Recently we went down to the outer Banks (Nags Head area to be specific) for a wedding. Over the past 20 years or so I have only been to a handful of weddings. Yes they are nice and everyone is happy but sometimes they can just drag on for a long time and get kind of boring. Sorry but it is true, all the pomp and circumstance can be a bit much for the audience – at least in my opinion. Well anyway, I don’t want to get off on a tangent, I’m here to talk about photos. So anyway, Carrie’s cousin was getting married and we were invited. Given my approach to weddings I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of the long drive until these words were said “it will be nice to have the whole family together for a happy occasion instead of a funeral” ok, point taken – and knowing this would be a more relaxed wedding I was in.
Bags packed and the camera tagging along for the ride we made the 5.5 hour drive down to the Outer Banks. There was just enough time to check in to the hotel and change before needing to head on over to the venue for the wedding. I had to make a really big decision, for me, and decide on bringing the camera or leaving it at the hotel. I figured the wedding already had a photographer and, honestly, didn’t want to get tagged to shoot additional group shots. This mindset wasn’t coming from me just being grumpy or not wanting to play nice, I didn’t want to get in the way of the actual photographer of the event. I have more than my share of maneuvering around photographers trying to get the right shots and I didn’t want to be a cause of headache there. In addition, I had just spent the previous three days in Boston shooting for work and was ready to relax and be an attendee versus a worker. So, the camera stayed back at the hotel and I was armed with just my cell phone. Of course hindsight, etc being what it is, if I had brought the camera maybe I wouldn’t have had to actually BE IN some of the photos 😉 And I could have just hidden in plain sight.
The wedding was short, sweet, and to the point. For once I was over-dressed for the occasion with my coat, so after the main event I tossed that aside and enjoyed the weather in my short sleeves. It was a really nice little ceremony and I think the bride and groom were just as ready to get on with the rest of the night and the reception as much as everyone else. The drinks started to flow, food was laid out, and the group photos were happening everywhere you turned around. Smiles everywhere and a good time was being had by all.
One of the amazing elements of the wedding was where it was taking place. Yeah it was in the Outer Banks but the house was right on some water and the view, well just look for yourself, the view was amazing. We were all amazed at the beautiful sunset that was going on during the festivities. I couldn’t resist and had to pull out the phone to begin capturing the views. Recently, on the bus tour, I embraced the fun that is the panorama feature on my cell phone and knew that the views I had were perfect for some really wide shots. Yes, I was lamenting that had I had my camera with me I would have been able to capture the colors as they were instead of doing some extra post on the snaps from the phone, but the trade off was the quicker, and far easier, panorama shots. I think in the end I don’t have any regrets having just the phone with me for the pictures. I was able to capture images that made me think “wow, that is awesome” and really, that is the important part of it all.
Sunset over and hours later the party was winding down so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel to get off our feet, shuck the shoes and have a little quiet time. What a long but fun day we had.
With the wedding done it was time to be tourists for a couple days. Swimsuits were not brought on this outing and the intention was to catch the touristy attractions for once. This was a challenge to me, how to visit tourist attractions and take pictures but not have them look like regular tourist shots.
So, there was a painting in the hotel room of a bunch of people flying kites on a dune. I had seen a sign about some sort of kite event coming up in the next week or so. A windy beach, and event coming up I was sure there would be people flying kites all over. Carrie mentioned Jockey’s Ridge as a good place to find some of that so away we went. So hmmm, how to shoot the beach and kites without it looking like every other image out there. I was trying to figure that out the whole drive down there – all 15 minutes of it. I was excited and anxious. I have always loved kites since I was a kid. I remember flying little kid kites in California while my dad had this awesome long dragon kites. I remember trying to get that huge kite flying and getting exhausted running and running to help it get off the ground. The wind that day at the beach made running unnecessary, you could just toss the kite up and with just enough line watch it start to soar into the sky. Do I do wide shots of people and their kites, do I try to zoom in and get the kites in the air as groups? A little of this and a little of that, my mind was coming up with all sorts of options, and many that involved having to crouch or lay down on the sand for the extreme up-angles, I was ready.
We arrived at Jockey’s Ridge and found a not that full parking lot. Well, ok, it was a little wet earlier in the day so maybe there aren’t as many people there, not a big deal. Camera in hand and extra lenses in the pack on my back and I was ready to go. On the way to the biggest dune I was noticing a distinct lack of things flying in the sky, aside from birds. I didn’t see one kite in the air, bummer. But you know what? I wasn’t going to let that deter me from exploring the sites and snapping away, but what would I shoot here?
The big, slippery hike up the dune was a mini-adventure. Climbing up 20-30 feet up dune with sand slipping underneath you is always a treat. Luckily the rain from earlier did help keep the sand from getting too slippery and ascending the dune was a success. Cresting the top of the mini-mountain we saw…..not much really. There was a family playing off in the distance, little kids running up and down a different part of the dune. I’m looking around thinking, “ok, lots of sand and some water….hmmm” There were some sparse sea oats and other trees and bushes here and there and so I thought to myself “Self! Is this the beach or can it look like somewhere else?” “I don’t know, beach or semi-desert? Let’s find out” So a-shooting I went. I’m not that crazy in those thoughts – both have lots of sand and …. stuff. Yup, had to get technical there. I do enjoy transporting someone to a place they don’t expect when it comes to landscapes. Whether it is altering the way you are looking at a familiar location or just transforming the view to something unexpected, this is what I like to create.
What helped me complete my vision was the lack of people visiting the ridge thanks to the weather. The initial downfall of rain and drizzles that killed my hopes for kite pictures allowed me to capture some views that would not have ben possible had it been a nice sunny day. This is the thing about photography, you have to be flexible and patient. The situation won’t always be as you are desiring and, especially if you are shooting outside, the weather conditions can change and leave you scrambling to change your approach to the shooting.
With plenty of images resting peacefully on the CF card, it was time to make our way out of the sand and back to the real world for the rest of the day. And speaking of patience, the last picture I took at Jockey’s Ridge I had to wait a good 10 minutes or more before I could snap away. I liked the pathway and how the trees arched over and wanted to take that with me. There was also an elderly gentleman who was not only walking quite slowly but also stopped at each and every sign to read about the animals, the plants, the history of the ridge all the way down the boardwalk. Waiting for him to make that right turn at the end and get just out of view was a good test of patience. I know he wasn’t being malicious or anything in his slowness. I was ready to do my thing and he was doing his thing. Step. I just. Step. Had to wait. Stop and read. For him to. Reading still. Finish his reading. Step. And move.Step, turn. Out of the frame and…CLICK!
The following day is was time for a little historical tourism with Bodie Lighthouse, Fort Raleigh, and the Elizabethan Gardens.
Bodie (pronounced body) Lighthouse has been in constant operation since it was built in 1872. Lighthouses have been a minor fascination for me and I think I can trace that back to the Disney movie Pete’s Dragon. I can’t quite explain why except that I liked that movie and the climax involves getting the light in the lighthouse lit. I have been in one other lighthouse before and what I was looking forward to was the great view that can be had after climbing the 29831764 stairs to the top – it is a good thing I ride bikes, by legs were ready for the climb. Ok, so it is more like 214 steps but close enough. So how do you capture a lighthouse but not doing the same as the person standing next to you. Well, after I took several of the ‘typical’ lighthouse shots I looked at different ways I could frame the image in camera. I found some nice growth that I could use to basket the lighthouse on top of to make it part of the environment versus something standing apart from the surroundings. These structures are a part of the landscape so I didn’t want to set them apart from the other natural elements of the landscape, something not as typical I think.
We paid our money and became part of the small tour group that was guided in and up the lighthouse. Did you know that this lighthouse didn’t rotate the light? Yup, this thing has a blinking pattern that makes it distinctive from other lighthouses – because at night you aren’t able to see the specialty painting that also discerns one lighthouse from another. So instead of what we typically think of as a lighthouse light turning in the night sky, this light blinks a pattern – 2.5 seconds on, 2.5 secs off, 2.5 on, 22.5 off. I never knew.
Once we were inside my big camera didn’t get much use. I did do some up and down shots of the stairwell because the pattern was too damned cool not to capture. Once we were outside I was ready for that long panorama shot capturing the entire view from the top of the tower. I rested the big camera on my shoulder and was trying to walk steady and balanced with my phone using the panorama mode. Yup, climbed 2437865 steps to use my phone for the ‘big photo’. Ok, yeah I did go around quickly and then use the big camera so that I could stitch together a high-resolution version of the view, I just haven’t gotten around to doing anything with those images yet – see, convenience of the phone with a decent camera.
After slowly and steadily making our way back down to the base it was time to move on and check out Fort Raleigh and Lost Colony stuff – time for more great pics of history, sweet.
Ok, I have to publicly say, Fort Raleigh was kind of a let down. There was nothing to really capture there, hell, there wasn’t much to see there. While I understand that they haven’t been able to find much from the colony it doesn’t make up for the fact that it is kind of a bummer. Enough of that, time to walk down the path to the Elizabethan Gardens, nature pics and flowers, ok that I can get into.
When people ask me what type of photography I like I don’t know what to tell them. Do I start of with “oh I prefer art nudes but I will shoot anything” or do I lessen the blow with listing off stuff and then overwhelming them with a long list? Depending on who I am talking to yeah, sometimes I will just say “nudes, and other stuff too” with a wink because I think they will appreciate the approach. The trouble with nudes, however, is planning the time to have the studio ready, have a model come over, have the ideas ready to go for that specific person, etc. I love shooting nudes but I don’t always have the chance to shoot them but that is why I keep myself diversified in the areas of photography that entices me (you like how I used that fancy term? I sound grown-up don’t I) The truth is I like all subjects with photography. I can walk around and so street photography, grab elements of nature, studio work, portraiture, a concert here or there, a little of this and a dash of that and I’m a happy shooter. I do like nature so walking around for a couple days on the beach or the gardens and I’m sitting pretty – only I’m not sitting and we won’t go into the pretty 😉
Knowing this was nearing the end of a typical blooming season I didn’t know what to expect. I figured there would be some plants out there that love this time of year so I wasn’t thinking everything would be dead and brown – although that would make for some really awesome images. So I was excited to see what was alive and kicking in there. But I was also looking forward to seeing what kind of other life would be found within the walls of the gardens. Plants and flowers means bugs and birds and stuff. I love trying to get as close to the bugs and flying things and snapping a few images before they get scared and dash away – yes, even the bees I do that with, ugh. While there were still a few hours before sunset ahead of us, the heavy canopy of leaves in much of the gardens gave the feeling we were walking around in a different country at dusk. Imagine that, I was now in a place that transformed me even before I had any images to show for it. All that could be heard was the playful mealtime of the squirrels throughout and off in the distance the gentle lapping of the water against the shore near the back end of the gardens. Again, this was another location that was not dense with other tourists so it was peaceful and calm, save for the random falling seed husks being tossed away by the squirrels. I wonder if they were aiming for us?
Following the path and the maps, we found the source of the water sounds and were halted from expanding our travels off the path and onto the sand by a an old gate and rusty lock. On the other side it looked as though there was a structure but all that was left were remnants of what once was. Walking around in the rich and lively green this was a stark contrast, seeing the barren shore with decaying logs from a previous structure and the hardened gate. All we could do was look out through the bars and see what was on the other side. Truly this was an instance where the grass wasn’t greener, especially since there was no grass. Turning around and going back on the path one cannot help but think about the dichotomy between the lush and the decaying wood.
Another fountain was found within a courtyard of statues and water features. I can imagine this being a scene in a movie set in Victorian times, a young lady in a big dress running through the gardens with a suitor chasing behind, laughter as he catches up to her and they ponder the future, all is lovely. Ok, enough of the romance, but seriously, this was a beautiful location that one could pick a spot sit and read or draw for hours on end and allow the serenity to engulf them. We need more places like this around us.
There was one last stop while in the area and that was to the actual Kitty Hawk site where the Wright Brothers made history. I am amazed with airplanes and flying. My amazement isn’t packaged with an encyclopedic library of knowledge on all things air travel like many of my friends but I am fascinated none the less. Being where Orville and Wilbur made their historic journeys prompted a visit that I could not refuse. It was incredible to be able to walk the same paths they walked and see the markers of their accomplishments. As someone who flies frequently enough I can’t help but imagine what it was like when they were able to make that 852 foot flight. Museums are great when you want to see artifacts from history but it is something else entirely to be able to walk the same steps and be on the same spot as the history makers. Don’t get me wrong seeing elements of our past behind some case is really cool and all but to step on the same ground, feel the wind like they would have and see the same views they did takes you from being an observer and puts you in the participant seat. Needless to say I enjoyed being at Kitty Hawk and experiencing a little slice of history. Oh, and I finally was able to get my kite picture that I had been wanting all weekend. Go figure that I would be able to get the image while visiting the site where flight was born.
I saw more on this wedding trip than I had expected to. There is a, mostly, annual beach trip that is taken each year so the ‘beach’ part of the excursion really didn’t get me too excited. I know one of my favorite parts of going to Emerald Isle is being close to Shackleford Banks which means seeing the wild ponies. But the problem with going to the same beach is that I know what to expect to see and over the years I have shot less and less during those vacations. Traveling out to a different beach meant I had no idea what I was going to see. The only thing I knew going in to the trip was that I wasn’t ready to just take some pictures of water or birds on the shore. My expectations, photo-wise, were not very high but I came back with images that I am incredibly proud of. This visit allowed me to have a new perspective on beach areas and has opened my eyes to new elements that I should keep an eye out for for the next time I go back to Emerald Isle. Perhaps I will grab the camera more energetically and seek out the sights that I have overlooked or forgotten about. Only time, and another visit, will tell.
To see the complete collection of images, click HERE