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.

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.

 

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.

Light and Shadow at the Beach

The morning was perfect for a sunrise.  There was just enough clouds in the predawn sky to make things interesting.

Everything changed within a hour. The clouds departed, leaving only the blinding sun and a very bright blue sky.  Even the wind calmed down, turning the Atlantic into a placid lake.  It made for a pretty dull beach photography-wise.  I decided to head west on the island (the Bogue Banks is situated pretty much east/west so the sun is over the island throughout the day.)  It was a long trek but worth it.

Blog 4/45/18

This shot on the point at Land’s End catches the sun behind the beach houses which face the west and where the Atlantic and the Bogue sound meet.  A rather dark and dramatic scene with everything thrown into silhouette.

As the sun rose over Land’s End, I grabbed a few more pleasing shots of the sand fences and dunes before the light completely washed out and sent me packing. Thanks for looking in. Have a good week ahead. See you next time.

 

 

 

The Soybean Field II

I spent several more days in the soybean field this past week, drawn by the pre-dawn sky which provides  a rather spectacular backdrop for, lets face it, a rather boring crop in the field.

The above shot was an afterthought.  I was heading back to the house when I happened to turn around and saw the rising sun’s reflection on the cloud bank rolling in from the north.  A reminder of the old photography tip to always turn around.

Taken early that morning from the southwest near the wetlands on the farm.  The rows of soybeans take your eye straight to the pre-sunrise sky.

I don’t usually venture out on overcast days but I made an exception because of the quilted clouds which I could see from my kitchen window.  I’m blessed by living near our farm fields and the beach, which I plan to return to next week.  Thanks for the look. See you next time.

 

Farm Crops and Photography

  • As the cotton crop neared harvest, the soybeans dropped their leaves and began the slow march toward ripening later in the fall.  As usual, I was out early grabbing some final shots of the cotton and some initial pictures of the soybeans.  The weather cooperated magnificently drawing in clouds which provided a marvelous backdrop to the golden beans and the stark white cotton..

I’ve had good luck over the years marketing these kinds of shots to the various foundations and marketing concerns which promote cotton and soybeans worldwide.  I also like to document what we grow here and since I’m the guy who’s into photography, that falls to me. As for getting up so early, It comes from habit.  I was in broadcast news for more than 40 years, most of it in Radio, which had an early call. I still wake up before dawn every morning.  It dovetails nicely with photography.  I’ve always held the opinion that the best light of the day comes early, from dawn to shortly after sunrise.  Thanks for the look. 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.