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.

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