Category Archives: General Photography

My Prejudice Against Sunrise and Sunset Shots

I’m willing to admit it. I have a prejudice against sunrise and sunset photos. It’s not that dawn and dusk are beautiful times of the day. They most certainly are. My prejudice isn’t about a lack of beauty, it’s the result of some ideas that were put into my head many years ago. Honestly I don’t really recall when it started but I do remember some of the circumstances that created it. I don’t recall if it was an article in a magazine, or a paragraph in a photography book, but some where along the line I read something about how “cliche” photos of sunsets and sunrises are. In general the author was suggesting that the odds were against you if you were trying to place those types of photos with a stock agency… that the market was saturated with images of the sun setting and rising. For some reason that suggestion stuck with me. I vaguely remember reading other articles talking about how sunrise and sunsets are simply too easy to photograph. The idea was planted in my mind that it’s almost impossible to take a bad sunrise or sunset photo. Ever since reading those words, having those concepts placed in my mind, I’ve struggled with photographing these wonderfully colorful scenes.

When I talk about struggling with making these types of images I don’t mean with things such as technique and composition, but with generating the mental motivation to take those kinds of shots. I almost feel guilty when I make photos of the sun rising or setting over a pleasant scene. I’ve been brainwashed into the belief that these shots are just too easy. That’s really not true. All sunrise-sunset images are not created equally. There are a few photographers I know of that are brilliant and finding locations and setting up compositions at dawn and dusk. All of these images are not equal. This is a fact I have to keep reminding myself. You may have noticed over the last year or so that I’ve posted a few sunrise and sunset shots. I’m trying to beat that prejudice and allow myself the joy of photographing these beautiful, daily events. Below is a recent effort.

Atllantic Beach sunset.  The Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.

beach photos

Also posted in Landscape Photography Tagged , , , , , , |

Marshallberg Harbor

Following the big snow at the end of January I ventured out in search of some interesting snowscapes to photograph. My explorations included a trip to the downeast community of Marshallberg, NC. While I was there I took a few minutes to photographically explore the boats moored in the Marshallberg community harbor. From the viewpoint of images depicting the rare coastal snow storm these shots really don’t work. But from a historical/Americana perspective I think they’re kind of interesting. Considering the primary subjects were wood construction boats, and the primary color of the boats being white, I felt black & white was a better choice than color for these images. While these shots aren’t really nature related, I think they fit in well with the “adventures in and around the Carolinas” theme.

Abstract view of the wheel house of a woodent fishing trawler.

A fishing boat sits in Marshallberg Harbor

Wooden fishing trawler in port.

Detail of a wood constructed trawler.

Marshallberg Harobor

black and white photos

Also posted in History & Landmarks, History and Landmarks, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

Wild Horses In a Rare Crystal Coast Snow

Depending upon one’s point of view the Crystal Coast was blessed or damned with a winter storm recently. Getting enough snow to cover the ground is really a fairly rare occurrence here. For a few years now I’ve been hoping to get the chance to photograph the wild horses of the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve in snow. Now my preference would be to be there as snow was falling but that didn’t happen this time. I was able, however, to get some shots of the mustangs with snow on the ground and ice covering much of the marsh grass.

To reach the reserve I had to put my kayak in the water. I’m sure a few of the fine people of Beaufort were wondering what was up with the crazy man was doing putting a kayak in the water on a day like this. But if you think about it, the kayak was invented by native people living in places like Alaska and Canada. These little boats were basically designed for cold weather use.

I really expected to find the horses in one of the wooded hammock areas, trying to stay out of the cold. I found a few, however, feeding not far from the main watering hole area. During the winter the herd certainly spreads out about the entire reserve. I rarely find a large number of them together this time of the year. Below are a few of my favorite shots from the trip.

Wild Horse of NC

Wild horse drinks from a watering hole along the NC coast.

Frozen food for a wild horse.

A Wild Horse in a rare Crystal Coast snow.

Wild mustang on a barrier island in NOrth Carolina.

Wild stallion feeding on marsh grass.

Wild horse in North Carolina.

Wild horses feeding along on snow covered marsh grass.

Also posted in Banker Horses, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sunset at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

There are a few advantages to the shorter days of winter. One of those is that sunset actually occurs before the gates close at Fort Macon State Park. During the summer’s “Daylight Savings Time” hours it’s impossible to get either sunset or sunrise shots at the fort. With the exceptionally nice weather we were enjoying I decided to take advantage of the situation yesterday evening and headed over to the park to take some sunset photos. Since it was a Saturday I wasn’t surprised that the jetty was covered with fishermen. Considering the spring-like weather I really can’t blame them. I parked in the main lot in front of the fort, hiked along the beach to a suitable spot for photography near the jetty. I took a seat on the sand and waited on the setting sun. I chose a 35mm prime lens, leveled my camera, decided on a suitable composition and made a few images as the sun set. My favorite photos came after official sunset, as is often the case.

Sunset at Fort Macon State Park near the rock jetty.

Sunset over the Atlantic ocean, Atlantic Beach, NC

North Carolina sunset at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach.

nautical photographs for sale

Also posted in Landscape Photography, Nature Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Shoot or Don’t Shoot: A Question for Workshop and Tour Leaders

The question was raised on a popular nature and wildlife photography forum as to whether workshop leaders shoot make photos when leading one of these programs. I thought I’d share my reply on my blog:

As a participant every workshop I’ve attended the leader also did some shooting. Most times their shooting was limited in comparison to that of the participants, but they did shoot. These, however, were always workshops aimed at wedding or portrait photography, employing paid models to demonstrate using lighting or shooting in certain situations/locations. In nearly every case there was classroom time involved during the workshop and a critique session at the end. I really had no issues with the leader making photos. They kept the level low so they could observe and make suggestions to the participants and were available to answer questions 100% of the time. FWIW I’ve never taken a nature/wildlife targeted workshop.

As a workshop/tour leader I shoot. I don’t have my face glued to the back of my camera the entire time we’re in the field. In fact I’m fairly selective about what I shoot when leading. After all, I’m leading the group because this is a location I’m intimately familiar with. I shoot in these locations a lot. I spend a lot of my time observing our subjects (wild horses) and the participants. I make suggestions, answer questions. I alert the folks in my charge when I see an interesting situation developing. Obviously I don’t let my own shooting get in the way of my doing my job. I have a responsibility to get the photographers in my charge in front of the horses, to impart some information about the horses, the environment and photography in general, and to try to make sure no one does anything to endanger themselves of the animals we’re photographing.

I offer two kinds of experiences; a “tour/safari” and a “workshop.” They are not one in the same. For a “tour/safari” my primary job is to get the participants in front of the subjects. They are hiring me for my expertise at finding these animals and to handle the logistics such as transportation and meals. Tours are for experienced photographers that don’t feel they need a lot of hand-holding and direction. They’re confident in their camera and compositional skills. They need to be given opportunities, not a lot of instruction. Obviously, at least in my mind, there’s little reason for me not to shoot during these kinds of outings. If they have a question or need my input, all they have to do is ask.

The other experience I offer is a formal workshop. For a workshop there’s going to be some classroom time involved. Instead of a pre-trip briefing given during a tour, we’re going to spend the first morning learning about the history of these animals, the rules concerning interaction with them and we’ll discuss things like lens selection and composition. My assumption is that someone that signs up for a workshop is looking to improve their photography skills as well as getting photo ops with the wild horses. During our first session in the field I’ll shoot very little, but I will shoot some. I’ll be observing everyone, analyzing the strengths, weaknesses and needs of each individual. Just as when leading a tour, I’ll be alerting folks when things are going to get interesting, be responsible for locating the animals and be dealing with the logistics of the thing. As the workshop progresses I’m usually able to shoot more and more… but again, while being very selective about what I shoot. Near the end of the workshop, but before the last field session, there’s another classroom session. This session is all about composition and post processing. It includes a critique session. I do this prior to the final field session with the idea that the participants will be able to apply what they learn to their final shooting opportunities. During that last field session I’m answering questions if asked, but not offering unrequested input. The idea is to let them try to put it all together on their own.

Keep in mind there’s an educational aspect to the leader shooting. By observing how the leader shoots… things such as tripod height, lens selection, long lens technique, etc… the participants can gain some insight into maximizing their photographic opportunities during their tour or workshop. The short and sweet – I shoot. I shoot more during a tour than during a workshop but I shoot.

Also posted in Banker Horses, Education, Guided Tours, Nature Photography, Photo Tip Tagged , , , , , , |

Eastern Phoebe

While I was photographing the Yellow Rumped Warblers the other day I was blessed with another visitor. A lovely little Eastern Phoebe perched on a bare branch, watching to see what I was up to. Obviously this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. The Eastern Phoebe is a member of the flycatcher family. This handsome little species of bird was the first to be banded in the United States. In 1804 John Audubon, (yep… that Audubon), attached a “silvered thread” to the leg of an Eastern Phoebe so he could track its return in the following years. A year round resident of the Carolinas, these pretty little birds winter farther north than other flycatcher species. These small birds will use buildings and bridges for nesting sites, a trait that has allowed them tolerate urban growth into their natural habitat.

Photographing small birds is one of the few situations where I like to have my camera at my eye level. For shooting most wild subjects I prefer a low point of view but birds are often perched high in the branches of tree. A shot taken on at eye-level with the subject always has more impact than a shot taken at an extreme upward angle. For this series the Phoebe was perched very close to my eye-level making a good situation even better. I made these shots with a Canon 7D and a Sigma 50-500mm lens mounted atop an Induro CT314 tripod.

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Eastern Phoebe at the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve Yawnig Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Also posted in Avian Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Photo Tip

They Grow-up So Fast

I still remember the excitement of that day. I had heard there was a new foal living in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve and was on my second trip to try to get some photos of her. There she was, standing next to her mother. Seemingly so small and fragile, yet elegant and beautiful at the same time. That was in August of last year. I also remember how thrilled the participants of my wild horse workshop were to get to see and photographer last April & May. She was still small, impish and cute. Last week I was photographing a lovely little filly. It took a few minutes before I realized it was this same little youngster. She’s not exactly all grown-up yet, but she’s certainly anything but small, fragile and delicate. What they say is so true. They grow up so fast. Here are a few photos of the youngest wild horse living in the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. I hope you enjoy them.

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Wild Horse of the Carolina coast.

Also posted in Banker Horses, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yellow Rumped Warbler, AKA Butter Butt

I have a friend that moderates the Wildlife South photo forums. Jim is a retired photo editor that used to work for National Geographic. He has a love for photographing small birds and the Yellow Rumped Warbler, a little bird he’s nick named the “Butter Butt,” seems to be one of his favorites. Naturally when I get the chance I have to snap a few photos of these little birds to share with him. I had braved the cold the other morning, scraped the frost off of my windows, loaded the kayak and headed over to the reserve to photograph the wild horses. After spending some time with the horses I decided to head back to the kayak, make the paddle across Taylor’s Creek and go enjoy the warmth and comfort of home. On the hike back I noticed several of these handsome little birds and decided to make a few photos.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Also posted in Avian Photography, Nature Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Tangled Mane: Portraits of a Wild Horse

Life and weather have conspired to keep me from getting out to do any shooting this week. I did, however, find some time to go through my files from my last outing and to work up a few photos. While portraits lack the dynamic energy found in the fight sequences I recently posted, it is interesting to get a close look at these beautiful wild horses. In this series I showcase a pretty mare with a severely tangled mane. I think the tangle adds a bit of character and helps with impart the feeling of “wild” to the viewer. See what you think.

A wild horse feeding on marsh grass sports a tangled mane.

Portrait of a wild horse with a tangled mane.

Wild horse of the Carolina coast.

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Also posted in Banker Horses, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Wild Horses Clash: Drama on the Tidal Flats

When most people think of a wild horse fight they visualize the horses standing on there rear legs, hooves flailing and teeth gnashing… (kind of like in the post below this one). But in reality it doesn’t always work that way. They can clash with all four feet planted firmly, well semi-planted, on the ground. The photos below show a clash between two dominate stallions on the tidal flats. During this scrimmage neither horse ever reared up. Still the action was intense with mud and water flying in the air.

During the editing process I quickly recognized that I wanted to use a contrasty black and white treatment for the first image. I desaturated the image in “Adobe Camera Raw,” then opened it with Photo Shop. Next I applied some “smart sharpening” then used the NIK “define” plugin to tame down the noise a bit. Next I used the “detail extractor” in the NIK Color Efex Pro 4. I then zoomed in to do some dodging and burning by hand to create the look I wanted. The final step was to create a duplicate layer in “soft light” mode to add some “pop,” then adjust the opacity of that layer to taste. I then decided I wanted to do a series, selected the next two images and used the same workflow to maintain a consistent look between the three photos.

Wild horses clash in a vicious battle on the tidal flats along the North Carolina coast

Fighitng wild stallions, North Carolina Outer Banks

Wild horses of the Outer Banks

Also posted in Banker Horses, Education, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Photo Tip, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |
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