One of Sanibel Island’s most talented photographers is Melanie Moraga. She won Best Sunset in the November, 2012 issue of Florida Travel & Life and her pictures have made the cover of the Sanibel Shell Festival magazine four times.
Moraga’s photography is sold at Bailey’s General Store, Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, and Island Inn, and is available for purchase on melanie-moraga.pixels.com.
Melanie first came to the islands with her family as a teenager in the late 1980s. They returned year after year to stay at the Sunset Beach condos on Captiva. “There was something about driving over the Causeway that was magical, vacationing here was always the highlight of my year!” she said. As a teenager she told her family that she would one day move to Sanibel.
In 1992 she left Connecticut for Miami Beach, which gave her a foothold in Florida. In 2000, Melanie and her now ex-husband, Angel, moved to Bonita Springs.
Around 2007 her interest in photography came to life with a series of pictures of the flowers arranged around her pool. “I taught myself, I’ve never had any formal training,” said Melanie. “It was just something I felt. I see things differently when I look through the lens. I love to shoot shells and sunset.”
Her award-winning photo for Florida Travel & Life arose out of a dramatic moment on Captiva. “We were at dinner at the Mucky Duck and went out to the beach for the sunset,” she recalled. “There was not a cloud in the sky. And suddenly an intense and frightening thunderstorm rolled in.”
With her penchant for photographing shells, it is not a surprise she ended up taking a position at the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum. “The Shell Museum was the first place on my list,” said Melanie. “I had been on a field trip to the museum with my daughter, Hannah, as a chaperone in 2010 and was impressed by what I saw.”
She started out part-time at the front desk in 2012 and was promoted to assistant director in 2015. She and her girls, Emily (15) and Hannah (13), moved to Sanibel in 2014, bringing a nearly 30-year dream to pass. “I still pinch myself in the morning, I can’t believe I live and work on Sanibel Island!”
Melanie mentions Dorrie Hipschman, the Executive Director at the Shell Museum, as a guiding light. “Dorrie has taught me so much about the museum world and has been an extraodinary mentor,” said Melanie. “I love my job at the museum, you meet some of the most amazing people, and our members and supporters are such kind people.”
Melanie describes the purpose of her phorograhy in the following terms: “to lure the human eye into the secret places that lie just below the surface of things, she captures the unique and often unseen side of nature’s beauty, taking the viewer directly into the heart of the image.”
Her photogoraphs have also been featuring in the marketing materials by of Sanibel CHR, Casa Ybel Resort, Stetson University and the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.