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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Love and Learn...
When you love a place, you learn a place.

I’ve said this here before, but every year, my mother marked on our kitchen calendar the date the first daffodil bloomed, and spring’s first Robin in our yard. That seemingly small ritual became something I looked forward to and continued once I had daffodils of my own to watch. Since we see Robins all year on the Outer Banks, I gradually learned other spring signs, and then, signs of other seasons as well.

I’ve learned that wetter Junes mean later-blooming sea oats and that hotter, drier Junes bring the seed heads to maturity a week or two earlier. Over the years as I have watched their emergence, I’ve also learned they tend to appear a few days fuller at the Baltic Street beach access, which used to be located just south of the Beacon Motel. Now that the motel has been torn down and the dunes there reshaped, there are comparatively few green stalks—but they still seem ahead of those at other nearby spots. I did check Curlew Street this week and those grasses are definitely greening up and sporting new, tight, bright seed heads.

We’re in the season of longest days and shortest nights officially now, and the sun is rising straight off the ends of the piers, due east. Come winter, it will rise way to the south and make a much lower and shorter circuit across the sky. It is setting further north now than it will in winter.

The osprey that returned in March to spruce up their nests and re-unite with their lifelong mates now have sizeable babies. You can tell the young osprey by their orange eyes and the pattern of their feathers, each of which appear edged in white. You can hear them too, whistling for mom or dad to hurry home with fish for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Young osprey fledge at 7-8 weeks; that all-important first-flight is preceded by days of wing stretches and flapping, all of which help to strengthen the muscles needed for flight. There’s a nesting pair within calling distance of our house in Colington and at dusk, the male often perches atop a dead tree right on our property line, sometimes with dinner. The pair I’m most familiar with nests in the Colington marina and has been together for at least 18 years. Typically they live no more than 20-25 years in the wild, so we hold our breath every spring until both return from their long migratory flight. They nested successfully again this year; I saw two babies in the nest earlier this week. I also had a chance to check on the nest at Sandy Run park in Kitty Hawk.

By late June, the farm fields on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on the Dare mainland have soybeans, wheat or corn growing, and I try to arrange my schedule to make several trips over to drive the refuge roads near dusk to spot Black Bear. Pete and I drove the refuge earlier in June and saw six or seven, one of which trotted at the side of the road right past our car. I took a friend over earlier this week and we spotted four, three of which were far across the fields. She was amazed at how fast the bears run. They can sprint faster than a human can, which is why I never stray far from my open car door if I do step out of the vehicle at all. I try to approach the natural world with both love and respect. I’ve deliberately invested in a long lens to help me get a closer view without getting physically close. Not only do I want to stay safe, I want to set a good example for others who may see me in the field, or see my work and try to get their own, close-up photographs. And I want the wildlife whose world I have entered to feel safe as well. I do believe wildlife can sense our presence and whether we are calm or agitated, whether we pose any threat to them or project a sense of safety. My goal is to communicate that respect and calm, to thank them for their presence and the gifts embodied in the photographs I can then share with others. I’ve learned “please” and “thank you” go a long way, with wildlife as well as with humans. Looking for bear, we were treated to female Wood Ducks, a male Blue Grosbeak, a high-perching Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a bright yellow Prothonatary Warbler that flew by our car so fast I could scarcely say “there it is!” before there it went. Although this is the right time of year to see cubs, I have not spied any as yet. That gives me reason to return.

Learning a place doesn’t mean you can’t still be surprised or awed.

I’ve had in mind for some time going down to Frisco Pier while it still stands and photographing the pier under the Milky Way. I was able to do that during a night a week ago when we had relatively clear skies, fairly light breeze, and a new moon. Although that stretch of beach is relatively dark, there are occupied houses north and south of the pier with plenty of lights on, enough to illuminate the pier somewhat in the 25+/- seconds my shutter was open for the Milky Way. For some images I lit the pier with a high-powered mag flashlight, a photographic technique called light painting. After a couple of hours the air began to be foggy and hazy and the stars went from pinpoint-clear to haloed. That was my cue to pack up and drive back north. I rarely go out with a particular image pre-visualized. I’m a more opportunistic photographer in that I typically just show up, and look around to see what or who has shown up along with me. That often makes for happy surprises.

When my friend and I left Alligator River this week, after already being surprised by the birds, we saw some amazing cloud iridescence. I still had my long lens attached and pulled over to photograph the clouds for the brief minutes the shimmer lasted. I drove back into Colington as the rains began with lightning all around. That’s another predictable sign of summer: evening thunderstorms and afternoon squalls. The cloud and light shows they produce are among my favorite skyscapes all year and we had a doozy of a show this past Thursday night. I did not have a chance to photograph it, but Ray Matthews did and you can check out the Yellowhouse Gallery Facebook page to see his image there. As I write this Saturday night, the thunder I anticipated all day is finally beginning. We may be in for another spectacular light show. That’s my cue to finish up here. Enjoy!!

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The 2015 crop, at Curlew Street in Nags Head.

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This is a parent with one of the babies in the Sandy Run park nest, in Kitty Hawk.

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This large bear came strolling down beside the road toward our car. I simply leaned out the window with my long lens. Sharing the experience with Pete was precious.

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My friend and I did not see bear that close on our return visit, but she did spot these Woodducks swimming in the canal alongside the refuge road.

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Frisco Pier and the Milky Way. One wish my friend expressed was to see a shooting star. We didn't--but my camera sensor picked one up!

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This is the image with the light painting technique to illuminate the pier. I call this, House Not Made With Hands, a reference to a verse in the New Testament, in which our earthly impermanent dwelling is compared with an eternal, heavenly one.

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I hope you can see the iridescence on your monitors. Look for shimmering pinks and even blues and yellows. In real life the sight was amazing.

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A friend posted on Facebook that a Mourning Dove had nested in the Wandering Jew plant on her front porch. She graciously gave me the okay to come photograph the babies. I call this, Peace Doves.

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Something I've learned over the years is that raccoons share my yard. The outdoor kitties have learned to co-exist and share. That's a rule I have: everybody gets along. This little one perched in the live oak tree out front, watching me watching it.

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My house has large west-facing windows and I can sometimes tell through the trees that a vibrant sunset is likely. The actual sunset fizzled; the show happened earlier with this beam and a heart-shaped cloud. Glad I was out to see it.

posted by eturek at 4:40 PM

Comments [1]

Thursday, June 4, 2015
Fog Is Magic
I love fog. I love the mystery fog creates, the invitation to hush hurried thought and tiptoe, whispering, every sense alert. We’ve been treated to a week of towering clouds in the west, most of which peaked right during peak afternoons in the gallery, so I missed being able to be outside right then. Two afternoons ago a magnificent fog bank rolled in quickly only to turn the entire landscape a deep, damp, drizzly gray by the time the workday ended. Foiled again!

I’ve learned over the years to be patient and that the photographs calling to me will come at the right time, when I and the landscape and its wild inhabitants are meant to intersect. Sometimes I forget what I’ve learned, and need gentle reminders. One of those came earlier this week right in my own front yard. I’d gone out with the dogs, spied at last some clouds in the east, and figured to head to the ocean once the dogs decided I was finished with my (read, their) evening excursion. I thought those clouds might turn a towering pink in the setting sun. Meanwhile, the dogs lollygagged. Just as I began to think impatient thoughts, I spotted a hummingbird atop my little dogwood tree! Hummingbirds signal “joy” to me. They are a reminder of all I am, in fact, grateful for—including these dogs, including a busy gallery-owner’s life. I took a deep breath and shifted over to really feel that joy. The dogs suddenly hurried up. Now I had a choice. I could head to the ocean and watch those clouds, or I could stay put and watch the hummingbird. I opted to stay put, and enjoy the gift at hand. Good decision; the clouds dissipated in the east and the sunset fizzled in the west—but not before bestowing a parting gift. Just before disappearing behind a gray cloudbank, the sun gave enough light as the hummingbird turned to reveal that I was in the company of a male Ruby-throated hummingbird, its bright red, iridescent throat unmistakable. Before that, mostly silhouetted, the bird showed only a dark neck.

Helped by my hummingbird’s lesson, I opted to keep patient and positive even while missing some of the best cloud shows of the season so far (well, mostly patient and positive). Yesterday afternoon all that positivity paid off.

Back in May 2010 we had a day much like this Wednesday. Foggy for much of the day, the fog lifted a little in late afternoon, just as I was leaving Yellowhouse, and the sun began to shine intermittently. That day I went to peek at the ocean, which was calm, and was startled to see a white rainbow overarching the sea! A fogbow is created in much the same way a rainbow is, but the finer mist merely bends the light without refracting it into rainbow colors. There is sometimes a hint of orange at the end(s) of the fogbow. I told a couple of customers to keep watch for the possibility, and I dashed to the ocean as soon as I closed the gallery. There were plenty of high rollers in the fog and after a few minutes, there was what I came hoping to see: another fogbow! I had the great joy of pointing it out to a couple of gals who were out on the beach but had not noticed the phenomenon. And happily, my going out means I now can share it with you.

So if you are out in fog, and the sun begins to shine either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, look to the opposite side of the sky (as you would for a rainbow) and see if you can see a fogbow’s white glow. It is a sight you don’t want to miss. Fog is magic.

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Most of the time I was looking at the bird in shadow, almost silhouetted. I'd boosted ISO and exposure way beyond what I normally would, knowing I'd be dealing with "noise" (digitals' equivalent of grain). Worth it all for this.

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When I first reached the beach, I was startled by how rough the breakers were. I hadn't heard their roar. Fog mutes sound as well as sight.

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At first, before the sun really broke through, I concentrated mostly on the waves.

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At last I noticed the characteristic glow of a fogbow. The glow is usually my first clue that a fogbow is forming. What I did not notice until I processed the photo is that there appears to be the start of a double bow here.

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Here is the view I came to see. A full fogbow, appearing like an alabaster rainbow over the wild ocean.

posted by eturek at 11:22 PM

Comments [5]

Sunday, May 17, 2015
Spring Is Sprung...
Every spring in my childhood, my mom would recite this poem:

Spring is sprung
The grass is rizz
I wonder where
Them birdies is…

After all our rain this winter and early spring, the grass is, indeed, “rizz.” A keyword for spring is “warm” and now that we are in mid-May, I am beginning to think perhaps I can carry my down vest to the upstairs closet. I wore it regularly through the end of April and have been keeping it handy, just in case.

I never realized the phrase about birdies could be about migration, and I never knew the source of the poem (Google tells me it is Winnie the Pooh). We have had migrants as well as new baby birds and critters bringing their particular joys to springtime.

The last week in April, we visited with a couple I’d not seen in more than 40 years! My high school math teacher and his wife made an infrequent trip east from Arkansas and arranged a couple days on the Outer Banks. I took them to the Bodie Lighthouse and we marveled at Avocets in breeding plumage and more Black-necked Stilts than I have ever seen here at one time before. I worried a bit beforehand about where I could take them that would be special, that would present a little of the serendipity-in-the-wild that is my heart’s life here. Wildlife is, after all, wild…as our weather can be at times…and there are never any guarantees that what I go out looking for will be there, on cue. But that morning was amazing, beyond anything I could have wished or hoped for. In my 39 years here I have seen solitary Stilts a few times, three or four at most. Seeing six at once interacting with each other and the Avocets was beyond wonderful. I returned to the same area a few times over the next couple of weeks and also managed to see both in flight.

On one of my return trips, I spied a lone, tiny duckling swimming along the edge of the marsh, determinedly making its way toward the platform. What I found unusual about that behavior is that the only adult ducks in sight were far away: what was the duckling doing out all by itself? Eventually it reached the female that was feeding under the platform, but she wanted nothing to do with the little duck. She pecked at it a couple of times and it gave up trying to swim near her, and turned around and swam back the same way it came. I hope it survives. I couldn’t help but admire its bravery and persistence.

Earlier in the spring I had the joy of watching a pair of Great Horned Owlets grow from small fuzzy-white downy chicks to fully fledged owlets, ready to begin the next chapter of life under their parents’ tutelage. The owls were born several days apart, in an unused osprey nest their parents had taken over for themselves. The first fledged by making the journey to a nearby pine tree and did return at least once to its nest before its sibling made its first, short flight. Once the two of them left the nest, they did not come back there. As they grew, they became increasingly aware of sounds and movement around them, alerting to the call of crow (crow will attack owls to try to drive them away from their own nests) and paying attention to the small sparrows that were nesting in the branches below them. They even played together, using their beaks to bite at one another, much like young puppies or kittens or foxes or herons do. All that play helps strengthen muscles and reinforce behaviors that will increase the owlets chances of survival once they are on their own.

For Mother’s Day, Pete took me up to Carova. It’s become a tradition for us, to go north and see if there are new foals in the herd. This year we saw “Rosa” the first foal born this season. At one point we spotted three pairs of horses grazing very near one another on the west side of the same dune. I found that interesting behavior as usually stallions keep their mares well away from other stallions, for fear of their mare being stolen.

One reality of a busy life is that I cannot be everywhere at once. Increasingly I rely on generous spotters who share their sightings with me. The Swallowtail butterflies on thistle come to you thanks to photographer-friend Pat Draisey. She’d photographed them here before, and I mentioned to her to check her older images for time of year. That’s a handy way to use the digital information available to us; we can be more alert to nature’s patterns and rhythms. Sure enough, it was this time of year, so she checked Alligator River Refuge and reported back that swallowtails were there in good numbers. I might not have had the chance to experience them and photograph them myself had she not shared her sighting with me before.

I am writing this at the beginning of the last week of “spring” in our Outer Banks calendar. Memorial Day always marks the official start of the busy, summer season, although the sun doesn’t sing out summer for another month. Regular readers know that my own nature-based summer sign is the blooming of the sea oats, and we have to wait about five more weeks for that!

Meanwhile, enjoy these sights of Outer Banks springtime.

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Here are the two owlets.

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The first day I watched the older bird stretch its wings, the owlet acted as if it had no idea how to control them. The younger looked--in human-speak--astonished.

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This may not seem like much of a first flight, but this signaled the beginning of leaving the nest for good. A few days later both birds were on the wing.

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Here is the brave, lone duckling, stretching its wings as part of bathing and preening after its long swim over to the platform at Bodie Light.

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Here is the group of Black-necked Stilts along with a few of the large flock of Avocets that were present.

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The Stilts are handsome in their black-and-white plumage and bright pink legs.

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For years I have longed to see Avocets in breeding plumage here. I see them in winter but seem to miss them in spring. Seeing them with old friends was a treasure.

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Here is Rosa, first foal of the season.

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A little beachside nap sounds like the perfect antidote to the spring sleepies.

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Swallowtails and Thistle.

posted by eturek at 10:49 PM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
All that I am is this breaking...
I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which photography communicates emotion. Subtleties of color, shape, line or texture combine with light and shadow to create not only a picture but a feeling. (I’ve been thinking about music and poetry too, and all the ways both differ from prose.) Light is key: its direction, its intensity, its color. Because the moment of tripping the shutter happens in an instant, and because the speed of that shutter opening and closing can be lightning fast, I often think of photography as freezing time. Our eyes and minds watch the movie of life while our cameras are busy isolating stills, revealing details we miss moment by moment.

Still cameras can also be called upon to render time’s passing. Think of the effect choosing a long exposure/slow shutter speed gives, or panning with a subject to follow its motion. Deciding when to use a fast shutter speed to freeze time and isolate every detail of that instant in tack-sharp focus and when to deliberately lengthen the exposure to portray time’s passing is a creative, aesthetic decision. I would say it is also an emotional decision, because the photographs produced in either instance produce entirely different emotional responses, at least in me.

I’ve spent years focusing on waves, trying to time that perfect instant of a wave cresting, just about to break. Lately I have also been working with the opposite technique and panning with the water’s movement toward shore. Both of these exercises remind me of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Judith Bailey. She has recently published a collection of her poems, Impassable Roads, and this poem is included. (Judith is OBC’s own vintageart; she is also an artist and often posts about history and heritage.) I love the whole poem, and for years I’ve read her lines about the wave as a metaphor for loss. Lately, I’ve seen a new meaning—the exuberance of living the life you were meant to live, moment by moment.

(making a living)

i am the songbird
though i build my nest
feed myself and my young
i exist for the moment
he opens the door of his life
i sing, all that i am
is this song
echoing in the canyon of cosmos
lingering, this moment lasts
and i am the wave
cresting, peaking
i reach toward heaven
i exist for the moment
i learn in the fall
all that i am
is this breaking
booming on the eternal shore
cleansing, this is the way
of forgetfulness…
and i am the great tree
where bird builds her nest
and wave threatens my roots—
because my roots run deep
i can do nothing but remain
to receive the sun
and give the seed.

-Poem © 1986 Judith Bailey

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Wave series, looking north

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Every wave has its own story.

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"i learn in the fall..."

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Waves have pathways too.

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To me, this says, I did it! Can you feel the joy?

posted by eturek at 9:08 AM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Earth Day 2015
It’s Earth Day. To celebrate, I returned to work after missing a few days with a nasty spring cold, and also spent a few minutes outside, camera in hand. In some important ways, Earth Day is at least partly responsible for my becoming a nature photographer. Thanks to Earth Day and its emphasis on more environmental awareness, I was able to pursue my passion to connect with the outdoors and its wildlife, and to combine that passion with a photographer’s eye.

I’ve been taking pictures almost as long as I can remember. My folks bought me a Polaroid camera when I was 10. I still remember the thrill of watching the prints appear as I waved the film in the air. I took my first ocean photograph while on vacation in middle school and have photographed this coast off and on ever since. I learned black and white 35mm film development in high school, and that skill earned me my first job with a local newspaper here in 1980. After a long hiatus from professional photography, I began photographing digitally when Pete and I bought Yellowhouse Gallery in 2005. Last week, after photographing here for more than 35 years, I did something that surprised some of my friends: I participated as a student in an intensive photo workshop here led by a couple from the middle part of the state. Why, they asked, after all these years as a successful pro, would I sign up for a photo workshop—especially one lasting four days in my home territory?

I believe strongly that no matter what our level of experience, expertise, or education, we can always grow and learn. Part of the challenge in photographing in the same location year after year is to see the familiar in fresh and vibrant ways that honor our surroundings. I chose to participate in a Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures workshop, led by Margo Taussig Pinkerton and Arnie Zann, here at home, rather than visit an exotic or unfamiliar location, precisely to renew my vision. I wanted to immerse once again in photographing my homeplace, rather than living as a “touch-and-go” photographer, always on deadline, ever rushing through that which brings me the most joy: time outside to notice what I notice, to see what draws my eye and my heart. I wanted time to remember why I became a photographer in the first place. The fact that I would spend four days photographing something other than wildlife was an odd bonus; I planned to try to see this area’s landmarks with fresh perspective, knowing whatever I learned I will apply in the field as I photograph in the future.

Margo and Arnie make a wonderful team. Their counsel in the field is based on a combination of sound artistic and photographic principles as well as years honing their artistry, applied to the goals and aspirations of each individual student. This is not a workshop where students in a line obediently point their lenses all in the same direction, with the same settings dictated by the leader, and click their shutters on cue. Far from it. The challenge here was exactly what I needed: to photograph this familiar area in a way I had never done before. Time in the field was followed by processing one or two images for group critique. These critique sessions tease out of participants a sense of individual style and preference, along with new understandings of how to conceptualize and achieve artistic visions in the field. As someone who reacts more than plans, I relished the time spent outdoors at the margins of each day, watching the light paint the landscape as it alternately glowed and dimmed. I’ve been drawn to a more minimalist approach in recent years and I was able to honor that intention in my field time this past week. Some of the results of my workshop efforts are below.

If I can gain so much from four days photographing a place I’ve lived for the past 35 years, I can’t imagine how wonderful a BCPA workshop in a new locale would be. I now understand why so many of their sessions hold a high percentage of alumni. The combination of encouragement, camaraderie, artistry and expertise can’t be beat. If you’d like to know more about BCPA and their approach, please visit www.bcphotoadventures.com

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We convened at NH Pier in full dark. Eventually we had a little predawn glow, and two frames revealed these shafts of light, an unexpected bonus. This is a six second exposure.

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The group was treated to one of our most vibrant sunsets after many months of gray, wet weather.

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Another from Nags Head pier. I spent a lot of time focusing near my feet. The patterns and dramatic color in the wave wash had my full attention.

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This is my favorite boat in Wanchese. I'm thrilled to have finally taken a clear photograph of her in the dark.

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I have a whole new series of these waves, achieved by panning with a slower shutter speed just as the wave breaks. It's a tricky technique but magic when it works.

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We spent one morning in Elizabethan Gardens. Again, I wanted to try something different by deliberately backlighting the flowers and underexposing to darken the background.

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Of course I could not entirely ignore wildlife! This Frog Prince was swimming in the small pool at the Garden's entrance. (This is the Queen's Garden, so that confirms he's a prince. I didn't kiss him. I already have Prince Pete.)

posted by eturek at 9:35 PM

Comments [4]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 221901 times

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