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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Season Of Change
Every season has it own harbingers of change. For me, I always look into the night sky anticipating Orion’s arrival this time of year. I first learned the constellation in college freshman astronomy and its appearance and October are linked forever in memory. Another seasonal herald is the seaside goldenrod blooming. Just when our sea oats begin to look a bit bedraggled, our dunes put on one more show before winter winds mow their grasses down. The bright yellow is cheery as the daylight begins to dwindle, another autumn sign. This year, the goldenrod’s peak blooming coincided with the annual monarch butterfly migration, which my prior year photographs confirmed happened later this year. The juxtaposition of the monarchs and goldenrod gave a unique opportunity to portray both and prompted a peaceful few minutes at the Nags Head Curlew Street beach access late last week.

Fall had barely officially begun before Hurricane Maria brushed the coast with high, picturesque surf. I photographed the afternoon the storm passed and got up early to photograph the residual wave sets in what turned out to be a clear golden sunrise the next morning. Beautiful.

Fall skies inevitably include cloud formations we don’t see in summer. Days are finally a bit cooler and less humid which often prompts more vibrant sunsets and sunrises. With a brand new puppy in the house and Pete not feeling well, I haven’t seen but one sunrise lately--sunsets are more my speed, these days. Lucky for me my schedule has put me in just the right place at the right time to photograph a few in October.

In some Native American plains tribal traditions, autumn is the season of the West, a time for introspection as we harvest the crops of spring seeds and ideas and let ourselves anticipate a little winter rest before another spring.

I have a good friend who likes to talk about “New Moon wishes.” The idea is that as the moon re-emerges into its roundness, so too can our dreams, plans and goals grow into their fullness. Fall is a good time to assess what is working well, what may need a course correction, and what new opportunities still await, even in this season. September’s New Moon, which set in the west as the sun was setting on the last day of summer, reminds me that every season of our lives as well as the year provides opportunities for growth if we are open to them.

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Even though the storm passed well offshore, Maria kicked up some big surf.

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The last time I saw sea foam bubbles this vibrant was after a series of northeasters in the fall of 2011.

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Multiple sets came crashing ashore at once.

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Next morning, the golden sunrise lit up the waves and spray.

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Seeing the pelicans out and about was a treat!

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Here is the opposite end of the day, a beautiful sun-rayed sundown.

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Golden here stands for Seaside Goldenrod, whose pollen is so heavy it sinks rather than causing us to sneeze like the goldenrod in Currituck's fields, and migrating Monarchs.

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Wild skies over the Duck Waterfront Shops! This formation includes some mammatus clouds as well as what look to be the beginnings of lenticulars!

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I left the Waterfront Shops and drove down to the regional beach access in Kitty Hawk, thinking these clouds would provide a beautiful splash of color over sea at sunset.

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New moon sets with the last sun of summer. What are your New Moon wishes?

posted by eturek at 2:45 PM

Comments [1]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
What Else Happened?
The optics I wrote about in the last blog were spectacular enough to warrant their own separate entry, but they do not tell the entire story of the past six weeks.

In August, Ray Matthews and I took a quick trip up to the 4WD area of Carova, hoping to see the newest foal born to the herd just a week or so before. Conditions were not favorable to see horses out on the beach, but we did catch up to the new foal near the Fire Station. The small harem included the main dominant stallion as well as a younger stallion, presumably his colt, and two mares. The two stallions seemed uneasy around one another and I suspect that the father will drive the son away from the herd soon. While the two did not fight, we witnessed a lot of posturing, snorting, and face-offs. The mother of the foal seemed mostly unconcerned which made me wonder which of the two mares was the young stallion’s mother.

As we watched them graze and wander, I noticed not one but two distinct heart-shaped hoof-prints, one of which is shown below.

My second August adventure occurred closer to home. Pete’s daughter in Elizabeth City called to bemoan that caterpillars had decimated her parsley plant in one day. I figured all of the three were soon to form their chrysalis, and I drove up and brought the caterpillars home, equipped with a Bugarium courtesy of Petsmart and more parsley thanks to one of the roadside markets on the way. Those little caterpillars sure could eat fast! I worried I would run out just as MaryAnn had, and bought more cut parsley at the food store. That did the trick.

The next day, the caterpillars in turn first spun a thin thread of silk, suspending themselves in an upside-down “J” shape. “Hanging by a thread” seems to be a literal condition when awaiting the transformation to butterfly status! I was fortunate to be watching when one of them shed its caterpillar skin to reveal the green chrysalis below. The whole thing took less than 30 seconds, after which the chrysalis shook several times perhaps anchoring itself more completely, and then became totally still.

Chrysalis watching is an exercise in supreme patience. For nearly two weeks, you would swear nothing at all is happening. (Can you relate?) But within the chrysalis are such major changes that the process has leant its name, metamorphosis, to change on a grand and sweeping scale. One evening after work I checked the three chrysalises and was astonished to see three fluttering swallowtail butterflies! I missed the process of emergence but took the Bugarium outside to set each butterfly on my lantana bush. At least one of the swallowtails has returned to visit the bush many times in the past couple of weeks.

Another friend had the same experience of losing parsley to caterpillars, so I offered to take hers as well so she could still salvage some herbs for her kitchen. One of those two has already emerged as a butterfly, and again I missed those exact moments. The second chrysalis has been twitching off and on since last evening, at least I have seen the twitching, so I keep checking every few minutes but so far, no further change.

This butterfly came out during a breezy and spritzy rain day courtesy of Hurricane Jose’s outer bands but at least there was enough light to photograph by.

My third big adventure occurred over Labor Day weekend, when Mackay Island NWR held one of its infrequent Open Roads Days. Phyllis Kroetsch and I went up to drive the refuge, which is usually restricted to pedestrian access only. Water levels were high and we saw no wading birds close enough to photograph—all were foraging in shallower areas far from the roadways. We got a glimpse of one of the resident Bald Eagles, also at very far range.

But a couple that was also there to watch for and photograph wildlife alerted us to a young raccoon sleeping in a stump out in the water. The winds were breezy and the sound was rolling. The splashing up of the water kept waking the raccoon. It repeatedly raised its head and peered at us—perfect conditions for a cute photograph. The folks who had photographed the raccoon earlier in the weekend were convinced it was healthy, just resting. We wondered if the high water would impede its swimming back to and getting over or through the bulkhead and its many openings and back onto dry land come dusk.

Raccoons are thought to be emblems of change—as are butterflies. Change can call for resilience, another trait both exemplify as they find ways to survive both individually and as a species. It is interesting to me that both my cocooning butterflies and snoozing raccoon encounters involve patient waiting for conditions to be just right for the next step. I am always alert to life lessons in nature. Between the spectacular light shows of the last two blogs and the patient waiting called for by these images, nature held plenty of wisdom the past few weeks. I am glad I was present to witness—and to listen.

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The little foal, as most youngsters, seemed curious about everything around, but never strayed far from Mama.

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Maybe a little nap is a good idea...

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Meanwhile, the dominant stallion and his young colt seemed close to a stand-off several times.

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Horse-hoof hearts. Perfect.

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Too bad we didn't have a trail cam to find out how this raccoon made it back safely to dry land.

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Caterpillars about to form their chrysalis are hungry! A couple can devour an entire parsley plant in a matter of hours.

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"Hanging by a thread" -- and preparing for major life changes!

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Change #1: Shrug it off! Off with the old caterpillar self.

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Change #2: The chrysalis stage, when it seems nothing at all is happening, to the outside eye, anyway.

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Who would ever believe THAT would turn into THIS?

posted by eturek at 10:26 PM

Comments [3]

Monday, September 18, 2017
Optics. I think of the word first as a photographer, and in terms of lenses, either on camera or in binoculars. Next I reach backwards nearly 40 years to my first career as a reporter and public information officer, when the word was shorthand for how some decision, policy or action would appear to the collective public mind.

This past month, between the partial solar eclipse we had here on August 21, and our own wild skies as Irma made its first inroads into Florida on September 10, optics assumed a different meaning—the first given to the word by Merriam-Webster. Here it is:

"a science that deals with the genesis and propagation of light, the changes that it undergoes and produces, and other phenomena closely associated with it."

We had plenty of “the changes light undergoes and produces” the past few weeks, enough to devote a whole blog simply to those optics.

First, the eclipse. Thanks to a friend’s generosity, I had a pair of safety eyeglasses to wear to protect my own vision while photographing. Now for my camera sensor. I did not buy a special solar filter, especially since we were not having a total eclipse here. After a bit of reading I concluded I would do fine with the filters I already had, and I put both an 8 stop neutral density and a circular polarizer on my 28-300mm lens. Both of those are used to reduce the light coming into the lens without distorting color, and I needed plenty of light reduction in order to aim my lens directly at the sun, even with it obscured nearly 90%. That percentage wasn’t enough to produce a ring of fire or to plunge my surroundings into deep shadow, but there was an almost imperceptible dimming, and all the birds went suddenly silent. I also had my ISO set low, my aperture set to its smallest diameter—and I dialed in plenty of negative exposure compensation. All those choices let me photograph the sun, but completely obscured anything else that might have been in the frame.

I had earlier decided that I would go to Duck Church for the eclipse, and positioned myself on the front deck aiming up past the white steeple. As soon as I screwed on my filters, I realized the cross would not show in any image if I used the dark filters. I quickly removed them and made some photographs of the cross in bright sunlight. Then I put the filters back on and waited for the eclipse, intending to composite the two images later—one showing the cross and one showing the eclipse above it. With my glasses on, I couldn’t see the cross either, and the glasses made it tricky to photograph and focus the actual sun disk, but I managed. Looking through the glasses, the sun appeared to be pumpkin orange but still registered bright white by my camera’s sensor.

The final image combines the minutes-earlier cross photograph with the eclipse itself. What I couldn’t see with my glasses was the way the sun rays extended outward, a detail my camera sensor recorded. Several images I made before the eclipse occurred included sun flare, since I was aiming up and the cross was nearly backlit.

Fast forward to Hurricane Irma and I got a phone call from another friend telling me to go outside and look up. I had just driven to Harris Teeter; the vantage point let me have unobscurred skies for the largest, most vibrant and dramatic sun halo I had ever seen.

After I photographed the halo in empty skies I wondered if I could do something similar to the eclipse photo. This time I drove to Kitty Hawk Methodist Church. For the eclipse, I needed a light steeple, and Duck’s white wooden one worked beautifully. But for the sun halo, a darker steeple would be better, and Kitty Hawk had just what I needed. After I processed several of the Kitty Hawk images, I realized one of them had a heart shape bright spot extending into the cloud from the sun’s central disk.

Years ago, I photographed a phenomenon called a circumzenithal arc—an upside-down rainbow that appears only briefly, when the sun is at 22 degrees above the horizon, and the clouds are just right for the refraction needed to throw a rainbow overhead.

I wondered if the halo would persist into the late afternoon and whether the arc would appear. Google told me that the timeframe for the sun being at the right angle would be between 5 and 5 pm at my location, so I went to Colington’s soundfront park to wait. The halo was still visible but much dimmer. I kept looking up but saw no arc.

Suddenly, in literally the blink of an eye, there it was! A bright, upside down rainbow, arching over the sun halo. I had seen some photographs of the two together from Alaska, but never photographed them together before myself. Within less than a minute the angle had changed and the arc faded to blue sky again. I am so grateful to have been present and ready to witness its appearing. Again, when I processed, the moving clouds created another heart shape in the center.

Then, as if all that wasn’t enough, we had a bright double rainbow over the Waterfront Shops in Duck just as I was closing SeaDragon at 7 pm the other evening!

All these wonderful optics are below for you to enjoy.      

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One of the first images, pre-eclipse, at Duck Church.

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Aiming a lens in the general direction of the sun, or any other bright light source, can cause flare--usually avoided by photographers. Here I rather like it, and I titled the image, The Call of Light.

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A Crow came for a brief visit just before the eclipse got underway. I know they have a bad rep -- I always see them as a herald of direction and felt assured I was in the right place.

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My final composite -- max eclipse and the Duck Church steeple, photographed before the eclipse began. I call the image Light In The Darkness.

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Here is my first view of the sun halo, from the parking lot of the Harris Teeter in Kitty Hawk--which is to say, glory can happen anywhere, in an instant.

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About 30 minutes later at Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church. See the bright heart?

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At the Colington Harbour soundfront park as the sun was setting, conditions were perfect for a "sky smile" which is what I like to call the upside down rainbow circumzenithal arc.

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Last of all, the double rainbow--a double blessing--at the end of a busy work day in Duck.

posted by eturek at 6:05 PM

Comments [1]

Sunday, July 23, 2017
Lucky or Led?
Am I lucky or am I led?

Folks often say to me, while viewing my images, you were in the right place at the right time. And I agree! I tell them what I say in virtually every presentation I give:
Being in the right place at the right time has become a lifestyle rooted in gratitude.
I say, I am in the right place at the right time, as intention, and in prayer. I ask to be led. I ask to be sensitive to those little nudgings that say, here, there, now. And then I say, in gratitude, I AM in the right place at the right time! It happened again! So my “please” turns into “thank you” and “thank You.”

You see, I don’t believe I am in this photographic life alone. I do believe I am more than lucky—I believe I am being led. What’s more, I believe the experiences I have, of being in the right place at the right time, of finding unique images meant for me to have and to share, are available to anyone who seeks and asks. I really do believe it is that simple…and that hard. Seeking and asking inevitably involves waiting and wondering. And then, all at once, that waiting and wondering reaps its reward.

Last week I had to run a quick errand after dinner to pick up extra credit card machine tape, so I would have it first thing in the morning. The timing of my need coincided with this brightening glow in the sky to the east. The sun was beginning to sink in the western sky but the clouds had not picked up a lot of color yet. The white glow intensified in the east and I decided I just had to go look. I pulled into a beach access that wasn’t too crowded and heard in my mind this thought: it will wait for you.

Good thing, because I had my longest lens attached in my case, and needed to switch to wide angle, which I did. By the time I walked up and over the crosswalk the glow had faded. The sun was more obscured by the clouds than it had been earlier. But I had those words in my mind and heart, so I waited. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the sun broke through the clouds in the west and I turned back to the ocean to witness the brightest and most glorious anti-crepuscular rays I have ever seen. What a dull name for such a beautiful sight! These are sunrays that stretch all across the sky and appear on the opposite horizon from where the sun actually is. Regular readers know the phenomenon from my sharing here before. But never have I seen them like this. Right place, right time, and willingness to wait provided a spectacular gift.

Speaking of patience, I checked on the Sunset Beach Grille osprey nest in Duck recently. At 7:53 a.m. I could see Mom clearly and movement below her that told me there was at least one baby osprey resting. At 8:06 a.m. it lifted its head. And then the real waiting began. At 9:10 a.m. Papa flew by with a fish, showing the family his catch, before landing on a nearby dock and proceeding to eat his breakfast, all while his mate and babies were calling out to him to hurry and bring breakfast home! Cruel behavior? Not at all! Hungry babies will eat more heartily, and soon that same hunger will propel them skyward on their first flights, ready to learn their survival lessons of how to fish for themselves. A little waiting turns out to be a very good thing. But oh, it can be hard to do! Finally at 9:22 a.m., Dad finished his meal and flew to the nest with the remains for the family. He then proceeded to fly down to the water and repeatedly dip his talons, presumably to wash them, before flying out of sight. By then, after 90 minutes at the nest, I was hungry too, and treated myself to breakfast at the Sunset Grille. I think I enjoyed my omelet as much as the baby osprey enjoyed their fishy breakfast, made all the sweeter for the waiting.

I wait all winter and spring for our sea oats to rebloom and finally they have emerged! Hotter and drier conditions favor bigger crops. When we have a damp late spring, they tend to be sparser and later blooming. I always rejoice to see them. Our dunes look loveliest when they are wearing their full coats of grasses. The same day I photographed the sea oats in early July, we had dramatic deep blue skies over the ocean just before dinner. The bluest blues make the greenest green waters, as you will see below.

As I photographed and watched the light, I had two experiences that confirmed, first, that I was in the right place at the right time, and second, that waiting pays off! Dragonflies were flying ashore, not by the hundreds as I witnessed earlier in the spring, but in enough numbers for me to notice—and finally to photograph. A little later, the light conditions were perfect for one of my favorite visuals, rainbows in the wave spray. Both made a perfect end to a beautiful afternoon.

What are you waiting for? Is it worth the wait?

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No, not sunrise. SunSET. Sun is setting behind me to the west. So where did these sun rays over the ocean come from?

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Here is what the sunset actually looked like. Swirling, dramatic clouds.

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At least one baby osprey at the Sunset Grille in Duck nest.

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Make that two babies...and we are hungry!

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Papa Osprey to the rescue, with breakfast!

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Ah, sea oats. Now it's summer!

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If you look closely at the right and left sides of this photograph, you will see two dragonflies, just arriving on the Outer Banks from their Atlantic flight.

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Deep blue skies, bright green water -- it almost looks fake! But I assure you, these were fabulous light conditions. So glad I was out there!

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I love the texture of a wave curling.

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See the rainbow in the wave spray? Worth the wait for the light to be at just the right angle.

posted by eturek at 3:29 PM

Comments [7]

Friday, June 30, 2017
Bear With Me
Why do you go outside? It’s summer – it’s hot, it’s humid, it’s buggy. It’s winter – it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s raw. That is one point of view. One way of seeing the world.

Here is another: It’s beautiful. It’s wondrous, full of surprises. It’s invigorating, it’s calming. It offers metaphoric messages of gratitude and possibility, of growth and change.

You know why I go outside. I live by the second world view and I go outside to remind myself of all that is true and beautiful, and to (hopefully) have experiences in the natural world that have spiritual overtones and that I can share with others, either in word or image or both.

Back when I was getting a Masters in Environmental Education from Prescott University, through their distance program, I wrote a paper entitled “The I In Inquiry.” One aspect of Prescott’s philosophy I loved is that we are connected to nature in a way that can enrich both humanity and the natural world. We are not meant to hold ourselves aloof as dispassionate observers or researchers or consumers of natural resources. That philosophy runs contrary to lots of scientific thought, but is more in keeping with indigenous mindsets that somehow find ways to both benefit from nature while honoring and giving back. It is a philosophy that suits my personality perfectly.

One way to honor is to offer shared experiences, and I had a wonderful opportunity recently to introduce grandson Pat to the black bear of Alligator River Refuge. Honor and respect also means keeping a safe distance and we did that, carrying my long lens and keeping near our vehicle while watching parents and cubs. Pete and I went over a week or so later and saw one or two grown bears fairly close to the road, but the experience of cubs in the trees was reserved for the next generation. This was my first time to watch cubs climb (boy, are they fast!), balance on tree limbs and nap. Wondrous, indeed. We also visited the Elizabeth II site, walked Coquina, and climbed Bodie Light.

Speaking of Bodie Light, fellow photographer Ray Matthews and I spent a few hours after dark seeking the Milky Way at the Bodie Island lighthouse recently. I usually can sweet-talk mosquitoes out of biting, but I admit to being swarmed repeatedly while we were out by the marsh. The next morning revealed only one actual mosquito bite but my uncovered hands and neck were spotted with small red non-itching bites. From Jared Lloyd’s experience, I think I was actually bitten by no-see-ums or midges. Happily, the bugs don’t transmit diseases to humans (and happily, my bites don’t itch although they appear rather alarming en masse). I reckon I better learn to sweet talk midges next or I will have to resort to bug spray, something I try to avoid. Why don’t I spray? Over the years I have had the repeated experience of not spraying, and instead asking permission of the bugs around to pass, unscathed. It almost always works. The key for me is asking in a loving and respectful way. I am entering their domain, their home, and I try to be a good and faithful guest. It all goes back to worldview. Midges or not, I believe it’s a wondrous, beautiful world.

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The smallest cub climbed the highest.

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Cuteness is best viewed with binoculars or long lenses.

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That goes double for watching big papa bears! Of course I did have to tell him thank you, and we love you.

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Pete and I saw this bear running down the road from where we were.

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I have only photographed this phenomenon once before successfully. Do pelicans ever drag their wingtips? Yes they do.

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Grandson Pat and I watched a pair of Oyster Catchers at Coquina.

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Of course I am always on the lookout for hearts.

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I love photographing cross currents, although their presence can signal dangerous rip currents.

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Here is a slice of the Milky Way at Bodie Light.

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This is purely playful! Hyperspace (for Star Wars fans) or Warp Speed (for Trekkies) at Bodie Light!

posted by eturek at 2:10 PM

Comments [6]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 374029 times

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