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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Light Is Everything Part II
This time of year always asks me to decide whether I am a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty kind of gal, or—in the words of one of my favorite jokes—do I just have more glass than I need here? Is the light coming, or going? This is a good question to ask right about now, as right about now is the shortest day/longest night of the year: the winter solstice. For many spiritual traditions, this is a season of light and of lights, not a season of darkness.
Solstice actually comes from two Latin words, sol which means sun, and a second word that can be translated as “to stand” (and which one of my dictionaries defined as “high point, culmination”). The summer solstice, which marks the beginning of summer every June, actually records the moment when the sun is at its greatest point north of the equator. Because of the earth’s tilt, that means the sun is also at its highest point above our horizon at noon, here in the northern hemisphere. The opposite effect is what we experienced today: the sun at its greatest distance south of the equator and its lowest point above the horizon at noon. The fact that the date of the winter solstice coincided this year with a full lunar eclipse (for only the second occasion since the time of Christ) was a bonus.
Just as June produced August weather, meaning late spring/early summer was marked with hotter and more humid weather typical of later in the summer, so our late fall/early winter has thus far been marked with colder and moister weather typical of our later winter. We’ve already had several snow flurries and even a tiny bit of accumulation, especially on the Currituck Outer Banks where the rains were evidently less than they were in Nags Head late last week. Temperatures seemed stuck in the 30s until a warming trend took us all the way into the 40s. It has felt more like late January or February than mid-December, and makes me wonder if this is going to be one of those winters with genuine snowfall on the Outer Banks, along with a layer of ice all across the sound, not just at the edges.
Although the actual snowfall on December 16, did not last more than a couple of hours, the snow lay on the ground in Corolla at least until the next day, when Karen Watras (shellgirlphotos) and I went to Carova. One great thing about snow is that it makes identifying animal tracks easy. We saw highways of fox tracks, both on the boardwalk west of the Currituck Light and in the Carova dunes; I saw the clearest raccoon footprint I have ever seen, in the parking lot at Currituck Light, and we saw bunny tracks and deer tracks in several places as well. We even saw a spot where a fox, or more than one, stops on a regular basis, like a dog might, to mark its territory with urine. I guess it takes a born naturalist to be impressed with fox pee! Seeing some Carova residents—meaning a couple of horses, and pelicans flying over the dunes, and a small flock of blackbirds—in the snow made rising before dawn to get north in early morning light well worth the effort.
The last photograph is one I took just this morning and I did a doubletake when I saw it. I reported here some weeks ago that my little apple tree was putting out buds and actually bloomed, way off schedule. Brand new leaves share stem space with last season’s dry, brown leftovers. Now it has at least one tiny apple.
Whatever your tradition, I wish you the illumination that light represents—its ability to transform the dreariest day and the drabbest skyscape. In other words, I wish you joy.

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Dec. 15. Ice on the Sound. The ice refracted the sunlight like tiny crystals, or prisms, glowing pink and green and blue.

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Dec. 16. Snowfall! Flakes and waves at the same time.

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Dec. 17. Sunrise in Corolla with Sanderlings.

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The further north we drove, the more snow on the ground remained. Penny Hill in snow.

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Snowy dunes in Carova. The winter sun is low and to the south even near noon, allowing more opportunities to photograph.

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Pelicans flying over snow! Gotta love it!

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Miles and miles of seaside grasses and this flock of blackbirds picked this spot.

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Good thing Banker ponies have thick winter coats.

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Sometimes I see a photo that speaks on every level: spiritual first, then natural, then artistic. This is one of those.

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Winter's (not summer's) first apple. Ever. (Well, on this tree, anyway.)

posted by eturek at 9:51 PM

Comments [1]

Thursday, December 9, 2010
Living in Light
Painting with Light. Luminous Landscapes. Nature’s Light. Chased by the Light. One Light, See the Light, Eloquent Light. First Light. What do all these phrases have in common? They all are names of professional photography businesses or workshops, or are titles of works created by different professional photographers. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: Light isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
I know photographers who love morning light, its softness, its bluish cast. Me, I like afternoon light: golden, rich, deep. If light were musical, which maybe it is, then morning light might be the soprano tones, trilling, lilting, playful. I am picturing (rather than hearing) little arias of gentle wavelets and dawn sunbeams and dancing, make that racing, sanderlings. Morning. Now for afternoon, I am picturing a baritone backed by a clarinet, say, of pelicans gliding over and dolphins sliding through clear wave sets, the sorts surfers favor. If music can be seen, which maybe it can, then the morning’s lilting sunbeams are deeper now, and longer. I am hearing violin music in my head as I type this, and wishing I had the Italian vocabulary of a virtuoso. Morning light is more staccato, building, intensifying while afternoon is more legato, drawn out, smooth. In afternoon, I am always having to watch out for my own shadow, not to have it dominate the picture, assuming I am facing the sea. Which I am. I tend to go in the opposite direction—meaning, I like to shoot the sound in the morning, when light illuminates the sound shore and whoever is lurking there, and I like to shoot the sea in afternoon for the same reason. I will go seaside for the occasional sunrise and soundside for the occasional sunset. But more often than not, for me, the magic happens on the opposite shore.
I had a wonderful chance over the Thanksgiving holiday to tramp around Pea Island with our 12-year-old grandson Patrick. Both of us had cameras in hand. The afternoon light was squirrely. By that I mean it was dashing in and out and over and around on itself, like a squirrel racing around a tree trunk, playing hide and seek with itself and the clouds in the western sky. Every time it hid, the day turned drab. Every time it emerged, for brief minutes, the day turned magic. And for the first time, Patrick got to watch, as he put it, the light move. Here it comes! I said, look! Photographs taken literally seconds apart were not only better lit—they were fundamentally different in their color and their mood. We left Pea Island near sunset during a spectacular cloud show that seemed cinematic in its intensity.
The examples of this that I have below actually were taken on two different afternoons. In each case, sunlight revealed a world of tones and nuances of feeling that the shade could not match. The effect, to continue our musical analogy, was like listening to a full symphony or orchestra versus a solo act.
In the second set, late afternoon sunlight intensified a phenomenon of seeing the sun’s rays on the opposite horizon of where the sun actually was—anti-crepuscular rays, meaning merely the other end of the sunbeams that originated at the source, the sun itself. Being able to share the sun's coming and going with good friends Leslie and Laurie, as I had just one week earlier with Patrick, made the magic doubly precious.
One of the rewards of a crisp, cooler, lower humidity laden atmosphere is a ramping up of sky effects such as these reflected sunrays near sunset. And speaking of sunsets, they have been spectacular too. I deliberately went to the sound the other evening to witness sunset on its rightful horizon.
This morning I got up and headed to the sound again—this time to Pea Island, hoping for some snow geese. I did get to see a small flock fly-by, but the real white bird treat was not the snow geese, beautiful as I think they are, or the couple of swan I saw (still not many here yet), or the Great Egrets or Ibis, whom I love, no matter how often I see them. The real white treat was white pelicans!! I have heard for several years that a small group hangs out at Pea Island, and this morning I saw twenty at one time, with a few more flying overhead.
White pelicans are considerably larger than our brown pelicans, with peachy colored bills. Their wings are black-tipped, but you can see the black only when they stretch their wings or fly. They do not dive as our brown pelicans do, but feed cooperatively by swimming around fish and herding them where they can be easily caught. They were hanging out near the western edge of the first large pond on Pea Island. I saw our winter flock of avocets too, right where I have seen them for a couple of years now—south of the visitor center ponds, at the eastern edge of the shore. There were lots and lots of all sorts of ducks; most of those were either too far away to identify, were flying in great swirling masses, or were silhouetted between where I could stand and the sun’s position, now low and in the south even at noon.
Speaking of white birds, the gannets have arrived, a winter herald. I saw my season’s first sighting with Patrick on our magic-light afternoon, and they were even easier to spot with their white wings shining against those crepuscular rays and a darker blue sky a full week later.
When I get to missing all the joys of summer like full-headed sea oats and osprey overhead and balmy breezes and warm sand, I remember to be grateful for all the gifts of winter, like spectacular light shows and gannets and white pelicans, and I am content. Living in Light—a good life, indeed.

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Pea Island. Waiting for the light to change. Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

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Same spot, seconds later. Bingo! Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

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Magic Light on the Dunes. You can see why...

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Lights On: Green waves, intense rays, brilliant gannets in the distance.

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Lights Off. The scene is not only darker, the colors are fundamentally different. Where did the green waves go?

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Sunset #1. Golden, intense, beautiful. A couple of swans complete the magic.

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Sunset #2. Each one, like sunrise, has its own personality.

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These little Red Knots -- I think this is who they are -- were hanging out with this Willet. Me, too!

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Snow Geese are winter companions on the Outer Banks.

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White Pelicans at Pea Island! I hope they stay all winter. If so, I can promise you'll see more of them from me!

posted by eturek at 9:47 PM

Comments [4]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 561366 times

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