Category Archives: Landscape Photography

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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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..

nautical art for sale

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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

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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.

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Five Tips for Making Better Landscape Photographs

– Move the horizon away from the center of the image.

By placing the horizon either low or high in the image frame you create a greater sense of drama for the viewer. Don’t be afraid to try putting the horizon a bit above or below the classic “thirds” locations. While your choosing a placement for the horizon take a little time to make sure it is straight. A tilted horizon rarely makes for a compelling landscape photo.

-Use a polarizing filter.

There are two advantages to using a circular polarizing filter when creating landscape images. One classic use is to cut down on reflections when shooting scenes with water or wet surfaces. These filters can also increase contrast and saturation in colors. They have an especially pleasing effect on blue skies.

– Think and compose in layers.

Consider the foreground, middle areas and background when composing landscape images. A strong element in the foreground can viewers enter an image and also provide a greater feeling of depth to your composition.

– Use a sturdy tripod.

In order to get focus throughout an image a small aperture is usually required. To reduce grain or digital noise landscape photographers use a low ISO. Both of these facts result in slow shutter speeds. Any camera or lens movement is bound to show when shooting at these kinds of settings. To help off-set these facts be sure to use a stable platform… a high-quality tripod.

– Use mirror lock-up or live view modes to reduce vibrations.

In order to show the what the lens sees in a Single Lens Reflex camera a mirror is used to reflect the view to the eyepiece. Before the shutter opens the mirror must spring up out of the way. When the mirror flips up it creates vibrations within the camera that can have an effect on the quality of the captured image. By using the mirror lock-up mode or live-view you can eliminate those vibrations from the photo.

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A Couple More Shots of the Pier

I worked up a couple more images of the pier. I have to admit that these might be favorites of the bunch

Oceanana pier as night falls.

Oceanana fishing pier, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

beach prints

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Scenes of the Croatan Forest

Recently I made a couple of short ventures into the Croatan Forest with a desire to shoot something of the landscape nature. Now landscapes in a forest can be a little tricky but it was a challenge I wanted to try. Perhaps I cheated a little by choosing the shoreline along the Neuse River for one of the shots… but it’s my self assignment so I can change the rules if I want to (right?). Below are a couple of the resulting shots. I may give it another go sometime in the near future.


A view inside the forest.

Where the Croatan Forest meets the Neuse River.

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Sunset on Atlantic Beach

I slipped over to Atlantic Beach a couple of evenings ago to make some photos. Here are a few of the resulting images.

Sunest on Atlantic Beach North Carolina

Oceanic Fishing Pier at Sunset.

Rustic looking public bench on Atlantic Beach.

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A Dying Breed: Oceanana Fishing Pier, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

When I moved to the Crystal Coast there were 6 public fishing piers along the Atlantic Ocean; Bogue Inlet Pier, Emerald Isle Pier, the Iron Steamer Pier, the Sportsman Pier, Triple S Pier and Oceanana Fishing Pier. Today there are only two left. This is a trend that’s occurring up and down the coast of North Carolina. For example, in 1996 there were 32 piers along our coast, by 2009 only 19 remained open to the public. This evening I decided to pay a visit to the Oceanana on Atlantic beach. Below are a couple of the resulting images.

A veiw from under the pier.

The Oceanana fishing pier juts out into the ocean along Atlantic Beach in North Carolina.

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Book Review: “Essential Composition: A Guide for the Perplexed” by Richard Bernabe

I’ll confess I’m a fan of Richard Bernabe’s work. He’s a very talented landscape photographer, a member of the Carolinas Nature Photography Association and, like me, makes his home in the Carolinas. A “home boy” if you will. Recently Richard released a new ebook, “Essential Composition: A Guide for the Perplexed.” As is typical with his ebook offerings the publication is well illustrated with some of his marvelous photographs. At the paltry price of eight dollars the photography alone may well justify the investment. However, if you’re seeking insight into photographic composition be aware this offering is anything but in-depth. As suggested in the title, “essential,” the book lightly reviews the more common compositional guides (rules). If you’re familiar with these “rules” and are looking for a deeper look into photographic compositional decisions this probably isn’t the book for you. On the other hand if you’re struggling to understand composition or you want to look at some awe inspiring landscape images you won’t be disappointed. Learn more about this recent offering at his website, http://www.richardbernabe.com/essential_composition.htm.

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