In Search of a Great Blue

With the coast clear of hurricanes for the first time in a month, I finally got started roaming the backwaters of the Neuse River this weekend.  The Neuse is one of the three major rivers in Eastern North Carolina and it was first on my list, ahead of the Trent and The Cape Fear.  I’d been wanting to do it for quite a while but  between Florence and Michael, my little trek fell by the wayside to tend to more pressing things.  This weekend, with the Neuse finally back within its banks. I finally got started.  No sooner had I parked my RAV 4 alongside one of the ponds fed by the Neuse in nearby Kinston than a Great Blue zoomed overhead heading out over the water.  About ten minutes later, I thought I caught a glimpse of him perched on a tree stump on the far side of the pond.

Look closely at the “Y” shaped tree stump standing in the water just to the left of the trees in the foreground. (Click on the photo for a larger look.)  I took a look through my 24-120mm lens and sure enough, there he was, still as a stature, but I needed a longer lens.

I had left my 70-300mm back in my RAV 4 which was parked maybe 50 yards away.  Could I get back to the vehicle, grab the lens and get a closeup of him before he left.  I did. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of me lumbering back down the path and decided to humor me.   (I don’t run any more.  I lumber, which is sort of a cross between a limp and a slow trot.)  I was so out of breath by the time I got back, I had to use a tree along the shore to steady my camera.  I fired off maybe ten shots before he finally swooped away to the far end of the pond.  Later, I found him back in the same position but facing the other direction.    I was lucky. I usually take two cameras with me on shoots like this.  One with a short telephoto and the other fitted with a longer lens.  I’ll remember that next time.  And I’ll also remember to take along a tripod.   There is a limited amount of “lumbering” I can do these days.  Thanks for visiting and have a good week ahead. See you next time.

After Florence

We wound up on the left side of Hurricane Florence as it moved into Eastern North Carolina.  Better than a direct hit which was in the cards for a while, but not a good place to be in a Hurricane. Still, we were blessed.  Had the storm made landfall at 140 miles an hour, I can’t imagine the damage it would have done to the farm.  As it was, we were blessed.  Winds never topped 60 miles an hour.  The rain though was biblical. We figure over the course of the storm, we got upwards of 25 inches of it.  At the height of the storm, it was coming down at the rate of 2 inches an hour.  The ditches and canals did what they’re supposed to do and there was no flooding of houses here on the farm compound, but the cotton crop took a big hit.  Yield will be way down.

These shots were taken the day before Florence came ashore.  If a photograph can predict what’s coming, perhaps these did.

If the string of sunny days since Florence holds, I’ll finish clearing up all the debris from the storm this coming week.  I have no idea when I might be able to get down to the beaches though.  The major rivers in Eastern North Carolina; the Cape Fear, Neuse, Trent, and Lumber, are all out of their banks now and any roads and highways that weren’t washed out are cut by floodwater.  Only property owners are being allowed on the Bogue Banks which took a major hit from Florence.  I have a lot of friends down there and I feel for their loss.  Thanks for the visit.  See you next time.

Blooming Cotton

Late summer brings the  blooming cycle of cotton, the first stage of the maturing of the cotton plant.  The first blooms are pink which then quickly turn to white, then yellow.  Cotton is probably my most fun  crop to shoot and this year’s crop is no exception.

These shots among other views are earmarked for Getty Images.  In the past my cotton shots have done well with marketing and branding firms and cotton promotional firms.

The yellow flowers will soon turn bright red then drop off to allow the bolls to ripen.  When they mature, the bolls will crack open revealing the cotton.  Of course, this cycle always comes during peak hurricane season and right on cue, Hurricane “Florence” is churning its way toward the coast.  Cotton is pretty sturdy though so perhaps  this crop will weather the onslaught.  We’ll know next week this time.  If you’re on the Southeast US Coast, stay safe.  See you next time.

Back to the Tobacco Fields

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that aside from beach shots, my main focus in photography are the farms across Eastern North Carolina and the crops that are grown here.  I really never fathomed one could find a market for photographs of cotton and tobacco, etc, but through Getty Images, I have.   Alas, because of the constant rain here for the past several weeks, I’ve been unable to get outside.  By this past Tuesday though, the skies finally cleared and the sun began to dry out the water logged fields.   By Thursday, I was out before sunrise to grab a few shots of the cropped tobacco plants on several farms.  The seemingly endless rain no doubt had speeded up the cropping process, ie the harvesting of tobacco leaves from the bottom of the plant to the top as the leaves ripen.   Tobacco does not like to have wet feet. The good news for me was that there was enough left on the plants to make for some decent shots.

A word as to technique regarding the shooting of farm fields at dawn and sunrise.  Because the focal point of the photograph is darker than the sky, I use spot metering, taking my reading away from the brightest part of the sky and locking the exposure.  Since most of what I photograph be it farm fields or beach scenes, is done in the early morning hours, I use pretty much the same settings.

By sunrise, I had retreated to another area of the field to balance the composition of the sun breaking the horizon with the grove of trees on the left.  Then I moved in for a closeup of a cluster of tobacco flowers that somehow had survived the topping process before harvesdting got underway. 

Obviously, it helps to know a little something about the crops you are shooting.  As a small town kid, I owe my farm education to my wife, who grew up on a farm back in the day when tending tobacco was done all by hand.  Needless to say, she doesn’t have fond memories of it.   At any rate, the tobacco season in Eastern North Carolina will likely be wrapped up by next week this time and I will shift my focus to the ripening cotton crop which is nearing the flowering stage.  With Labor Day just around the corner marking the end of the summer tourist season here, I’ll be gearing up for outings to the Northern and Southern Outer Banks.  Now that’s something my wife looks forward to,  so I’ll have two more hands to haul camera bags.  Thanks for the visit and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Does “Goat’s Foot” have anything to do with it?

I think it was Bob Dylan who said “If I had known how long I was going to be around, I’d have taken better care of myself.”  Amen to that! If you’re going to roam around with cameras and camera bags around your neck, it sorta helps if you are in shape.  And at 73, I’m quickly finding out I am not.  Arthritis is loudly proclaiming itself to be in control  to the point of preventing me from straightening my right leg.  I’d been hobbling around popping ibuprofen tablets for a month or so when I finally decided it would be a good idea to finally find out if something was structurally wrong or if it was just arthritis.  A raft of X-rays confirmed arthritis to be in control of my knee joint.  A shot of cortisone got me back in the game. “Might fix it or it might not,” my doctor said, “But for now, you’re good to go.”  I’ll take what I can get.

I’d been wanting to get out into the field to grab a few shots of the sunrise now that the annual invasion of wild, reddish sour grass has taken over the fields.  It provides a smidgen of foreground interest in what would otherwise be a pretty empty scene. 

Nikon D750 Camera. Nikkor 24-120mm lens set at 24mm.

Somebody told me that the red grass is a variety of Bermuda Sorrel which supposedly is edible. An acid provides the sour taste.  Perhaps that’s why goats like to graze on it which tagged the grass with the name,  “Goat’s Foot.”   Not too appetizing, huh.  But given my state of mobility, I wondered if old goats develop arthritic knees.  And if not, does grazing on sour grass have something to do with it?   I’ll take my chances with the cortisone.  Thanks for the look and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Computer Glasses!

My recovery from neck and shoulder pain from spending too much time at the computer screen continued this week with a new pair of computer glasses.  If you wear bifocals and spend time at the computer with your chin and head tilted up in order to focus on the screen, you should think seriously about getting a pair.  I had a pair but the prescription was five years old and I had reverted to old habits.  My eye Doctor wrote me a new prescription for combination reading and computer glasses and almost immediately, my upper back and  neck which was as tight as an over-tuned snare drum, loosened up.  At the same time, I made it a point to get outside and away from the hinged box that has  held me hostage for so long.


Not a lot here other than the spectacular dawn but that alone was worth the walk out into the field.  Like the northeast, we’ve had a lot of weather here but no snow and ice; just a lot of wind, rain and thunderstorms. I also  spent quite a bit of time nosing around the azalea garden and an area we call Dogwood Dell; a large patch of wild dogwoods that seem to thrive in the acidic soil under the tall Lob Lolly pines.  The storms had taken a toll but there were plenty of blooms left to make it a worthwhile effort.

But the big spring show, which always comes early down here, is about done.  Not to worry! With the nutty weather we’ve been having, the azaleas will likely be blooming again early in the fall as they have for the past several years.  As always, thanks for the look-in and have a good week ahead. And remember: Computer glasses!