Sanibel and Captiva Island Nature Photos

Photographing the Islands

Sanibel and Captiva Islands are a special place on Florida’s west coast. Just a short drive across the Causeway Road from the mainland and suddenly you are in a completely different world – a nature wonderland! You will wonder at the island’s lush green tropical foliage and the assortment of different nature habitats and local creatures ripe for the camera lens.

From seaside to the depths of Ding Darling’s Nature Preserve you will be surrounded by Sanibel & Captiva photo op’s whether high up in the trees or even under water. Your endless assortment of models will vary from the feather clad to the glistening smooth silver skin of a bottle-nosed dolphin. Even tourists are good targets as they come in every size and shape and wear wild tropical colors while on vacation.

The images gathered here for our gallery were created by one of the area’s resident photographers, Roberta Schuldenfrei. She has been capturing the area’s tranquil beauty for over a decade.

Please take a moment to relax, and browse through her gallery of photographs.

About Roberta Schuldenfrei

A Florida native who has spent most of her adult life both in front of, and behind the camera. In the early ’70s, Roberta had the pleasure of being one of Flipper’s Trainer/Handlers, which quickly developed into a successful modeling career. She also graced the cover of Newsweek Magazine July of 1976.

Living and working in Sanibel/Captiva’s resort industry has perfected her camera skills, and provided generous amounts of nature and wildlife subject matter.

Roberta’s Tips & Tricks

Well here’s a few words to the wise to ward off some common problems while trying to get the perfect shot:

  • Early bird catches the worm? Early morning time is great for wildlife photography. The lighting is great, there is less chance of rain clouds, and there are many species of birds and other animals that hide out in the late afternoon heat.
  • Tread as quietly as possible as to not scare away your subjects. Wildlife is very timid. Especially be conscious on wooden boardwalks as heavy footsteps will scare everyone away.
  • Snap now – Crop later. Think quick and hit the shutter as soon as you see a good shot because wildlife does not ever sit still very long and they always seem to have somewhere to go. One out of 10 pictures will be the gem (if you’re lucky!). Almost as bad as taking baby pictures.
  • Remember that the climate here promises late afternoon showers in the summer season, so don’t get caught in the rain.
  • Our climate tends to be higher in humidity, esp. in the summer, so I keep a lot of zip lock bags handy to keep film and other equipment dry.
  • Don’t leave camera, equipment or film in cars. They get incredibly hot locked up in there resulting in all kinds of damage.
  • Conveniently, there are several film processing places on Sanibel including Arundel’s, CVS, and Bailey’s Center amongst others.

Favorite Photo Taking Spots

It wont be hard to find subjects on Sanibel or Captiva Island. One of the absolute favorites is our fantastic sunsets. The sun goes down over the water here in all kinds of amazing colors. Every day is a new experience. The following are a few great sites I particularly love:

  • Lighthouse Beach: view of causeway and gulf with a lot of great water sport activity.
  • Blind Pass: unique for shore birds and sea shells along sea wall.
  • Ding Darling Nature Preserve: Has walking, biking and driving trails with nature lookout points. Plenty of gators!
  • Causeway bridge: Water water everywhere! (Sorry about the bridge construction this year)
  • Catch a boat tour out of Captiva to Usepa Island: great for dolphin shots and sometimes also manatees.
  • Have you noticed how great beach shots look if you make sure to get some of the sea oats in the foreground? Try on any beach on the island.
  • Lighthouse Pier: great for fishing shots both the human and pelican kind.
  • Try the beach in front of ‘Tween Waters for the “long stretch of beach that never seems to end” type picture.
  • Bowman’s Beach: I love the driftwood and cormorants.

Nature Trails & Parks

Click here to view some of Roberta’s favorite Sanibel & Captvia photography spots.

View galleries of Roberta’s pictures below:

Hogfish in coral reef

10 Animals You Can See in a Coral Reef on Sanibel Island

The coral reef is one of the last major bastions of varied, epic, and pristine marine life. The coral reef is a world treasure and we need to respect it and care for it. While seeing this gem of the Earth, you can find some amazing creatures. Some of them seem pulled right out of a fairy tale, yet here... Read More »

How to Create a Seashell Collection Display

Collecting take-home seashell souvenirs represents the essence of your beach vacation experience. Seashell collectors roam the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva, on the lookout for that perfect and intact specimen. Sanibel and Captiva seashell collecting is a popular activity for numerous reasons- anyone can do it and you never know what you’ll find! While seashell collecting is fun, seashell organizing... Read More »

Milkweed a popular flower in Florida

Top 10 Flowers to Identify in Florida

If you’re thinking about moving to a new area, it might be fun to identify the local flora and fauna, which is what this article is all about. It also might be fun to vacation in the area to try it on for size – and see the wildlife and plant life up close and personal. Sanibel and Captiva Islands... Read More »

Bird watching at the Sanibel Gardens Preserve

Tips for Bird Watching Near Sanibel and Captiva

If you are planning a vacation to the Sanibel and Captiva, chances are you are an avid bird watcher. While many folks will choose to go to the Ding Darling refuge, a reserve abundant with bald eagles, there is so much more one can get out of their ventures in bird watching in areas like Center Tract, Bailey Tract, Sanibel... Read More »

Bald Eagles on Sanibel Island

Bald Eagles on Sanibel Island

The bald eagle is one of the most aggressively-protected species in North America. Their rarity, iconic status, and utter beauty have captivated us for generations. Perhaps the only positive thing you can say about the lack of a strong bald eagle population is how special it is when you do see one. Their rarity makes a sighting even more spectacular.... Read More »

Sea Turtle & Marine Life Mortality – All Time High

You may or may not have heard about the red tide/algal bloom chaos that is going on in Florida, chances are you have since it’s pretty hard to ignore at this point. Below are just a few things that would be useful for the community to know in regard to the bloom and tips on what you can do to... Read More »

Coral Reef Restoration Lecture

Have an interest in helping save coral reefs or would just like to learn more about the threats harming coral reefs? Check out the free program this Friday, April 6th with guest speaker and scientist Dr. Erin Muller. There will be two lectures, 10am and 1pm and will be held at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Don’t miss out on... Read More »


The $1.6 million dollar SCCF marine laboratory’s construction is well underway. The first week of June should see the first level floor being installed and framing should start around July 4th. The anticipated completion date is December. The new building includes an outdoor experimentation area with tanks and running sea water which will allow staff to conduct on site research. Read More »


A rare Great White Pelican was spotted at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge the morning of February 1st, 2017. The news quickly spread and hundreds of visitors migrated to the Refuge in hopes of seeing this unique bird which is native to Africa, Europe and Asia. This same species was spotted at “Ding” last February creating quite a stir. “Ding”... Read More »


The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is offering a series of speakers now through April to promote wildlife appreciation. Lectures begin at 4:15pm in the Visitor Education Center. Prices are $10 for adults, $5 for children 13 to 17 and children under 13 are free. Visit for details on all of the upcoming speakers. Read More »