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

Saturday, August 22, 2015
When the Tide Turns
Experienced fishermen (and surfers—and beachcombers) know to watch for the turn of the tide. When I wrote the phrase “when the tide turns” in my morning journal recently, I realized there is a definitive moment when the tide literally turns, when ebb imperceptibly ends and flood begins. In that instant, even the most alert might not notice the change. The water’s movement five minutes on either side of the tidal shift looks similar. Hindcast or fast-forward 35 minutes, or 65, and the changes become obvious.

I think I am—I think many of us are—living out that experience when the tide has turned even though we don’t necessarily see ample evidence of the magnitude of the shift yet. After all, I’m not yet comparing lowest ebb with highest rise of tide; I’m just noticing that the water seems to be coming in a little stronger, a little higher, wave on wave.

I notice tide change photographically, and I notice tidal shifts in my daily life experience. So I thought it might be fun to illustrate the concept—you will see some results below.

Of course, I’m not always focused at my feet! I went to the ocean for the latest release of Green Sea Turtles that were cold-stunned in last winter’s freeze, and spent several months recuperating in the NC Aquarium STAR center. I did not have a decent vantage point to photograph the release but the way the sun broke through the storm-cloud cover was pure wonder. I walked back to my car in the company of fellow photographer Roy Ellund, aka OBX Beach Bum, and he snapped a quick photograph of me clicking my shutter. He’s been gracious to allow me to share the image so I though readers here might appreciate seeing it too. That’s twice in the past month someone has taken a photograph of the photographer!

A few days before, the clouds in the afternoon drew me seaward, and the breakers were clean and green. One of the last series of wave breaks I photographed had a big backsplash, as if the wind and tide were at opposite directions just for those few seconds. When I saw the sequence on my monitor, I realized the ocean had given me yet another “sea heart.” I just love pointing hearts out to folks who have not noticed their presence. Truly, they are everywhere.

The sea oats are beginning to turn from their earlier blooming green to a more golden hue, and I always enjoy seeking out new vantage points to include sea-oat clad dunes in my late-summer and early-fall seascapes. I had a restless night not long ago and was awake before dawn, so I got up, stopped at Jennette’s Pier for the official sunrise (clouds were on the horizon) and then drove south to Pea Island. The skies kept getting lovelier all morning instead of less so, thanks to the clouds. I’ve visited those same dunes several times in the past month, from dawn to dusk. I am fascinated with the way the color of the light influences the look of a scene and my own emotional response. Here you have the gamut, from soft, gentle serene mornings to over-the-top dramatic skies and seas, to warm, happy, easy-breezy summer afternoons. Enjoy.

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Sometimes the loveliest color is found by looking down, not up. Sunrise shimmer on Ocracoke.

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The patterns the water makes as the tide rushes in and recedes fascinate me.

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I photographed these tide pool patterns on a soon-to-be-stormy-again afternoon in Frisco.

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I call this Seaglass Surf. The deep green of the ocean juxtaposed against the dark blue sky caught my breath.

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Here's what I looked like from photographer Roy Edlund's (theobxbeachbum) perspective.

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Hearts are everywhere... at least, to my heart and eye.

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Sea Oats near dawn...

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Sea oats in the afternoon...

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Sea oats at dusk...

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Sand fence remnants, standing like sentinels watching over the sea.

posted by eturek at 3:43 PM

Comments [3]

Sunday, July 26, 2015
Where O Where Have The Pelicans Gone...
Where are all the pelicans?!?

Anybody but me notice how few pelicans we are seeing this summer? Their long lines, skimming atop the waves or flying over the dunes have been constant companions all day long, year after year. On every morning and afternoon drive from Colington Road down to the gallery in Nags Head, I’m always accompanied by at least one, and sometimes several, lines of pelicans—until this year. We always see fewer of the adults as nesting season begins, but what I affectionately call “the teenagers”—second and third year birds who are not yet mature enough to mate but do feed and fly on their own—are always present in good numbers. By this time of year, as eggs hatch and baby pelicans grow and need to be fed regurgitated fish by their parents, we always see lots of parents flying up and down the beach too.

So where the heck are they?

The short answer—at least in part—is Ocracoke. “Our” pelicans, that is, the large colony that has been nesting and roosting on a dredge spoil island in the sound, west of Oregon Inlet, did not nest there this year in their usual numbers. Instead, the colony of pelicans on a similar island off Ocracoke has grown to a huge size this year—about 1,000 nesting pairs! Presumably at least some of the pelicans that nest here joined up with that colony. Since each nest typically holds two to four eggs (average clutch size is three eggs), and since pelicans are colonial birds that typically nest, roost, and fish all together, my theory is that most “teenagers” flew south along with the adults. “Why?” is a harder question to answer. Perhaps our colder-than-usual winter, with the sound freezing in mid-February, prompted them to seek more open water south. Perhaps the presence of 150+/- White Pelicans (instead of the 20-40 we have seen during the past five or six winters) were a factor, since I observed both White Pelicans and Brown Pelicans together feeding the same low water at the Pea Island ponds in early winter.

Whatever the reason, I hope that as the baby pelicans grow, the parents who usually reside up our way will be prompted to fly their broods back north. We will have to wait awhile to see if that happens—baby Brown Pelicans take from 71 to 88 days to fledge, according to The Birders Handbook. Given that pelicans’ eggs are not laid at the same time and don’t hatch all at once, this means some pelican chicks won’t be airborne until nearly three months from now.

How do I know these birds went to Ocracoke? For the first time in ten years, I had a rare chance to help band baby pelicans a couple weeks back. The impact of being in the presence of several thousand pelicans, plus hundreds of terns, is hard to describe and hard to convey even in a series of photographs (but I’ll try!) The main sound from the island is the call of the terns; adult pelicans are mostly silent. The pelican babies make a sort of guttural grunt, kind of a cross between a croak and a barking frog. Baby pelicans have no down or feathers when they hatch. Their eyes open soon after hatching. I noticed ten years ago, and noticed again now, how tender young siblings are with each other. Older birds seem to be protective of younger ones and the chicks huddle together as they await the arrival of a parent with food. Both moms and dads are involved in nest building, incubation and feeding young. In Florida, you can see pelicans nesting in mangrove trees; here, most nests are shallow, grass lined scrapes in the sand or occasionally atop a grassy clump. One bunch of nests was clustered in a sandspur field, and one young pelican had numerous sandspurs stuck to its growing feathers! We carefully removed all those so at least the bird was more comfortable for the moment. We also spotted one family of Snowy Egrets, a colony of Great Egrets, a couple of gull parents and chicks and two White Ibis chicks—which look nothing at all as you would expect!

Regular readers know how much I love pelicans (okay, okay, I love everybody, but I do have a special bond with pelicans) and also how often I spot hearts. I was the only one who noticed that at one certain age, as the baby pelicans are losing their white fuzzy down and beginning to grow their juvenile long brown/gray feathers, the pattern of those feathers on their backs above their wings, forms a perfect heart. Once I spotted the first heart, I realized all the birds of that age had the pattern. For me, seeing dozens of those hearts was like walking through a living, breathing field of “I love you’s.”      

So while we all wait to see if, and when, many of “our” parent pelicans return, I hope these images of colony life, Brown Pelican style, will delight you as much as they do me.

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As impressive as the view was when I stepped ashore, I was not prepared for the sheer numbers of pelicans I would soon see.

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Young pelicans were everywhere!

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Many parents were still incubating eggs. Notice how close together the nests are! I call this, The Nursery.

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Newly hatched pelicans have no downy fluff. Welcome to the world, little pelican!

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Now you can see the beginnings of what will be their downy feathers. They look now like baby dinosaurs (or plucked chickens). What I noticed most is how precious they are with each other.

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Here is an overview from the nestlings' perspective.

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The older bird was very protective of its younger sibling.

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Parent with downy chick. ("Chick" seems too tiny a word for a baby pelican. At this age they are plenty big already!)

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How could you miss the heart?

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Being surrounded by hundreds of pelicans at a time is an experience I will remember the rest of my life.

posted by eturek at 1:40 PM

Comments [9]

Sunday, July 12, 2015
Bear Lake
I say often, I am in the right place at the right time. I’ve said it here, for your reading. I say it as please and thank you both; I say it as intention in advance, and as thanksgiving, in gratitude. Again and again, right place, right time. My zenfolio website’s “About Me” section concludes by saying that I find my greatest joy in serendipitous encounters in the wild (photographically speaking—and that’s among my greatest life-joys too).      

All that said, I hope you can imagine my growing dismay when I began having opposite experiences: right place, wrong time. Right time, wrong place. Right place, but no time to get there, so I missed out. Last year in my morning journal I described feeling out of rhythm, as if I were off the beat and unsure how to regain my intuitive sense of synchronicity, of being led.

Fast forward to June 2015 and I was still having that sense of being off balance, with my rhythm uneven. I experienced that most recently with several trips to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, on the Dare County mainland, one of my favorite places here. I’ve gone over looking for bear, hoping to see and photograph (with my appropriate telephoto lens) a mother with cubs. Other local photographer friends have seen cubs at closer range, last year and this, but so far I’ve had few experiences of seeing cubs at all, much less in decent distance to photograph. It’s an experience I’ve been longing to have, watching a mother with baby bears. Those who know me well know that I rejoice when others have wonderful encounters and experiences, so I haven’t begrudged anyone else their special moments. I just wanted to have some of my own, too.

All of this “off-the-beat” experience eventually led me to introspection, and to wondering if there was some larger message here that I was also missing. I like to find meaning, or make meaning, and I need my life’s parts as well as its wholeness to have meaning. All of this was rolling around in my gut like a too-spicy pizza when I went to Alligator River two Sundays ago. As before, I drove up and down familiar roads and saw only a couple of bears, w-a-a-a-y off. I didn’t even see the birds that E.M. Corsa and I saw when we went over there together recently. Nothing, nada, nicht, nein, zilch.

By my last drive back up the road, I was at that point of discouragement that led me to ask a fundamental question. It’s a question I’ve asked before in other eras of my life, and I happen to think it’s a good question to ask: am I even supposed to be doing this? Are these the photographs I’m meant to be making? Am I supposed to be doing something else? What matters most to me in my life is that I am “on purpose,” that I am living the life I’m meant to live. Sometimes that quest has led to minor course correction and sometimes, as with buying Yellowhouse, it’s led to a major shift in direction. So here I was, driving with no bear, asking that question again. Quick as my thought came an answering question: what makes your heart sing? That was easy to answer: wildlife. Being in the presence of critters and birds. Having experiences with them, special connecting experiences. The only other thought I had was Joseph Campbell’s quote, “follow your bliss.” All well and good, but mind you, the sun is dropping, the evening is getting duskier, and I’m seeing no bear. Just when I am almost at the turning point to get on the road leading out of the refuge, I spot a dark shape up ahead, walking atop a berm alongside the road, at fairly close range. At last, a bear! I resist the temptation to goose the engine and speed up. I have deliberately been driving slowly and methodically, in part not to frighten any animal that might be out foraging. No, I said, I’m going to ease up on this bear. If I am meant to have its picture, it will wait for me. Wait it did and I was able to pull alongside where it was walking. In several steps it came to a spot that had, between the bear and the road, some water. The bear stopped there and I was able to see the bear’s head’s reflection in the water below while it stopped on the bank above! Bear Lake, I thought to myself, clicking away. I was thrilled. Then the real magic happened.

The bear strolled away from the spot but turned around after a few steps and came back. This happened a couple of times, and then the bear came on down the bank (bending over a little shrubby tree in the process) and got right in the water! He proceeded to soak, stretch, blow bubbles, scratch a sore spot on one ear (which I don’t think helped any, given the size of his bear claws), turn his back to me and shake himself off, ease back down to soak some more. All this was repeated several times. I could tell he had several small sore places, little cuts or scratches on his body. None looked quite as serious as the spot on his ear.

Earlier in the evening, I’d been passed several times by vehicles that evidently wanted to travel a whole lot faster than I did. But now, it was just me and this big boar bear. We made eye contact several times. I photographed through my open window and eventually stood up with my car door open in order to steady my long lens, hand-holding. My newest camera body boasts great high-ISO/low light capability and this situation tested that claim. As you will see below, it performed very well. Eventually the bear climbed out of the water and slowly made its way toward a wooden blind that sits on a trailer on Milltail Creek Road. There, it stretched up, gnawed at the wooden corners, shook some more, and scratched its head, belly and back on the blind. I could see how huge it was.       A couple other cars had some up behind me at this point and I was able to point to where the bear had gone. When it was finished with the blind, it dropped again to all fours and sauntered off. I thanked it multiple times during the entire encounter and happily let it go its way. The cars behind me sped around me, eager to get out of the refuge and I followed them out more slowly. The sun had given a beautiful glow in the western sky and I saw a glimpse of that in the last canal on the way out. When I stopped there, to try to catch my breath and process emotionally what I had just witnessed, I heard distinctly in my mind this sentence. It was spoken gently, but firmly, and when I wrote it down the next morning in my journal, I wrote it as I do here, with every word capitalized, to convey the emphasis I felt as the words came: Don’t Ever Doubt Your Purpose.

This is what photography is for me. It’s a larger life. It’s a focused life. It’s a shared, connected life—made more precious every time I get to pass that connection along, as here, with you. So I have to ask: what makes YOUR heart sing?

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At last, a bear!

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Then the magic began.

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Blow bubbles...

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Good Night, Mister Bear.

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What makes your heart sing? "Don't Ever Doubt Your Purpose."

posted by eturek at 11:01 PM

Comments [15]

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 [3]

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]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 236459 times

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