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

EVE TUREK'S NATURAL OUTER BANKS
Sunday, May 8, 2016
In Praise of Mothers Everywhere
Some of my favorite nature photographs celebrate the connection between mothers and youngsters. (Father-and-youngster images are fewer in my portfolio, though I do have some wonderful photographs of bird and critter couples.) There is an immediate emotional connection we all seem to feel—and express—when we get to witness the antics of babies and the tender care of parents, no matter the species.

So to help celebrate Mother’s Day, I offer you these.


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This image is from Mother's Day, 2012! This foal was about 10 days old here.

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Young dolphin stay with their mothers for a long time, so I assume this is the mother with the baby, although it could be another adult.

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Pete and I saw this family of red foxes in Carova at the end of May, 2012. I loved watching the interaction of mom with the babies.

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Regular readers will recognize this fox image, from 2013. This is the mother gray fox who denned under our frame shop in our gallery's old location, before we had to move.

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Mothers play so many roles. For Ruby-throated hummingbirds, moms have the sole care of the baby birds, from nest-building, to egg-sitting to feeding.

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This family moment is from fall, not spring, on Hatteras Island.

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This was my first occasion to see a Woodduck in the wild, in ponds near the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, many years ago.

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Sometimes I don't actually know if this is Mom or Dad. One role parents play is to teach youngsters what they need to know to thrive. Here the adult Black Skimmer is showing junior how to fish.

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Sometimes I DO know which parent is present--in this case, this is Dad. I've watched this pair for years; he has much less speckling on his breast than she does. I call this, Chip off the Block. I could easily have called it, Mom, Come Home Quick.

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This is one of my all-time favorites, from a rookery in Florida. I call it, But Mom... Here, Mom is making the youngsters wait and stretch and beg for food, all designed to strengthen their neck and jaws for feeding on their own.

posted by eturek at 7:52 PM

Comments [2]



Friday, April 1, 2016
Loony Tunes
Q: What in the world is a Loon doing, trying to walk beside the bike path along Duck Road in Southern Shores?!?

A: Nothing that will result in its survival!

Loons, like gannets, are marvelously engineered for a life on the water, but their legs and feet are set too far back to allow them to successfully take off in flight from dry land. They need water not only to feed but also to get airborne.

I passed by the bird which was sort of dragging itself forward at about 6:25 pm and realized as I drove by what I had seen. Or to be more accurate, I questioned what I had just seen, so I quickly found a place to turn around and double check. Sure enough, the bird was a loon and in obvious distress. Hold on, I said out loud, as I drove past the second time. I’m coming to get you.

Cars were whizzing by but the bird at that moment was very near the fork in Southern Shores where the road splits and where there is a small parking area. I turned there and parked, my mind already trying to visualize what was in the back of the car that I could use. Normally I carry at least one towel for critter rescue, but my vehicle has been full of boxes transporting inventory and supplies between SeaDragon Gallery, our new gallery in Duck, and Yellowhouse Gallery in Nags Head. I’d removed a lot of the paraphernalia I keep in the car “just in case.” Well, here was a case. Now what?

I did have a thin waterproof pullover. It would have to do. Years ago, artist friend E.M. Corsa and I rescued a Northern Gannet, so I know the general drill: try to get close enough without spooking the bird in order to place a towel (read, pullover) over its head and gently scoop it up in a way that doesn’t hurt either the bird’s wings or you. I had never tried this alone. As I was getting out of my car, a jogger passed by but the bird had frozen its motion and tucked its head down. I don’t think the jogger even noticed. I approached slowly and talked softly as I knelt down nearby. I hoped my calm outer demeanor would keep the bird calm. It eyed me but didn’t try to move. I called my friend for reassurance and covered the bird, carrying it gently in my arms back toward my car. A couple of drivers figured out I was carrying something that needed help and stopped to let me cross. I put the loon on the floor of the passenger seat (my friend’s advice) – and it looked up at me and gave its haunting, trilling call. I’ve never heard that call in person before, and I took it as a sign I was doing the right thing.

I drove back north to the Duck Boardwalk. Near our shop is a set of stairs that leads right to the water. Alas, the gate at the top of the stairs was locked!! By this time, the loon was trying to move inside the pullover and straining its head back and forth. Did it sense the water? Was it alert to the smells and sounds of the Canada Geese nearby? I tucked it even closer to my body with my left hand and stroked its head with my right, crooning to it all the while. There was a dock facing west just a little way down the boardwalk. Off we went.
When I reached the dock, the closest pier to the water’s surface was still about a foot or foot and a half above it. I took a deep breath, unwrapped the loon, and gently let it go as close to the water as I could. It dropped with a big splash but came right back up to the surface and immediately began swimming around past the dock and out into more open water, ducking its head under the water, rising and stretching its wings, and diving under the surface only to bob up again a few feet away. I left it as the evening sun began its last descent before the sky turned pink and wished it well.
Its wings appeared to be functioning just fine. It must not have been out of water so long as to be totally exhausted. How in the world it wound up on the bike path I will never know. What I do know is that we were both in the right place at the right time for our own life paths to intersect.

This is my joy: to interact with nature in ways that are respectful, peaceful, loving and honoring, and to share the stories of those interactions, those connections. What began as another happy, busy working day ended with almost mystical overtones: I held a loon, it crooned to me, I set it free. Life is good.


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The Loon was amazingly content to ride in the car. I think it sensed my benevolent intentions.

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Once I released it into the Sound, it steadily made its way northeast along the boardwalk, keeping pace with me as I walked, and slowly moving further out from shore.

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I loved watching it stretch. That confirmed to me both wings seemed fine.

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I left it shortly before sundown. Happily, it was nowhere in sight the following morning. Some birds certainly remember precise navigational data, like ospreys returning to the same nest. Will the loon remember our encounter and the little cove?

posted by eturek at 9:44 PM

Comments [5]



Saturday, February 27, 2016
Time for Elephants
I’ve been thinking about elephants—in part because my mother loved and collected them, and I spent Valentine’s weekend (one of her favorite holidays) two streets over from where she, my Auntie Bea and grandmother Gabby (whom I never knew) lived during Mom’s childhood. I was in Philadelphia—Mom’s city—for the annual American Craft Retailers Show, walking her streets and connecting with a jeweler who uses vintage molds from the late 1800’s as foundations for her contemporary creations. One of those creations featured an elephant—not just any elephant, but the exact elephant in a ring I wear often, a ring that was my grandmother’s, passed down to my mother in her childhood, and in turn passed down to me when I was about ten years old. Coincidence? I think not.

I’ve also been thinking about elephants and grandmother/mother/daughter bonds in part because a dear friend’s two daughters—one of whom I am godmother for—will have their first babies this year, making her a new grandma twice over.

One of the reasons I have my own love for elephants is the way that mother elephants elicit the help of unmated females, who function as maiden aunts in the raising of the baby elephants. Elephants are matriarchal, and symbolize the strength to overcome obstacles, something my grandmother did in raising two daughters by herself after WWI and through the Great Depression. The bond between generations, coupled with the idea of strength and resiliency, lends itself to subtle visual metaphor. I’ve photographed this idea over time, and found two more images recently that tell this same story. The flower images date from past springs and summers; the scallop shells lay on the beach together exactly as you see them pictured—I did not touch them before I photographed them—and the two trees stood in the snow on my way back home after the Philadelphia trade show. Beauty and visual stories are everywhere, if our eyes and hearts are open.


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The Elephant ring. Precious to Gabby, to Mom, and to me.

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Three generations, dandelion style.

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I've never printed this, though I processed and titled it right after I made the image. I call it, Lean on me, Mama. I could easily have called it, Love you, Nana.

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Here are the two scallop shells. I was amazed to see them, so alike in color, nestled together near Avalon Pier after our high seas a couple weeks back with so many broken pieces all around.

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Two trees in snowfall.

posted by eturek at 11:17 AM

Comments [1]



Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Finding Your Story
Monday evening I taught a class on Mindful Nature Photography. I told those gathered that I often hear questions or comments about equipment (what camera do you have, how many mega pixels is it, that sure is a big lens), more rarely do I hear questions about technique (what settings do you use--as if one size fits all experience--or more precisely, what were your settings when you made a particular image) and almost never do folks ask me about inspiration.

To me, inspiration, finding your story, is the most important foundational quest behind every image. I've made this my life quest: to be inspired, to find the story that is mine to share. With that mindset, images become like chapters, or subplots, in a larger body of work, movements in a longer symphonic composition. My idea isn't to create images that look alike but rather to present a cohesive whole that shares who I am as a person as well as a photographer.

Continuing with the story theme, I began by showing a series of images of the ocean. Many of those images were made with a strong west wind blowing. Each image presented a different appearance and I composed differently based on the common elements of waves and wind and sky with one major difference--the light. The light in each image was different and while the weather conditions might have been similar, the quality and color temperature of the light, whether it was dramatic or soft or flat, elicited different emotional responses to each image I shared.

I love a west wind, particularly after a nor'easter. The seas typically run high for at least a day or two following a blow, sometimes longer, and when the wind shifts the ocean is to me its most dramatic. We've had west winds and high seas for a couple days now on the Outer Banks, and yesterday afternoon, I walked out on Kitty Hawk Pier near sunset. One of those images is below.

The last image is from this morning, shortly after sunrise. Here, the story included a new set of characters--gulls who repeatedly flew into and around the wave splashes. No one was attempting to catch any fish for breakfast. In the spirit of Jonathan Livingston, these gulls seemed to be enjoying the morning cacophony of waves with as much glee as I, for sheer joy.


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West wind, dramatic light. I loved how the white of the salt spray contrasted with the deep blue of the sky behind.

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From 2012. Here what inspired me was the quality of light that turned the ocean almost silver, and the repeated sets of waves and spray. I called this, West Wind.

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Here is an image from earlier in January, our last big blow. From Kitty Hawk Pier.

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Here is the image I posted on the main forum. Kitty Hawk Pier, near sunset, Feb. 9th. Dramatic.

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Gulls in the early morning salt spray.

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Here's a close view of one of the gulls.

posted by eturek at 12:07 PM

Comments [3]



Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Spirit Deer
At 5:30 pm a few afternoons ago, Pete and I were on our way back to Colington from Duck, driving through Southern Shores, when we suddenly spotted a large herd of deer on the east side of Rt. 12, looking as if they wanted to cross. I slowed down for them as did cars coming the other direction, and saw a sight I'd heard of, but never witnessed: a white deer! Well, to clarify: not strictly white, more like a dalmatian dog, with mostly white fur and black spots and blotches. I'd heard of a piebald deer in Southern Shores, and I'd read over the years different tales and legends of all-white deer, most notably the Legend of the White Doe, set on Roanoke Island in the time of the first colonies.

There have been numerous reports of piebald deer around Southern Shores, Duck, and Corolla over the years. Several message threads on this forum dating back to 2007 report sightings and many have wonderful photographs of full grown bucks and does. My photograph below is...not so wonderful. Read on.

What got my attention first, I am chagrined to admit, was a profound sense of regret, and loss, because we were in Pete's vehicle, not mine, and I'd left my camera behind (despite my general admonition never to do so, and a specific sense earlier that day that I should take it, despite the overcast weather.) All I had was a cell phone and let me tell you, that lens pales in comparison, particularly in the woods at dusk, as you will see below.

But I was determined to prove to myself what I was seeing and hopefully have a clear enough picture to research further. What I was most interested in, admittedly, wasn't the science behind either albino or piebald animals, but the spiritual meaning of the appearance. When nature gifts you with something extraordinary, you do well to pay attention. At first, the only lesson I allowed myself to receive was the lesser one, of regret and a sense of letting not only myself, but the animal kingdom down, by not being prepared. As I said, this was the lesser lesson, but it was all I could think about for the first minutes and hours after the encounter.

Eventually I was calm enough to hear Pete's--and a dear friend's--wise words: the gift was in the sighting itself, not in an image of the sighting. I began to remember old tales of white deer: how King Arthur's Knights would ride off in pursuit of an elusive white deer, and be led to all sorts of adventures otherwise missed. In the Chronicles of Narnia, the four children-turned-kings-and-queens did the same thing, seeking a white stag who would grant the wish of anyone who caught him (no one in Narnia ever did, to my knowledge)--and that quest led them back to England and their childhood lives there once again. In Native American stories from the west, white animals in particular are messengers of the Great Spirit, whether wolves, bears, buffalo or deer, and are always portents of some great, glad shift in circumstance--either for the individual, the tribe, or the world at large.

I researched a bit online and found resources which confirmed the general sense of all those myths and legends, adding content from Asian stories as well. In general, white is a symbol of purity, innocence, higher thought; in some Native American traditions, white is the color of the north, which signifies wisdom and the elders, as well as the incubation time between harvest and a new cycle growth--whether of crops, critters or ideas.

Deer are gentle, sensitive creatures. One fact about them I have always found fascinating is that their hoof prints look like tiny hearts in the sand or mud. So for me, deer are also symbolic of the idea of walking deliberately in lovingkindess. That is a message I receive when I see one, or follow its tracks. Doe deer also can symbolize creativity and spirituality--those meanings would be intensified when coupled with the white color. Bucks can stand for strength, resilience, abundance and longevity -- a white buck would add the attributes of strength of spirit and mind as well as body, and gained wisdom to those general meanings.

The piebald characteristics speak to me of balance. Black is for many tribes the color of the west, or fall, and represents autumn--both the time of harvest and the beginning of hibernation when new life or new ideas can germinate. Introspection is a quality associated with that direction of the compass and that season of life. In addition to our natural aging through life, and the cycle of a calendar year, many tribes also recognize what we also might call seasons or chapters in our lives, some of which may be longer or briefer than others, and all of which might have lessons or opportunities repeated many times throughout one lifetime.

Now, there are scientific facts about piebald deer which are equally valid. The trait is genetic, occurring in about 1 in 100 births; so it makes sense that an increase in the piebald appearance is also a sign of inbreeding. Sometimes the rare coloring is also associated with physical deformities (but not always). Only six states have granted true albino or piebald deer protection; all the others, including North Carolina, perhaps in recognition of the deformities some of these carry, allow them to be hunted alongside their typically colored herd mates.

Once the deer crossed the road, Pete and I turned around and I pulled over and pulled out the only record-keepers I had at hand, our cell phones. His is newer than mine and the picture quality is better (which is a little like saying X Grocery store brand of canned chicken soup is better than Y's brand when neither tastes anything remotely like homemade!) Nonetheless, the best tool is the tool at hand. The two half-way clear photographs of the young deer are below.

At bottom, seeing such unusual creatures is a gift. What I needed most was to remember that, and to stop and ponder my larger lesson in the sighting.


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This is a young deer. No telling, this time of year and at this distance, whether it is a young doe or young buck. It generally stuck close to the nearest adult.

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Stuck close, that is, until the others began to move deeper into the woods, white it stayed and locked eyes with me for what seemed like minutes before it followed the adults out of sight.

posted by eturek at 9:26 PM

Comments [3]



(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 278633 times

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