3 Takes On a Dune


These three shots were all taken within the span of about a minute.  There isn’t much time to waste when shooting at sunrise.  The light changes very quickly so it’s important to have some idea beforehand  of what you are after in terms of composition and framing.  At the moment of sunrise, I was on the beach to grab a few shots of the sun coming through the clouds over the ocean. In television, we called them establishing shots.  I then moved back from the water’s edge to a position behind some sand fences for a couple of additional views then retreated behind this particular dune.  I had chosen it because it had a nice crop of sea oats growing on the top of it.  I used pretty much the same routine moving down the beach toward’s Land’s End.  Some views like the three shots above, required little movement at all, just a zoom with the 24-120 mm lens.  By the time I called it a morning about half hour later, I had more than 90 quality shots.   I love just roaming around with the camera and snapping away at whatever moves me, but aging is the mother of invention.  With arthritic knees, I have to think ahead of what I want and the quickest way to get it.  The luxury of walking several miles on the beach is a distant memory. As Clint Eastwood said in the classic western, “Unforgiven”,  “We all got it coming kid.”  Thanks for the look. Have a good week ahead.  See you next time.


It’s been another depressing week here with almost nonstop storms and rain. I can only recall one afternoon that we actually saw some sun and blue sky and I was out in a flash to visit the cotton fields here on the farm.  This interlude of nice weather lasted for all of a half hour.  Dark clouds moved in from the south and soon there was more rain, thunder, lightening and high wind.

The fields here are graded with a distinct slope to the south where the runoff is captured by a canal to keep it out of the wetlands which border our farm, and to the west where a similar canal catches the runoff which eventually finds its way to the Neuse River.

I had not been out and about in over a week because of the water logged paths which were covered in standing water in many spots so I wasn’t sure what I would find.  All in all, not bad at all even though some of the fields looked more like rice paddies with standing water between the rows.

High pressure is supposed to move over Eastern North Carolina next week which, hopefully, will dry us out enough to allow me to get out and about. It won’t be too soon.  We haven’t been able to cut a blade of grass here in two weeks because of the nonstop soaking and the yards look like no one lives here, but, from what I see on the news, we have nothing to complain about.

A quick note about these shots.  I read on one of the photography blogs this past week that stopping down your lens to f/22 or smaller for landscape photography does not yield the sharpest images because of defraction. Better, it was said, to shoot with an aperture no smaller than f/16.  I tried that while shooting the above shots; first at f/22 and then at f/16.  The f/16 versions did seem a tiny bit sharper but to my admittedly aged eyes, it didn’t make a lot of difference.  These are the f/16 versions and these are the ones that went to Getty. Thanks for the look and have a terrific week ahead.  See you next time.

Storms and Sunflowers

The weather gods have not been kind to photography the past two weeks.  Here in souteastern North Carolina,  we’ve had a constant run of storms and torrential rain.  And when the sun did manage to show itself now and then, one had to be mindful not to venture too far off from shelter because it was a good bet that more nasty weather was coming.  I did manage to grab a few Sunflower shots which worked wonders for my cabin fever.  Van Gogh’s seem to be the sunflower of choice in these parts. Probably because they appear to be just about impervious to heat and storms.

I use Spot Metering a lot when photographing Sunflowers.  I take my reading from the center of the target flower.  That was the case in the above shot.  The light pulls the target to the eye and darkens the background.  This is an invaluable technique when the sun is behind your subject thereby putting it into the shadows.

With the contanstly changing light, I was constantly changing my settings.  Back to center weighted metering for the above shot which was with a Nikon D700 and a 60 MM Micro lens. Micro is Nikon Speak for Macro.

As for white balance, my usual practice is to set the camera on Cloudy and leave it.  Since I shoot everything in RAW, I have the option to change the white balance in the RAW Image conversion panel but more often than not, I just leave it on Cloudy. Perhaps the weather will lose its bad attitude by next week.  Thanks for the look and have a good week, rain or shine. See you next time.

The Challenge of Mid-day Photography At the Beach

I have a rule about photography at the beach.  I make it a point to be there either at dawn before the sun rises or in the late afternoon just before sunset  I seldom, if ever, drive to the oceanfront during the balance of the day, but, of course, there are exceptions.  One came this past weekend. My wife was going to a noontime reunion of her cousins at Pine Knoll Shores, one the small beach towns on the Bogue Banks.  “Want to ride along,” she asked.  “Sure,” I said, knowing full well that the worst time for photography at the beach is mid-day, but the beach is the beach and I was weary of taking pictures of cotton and tobacco rows.  It’s not a long ride to the ocean from our farm, 45 minuits or so and we arrived a few minutes after noon.  Of course, it was blazing hot and the glare from the sun directly overhead was retina frying.  So what to do.

This is my usual routine. First,  I make certain I’m shooting in the RAW format.  RAW is essentially a digital negative.  It records everything the camera sees. Jpegs are compressed images. RAW files are not.   Every DSLR has a RAW setting though the camera makers use different names for their version.  Nikon RAW files are called “NEF.”   The big disadvantage to shooting in RAW is that the files are huge, they eat up a lot of storage space.  To me, it’s worth it.  RAW allows me to change the White Balance and make other adjustments to the image in processing that are not possible with Jpeg.  To my mind, it is essential for photography at any time and particularly so for mid-day shooting.  Next, I dial the ISO down to the very lowest setting. For me that is 1.0.  Third,  I closed down the lens. to about f/22.  I  used center weight metering.  The histograms on each shot looked okay,  so I decided to leave well enough alone.

Had I not been pressed for time,  I probably would have taken a few additional shots of each scene using spot metering but doing so requires rechecking the exposure after every shot and I was in a hurry.  In order to preserve domestic tranquility, I needed to get back to the cottage to mingle before lunch time.  Anyway, not too shabby for shooting at high noon in high heat.

An aside.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue with this blog.  WordPress, the host site, notified me Monday morning that they had frozen my account because my password had been corrupted.  They sent me a password reset code to my hotmail site, but for some reason it did not show up. It took me two days to learn that microsoft’s hotmail email service, for some reason I cannot fathom,  sometimes blocks transactional emails  such as the  reset code for changing my password.   After figuring this out, WordPress then sent me a code which apparently bypassed Hotmail allowing me to directly reset my password.  As you might guess, I am in the process of changing the email service I have registered with Wordpres..   All’s well that ends well but at my age, I don’t have two days to waste!  Thanks for the look.  Comments are certainly welcome.  See you next time.

Tobacco Road

It never occurred to me that I would be sending photos of North Carolina tobacco fields to Getty Images, but times change. Tobacco Road has been repaved.  The thousands of small tobacco growers who sold off their allotments during the government buyout, have been replaced by big operators who bought up allotments and put them together creating huge tobacco fields that conjure up the days when tobacco was king.

Actually, despite it’s very deserved reputation as the deadly weed, tobacco is quite photogenic, particularly when it sprouts pretty pink flowers.  These shots wound up at branding and marketing outfits and foundations along with public relations firms, most, if not all of them, overseas where tobacco is still a big seller.

The flowers will be “topped” ie, cut off as the plant ripens and the leaves harvested from the bottom up.  Fields of stalks of tobacco plants are not exactly pleasing to look at so,  if you are considering taking a few shots and trying your luck, be there when the plants flower.  Sunrise is another good time to shoot tobacco fields and I’ll get to that next time.

A final note. Our family farm got out of the tobacco growing business decades ago to go into cut flowers, and we’ve never regretted it.  These shots were taken on a neighboring farm.

Thanks for the look.  Have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

The P.G’s Return

A large, showy shrub, the PG Hydrangea was sent to the USA from Japan in 1961.   They thrive in Eastern North Carolina from mid summer through early fall, seemingly immune to the severe weather conditions that usually accompany summers here.  When it comes to hydrangeas, PG’s are the strongest of all.  The huge flower clusters open as pure white blooms from 18 inches long and nearly a foot wide.

The show continues throughout the summer.  In late summer, the cones turn a pretty pink and when Autumn arrives, the blooms morph into a beautiful shade of rust with gray-green leaves.  Easy to grow, PG’s like moist, rich, well drained soil and grow to an average height of six to eight feet. They prefer full sun to partial shade.  Great fun to photograph, they are one of the few blooms that last throughout the summer.  Thanks for the visit and have a great week ahead. See you next time.

Bird Photography from the comfort of home

Bird photography is pretty much a cold weather thing with me.  For one thing, aside from the beach which is nearby, there’s not a lot of competition for subject matter during the winter.  And, of course, finding and photographing birds is far easier when the trees are pretty much devoid of their foliage.  So why now?  Well, the jet stream decided to detour to the far north leaving us and much of the country in the throes of super heat we don’t usually see until late July and August.   Tromping outside in 100 plus heat and dripping humidity is not my idea of  fun.   So for this little “outing” I set up my rig in  the air conditioned comfort of my house.   We have a large single pane window in our bathroom that offers a wide view of the backyard and woods beyond.  I cleaned the window outside and in and got to business.  I used a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens mounted on a tripod with no UV filter.  I decided to forego another piece of glass to preserve a little clarity.  The time of the shooting was between 3 and 4:30pm.  Here’s a sample of what I came away with.

This female House Finch was perched in a Sycamore tree about 20 feet from the window.   I used my usual settings for bird photography.  Spot metering, Aperture Priority set to f/8  and  lowest Iso I can get away with.  In the shade that was about 160.

This male Northern Cardinal was eyeballing a platform feeder about 10 feet away from his perch in a River Birch Tree.  His mate was on a nearby limb preening after a shower earlier in the afternoon.

Aside from shooting out an airplane window years ago which yielded mixed results, this was my first attempt from inside the house and judging from these results, it won’t be the last.  Thanks for the look. Feed the birds!  See you next time.