There is so much beauty and talent in the Nonahood. Each month, we will uncover the art and artists surrounding us. This month, I grabbed my skateboard and went for a ride so I could follow behind Michael St. Claire while he captures nature’s beauty.
Many Lake Nonians have an evening ritual. Some meet their friends at the Nona Tap Room or Nona Blue for a happy hour drink (or two). Others may run or exercise, and some may just get in their PJ’s and read a good book. Michael St. Claire, a Laureate Park resident, does something a little different. Michael grabs his good pal Savior (German shepherd/Rottweiler mix), a camera and longboard and captures beautiful moments in time.
Riding his skateboard is a way for St. Claire to get out and forget about the stress of everyday life. A mortgage broker by day who often posts his photos on his neighborhood’s Facebook page, he fantasizes of one day having a gallery filled with his pieces, comprised mainly of outdoor photographic images.
“Sunsets and sunrises are things people appreciate. We get to see them every single day, and every day they are different than yesterday,” St. Claire said. “That [he points to the clouds] you can’t find anywhere else. I won’t come out tomorrow and find this line and those clouds, in that form, in that way. I never heard anyone say, ‘I hate sunsets or sunrises.’ ”
Michael tries to pick up on things people see every day but may miss the details or not recognize the beauty. On his skateboard, he will catch something in his peripheral vision, stop, and mentally compose a photograph. Sometimes, Savior will stop randomly, causing St. Claire to brake. Many times, Michael looks around and finds a treasure trove of beautiful images he might have otherwise overlooked in passing. St. Claire adds, “At first I fought him on it, but now I don’t because it works out more times than not.”
Sunsets and sunrises are things people appreciate. We get to see them every single day, and every day they are different than yesterday….I never heard anyone say, ‘I hate sunsets or sunrises.’
-Michael St. Claire
Michael describes why he likes to share his photos: “Your mind is always recording, right? Everyone is going a mile a minute. People scroll through the Internet or social media, stop on one of my images, and they realize that they have actually seen something like it in the past, now just in still form. And they can study it and pick out the intricate details of it. That’s what makes the photos aesthetically pleasing. There are so many things around us that we can appreciate at any given moment in time.”
Because the Central Florida sky at dusk or dawn is photographic “low-hanging fruit,” St. Claire has educated himself to become his own pseudo weather man. “I can tell there are going to be vivid orange skies tonight,” he says while looking out the window of the Nona Starbucks.
As the day moves closer to sunset, his passion grows for the art that nature will create and he will capture. “It’s going to get really colorful here! I knew it! This is going to be great!” He peers through the lens pointed into the atmosphere.
Other times, the evening sky conditions are not favorable and will require him to focus his sights on other aspects of his surroundings. The weather will guide him to find alternate options at different times of the day or channel his concentration on cows, people, or flowers. He may even venture outside the Nonahood to downtown and nab some still frames of urban life.
Skateboarding itself can produce some great photographs. Many times, St. Claire rides around and finds himself surrounded by a beautiful environment. He then will “pray and spray,” a term he uses for rapidly taking pictures or setting his camera to “burst,” shooting many in a short amount of time and hoping the result is one aesthetic gem buried within.
His fellow Laureate Park residents see St. Claire’s work almost daily as he posts many of his images to the neighborhood’s Facebook page. Fellow Lake Nonians who want to enjoy his art also can view his photos on his Facebook page, “Saint Photography.” Or you might even spot him snapping photos on his skateboard through your part of the Nonahood.