They use their hobby to promote the beauty of South Mississippi. There is a growing community of photographers who enjoy capturing images of beaches and wildlife and sunrises. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Photography club now has nearly three thousand members.
Facebook and other social media have made it easy for those photographers to share their work with the world. And with the abundant beauty here in South Mississippi, there is no shortage of subjects.
It was shortly after 6AM on a recent chilly morning, as photographers Jason Taylor and Alex North prepared to shoot a sunrise at Gulfport Harbor. Though heavy clouds threatened to hide the sun, it didn't deter these dedicated shooters.
Alex North has captured daily sunrise photos for nearly four years.
"I get to see God's creation real, every morning. Not from a concrete roadway, but from what nature is. I think that's the biggest thing I like," said North.
"The scene is very dynamic when you're shooting in these situations, when you've got a lot of moving clouds and you've got a lot of different light play going on. Your job as a photographer is really to isolate and drill down into something your camera can capture," he explained. "And it's just based on what you know you want out of that picture. You're going to choose your best tool that you have to get that image."
Advanced digital cameras are today's tools for capturing the perfect colors and light. But Jason Taylor says all that technology isn't necessarily beneficial.
"It's easy to just buy a nice camera and people think they can just throw it on "auto" and it's going to do everything for 'em. But that's really not how it works," said the popular and talented coast photographer.
Taylor learned the basics of photography, shooting film.
"Everything was manual and you really had to learn it, cause you were using film, which was kind of expensive, so. If you see a scene and you want to capture it, just because you go shoot it one time it doesn't mean you're going to get it," he explained. "You know, the light may not be right or the tide or whatever. But stay on it, you have to really, really work at it."
Though the advent of digital has helped spur a renewed interest in photography, it doesn't mean abandoning the basics.
"I think it gives people a lot more options to go out there and capture images. That instant gratification the world is becoming all about. But it's also caused a lot of people to step away from the basics of photography. With film, you didn't have any excuses. You had to learn how to shoot real exposures," said North.
Alex North's images are routinely shared by hundreds, if not thousands of followers and fans on social media.
"I've traveled to almost every state in the country. I've traveled to six or seven countries. Doesn't compare. Mississippi is pretty special," he said.
Jason Taylor's ongoing work has also attracted quite a following. You'll often find him at the beach or the harbor, camera in hand.
"That's what's been good about Facebook. It's been a blessing. 'Cause there was really no other way before that that you could get your photos out to so many people instantly. I didn't really mean for it to happen, but I put my stuff out there and it just kind of took off, so I'm kind of going with it," he said.
"In the film days, it took a lot of patience. And you couldn't just look at everything right away. You had to wait, chew on your nails awhile," said photographer Rich Kopp.
Kopp teaches a fundamentals of photography class at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
These days, it seems everyone is "a shooter".
"I just saw like four or five couples come down and pull out their phones. They were taking pictures of the lighthouse and the beach and everything," he said, during an interview at the Biloxi visitors center, across from the landmark lighthouse.
Two years ago, Kopp helped resurrect the Mississippi Gulf Coast Photography Club. Today, the online group has nearly 3,000 members.
"My idea is you've got to study the basics. and then practice, practice, practice. And that's what I tell people all the time," said Kopp.
One of his favorite photo opportunities is Cruising the Coast.
From special events, to natural beauty, South Mississippi offers a myriad of choices for photographers.
"Our whole local area is just full of it. The old homes. The history. The beach. The wildlife. It's all there," said the photographer.
For aspiring photographers out there, there are plenty of professionals who are happy to share tips about shooting and equipment they might recommend.
There are also numerous books on the subject. One good one is "The Digital Photography Book" series by Scott Kelby.
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