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

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 [4]

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]

(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 547810 times

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