Friday, April 29, 2011

The Trip East, Part 3: Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores

The heart of the Outer Banks is the set of barrier islands that form a long isthmus along the North Carolina coast. It is made up primarily of four islands: Bodie Island, Roanoke Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island. The first three are connected by a set of roads and bridges. Ocracoke Island, in the south, can only be reached by ferry. In addition, the Cape Lookout National Seashore, another set of barrier islands just southwest of Ocracoke Island, is generally considered part of the outer banks experience.

Because they are barrier islands, the outer banks feature a number of famous lighthouses. Above is the Cape Bodie Lighthouse. Below, is the very famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which has been moved from the shore to a more central location because of beach erosion.

Most of the Hatteras Seashore is simply beach, with water visible on both sides of the road. There are campsites and beach access areas, but it mostly is just wild and open.

I wanted to see the beach, and so I took what looked like a good road onto the beach. I should mention that I have relatives who like to point out that, while stupidity runs in my family, it gallops in me. I don't know what I was thinking, but a Toyota Avalon is not going to make it onto the beach. I got immediately stuck in the sand, as you can see from the picture below:

I was in the middle of nowhere, but I had cell phone service (What a great country!). AAA sent a tow truck, and an hour and a half later I was back on the road. While waiting, I was on the beach, it was sunny and 70 degrees, and I even saw dolphins frolicking in the surf.

It was hard to get a picture of them, but I tried. In the picture above you can see the tail fin of one dolphin, the dorsal fin of the next one, and the dorsal and tail fin of the third. They were having a ball, and were fun to watch.

Because of ferry schedule problems, I was not able to get to Ocracoke Island, which I think is a loss. I drove back to the mainland, and around to Morehead City to spend the night. The next morning I visited the visitor's center for Cape Lookout National Seashore. Cape Lookout can only be accessed by private boat, and even the visitor's center is on Harker's Island, which is connected to the mainland. It too, has a lighthouse, and I was able to get a picture of it from across the sound.

Next Monday, Myrtle Beach.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Trip East, Part 2: Kill Devil Hills and the Wright Memorial

My first stop in North Carolina was at the northern end of the Outer Banks at Kill Devil Hills. Kill Devil Hills is just south of Kitty Hawk, and is the actual site of the Wright Bothers first powered airplane fight. Today, in addition to the Wright First Flight Memorial (more on which below), Kill Devil Hills is a popular beach town on the Outer Banks. The evening I arrived was cloudy, but I was able to get the moody shot above from my hotel balcony.

When the sun came up the next morning it was clearing, preparation for a truly beautiful day. Above is the sunrise, and below, a detail shot of the clouds over the ocean.

Before heading south into the Outer Banks, I visited the Wright First Flight Memorial. It is dominated by a huge granite monument situated on a large dune that the Wright Brothers had used to launch glider experiments.

Opposite the monument is the field that is the site of the first flight. The National Park Service has preserved some of the sheds the Wright Brothers used to store and work on their planes, and a series of granite stones mark off the points related to the first flight. A picture of the first flight area is below:

Heading south along the Outer Banks, my first stop was on Roanoke Island, the site of the famous lost colony, and also the home of the Manteo Lighthouse. The Manteo Lighthouse is one of several famous lighthouses on the Outer Banks, but is an unusual design.

From there I headed south into the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. I'll have pictures from that part of the trip on Friday.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Trip East, Part 1: Delaware and Chesapeake Bays

(click on any image for a larger version)

I have just completed a road trip out to the east coast. I drove east to Atlantic city, and then drove down the coast, through the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and on to Myrtle Beach. I will be posting pictures of the trip this week and part of next.

The two days of travel east to the coast at Atlantic City were uneventful, but also basically un-photogenic, as was Atlantic city itself. Driving south from Atlantic City, it was a cloudy, forbidding day, but that just meant I got to take cloudy, moody pictures. My first chance to do so was on the ferry across Delaware Bay from Cape May, New Jersey, to Lewes Point, Delaware. The ferry was chased by sea gulls hoping for food, so I was able to get some nice shots, including the trio pictured above. Delaware bay is also a busy shipping channel, as you can see by the line of freighters headed into port (below). I have rendered this shot in black and white.

After crossing Delaware, Maryland, and the eastern shore of Virginia, I came to the tip of Cape Charles, and the long bridge and tunnel combination that takes you across Chesapeake Bay. Just before getting on the bridge I found a nice place to stop and get some photos. Below is the mouth of the bay and the bridge (also in black and white).

Near where I stopped were what looked like the remains of a net fishing operation. Perhaps it's still in operation; I couldn't tell. However, it was of great interest to the Pelicans who appeared to be  gathering with some excitement. I assume fish were to be had.

Wednesday, Kill Devil Hills, NC, and the Wright Memorial.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is  picture of Lake Keowee in Seneca, South Carolina, taken this past Sunday. It was shot in infrared and converted to black and white.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Matsushima Relief Fund

Some wonderful people here in the US have set up a relief fund specifically for Matsushima. They've already sent the town almost $30,000 for its rebuilding efforts. I'm told that 100% of contributions are being forwarded to Matsushima.

The group has a Facebook page here:!/MatsumishaReliefFund

I am not involved in this effort, but I have made a contribution. I trust that it is the real deal. One of the organizers, Kathleen Paul, was in Matsushima during the earthquake and tsunami with her husband and daughter. You can read her amazing story on the Facebook page. Her daughter Michelle contributed a report to this blog while they were still in Japan.

Donations can be mailed to Matsushima Relief Fund, 5027 Corliss Road, Lyndhurst, OH 44124.

Please consider giving. No amount is too small.

Photo Of The Day

The beach at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at night with star trails. This is a combination of 238 separate exposures taken continuously from a little after 10:00 p.m. until about 2:00 a.m. If you look closely, the people you can see appear several times, as they moved between individual exposures. Click on the picture for a larger version.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Shooting From The Car

One of the holy grails of photography for me has been to figure out a way to take decent photos while driving. If I can, when I see a good shot, I stop the car, get out and shoot. However, sometimes there is nowhere safe to pull over, or I don't have time, or I simply can't stop for any one of a number of reasons. In such cases, I see many good shots I simply have to let go. Trying to handle the camera while driving doesn't work (DON'T try it!). It's like trying to text and drive while drunk--Not that I've ever done that. What I needed was a way to set up a camera, ready to go, so that it would take the picture I wanted at the touch of a button. I have finally done so. The picture above, of the Delaware Memorial Bridges in Wilmington is a good example of what I have in mind, as is the Indiana farmstead picture, below. How did I do it?

The obvious solution was to set up a tripod in the front passenger area, so that I could operate the camera and drive at the same time. However, I've never been able to make that work before now, and most of my jerry-rigged attempts involved copious amounts of duct tape. The other day, however, I realized the solution was right in front of me. My favorite "carry around" tripod, a Manfrotto 190CXPro3, has articulating legs, meaning that they can be spread to a 90 degree angle. In a flash, I saw the solution, and it looks like this:

By bracing two of the legs against the front console, and using the third leg as a brace against the passenger seat, I had a very stable, perfectly positioned platform for using the camera while driving.

I took a camera, put a wide angle lens on it to get a very wide field of view, set the lens for infinity using manual focus (and used a piece of gaffers tape to hold it there), and then used the sports setting on the camera itself. The sports setting tries to freeze action using a combination of shutter speed and ISO. This was to offset the inevitable motion of the car. I attached a remote switch, which I would use to trigger the camera, and put the camera in place, positioned to cover roughly my field of view when driving. Voila! I am a genius! Here's how it looks from the driver's side with camera in place.

There are lots of limitations to this setup. It tends to be hit and miss, as you have to guess both the angle of view for the camera and the timing of the moving car. Any good shots will probably need to be cropped and adjusted. I could go on. But there are two huge advantages: First, it is completely safe to use. Grabbing and triggering the remote switch to take a picture takes less concentration and effort than setting the cruise control or adjusting the radio. Second, it provides me with shots I wouldn't otherwise get. Here are some more examples, all taken with the rig as shown above:

Country road, Ohio
Covered Bridge, Greenup, Illinois

Skyline, Columbus, Ohio

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Matsushima Officials: "Please Visit"

From an article about tourism in Japan:

"Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture, touted as one of the three most scenic places in Japan, is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country, visited by about 3.6 million people annually. The Zuiganji temple, designated as a national treasure, was reopened to visitors Sunday, whereas bay excursion boats also plan to resume operations on April 29. Damage in the surrounding areas was relatively mild, and efforts for the restoration of tourism is well under way."

More good news about that status of Matsushima.

Friday, April 15, 2011


(Click on any picture to see a larger version)

Cityscapes are pictures of a city's skyline. They are very popular with photographers, and rightly so. The mixtures of shapes, lighting, forms and elements of human activity make for a naturally engaging photo. Many photographers like to take skyline photos at dusk, when the light remaining in the sky blends with man-made lights in the city. The 1998 picture of the St. Paul, Minnesota skyline, above, is an example of this kind of shot. There is still beautiful color in the sky, and yet the lights of the city, and the lit up state capitol on the right, dominate the picture.

Dusk is a great time for a cityscape, but other times work as well. In fact, almost any time of day can work. Below is St. Paul again, from a different angle, in picture from 1997 taken right in the middle of the day.

So don't shy away from a skyline shot just because the sun is high in the sky. Here is San Diego in a 2004 photo taken under similar circumstances:

If you do want to wait for dusk, don't just wait for the sunset, take a shot, and head home. The full period of twilight, when there is some light left in the sky, varies around the world, but here in North America is typically about 90 minutes. This means that there can be natural light to work with for an hour and a half after sunset.

Compare the late twilight shot of St. Paul, at the top, with this 1986 photo of downtown Denver just after sunset on a cloudy evening:

A half hour later, the same scene looked like this:

Even when it's totally dark, cityscapes can be worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Seeing in Black and White

I want to incorporate more black and white into my photography, but it requires a different kind of seeing than shooting in color. It's partly a matter of how colors translate to monochrome, but also a matter of seeing form, especially when the eye is particularly attracted to color.  In order to challenge myself, I have been going through my hundreds of pictures of flowers, almost all of which I was attracted to because of their color, and seeing if I can pick the ones that will work well in black and white. Here are three that I like so far.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Travel Spot: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Having grown up visiting the Colorado Rockies on an annual basis, I was frankly unprepared for the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies when I visited Banff National Park in Alberta. The mountains there are huge, but more widely spaced than in Colorado, with beautiful verdant valleys running between them.

The town of Banff and surrounding mountains, Banff National Park

In additional to vast stretches of beautiful mountain wilderness, Banff National Park has a number of great places to stay. There is a very nice hotel at Lake Louise, and then there's the old railroad town of Banff. It is large enough to have stores and motels of various kinds, and is also the site of the famous Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Banff National Park

Outside of town, nature abounds. You will see lots of wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, caribou, and elk, and can often get quite close to them, although may not be advisable. The elk, in particular, can be dangerous, especially during mating season in the spring.

Female elk, Banff National Park

Bighorn sheep, Banff National Park

The park itself is not far north of the American border, and is just an hour's drive west of Calgary in Alberta. The park is very well run, with plenty of amenities such as campgrounds and picnic areas. And, as you can see, it is a outdoor photographer's dream.

Tunnel Mountain, Banff National Park

The official Banff National Park website is here, while the site for the town of Banff is here. Banff National Park is very much worth a visit.

 Banff National Park

Friday, April 8, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Here's a black and white study of the Short Creek Church. It stands just a mile or so south of the Canadian border, near the town of Portal, North Dakota. The photo is from June of 2009.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Back in the summer of 1999, a farmer near Le Roy Minnesota planted a field of sunflowers next to the highway. The field banked up a hill, and was really amazing looking. I would drive by there every two weeks or so, and finally in July got a chance to stop and take some shots. I never really got the shot I wanted, and the film all has a blue cast for some reason, but I've been working on the shots I have, and this is the best so far. Even if it's not  great shot, it's still an amazing sight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photo Of The Day

One last cemetery-themed shot for our Photo of the Day today. This is an infrared photo of some trees in the Bailey Cemetery, just outside of Tolono, Illinois. If you look closely in the center of the trees, you will see a statue of a Civil War soldier. Civil War memorials are ubiquitous in old cemeteries in the Midwest, and I suppose elsewhere too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Matsuhima Update

Nothing much new, really. Here is a Japan Times story about recovery that  mentions, in passing, the cracks in the walls at Zuiganji as an example of damage to 300 cultural properties:

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Faces of Angels

I'm continuing to work with cemetery pictures, mostly sorting through them looking for themes. I think this is all in service of a larger project I haven't fully defined yet--another book perhaps?--but right now I am just seeing what I have.

In my last post I mentioned how drawn I am to cemetery statues. On further reflection I find that I am particularly interested in the faces on those statues. They are imbued with such emotion, it's amazing what can be communicated through stone or plaster. Below are some of my favorite shots of cemetery statue faces. They are largely unprocessed, and a bit rudely shoved into groups. They are definitely not as they would appear in whatever project this is becoming. Still, I think you'll find the effect is striking.