Category Archives: General Photography

Hanging Rock State Park: Hidden Falls

Hanging Rock State Park is located near Danbury in the northwestern part of North Carolina. Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains, the park is home to several waterfalls. While not the tallest falls in the state, they are certainly pretty. Unlike so many waterfalls that require miles of hiking to reach, the well known falls of Hanging Rock State Park are all short hikes from convenient parking lots. In addition to the five publicized waterfalls, my understanding is that there are a few other falls hidden away and requiring a bit of effort and adventure to find. The following are a few photos and a video of Hidden Falls. All photos were taken with a Canon 7D. The video is a combination of footage from the 7D and from my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera.

Hidden Falls -Hanging Rock State Park

HIdden Falls - Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury NC

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Spring in the Swamps and Along the Blackwater Creeks

Every spring North Carolina is blessed with a brilliantly beautiful song bird living near blackwater streams, creeks and swamps. With bright yellow feathers resembling those of a canary, accented by gray-black wings, the Prothonotary Warbler is easily overlooked in the dense areas where it lives. Unquestionably, this is one of my favorite little song birds and one I find difficult to get in front of my lens for quality photos. The images below are from today’s efforts. I hope you enjoy them.

Prothonotary Warbler, Croatan National Forest

Prothootary Warbler on bridge in Croatan National Forest

Prothonotary Warbler in the Croatan National Forest

Also posted in Avian Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Clouds Reflected on Lake Mattamuskeet

I took a drive up the coast a while back and while up that way I paid a visit to Lake Matamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. While I was basically just doing a quick scouting trip on my way back home, I stopped along the causeway to take a couple shots. If you’ve looked a many North Carolina landscape photos you’ve likely seen this view several times. Even though I knew it was one of those locations that has been photographed to the point of saturation, the mirror like water combined with the lovely sky was just too picturesque to pass by. Below are my interpretation of this classic North Carolina scene.

Clouds on Lake Mattamuskeet.

Clouds on Lake Mattamuskeet.

Lake Mattamuskeet in Black and White.

Lake Mattamuskeet in Black and White.

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Fox Kits: A Little Luck and a Bit of Field Craft

When I visit my favorite photography areas I usually do a bit of scouting after I’ve made the shots I planned for. Last winter I came across a fox den while scouting. I made some mental notes of the location with plans to revisit it in the spring. A few evenings ago I was photographing wild horses. The horses were being less than animated and, honestly, I already have thousands of images of wild horses with their heads down feeding. The clouds in the sky weren’t overly interesting and I didn’t see the prospect for good sunset shots being very high either. With those considerations in mind I decided to call it an evening and head back to my kayak. However, I thought I’d go a bit out of my way and see if there was any sign of activity around the fox den. Activity there was!

As I slowly and quietly moved into a position where I could get a peak at the fox den I noticed the outline of a hear with pointy little ears through the tall glass. Not only was it an active den the kits were outside! The problem was from my location I didn’t have a clear view of the den. The den was hidden behind tall grass. To make matters work the sun was directly behind the den. The only chance I’d have to get a shot would require repositioning myself for a view of the den. Now foxes have a reputation for being shy, evasive animals. In my experience it’s an accurate reputation. In order to get a shot I’d have to move into a position where there was no cover and do so without spooking the little foxes. I figured my odds were low but I just had to give it a try.

First I noted the wind direction and plotted a course that would keep me down wind of the den. I looked at the route and could see that I would be out of view of the foxes… unless they moved up on top of the dune above their den. I set a goal of the to of a small dune about 150 or 200 feet from the den that would give me a clear view of the foxes. Upon reaching the spot I was a bit surprised to see the foxes were still outside the den. One stared intently at me as I sat very, very still. After what seemed like a long, cold stare the little mammal went back to business. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour I’d take a few shots, push my tripod and camera a foot or so in front of me, scoot up behind it and take a few more shots. Slowly I inched closer and closer to the kits. I managed to work within about one-hundred feet of the little guys before that light became too dim to shoot.

I’m a little surprised that I was able to get that close to these wild animals. I wasn’t inside a blind nor was I wearing camo. My clothes were earth tones but foxes, like other canidae, are color blind. The two things I had working in my favor was wind direction and the fact that the sun was directly behind me. Try looking directly into a low, setting sun and you’ll understand how difficult that can make things. I’ll check these images up to a small dose of apply field skills and a big helping of luck.

Wild fox kit in front of its den.

Fox kit on the Outer Bands

Foxe kits on the North Carolina coast.

A pair of young foxes in front of their den along the NC coast.

Fox kts.

Wild foxes at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

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Overcast Skies, Dark Forest and Small Birds

Mother nature has been fairly cruel to me this year. If I have a personal day to make photo the weather is likely to either be wet, threatening or severely overcast. Today was no exception. I got up with plans to either visit the wild horses or to kayak up Cahooque Creek for some Prothonotary Warbler photographer. Neither seemed a good idea. Rather than being totally stymied I decided to take the jeep and drive to a location I know has some potential for warbler photography. With the sky overcast and the forest dark and thick I knew I wouldn’t be thrilled with the settings I’d have to use, but any image was better than no image. I was treated to observing a Black & White warbler, but he stayed too deep in the woods for a shot. I also got several looks at some Prothonotary Warblers and was lucky enough to get a couple of okay shots. Handheld, high ISO certainly didn’t combine for an image outstanding, but at least I got a couple shots.

Prothonotary Warbler in the Croatan Nationa Forest

Prothonotary Warbler, eastern NC

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The Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve’s Newest Resident

Because of the need to manage the herd size new additions are always a very special event. The births of new foals are few and far between. Born a few months ago, this little horse took his first few breaths as Mother Nature shared cold, snow and ice with Coastal Carolina. What a shock it must’ve been to trade the warmth of his mother’s womb for that icy cold winter world. During my first few trips to the reserve with the hope of finding and photographing him I had no luck. His mother was doing a good job of keeping him secluded from my camera and lens. As spring began to reach the reserve the horses started falling back into their warm weather routines and that included moving this young foal into more obvious locations. While guiding a group of equine artists from Virginia we were treated with an afternoon and evening of foal watching. With no further introduction I give you “Skipper,” the reserve’s newest resident.

Young wild foal of the Carolina Coast.

A wild mare and her young colt feed along the Carolina Coast.

A young wild colt explores the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve near Beaufort, North Carolina

Also posted in Banker Horses, Guided Tours, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Wild Horse at Sunset: Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve

I had the pleasure of introducing a few members of the Virginia Equine Artists Association (VEAA) to the wild horses of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve yesterday. As sunset neared most of the herd had moved out onto Bird Shoal. While many of the horses had moved a hundred or so yards out onto a sand flats area, a few stayed back near some low dunes. I decided to stay back with the smaller group of animals while most of the group photographed the larger group of horses. I hang back in part to stay out of the way of the people I was guiding, but also because there was an image I’ve had in my mind for quite some time that I hoped might develop. As it were, this was the evening that opportunity was going to happen. I watched as the sun sank lower in the sky, resting just above the top of a small sand dune. In my mind I was urging the horse nearest that dune to walk on top of it. “Please go up there” I thought. “Ease up on top of that dune, please!” Then, just as if this beautiful animal could read my mind, up the dune it went. Stopping between my lens and the setting sun. A few clicks of the camera and then the horse moved over the crest of the dune and out of sight of my camera. It is the moments like these that make time spent in the field worth the effort. I hope the folks from VEAA enjoyed their visit. If you like to learn more about their organization visit the Virgina Equine Artists Association website. Also I’d like to give a quick thank you to Captain Monty of Seavisions Charters and Ecotours for another perfect experience on the water.

A wild horse feeds atop a sand dune at sunset along the North Carolina coast.

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The Rule of Thirds: A Rant

There is a discussion about “the rule of thirds” taking place on a popular nature photography forum. I must admit I’m a bit surprised by some of the responses. Many of them show a general misunderstanding of the concept. The following is my reply… perhaps better described as my rant.

I must admit I’m a bit surprised by what seems to me to be a general misunderstanding of the “rule of thirds.” The recurring arguments against it are all very related – “wasted pixels,” “too much negative space,” “the subject is too small in the frame” and so on. “Thirds” does not dictate that the entire subject has to be placed on an intersect or along one of the vertical or horizontal lines. Many times it’s just placing an important portion of the subject on an intersect. An eye being a wonderful example, or maybe the head of the animal. Even with no environmental space in an image, an extreme close up, “thirds” can be applied. Additionally, it’s not just about the interest points. Placing an object being photographed along a vertical or horizontal line of “thirds” is an example of using that compositional concept.

After doing a little googling I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised if a lot of folks don’t completely “get” the rule of thirds. I looked at a lot of online articles and most of them used images where there was a lot of negative space surrounding the subject as sample images. There were a few exceptions here and there. Very few. I did find a couple of articles that did a bit better job with explaining the concept and with the sample photos used. I’m including the links below.

http://jakegarn.com/the-rule-of-thirds/

http://ruleofthirdsphotography.com/

In this article the author discusses ways to “break the rule of thirds.” He starts out with a few examples of images using “thirds” followed by examples of breaking the rules. The problem being roughly half of his images that are supposed to be examples of breaking the rule actually embrace it! If you look you’ll notice things like the eyes along on near a horizontal line of thirds, an upright along the vertical line, a horizon on or slightly below a horizontal line of thirds, a blur of movement along a horizontal guide line of “thirds.” Other examples, while breaking “thirds,” simply embrace other compositional concepts. (The rule of thirds is not the only compositional guide we should be familiar with.).

https://www.photocrowd.com/w/10-three-ways-break-rule-thirds

“Thirds” is but one of many, many compositional concepts. There are many times that an image will work well without applying “thirds.” But in almost every case of breaking “thirds” another compositional concept (or two or three) has been applied. I’ve mentioned this book before but I’ll recommend it one more time: “The Photographers Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photographs” by Michael Freeman. http://www.amazon.com/The-Photographers-Eye-Composition-Digital/dp/0240809343. It is an excellent, understandable study on composition.

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The Artist Statement

Read almost any article on how to be successful as an visual artist and it will include the suggestion that every artist needs an “Artist Statement.” Frankly that not something I’ve attempted to do before, always choosing to ignore that advice or, perhaps more honestly, to procrastinate and put off that project. This morning I decided to take the plunge and make the attempt. I have no idea if it will help my career as an artist, or if anyone really will care what it says, but I gave it a try anyway. While you can find it on my “About” page, I thought I’d share it here as well. Whether you like or dislike it, think it’s accurate or inaccurate, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Artist Statement

It has been said that a photograph always tells the truth. In reality the truth that any photograph speaks is that which the photographer chooses to tell. A photograph is neither truth nor fiction. It is simply a glimpse at a slice of time, as seen through the eyes of the artist. My photographs are simply a representation of my view of the world around me. My truth. My vision.

I’m particularly drawn to observing and photographing the wild horses which live along the coast of North Carolina. I find these animals beautiful, their behavior fascinating. I hope my photography provides some insight into their lives and their personalities. However my photography is not limited to these horses only. For my entire life I’ve been a lover of the outdoors… an explorer of natural places. In nature I find beauty which I wish to share with others. I find myself drawn to textures, shapes and patterns found in wild places. As a lover of animals I seek capture them photographically, to get to know them more intimately. As an explorer, a traveler along life’s path, I use my photographs to share my journey, vision and discoveries along the way.

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Repetition: A Compositional Tool

As photographers most of us have had the “rule of thirds” beaten into our artistically thick skulls. So thoroughly is this concept drilled into us that we frequently miss other wonderful compositional opportunities. One compositional concept that is frequently overlooked as to do with repetition. Repeating shapes or objects can be a strong compositional tool. Sometimes repetition will allow and otherwise mundane subject to be an interesting image. Combine repetition with other compositional concepts such as the use of lines and diagonals to help strengthen the impact of such images.

Below are a couple recent images of a sand fence found along the coast of North Carolina. Honestly there’s nothing glamorous about this subject. As subject matter goes a sand fence is not colorful, rare, or particularly beautiful. Yet they can be an interesting subject. What these photos have going for them, at least in my mind, is the repetitious pattern created by the fence combined with the stark contrast of light and dark plus the strength of lines. Take a look and see what you think.

A sand fence .along the Carolina coast

Simple concepts such as repetition, lines, and contrast can combine for interesting compositions..

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