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. 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

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