8 Lifeguard Stations, South Beach Miami USA

Posted on April 26, 2013


My wife and I had a few days away in Miami. We used up some air-miles points to take us to the sun! I took along my 4×5 camera with the aim of capturing some architectural shots of the Art Deco buildings in South Beach where we were staying. My plan was to make some photographs in the early mornings when there were few people around.

After some scouting it was pretty clear that photographing the hotels and other buildings was going to be difficult given the number of cars and other detritus around them. On the other hand I was very taken by the colourful Art Deco ‘style’ lifeguard stations along the beach. I decided to make a series of photographs of these structures in the early morning, just before and just after sunrise. I used my iPhone to try out some different compositions and decided on a view looking out to sea at 45 degrees. This meant that the backdrop to the buildings was sand and sea, which would add to the consistent look of the photographs.  My idea was to create a typology after the style of the Bechers with a view to creating a grid of photographs for display. The Bechers would have chosen a frontal perspective, flat lighting and black and white film. My use of colour, ‘golden hour’ light and a diagonal perspective is altogether more expressive!

I used Kodak Portra 400 and was interested to see how this film responded to the changing light conditions. In fact what happened was that the film captured the nuances of the differing light very well leading to some colourful results.

I also saw this project as another opportunity to practice with my large format camera – this time on architectural work. On a practical level I had some small difficulties with loading the film into two of my six film holders. These were Toyo holders rather than Fidelity which I have generally used. The result was that I had not loaded the film properly into these holders and the negatives were not straight and in one case out of focus. I have made a note to take special care in loading the Toyo holders in the future.

In total I made 24 images. Roughly three for each station. I spent about 45 minutes on each of four mornings on the activity – the beach was very close to our hotel. We were there for five mornings – the first was a reconnaissance. In post processing after scanning, I made some slight changes to the white balance for a few of the images. I also increased the contrast  and vibrance a little and applied some sharpening. Here are my final set of 8 lifeguard stations.

8 Lifeguard Stations, South Beach Miami

8 Lifeguard Stations, South Beach Miami ©Keith Greenough