5 Questions With The June #DryTortugas Photo Contest Winner

june winner mathew aguilar

Meet Mathew Aguilar, our June 2024 #DryTortugas Photo Contest winner. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience at the Dry Tortugas National Park. Read on to learn how he captured his amazing photo!

1. When did you visit the Dry Tortugas National Park? Did you arrive by seaplane, the Yankee Freedom ferry, or another way?
My wife and I visited Dry Tortugas in March 2024. We arrived by the Yankee Ferry.

2. If you arrived by the Yankee Freedom, how was your ferry trip?
We were worried our trip was going to be cancelled because the weather wasn’t the greatest, but we were lucky enough to still get to go! It was a bit of a rough ride because the waves ended up being higher than the estimated 3-5 feet. We were lucky to have pre-medicated with Dramamine because over half the passengers (and even a crew member) got seasick. That being said, the crew was incredibly amazing, and it was 100% worth it to make it to Dry Tortugas.

3. How did you capture your winning photo? What inspired you to take it? Did you use any cool camera gear?
It was generally overcast on our trip to Dry Tortugas. However, when we got to the lighthouse, the clouds parted, the sun came out, and the lighting was perfect. I noticed it was an incredibly symmetrical photo, and I wanted to try and get the full breadth of the ramparts. Additionally, I loved the contrasting colors of the blue sky, the green foliage, the red brick, and the black cannon and lighthouse. I used a Ricoh GRIII with a wide conversion lens. The camera is very niche and usually used for street photography, but I’ve found it to be amazing for landscape photography due to its wide-angle lenses and compactness.

4. What made your trip to the Dry Tortugas memorable?
Dry Tortugas was such an incredibly unique, beautiful, and historically-rich park. The beginning of the trip started off the memorable experience. We got lucky with last minute tickets on the last day of our trip to Key West, so when we got stuck in traffic that morning, I ran out of the car in a thunderstorm to see if we would be able to get through past the holdup as we didn’t want to miss out on the adventure. We made it to the ferry in time, and the weather wanted to give us one last gift with a bumpy ride. However, it was all worth it as exploring the fort was a wonderful experience, and we enjoyed getting to hear Hollywood talk all about its history. We loved walking around and just enjoying all of the peace and beauty Dry Tortugas had to offer.

5. What do you plan to do with your National Park Annual Pass?
We want to visit all 63 national parks, and Dry Tortugas was our 25th. We plan to use our national park pass to continue our adventures into America’s natural beauty. We just visited Canyonlands National Park, and our next stop is going to be either Great Basin National Park or Olympic National Park.