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South Beach Miami

Colony Hotel Ocean Drive, South Beach

I think this picture of the Colony Hotel at sunrise is amazing and not just because I shot it (print available here).

South Beach Miami. The Colony Hotel in a sumptuous light
South Beach Miami. The Colony Hotel in a sumptuous light

I’ve been many times to shoot pictures at the tennis tournament on Key Biscayne, just south of Miami, though I always ended up in some cheap and tatty dive on Collins Avenue or Indian Creek. Usually this was because I was working to a budget of zero (ALL spare money went on transparency film), but even if I’d been wadded I’d still have chosen to stay on (a then slightly seedy) South Beach, though I usually forsook its dubious nocturnal pleasures so I could be up early to shoot my precious tennis pictures.
For some reason I had difficulty sleeping this night, so I went to meet the sunrise with my tripod and camera bag. It can’t have been much after 5am and many people were still wandering the streets with loose step and wired eyes. By this time the lights of the Colony hotel had been turned off so I rattled on the door to wake the old Cuban night watchman, who obligingly lit the place up for me.

What you see here is the soft light of the sunrise harmonizing with the hotel neons, to produce perfect SoBe pastels. But the window of opportunity is fleeting – just moments, really.
Minutes later, the light is too strong and the background sky too bright to make a suitable contrast.

The car in the picture has long gone (I think it belonged to a past owner and served as a permanent prop) and the front of the hotel now has a terrace: great for guests, I’m sure, but not so much for photographers.
And everything is basking in this perfect sunrise light, which can be seen reflected in the windows and on the bodywork of the car.
Like I said…. I think this photo is amazing and if you ever see a large print (particularly on reflective metallic paper), it’ll blow you away.
But at the time I didn’t give it a second thought: I just shot it and moved on (eats shoots and leaves?).
Its only when I scanned it years later that I realised it was a half-decent picture and this mixture of pastel light was unusual.
Now the facade has changed forever, it takes on extra value.

This is the sunrise light that helped make the above picture what it is – sumptuous marriage of subtle colours.