Assignment Field Journal: Cayo Costa

Background: Ultralite Films' director Bud Force recently spent some time on the island of Cayo Costa off the West coast of Florida with Jose Azel, president of Aurora Photos, to capture still photography and video for Jackson Kayaks and Aurora. 

The island is still in a very natural state and looks much as it did when first discovered by Spanish explorers. Cayo Costa is now a Florida state park and features a plethora of wildlife ranging from wild hogs to alligators to manatees. 

Monday, March 8, 2016

...We grabbed the remaining supplies we needed for the island and then made our way to the ferry. Throwing the yaks on top and meeting up with Captain Rick, we made our journey to Cayo Costa. We bobbed along the relatively calm seas for about an hour, quietly appreciating the beauty surrounding us. Upon arrival, we made our way across the island to our camp, pitched our tents, and ate a great dinner of pasta and tomatoes. As evening progressed, we made a long trek down the shore to a cove that had recently revealed itself after being closed by the shore for several years. We fished for about an hour in and around the channel coming in from the gulf before spying a young, five-foot alligator resting on the other side. Shortly after wrapping up our fishing, we made our way back to camp by the light of our headlamps. 


Tuesday, March 9, 2016

I awoke in my tent just minutes before Jose and I headed out to kayak and film. We trekked the mile across the island and grabbed our yaks to begin the day. We paddled past the piers toward the south side of the island and portaged on a nearby sandbar. Only one yacht resided on the farther side of the bar, with all onboard appearing to still be asleep in the early hours. We filmed and photographed various scenes around the area in the beautiful morning light. After shooting, we continued our little journey to fish a small, quiet lagoon. The wind later became difficult to navigate and beat us up quite a bit until we were able to force ourselves out of the channel. After more fishing, we found a small opening into a mangrove swamp, opening up to a completely different world than the direct ocean outside. We followed the small channel for more than a mile as it snaked its way through the dense and quiet mangroves. Taking turns fishing and shooting, we were able to circumvent various debris and obstacles. We spent the remainder of our time fishing around Primo Island and drifting back to the piers with the wind at our backs. Aside from some nibbles, we caught nothing aside from Jose's barracuda that knifed in to steal half his bait. Upon our return, we had a quick swim in the ocean to clean up and then ate some delicious jambalaya Jose prepared by flashlight. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2016

Awoke again at dawn. It was another busy day with us paddling our yaks around the north point of the island. The winds were at our favor on the journey to the point; however, we faced incredible headwinds upon our return up the other side (as is common at this point). Jose shot some nice photos and video of various scenes with the kayaks at the island's narrowest point, and I was actually able to catch a red snapper. After fighting our crafts through the wind for at least an hour, we portaged up the beach from our campsite and closed the day shooting into the sunset and evening hours. Our Voltaic Systems' solar panels did an excellent job of powering our batteries, so it looks like we'll be able to keep everything charged for the duration of our time on the island. After a late dinner and a glass of tequila with lime wedge, I made the trip on foot back across the island to shoot time lapses at the piers. I took a quick nap on the dock while the cameras did their thing and then made my way back to camp in the early morning hours before collapsing into my bag to sleep for a few hours. 


Thursday, March 14, 2016

I was feeling exhausted when Jose asked if I wanted to wake up and shoot sunrise fly fishing. Putting the fatigue out of my mind, we walked down the island with our rods and camera gear. The morning light was spectacular, and I captured quite a bit of nice content. After breakfast, we paddled and fished our way around the island, fighting aggressive headwinds once again. I tried unsuccessfully to take a siesta after lunch in the hot afternoon sun. As the day drew on, I met up with our neighbors to get some shots on spec for Backpacker Magazine after an editor had asked if I could grab some additional content for them on the island. The shoot ended up turning out very well and almost took on a fashion vibe. The sun set, and my last images of the night were of the young couple hand in hand on the beach. 


Friday, March 15, 2016

We wrapped the shoot for Aurora and Jackson this morning and managed to get everything back to the mainland via the ferry. I'm quite happy with the content and am excited to get the video into post production with a hopeful release before summer. Cayo Costa is a beautiful place, and I look forward to making it back there in the future.