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


  1. There is nothing "lonely" about being on the beach. You are never alone. It is a solitude unlike no other.
    Sharon N

    1. You are so right about that! There is a oneness with the world while out on the sand.