I did indulge in quite a bit of camera work in early July when I returned to North Carolina for 12 days or so. Those of you who follow this blog will recall I made my first trip there in July 2014.
This year's trip included a couple days back at Wrightsville Beach, my first stop last year; a couple sessions (some candid, some portraiture) with Lee Ann's 8-month-old granddaughter, Elizabeth; a Cary, N.C. (where I spent the majority of my time); a visit to downtown Wilmington, N.C.; and a side trip to the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The trip to Wrightsville Beach included another sunrise photo shoot, and this post features pictures from that. Pictures taken along the intracoastal waterway in Wrightsville Beach as well as samples of the shoots in Cary, Wilmington and at UNC will appear here in the days ahead.
Gearwise, I traveled light for this trip. For all of my North Carolina shots except the portraitures of Elizabeth, I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f.3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens and bracketed my images for varying exposures of each composition so I could treat the images in high-dynamic range (HDR) software during post-processing.
The Tamron is such a handy, versatile tool for when I know I'm going to be on my feet for long periods of time and I don't want to carry around a lot of gear ... and/or when I want to bracket my exposures without lugging around a tripod. Tamron's PZD (piezoelectric drive) and its VC technology in the lens (both of which also are found in the 18-270mm that I use on my Canon 7D crop-sensor camera) does a very good job keeping things still when I do two or three exposures for a shot. And even on those occasions when there is too much shake or too slow of a shutter speed (the former will occur when the lens is zoomed to the 250+ range), the lastest version of Photomatix HDR software that I use now provides a deghosting tool that corrects motion blur almost perfectly. The great thing about that tool is that it allows you to select which frame of the multiple exposures you took for the software to pick when blending the exposures.
For the portraiture shots of Elizabeth, I used the same camera but turned to a Sigma 85mm f/2.8 lens, which I've had for a couple years but never really explored to the degree I did with the pictures of Elizabeth in July. I was very impressed with how the Sigma performed; I had some great bokeh, and the images were crisp and professional looking.
OK, back to this post ...
The sunrise and intracoastal waterway photos at Wrightsville Beach were taken July 7. Those of you who follow PP might remember that I also shot a sunrise, my first ever, at the same location almost a year ago. In that instance, I mistimed it; I didn't arrive to shoot until the sun had already crept above the horizon. Because of that, I was in a rush and started tripping the shutter quickly and instinctively -- before getting away from the hotel's seagull sonar wires.
This time, I was better prepared. I arrived early and managed to get an elevated position on the other side of the wires, closer to the shoreline atop a wooden deck which was above the natural berm. I got several shots of the colored sky before the sphere became visible.
The photo leading off the post was well into the shoot, but it probably best represents the sunrise collection. I decided to use the lifeguard station as my frame complement and viewer perspective, so you'll see it included in the first several pictures. The changing colors of the sky and clouds as the sphere made its slow ascent (see five photos immediately below) gave me a varied representation of the moment.
You can see images from the full sunrise shoot at my SmugMug travel gallery.
Above: In the moments before the sun inched above the water, the sky colors immediately above the horizon were drenched in rich oranges and purples.
Above: Several of the full-zoom shots of the sun just as it cleared the horizon reflected an overlay of what I have to presume is a low-lying cloud cluster (click on the image to enlarge and get a better view). At first, I thought the objects in the center resembled the silhouettes of a ship or two, but that wouldn't have explained the much larger object on the extreme right. And besides, I don't remember seeing any craft or vessel in the vicinity of this area in the moments before or after the sun slipped above the horizon.
Above and next two below: Two more images taken moments before the sunrise but using something other than the lifeguard station as the subject. The metal hunter in the two images above got into a lot of my shots, sometimes by choice, other times because I was momentarily boxed in for the composition and had to include him. The presunrise image immediately above also gives a sense of the haze hovering low to the ground/water on this morning. The haze will become more evident in pictures further down in the post. The athlete in the first image below was running away from the sunrise. The pier in the photo below that also was in the direction opposite the sunrise from my vantage point. This frame, too, gives a little sense of the haze.
Above and next six images: The sun had risen, so I started to compose to integrate the low-to-the-ground haze into my photos. Using a 28-300mm lens enabled me to exploit the zoom compression that explains the varying degree of sharpness and separation that you see in the photos, i.e., people up close are mostly clear and out of the haze, whereas those farther back are cloaked in various degrees of it.
Above and below: I used this walker to compose several frames, and in the images above and below, I also demonstrate the subtleties between an image processed in HDR software (above) vs. one reflecting a single frame (below). The primary difference is that the HDR-treated image carries a slight full-body halo that gives it separation and better line distinction from the sand. I'm not saying this is necessarily better, because it certainly is less realistic. But artistically, you are more inclined at first to view the walker differently than you might in the image below. The walker in these images is headed in the general direction of the sunrise, but not directly so.
Above: Here is the same walker coming toward me. Because I'm not shooting into a direction where the sun is located, there is less silhouetting, and while there is haze, it's not as pronounced as it was above.
Above: This image was taken shortly after the one of the walker above it. It is simply a bit to the right of it. With the subjects closer to the camera, the separation really illustrates the amount of haze.
Above and below: Two post-sunrise shots taken toward the ocean, but away from the sun.
Above and below: Two post-sunrise images, one pointed directly at the sun, the other a few minutes later when the sun slipped behind some clouds.