style. I am always impressed by your dedication to capturing perfect images. Your thorough description gave me new knowledge about shooting such scenes. If I should give any suggestions, it would be to darken the ground on the left side as it takes attention from the building and the beautiful sky.   Posted: 11/26/2023 00:38:06