Friday, April 28, 2017

North Myrtle Beach: Chills along the water

People usually to go to the beach when it's warm and to enjoy the ocean and sand in the feet, to sip tropical cocktails and to soak in the sun.

After our visits to Savannah and Charleston last month, we spent a week with family in Cary, N.C., where balmy southern spring weather (70 degrees) turned outright chilly (50s) on one of the first days there. We had hoped the cold system would move out before we headed to North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the following week, but alas, it lingered.

And lingered.

It was chilly the whole time. I think temperatures may have hit a high of 60 or 61 on one of the four days there, but ... at least it didn't rain. We still walked the beach several times, although the first night, we did so wearing cold-weather attire. A couple of hardy souls braved the cold to take a dip into the ocean and the hotel swimming pools (the poolside hot tub was particularly popular), we did not. And the poolside tiki bar was not open. March must be out of season, I guess, even for South Carolina.

We did make a trip to Heritage Shores Nature Preserve, which was recommended by the hotel concierge when he saw me with my camera slung over my shoulder (more on this in the next post), and the city's relatively new branch of Duplin Winery. That became of interest because we had enjoyed a visit to the winery's home site in Rose Hill, N.C., in 2015.

We were very close to also venturing south to Myrtle Beach itself to tour Brookgreen Gardens, an outing that -- from what I could deduce from promotional material -- might have lured us into a long day akin to the one we spend at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. At the last minute, we decided to put off Brookgreen Gardens at least until we return to Myrtle Beach later this year. Instead, we took it easy for a day.

In recent years, I've photographed sunrises at Wrightsville Beach and Atlantic Beach in North Carolina, but I hadn't gotten any in South Carolina ... and I hadn't gotten any from an extreme elevated position. So I made a point to take a few on March 23 from the seventh-floor balcony of our hotel room. I was a bit tardy, however; I missed the actual solar slip above the horizon. I got my gear together in time to collect myself and grab the photo you see leading off the post. My vantage point was the balcony of the seventh-floor room in our hotel.

As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots at North Myrtle Beach, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens using a polarizing filter when outdoors. I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical (such as the bird photos and sunrise), I processed shots using single frames.

Above: Perhaps the most interesting time I had while shooting pictures along the sand at North Myrtle Beach was exploring the kinds of shots I'd get while shooting directly into the setting sun on the first full day there. I certainly expected silhouettes, and when I had images up on my screen during post-processing, the heavy haze in the background gave images like this a kind of zombie movie feel. I don't know; maybe I was reading more into it than I should have .... 

Above: If you've been to Myrtle Beach, you are familiar with the heavy commercialized shoreline. North Myrtle Beach (above) isn't too far off, if it's not already. It doesn't have the amusement rides just yet, though ... 

Above and below: I wasn't kidding about the chilly weather. As you can see, people bundled up for their walks along the beach. 

Seagulls again were a main attraction (or at least "presence") in North Myrtle Beach, just as they were at Tybee Island ... and probably just about every beach along the East Coast. I was fortunate to capture the shot above just as the lead gull turned to its left to give me this view. The two shots below are more examples of people entertaining themselves by throwing food bits to flocking gulls. The first shot below is a radical crop of the original; there were far more gulls off to the right. The second one below was looking into the sun, so I worked to bring out detail in Camera Raw and Photoshop Elements 15. 

Three years ago I photographed a dog alongside its owner at Atlantic Beach, N.C., a photo that turned out to be one of my favorites from my visit there. So I decided to include in this post a couple shots of dogs I came across at North Myrtle Beach. The canine in the above photo was retrieving the circular toy in its mouth and returning it to its owner in a "game" of toss-and-return that I'm sure all dog owners know. Below, the idea to juxtapose the dog and owner with the game of sand volleyball in the background was a no-brainer for me.  

Above: I could have opted to put the people in the background as the focus in this composition, but being in an impish, thinking-out-of-the-box mood, I decided to let the gull in the foreground take that honor. Yes, I have concerns that because the gull is so small and in the bottom corner, it might not command the attention it should to be the focal point. I'll let you be the judge. At least the foreground isn't compromised by the layer of haze permeating the people.

Above: I"m not sure I'll ever be fortunate to photograph something like this again -- a gull in the bokeh blur immediately above -- and seemingly bearing down on -- the small bird serving as the focal point here. 

Above: On the "warmest" day in North Myrtle Beach, a few brave souls tread into the raft pool. More popular throughout the day, every day, was the hot tub in the foreground.  

Above: The beach looking north from the seventh-floor room balcony. 

Above: On the walk to Duplin Winery, we came across this striking tree in an undeveloped area between the beach and main highway (U.S. 17).   

The outside of Duplin Winery (above), the merchandise sales area inside (first below) and people in a tasting room, sampling a handful of wines (second below). 

Next Up: Heritage Shores Nature Preserve

Previous posts in this series:

Part I: Savannah's Forsyth Square

Part II: Savannah's old-city neighborhoods 

Part III: Savannah's Riverwalk

Part IV: Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery

Part V: Tybee Island, Ga.

Part VI: Revisiting Charleston, SC, and its charms

Part VII: Nature's splendor can be found at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston

Part VIII: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' swamp preserve a photographer's delight

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