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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Foam Floes and Rainbows
The other evening the nightly news weather gal announced that day, December 1, was the beginning of meteorological winter, as compared to astronomical winter, which of course begins at the winter solstice, around December 21 each year. Funny, I think of winter as starting in December, too. I place Thanksgiving firmly in fall, despite the weather, and link its gratitude for a bountiful harvest with the other blessings of autumn. But come December, it feels like winter to me, as the skies shift into their own winter wardrobes and I lug my lighter clothes upstairs and haul out goose down and fleece and warm woolen mittens. (Even warm woolen mittens aren’t enough to keep my cold hands warm, especially when holding on to my metal camera body and tripod, so I splurged on extra warm photographer gloves last January and they have already come in handy this season.)

November seemed like one long nor’easter. The winds blew and the sea roared in the beginning, middle and third week of the month before everything calmed down by Thanksgiving week.

By the third week, the beach was awash in foam as days of relentless multiplied sets of breakers sent lines of foam onto the beach. I’d gone to Avalon pier in the middle of the month and I went again near low tide on Saturday as the storm reached its peak winds, with gusts upwards of 60 mph at times! It was hard to climb out of the car, much less stand in place in the wind. Sunday morning after the early morning service at All Saints Episcopal Church, I went to Kitty Hawk pier at high tide. Wow, what a difference. I have witnessed many a storm, living here my entire adult life (43 years as of last May), but what I experienced that Sunday morning topped anything I had photographed before. The waves were breaking, not as water, but as pure churned whipping cream, and the foam was piled feet high everywhere I looked. I am so glad my schedule let me experience it!

Meanwhile, the same winds that were pushing foam up the beach emptied out the Sounds, pushing the water way westward. When it came back, it came more slowly than it does in a fullblown hurricane with its sudden shifting of winds. Seeing the dry Sound bottom is always startling.

November and early December gave us dramatic sky-shows, too, from vibrant full moon rings against a mackerel cloud sky, to the conjunction of a new moon with Jupiter and Venus on Thanksgiving night, to beautiful sunsets in between.

On Monday, the clouds were so compelling that I went to the ocean after some late afternoon errands. I wasn’t out long before the clouds in the west obscured the light that had called to my heart, and the rain bands I saw in the north began to close in from all directions. By the time I got back to the truck I was damp with the sudden sprinkles that quickly turned into moderate rain. But those clouds! It was not fully overcast so I decided to wait the rain out and within minutes, the sun broke through a rift in the western clouds while it was still misty-raining in the east. Rainbow conditions! Sure enough, a bright rainbow appeared over the sea, its ends tantalizingly close to shore. Then the light faded and I headed back to the dry of the truck and began driving toward home. But oh! Those clouds! On impulse, I decided to wait a little longer and see if squall number 2 would give a second rainbow, and it did! What an afternoon! Two double rainbows! I felt very blessed indeed.

Pete and I spent yesterday afternoon indoors, at a matinee of Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Mister Rogers. More than before, I understood his commitment not to ignoring the hard places and hard times we experience, even as children, but to finding ways to acknowledge the complexity of our feelings as valid, and then letting negativity go in favor of a deliberate lifestyle choice of peacefulness, compassion, gratitude, and love. Not at all an easy endeavor for any of us, Mister Rogers included. But I suspect he would have headed outside into an Outer Banks rainsquall to wait out the rainbow, too.

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This is earlier in November. Northeast winds, late afternoon light at Avalon Pier. Beautiful.

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By a week or so later, when winds were at their peak, I could see why foam was beginning to build on the shoreline.

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Still, I was not prepared to see this the next morning. Foam lay feet thick well up the dunes.

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In fact, the waves were breaking as pure foam!

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Here is another view of that foam.

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In such winds, you could easily believe Calm could never come. But a few days later, this was the sunset on the Sound.

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See that star under the new moon? Now look to the right and down, and you can see another, much fainter. Those are Venus and Jupiter, on Thanksgiving evening.

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Here is Rainbow #1.

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Even though the full arc faded, I was blessed to photograph the southern end's reflection in the wet sand--and with Sanderlings!

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I tell folks often, photography both teaches and rewards patience. Rainbow #2 proves my point! Definitely worth the wait.

posted by eturek at 1:47 PM

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019
The Tipping Point
The tipping point, third act. That is the phrase that came when I thought of today’s date. It didn’t help that I glanced up at my calendar only to realize it was still stuck in October. Autumn is like that. To me, fall seems the year’s shortest season. With a prolonged period of mild temperatures, Indian Summer can feel more like, well, summer than fall. And if the first cold snap comes early and persists, then winter seems to have overtaken fall before its appointed time. Autumn is usually my favorite time to photograph the landscape, and in typical human fashion, I try to hold on to the season as long as I can.

To that end, I drove up to Corolla near dusk last Saturday and was rewarded with my first Bald Eagle sighting up that way this season. A vibrant sunset at Whalehead, complete with a Great Blue Heron wading in the waning of the day, was a bonus. Then yesterday morning, tipped off by a Facebook post by friend Brenda James, whose daily sharing of a thoughtful nature quote and photos from her morning walkabouts have become one of my own daily inspirations, I crossed the bridge onto Pea Island. There, just as she said, I found White Pelicans, Tundra Swan and about a bazillion ducks, huge rafts of pintails and I don’t know who else tucked into the midst. I spotted a couple of grebes nearer shore and some Shovelers south of South Pond. The ducks got up in mighty blast-offs and at first I thought a hawk had spooked them, as I spotted a hawk in silhouette flying low over the ducks a bit earlier. But in looking at my images later, I spied the real reason: a Bald Eagle perched on a post in the middle of the ducks. A later blast-off from North Pond revealed a tiny speck of a Bald Eagle, presumably the same one or perhaps part of a pair, flying overhead.

I also drove over to Manteo the Saturday before to rendezvous with artist Deb Hershey and her husband Scott, who had entered two heartrendingly beautiful wooden kayaks in the annual Wooden Boat Show. I tramped around the Manteo boardwalk and poked my nose into the boat shop before heading back home. A large flock of crows settled into the trees near the net house and I had a fun few minutes watching them, too.

Admittedly there is not as much to watch today. Yesterday’s sun has yielded to gray skies and the possibility of a thunderstorm later in the afternoon. Tomorrow the sunshine returns and the warm trend continues with temperatures fluctuating between low and mid-60s for the next several days.

But the tipping point for me comes at this point every fall when we switch back to sun-time, aka standard time and off daylight savings time. We fall back into the rhythms that nature has been keeping all along without regard to human endeavors and our seeming need for daylight later in the day. The sun sets as it always has, and every day this time of year, the hours and minutes and seconds of daylight dramatically shrink. That, perhaps even more than temperature changes, signal birds like the tundra swan and white pelicans that it is time to come south even if winter weather has not hit yet. Winter is however in full force out west, where one grandson in Denver has already had to shovel what is for us an entire winter’s worth of snow off his truck. The official midway point between fall and winter, or the cross-quarter date, falls on November 7 this year. Here is a handy trivial pursuit fact: in September, at the time of the equinox, we lose about 90 seconds of daylight each day. This time of year, we lose just over a minute. But come the winter solstice, when the days begin to get longer again, they do so only by one or two seconds each day! No wonder winter seems so long and dark and dreary! Of course, the same is true at the beginning of summer, too—we lose only a couple of seconds of daylight each day in June. So what is the differential between the daylight on the longest day and the shortest? A whopping 3 hours and 16 minutes and a random number of seconds! No wonder the Night Before Christmas begins with a l-o-n-g winter’s nap.

While I was waiting on Pea Island for something to happen, as in another group of swan flying overhead or the ducks to blast off or for someone interesting to paddle or fly a little closer, I fiddled around with my in-camera settings in order to combine a series of multi-exposures into a single image. The result is more an abstract feeling of whatever is happening rather than a realistic freeze-frame portrayal, but I find it fun with larger groups of moving birds. So you will see a couple examples of that below too.

For me, photography is as much about feeling as it is about seeing. That is why seeing an image, even years later, can bring me right back to the moment of its making. So much sensory input goes into the clicking of the shutter. Knowing that time is fleeting, the season and the year are winding down, and that these particular moments are gifts to be appreciated and shared adds to the joy. The truth is, multi-exposure technique notwithstanding, we are given just one breath, one second, one minute to live at a time. We can’t cram more seconds into that minute, more minutes into this hour. So it behooves us to, in the words that close out the Sunday morning service at All Saints Episcopal Church, be swift to love and make haste to be kind, and to go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

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One of a pair of Bald Eagles in Corolla. Nesting season is upon us!

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A "sailor's delight" red sunset at Whalehead followed my Bald Eagle sighting. Notice the Great Blue under the bridge -- I did not spot it until I walked closer.

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The Great Blue Heron is a bird of patience and patience is the lesson I remind myself to learn every time I see one.

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I wandered into the net house on the Manteo boardwalk and loved this view of the shad boat through the open door.

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Swan flew overhead singly, in pairs and in small groups of 4-6 birds, crossing back and forth from north and south ponds.

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This is a small percentage of the thousands of ducks in both ponds.

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Here is the oddest sight I photographed: a swan seemingly hitting its brakes midair! I have no idea what caused it to pull up; a few frames later and it regained its usual flight position in the line.

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Here is one example of a multi-exposure of a group of swan flying over.

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And here is a multi-exposure during one of the blast-offs.

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When the constraints of time or space prevent my photographing a grand, sweeping landscape, I like to look closer for vignettes of beauty. Here is a recent one--backlit grasses atop Run Hill shortly before dusk.

posted by eturek at 4:10 PM

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Thursday, October 31, 2019
The Calm After the Storm
As I wrote my last blog, at the beginning of September, Dorian was setting a course for the Outer Banks, we had made our preparations at the galleries, and there was nothing to do but sit and wait. Or, in my case, go outside and wait—at least until the storm and its rain bands hit.

We were lucky once again, meaning, no damage at the house, and other than a roof leak that has been stubborn to resolve, no damage to any inventory at the shop either. Of course our southern neighbors were not nearly so fortunate. I write this, think this, pray this, over and over: so often our own seeming good fortune comes at the expense, seemingly, of someone else’s loss. We skirt a storm without damage while others lose everything they possess. It makes even my gratitude tinged with humility and sorrow.

So, as I said, we got through Dorian unscathed, and then came a family storm, in the guise of a serious, life-threatening health episode for Pete’s older son, “little Pete.” As of tomorrow, he has been seven weeks in one hospital or another—first our local ER, then Elizabeth City, then Sentara Heart Hospital’s ICU and finally the long-term recovery wing of Sentara General Hospital. Details really don’t matter here, other than to say that, just as with Dorian, we were spared another horrific loss. My Pete was under the bus for about three weeks as his son’s life teetered on the edge of eternity. We are so grateful to have him back, while realizing he has a long road to full health yet to travel. Some of you reading this knew some of this story already, and we so appreciate your thoughts and prayers—keep them coming!

Crisis is like fog. It obscures so much and emphasizes what is right in front of you. Like fog, it has its own challenges, dangers, and surprising gifts. Crisis teaches us (if we let it) what is truly important and how much we have to be grateful for. It is a great editor; it trims away what really does not matter in order to help us see and value what remains.

In between visits to the hospital (we took turns so he would have visitors on many days and so we did not overwhelm him with too many of us at one time), and working shifts at the gallery (I learned all over again I can be calm and efficient in crisis but definitely need private time to both feel my feelings and recharge for the next round), I tried to find moments of solace outside. I had scheduled an autumn workshop in Hendersonville, NC at Mountain Lens, a fabulous photographic workshop/retreat space, and for several weeks was afraid I might have to cancel. But once little Pete was awake and alert and on his way to recovery, I knew I could leave the beach behind for a few days.

We had great weather, a vibrant sunset, a glowing sunrise with some fog laying in the valley, and overcast skies perfect for photographing waterfalls. Sunday morning we rose early and drove two hours to the Cataloochee Valley, deep in the Smoky Mountain National Park, where elk were reintroduced more than 15 years ago, having been hunted out of existence here in colonial times.

Where do you go to recharge? What visual symbols resonate with deeper-than-surface meaning for you? What makes your heart sing? These were the sorts of questions I asked my workshop participants to consider. They are good questions for photographers, and good questions for life, period. Knowing your answers can definitely provide stability and a surer footing, like a sturdy walking stick in the mountains, when crisis times do come.

Regular readers already know some of my answers. I love wildlife, so photographing elk, which I have not seen since our trip west in 2011, was especially energizing. Having a chance to photograph two fawns, in OCTOBER, in Duck, was a surprise, as I don’t expect to see little spotted fawns so late in the year. I love flowing water too, and seeing a rainbow in the waterfall spray was a double treat at one of the falls we visited. And of course I am always on the lookout for unusual hearts in the landscape, and I was not disappointed in that quest either. How about you, dear reader? (I hope you never get weary of my asking you this question.) What makes your heart sing?

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We are starting to see some vibrant sunsets now, though the real show will come with less humidity.

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A recent sunset in Duck, right outside Yellowhouse Gallery's front door. What a view!

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These two fawns were with their mother and one other female. They all crossed Duck Road right in front of me, just south of Duck Village.

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This Papa Elk is WAY bigger than the largest white-tailed deer. You would assume his call would be a deep baritone. Nope. Male elk bugle, a high-pitched whistle. Haunting.

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A young buck elk.

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The colors kept changing as the sun neared its rising, and the pink glow was my favorite.

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I watched the clouds all day, and just had a feeling we would get a sunset. So glad we waited it out!

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We had to search for spots of fall color.

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I could sit beside a running stream all day. So many views, so many moods.

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Here is the splash of rainbow at the base of Moore Grove Falls -- a long walk in, but worth the rainbow!

posted by eturek at 9:35 PM

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Thursday, September 5, 2019
I am writing this blog under cloudy skies, in between what must be the first of the rain bands from Dorian. It is 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, and I already have cabin fever—exacerbated by the fact that since Dorian has been so slow moving, its path has given us so much extra time to prepare under calm skies that I just want the storm to hurry up, get here, and leave already. Fast-movers do less damage than slow-lingering storms do, and I am at least grateful that its forward speed has quickened and the winds have ever so slightly lessened. We have the Weather Channel on in the background, and vacillate between our horror at what has happened to the Bahamas and our hope we don’t have significant damages here. Such is storm season on the Outer Banks. You go along your merry way, and then you pray, and prepare, and hope, and clean up, and take a breath, and go along your merry way again.

My merry way as you know includes making images. So last Saturday I drove up to Duck early on a slick calm morning, with comparatively little traffic considering it was Labor Day weekend, with time to stop at my favorite tree along the boardwalk. I have photographed that tree at sunset, in fog, created images in black and white as well as in color palates ranging from vibrant to pastel. Saturday, I photographed that tree again from every possible angle (except from the Sound itself, but that would put the background as the back of the Wings store, not very photogenic). A couple favorites are below.

Friends came in town Saturday afternoon and I spent only brief interludes with them before evacuation was ordered for Tuesday morning and they packed up and headed back home after seemingly just getting here. I got up the morning they left and photographed the sunrise. Its gift was a sun heart in the wave wash. I noticed then what I had noticed a week or so ago—even without a hurricane thus far, our sea oats really are straggly already! I look forward to photographing them every October, when I think of them as being at their loveliest, but not this year. The wet spring and early summer combined to create a marginal crop (they thrive in drought not in damp), and they are turning brown-black and dropping seed heads much earlier than usual.

I spent Tuesday morning prepping the gallery along with two staff members, and headed back towards home by way of a scenic route, aka Bay Drive, and was startled to see a young, lean fox sniffing something right in the middle of the road! His face was a pale grey and I was reminded of two of the babies I photographed earlier in the summer. Could this be one of the teens? He was clearly hot and thirsty and I hope he found his way to some water. He trotted across to the grass and I slowed down and called to him, wondering if he would respond to my voice, which he did. He stood a minute or more while I spoke endearments and wished him well. He looks very thin.

On Wednesday, I made a strategic mistake and did not go out for sunrise, even though I was awake. My views here in Colington, obscured as they are by trees all around, belied the beautiful sunrise that was to come, which I missed. As a consolation prize I went to the ocean at Kitty Hawk Pier for sunset, and while it was not so vibrantly red (we are not yet in the “sailor’s delight” timeframe with Dorian approaching), it was pink and beautiful to the north. Again my gift was a heart, this one also in the wave wash, and huge. While I waited for the color to intensify I photographed a tiny stand of sea oats just beside the beach access there. There were only about half a dozen stalks, but they bent obligingly in the easy breeze. They could well be all gone after Dorian passes. Good thing sea oats propagate primarily by their roots spreading, not by seed germination.

That brings us up to this morning. I went out for sunrise today, hoping for something, anything, but the sea was fairly flat and the sky was lack luster, until all of a sudden a curving slice of rainbow appeared to the south of the sun's position. A sundog! I received the rainbow colors as a promise and clicked away. I noticed backsplashes as the water rushed to recede only to collide with incoming waves. I suspect I was actually watching a rip current in miniature. I ventured out again in mid-afternoon for one last look as the first winds from outer bands of the storm passed through. The color of the ocean was entirely different given the different light, and it was easy to see bands of teal and indigo and purple water. Right after I got back home, we had one quick burst of rain. Based on the latest forecasts I saw, our worst effects will come at night and near high tide, and may I just say I hate that. It is unnerving lying in bed, not sleeping, while the winds howl outside and you wonder exactly what is happening.

But for right this minute, shortly before 7 pm on Thursday evening, we are well, fed and happy; the dogs are fed and happy; and the winds are currently calm but we are having our second splash of rain showers. A jogger on the beach this morning trotted in front of me and I pointed out the rainbow. Yup, he said, the calm before the storm. And so it is. May the storm pass swiftly and may we get back to our merrily, merrily soon. After Dare lifts the Dorian curfew which is in effect from 8 p.m. tonight until at least noon tomorrow, and it is safe to be out and about, I will let you know how our area fared.

Meanwhile, enjoy these little glimpses from the past week or so, pre-Dorian.

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When I walked up the boardwalk toward the tree and saw this view, I knew I made the right decision to stop. The Sound is not often this slick.

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Here is the view looking due west of my favorite tree in Duck. Shucks, this is one of my favorite trees, anywhere.

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One more. I photographed the tree a little darker for this image than in the previous two.

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Here is that young, lean fox. His face reminds me of the pale baby red fox I photographed earlier this year.

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Here is Tuesday morning's sunrise.

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And here is the sun-heart in the wave wash. What was wonderful about this one, and the one below, is that I spotted them in real time and was able to make the photograph.

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Here is Wednesday's pink sunset.

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Here is the wave wash pink heart.

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Even though there were only a couple of stalks, they were still picturesque against the sky.

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When it first appeared, the splash of color looked like a slice of rainbow. Later as the sun rose higher above the cloud bank, it looked more like a sundog. Either way, I took it as a promise.

posted by eturek at 8:13 PM

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Sunday, August 25, 2019
Nearly two months have passed since I lost track of the fox family I watched all spring. The sun crossed over into summer, the mercury climbed, and thunderous squalls overtook many an afternoon (it is thundering now as I type). My summer life as retail-shop-owner gets crazy busy, while my quieter, more contemplative photographer-self hunkers down and awaits those moments I can pause outside with camera in hand.

And I do mean “pause.” As in, hit the pause button. Pausing lets me take a breath, decide if what I actually need to do is rewind and revisit a decision or rethink a solution to a dilemma, or even just remember experience so I can distill wisdom or insight. Or maybe I just need a rest, that marvelous space between notes that master composers use to great effect and God Himself hallows. When I pause as a photographer, I can enter a bird or animal’s world for brief, time-suspended moments. I can watch clouds gather and swell with rain, anticipate and relish the rainbow that might follow. I can trace the tracks of wind across water or grasses, feel when the air suddenly cools as a front approaches. I can inhabit the moment for a moment, breathe in its gifts, breathe out my gratitude.

It seems I am always in this sort of inner dialog, half writing, half praying, always seeking to form words for the form of life happening right in front of my eyes. When it happens in front of my lens, then the seeing and hearing and speaking sides of me unite, ever so briefly, and I am whole again. I click the shutter, trying to stay in that time-space, but life moves forward and the pause evaporates like smoke. The best I can do is to revisit and remember as I look at the images, and await my next opportunity to rest.

By far my most immersive opportunity to pause and drink in the moment came in the form of an overnight trip to Beaufort, to rendezvous with friend and wildlife photographer extraordinaire, Jared Lloyd. Any moments I spend in his company are rich with experience and insight. We photographed the herd across from the Beaufort waterfront as well as around the Shackleford Banks. Having dinner with Jared and his wife Amy just added to the joy. I slept and woke and drove home in a state of deep relaxation, partly from time spent on the water in his boat, and partly I am sure from spending hours on end focusing on the work I love best, connecting with this earth’s critters as they go about their living in natural settings.

Closer to home, a more spontaneous trip to Carova to catch the sunrise and look for horses with fellow photographers produced a beautiful example of pre-dawn crepuscular rays. We did not see many horses that morning—I am sure they were more interested in breakfast than in coming to the water so early and posing for us—but the one chance we did have made for a different view as the horse was fully backlit by the newly risen sun.

An overnight visit from our grandson who lives in CT prompted a drive over to Alligator River refuge after supper and we saw several bears, some of whom were just crossing the canal into adjacent fields to feed and all of whom seemed to be more spooky than I usually observe. A squall was approaching in the distance, so perhaps that was part of the reason. We watched the bears and talked about life, the experience opening the door to deeper conversation, a special kind of intermission in both our lives.

And that brings me back to where I started—pauses and summer squalls. This summer seems to have given us more than the usual share of sudden squalls (and rainbows, though none as spectacular as that May double rainbow at Avalon pier). I admit I love to watch a squall approach—so long as there is no damage and the only effects are the visual displays they produce.

I hope these moments provide you an opportunity to pause as well. Enjoy.

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We have had such spectacular cloud shows lately! Squalls that come across the Sound near sunset can be the most dramatic.

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Clean and green -- how refreshing does this look?

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Sunrise in the 4WD area of Carova.

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Here is that stallion backlit by the rising sun in Carova.

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The horses near Beaufort contend with a lunar high/low tide in the Sound, which our horses don't experience. These horses swim regularly as a part of their grazing.

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Everywhere we went, horses were wading, running, or swimming.

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The foreground stallion is "driving" his mare by lowering his head, to keep her away from the darker stallion on the shoreline, who was seeking a mare to steal.

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The bachelor stallion responded by wading out into the water to try a different approach.

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That caught the attention of yet another stallion, who came charging into the water to demonstrate his own dominance.

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Skirmishes in the water are common here. We watched from the boat a safe distance away, through our long lenses.

posted by eturek at 1:07 PM

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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 495077 times

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