Tag Archives: Forest

Rainy Day in the Croatan National Forest

I got up early yesterday morning, planning on looking for some macro shots in the Croatan National Forest. Before I could set-up my first shot the skies started darkening and then opened up with a down pour. Considering the weather, I decided to spend some time scouting for new spots by driving a few forest roads I hadn’t explored before. On one road I came upon a fawn standing in the middle of the forest road. I’m not a fan of shooting out of a vehicle window. I prefer to get out in the field when making images. However I knew if I opened the door and stepped out the fawn would be gone. Being too good of an opportunity not to take advantage of, I took a few shots, eased the car forward and took a few more. After my second move forward that fawn was joined by it’s mother, providing a wonderful “Bambi & Mother” photo op. I kept working closer and closer to the pair and eventually, of course, they headed off into the woods.

Continuing my exploration I headed on down the road to it’s termination. I swung the car around and headed back out the way I came. Much to my surprise and delight I spotted another deer standing in the road. I swallowed my “shooting out the window of a vehicle isn’t real nature photography” attitude once again and hung the camera out the window. As I shot and crept in closer two more whitetails joined their friend on the road. The watched me, fed a bit, watched me some more and eventually moved casually into the forest. Come fall I have a good idea of where to do some “real nature photography” and set-up a portable stand for some whitetail deer photography.

A whitetail deer stands in the center of a forest road in the Croatan National Forest.

Three amigos... a trio of deer walk along an isolated forest road.

A fawn standing in a forest road.

A doe and her fawn in the Croatan National Forest.

Posted in General Photography, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Sometimes the “Wrong” Lens is Just Right!

Usually when I want to take close-up photos of plants and flowers I reach from my trusty 100mm macro lens. But recently I decided to play around with doing some close-up work with a wide angle zoom. Instead of mounting my macro lens I reached in my bag and pulled out my Tokina 12-24mm wild angle lens for the job. This lens has a very short minimal focus length allowing me to get a reasonably sized image of the subject. In the case of the images shown below the front of element of the lens was probably only 3 or 4 inches away from the subject…AT MOST! The disadvantage of this lens choice is that you have to work much closer to the subject than if using a longer lens. Honestly, I frequently use a 1.4x teleconverter with my macro lens to either allow even greater magnification or to allow me to work from further away. There is an advantage to using the wild angle lens for close-up work though. The perspective is quite different using this lens when compared to that of a longer lens. Below are the results of this endeavor. I hope you enjoy them.

Fern shot in the Croatan Forest using a 24mm wild angle lens.

Sometimes you need to think out of the box to create unique images.

Southern blue flag iris shot with a wide angle lens.

Wide angle of a wild flower photographed in the Croatan National Forest.

Posted in General Photography, Macro Photography, Photo Tip, Wildflowers Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Favorite for the Week

I thought I’d do a post of my favorite images for the week. You’ll notice that’s the plural of favorite… there are two that I really like. For the most part they are polar opposites. One is close-up, intimate, sharp and clean. The other includes a lot of open space, the horses are small in the frame, it has a dirty, grungy feel to it. In fact I even introduced some noise to help give it the feel of that old gritty black & white film everyone used to love so much. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’ll be posting some color images very, very soon.

A clean, sharp and intimate portrait of a wild horse.

A wild horse photo with an old-time feel.

Posted in Banker Horses, General Photography, Nature Photography, Wild Horses, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

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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Posted in General Photography, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |

It Just Wouldn’t be Spring Without…

It just wouldn’t be spring without a least one post with photos of wildflowers! Seriously, “April showers… Spring flowers” and such. It’s a tradition! So not wanting to condemn myself to some bad ju-ju by not enjoying a little bit of spring flora photography, and assuming that carnivorous plants just don’t count as “flowers,” here is my offering for the rites of spring. A single Daisy and a couple wild Magnolias. Just be forewarned, this post doesn’t mean I won’t post more wild flower images sometime in the future!

A roadside daisy.

A wild magnolia bloom in the Croatan National Forest.

Wild magnolia bloom.

Posted in General Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Wildflowers Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Mammals Aren’t the Only Meat Eaters in the Croatan Forest!

Coastal North Carolina is a magical place in so many different ways. One of those is the presence of carnivorous plants. For example, found only within a 100 miles of Wilmingtion, NC, the Venus Fly Trap is one of the more interesting indigenous plants found on the coastal plain. But the Venus Fly Trap isn’t the only carnivorous plant found in eastern North Carolina. Others include Bladder Wart, a variety of Pitcher Plants as well as Sundew plants. I tend to be very tight lipped about where I find these plants as they are somewhat rare and there can be a problem with poaching. Below are a couple shots of a Venus Fly Trap and a Sundew taken somewhere in the Croatan National Forest.

Native to North Carolina the Venus Flytrap is an endangered plant well worth protecting.

Venus Flytrap.

The Sundew plant is another kind of carnivoruos plant found in North Carolina

Posted in Carnivorous Plants, General Photography, Macro Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |

Fall Approaches, Wild Flowers Fade

Lately the mornings have been a little cool. Not crisp and frosty yet but the hint of autumn is definitely there. With that hint of fall the wildflowers found along the forest service roads are beginning to fade and wither. That can actually be an interesting to time to mount a macro lens to the favorite DSLR body and make some art.

Now some folks aren’t going to see the beauty in wilted, drooping petals, but there is a character about them. They also won’t “get” the use of selective focus or shallow depth of fields. While other photographers may heap piles of compliments on such offerings, the non-photographers… or at least not serious shutterbugs… may make comments like “at least I can get a flower all in focus” or something similar. And just imagine their shock when you photograph a flower from the back! But that’s okay. Art isn’t about pleasing everyone else. It’s about pleasing ones self. Below are a few selections from my recent effort to capture these fading flowers.

Selective focus on a yellow flower.

An unusal view of a wildflower.

You don't always have to photograph a flower in a familar way.

Posted in General Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Photo Tip, Wildflowers Also tagged , , , |

Tired of Wild Horses? Then Here’s Some Butterflies!

The truth be told I’ll never tire of photographing the wild horses that call eastern North Carolina home. But they’re not the only thing I shoot. I as out and about Sunday afternoon doing some scouting in the Croatan National Forest when I came across and area that was just littered with butterflies. The number of these pretty little bugs was almost staggering. Even though I wasn’t equipped for these types of photos… (I had the wrong tripod head to mount the camera with the macro lens)… but I roughed it with some hand-held shots. Here are a few of my favorites.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Butterfly in the Croatan Forest


Orange butterfly


Croatan Forest Butterfly

Butterfly in the Croatain National Forest


Posted in General Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |

Nature Doesn’t Always Cooperate

I left the house this evening with plans to do some light painting with one of my favorite cypress trees as my subject. I hiked in to the location, settled on an angle and composition and settled in to wait for darkness to fall. Of course I took a few shots while waiting on night fall. As I waited I noticed clouds moving in from the distance… and a somewhat ominous thunderhead. Again, I naturally took a few shots. Suddenly the wind picked up and I could see rain falling in the distance. Not too surprisingly I scrubbed the plans for the light painting and scurried back to the safety of my vehicle. I’ll give the light painting project another try some evening in the near future. For now here are a couple shots of the cypress tree.

A cypres tree grows along the Neuse River.

Cypres tree.

Posted in General Photography, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |

A Tale of Two Wheels

A few weeks ago I purchased a used bicycle. Several years ago, when I lived on the beach, I rode a bike almost daily. It was always a fun experience. I also saw it as a useful tool for exploring several of the forest service roads around the Croatan National Forest where motorized traffic is not allowed. And, to be honest, a little exercise wouldn’t hurt either. So I started watching Craigs List, local classified ads and checking area consignment stores in search of a bike.

The bike I settled on was a Trek 7200 Multitrack. A hybrid bicycle, it is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. It’s narrow tires certainly aren’t suitable for hard-core trail riding. However it’s fine for putzing around forest roads and some of the easier sections of the Neusiok Trail. That’s exactly the kind of cycling I had in mind.

The day after I bought it I headed over to the Neuse River Recreation area (Flanners Beach) between Havelock and New Bern. The recreation area has a nice paved bike path that circles the campgroung, with a gravel loop that runs back into the forest. It seemed perfect for a trial ride on my newly acquired bicyle. The first lap around the perimeter was uneventful. I took the longest leg of the paved path, plus the loop through the woods to maximize distance. There is a section of the “natural surface” portion of the trail that drops down into a swamp, crossing over a wooden boardwalk. That boardwalk took some serious damage during last year’s hurricante Irene and has not been restored to original condition. Simply put it wasn’t something a novice rider wanted to cross on a bike. So I walked the bike across that section. For my second lap I decided I avoid that bridge by reversing my course and heading up the other side of the “natural” path, making a loop back rather than dropping down into the swamp. On that lap I managed to catch a limb between the rear derailer and wheel, breaking the derailer hanger. First trip and I had the pleasure of walking my “new” bike out! Ah well.

I did a little checking around and found a bike shop that would be open on a Sunday, loaded my bike and headed down highway 24 towards Cape Cartert. The employee working that day assured me there’d be no problem fixing the bike and that I’d hear from the mechanic in a couple of days. Instead I got a phone call from the same employee telling me they didn’t handle that brand and wouldn’t be able to fix it. Fair enough I thought. The first day I’d have to go retrieve it would be Wednesday. As I was enroute to pick-up the bike I get a phone call on my cell phone. It was the bike mechanic. “No problem Mr. Decker,” he said, “I’ll order the part and get it fixed for you.” I headed back home. The very next afternoon I come home to find a message on my answering machine from the shop telling me they couldn’t fix it. If I wanted to get a part off the internet or at a dealer and bring it to them they’d be glad to do the service but they couldn’t get the part. Really! A simple Google search of “Trek Multitrack 7200 rear derailer hanger” results in hundreds of choices. You could order them for anything from $10 to $40 with no problem. The bike shop couldn’t do this themself? Talk about poor customer service! My next opporunity to pick-up my bike was Saturday. I picked it up, head to Jacksonville to visit the dealer down there, bought a hanger and fixed it myself. Easy, peasy. Now I’m not going to mention the name of that bike shop, located on highway 24, in Cape Carteret (wink, wink). That would just be too crass. But I will say they’ll never see a dime of my money after a run-around like that. Heck, when I picked it up the owner was working and he didn’t even offer as little as an apology!

Since repairing my bike I’ve explored a few trails and forest roads. As I suspected it makes a great tool for quick exploration to find areas with potential for nature photography. It’s also a great deal of fun. When I’m just looking for a little exercise rather than exploration, my favorite ride is to hop on the Neusiok Trail where it crosses Alligator Tram Road (a forest service road). I head towards the trail-head at the Newport River. That stretch of trail is perfect for a hybrid bike with most of it being gravel surface and/or hard pack. It’s fairly flat and relatively dry. A round trip works out to be about 7.4 miles (per the bike computer). There are options to return via Mill Creek Road and/or Old Winberry Road if one doesn’t want to do an out and back route. It’s good exercise, a great way to get out into nature and one heck of a lot of fun.

Posted in Bicycling, General Photography, Hiking Trail, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |