Outer Banks: Part 3

· Reading Time: 17 minutes

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Well, it has been about 12 hours since I completed my second blog last night before going to bed.  I woke up around 8am this morning and after getting a bite to eat, I was back downstairs working through the images from Wednesday morning.  I had imported them into Lightroom before heading up for the night so I knew that I had a lot of work ahead of me with 118 frames captured from two locations.  It was going to take some effort to cull those down to the best of the best and I really hadn’t realized that I had shot so many images that morning.  I guess it was because I had my good luck charm with me, otherwise known as the “Photo Wench.”

I had been working on where to go for a second sunrise session on the Hatteras Coastline after getting back from my evening shoot by the South end of the island.  Toni and I had already walked North on the beach by the motel and there really wasn’t much out there for compositions.  Not wanting to spend all of my time down at the lighthouse, I really wanted to try something different.  I knew from experience that piers offer some great visual interest when there is a lack of foreground elements to include.  Looking around on the map, the closest pier looked to be Avon Pier in the town just to our North.  It was only about 7 miles away which would work out well for timing.  I asked Toni if she wanted to go with me and as I was getting ready to say “if you change your mind, just let me know in the morning,” she responded that she would go with me.  This is indeed a special occasion because after years of watching me create photographs, she has grown bored with the fast paced lifestyle of a landscape photographer.  I can understand that as I get bored of waiting for light to change and sitting in the same spot for an hour or more working on the same composition.  To have her get up and join me was going to be a nice treat.  Even though I am focused on my work, I do love having her input and a bit of humor from time to time to keep me on my toes.

We got up around 5:15am and headed out the door around 6am bound for Avon Pier.  We hadn’t been here and we weren’t really sure what we were going to find, but the Google information on the pier looked promising because of the rickety nature of the old pier.  It would fit right in with my decay photography.  My plan was for some long exposures in the blue hour since there were a good many clouds predicted.  The chance for a colorful sunrise was slim according to the sunrise forecaster I use.  It looked like the clouds were all going to be very low which usually meant no color.  That was fine by me as I was wanting to get a moody shot of the pier with soft details in the sky and a smooth ocean beneath it.  It was a simple concept and one that I thought would work out well for the conditions.

When Toni and I arrived at the pier we got parked and walked out onto the beach.  The pier was right there and looked perfect.  From the South side, there was not much interest in the sky, but I could tell that if I were to go to the other side, I would be rewarded with some texture in the clouds and even a spot of color near the horizon from the approaching sun.  When we got to the other side, I started to look at the scene and found that the spot of color would look great just under the pier while a brighter spot of the sky would offset it to the upper left.  There was no reason for anything major when it came to lens choice, just a moderate wide angle was all that I would need.  I fitted the 24-70mm lens and decided to add a Polarizer to give a little bit more contrast to the water as it rushed up on the shore.  I knew that the tide was coming in so that would make it easy to smooth out the foreground and avoid the sand which was what I was wanting for this image.

I got things all set up and started to dial in an exposure of 30 seconds.  The first image was just too dark and I thought I could do better so I increased two stops to two minutes worth of exposure.  I started the timed exposure and about a minute into it a wave came up and got two of my tripod legs.  The water wasn’t the problem, but the now sinking sand was an issue.  I could see the camera move down so I stopped the exposure and saw the blur that had taken place.  I repositioned the camera a few feet back and recomposed the same image and shot it again.  Once again with about 30 seconds of capture completed another wave came in and did the same thing.  Enough of this!  I pulled back even further, zoomed the lens in to get roughly the same composition and adjusted the aperture down to f/9 which allowed for 30 seconds so at least I would get something before the waves threatened me again.

I shot a series of images at 30 seconds and found that they were looking pretty good.  As the water came in, I would move and recompose.  It was that moody blue hour light that I was loving and just kept shooting the images as the light was changing. The sliver of warm light stayed really consistent in the background and helped to pull the attention to the pier.  It was also starting to reflect on the ocean’s surface with added another layer of color to this scene.  I shot a bunch of this one before the light started to change up and I began recomposing.  I think that my exposures got down to about eight seconds before I changed up my plans.

First Light at Avon“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As you can see from this behind the scenes shot that Toni grabbed , the sky was starting to pick up a little bit of color above the small sliver that I had been so excited to see.  This was the indication that things might be getting interesting before long.  I was seeing the possibility of a decent sunrise starting.  If the sun found the right holes in the clouds we could be in for something special.  I began to work different compositions trying to anticipate the look of the sky.  I knew that I was wanting to have some detail in the water to complement the details in the sky so that meant that I was going to have to speed up the shutter.  Fortunately the light was improving and I was able to get around a second exposure at f/11 which was my goal for the sunrise shot.

I kept firing off frames as the light changed in hopes of getting the best light whenever that happened.  That is one of the frustrating things about shooting a sunrise.  If you say you are going to wait for that perfect sky to release the shutter, you will wait until the light just disappears before you even press the button.  The trick is to capture the subtle changes along the way with the hopes that it will keep getting better.  If it never gets to that look that you were after, you will at least have something to work with.  That was kind of the case with this sunrise.  I kept waiting for the sky to kick off, but it never really did what I was hoping that it would.  I was just capturing the changing light and trying to time the waves just right so that they would compliment the pier.

Avon Sunrise“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

When the color was all gone from the sky, I had shot 33 frames.  None of them were all that impressive, but I was seeing some color in the clouds.  This is where Toni would swear that photographers lie through their pictures.  I knew that there was color in the sky because I could see it on the fringes of the clouds overhead.  I also knew that the overall colors on the scene were rather cool and drab which meant that I could do some finessing with white balance and a little color grading to get the subtle hues to pop in the sky.  I was hoping that would be the case when I got the images home and started editing them.

As it turned out, the sky absolutely came to life with very little input from Lightroom.  I picked out the hues that I wanted in the scene and started to really pull them out and accentuate them.  It didn’t take as long to edit this image than it did the first one which looks much simpler.  It just all came together and the final test was having Toni give it a look.  Since she was there, she would have no problem calling me out as a liar if she felt that the image wasn’t true to the scene.  She loved it, and actually said that she was finding these coastal images a nice change of pace from my regular images.  I have to say that I agree with her on that.  It is nice to shake the boat occasionally and add some different scenes to your repertoire.

Avon Overlook“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, No filters

With a whole lot of button pushes in the bag, I started to look for another subject that I could photograph.  I had what I had come here for, but with the sky looking rather interesting I wanted to take advantage of what I could.  We looked around and I remembered seeing some of the lovely beach fences that I enjoy photographing so much just to the side of where we entered the beach at.  There really wasn’t much special about these fences as they just went up to a dune.  There were houses on the other side of the dune which I didn’t really care for so I was about to give up on that subject.  However, if I were go get low enough, I was pretty sure that I could mask the majority of the houses and just have a single one visible on top of the dune.  I got in close and started putting a composition together.

I was able to get the extraneous structures out of the image, but I was still not happy with how the overall composition was looking.  It was just a little too stagnant for me.  I kept moving in closer to the fence and changing my position until I had a dramatic angle on the whole scene.  I was actually able to raise the tripod up a good bit to accentuate the angle of the fences while the houses were still out of view further down the beach.  The sky was looking great at this point and the morning sun was starting to give a nice glow to the scene.  It was at this point that I realized that my polarizer had become the victim of the ocean spray and it was a bit foggy.  Knowing that I would lose the light if I tried to clean this off, I just removed the filter from the lens.  It wasn’t doing much in the way of helping the image anyway and with the wide angle that I was shooting at, there was likely going to be strange effects in the sky so I was better off without it at this point.  I managed to get a couple of shots created with a clear lens, good light, and strong composition.  This was the type of image that I was used to shooting at the beach as I always manage to find this type of scene no matter where we are.

Unraveled“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, No filters, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

I was thinking that we were done at this point and it was time to go and get some breakfast.  Toni had worked up an appetite photographing me photographing the beach.  While going back to the parking lot, I happened to see the remains of one of these beach fences and it captured my attention.  There was a composition here and a story to be told.  There wasn’t much in the way of contrasting colors and the light was soft so there were no shadows which meant that I was going to have a hard time conveying this scene through an image.  I knew that it was likely going to be black and white because there was really only a single color in the scene anyway.  It was just going to be tricky getting the scene to show contrast in black and white.

I framed up the scene and made about three captures with slightly different compositions so I would have my choice depending on how the edits went.  When I got it home, I could tell that color was definitely not the way to go with this scene.  I made the conversion to black and white and found that there was just very little depth to it.  I played with the color profiles and found one that gave a bit more dimension to the image and then adjusted the white balance to mostly a blue scene which I could then massage the blue channel to give more of a gray scale to the image.  With some subtle adjustments to the contrasts I was able to get the image that I was after.  This was the hardest image in terms of edits that I had done for the morning.  There wasn’t much to the overall processing, but it was not an easy task to work the color channels so thoroughly in order to make an image without color.  Once I had that part figured out, the rest of the processing was a piece of cake.

I did finally decide to finish up and load the gear back in the truck so that we could go and get breakfast.  We stopped at a little muffin shop close by and had a great breakfast.  From there we decided to head back down to Frisco where we had seen the Native American Museum the day before.  It was something that she was interested in visiting and that was all I needed to know.  Well, there were other parts that I guess I needed to know…like whether or not the museum was actually opened or not.  When we got there, there were no cars anywhere around and the sign on the door said that due to COVID, they were closed indefinitely.  Well nuts!  Guess we won’t get to see that.  Not knowing where else to go we decided to head back to the room and regroup for a bit.

On the way back I kept my eye out for a marina that we had passed before which looked interesting as well as a scene that included lobster traps.  Yeah, I was interested in a stack of lobster pots sitting near some trees.  You can take me out of the farming community, but you can’t take my love for rural and rustic scenes away.  The locations weren’t that far up the road and Toni caught the lobster location before I did because of how it was positioned.  It was too late to turn in at that point so I decided to go and check the marina out and turn around there.

When we got to the marina I looked at the boats and the general lay of the land.  It was interesting and full of great subjects, but nothing was jumping out at me as a photograph.  Not feeling overly impressed with the scene I went back to those silly lobster pots in hopes that I could do something with them.  We pulled off the road onto a nice gravel surface and I gave the scene a look.  There was a house next to the bit of land I was interested in.  I was sure that this belonged to them, but I wasn’t convinced that I needed to get in any closer than the side of the road.  I was pretty sure that I was going to be in good shape right there on the gravel so I grabbed my camera with the 24-70mm lens and cleaned up my polarizer before mounting it up.

Seafood Carryout“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

The scene that caught my eye was the colorful lobster pots as a foreground leading off to the ocean on the West side of the island.  There was a short tree on the right that I used to frame the image and keep the eyes where I wanted them.  The trees behind the pots were quite interesting as well and I liked them as a mid ground element to the scene.  The sky was not great with the high clouds, but I was hoping that they would give me just enough texture to make the image work.

I shot about five images here and decided that the sky might be too boring to pull off the composition.  It almost was, but there was just enough detail there to keep it interesting.  However, in the event that I wasn’t able to work this image out, I decided that I might want to shoot some more intimate compositions of the pots with the trees behind them.  It was the trees that Toni had seen and liked the most here so I wanted to give them a fair try in a few different types of compositions.  For these shots I was going to need more reach, so I went back to the truck and swapped out lenses for my 70-200mm telephoto.  I tried a few with a bit of the sky above, but that didn’t work out at all.  However, it did get me paying attention to the pots more and I found even more interest in them.

Bisque Baskets“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Seeing the baskets as colors rather than objects, I started to envision some abstract images.  I zoomed the lens to about 200mm and started scanning the pots to see exactly what compositions were available to me.  I managed to land on a section that had a red one very prominent with a yellow one right next to it.  The greens and blues surrounding them toned down the colors while allowing the drama of the warm tones to still shine through.  Just to keep it as simple as possible, I opened the lens up and went with a very limited depth of field so that the eyes didn’t get too confused looking through the wired walls.  I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out, but I was liking the concept.

Lobsters Await“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

While I was shooting the isolations of the pots that were closest to where I was parked, I found myself in a slightly different area than I had been before.  The light on the distant batch of traps was better now and I could see a composition developing that would exclude the sky above and use the tree that Toni loved so much as a contrasting element to the pile of traps.  I framed up the scene and elevated the camera to give the elements sufficient separation before making a series of images.  The clouds were passing over the sun so the lighting continued to change. I was going for warm diffused light, but not anything too shadowed or too bright.  Yeah, I was looking for something very specific.  When it happened, I was right there with my finger on the trigger.  I think I got about a half dozen or so images with this composition and I think it is my favorite from this scene.

Squarepot“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I was getting ready to pack up and head back to the room, I saw the side of the traps that I had been working on earlier and decided that there was one trap in particular that caught my eye.  It was a yellow square one with a faded blue buoy inside.  When I looked at it all I could think of was Spongebob Squarepants.  I decided that I had to get one more isolation abstract of this before I left.  It wasn’t hard to capture as the sun was looking good on that side already and I didn’t have to wait for anything really to change.  It was another wide aperture shot to help simplify all of the lines and textures so that it was the colors and shapes that kept the attention.

With that last isolation done, we headed back to the room after a very long morning out and about.  We rested and started making plans for the evening.  I was wanting to photograph a lighthouse, but since I couldn’t get in close to Hatteras for a picture, I was going to have to go up to Bodie for a chance at a lighthouse in the storm clouds which would be rolling in later in the afternoon.  I don’t know how those images turned out yet since I haven’t even started editing them, so look for them in the next installment of this ongoing series from the Outer Banks.

If you see anything that you would like to have on your walls, please let me know, or you can just order my standard sized prints directly from the my gallery store.  I hope to be back with my fourth entry later tonight and I hope that the Bodie pictures turn out as good as I think they will.

Until next time…

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