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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Beauty After The Blow
How often have I written this over the years: I go out looking for one thing, and receive a gift of something else? Sometimes I am very focused (pun not exactly intended, but it works). I know what I am trying to find, where and when to be to see and photograph what I have in mind. Sometimes I just go. The past couple of days have been more the latter.

Once the high tide crested Monday morning, and began its slow and not-so-obvious retreat into ebb, Pete and I went out to check on Yellowhouse. We’d already seen and heard enough, online and on the phone, to know our own gallery was likely safe, and many other people’s areas had significant damage. We stopped by Nags Head Pier and checked as well on Jennette’s. I didn’t have the heart, then, to visit Avalon. That would have to wait one more day.

After our sojurn, we came home and I took a nap. That luxury meant I was more than usually restless in the night. So I know that the winds were strangely quiet around 2:30 a.m. but kicked up again emphatically an hour or so later. By mid-morning on Tuesday, we had pretty skies and I drove sections of the beach from mid-Nags Head to Avalon. I was looking for the last thing one might expect. I knew where to find damage, where to see destruction. My professional photographic life began as a journalist. I took journalism photos the day after the storm, needing to document in order to share, knowing there were loved ones at distance who needed to know, needed to connect with news, even if the news was difficult to hear. Tuesday my quest was different. I laid journalism down, went looking for beauty instead. And I found what I was looking for in ways unforeseen just a day before.

Friend Leslie told me she’d read online about starfish washed up in Nags Head. So I went looking for starfish. Nary a one did I see, not at NH Pier, not at Jennette’s. Later I drove partway down Old Oregon Inlet road and I didn’t see any on the beach south of Jennette’s either. But starfish found me: at Avalon Pier, where I almost did not go, unsure of how I could photograph the damage there in a way that honored the spirit of the owners who plan to reopen and rebuild, rather than focusing on their loss.

While photographing pelicans and pretty waves, a rainbowed-wave found me. I did not even see it in real time, it happened so quickly. But there it was, when I downloaded my images. I walked partway out Jennette’s, thinking I would find more waves, but what caught my heart there was the largest group of willets at one time in one place I have ever seen here.

So below are treasures gleaned on the beach, post-Sandy. I’ll include one or two storm shots for those who did not see them elsewhere. But most of this blog’s photos are from after the storm, as a reminder of hopefulness. That’s a key quality to surviving on the Outer Banks, I think. A stubborn, resilient hope.      

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This is a photo of the tide going OUT, hours after high tide in the afternoon AFTER the worst of the storm, aka Monday. In Nags Head.

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Even ebb tide packed a punch. NH Pier, Monday afternoon.

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NH Pier, the day after the day after. Tuesday morning, sparkling and silver in the morning sun. Waves still high but the pier still stands, not unscarred, but undeterred.

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Here's what determination looks like: one of four working on securing the shortest end of the Avalon Pier so it can re-open this week. And those gaps? Owners plan to repair, rebuild, and reopen its full length come spring 2013.

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Meanwhile, beachcombers had their pick of treasure at Avalon Pier. I came too late to photograph the reported whelks, but starfish were still plentiful.

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I left the starfish for others and gathered what I'd come for: scenes of beauty after the storm. Here's one: wave curls.

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Here's another: a rainbow appearing so briefly in the wave spray that my eyes did not catch it in real time, although my camera did. It was, and is, a gift.

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Here's part of that group of willets I mentioned. There were some sanderlings and various gulls, too, but the willets were the majority.

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More willets. Or, rather, less willets, meaning, a small group closer.

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At some point in the winter, the sea oats look like this. Thanks to Sandy's prolonged winds, those growing oceanside are stripped of their seed heads now, earlier than usual. They won't bloom again until June. Those behind the dunes are still full.

posted by eturek at 10:10 PM

Comments [1]

Monday, October 22, 2012
Immersion: Core Banks Adventure
I’ve been sifting words through my mind and heart, trying to come up with verbal shorthand that aptly describes my couple of days photographing on the Core Banks, around Beaufort, NC. I think I found it: immersion.

Pete and I headed to Beaufort specifically so that I could connect with wildlife photographer and guide Jared Lloyd. I would have three half-day opportunities to go into the field with him, searching for the wild horses of Carrot Island, also known as the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve, right across from Beaufort’s waterfront, and for those on the Shackleford Banks, some 18 miles distant as the pelican flies (or Jared’s boat runs). Jared leads a few photography workshops each year in the region but I opted to have some private time with him instead.

The horses in each area are distinct and have different social as well as physical characteristics. Those on the Shackleford Banks, like those in Carova, are old residents of the NC coast. Some estimates put them arriving with early colonists or from shipwrecks lost 300-400 years ago. In contrast, those on Carrot Island are descended from horses that were introduced to that area by the then-landowner back in the 1940s, but they have roamed wild there now for 70 years. On Carrot Island, the family groups are unique in that they routinely include more than one stallion, Jared said. And mares, which are usually much smaller than stallions, are of similar size on Carrot Island. Jared has a working theory that it is the competition for very limited fresh water there, rather than competition for food that is producing the distinct social and physical characteristics of this population of wild horses.

This part of the coast has a dramatic soundside tidal range, in that the islands are oriented east/west rather than north/south. Bogue Inlet is nearby and the ocean tides influence the sound shores here to a much greater extent than they do up our way. When Jared beached the boat and tossed out an anchor (we left Pete to mind the store aboard the boat), we stepped out onto dry sand and began our walk toward the tidal flats, a term I had heard but never fully appreciated. We walked through water that at times covered our feet and ankles, making our way through an upland that included some cedar groves (and plenty of sandspurs underfoot) until we came to the edge of what looked to me like a lake. No ordinary lake, this was a tidal flat fed by sound water that was in the middle of a tidal change. Horses were all around – on the near side, on the far side, along one distant edge. Most of the herd was between us and the sun, making for pretty silhouettes but not much else. We began a long walk around the edge to put ourselves between the sun and two groups of horses. The morning was intensely quiet. I don’t have great hearing, but I could hear the horses sloshing through the water (which is what we were doing too). I could hear when they whinnied or neighed to one another. I could hear little else, as the noises of traffic and commerce faded.

When we started walking, we were sloshing through water that was about mid-calf on me. By the end of our walk, the water was above my knees! Tide coming in!! That meant the tripod legs were, yes, going in the water and anchored down in the mud. This is one benefit of going with someone who is experienced when you are trying to immerse in a new landscape: they know the area conditions as well as the critters, and what is safe and wise to do.

The horses noticed us but went about their main business, grazing on the spartina marsh grass that by this time was mostly underwater. We went about our main business, which was to watch them and photograph. Jared pointed out the main fresh water site on the island, which is at the base of one sandy dune. The horses paw at the ground with their hooves and drink the rainwater that pools there. Per his advice, I’d bought closed-toe sandals, since the muddy bottom is covered with oyster shells in places and open-toed sandals can result in cut feet. Tiny little periwinkle and snail shells kept washing into my sandals. The periwinkles hang on to the edges and tips of the spartina, alternately living in an underwater and arid world twice every day as the tide rises and falls. We walked back to the boat through much higher water to take a lunch break and wait out the harsher light of midday. And the beached boat? It was floating!! Pete waved at us laughing as we came into view and I tried to figure out how I was going to climb back into the boat from down in the water! Let’s just say it was not pretty, but it got the job done! By late afternoon when we returned, the lake had become a mud-flat, and the horses were mostly all in the upland area around the cedar trees.

This time, we made our way slowly along the nearside muddy edge. The horse trails were harder packed and easier to walk and we used those where we could. Again I was amazed at how quiet the island was. At one point we had horses all around us while we were standing among the cedars. One young teenager, whom Jared estimates at 3-4 years old, sauntered right up to him while he stood still so as not to alarm it or any of the rest of the herd. By this time, I had done my best “melt-into-the-landscape” impression and was literally pressed into some branches of a cedar tree. I’m sure my eyes were wide open and I can tell you my heart was pounding, but not nearly as much as it was in about two minutes, when the horse finished sniffing Jared and turned toward me. Jared said, he’s been doing this to me almost every time I come out here. He is going to check you out now. And what should I do? I asked. Just stand still, Jared said. So that is exactly what I did. I met its eyes and looked down quickly, a classic submissive gesture. Hey, it works on the spooky little dog my friend Peter owns, so I figured it might work on this great big horse. I say “great big” but this fella was not full size yet. I can tell you it seemed huge when it was standing there looking into my face and sniffing my clothes and camera. I did manage to whisper a “you are beautiful” and “thank you” before it sauntered off.

The afternoon time with the horses felt different than the morning time. They were much more restless. We moved back several times as they moved around one another and eventually headed over to the mud flat. Now we, and they, were more in the open. I admit I sort of liked the seeming protection of the trees, but there was a great advantage in seeing and being seen, too. Soon we learned what was causing the restlessness. One of the females was in heat. We saw several stallions interested in her and some brief scuffling. Once Jared pointed out what to watch and listen for, I could better anticipate when one of the stallions was going to run over to another, or when two were going to shove or rear up at each other. More than one stallion threw back his head and curled his lip in a gesture that Jared said is designed to help them literally sniff the females’ scent. Love really was in the air!

The next morning we took the boat over to the Shackleford Banks but saw no horses at the water’s edge there. Instead, we motored over toward the Cape Lookout Lighthouse shortly after dawn, and spent a little time at the Core Sound’s own Pelican Island. There were several hundred Black Skimmers around Carrot Island too, more than I have ever seen in one place except perhaps Merritt Island, FL.

On our way back to the dock Jared went to the back side of Carrot Island and we spotted a small family group including that island’s one foal. That foal, its mother, and two other mares were grazing on a rapidly disappearing spit of grass that was being swallowed up by the incoming tide. Jared anchored the boat and we watched the four of them walk/swim across to the main marsh on the island’s back side where the stallion was grazing and waiting. That behavior is very typical of the Shackleford herd, he said, and I am glad I got to experience it on Carrot Island.

Pete and I saw the most vibrant two sunsets I have seen in years, I think, and we are both eager to revisit the area on our own now that I have been introduced to its natural beauty. The sunsets, the lighthouse, and the birds will have to wait for another blog.

Meanwhile, for those who would like to know more about Jared Lloyd’s photography, workshops, and guide services, his website is http://jaredlloydphoto.com/

A small gleaning of our wild horse adventure is below. Enjoy!!

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I included this to show the conditions between mid-morning and late afternoon. In both of these photos, I am nearby...so yes, I was getting down and dirty alongside Jared!

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Why get low? For a perspective like this one. I followed Jared's advice about the herd in general, and photographing these horses in particular. Here, a stallion is racing up to another group.

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I specifically wanted images in black and white of horses running through the water, and Jared knows enough about the horses' habitat and habits to put me in the right place at the right time.

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Black and white works best here since the horses were backlit. I love what this image shows: one group running across deeper water while others are ambling toward better grazing areas as the tide continued to rise.

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During our morning visit, the horses were focused primarily on grazing.

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In Carova, cattle egrets often follow the horses, eating the parasitic bugs which benefits both horse and bird. Here, ibis follow the herd, eating the snails that are stirred up by the horses' hooves.

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This is Bingo, a gorgeous palomino stallion, alongside one of the other stallions. The mixed herds have interesting dynamics when one or more of the mares is in heat, which we witnessed as a heightened restlessness.

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We witnessed much more restless behavior in the afternoon, but I am happy to report that none of the fights lasted long, or seemed very serious. This one ended in less than a minute.

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Our second morning. This mare and foal need to cross the water back to dry land, because the island they were grazing is shrinking with the incoming tide.

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Foals need to learn so much from their mothers in order to survive. On Carrot Island and the Shackleford Banks, that includes swimming lessons.

posted by eturek at 10:44 PM

Comments [4]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547830 times

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