On Assignment: Outlawed Restorations

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Hello Dolly
One thing that I failed to mention in my series from Topsail Island was that I received a text from Dean Cornelius with Outlawed Restorations in East Bend, NC.  I had just finished up a shoot from his shop the previous weekend and that had lead to a conversation about the rat rod Caddi that I had shot in the barn.  It was going up for sale and the actual owner of the car had commissioned some pictures to be taken of the car for the broker in Florida.  Well, when Dean texted me, he let me know that the owner was now interested in me doing the pictures for the Caddi.  To make a long story short, I spoke with not only Dean, but the owner of the car and came to an arrangement.  It was going to have to wait until I got back in town before I could get the pictures, and they were OK with that.

Essentially, the assignment was simple, shoot between 12 and 15 shots of the Caddi so that the broker can post them online.  They needed to capture the spirit of the build and car, and spark the imagination of the potential buyer.  These types of shoots are all about feeding the fantasy of owning a product.  It was a little different that what I was normally accustomed to, but I jumped at the chance!

Caddi Pipe
Before going, I had a few ideas of what I wanted to shoot of the car since I had now seen it a couple of times.  The biggest thing that I wanted to capture was the exhaust pipe out of the side of the car.  This is just not something you see on a Cadillac, and I thought that feature alone would sell the car.  Having the emblem below the pipe was an added bonus.  I set the shot up here to showcase the lowered stance of the car, the whitewall tire with original hubcap and the shiny bit of chrome trim.  The highlight was that gigantic hole in the side of the fender where the diesel fumes could escape.

Resident of US
Another feature that I wanted to capture was the seal on the door.  I had always been under the impression that it was a replica of the Presidential Seal which is on the Limos of the POTUS.  Well, I was shown to be wrong by Dean.  He pointed out that he had the seal slightly altered when it was painted on the door.  To avoid any possible problems with the Secret Service, the seal reads "Resident of the United States"...I guess that is a true and accurate statement.  It is a really cool feature on this limo.  This shot also shows the stance of the car on the air bag suspension and the section of a tree trunk that grew over the exhaust hole in the rear bumper.  Instead of removing it, Dean just cut the wood around the corner of the bumper and left it there.  While you see a lot of rust here, there has been plenty of metal welded up behind the panels  to make sure that the car is still solid.

Air Compressors
Speaking of the air ride suspension, Dean wanted me to get a shot of the air compressors and tank in the trunk of the car.  What is so special about this is the way that the lines were plumbed.  They were done to mimic exhaust headers and should appeal to any car guy.  By the way Dean, I vacuumed up a little bit on the carpet with a clone stamp tool just to clean up the appearance a bit.

Diesel Caddi
While externally, the big exhaust pipe is the eye catcher, it is what is under the hood that makes that pipe so cool.  This thing runs on a Cummins diesel engine which is turbo powered and has several very cool touches under the hood.  Most notably is the radiator overflow jug which pays tribute to Dean's Fire Department days.  Yep, you see it correctly, that is a fire extinguisher.  I wonder if Kidde ever though that they their product would be used for this purpose?

Captain's Chair
No automotive shoot would be complete without a shot of the interior.  I mean that is where the owner will be sitting and spending most of their time.  The burlap seats are quite the centerpiece in the car, and the texture on the dash is from the burlap pad that was glued on it to replace the failed leather upholstery.  The owner decided that he didn't like the burlap and Dean took it off which left this residue.  Honestly, it works!  You can also see the air controller here in the seat, as well as some of the gauges.  For those who are interested, this was an HDR shot made up of five exposures which allowed me to get plenty of detail throughout the cabin.  I think it is a great representation of the interior.

Control Center
For those that want to get up close and personal with the instruments, I got in low and shot this view of the dash.  It is not quite fine art quality, but it does a great job at showing what it needs to.  This car is just so cool!!!!

Limo Interior
What is a limo used for?  Hauling lots of people, or a few of them in extreme comfort.  I would be totally remiss if I neglected to include a shot of the rear of the car to show the expanse of room and the jump seats.  The question was how to do this.  Well, I had a trick up my sleeve that was going to really impress Dean.  I pulled out my Rokinon 14mm lens and fitted it on the camera.  I got right up on the door and set the image up.  When I was done, I had to show Dean what I had captured with this nifty lens (best $250 I've ever spent).  He was amazed that is showed the entire interior of the car.  Honestly, I was pretty amazed at the outcome of this shot too.

Draggin' Like Friday
At this point I started to ask Dean what features he wanted to capture that I had missed.  I mean, this is to show off his work, so I wanted his input in the shots that I used.  He started to tell me about the air horn (yes, a road tractor air horn on this Caddi) which was located just behind the passenger front tire.  OK, that was going to be easy enough to capture.  I got down low and used the whitewall tire as my anchor, and I exposed to capture the horn in the wheel well.  I also got the exhaust pipe...yes, that is my favorite part of the car I think.  Does it show?  The lowered stance and patina are also very visible here in this shot.

Fill 'er Up
Going down the list of details, he showed me the fuel filler which is still used.  It is a standard feature on this car, but still quite cool, and the tank has been replaced by a smaller '55 Chevy gas tank to allow for the air system to be in the trunk.  I tell you, there are so many thoughtful touches on this car!  You can also see the intake vent for the air conditioning right in front of the trunk lid, as well as the patina on this side of the car.

Number 30

VIN Plate
Two other little details were the plate that goes on all of Dean's builds, as well as the original VIN tag that shows that this is number 213 for the '55 Caddi Limo body.  An interesting side note here, the current owner of the car wanted Dean to sign below the edition plate.  This is not something that he normally does, but I really like the idea.  He is an artist and should sign his work, each and every time.

At this point I was pretty much done with the require shots, but I wanted to play a little bit more with this car.  I had a few images that I shot which were more or less for me, but included in the package if wanted.  They highlighted features that liked, and just a shot that I wanted to take.

Custom Touches
I just can't get enough of the exhaust pipe sticking out of the side of this car.  I love the fact that there is a factory emblem right below it which is unharmed.  The chrome trim makes for a great leading line, and you can see the details in the distance of the seal, and the chrome trim.  This is just a fun image, and one that I like.

Vintage Caddi
Well, there comes a time in every blog entry where I have to say "the end".  This is that time.  I had a great time with Dean and spent about two hours capturing the images.  I had another hour processing them once I got around to doing them.  I could definitely see myself doing more of this type of shoot, whether it be for a broker, or for a celebration of your own vehicle.  I am a car guy at heart and I love working with automobiles.  I just hope it shows here, and that my client is happy with the images.

Edit: 06-28-2018

After speaking with the broker, I realized that I forgot some of the obvious shots that were needed for the car.  I needed broadside images.  I knew this, but since I was quite worn out from the recent trip, it just slipped my mind.  I was able to schedule another follow up shoot where I collected the last two images needed for this Cadillac before the add would go live.  Of course, since it was my mistake, there was nothing else charged to the client.  That was the proper thing to do, and I how I like to do business.

Long Caddi

Power Caddi
Circle the Wagons

Topsail Island: Part 5

Friday, June 22, 2018

By Dawn's Light
Here we were, our last day at the beach.  To get you up to speed, I've woken up at or before 5 am each day.  Toni has been bed ridden since Wednesday with a terrible stomach bug, Sierra and Hannah have perfected the art of sleeping in and getting their much needed 12 hours of sleep each.  As morning approached, my camera sat outside on the deck acclimating to the warm and humid conditions of the beach.  I was sleeping soundly in the bed, at that perfect temperature...you know the one...where nothing will motivate you to leave the bed.  Yep, I was there the minute that the alarm rang at 4:45.  I looked outside and it was pitch black.  The phone would not stop ringing because I no longer had the fine motor skills to operate it with precision.  I was tired.  I mean I was really tired.  All I wanted was to stay in the bed for a little while longer.  However, if I did that, I would be forfeiting my last day at the beach, and taking the route of Grumpy and Giggles (I'll lay claim to Grumpy being mine).  I couldn't let them tie it up on the last day.  I had to take one for the team and get up...which I did.  I think I called myself some bad names though...I was tired.

I got moving and checked the weather.  It was looking pretty cloudy and the chance for a good sunrise was slim. I was OK with that since I had such great luck the day before.  I grabbed my gear and headed out to the sand.  Every step was a strain, and my back refused to be happy about carrying the 30ish pounds of camera yet another day...but I went.

I started to look around to see what caught my interest on the beach.  I could tell right away that a sunrise shot wasn't going to be in the cards.  That meant I could focus on some other things.  I could see a patch of interest in the clouds to the Northwest so I started to look for something that could go underneath those clouds.

What I found was a row of houses just North of where we were staying that caught my eye.  There was a yellow one that had the porch lights turned on and there were matching boardwalks for that house and the neighbor. Just beyond that there was a faint dab of warm color in the sky above the clouds.  This was going to be my subject for the morning.  I grabbed my camera and fitted the 16-35mm lens so that I could get in close and use the grass as a foreground while still including the houses and stairs.  I opted to avoid using a polarizer simply because there was not much light to work with.

I worked on several different variations of the compositions and finally settled on what you see as the opening picture here.  The exposure ended up being 30 seconds so there was actually a bit of movement in the clouds.  I had thought about using a 10-Stop filter, but there wasn't really enough variation in the clouds to really make that interesting.  The slight movement was enough for me in this situation.  The histogram showed that I had all the data in the shot that I needed in order to process it with detail in both the highlights and shadows.  I'll be honest, when I got home and processed this image I was really impressed at how it came out.  There was a good deal of color correcting that went into the image due to the low light, but it really stands well against the other images I had been shooting for the week.

As the sun came up though, I was losing the interest in the clouds above.  I opted to see if there was another angle that I could shoot from which might provide some better images than what I was running into as the day moved on.  I hunted around for a while and then ultimately came back to the same houses.  The angle that I had been shooting from was no longer a viable angle, but I could see that the sun was about to clear the clouds and would be casting a great warm light very soon.  The interesting clouds happened to be just opposite of the sun.

Coastal Residence
I worked on a few compositions and finally decided on a horizontal approach using the stairs as a leading line up the hill and a frame for the blue house on top of it.  I waited for the sun, and shot a frame here and there in case that was the best light that I would get.  My waiting paid off though.  The sun finally crested the clouds and a wonderful warm light hit the stairs and the houses.  The sky above was a wonderful blue with some remnants of clouds scattered about.  This was the image I was after.  I had magic light, and wonderful clouds.  This one got me excited, but only briefly.  I then reminded myself just how tired I was.  My creative juices had run out.  While I still had some good clouds, and good light, I was done looking for interesting subjects to put in front of my camera.

I made the short walk back to the room and started the normal routine.  I found Toni awake, but still in the bed.  The minions were still asleep, so that left us at Old Farts: 1, and the Trunk Monkeys: 0.  My streak was in tact!  I got the camera cleaned up one last time and started to get ready to roll out.  We finally got everyone up and moving and we were on our way back home around 10am.

This has been a very long photo expedition with a lot of ups and downs.  I had started out the processing portion with 390 frames shot.  of those, I had narrowed it down to 40 images that were worth a second look.  By the time I was finished with the processing, that number had been whittled down to just 28 images.  This isn't too bad considering that I was taking a lot of the same scene with different lighting.  There was no sense in showing off the same scene with only subtle differences, so I just picked the best out of the series and went with that.  There were a lot of images that I tried on days which I came back and shot again with much better conditions.  I'm really happy with how the week turned out photographically.  I hate that Toni wasn't able to enjoy the trip, and that, of course, impacted the Wonder Twins and their enjoyment.  But hey, at least that got to sleep and jump over waves.  We even saw a few dolphins in the water.  memories were made, and this is definitely one of those vacations with a lot of funny stories.

Thanks for joining us on our trip, and in case you were wondering, the one kid that we picked up on the way to the beach.  We did take her back and left her where we found her.  She was little redder, and a little sandier than when we found her, but she still had most of her fingers and toes.  As far as Sierra, she is currently catching up on her sleep and is recovering well from the week.  Toni, however, is getting worse and has been occupying the couch all weekend barely able to do anything but sleep.  She is one some medications that should help clear this up, but it is a long waiting game at this point.

Friday <--- You are here

Topsail Island: Part 4

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Rosy Outlook
When we last left our band of vacationers Toni was sick, and the girls were waterlogged, and well rested from multiple mornings sleeping in.  My camera was left outside like it had done something bad inside, and the forecast was set for a decent sunrise.  I had found my beach groove sometime during the day on Wednesday and I was ready to get out and have a great morning as the sun was rising.

I got up at 4:45 so that I could be out plenty early just in case the camera decided to fog over again.  I started to look for a good location to set up as I took stock of the sky.  To my pleasure, there were clouds in the sky today, and it appeared as though there was only a thin strip at the horizon.  This meant that there was a good chance at some good color in the sky.  I had played out the tide pools already and was not wanting to go that route again so soon.  I was still looking for some beach grass on the dunes to put under a great sky, and found some just North of the motel.

Now for those of you who are worried that I am trampling all over the dunes to get my shots, I assure you that I am only using access points for the boardwalks from the other houses which are cut into the dunes.  I know how delicate they are and have no want to disturb them.  I do really enjoy photographing them though, and that was just what I did on Thursday morning.

With my location chosen, I needed to choose a composition.  I wasn't needing to go too wide here, so I chose my workhorse 24-70mm lens and decided that I would leave the polarizer off.  It is of limited use shooting into, or directly away from the sun anyway.  I got into position and found my composition and waited.  The sky was starting to show some color, but not nearly as much as I was hoping for.  I continued to shoot and eventually saw that the sun was coming over the clouds so I moved slightly to put the sun between blades of grass.  I liked the idea, but the shot lacked balance, so I recomposed and moved the sun over to the negative space to the right.  Right after I did that the sky erupted in color!  This was the situation I had been waiting for all week long.  No longer did I need to try so hard to get the color to show up, I just had to point and shoot.

Top Of the Morning
As I was shooting the rising sun, I saw above me that the sky was blue.  Now when shooting sunrises and sunsets it is always beneficial to get sections of blue sky for contrast an color balance.  I had my opportunity here, so I flipped the camera on its side and recomposed once again.  I actually really loved this shot, and could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins as I shot a few frames while the colors faded away.  I had no issue that it was a short lives sunrise, this was the best one I had seen at the beach in some time, and I was happy with it.

I walked around a little bit looking for other photographs to shoot, but with the increasing clouds I could tell that I was done.  That is the thing about beach photography...completely cloudy days are not my friend at the coast.  I need drama in the sky, and I just wasn't going to get that this morning, but I had a handful of really great pictures that I was excited to see processed.

When I got back to the room, Toni was still in bed, Hannah was still asleep, and Sierra jumped out of the bed and said she was ready to go to the Sea Turtle Rescue Hospital.  This was at 7ish in the morning, so I will give her credit.  Old Farts: 1, Curtain Climbers: 1.  It was a dead tie for the day.  When I informed her that they didn't open until noon, she looked quizzically at me and crawled right back into bed fully dressed to go out.  I'm still giving her credit for the early rise though.

I sat down at the table and got my cleaning supplies out.  It was time to do the daily wipe down of the camera and equipment that I had used.  I was getting rather proficient with this part of the morning.  I packed everything back up and figured that it would probably be there till tomorrow morning.  I knew that there was the possibility of storms this evening and that usually means some good clouds.  However, I was committed to take the girls to the Rescue Hospital and take them for min golf.  There was going to be a dinner in there as well, so I wasn't really expecting to be back in time to do anything near sunset.

Well, things don't always go as planned, and sometimes that is a good thing.  The Sea Turtle tour only took about an hour as opposed to the several that I was thinking it would take.  With the heat of the day, Thelma and Louise only wanted to play one round of golf which was great by me.  I've learned that I have no patience when it comes to getting a little ball in a hole.  I'm still holding my position on golf.  After you hit it as hard as you can, if you find it, you win.  Simple rules, and still has a level of difficulty to make it interesting...but I digress.

It was too early for dinner at this point, and the Bobsie Twins had eaten donuts for lunch.  It was vacation, so sue me!  I'll make Sierra eat extra green beans this week.  We went ahead and headed back to the room.  They were wanting to go down to the beach and swim.  I stayed on the deck to watch them and so I could be close to Toni who was still pretty much bed ridden at this point.  When they returned to the room it was decided that dinner would be sandwiches that were bought for lunches so I didn't have to make the 20 minute drive into town for food.  That opened things up for the possibility of a hike down to the Southern tip of the island.

Southern Tip of Topsail
This was the area that Toni had run to a few days before, and the girls had walked down there the next day.  It was my turn now, and I set out around 6:45 so that I could get there in plenty of time for golden hour and ultimately sunset.  One thing that I noticed as I made my way South was that the wind was getting more and more powerful as there was less and less land to block it.  It was very similar to the first evening on the island and I was a little hesitant to pull the camera out of the bag for fear of the sand getting into every nook and cranny.  But, this was going to be my last chance to shoot a sunset over the dunes, so I continued on.

I found another tide pool that was showing at low tide, and above it was a gorgeous cloud formation.  This was as good a reason as any to get the camera out and start working on some compositions.  I chose to go with my 24-70mm due to its versatility and a close second reason was a little more protective lens hood over my wider angle lenses.  I worked around trying to find a composition that worked that didn't include my shadow (the sun was at my back for a change).  I started to find my groove with daytime beach photography and the frames started adding up.

Let it Wash Over Me
I was really hoping for some more foreground interest out here, but the beach was pretty clean and unmolested.  I opted to use the water as a foreground which is a little risky with the sand being pulled out from under the tripod legs at times.  It is entirely possible that a camera could be knocked over, or pulled over from the current.  That meant I had to be really careful with how things were progressing.  The clouds were great and I was all alone in the world at what seemed like the edge of that world.  It was a really nice experience, and I reveled in it.

Atlantic Caress
I got progressively more and more brave about shooting in the water.  Eventually I was standing in the surf and had found out just how much pressure to apply to keep the tripod grounded in the surf.  This allowed me to be able to get further in the water, which was feeling pretty good on my feet.  I was watching the clouds and was realizing that there was the potential for a pretty good sunset over the dunes.  I decided it was time to abandon shooting the clouds over the water and start to concentrate on the dunes which were looking pretty spectacular already.

Topsail's Coastline
As I started to figure out the best way to capture the dunes, I realized that the sun was still much too high up in the sky to be effectively photographed.  I once again turned my attention North where the clouds were quite impressive.  They were starting to take on the warm colors from the sun already.  I found a patch of greenery on a small dune and worked out a few shots from there.  I was still getting excited about the possibility of a phenomenal sunset and was rather preoccupied with that through much of this series of photographs.

Evening at the Dunes
The time that I had been waiting for was finally here. The sun was low enough in the sky that I could start making exposures.  While I would have liked to have used one of my Singh-Ray ND Grads here, I wasn't willing to expose them to the sand that was blowing so fiercely.  I was counting on the lens hood to protect the front element with the polarizer attached.  While setting up my first of the sunset dune pictures I gave the polarizer a twist to see just how advantageous it would be shooting directly into the sun.  In a surprise twist, it did actually add some color to the sky, so I left it on.

The real trick here was to expose for the highlights which are impossible to recover after the fact.  The plan was to eek out the details with Lightroom in lieu of using the filters. With the first exposure over the dunes I could see that I had enough information on the histogram that I should be able to recover the shadow details without any problem.  I was getting excited about the light show that was about to begin.  It is rare for me to shoot a sunset, yet they are quite easy to read since they start with a lit sky.  Sunrises are all about guess work until  first light hits.

Driftwood Ripples
I continued to work around the dunes as the sun was dropping.  When I found a composition that didn't include the sun I would take the shot.  There were lots of odds and ends that made for interesting foregrounds when shooting into the dunes.  With the wind howling about, the sand was getting some nice waves and patterns developing.  I used those as leading lines. and repeating patterns to lead eyes into a photo.  The bits of driftwood added to the scene in many cases as well.  My focus was on the sky though, and I was seeing some pretty amazing stuff developing in the heavens.

Coastal Mohawk
There are just some days you are living right and good things happen.  This was apparently one of those days because I had several great opportunities to shoot some wonderful dunes, and the sky was getting really interesting above.  I was starting to see a bunch of colors developing which indicated things were going to get interesting quickly.  While I was waiting on one scene to develop, I moved my position ever so slightly and shot this interesting dune with a tuft of grass down the middle.  It turned out so well that I flipped the camera and tried it again as a portrait shot.

Wind in Your Hair
By this point the lighting was getting dim and the wind was still a problem.  When shooting something like tall grass in the wind with dim light, motion blur becomes a tremendous issue.  I knew I wasn't going to get tack sharp blades of grass in this wind, but I wanted to minimize the motion.  I had already upped the ISO on the camera to 400, and was now bumping it up to 800 in order to get a relatively quick shutter.  It seemed to work and allowed me to render the tall grass as slightly blurred to indicate the wind, but sharp enough to not be distracting.  It was a fine balancing act for sure.  The sun was steadily dropping and I was seeing my chance for the shot I had set up originally.  I got the camera back in position and was still using this one mound of sand, but shooting in a different direction.

End of Days
The histogram was showing me that I was getting all of the information that I was needing at this point.  The sky was looking amazing with areas of blue, gold, and even red and orange.  There was so much visual interest in the clouds that I could barely contain myself.  I shot several frames with the hope of getting the grass to stand still since the wind was actually starting to die down.  This was the way to end a day with a camera!

I was satisfied at this point.  This had been a tremendous day for both sunrises and sunsets.  I had been out and captured both of them successfully, which is all I can ask.  Now, it was time to make the mile walk back to the room.  Man, that was a long walk!

When I arrived, I found the room dark except for the television.  Toni and the girls were all in bed with the lights out.  Old Farts: 1, Eye Rollers: 0.  I had redeemed myself from this morning!  I turned on a small desk lamp and started the process of cleaning the camera for the second time in the same day.  The tripod was in bad shape from where I had dropped it to the ground to get low a few times.  The lever locks were all gritty with sand and I needed to get that out.  That meant a trip to the tub to rinse all of the joints out to ensure smooth operation. 

I got everything packed up and ready for the next morning.  The freshly cleaned camera went straight outside once again to stay the night.  The morning was looking less than ideal for a sunrise, but I had been out every day so far and there was no reason to skip a day.

Thursday <--- You are here

Topsail Island: Part 3

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Topsail Reflections
Welcome to the third part of my series from a week at Topsail Beach.  I'm assuming that you have been following along with me up till now, if not, I have links at the bottom of this entry where you can navigate through the week.  To catch you up we finished out Tuesday with a lot of family time that prompted some issues with Toni.  She had been nursing a stomach bug since the Friday before we left.  We had thought that it was getting better, but between food, sun, and exertion she was just not feeling well at all.  She spent most of the night up and down which woke me up maybe every third time she got out of bed.  She was having a really rough time.  I figured that we would probably be sticking around the room most of the day with her being pretty tired from not sleeping.

I was still planning on going out to shoot the sunrise though and was planning to do a few things differently than I had the previous day.  As luck would have it, I was awake at 3am and figured that I would go ahead and stick the camera back out on the deck to acclimate to the warm and humid air outside.  I figured 2.5 hours would be plenty to avoid the fog up.  At 5am, I went ahead and got up from the bed and got ready to go outside.  It looked like the sky was pretty much clear except for some clouds sitting on the horizon.  Sunrise wasn't looking good at all.  I decided to take advantage of the pre-dawn colors in the sky and the reflections in the tide pools on the beach.  It was seeming that low tide was happening pretty regularly at sunrise.  This was a good thing, and I went ahead and set the camera up for some reflection shots.

I grabbed the 24-70mm lens and put it on the camera body before adding the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  Wait....what....am I seeing?  Before I could get the filter on the lens, the front element had fogged over and became rather dewy.  I hate humidity!  The filter was already starting to clear since it was much thinner and I was holding it in the breeze.  I waited about 10 minutes and saw that the lens was not doing anything resembling clearing on its own which left me with one choice.  I had to clear it with a lens cloth.  Fortunately, it did not fog back up and I was able to add the polarizer.  I started to play the same game with the reflections that I had the day before and got the right height to capture the majority of the color.  I twisted the polarizer to get just the right amount of contrast and started making photographs.

Sandy Patterns
One of the shots that I wanted to do was to capture the patterns in the sand with the reflection of a sunrise.  I had already thought of doing this, but a shot that Toni made with her phone on her walk yesterday morning cemented the idea as a good one.  Since the sky wasn't really cooperating, I decided today was the day to give this a try.  The only problem was, my filter was starting to fog up now.  I had to wipe it off to get a crisp shot, but that clearing seemed to maintain for the rest of the morning.  I got in close with the same lens and found the fight altitude to shoot from which would give me the reflections that I wanted. With a little twist of the polarizer, I was able to get some pretty good contrast to the raised sand among the water.

Colors of Dawn
As I was working on compositions in the sand, I could tell that the color was fading as the sun got closer to the horizon.  I noticed a faint cloud that resembled a bird flying from right to left that caught my eye.  It was enough to justify another few shots at the horizon.  I didn't have quite the color intensity that I had before, but what I had in its place was more blues and magentas flanking the warmer tones.  The transition of colors through the patters was quite interesting and it added another level to the photograph.  The leading lines were still very strong with this composition and even though the sky was ho hum, I still felt that it had enough merit to hang onto.

At this point in the morning, the sun was clearing the horizon and about to clear the clouds.  I knew that my sunrise shooting was done, and I needed to try some other things.  I wanted to do more with the patterns in the sand, and I wanted to get in closer.  I went ahead and swapped lenses for my 70-200mm long lens, and started to add a polarizer.  Well, dang if the front element wasn't fogging up on me!!  The camera had essentially been outside for 3 hours at this point, but my glass was still giving me a fit!  I went ahead and stowed the polarizer so that I could wipe the front element as needed.

With the sun clear of the clouds while still low in the sky, I was able to get some warm tones on the sand.  This made grass photography a bit easier.  The trick was finding the right subjects and compositions to work with.  I did find this one little tuft of grass sitting all along that I figured would be a good candidate.  I was able to isolate this very easily with the long lens.  It was a brutally simple image, but one that said so much about where I was at.  Minimalism is a lot of fun to work with at times.  

While walking the beach looking for more dune photography, I found another one of the life preservers similar to the one that I had shot the day before.  It was in a slightly different setting and I started to set it up to shoot.  Then I thought about it and decided that it would not be appreciably different from what I had shot the day before.  Since I was pretty happy with those, I opted to try something different.

Avoid the Deep
Still happy with my minimalistic approach to the grass, I decided that I would try an abstract using the bright colors of the life preserver.  I tried different shots of the rope, and the knots that were tied in it.  In the end, I liked this one where I grabbed a section of the ring with the yellow rope in the background.  The color tones were spot on, and balanced with the white strap on the ring, the hint of sand and grass in the background.  There were a lot of textures to look at, as well as patterns and shadows.  I'm sure that most will know what this is, but I like that the answer is not as obvious as what I shot the day before.  It definitely has a nautical feel to it, and that was just what I was going for!

After shooting this, I spent some more time walking the beach, but the sun was quickly rising and the warm tones were leaving.  It was all for the best because I was needing to get back to the room and check on Toni and the girls.  When I got back, everyone was still in the bed which leaves the score Old Farts: 1, and Crumb Crunchers: still 0.  I started my cleaning routine which was going faster now that I had worked out an order in which I did it.  I had two different lenses to clean as opposed to the one that I had done the previous day.

When the girls got up they had their breakfast and decided that we were going to go to the Sea Turtle Rescue for the morning.  That would have been great, but they were closed on Wednesday.  That left us with going down to the beach which worked fine for me.  I was still hot and sweaty from being out for a couple of hours at sunrise.

When we came back in, Toni was still in bed and not feeling well at all.  In fact, she pretty much stayed in the bed for the rest of the vacation.  We piddled around the room for a bit and then the girls and I went to dinner.  You know Toni doesn't feel well when she turns down food.  We got back to the room a little before sunset, and the girls wanted to go for a walk down the beach.  They decided to go down to the Southern tip just as Toni had done on Tuesday morning during her walk.

I didn't really feel like going for a walk, so I decided to stay in the room with Toni, but I noticed that there was a pretty good rain starting.  this meant that the girls didn't feel like going for a walk either and returned to the room.  Fortunately, the rain didn't last long and their walk was back on.  The rain also left behind a really nice sky which I just had to try and photograph.

Find Your Treasure
I was getting a little tired of working with the 24-70mm lens, so I opted to give the 16-35mm a shot this time.  I fitted that to the body and added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  As I was looking for compositions that included the sky, I happened to notice a faint rainbow off to the left.  I got the camera in position and dialed in the exposure.  it was fading, but I grabbed a shot, and was happy to see that it actually did turn out.  Honestly, my favorite part was that the beach was completely clear of people which made photography much simpler.  I started to work different compositions and finally found one that included not only the sky, but the boardwalk going to the beach from the room.

Boardwalk to the Abyss
I really liked how this composition worked out.  There was a strip of color in the sky as well as the clouds that had brought the rain.  The colors were so inviting with the sun shining low in the sky to my rear.  I shot a series of shots here as the bright spot in the sky worked its way down the beach.  As I was waiting, I thought that it would be a good time to try and shoot another video for Singh Ray.  I got that rolling to show how I was setting this up in a hurry to capture the conditions.

As you can tell, there were a few people on this side of the beach.  The sky was good enough that I made peace with the idea of cloning out the little blips in the distance. There wasn't enough detail, and most were blurred from movement that they made no sense in the shot.  I did have a lot of fun with this scene and even flipped the camera over to shoot a vertical version of the same scene.  In case you missed it, look at the boardwalk again...

Stepping Over the Dunes
Yep, I flipped the image on the vertical axis.  This allowed it to be "read" better from left to right.  Since the dominant feature was the boardwalk, it felt awkward coming from the right side.  Since there was nothing special about the scene that would indicate a flip, there was no harm and no foul done here.  It also helps make this image stand apart from the previous one.  Hey, at least I didn't clone anyone out in this shot!  No humans were harmed, only carpentry relocated.

By this time the color was fading in the sky and it was starting to rain again.  I pulled the camera in and packed it up for the second time today.  At least I didn't need to clean it being so removed from the beach.  It had taken me two full days, and an evening of shooting to find my groove with beach photography once again.  It was now I was starting to feel the energy of the beach, and was starting to be able to hear how it wanted to be photographed.  I had been missing those prompts until now.  Like I keep saying, I'm a mountain guy and I don't fully understand the beach on the same level.

Something else I learned, the camera needed to spend the night outside on the deck.  I checked the weather and except for the current shower, there was no other rain in the forecast.  I took my chances and put the camera out at around 10pm before I went to bed.  The sunrise was looking promising for Thursday.

Wednesday <--- You are here

Topsail Island: Part 2

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tide Pools
So, here we are on my first full day at the beach.  While most folks on vacation sleep in for a bit, or stare out of the window, I decided that I would get up early and head down to the beach.  Early for me was 5am, so I could be on the beach about 30 minutes before sunrise.  Having shot at the beach several times in the past, I knew that coming from an air conditioned room to the outside would almost immediately yield a fogged lens.  My normal answer to that was to leave the sliding door open through the night with the camera bag right next to it.  Well, that usually works pretty good...but not this time.

When I got out to the beach I could see the potential for a decent sunrise shaping up.  I went ahead and fit my 24-70mm lens to the camera and started working at the dunes with some tufts of grass poking into the sky.  As I looked through the viewfinder all I could see was fog.  I looked and the entire camera was fogged over, including the lens and viewfinder.  I spent the next 20 minutes waiting for the dew to dissipate and ultimately had to spend some time wiping the elements with my lens cloth.  That turned into the routine of the morning.  Set up the shot, wipe the lens, shoot the picture, repeat.  It was annoying, and pretty much kept me from using any filters as they would be in the same boat.  The humidity was horrible, and I was dripping sweat before the sun even cleared the horizon.

As it was coming up, I was finding that my original composition was not really working all that well.  It was just not inspired.  I opted to change my position as the sun was behind the clouds at the horizon.  By the time it cleared the clouds, my lens was finally staying clear and I had moved over to a tide pool area.  I got the camera positioned at just the right height to capture the reflection in the water, and started to get my compositions set up.

Tailing a Sunrise
Something that I was noticing about my compositions, even from yesterday was that they all worked as landscape and portrait shots.  If I wanted to accentuate the horizon and get a sweeping landscape, I would shoot horizontal, if I wanted to highlight a leading line, I would shoot vertical.  They both worked, and when culling the images, I decided to keep both in many circumstances because I wanted to have options for wall art applications.  Sometimes you just need a vertical or horizontal photograph, and I had ample opportunity to cover both needs.  In both cases, I made sure that the camera was at the proper angle to capture the best refection of the color as the sun cleared the top of the clouds.  It wasn't the best sunrise I've ever seen, but it sure wasn't the worst either.

Beach Rescue
When the sun got to the point in the sky that it was just too bright to work with, I moved back in to the dry parts of the beach and started to look for areas in the dunes that I could work with.  The problem I was having was the sun was past the warm part of the sky and the grass wasn't all that colorful in the cooler lighting we were having.  That didn't stop me from looking for some more areas of interest to shoot.  What I found was a little further South from my original position.  It was a rescue station, a replacement for life guards I suppose.  It was fully stocked with everything that you could ever need as long as all you needed was a life preserver.  They were a bright red and really stood out from the background which is necessary when all of the highly untrained rescuers would be looking for emergency equipment.  It did make for an interesting picture though, and that was the job for this life preserver for the moment.

At the Ready
I realize I am starting to make a habit of this horizontal and vertical thing, but it works here as well!  The horizontal one is nice because the boardwalk behind it balances out the composition.  The bright colors to one side add visual tension to the scene, and there is a lot of clues as to what the location is.  The vertical shot is more intimate, and speaks for itself.  There is a shell at the bottom right which gives the visual clue about location.  of course, the preserver is easily recognizable so the picture makes sense here as well.

Believe it or not, by this point, I had shot about 70 frames since I had gotten to the beach.  A good many of the original ones were too foggy to use, and weren't all that good anyway with the lighting that I was dealing with.  Once the sun cleared the clouds, my luck changed briefly.  Looking for secondary subjects was equally fruitless as the sun's rays were well past golden hour at this point.  I think it was about 7am when I called it quits on the beach for the morning.  The clouds were pretty much all gone, and it was time to wake up the girls.

When I got back to the room, I was met by Toni who was awake and about to go out for a morning run/walk.  The two 13 year olds were doing what teens do best...sleeping.  Score two for the old folks this morning!

While frick and frack were snoring and drooling, and Toni was out running harder than she should have, I sat down with a wash cloth and started my cleaning routine to get the camera free of all the salt and sand.  It took me about 20 minutes to get it cleaned up, and then I waited.  Toni got back a bit after that, and then we both waited.  Waited for what you ask?  The energy of youth to catch up with the two of us.

It eventually happened, and all four of us went out to play in the water and enjoy the warmth of a hot and humid summer day.  After a couple of hours out there, we headed into town to do some exploring and to pick up some things.  Once we got back, the girls went back down to the beach, and Toni sat in the sand and started a chain of events that would pretty much dictate the remainder of her week...

Tuesday <--- You are here

Topsail Island: Part 1

Monday, June 18, 2018

Topsail Moments
Let's do a little something different here.  I'm going to start at the end so that this format makes a little sense.  It might just be something for my brain, but I'm honestly feeling a little overwhelmed here, so I'm going to boil things down a bit.  I have just gotten back from a week at Topsail Beach for a family vacation.  During that time, I managed to amass a total of 390 exposures, cleaned my camera completely five separate times from exposure to the sand and salt air, and got more sand in places on me than I would have cared to imagine.  That being said, it has been a busy week, and the thought of going through all of the images all at once is a bit daunting.  What I would like to do is break it down by the day, and share an entry for each day I was there.  It should make for easier reading, and will allow a break between editing surges.  Don't worry about looking through 400 images, I've already culled that number down to 40 that I am interesting in working with.

So, without further ado, lets get started with the first day.  We arrived at Topsail Beach around 3pm for check-in.  We stayed at the Sea Vista Motel on the South end of the island.  Honestly, it was chosen because there wasn't an amusement park in the back yard, and it seemed to be...just a beach.  Simplicity is what I love with photography, and if I can avoid neon lights, and mini golf, I'm much happier with my surroundings.  Well, Topsail fit that bill perfectly.  There was nothing but sand, surf, beach houses, and sky.  There weren't even that many people around which was an added bonus.

Having two 13 year olds (ours, and another kid we picked up along the way) with us meant one thing...Once we got there, we were headed down to the water.  Toni was a little hesitant since she could hear thunder in the background and the sky looked rather ominous with the deep clouds.  But you know what, you only live once.  Sierra and Hannah got changed and ran out the door.  Toni and I did what old people do and walked slowly while keeping them in sight.  Motivated kids move quickly...who would have thought?

We stayed down at the water for about an hour or so and watched the clouds do all sorts of interesting things.  Toni kept telling me to get the camera and start shooting.  My intention was to just soak in the atmosphere this first day so that I could get my mind right to take pictures of the coast.  Being a mountain man at heart, this is more difficult than you might expect.  However, as the storm moved away, the clouds were really getting great and Toni made the point that we might not have weather like this any other time.  I balked and said that I wasn't going to shoot.  It was windy and the sand was flying on the beach which is not good for a camera, or the lenses.  I always have excuses, so if you ever need one, look me up, I'll share.

At any rate, it was time to get some dinner so we headed back to the room and the girls got showers.  While they were busy, I decided to break the camera out and start to shoot the sky which was really looking excellent.  In order to avoid the sand problem, I stayed on the deck of the third floor room which was well out of the sand blaster below.  For this set of pictures, I used my 24-70mm lens which gave me a great deal of versatility and I added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to help with a pop of color.  I might be a mountain man, but a beautiful sky is a beautiful sky regardless of the terrain below it.

Clouded Vision
As you can tell from the pictures so far, I found one cloud that I really liked a lot.  I had been shooting the storm clouds, but they seemed to pale in comparison to what I saw closer to sunset.  With the setting sun to my back, I was able to catch some faint color in the clouds, and this one cloud in particular really jumped out at me for the formation it was in.  I had one small problem with most of the compositions.  There was a guy sitting in a chair just below the bottom of the first frame.  He limited my compositions until that moment that I decided that I would just clone him out.

I hate making that decision with images, but there are times that I have no choice.  I've cloned trash out a few times when I couldn't get to it to remove it, some power lines from time to time, and a few little anomalies on a horizon, but somehow I felt that this would be a pretty major change to the picture, but I decided that I was fine with that possibility if the picture turned out well.

I shot several with the guy in it and as I was looking, he was actually pretty small in the image.  He wouldn't be hard to clone out at all, one click and there would be nothing left of him at all.  Man, I really sound cruel here don't I?  I'm not that evil in real life, I promise.  The more I shot compositions with the guy in them, the more I started to view the scene differently.  There was a sense of scale there which I had not seen with just the waves, and with him being the last one on the beach, there was a certain emotion involved.  I was actually liking him as an element, so I composed a shot around him specifically showing the magnitude of the landscape in front of me.

All To Myself
What had just been a pretty scene, now took on a whole new meaning.  When I finally processed the image a week later, the emotions that I felt when seeing the picture take shape in the viewfinder returned, and it made the initial and secondary cuts.  I started to process the image and realized that there was not much difference  with this and the other two that I had already posted.  It also seemed to lack that emotional impact with all of the colors going on.  I decided really quickly that I wanted to experiment with it in monochrome.  I knew I would be able to do two things with relative ease losing the color.  First and foremost, i would be able to isolate the young man in the chair, and secondly, I would be able to add a lot of visual pop to the cloud above by rendering the sky a bit darker.

As I was massaging the tonalities in the image, I was getting more and more excited about it.  It captured everything that I was intending once I realized the importance of the lone figure.  The mood that it evokes gives a sense of loneliness, but not in a sad way.  I see this as an introvert's heaven, and I would be so happy in his place under that sky with all of the Atlantic Ocean for only him to view.  

While I love the colors of the other images from this evening, the unintended monochrome of the unintended subject captured a moment for me that I'm still feeling deep within my soul.  Because of that, this is my favorite picture of the evening, and I think is what centered me with the beach and got me ready to shoot over the next four days.  Stay tuned for the next entry for my adventures on Tuesday.

Monday <--- You are here