Good Fortune

Fishing Boat at First Light — Corolla Beach, NC No. 1  © jj raia

Fishing Boat at First Light — Corolla Beach, NC No. 1 © jj raia

The good fortune to have some beautiful light on several occasions during a recent short trip to the Outer Banks, has pushed me to get as much as I can from all the frames that were taken. Earlier attempts to merge a simple, two frame panorama of the surf from the first morning, ended in the failure of Photoshop’s merge function to create a single image. Not that it was unexpected since, even though each frame of the panorama had the same sky, there is no way for the surf to be anywhere near similar. So after processing all the single frames that were easier, it was time to tackle the panoramas that would probably require much more time and effort since it would be necessary to combine the two frames manually.

Be Careful

Replaced Sky 1  © jj raia

Replaced Sky and Dunes © jj raia

At the end of the last post, the idea of “creating” a landscape image by taking the best parts of two or more frames was discussed a bit, along with the ethical use of the digital toolbox to do so. While I may combine an image of the sky and another of whatever is below the horizon, into a single image, they will have been two frames that were taken at the same time and not in different years or different parts of the continent! What I mean is, I will aim the camera up and take a photo of the sky including just below the horizon, and then angle the camera down to record just above the horizon and whatever the subject is below it, and then blend them together into a single frame. Sometimes two horizontal frames are combined into a vertical, or maybe just the sky is replaced due to wide difference in light values. A couple of the coastal photos in the last few posts were examples of that process. And you can also see a few images where I utilized this technique for the very first time during a month long photo trip out west in 2014 by clicking here.

Final Fotos


Bald Cyprus — Currituck Sound, NC  © jj raia

Bald Cyprus — Currituck Sound, NC © jj raia

On the final day at the Outer Banks, before heading home, I had to drive my daughter up to Norfolk for her flight back to NY. But on the way we stopped at the famous Duck Donuts to get a tasty snack for the road. From the boardwalk just around the corner, I had seen a lone bald cypress tree in the water (above) and thought about photographing it with a long exposure to smooth the water and, if any clouds were around, to blur their motion. It turned out that the sound was almost completely calm, which offered a mirrored surface rather than the blank of a surface blurred by a very long exposure. So it was a simple process to get the photo without much to be concerned about. Just compose and trip the shutter. A soft-edged, split neutral density filter helped balance out the sky and reflections in a smooth transition in order to keep the tree from being dark above the horizon and “lighter” below.

Pastel Surf

Surf at Dusk No.1 — Corolla Beach, NC  © jj raia

Surf at Dusk No.1 — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

During this trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, each morning was spent in the surf at sunrise in hopes of something dramatic in the sky, while a few sunsets were spent facing the bay looking west. But generally, a sunset looking east is not very productive.

As one does a lot while on a real vacation (as opposed to a photo trip) quite a bit of time is spent relaxing. And so I was doing just that as the afternoon wore on, just watching the surf roll in and out. A bank of clouds was looking pretty good looking east out toward the ocean, and when it began to take on some color, I put on the waders, grabbed my gear, and went into the surf. As mentioned in previous posts, for the image above, I blended a frame with the best cloud color in the sequence with another that had the best movement in the surf, to get the best image possible from those few moments. 

Eliminate the Limitations

Surf at Sunrise No.1 — Outer Banks, NC © jj raia

Surf at Sunrise No.1 — Outer Banks, NC © jj raia

When photographing the surf, there are quite a few variables that need to be taken into account. Shutter speed may be the most important in order to record the surf in the way you want. Whether you want the soft flow of a longer shutter speed, or the crispness of a shorter shutter speed, adjustments to ISO and aperture are needed to create your desired effect. Once you have settled on the look you want, adjustments are needed as the light increases or decreases as the sun rises or sets to maintain the “look” you want.

Clouds II

Rain Curtains at Dawn — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

Rain Curtains at Dawn — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

The very first morning on the trip to the Outer Banks, all the clouds seemed to signal rain and a less than stellar sunrise. But I figured I would at least practice working with the surf on these mostly flat beaches in hopes of getting into a groove when things did work out. But, lo and behold, the clouds caught the magenta glow, followed moments later by a band of rain curtains which were backlit by the light. Of course, it only lasted a few fleeting moments, but the exhilaration lasted quite a while. Luckily, I already had a split neutral density filter attached in front of the lens, which helped in keeping the light values of the sky and ocean closer together, allowing for some of the reflections  in the middle ground to be better recorded.


Dawn Light — Currituck NWR, NC © jj raia

Dawn Light — Currituck NWR, NC © jj raia

For anyone standing before an expansive view, no matter what time of day, that view is enhanced exponentially with the presence of clouds which reinforces the notion that our world can continually take our breath away. For a landscape photographer, clouds always provide a point of anticipation of “an event” materializing as the sun rises or sets, knowing full well that nothing may happen, or what had shown such promise, had fizzled miserably.