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.

Autumn Berries — Great Dismal Swamp SP, NC © jj raia

Autumn Berries — Great Dismal Swamp SP, NC © jj raia

After the short stop in Norfolk, the plan was to visit the Great Dismal Swamp State Park in hopes of finding some more bald cypress trees, preferably a small grove in standing water as was the singular tree in Duck. But after speaking to the ranger there, and learning that most cypress trees had been harvested long ago, that idea went out the window. So I just wandered around on the boardwalk nature trail and along the canal where I found some bright red berries on a bush growing along the edge of the canal. They were initially thought to be winterberries, but on closer inspection of the image, there seemed to be some thorns on the branches, so I’m not quite sure what plant they were. It was the only real subject I found to photograph while at the park, and had some difficulty getting a good angle from above to isolate the berries against the green sludge that completely coated the water of the canal. A polarizer on a telephoto lens helped eliminate the sheen from the berries, and from the green on the water.

The image below was taken right along the ocean where we stayed with quite a few frames taken on a tripod in order to blend several later if needed. Later, a family walked down to the beach from next door and I took several frames of the father and his young son, with this one having a good separation between the two that seemed to work well. The addition of the pelicans flying past was just icing on the cake. But it was the dramatic clouds and the sunlight reflections on the entire ocean that initially motivated me out of my chair of dozing relaxation, get my camera and try to record this special sight. Again, a polarizer really cut down on the bright reflections in the water and allowed some of the colors, especially of the father’s t-shirt, to come through. ISO was increased to 400 to achieve a shutter speed of 1/1250-second at f/11, providing a good balance of depth-of-field and shutter speed fast enough to freeze any birds and the movements of the father and his son.

Clearing Storm — Corolla Beach, NC  © jj raia

Clearing Storm at Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

Although the sun was included when I took the photo of the live oak tree in Currituck Banks Reserve near where the paved road ends on the north end of the Outer Banks, the hope was the sensor would be able to handle the full range of light in a single RAW file. Most of the sun was placed behind the branches, leaving only a small bit of it shining through, and exposing at f/22, that bit of sun turned into a sun star. A soft edged ND filter was used to keep the top third of the photo from having the sky, peeking through the branches, being blown out. But with a lot of dodging and burning throughout the frame, the end result managed to record the full range of light values. It was difficult to separate any single tree along the boardwalk through the reserve, but by getting close to this tree and shooting at 20mm, kept much of the distractions nearby to a minimum. Having a wireless remote helped by being able to hold back some branches while tripping the shutter several feet away from the camera.

Live Oak and Sun Star — Currituck Banks Reserve © jj raia

Live Oak and Sun Star — Currituck Banks Reserve © jj raia

The final two images were simply an exercise in what I have been trying to drive home during these last few posts in taking the best areas of several frames, or blending two horizontal frames to form one vertical and assembling them together seamlessly, for a final image. This method can be especially helpful when photographing the surf since each incoming surge is unique, with possible distractions, or preferred lines or shapes. However, even though it has existed ever since visual reproduction began (think drawings on cave walls), the ethical conundrum of manipulated subject matter still exists today. It’s something I’ve struggled with since switching over from film to digital and utilizing many of the tools available to create the best images possible.

Surf at Sunrise — Corolla Beach, NC  © jj raia

Surf at Sunrise — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject: your view on what’s allowable, what might be over the line, and what your overall, self-determined responsibilities in post processing are. So, no matter what your main subject may be when you create a photograph, don’t be afraid to share your views in the comments below (long winded opinions are encouraged and welcomed) on this important subject.

Cirrus Clouds at First Light - Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

Cirrus Clouds at First Light – Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia




4 thoughts on “Final Fotos

  1. LOVE IT!! I have shots of this very tree! This is totally different than mine.

    We made it to Greece. I’ll be doing long exposure photography this week myself. We LOVED Romania! I miss it already. Of course, it was invaluable to have our own personal guide! He was wonderful. Wish you could experience this along with us.

    See you in a couple of weeks.


    Lynne Feiss Necrason PH: 919-632-3444

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Glad to see you found the old Duck cypress! My thoughts on image manipulation are: anything goes as long as your intent is to make a pleasing picture (I know yours is). Creating a UFO in the night sky and trying to cause mass panic is another story!


    1. Coming from film, there was very little manipulation…the chrome was what you got and it was pretty much final. I remember several times arriving at a location in the early morning hours to find a street light on where I wanted to take a photo and didn’t take it. Worst was driving to the ocean for sunrise, and just as the color was getting good, a stream of fishing boats would start out from the nearby harbor, and track across the ocean in front of me!! Now with Photoshop, etc. that wouldn’t even be a concern. After switching to digital, it’s a bit empowering the things you can do, and you’ll see two examples in next Sunday’s post from the day in fog.


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