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

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]

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Winter Blues and Grays
Every winter I think the same thing: I will photograph more, stay inside less, be extra creative in a number of genres, you get the idea. And then we come to the end of February. Everyone I know is angry at the groundhog and over-tired from all the gray and wet. Or all the white and wet, depending. We did have an inch or two of snow earlier this week. The storm that brought more snow to our south and north just dumped more cold, northeast-driven rain on us overnight and today. Rumor has it the sun might shine tomorrow and into the weekend though high temperatures are still forecast to be only in the 30s for a couple more days. Then by Monday the rain socks in again and lasts most of next week.

I did get out for a couple hours in the snow on Tuesday. Honestly, I’ve been desperate for some time outside. I took a walk a day or so before on the back side of Jockeys Ridge and didn’t even carry my camera with me. I cheated in that I had my phone, but mostly I used the phone as a compass rather than a camera. I needed to re-orient myself, remind my heart where my true north lies, and sit and look and listen and pray and give thanks. I did all of that in a very chilly hour on the Ridge and came home much refreshed. If you have the chance to be outside without having to shovel or scrape or slog through rain puddles, I highly recommend it. About a week ago, I spent a good part of the afternoon waiting for a raft of Redhead Ducks to lift off from the pond behind the Bodie Island lighthouse. They finally did, at sunset. In the meantime I enjoyed watching Pintails and the company of a videographer, Ron Marchand, who films for the local wildlife refuges and is quite a knowledgeable birder.

Some of the snow images, along with a few from earlier in the month, are below. I’d say “enjoy” but most folks I know are sick of snow scenes. Maybe snow coupled with a lighthouse or dunes will cheer my northern readers up a bit. If not, perhaps my sunset skies over sea or ducks-ducks-geese will do that. Meanwhile, be well and warm.

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Snowy Dunes. I used a small f/stop for maximum depth of field. I usually slightly underexposein bright sun with a lot of white (snow, waves, birds) as my Nikon tends to blow out highlights. But here I had to brighten the snow on a gray day.

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I love seeing the sand near the water white with snow.

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I'm always looking for the different angle or perspective. Last winter I photographed the Light and Keeper's house from both sides. This year I wanted to show the Light through the pines in the snow.

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I walked through the stand of trees to catch this view.

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Groundhog's Day sunset. Now this could make you believe in an early spring!

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The Pintails were fun to watch. Several drakes competed for the attention of this single female.

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One drake in particular seemed to think he was the favorite and kept trying to chase the others away.

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At sunset, the large raft of Redhead Ducks began to lift off and fly north in loose groups. They weren't leaving for the season, just headed to roost elsewhere overnight.

posted by eturek at 7:49 PM

Comments [7]

Saturday, January 24, 2015
It's Caturday! Er, Critterday!
Ever heard of “anthropomorphism”? The word was first used in the 1820s to mean applying human characteristics or emotions to non-human subjects. Anthropologists, historians and psychologists used the word most often. The tendency to “personalize” Greek and Roman deities with human feelings like love or desire or greed provided an example of cultural anthropomorphism. When we say machines have it in for us, we’re doing the same thing. Children’s literature uses anthropomorphic characters when books feature talking animals that act like people; think Peter Rabbit and Aesop’s Fables. Science cautions against thinking of animals in human terms, so much so that editors, publishers and educators now often frown upon children’s stories that feature animals expressing “human” feelings or thoughts.

Here’s the problem I have with that line of reasoning, and why I even bring it up.       I think anthropomorphism might be useful as shorthand to describe a cultural practice. We’ve all given or gotten funny greeting cards—or emails—featuring critters with hilarious poses or expressions. While those critters may not have been thinking the same thoughts we do when we look like that, the temptation is great to think maybe they were. Or, to put it another way, to look at those images anthropomorphically. I think a little common sense goes a long way here. I can enjoy these humorous images and the associations they prompt. AND I can recognize in my own dog’s eyes—and in wild critters—emotions and expressions that I have human words for. I think we exhibit arrogance if we assume that only humans have feelings and emotions we’ve categorized and labeled, like love, affection, preference, impatience, grief, and so on. I just don’t think those emotions are the purview of humans alone.

For all of these I used a fast shutter speed. Hike up your ISO if you need to in order to increase shutter speed; you don't want to miss these blink-of-an-eye moments!

So in the spirit of Caturday, I offer you these birds and critters. LOL.

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Karen Watras (shellgirl) and I saw this uber-cute bunny at Pea Island years ago.

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In Carova, this past summer. I call it Unwind. You can likely think of funnier titles.

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Anthropomorphically speaking, that first fox seems to be saying, uh-oh! Run Forrest Run!

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Taken several years ago at Bodie Light. The Snowy Egret is smaller than the Great Egret, and in this pose I can imagine the caption: I am SO a Big Bird!!

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This picture makes me smile every time I see it. Yellow Rumped Warbler. (Birders call them "Butter Butts." -- which is reason enough for this expression, don't you think?)

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This might be my favorite humorous series taken all last year. I call it, Don't Even Think About It!

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Here we have a perfect example of why I don't do yoga.

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I see pure contentment here. (And wisdom.) Mere anthropomorphism? Or Truth?

posted by eturek at 8:24 PM

Comments [9]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 216013 times

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