New Video


For those of you who are not familiar with the videos in this series, they were a spinoff from an exhibit a few years ago in the beautiful Fuquay-Varina Arts Center. Sharing the same title of Intimate Encounters, these videos have been an assemblage of photographs of similar theme, with accompanying music. Thereafter, new videos were created for those images taken during the calendar year that also came under the same heading. This latest installment of annual photographs, as was last year’s video, has been severely restricted due to the continuing Corona Virus Pandemic and associated reluctance to travel.

To view the other videos in the library, simply click on the link at the end of this post. To view this latest installment, you have the option to view the video full screen by clicking on the You Tube icon, or you can simply click on the arrow to play the video here.

Note — this will be the final blog post on this site. All new posts will reside in the new web site. If you want to begin or continue to receive notifications of when there are new posts, videos or downloadable folios, please sign up on the Home page of the new site. Click the link below to go the the new site.

New Web Site

Stormy Skies and Footings — Outer Banks, NC © jj raia


It’s been long overdue. The design of these two current web sites have become a bit dated with the passage of over seven years. So it was time for a change and reorganization of the content to be, hopefully, more streamlined and easier to navigate among the different platforms. So what better time to start a new one than the beginning of the year.

The newest site, with a design change, darker background and livelier color scheme, will not contain any blog posts, but will have direct links to all the archived posts from the initial one in September 2014 through the Blog tab in the main menu at the top of the page of the new site. Another new site will continue to post new blog postings from time to time, and will also have links to all the archived posts back to 2014. So if you want to begin or continue to receive notifications of new posts, folios, videos, etc, Subscribe Here.

The new sites will have a greater range of content, including trip journals back to 1991, and Limited Edition Prints, in hopes of providing more information and insights into the photographic process from my perspective and personal journey in this medium we all share in common. So explore some of the over 60 pages of new content and visit some of the older blog posts to live through those major trips and experiences; just click the link below. Also, if you come across any problems with either of the new sites (which I’m sure there will be since I’m not really a web site designer… I just play one on TV), please use the contact page (accessed through the menu at the top of each site) to let me know and have it fixed.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those folks who have followed this journey over the years, I appreciate it more than you could ever know. Don’t forget to sign up on the new blog site to continue to receive notifications when a new postings goes live.

OBX 2021 — Part Four

Early Dawn — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

It was with great anticipation when I went out for the first sunrise of the trip since most of the summer and early fall the camera remained inside the dark confines of the bag, and never saw the light of day. There were just a few clouds around the horizon where the sun would rise, so there was no expectation of much color, but the excitement of witnessing the beginning of a new day over the ocean was a great start to the trip. Just getting back into taking photos again left me joyful. When the sun finally broke the horizon, I was lucky to trip the shutter just as a wave broke in front of it and memorialize that singular moment (below). But without any clouds in the area, I looked to the northeast for photos. That series of photos was discussed in Part Two and would be the polar opposite of any images available looking toward the sun.

Surf at Sunrise — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

OBX 2021 — Part Three

As was the case last year, I was blessed this year with plenty of clouds during the week at the Outer Banks that played an important role in the resulting photos. Generally speaking, nothing enhances a broad landscape, no matter where it might be, more than an interesting sky with dramatic light, but even more so along the coast where there are no rocks, cliffs or mountains in the distance to help a composition. It seemed that almost every time I ventured out in the morning, things looked pretty gloomy with poor prospects, only to be rewarded with a few moments of great light streaking across the clouds. My time at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was similar. At first taking dull photos, feeling it was just a practice session for recording streaks in the surf, the sun popped through the cloud cover to light up a few clouds. As in the last post, I was trying to position the tripod where the surf would reach its furthest before returning back, and managed to get one frame showing that leading line almost down the middle, pointing to some reflections and a gathering of birds. A leading line is best utilized when it not only draws the viewer’s eye deep into the frame, but actually leads to something as well. Many of those birds blurred out and became distracting with the longer shutter speed, so there wasn’t any personal conflict about removing them, again with the clone tool in Photoshop. But a few of them were nearly motionless during the exposure, so they remained. Shortly thereafter, the few clouds that lit up lost their orange glow and I turned my attention away from the ocean.

OBX 2021 — Part Two

Gulls in Flight — Outer Banks, NC © jj raia

In the previous post I mentioned the subject of “repairing” flaws or distractions within the frame, or blending the better parts of separate frames, to move more toward our idea of the finished image, the one imagined at that moment. The image above is a case in point. I made several attempts at panning the camera using a slower (1/4-second) shutter speed, following the flight of several gulls as they passed by, hoping to get the texture of the ocean in the background to become a horizontal blur while also blurring the gulls. The best I could do was what is seen above except the original frame edge ran through the middle of the bird furthest left; not the most desirable positioning of subjects. It was the only frame that was even close to being useable, so I made the attempt to salvage the image by adding some real estate (canvas) to the left in Photoshop (Image > Canvas Size), and using the clone tool, “drew in” the missing parts of the gull and a continuation of the background blurs in that added blank area. It was done using a soft edged clone brush at a low flow (about 12), and trying to grab areas within the original frame that mimicked the areas I wanted to fill in. At times a large brush was used, and other times it was narrowed down to blend in specific details. It was a bit painstaking to do, but if it worked out, the birds would be more centered in the frame instead of being pressed up against the left edge. If it didn’t work out, then the image would end up in the trash along with all those other failed attempts.

OBX 2021 — Part One

Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station — Pea Island NWR, NC

This years annual off-season visit to North Carolina’s Outer Banks was preceded by a little research in hopes of discovering some old piers that have not already been overused by photographers in the past. Using Google Map’s Satellite View, I came across what you see below, and thought it was something that warranted further exploration. So on our drive to OBX, my son and I ventured off our direct route to the rental, and easily found what seemed like the remaining footings of some sort of pier extending out into the ocean. It was exactly what I’d hoped for to use as a possible foreground in a very long (30-seconds or longer) exposure of the surf; possibly at sunrise or on a cloudy day. I checked the tide chart to see what it was at that time to gauge when it might be best to photograph the spot, since on that scouting visit, the footings were mostly covered by the ocean, revealed only as the surf receded just before the next wave came in. It turned out I would revisit the spot twice during the week with totally different photographic outcomes. If I could come away with a decent shot of these footings, one of the goals of the trip would be satisfied. The other goal, which is always the same, is to witness at least one magnificent sunrise. But that was totally out of my hands and subject to the weather Gods.

Satellite View – Possible Old Pier

Still a Thrill

Clearing Storm and Surf No.1 — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

Ever since 1980, I’ve admired the photography and photographers who had their photos included within the Sierra Club calendars. In fact, way back then when there were no cell phones to carry around your calendars, we actually bought the Sierra Club Engagement Calendar each year and used it throughout the year to mark scheduled events, and then saved them to look at the photography every now and then. This was well before I even got into photography in a serious way; that wouldn’t begin for another decade. We compiled quite a few over time, along with years of National Geographic Magazines, and kept them all just for the photography. So when one of my photos was selected to be included in the 2020 Sierra Club calendar, I was over the moon thrilled. Well, 2022 will again have a photo included, and am just as thrilled as the first time. It was always considered a stretch when submitting work to them, just like applying to certain colleges might be considered a stretch, but I suppose persistence pays off.

As far as the story behind the photo goes, the morning began as usual by getting up well before sunrise, as I did every morning during our family vacation at North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but the sky was still socked in with the storm clouds from the previous day. The actual sunrise time had passed and not much in the way of photos had materialized. When I turned around, now looking toward the north end of the beach, it looked like a front was coming through, pushing out the clouds with clear skies behind. The sky had that pastel cyan color along the horizon associated with early morning opposite the sun, and it began to reflect in the sheen left by the waves on the flat sand. All that was needed was a longer shutter speed to blur the motion of the water a bit. I ended up happy with a few frames that morning, trying to keep them as minimalistic as possible, stretching the shutter speed to as much as I could (0.5-sec. for these), usually beginning the exposure as the wave begins its return toward the ocean as in the two below. Doing that will make for a cleaner line of the surf. The top image was taken as the edge of the surf hesitated, momentarily stationary, as incoming and outgoing surges canceled the movement. Since these were taken in late October, waders were on to keep from getting cold in the water, and most importantly, using a tripod with the legs sunk deep into the sand to keep it rock solid. A polarizer is used, but not to eliminate any reflections in the water, but to cut down the light and keep shutter speeds as long as needed. Then it’s just deciding where would be the ideal place to plop the tripod where the edge of the surf creates a leading line into the frame, and trip the shutter… and keep tripping the shutter.

This series was taken in 2019 during a week of mostly calm weather patterns. But 2020 proved to be challenging, with multiple storms, rain and loads of clouds. Yet, all that weather produced some of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever captured with the camera. Twice during the week, I witnessed an astounding display of color and God Beams streaking across the sky; almost otherworldly. I wonder what is in store for this year.

Light in the Landscape

Soft Light – White Oak Marsh © jj raia

It would not be a revelation to say that light is a significant component of photography. After all, it is the light that we record whenever we trip the camera’s shutter. During daylight hours, illumination is provided by the sun which can be supplemented by lights both indoors and outdoors. For indoor, or studio photography, there are probably enough classes and instructional videos on You Tube for proper studio lighting techniques, for every imaginable subject, type of light and modifier, flash system, reflector shape, and home-made contraption, along with the immeasurable variety of their uses, that would make your head spin.

In the studio, to touch briefly on a few of the variables, lighting can be adjusted for location, intensity, direction, temperature, and number of lights, all with the ability to be modified for the angle of the beam, and whether it shines directly on, or is reflected onto the subject. Objects can be flattened, silhouetted, modeled into three dimensions, or given added texture, simply by making some basic changes to the direction of the illumination; shadows can disappear or be deepened with light, thereby modifying the overall contrast. Studio photographers have complete control of all the variables in lighting the subject, simply because they create the light.

But what about Light in the Landscape?