Black and white photos 2017

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/2017-favorites/

I’m an amateur photographer at most. The busyness of my life and my scattered interests has not made it easy for me to focus in detail on the more technical aspects of photography; but in some ways I’ve delved a little deeper into the world of pictures this year. A while back, I experimented with transforming some of my color photos into black and white. This simple act produced more than one aha moment as in many cases, I could actually see more depth in my photos in black and white than I could in color. At the very least, it altered the dimension in such a way that it gave me a different perspective on the experience I had when I took the photo. Some of my favorite transformations are below.

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Oak Island Lighthouse

Currently, there are seven coastal lighthouses in North Carolina. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting three: Cape Lookout, the Oak Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy. I hope to visit them all.

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I traveled to the Oak Island Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, I wanted to get out the house, and I remembered that I’d been planning to visit the lighthouse, which was a little less than an hour’s drive from my home, for quite a while. As I drove through the rural route that would take me to the lighthouse, I remember thinking, I would never live out here, because there didn’t appear to be much to do. I would see things a little differently once I reached my destination.

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The light from the lighthouse, located on Caswell Beach Rd on Oak Island, can be seen for 16 miles. It’s rather exciting to see it flashing in the distance as you approach the beach. The lighthouse was built in 1957 to replace a steel lighthouse on Bald Head Island (Bald Head and Oak Island are very close to one another) and when it was first lit in 1958, carbon-arc mercury lamps, which were used prior to incandescent lights, provided so much light that it was the brightest in the United States and the second brightest in the world. The light is currently powered by a 1,000 watt halogen bulb and displays 4 one second flashes then 6 seconds of blank. It stands 153 feet tall and has 131 steps that can be climbed to reach an outside balcony, although you must schedule a time to climb the lighthouse. It is not open during any set hours.

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It is very easy to access because it sits just by the road. There is a tiny parking lot directly in front of the lighthouse with free parking for 30 minutes. I saw another public access parking lot just down the road. Across the street is a walkway onto Caswell Beach. After I poked around the lighthouse, I crossed the street to check out the beach. It was super quiet compared to the beaches where I live, and I saw several pelicans flying so close to the shore that I could actually make out their little pelican faces. I glanced behind me to see the flashes from the lighthouse, and it occurred to me how fortunate the locals are to live so close to such a quiet beach adorned with their own personal lighthouse. Ok, I thought, maybe I would live here.

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Carolina Beach State Park

July 4th was a busy day for me. I couldn’t sleep and woke up before dawn. I used the time to watch the sunrise on the beach then I called my 75-year-old father, who I figured would be up, to go to breakfast. After breakfast, we drove down to Carolina Beach State Park. I’ve been wanting to check out CB park for a while, and now I want to go back.

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Carolina Beach State Park is 761 acres large along the Cape Fear River and Snow’s Cut which is part of the Intracoastal waterway. There are 8 hiking trails scattered throughout the park ranging from .35 mile to 3 miles long: 6 miles of hiking trails total. All are sandy terrain and considered easy.

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A marina provides access to boating and fishing. Campsites tailored toward both families and groups feature amenities such as picnic tables, grills and fire rings. There are some cabins available for reservation and restrooms with hot showers are located nearby.

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On my trip to CB State Park, we hiked part of the Sugarloaf Trail which travels through the marsh along the river. We saw waterbirds along the way and several fiddler crabs crossed our path as we made our way along the route. I have intentions of going back with a picnic lunch and hiking the trail to the Sugarloaf Dune which I hear offers an excellent view.

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Definitely check this park out if you are in the area. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

 

 

Meandering along the Basin Trail

In case you haven’t noticed, I quite enjoy walks and hikes. My latest excursion, last weekend, was The Basin Trail at Fort Fisher. The Basin Trail (difficulty: easy) is 1.10 miles one way-so a little over 2 miles there and back.  It begins at the Fort Fisher Visitor Center and winds along the sound side of Fort Fisher across straw, wooded walkways and sand. It travels down a path surrounded by trees, shrubbery, the marsh, a World War II bunker and it ends at an observation deck overlooking the Basin.

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Along the way, you can expect to see Spartina salt marsh, hermit crabs and an assortment of seabirds, including but not limited to, plovers and oystercatchers. There is also an abundance of fish, shrimp, clams and oysters. Depending on the time of year, you may also see loggerhead turtles, hawks, ducks and many more species.

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You will pass a WWII bunker that was originally built by the Army Service Forces in 1942 when Fort Fisher was part of a training and support facility for Camp Davis, located in Holly Ridge. Fort Fisher closed as a training facility in 1944 and the bunker was abandoned; but from 1956-1972, Robert Harrill, a hermit who lived on the salt marsh, found and occupied the bunker. Mr. Harrill fascinates me and I intend to talk about him further in a separate post. 

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Once you reach the observation deck, you will see Zeke’s Island across the water. You may also see Brown pelicans fishing, kayakers or even an occasional wind skier.  

After you walk the trail, you can do like I did and enjoy the beach. The parking at the visitor center is free and provides access to the beach. The visitor center also provides restrooms, tables and an area to rinse off when you exit the beach.

Not a bad afternoon for free fun.

Brookgreen Gardens

A few days ago, I wrote my Haiku of the Spectacular Pig whom I met recently when I visited Brookgreen Gardens. I actually saw several beautiful sculptures that day and thought I would share a few more with you.

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Brookgreen Gardens was founded in Myrtle Beach, SC in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. Their intent was to display American sculpture, develop gardens using plants from the South Carolina Low Country, and educate others about art, conservation and the history of the region.

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Archer Huntington wrote that Brookgreen was “a quiet joining of hand between science and art”.  Today, among other things, it contains several plant and sculpture gardens, a zoo that houses animals which are native to the region and an old rice plantation. Brookgreen offers exhibits, classes, pontoon rides, nature excursions and much more.

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I spent several hours at Brookgreen and only saw a small portion of what it has to offer. My first trip focused mostly on the sculpture gardens. I have yet to see the zoo or experience the excursions. 

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But Brookgreen is not a place that you want to rush. I enjoyed savoring the trip. I will go back later to see more. 

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On a practical note, Brookgreen contains two restaurants which are affordably priced so you can stay all day. And if that isn’t long enough, tickets, which are $16 for adults, are good for seven days so you can go back later if you are still in the area!

 

 

Opaque

When I first started thinking about the word “opaque”, snakes kept popping into my head. I guess I was thinking about their eyes. You probably know that snakes shed their skin in one big piece. This process is called ecdysis. Did you know that as a snake gets close to ecdysis, its skin becomes dull and its spectacle, which is a clear scale that covers its eyes, becomes milky? For that reason, when a snake is about to go into ecdysis, it is said to be opaque or pre-ecdysis.  You can learn this by googling the words “snake opaque”. You can also learn that Amazon has snake print footless tights for sale for $11.99. I’m not a big fan of snakes, but I just happen to have a few pictures from a previous visit to the Cape Fear Serpentarium. I’ve already used them to gross out my friends on Facebook so why not share the love and delight you with them, as well? 🙂

Below is a picture of a snake skin I found one day when I was out walking. I would have been running if he were still in it.

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And here are the tights in case you are interested. Very nice.

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Also, as an added bonus, I wrote a six-word story to describe this post:

It’s not tights. It’s a snake! 

 

Pleasing sounds on a spring night

I love the sounds of a spring night. I turn off my TV and sit in the quiet listening to song birds, crickets and the occasional dog as they lift their voices to the sky. Throw in a couple of frogs and I’m in heaven. Lately, the lead singers of my outdoor concerts have been the birds. There are times when the crickets and cicadas rule the night, and in the summer, after a rain, the frogs take the lead and sing their parts. But right now, it’s the birds. I’ve actually pulled out my computer and launched investigations to determine which birds are making the sounds that please me so.  My current suspects are mockingbirds, the whippoorwillblack birds or robins, but I’m not an ornithologist so I’m not completely sure. It could be another species completely. Whoever it is, I find their songs delightful, and thank goodness. If not, I’d be losing my mind trying to rest as they pretty much dominate the acoustics of the sky.  Instead, their songs lull me to sleep.

I’m a girl who digs the sounds of nature. I find them comforting. When birds are singing, crickets are chirping and frogs are croaking, it feels like, at least for the moment, all is right in my world. As long as they don’t sound panicked, I kind of assume that a catastrophe is not immediately at hand. If it was, the animals wouldn’t be singing. They’d either be hunkering down or let’s face it, hauling ass. That’s a bit morbid, but you have to admit, there is usually more peace in chatter when it comes to nature than quiet. Chatter means everything is still operating as usual.

I do have other nocturnal sound makers in my yard besides the birds. There is a feral cat that lets himself into my yard every night. I know because I hear the cling when he squeezes himself through the gate which is always ajar in the morning. His visits are both exciting and antagonizing for my cats who race to the back porch and scan the yard to determine his location.  Every now and then, one of them will spot him in the darkness or he’ll come right up to the porch, and I hear them hiss or spit. Interesting that they challenge him because I feel like he could probably take either of my cats, but perhaps I do not give them enough credit. There is also the fact that they are separated by the screen. I know the feral cat is a he because I’ve seen him out there spraying everything. Otherwise, I’m not sure what he does in my yard , but he comes regularly. Might be trying to catch those birds.

And then there are my neighbor’s roosters, who do not simply crow at dawn, but rather anytime, day or night, whenever they feel the urge; although I have to say that as I write this, they are quiet as little baby mice.

I don’t know why I am so pleased by these sounds. I guess it is because they fill me with peace and a sense of connectedness. I don’t mind them at all whether they be wake-up calls in the mornings or lullabies at night.

Anchors

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Yesterday, I took half a day off work to watch my nephew participate in a Fun Run at school. I arrived moments before the race, just in time to see a young, athletic woman with a booming voice and a microphone announce each class.

“Mrs. Smith’s 2nd grade class is lining up for the race!” she boomed. “Let’s put our hands together for Mrs Smith’s class!”

The spectators clapped. The children ran to the starting line like a football team at the Super Bowl. They smiled and waved to friends and family. After the children were in place, we put our hands on our hearts and listened to the national anthem. Someone at the starting line held up the American flag. Then the race started. Loud music played over the speakers. The announcer encouraged the children, told them to have fun and directed them to stop periodically for water. I stood on the sidelines with my brother and my mother to watch for my nephew as he made his laps. I loved seeing the enthusiasm and excitement on his face, and on the faces of the other children. They ran with determination and some of them were grinning from ear to ear. Teachers and loved ones on the sidelines gave them high fives and snapped their pictures with cameras and cell phones.

A while back, I learned the term “emotional anchor”. It hit me that moments like the run- moments of freedom, support and accomplishment-are the moments when we drop those anchors.

After the run, I still had some time before I had to go back to work. I ate lunch with my mother then we walked at a local arboretum. As we leisurely strolled the paths at the arboretum, we discussed the topics on our minds. We took pictures of flowers and fountains and sculptures. We enjoyed the serenity of the Japanese garden and watched a woman and her child feed koi fish in a pond. We perused the flower beds to discover that the arboretum had planted clover, turnips, garlic and other vegetables and herbs.

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We found two beautiful orange Adirondack chairs and relaxed in the breeze and the shade as we talked. “This has been so nice,” my mother said when it was time to go. “I don’t want to leave.”

I agreed.

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As we left, she shared her childhood memories of the arboretum. When she was a child, the property that now belongs to the arboretum was her elementary school.

“There is where we had band.” She pointed to one door that now leads to offices inside the arboretum.“Over there is where the parking lot was,” she pointed across the way. “There were huge magnolia trees in the parking lot.” She looked around with nostalgia. “I had a wonderful teacher…I was happy here”.

More emotional anchors.

We hugged. She left to finish her day. I drove home, recharged and peaceful, to complete my work day. I will have to say that those four hours off were definitely time well spent. Anchors for me, I guess.

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