Sand Artistry

It was a cloudless, no drama day with a high sky and bright sun,  but I figured I would drive to the oceanfront anyway,  thinking that perhaps I could grab some arty close ups of the wind’s artistry in the sand.  It had been windy on the coast most of the week since the last Nor’easter ; they come with seeming increased regularity now, and I hoped to find some interesting patterns along and behind the dunes.   I wasn’t disappointed.

I lingered after taking the shot with my eye focusing just below the clump of sea grass to the right.  It looked like some miniature Zen garden.

After processing the raw files back home, I uploaded the shot above to my web site and immediately sold two prints.  I also got an email asking if I had taken a larger view of the scene.  I had.  I uploaded that photograph  and it sold right away to one of the buyers of the closeup shot. She wanted to display both together. Lesson learned! Always hang on to the larger view of a cropped scene.  You never know.  Thanks for looking and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

The Unending Battle

Another Nor’ester has plowed up the Atlantic Seaboard and while North Carolina largely avoided scenes like that in the Boston suburbs of the ocean breaching seawalls and flooding homes and businesses,  all along the Atlantic coast, the storm claimed millions of cubic yards of sand.  A quick visit to the Bogue Banks of North Carolina quickly confirmed the beach erosion.

Further north, along the southern Outer Banks, North Carolina Highway 12 was again temporarily closed due to ocean overwash.   All along the coast, sand fences were erected to hang onto what was left.  

A shot of the vital dune line at Emerald Isle, North Carolina is a vivid reminder of what’s at stake.

Since 1979, the minimum oceanfront setback requirement for permanent structures in North Carolina is 30 times either the historical long-term erosion rate or two feet per year, whichever is larger. It’s measured from the seaward line of stable dune vegetation.   That’s why when you visit the beach, you’ll see signs posted every one hundred feet or so up and down the coast that read, “Stay Off The Dunes.”   Thanks for your visit. See you next time.

Fragile As A Gardenia Boom


Generalizations are always iffy but I would venture a guess that most of us who venture out every day with our cameras in hopes of nailing that perfect shot have at least a sliver of  of environmental angst lurking in our souls.  And perhaps what draws us to the photographs we make is the fragility of the scene and how even the seemingly innocuous act of just walking along the top of a barrier dune can start to undo what has taken nature years to accomplish. 

I was out one morning before sunrise on the coast recently when a woman walking her dog struck up a conversation with me.  We talked about the endless beauty of what we were seeing. The conversation quickly circled to the now hot issue of drilling for oil off the Carolina beaches.  She asked  if that concerned me?  I thought a moment, admittedly considering whether I wanted to give up a few precious moments of the soon to be sunrise to wallow into conversational quicksand. I decided to answer her this way.   “I was in Santa Barbara, California  during the big oil spill decades ago and since that experience, every time I go into the voting booth, it is with but two issues on my mind: the environment and  my own economic interest.  If there is a conflict,” I said, “I always try to put the environment first,” which I added, “is all too often the collateral damage of human enterprise.”

“Nicely said,” she grinned and walked into the sunrise which was just coming up over the horizon.

Thanks for the visit and have a great week ahead.  See you next time.

A Walk Around The Point At Land’s End

The Bogue Banks and its neighbor, The Shackelford Banks, lie just south  of Cape Lookout  off  the North Carolina Coast.  Unlike the Outer Banks which runs from Corolla in the north through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the Cape Lookout National Seashore, the Bogue and Shackelford Banks are pretty much positioned east west rather than north south.  This means the sun is overhead throughout the day from sunrise to sunset.  Here, the beaches are wider and they are growing.  The beach you see above which rounds the point was not here ten years ago.

The dunes along this section of beach have largely been built up due to the careful positioning of sand fences which dot the landscape.

The Bogue Sound and the town of Swansboro are  visible in the distance.  Beach erosion and the loss of sand and dunes due to nor’easters and hurricanes along the Outer Banks,  appears to have been to the benefit of Land’s End on the Bogue Banks.  Thanks for the look and have a great week ahead.

Chasing the Spanish Macarel

I hooked up with these guys before dawn  “On The Point”  at Emerald Isle, North Carolina a week ago. Most live either on the Bogue Banks or nearby on the mainland. All buy  yearly permits from the City of Emerald Isle which allows them to drive on the beach in restricted areas from the late fall through early spring  on the Western end of the island.  Emerald Isle is situated  East/ West rather than North/ South. As the dawn broke around 6:40 AM, the beach was dotted with pickup trucks, their occupants ready to start casting for the  Spanish Mackerel and Albacore that were running in close to feed.

At daybreak, the fishermen were joined by some surfers, anxious to take advantage of the large breakers spawned by an overnight storm. Somehow, all managed to co-exist without getting in each other’s way.

I left them at sunrise to head up the beach to grab some sunrise shots. They were still at it when I came back on the way to my truck.  Their coolers were filled. So were my memory cards.  It had been a good day.  Thanks for the look-in and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Do you make your own luck? Maybe!

My usual guide when planning a pre-dawn trek to the oceanfront is, of course, the weather.  If the forecast is for full sun, I stay home. Full sun at the beach does not make for dramatic photographs. If it’s for a partly cloudy day,  I go.  If it’s for a mostly cloudy day, I go.  BUT,  if the chance of rain is above 40 percent, I will usually stay home.  This particular morning,  I made an exception. The chance of rain was 50 percent with heavy rain in some cells.  I decided to go for it anyway.   I packed up my rain gear including two extra large size Zip Lock Freezer Bags to house my camera bodies in the highly likely event, I would run into rain on the beach.  Within ten minutes of leaving the farm heading east on the beach road, I ran into a mammoth frog strangler. Ten minutes later, I ran into another.  When I arrived 40 minutes after leaving the farm, it was still raining, albeit, lightly. I waited for daybreak, then left for the oceanfront.  When I got there, it was still sprinkling, but the sky and the light were cooperating and the sun was trying to blast through the clouds.

This view is to the East. (The beach on Emerald Isle is not oriented North-South but rather  East to West.)  The steps in the foreground were abandoned and left to the ocean  after last week’s Nor’ester. I thought they added a bit of additional drama to the scene.  When I looked West, toward Lands End, I got the sure sign that the rain was done, at least for the moment. .

It was the first rainbow I can ever recall capturing over the ocean in all my many years of coming here.  The truck on the beach belongs to one of the surf fishermen drawn by the Spanish Mackerel and Albacore that were running.  It was gone within five minutes. To the East, the Sun was coming up amid a glorious bank of clouds.

The roped off area is to keep those who have permits to drive on the beach off the barrier dunes.  So my gamble paid off.  What I wanted to get in the way of  photographs, I got.  But the window of opportunity closed quickly. Just as I was packing up my gear,  it started to rain again.  I read somewhere that you make you own luck.  Maybe! Suffice to say, I was lucky.  Thanks for the read and the look.  See you next time.

Breaking an old Habit.

My usual practice in shooting landscapes, or perhaps in this case, “seascapes”, is to click a wide angle lens on the camera, framed it up and shoot.  I have several wide angles I lug around in my bag: a 24mm prime, a 18-35mm and a 24-120mm and a 12-20mm I use on my small sensor DSLR.  In Nikon-eese  DX.  I had decided to break out of that habit on this particular trek to the ocean and use my 70 to 300mm lens.  I was leery of this radical departure from my comfort zone,  but I swallowed my reticence and pushed ahead.  The above shot taken perhaps five minutes before actual sunrise was shot at 70mm.  It’s among my favorites from that morning.  Then I cranked the lens all the way out to 300mm and went trolling over the waves at periscope depth, and there it was: a small coastal trawler with its outriggers deployed getting an early start on the days catch.

A more powerful telephoto, a 400mm, or one of the new 150 to 600 zooms would no doubt have gotten me closer, but I like this view with the small trawler alone on the horizon.  I was right pleased with myself.  Proof perhaps that even an ancient shooter like me can learn to break out of old habits.  Thanks for the visit.  See you next time.