Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Moving right along with the photographs from the Outer Banks trek, I’ve got the evening’s images all finished up from Wednesday. After our morning out and about, Toni and I caught up on our sleep for a few hours during the afternoon. I had already made plans to go out for an evening shoot at the Bodie Island Lighthouse about 40 miles North of the motel. My original plan was to photograph Hatteras under some stormy skies at some point during the week at the beach. What was supposed to be a very turbulent week weather wise and turned into a very mild week with mostly sunny skies. That was about to change as there was a front moving through starting around 8pm and continuing through the middle of the day on Thursday. It was going to be my best chance for getting a good sky during the week and I wanted to take advantage of that with a lighthouse. Toni and I had been to Bodie Island on our last adventure to the Outer Banks a few years ago and I was able to photograph it then. However, the conditions were not all that great and I had pretty much an overcast and hazy day to work with. I still managed to get a decent image of the lighthouse, but it was rather static and not all that spectacular in my mind. This might be the opportunity that I needed to get a much better image of this subject.
With sunset at 7:20 (I think that was right), I wanted to be out there around 6:30 so I could start working the scene while the light was good up until after sunset when the goal was some blue hour images with the light going. That would mean that we would need to leave around 5:45 in order to make the 45 minute trip North. We might as well catch an early dinner before getting started which we did. While we were eating I couldn’t help but notice that the sky was still pretty much clear and that didn’t give me a lot of hope for the evening’s shoot. However, with the weather looking like a complete washout for Thursday I was dead set on giving it a try. This could very well be my last chance to get any pictures while we were here. It sounds dramatic, but there was heavy rain expected from tonight into tomorrow afternoon with winds exceeding 30mph. Even if it did stop raining, high winds and sand are not a good match for any camera system and I wasn’t feeling like donating my rig to the flying sand monster for the sake of a picture. That wind was going to carry through until Friday when we left, so in all actuality I was probably done at this point with the camera. Might as well make it a good last effort, right?
Toni was nice enough to join me on this little road trip and I’m glad that she did. It helped make the trip a little quicker and I always have more fun when she is around anyway. As we went North, the clouds were coming in, but there was not a lot of definition in them and that worried me. I couldn’t help but recall the last time I shot this lighthouse and all the effort that went into recovering the details in the hazy sky to make some form of interest there. I was really hoping that I would have a different experience this time, but it really wasn’t shaping up to be that way sadly.
We arrived at Bodie right around 6:30 and that was going to give me time to figure out my compositions. Well, first I had to get over a major obstacle. As we were pulling into the parking lot there were a number of cars already here which wasn’t too terrible. I was expecting a few visitors to be be here and I was sure I could work around them. However, these were not visitors. There were about 20 people in the area between the keeper’s house and the lighthouse and they were playing some form of tennis catch or something. Whatever they were doing they were all over the base of the lighthouse which was going to make any composition difficult if not impossible. It wasn’t looking like they were going to be moving any time soon so I had to make a decision. Was I going to set up with them in the shot hoping that they would move by the time the light happened, or should I just try something further away.
Knowing about the boardwalk off to the side of the lighthouse, I asked Toni if she would want to join me out that way in hopes that I could hide the athletic club with other elements. She agreed and we started the short walk out to the overlook. When we arrived there were several other people there, but they weren’t in the way. I found the spot that I wanted to be in and looked. I could still see the folks in the field, but it did look like they were packing up. I went ahead and pulled the camera out because the sky was actually looking pretty good in this direction. I chose my 24-70mm lens because it would be able to cover pretty much any focal length that I would be needing here. I checked to see if a polarizer would work, but there was little if any change in the scene so I just left it off. That was a good thing because the wind was already getting ramped up and I was wanting a faster shutter speed than the polarizer would allow. It was just going to be a simple exposure, but I had to wait for the crowd to move.
When they finally did get out of the way, I was ready to start making images. That was when the folks in the covered portion of the overlook came by me and asked “Are you taking a picture?” I love that question when I have my camera out on a tripod. Not much else that I can do with it, yet I always feel like such a smartass when I reply “yep, I’m taking a picture.” Now that we got that out of the way they continued down the boardwalk as I got the composition figured out. Just at the moment that the sky started to look really good and the crowd had left, I realized that the group that had just walked by me had stopped on the boardwalk. They were holding up a cell phone and I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling out “Hey, are you taking a picture?” I behaved though, but I was willing them to keep moving on down the walkway and get out of my scene. I guess finally they heard my inner yelling and they moved on. I started to make exposures with slight changes in composition and exposure. I was very interested in getting the entire scene in focus, but I didn’t bother with focus stacking since I was shooting a very wide angle focal length here. I just focused on the first bend in the boardwalk and set the aperture to f/14 which gave me great depth of field and had everything in focus.
I tried to time my exposures so that the light was lit. that was not the easiest thing to do though as it was warming up and there was no real rhythm to it. I was also having to time my shots between cars moving in the parking lot and people moving around. I was paying attention to a lot of aspects of this shot and none of them were really the sky. I knew that it was interesting, but I wasn’t paying it much attention as I kept making exposures. I ended up making 16 images from this point and decided that since the field was clear and the majority of the people had left we needed to go back to my original concept for the composition.
Toni and I just grabbed everything and went on out that way without breaking the camera down. I was planning on using the same rig so there was really no sense in pulling it all apart just to rebuild it. When we got down there, I was so happy to see that all was clear. It was just a matter of finding the right spot to stand for the image. I was trying to be careful about introducing perspective distortion into the frame which is very easy to do with verticals and wide angles. I knew I was further away than the last time I had shot this lighthouse, but more importantly, I pretty much centered the lighthouse in the frame so that it would go straight up and not need to be adjusted in post processing. My plan was to crop the image down to either a square format or possibly a 4×5 format so I would be able to get the lighthouse off center if it bothered me too much.
It didn’t take long before I found the right angle and distance. I elevated the camera as much as I could so that the angle of the lens was minimized. A tilt shift lens would have been handy here, but I don’t own one, so that wasn’t going to be a solution. I felt like the angles were good and I was ready for the light to change. The clouds were interesting in this direction, but lacked any real color to them. I was hoping that as the sun dropped they would start to pick up some more color. They did, but not that much unfortunately. I was thinking that this was going to be a pretty non-dramatic sunset image, but I stuck with it in case the light did kick off.
remember when I was talking about how to capture the best light for an image when we last talked? I was doing the same thing here and capturing image after image in case the ideal light never came. That way I was assured to have the best light that the evening had to offer me. That best light of the evening happened pretty early on and I didn’t really recognize it at the time as being good light. I thought it was mediocre at best. You can kind of see the hints of the color that would come in when you look at the picture that Toni grabbed of me while I was getting a few early shots. Those hues increased a bit, but not so much as to get me excited.
It wasn’t until I got home and started to look through the images that I realized that my vision for this location just wasn’t panning out at all. I really wanted to have a lively sky in both of the images. The first one had a good deal of color to it and it went rather quickly, but the second one was much harder. I could see the color was there, but it was not wanting to be brought out. I had to work with it for quite some time and try multiple tricks that I have learned when it comes to skies before I was able to tap into the beauty that was there. It was almost a lost cause and one that I considered doing a monochrome image of because there was good texture in the sky at least. I was just committed to pulling the color out of it if I could. I finally managed to get the color to look the way I was imagining in my mind when I was seeing the scene. It took me a bit more than an hour to work through, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
My favorite image from the evening was the easiest to capture and process though. Ironically, it was the image that I shot while I was frustrated that I couldn’t get the image that I was planning for. That is the way that my photography goes many times though. I have to find less than ideal locations to shoot from for one reason or another and it turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Had it not been for the crowd of people there, I wouldn’t have been forced to go further out and capture the better image.
At the end of the evening, I had shot 56 frames which went all the way up until 7:45, long after the sun had set. The clouds lost their definition and there was no interest that was in the later images. The best light had happened much earlier. It was not the shoot that I had hoped for, but in the end I am relatively happy with both of the images and believe that it was worth the drive out there. They are both better than my last attempt at the lighthouse, but I wished that I was closer so I could try it in different conditions.
The question is….will there be a part 5 to this mini-series? Did Toni and I get rained out, or did the wind put an end to my photography for the week? Well, I know I did get out again briefly on Thursday, but I don’t know yet if anything worked out or not. I will be importing those images into Lightroom for the first time later tonight or tomorrow morning. Stay tuned to see if anything turns up from those images, or will Bodie Island be my last workable subject for the week?
Until next time….