5 Questions With The July 2015 #DryTortugas Photo Contest Winner

Dry Tortugas July Winner Blog

Meet Paul Sweet, our July 2015 #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 partner and I visited the Dry Tortugas National Park in June of this year. The Yankee Freedom ferried us to the park.

2. If you arrived by the Yankee Freedom, how was your ferry trip?

The trip from Key West to the Dry Tortugas was very nice. We enjoyed a delicious and filling breakfast upon boarding, took advantage of the Dramamine that was available for purchase and found a nice cool spot on the top level of the vessel. While on board we saw a sea turtle, which was certainly a highlight of the trip out.

Since we were camping in the park for three nights, we opted to enjoy lunch on the day of our departure. After three nights on the island, the lunchtime food selections were more than a little mouth-watering. I don’t think I’ve ever made and finished such an enormous sandwich as the one I had on that last day! The smoothness of the ride made it easy for us to catch a few winks of sleep before the long drive back to Oklahoma, which was nice, too.

3. How did you capture your winning photo? What inspired you to take it? Did you use any cool camera gear?

I captured the photo on an evening walk around the island the first night of our stay. A number of crabs caught my attention as they dug their holes into the beach. This one seemed less skittish that the others and gave me the perfect opportunity to photograph it. I used my iPhone 5s to capture the image.

4. What made your trip to the Dry Tortugas memorable?

Getting to camp on the Dry Tortugas was a dream come true for us. We wanted to visit since first hearing about it several years ago, and it did not disappoint.

The snorkeling was my favorite part of the adventure. We saw so many incredible species of coral and fish; huge brain corals, colorful gorgonians and sea fans, zoanthids, barracuda, rays, tarpon and others. The remote location of the park gives those who spend the night an extra bonus of unmatched peace and quiet (not to mention an incredibly clear and bright night sky). Bioluminescent creatures flashed their lights under the crystal clear waters making for a spectacular nighttime walk around the moat of Fort Jefferson.

Exploring the fort was also quite memorable. Knowing the history of the location (thanks to our very knowledgeable tour guide and books available in the gift shop) brought to life for us how it must have been for past inhabitants of the island.

One final memory I will hold onto for quite some time will be the sound of the birds which nested on the adjoining key. It was magnificent no matter what time of day or night!

5. What do you plan to do with your National Park Annual Pass? Which national parks would you like to visit next?

I think a camping trip to Big Bend National Park will definitely be in order. Joshua Tree NP, Yosemite NP, Kenai Fjords NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Olympic NP are also on my list, so we will see see if perhaps we can swing a visit to one or more of those, too.