Boca Grande

Posted by on Oct 17, 2017 in Projects | 58 Comments
Boca Grande

Our home for the past summer was Port Charlotte, FL. It’s located just an hour south of Sarasota, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I had never visited Florida before and was excited to stay for a few months. Rebecca and I were both looking forward to get away from the tourists in Maine, and I was planning to shoot for my book, write, and most of all spend time with my family.

Many of our friends from New England had warned us about practically everything down there: torrential rainfalls, scorching heat, tropical humidity, mosquitoes, alligators, and most importantly – the Floridians. It’s true that Florida is a very colorful and interesting state, and we really liked that a lot. One of the things that surprised me most was that Florida did not feel like the South to me at all. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia all feel completely different. I couldn’t completely pin the culture down, but I really enjoyed the Cuban influence.

We spent a lot of our free time on Gasparilla Island, which was just a short drive from our house, and fell in love with Boca Grande, a small village on the island which is known for its beautiful historic downtown, sugar sand beaches and crystal clear water. The small number of year-round residents of Boca Grande are famously protective of their island’s natural resources and the island is a nature preserve for wildlife, birds and marine animals. Unlike many other places in Florida, you won’t find any condos or large hotels crowding the waterfront.

When we first went to the beach, I couldn’t believe how many beautiful exotic looking shells there were everywhere and how warm the water was. It felt like stepping into a bath tub, I had never experienced anything like that before. We spent many days on the beach swimming, snorkeling and relaxing. I think one of the highlights of our stay for me was meeting a manatee in real life. It just swam over, observed us for a little while and then left again – completely peacefully.

The light and the color palette in Florida are astounding. The quality of the light reminded me a lot of California, but the colors were a lot more lush and vivid. I have never seen sunsets like that before in my life. I also loved the bleached out pastels most of the buildings are painted in. Rebecca and I spent so many evenings just walking on the beach, talking and watching the sun dipping into the sea. I already miss the warmth – but I’m happy to be home for the winter.

A selection of prints from this series is available for purchase at Aspen Gallery. All images below were taken with the Hasselblad 503CW and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 2.8/80 on Kodak Portra 400. All images scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California:


  1. Rebecca
    17. October 2017

    Can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to see a blog post – with Hasselblad in color no less – from my favorite photographer! :)

    These are so lovely, Johnny, and I love how you led us through the old town to the lighthouse and the beach and that indescribable sunset. My favorite images are of Our Lady of Mercy church and the little boy reading on the steps of the library. Wonderful work.

  2. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Thank you so much, Rebecca.

    I was so worried that Boca Grande wouldn’t be the same anymore after we had left for the hurricane. I’m so relieved it was ok for most parts. Thank you for the wonderful time in Florida, I’ll never forget this. It makes me so happy that you enjoyed this post. :)

  3. Jakob
    17. October 2017

    Such lovely work Johnny. Your colors and compositions are always perfection.

  4. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Thank you, Jakob! I appreciate your kind words so much.

  5. Josh
    17. October 2017

    Such a beautiful collection of photos, Johnny! Great camera, great film, but more importantly, your perspective of life through a lens is really incredible and captivating.

    Thank you for sharing your trip. Stay warm this winter!

  6. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Josh, many thanks for your feedback.

    The Hasselblad is still by far my favorite camera ever made for anything with color. I’m always so excited when I get to shoot it. It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed the post and my images.

    You stay warm too, my friend!

  7. Bill McCarroll
    17. October 2017

    Lovely images Johnny. What strikes me about them is the complete absence of any people. It’s a bit eerie and captivating at the same time. The atmosphere is so calming, I can feel the essence of the place, just a laid back grab a margarita kind of place!

    I don’t think I could handle Florida’s summer heat though. These definitely have your signature look and feel.

  8. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Thank you kindly, Bill.

    I often try to shoot around people in my travel work. Usually this is unnoticed, but you are right. In this case I took the pictures just a few days after Hurricane Irma had passed. Most of the local residents had evacuated the island and weren’t back yet. I felt very lucky to have the place almost completely for myself.

    Florida is very humid and hot in the summer. Rebecca loves it and I got used to it after two weeks and didn’t notice it anymore.

  9. Walker
    17. October 2017

    Unfortunately your blog posts are so rare… your photography is so darn wonderful!!!

  10. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Thanks so much, Walker! I know it’s been a while, I hope to post a little more frequently soon. :)

  11. Ari
    17. October 2017

    Hi Johnny,

    I only recently discovered your website, but I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge you share here.

    As a resident of the Tampa Bay Area, I often bemoan the lack of charming and photogenic sights to photograph in my area. Thank you for sharing your wonderful images and reminding me to take a second look at the beauty in my backyard before searching for it elsewhere.

    Your work is truly inspirational, and I greatly admire your style and vision! I hope to continue to grow as a photographer and develop a style of my own, you’ve already helped me immensely. Thank you again!

    Kind Regards,


  12. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Ari, thank you for your kind words. It makes me so happy to hear that you’re enjoying my work and find it inspirational.

    I know exactly what you mean, often we don’t easily see beauty in our everyday life. But it’s there, just waiting to be discovered by someone with a different perspective. That’s why I love to travel so much. It brings you to places with a fresh perspective, but it also brings you home with a fresh perspective on your everyday.

    Thank you again for taking the time.

  13. Angela
    17. October 2017

    Beautiful photos! The quaint Florida towns really are charming. You’re right about Florida having a complicated culture – it’s one big melting pot!

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Thank you for your feedback, Angela.

    Yes, I completely agree with you. I loved that about Florida. I’m already looking forward to going back – there is so much we didn’t explore yet.

  15. Cody Priebe
    17. October 2017

    Looks like you certainly had the best light there. Now where is the phone member to make my reservations? :)

  16. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Haha, many thanks Cody! Just stop over for a visit next time. :)

  17. Neill Soden
    17. October 2017


    Wonderful post, and great set of simple but perfect photos.


  18. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Neill, thank you very much. I’m very happy that you like the pictures!

  19. Robert-Paul Jansen
    17. October 2017

    Seeing a new blog post by one of my favorite photographers is always such a surprise. And this time especially, love your work with the Hasselblad in colour, Johnny.

    These photos are wonderful, although many are probably ordinary scenes from Boca Grande, I love seeing this part of the world through your eyes. Can’t wait for your next post, but… please take your time.

  20. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Many thanks for stopping by, Robert-Paul. That’s very kind of you.

    Florida is a wonderful place and I can’t wait to go back and explore different areas next year. And yes, I can’t help but taking my time. It’s part of the process.

    I think you would really enjoy spending time in the US too, there is so much to see. I’m so happy that the Hasselblad is back in your camera bag too, by the way. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ll create with it! :)

  21. Dunja
    17. October 2017

    Stunning photos, as always!

    Thank you for introducing me to Boca Grande. I can’t believe I have never heard of it, considering that it’s only a two-hour drive from where my parents live. It’s definitely on my to-visit list now!

  22. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Many thanks, Dunja! Great to hear that you enjoyed the post.

    I think Boca Grande is a relatively well kept secret in the area, I almost felt bad photographing there. I hope you’ll go visit when you have time. It’s such a beautiful place and I’m sure you will enjoy it a lot.

  23. Mary Smyth
    17. October 2017

    Absolutely stunning work Johnny. I look forward to your postings!

  24. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Mary, thank you so much! That’s wonderful to hear.

  25. Donna
    17. October 2017

    Photography like this reminds me why I love pictures. Because there is such deep beauty and meaning in the sharing of our journey, I am inspired. I look at my own surroundings with fresh eyes and I make gentle lists of places I might like to visit. I see how you see, and I bring this way into my own way, so that I grow and learn. It’s not just that the pictures are lovely, it’s more that they give this expansive view so that I might step into them and feel the ocean breeze and the sun on my face. Your work makes me happy.

  26. Johnny
    17. October 2017

    Donna, thank you so much for leaving such a kind and thoughtful comment.

    That looking at my work makes you happy and inspires you is the nicest thing that you could have said, and I really appreciate it. Capturing a feeling or a brief moment is something so fleeting, like a breeze or shadows dancing on a building. Being able to capture this and share it with others, making someone feel something I felt, might seem small. But it feels like greatest accomplishment to me. I’m not very good with words, that’s why I need photography to express what I feel. Thank you kindly for listening.

  27. Buzz Bruggeman
    17. October 2017

    Great photography, and great memories! Boca Grande is truly the last best place in Florida. When I lived in Florida, we went there often. Great tarpon fishing!

    And if my memory serves me right, Katharine Hepburn had a home there. If I have the right one in mind it was on the Gulf with a low stone wall, and Banyan tree on the lawn.

    Highly recommended and not that hard to get to.

  28. Johnny
    18. October 2017

    Thank you Buzz, I’m happy that you enjoyed the pictures. And most importantly – the place too! :)

    I didn’t know much about Boca Grande before we visited there but I received a few hints after publishing this post. It looks like Harrison Ford likes the place too. I’ve always wanted to take portraits of him, maybe I’ll have the opportunity next year.

  29. Bobby George
    18. October 2017


  30. Johnny
    18. October 2017

    Thanks so much, Bobby! :)

  31. Thomas Skrlj
    18. October 2017

    Wonderful photographs Johnny. We’re currently talking about these on the podcast and we couldn’t help but notice the symmetry. So well done as always! Happy to see some new Hasselblad work.

  32. Johnny
    18. October 2017

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Thomas.

    It’s so wonderful to hear that you’re enjoying my work with the Hasseblad. I’m thrilled that my blog post made it on the podcast! Thanks so much, can’t wait to listen to the latest episode. :)

  33. Bianca Elizalde
    18. October 2017

    Ahhhhh… finally a new post! I always look forward to your photos Johnny, they’re beautiful as usual! Well done!

  34. Johnny
    18. October 2017

    Bianca, thank you very much for your kind words. So happy you enjoyed the post! :)

  35. Jim Grey
    18. October 2017

    Lovely exposures. I feel like they give me a great sense of the light’s qualities.

  36. Johnny
    18. October 2017

    Many thanks, Jim.

    The light in Florida is truly incredible. Glad to hear you enjoyed the post!

  37. Rino
    18. October 2017

    As always, an excellent post and beautiful work. Bravo!

  38. Johnny
    19. October 2017

    Thank you so much, Rino! Very kind of you.

  39. Morgane Erpicum
    19. October 2017

    The post is as beautiful as I expected, Johnny. It looks like you guys had a wonderful and soft summer.

    If I may, the comments you leave each other with Rebecca at the end of each blog post are as beautiful as the photos you take during these moments spent together. :-)

    Have a lovely weekend,


  40. Johnny
    19. October 2017

    Thank you very much for your kind feedback, Morgane. That’s both so wonderful to hear.

    You have a great weekend too! :)

  41. Lisa Gordon
    19. October 2017

    This is truly a wonderful series of photographs!

    I understand exactly what you mean about the “vibe” in Florida. I describe it as being the “non-traditional” south. I am glad that you enjoyed your time there!

  42. Johnny
    20. October 2017

    Lisa, many thanks for your comment.

    Glad you enjoyed the pictures! And yes, non-traditional south is a really great way to put it. It’s a beautiful and very interesting place. I can’t wait to go back.

  43. Jordi
    21. October 2017

    That’s some lovely pastel & soft color. I’ve been giving a lot of thought about light, aren’t these mostly taken during mid to late afternoon?

    Lately I’ve been avoiding noon, P400 generously exposed towards shadows might handle it well although the contrast of light is quite brutal. I know you have a few nice frames from California and Death Valley taken like that, so maybe it’s steering it a bit on the exposure/lab+scan side.

    For once I brought my medium format travelling (Malta) and took that approach, should send it out next week! I still keep in my mind that limestone landscape and warm light. I’m quite unsettled on looks but have a spot for pastels.

    Was listening to the Against the Grain podcast and was pleased to hear you posted something new, noticed your IG going quiet and it made the environment less sparkly.

    The (non retiree, condo exploited part) of Florida looks wonderful through your lens!

  44. Johnny
    22. October 2017

    Thanks very much, Jordi. It’s great to hear that you like the pictures.

    You’re right, these were all taking later in the day. I think with light it really depends on the scene, the surrounding color palette and the mood of the original scene. Harsh light can work very well in one photograph and look very unpleasant in another. I feel the same about pastels, dark & moody photographs or B&W. Everything should work together. I try to avoid forcing a mood or a color palette into my pictures if it wasn’t there.

    Great to hear that you did some shooting in Malta! I’m looking forward to seeing your work.

  45. Oriol
    31. October 2017

    Great set of photos, Johnny!

    As always I am amazed by your ability to turn the most ordinary things (a grocery, or a petrol station) into something delicate and beautiful.

  46. Johnny
    1. November 2017

    Oriol, thank you very much. That’s very kind of you.

    I’m happy that you’re enjoying my work!

  47. Betty Manousos
    23. November 2017

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Fantastic photos as usual.

  48. Johnny
    25. November 2017

    Thank you kindly, Betty! It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed the post.

    Happy holidays for you and your family too! :)

  49. Bill Foster
    26. November 2017

    Wow! Simply amazing photos.

    I came across your work a few years ago shortly after purchasing my Hasselblad 503CW. Your blog has been a godsend. What a surprise to see that you lived in Port Charlotte for the summer. I relocated to Port Charlotte in September to accept a flying position with Allegiant. Maybe we’ll cross paths one day.

  50. Johnny
    27. November 2017

    Thanks so much for your feedback, Bill.

    No way! Isn’t it amazing how small the world is? That’s unbelievable, really. We will be back in Florida next summer. Let’s please grab a coffee if you’re around.

  51. Hessler
    27. November 2017

    Amazing pictures as always Johnny, it’s always nice to see your work.

  52. Johnny
    29. November 2017

    Hessler, many thanks! So great that you like the pictures.

  53. Hernando
    6. December 2017

    Ahhhh, finally — a new blog post. Love your photos of Florida. Those colors worn to faded perfection and that light which you always see and capture so beautifully.

    Looking forward to more, Johnny.

  54. Johnny
    6. December 2017

    Many thanks, Hernando.

    I appreciate your kind feedback. Wonderful to hear that you enjoyed the post!

  55. Sophie
    28. May 2018

    Wow, fantastic pictures. Do you photoshop them afterwords? Your blog is fantastic.

  56. Johnny
    29. May 2018

    Thank you kindly, Sophie. No, I don’t. Glad to hear you’re enjoying my blog.

  57. Neilluos
    26. October 2018

    Hi again. I’d like to know how you set your aperture? Do you always use f2.8? Do you adjust your aperture according to ambient light? Do you use f2.8 for portraits?

    I’m looking forward to your reply. I read your journal over and over again and you gave me so much confidence to shoot with film, so I also recently purchased a Hasselblad 500cm with the 80mm lens!

  58. Johnny
    26. October 2018

    Many thanks for your feedback and your question, Neilluos.

    Congratulations on your purchase! I’m sure you’ll love the Hasselblad. And yes, I shot everything wide open at 2.8 – I usually don’t stop down. I shoot portraits the same way.

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