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In Pictures: Coping with a beach day with two red flags
By Tom Adkinson
June 23, 2023

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GRAYTON BEACH, Fla. – On days when two red flags are flying over the beach signaling absolutely no swimming, many vacationers turn to other pursuits. You don’t really have to abandon the beach, especially if you have a camera handy (and who doesn’t have a camera-equipped smartphone these days?) and want to sharpen your photographic eye. Red flag days are opportunities to observe the beach environment from new perspectives and to find images that very well may be among the most memorable of your vacation. In particular, look for tight images you can isolate into one frame, especially if they tell a full story.

There’s no mistaking this message

grayton beach florida flags
The sky may be blue, and the weather may seem perfect, but water conditions (rip currents in particular) can prompt beach safety officials to tell you to keep your swimming suit dry. Ignoring the advisory not only is dangerous, it can lead to a citation, which never is a good vacation souvenir. Image by Tom Adkinson

Front row seats

grayton beach chairs
This row of colorful beach chairs will provide beachgoers with a perspective to contemplate the power and beauty of the Gulf of Mexico without the distraction of a human element in their view. Image by Tom Adkinson

Contractor at work

excavation equipment
Even if the water is closed, pint-sized contractors and their excavation equipment still can move sand around and enjoy the setting. Image by Tom Adkinson

Do a good deed daily

beachgoer kindness
Walton County makes it easy for beachgoers to do a good deed by providing baskets and encouraging visitors to keep the beach clean for everyone. This photo is an example of a travel photo that tells a complete story in one exposure. Image by Tom Adkinson

Beach shoes become photo props

beach shoes
This collection of beach shoes left at the end of a boardwalk didn’t require an art director to stage a good beach photo. Photographers just need to keep their eyes open and sometime to look at small scenes instead of expansive ones. Image by Tom Adkinson

Turtle tracks

grayton beach turtle tracks
When you know what you’re looking for, you can discover evidence of nature at work. A female green turtle made this trail leading into the sand dunes where she dug a nest and deposited upwards of 150 eggs before returning to the Gulf of Mexico. Mature green turtles can be up to five feet long and weigh 400 pounds. Leatherback sea turtles can be even bigger, and their tracks in the sand are different. Image by Tom Adkinson

Look, up in the sky

blue angels flyover
The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team flies out of nearby Pensacola Naval Air Station, and Florida panhandle beachgoers sometimes get brief glimpses of the jets as they zoom by parallel to the coast at surprisingly low altitudes. Now, that’s a beach vacation memory. U.S. Navy photo

Trip-planning resources: and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

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