Instagram loves Florida

Favorite those sunsets: shimmering ocean panoramas backed by soft pastel skies of orange, pink, violet and blue.

Love, love, love flora and fauna: the long-armed live oaks of north Florida; the pillowy half-ton physique of Crystal River’s manatees; and the prehistoric armor of an Everglades alligator.

Can’t get enough Florida vacation icons: 825 miles of beaches the color of toasty cinnamon or white khaki; and theme parks that tap your inner Jedi.

Lesser known but no less photogenic are Florida’s murals, life-size “wallpaper” that brighten urban neighborhoods and small-town downtowns. More on these technicolor dreamscapes in a minute.

Now … smile. Snap.

Vacation destinations such as Miami and Clearwater Beach, Daytona Beach and Destin are tagged in hundreds of millions of IG posts. Must-follow Florida accounts celebrate scenic highways and the 175 state parks. LoveFL is the official Florida tourism hashtag and a website.  

When it comes to Florida photos, take it from the experts. Patrick Farrell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, says start at the water, “a clean, beautiful slate that you can build on. Sit at the edge of the ocean, the sun rises, a boat goes by, a seabird flies through. You just keep adding layers of beauty.”

Peter W. Cross, another award-winning photographer and editor, says the Sunshine State brand is quantifiable with a camera: Florida is “one-and-a-half stops lighter than in New York.”

The photographers, both longtime residents here, remain in awe of Florida’s diversity —landscapes, streetscapes, wildlife, human life. They talk of unique nooks and crannies: the Greeks of Tarpon Springs, the cowboys of Okeechobee, the clams of Cedar Key.

In roughly five dozen Florida cities and towns, murals are popular public art, converting grit into hip, celebrating local heritage or just encouraging passersby to GROW (Jacksonville).

Wynwood, the former warehouse district in Miami, is a hipster hotbed and international destination. Fifty artists representing 16 countries have transformed 80,000 square feet of walls. Of Wynwood, Farrell says, “you’ll see people walking around with their cameras all day long.”

Elena Devers captures a lasting memory with her pointer Otis in Key West. (Photo by Patrick Farrell)

In Jacksonville’s Urban Core, 20 murals cover building pillars and columns and the nine-story facade of a garage. They are inspired by local bookstores and women. They are named “The Function of Education” and “Girl and Origami,” and their colors and imagery make you forget for a moment or two that you are standing in an asphalt parking lot.

Pensacola’s Jefferson Street Garage illustrates five centuries of history, from Spanish explorer Tristan de Luna to the Blue Angels. Erica Group’s original “Wings of the West” in DeLand has been so popular that she has since created five different sets of wings around town.

Remember: Everything looks better in the “golden hours” — the 60 minutes or so after sunrise and before sunset. Now get out there and #LoveFL.


Camping with the Blues
October 15-17, Brooksville, Florida
The annual Camping with the Blues Festival offers three days and three nights of “Blues under the Stars with the Stars of the Blues.” Whether you visit for the day or camp out for the weekend, you’ll enjoy listening to more than a dozen bands as you relax among the lush landscape of Sertoma Youth Ranch. The 62-acre property includes a campground with RV and tent sites, as well as bathroom and shower facilities.

Beyond the music, the event offers kid-friendly activities like face-painting and hayrides. Plus, polite pooches are also welcome!

The event is organized by Mojoe Productions Inc. as a way to support Sertoma Youth Ranch and the youth group activities provided there.