During my road trip through Florida, I visited Naples Pier to capture some sunset photographs. It was a nice sunset. About 20 minutes after the sun went down, I packed my gear and started to leave the beach. I then decided to walk onto the pier to see if there might be other photo possibilities for the next day. To my surprise, the pier was suddenly illuminated! In my opinion, it was the lit pier that would make for a much more interesting photograph!
So, I returned the next night to capture the picture. The challenge is that the pier isn't lit until the sky is very dark. By that time, the colors in the sky are mostly gone and the picture has too much contrast. The way that I approached solving this problem was to blend a couple of exposures. The first photograph was captured during sunset when the sky looked good to my eye. I then kept the camera in the same spot (mounted securely to my tripod) until well after sunset when the pier lit up. Later in post processing, I blended the two images. I used the original scene as my base picture and then brought the lights from the pier into the image. This way, I was able to light up the pier myself!
The softness of the water in the Gulf of Mexico is a result of a very long exposure. To accomplish that, I attached a ND (neutral density) to my Nikon 24-70 lens. My neutral density filters got a real workout during this road trip.