Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trip to North Carolina, Part VIII:
Pilot Mountain

The series on posts from my North Carolina trip ends here with what promises also to be the shortest post.

I took the images you see here after pulling over to explore an historic landmark attraction for Pilot Mountain which was situated along U.S. 52 in northwestern North Carolina on the return trip.

A remnant of the ancient Sauritana Mountains, it was revered by the Saura Indians, the region's earliest known inhabitants, who called the landmark Jomeokee, which translated means "Great Guide." It lies in what currently is called the Yadkin Valley, which is rich in local wineries.

Along the pullover were a few interesting landscapes as well -- flowers and, in an area inaccessible by foot, old buildings. You'll see samples from those here, too.

Leading off the post is a tight shot of the mountain, taken with the Tamrom 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens zoomed at maximum focal length. I did bracket this for later high-dynamic range treatment, but the HDR version left a curious and very light halo along the line where the bushes well in the foreground meet the mountain foliage. The single-frame version, which you see, struck me as superior.

In fact, only one image in this post is an HDR treatment. It's the shot of the red-bloomed tree overlooking the highway and row of yellow flowers behind it. The flowers you see in the closeups were along a chain-link fence separating the pullover area from a grassy area where the buildings were situated. I shot the photos of the buildings through the openings in the fence.

The main structure was so rickety, it seemed to warrant monochrome treatment, but I'll include a color version for you to compare ... and decide which is best. The other building was so overwhelmingly covered with foliage that I decided not to include it in the post.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trip to North Carolina, Part VII:
Cape Lookout National Seashore

The prospect of visiting Cape Lookout National Seashore, at the southern tip of the Outer Banks, was intriguing early on in the trip to North Carolina. Still, I knew it presented a possible conflict of logistic opportunities -- Cape Lookout or university landscapes at neighboring campuses, Durham (Duke) and North Carolina (Chapel Hill).

Cape Lookout is home to the only lighthouse in the state whose interior is accessible to the public. The only way to get to the cape is by ferry, and there are several ferry operations in the islands near the southern Outer Banks. If one were wanting to make a day of the visit, there is a ferry that takes a leisurely ride -- a tour, actually -- through several of the islands and peninsulas in the vicinity.

From Harker's Island, I took a relatively short ferry that cruised past Schackelford Banks, which is home to about 100 or so wild horses, before the boat landed at Cape Lookout. The ferry came about 200 yards or so from Shackelford Banks, and with the Tamron 70-200mm lens zoomed at full focal length on my Canon 7D, I was able to grab a few usable pictures of a handful of horses grazing near the shoreline.

The shoot on the cape itself offered some splendid vistas for high dynamic range (HDR) treatment and many opportunities for single frames of a lot of seagulls flying low, swooping in for food from the many visitors who decided to make a day of it and brought picnics to enjoy along the shore. I elected not to climb to the top of the lighthouse; the wait was almost 2 hours, and there are fees ranging from $4 to $8 depending on age.

I preferred to invest the time roaming the coast and grabbing pictures where I could. That's what you see here.

Leading off the post is one of the shots I took while spending time integrating the lighthouse with two buildings and fencing that were in the vicinity. I'll be devoting quite a bit of time below dissecting one such photo.

Next: Pilot Mountain 

Above and below: Two of the frames I got of the wild horses on Shackelford Banks, which the ferry passed en route to Cape Lookout National Seashore. 

Above: Still on the ferry, I took this while approaching the cape. I was fortunate that the ferry had slowed and was still enough to enable my three bracketed shots to meld without including much blur when I took them into HDR software.

Above and next four below: My shots integrating the lighthouse with the nearby structures. All are HDR renderings except the fourth one below, which is a single frame that enabled me to freeze the action of the seagull's flight.

Above: This is the image I said in the text above that I'd be dissecting. Above is the original, full-frame HDR rendering of a shot of the two structures near the lighthouse. I took several shots, with slightly different composition crops. Note the people along the beach on the left, and the amount of sky above the interesting cloud cluster.

Above: In this first crop, I removed the beach, reduced the sky volume and took in some of the grass on the far right.

Above: A monochrome conversion of the above frame.

Above and next two below: Monochrome conversions -- and different treatments -- of shots taken with the seagull in different positions in the frame.

Above: An HDR rendering on a pond not far from the beach.

Above and next two below: Shots of visitors along the beach.

Above and next two below: Different views of thee same sailboat, the one above integrating a passing gull, the second below integrating a visitor approaching it along the beach.

Above and the remainder below: Shots of gulls and other fowl gracing the island during my visit. For the shots of the gulls in the air, I was using a shutter speed of about 1/1250.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Trip to North Carolina, Part VI:
sundowns at Atlantic Beach

Saving the best to (near) last wasn't my intent in organizing posts for my trip last month to North Carolina. I chose chronology because it seemed the simplest way to maneuver through the collection.

It is by mere coincidence that this post on the sunset/sundown shoot at Atlantic Beach, the shoot that resulted in the most dramatic colors, silhouettes and compositions on the trip, comes near the end of the chronology.

As excited as I was about these shots, photos from the shoot at Cape Lookout National Seashore on July 19 also resulted in photos that I was very pleased with. You can judge for yourself after seeing the next post.

For now, we'll stay in Atlantic Beach, where my decision to bracket compositions for later
treatment in high dynamic range (HDR) software to optimize detail proved to be a wise one, at least I thought so. At the very least, the image of the sand mound leading off the post is a dramatic example to support that move. It's an HDR rendering; the image at right is a single frame of the same image.

There isn't much else to say in the text here, so let's get to the pictures!

Next post: Cape Lookout National Seashore

Above: This shot of the lifeguard station took a dramatic turn when I processed the bracketed images in HDR software. I was pleasantly surprised. I did nothing to tweak the colors here.

Above and next two below: Here are three versions of a scene near a beachsode social hub adjacent to the pier at Atlantic Beach. I preferred the one above because of the sand, footprints and blades of grass in the foreground. But I also made several other compositions of the same scene, using the sky as the focal point in the two below and zooming in on the outdoor plaza and meeting area in the second below. One other note: I pulled back on the natural purple hues in image above but left them in tact in the two below. 

Above and below: Two versions of the same scene, taken at only a minute apart. In the one above, I was squatting or on my knees, looking to get the golden reflection off the mini-walls running along the left side of the boardwalk. I went prone for the shot below, which gave me a different view of the sky and a different color on the walls.

Above and next two below: Slightly different views of an area where I noticed the sky was of interesting color. For the version above, I cropped to make the grass more prominent. For the shot below, I present the original color version as I shot it to make the sky most promiment ... and a monochrome crop to minimize the sky and draw attention to the blades of grass.  

Above and below: Slightly different compositions of the same scene, which I credit to Lee Ann for spotting it and nailing it with a shot similar to the one above. The monochrome below moves the railing on the roof of the building to the far left. 

Above and next three below: I hope you indulge my explorations of different "looks" in an image. Here's an example where I wanted to see different hues in my monochromes, beginning with the color above, and an antique tint immediately below followed by a blue tint (to add to my "blues" collection) and the straight black-and-white.

Above and below: Another example of making slight compositional adjustments to the same scene. The one above uses only a hint of the grass blades while incorporating more of the buildings along the beach, while the one below minimizes the buildings, increases the grass blades and includes a lifeguard station and a hint of the ocean on the far left. 

Above and below: A couple shots of people enjoying a walk along the beach and playing in the tide.

Above: The drive on the backside of the buildings you saw above.

Above: The Atlantic Beach water tower. This HDR version is much more dynamic than the single-frame. 

Above: I decided to end this post in a reflective way, which isn't difficult to do when you're looking at skies like this. That's Lee Ann serving as my "human" element.