Another Change of Pace

Lighthouse Food Mart — Selma, NC © jj raia

This day started out the way most days do when heading out for some photography, very early in the morning. But instead of heading to a nearby lake, or downtown Raleigh, it began even earlier than usual since the destination was the small town of Selma, NC with a long railroad history, and there was about an hour drive to get there to begin finding the interesting places discovered during some basic research using “street view” in Google maps, which proved invaluable to begin the day there. With the pandemic subsiding somewhat, it was to be a group shoot with a few friends; our first in a very long time since we’d be outside and we’ve all been fully vaccinated. None of the others wanted to carpool with me since I was leaving at 4am to arrive while it was still dark and try some night shots if I found anything interesting, and wanted to take a few other shots of things I found in the blue hour before the sun came up and began lighting things.

Coast of the Carolinas — Vol.1

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First Light — Hunting Island State Park, SC © jj raia



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American Flag — World Trade Center Site, NY © jj raia




Surprise Sunrise — Better than Fog

Hint of Fog — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Since I’m always checking the weather to be aware of the possibility for any fog forming in the area, I was happy to see fog was predicted for the morning of Memorial Day, and the forecast remained the same for the two days prior. The two apps I use (Weather Bug and Clear Outside) both indicated fog, yet Clear Outside also showed the temperature would not drop low enough overnight to reach the dew point, so there was a bit of a conflict. Even though fog may have been doubtful, I headed out around 5am under a mostly cloudy sky, but hoped there might be fog over the lake.

Well, there was no fog around at all, so I drove past one of the spots I go to frequently and headed to another favorite sunrise spot, even though at this time of year the sun rises much further north and prefer that spot during the winter months. Of the many times I’ve gone there, I only saw another photographer there once, and it turned out we knew each other. This time someone had arrived before me, but I didn’t know him, so we only chatted after I had set up a little distance away and had been there for some minutes. Things were looking bleak, so we commiserated about our poor luck and had agreed that it was just not to be that morning. And things did not look to improve as the clouds were moving left to right, seemingly making matters worse.

For the image above, the tripod needed precise placement in order for there to be a minimum of intersections among the branches, rocks and reflections. It’s not that an intersection would be fatal, but may have formed a confusing and distracting dark blob within the frame. Since it was possible, and there was no need to hurry for the mediocre conditions thus far, time was taken to maneuver the camera into just the right position. The only thing interesting happening was a small amount of fog forming toward the other end of the lake. It’s difficult to see it, but it’s much lower in elevation than the cloud cover, and all the way to the left of the opening along the horizon, stretching toward the middle, in front of the clouds.

By then, the other photographer had abandoned all hope and packed up his camera, while I mentioned I would stick around a bit longer and then probably head into Raleigh to see what I could find to shoot there in the absence of a good sunrise where we were.

The Perfect Beach Day

Solitary God Beam — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Is it possible to have an obsession seeking a specific combination of atmospheric conditions during a narrow timeframe in the year, at a specific location, to make the ideal photograph there? Depending on who you ask, I may or may not be obsessed, but I certainly do have a specific image in mind at a specific spot at Jordan Lake that has eluded me for several years, and will probably continue to do so.

I’ve been going to Jordan Lake ever since 2012 when the switch was made from film to digital because it is nearby and offers something resembling “wilderness” in one of the fastest growing areas of suburban sprawl in the country. There always seems to be something new to discover, or different conditions to encounter at familiar locations, and have benefitted from so many of the visits there. I’ve come to know a few spots around this huge lake to go to for sunrise or sunset, and keep an eye out for weather conditions conducive for an interesting sky or the possibility of fog. The persistence over the years, from time to time, has resulted in being at the right place at just the right time, but those occasions have been few and far between. If you try often enough, I suppose the odds are more likely to swing in your favor at some point, rather than if you never drag yourself out of bed in the morning. But there has been one location where all the elements just never came together, at least when I was actually there. “When a tree falls in the forest…”

Jordan Lake — vol.1


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Jordan Lake — vol.1

Today, please remember those who sacrificed so much for us to live with the freedoms we enjoy in this great country…


Hazy Dawn — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

In early 2014, about 18 months after switching to digital, I did a few experiments with what I called blurred images, but have since learned they are properly identified as Intentional Camera Movement, or ICM. Even though I had done some previously with a basic digital point & shoot camera about five years earlier (below), there were plenty of limitations using that camera and wanted to experiment with the new DSLR having much more control over the shutter speed, aperture, etc. It was a method I would eventually use extensively later that year on a month-long trip photographing the golden leaves and white trunks of aspens in autumn.

Dancing Irises – © jj raia

Free Downloadable pdf Coming Soon!

Foggy Sunrise — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Beginning soon, the first in a series of small portfolios, focused on a single theme, will become available for free download. The initial folio will be from the continuing project of photographing North Carolina’s Jordan Lake (including the image above), with additional folios of differing themes to follow from time to time without any particular schedule. In order to receive an email notification when a new folio becomes available, you’ll have to sign up by filling in your email and click the Subscribe button below. Once enrolled, you’ll receive an email notification when another folio is available for free downloading through this blog. It’s that simple. If you’re already signed up for blog notifications, you don’t need to enroll, you’re already included.

Wildlife in the Landscape

Pronghorn — Grand Teton NP © jj raia

Almost five years ago on a trip out west to neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, I ran into a photographer who happened to be a Nikon Ambassador. We had just failed miserably in attempting to photograph the first rays of sunlight on the Tetons from Schwabacher’s Landing (along with dozens of other photographers), because the peaks were completely blocked by low hanging clouds and there wasn’t much to see. We talked for a while, and the conversation eventually turned to photographing the wildlife in these two parks because he was about to lead a workshop that included photographing the wildlife there. And he said something interesting that has stuck with me since then about certain compositions in wildlife photography. He said, “The world doesn’t need another perfectly exposed and perfectly focused, full frame shot of the front face of a bison, or any other animal for that matter!” He said he now concentrates his efforts more on the wild animal within its habitat; a kind of environmental portrait.

Non-Abstract Abstracts

Reflections No.1 — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Not too long ago, a short discussion in the blog was devoted to the idea of a Non-Abstract Abstract as a simple way to describe a particular type of image that has managed to find its way in front of the camera quite often over the years. In the past, I generally referred to them as “Natural Abstractions”, but have also seen them referred to as “Natural Extractions” or simply abstracts, and I’m sure there are many other monikers for this type image taken directly from a landscape. It’s difficult to provide a specific definition since a descriptor is better suited to convey an understanding of just what is meant by this term.

Trio of Trees


It seems that when one of our photographs is considered successful by our own definition and standards, if afforded the opportunity, we often attempt to relive that success by revisiting the same location to hopefully produce another successful image. But it is nearly impossible to be at the same location and have a duplicate set of circumstances (atmospheric conditions, lighting, season, etc), as when the original image was created. And even if the location is nearby, one that’s easily accessible on any given day, and conditions are pretty much identical, replicating that image might not be as easy as first thought because, you will be a different person on the day of the second encounter with the same photographic subject.