Atlantic Dawn

Since photography must be a ‘when you have time hobby’ for me, I unfortunately don’t get many chances to pick up the camera. For the last year or two, my photographic journeys have been few, similar and coincide with vacations. This year we spent a few weeks in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which so far, have been the only chances for me to create photographs. Despite the same subject and same location, each experience is different and so are the resulting images.

Normally our excursions to the beach take place from spring through summer. We decided to change it up this year and head down to the beach when most were getting ready for autumn. Quite a different experience with far fewer tourists and cooler temperatures, but still a great time. Since this was a short trip, I only had one morning for photography.

I arrived on the beach between 5:00 – 5:30am, while most sane people were still asleep. For miles in every direction, I was surrounded by darkness and the sounds of the Atlantic. While water temperatures had cooled for the season, the waves were welcomed warmth compared to the brisk pre-dawn air.

With my feet and tripod firmly buried in the sand, I set up for my first series of shots. I wanted to use the light from the stars and the ever so subtle light from a sun that would rise in an hour to create a nice pre-dawn mood. This image includes many features, from night stars, early morning glow, flowing waves and departing clouds. One might think the dip in the horizon is due to a lens distortion, but it’s not. There is a wave on the left side and clouds on the right, which gives the appearance of a dipping horizon.

To the naked eye, I could see only stars and a deep black sky. But by keeping the shutter open for around 30 seconds, I was able to capture the light from the stars and pre-dawn glow to illuminate a scene otherwise unseen. Tip: Limit shutter speeds to 20-30 seconds in these situations to capture the actual stars. Any longer than 30 seconds, you’ll begin to capture the Earth’s rotation and star trails will result.

Atlantic DawnAs time passed and the sky filled with warm color, I positioned my camera northward towards the nearest pier. I moved further up on the beach and out of the water in order to use the sand and retreating water as interesting foreground subjects. This image was created just before the sun poked above the horizon, which quite often is the moment that yields the most impressive light.

Morning Light With Pier

Once the sun was up, the beach began filling up with morning walkers, treasure hunters, coffee drinkers and of course, seagulls. This particular bird stood along the water’s edge eating all sorts of stuff the ocean deposited along the beach. To zoom in on the bird, I used my 70-200mm lens set to 200mm with a 2x teleconverter, which allowed me to shoot at 400mm. The outcome is one of my favorite bird photos I’ve taken.

SeagullOverall, I spent a couple of hours shooting on this morning and I’m pleased with the results; hopefully you are as well. Next up, I’ll be heading to the mountains to capture autumn’s foliage at its best.

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