Pelican Island

The Summer of 1980 I went on an excursion in a 14 foot skiff with photographer friends Ray Matthews and Foster Scott. We launched the boat from Ocracoke and began to explore the inlet and some small islands. One island especially attracted us. Known as Beacon Island, it was once the site of a small brick lighthouse in the mid-1800’s.

Breeding pelicans were first observed on Beacon in 1928, but the population ran into trouble with widespread use of DDT which weakened the shells, causing mortalities as the birds numbers plummeted. Following the ban of DDT in 1972, brown pelicans began making a dramatic comeback.

One morning, I used a 20mm Nikkor lens on an F2 to photograph the nest site on the opposite side of the island.

Then attaching a 400mm Novoflex lens I caught this one returning to its nest.

We used the island as a base camp, and explored surrounding waters and islands for three days. At the time, research was being conducted on Beacon as it was the northernmost nesting site for brown pelicans on the east coast. Since then the island has come under the ownership and protection of Audubon North Carolina. Today pelican nesting on Beacon is prolific.

 

Rule of Thirds

I’ve always loved shooting seascapes, and composition is an important part of that discipline. One of the basic rules of composition is dividing the frame into thirds, vertically or horizontally.

I rarely shoot sunsets, but 2 weeks ago while exploring the marsh behind my house, I broke out my GX8 and made this rule-breaker of a silhouetted stand of spartina alternaflora, also known as smooth cordgrass. At times, I like fixing a horizon line in the middle of a frame.

Just brown sticks now, by summer they will transition to lush green foliage.

Old Christmas 2021

Where I live, the celebration of Old Christmas has been a certainty every new year. I’ve heard that it’s been going on for over a hundred years, and probably longer. This year it would have been on January 2nd, except for the pandemic. It was cancelled for the first time ever.  

The festivities normally take place from the afternoon and into the night. I have to admit my favorite part of it, other than the appearance of Old Buck, is the oyster roast.

This year to compensate, I collected a bucket of oysters from Pamlico Sound and had them on my front porch. I gave some away and ate the rest.

I shucked a panful for the oven.

The flavor of a chilled, raw Pamlico Sound oyster is unsurpassed.

I missed sharing them with my friends, like this feast from 2009.

I also missed greeting Old Buck.

The next day I went to an empty community building where Old Christmas would have been celebrated. It was stark with nothing to clean up after what would have been a night of revelry.

I visited a monument nearby dedicated to our working watermen and thought about my friends that have lost their lives to the sea.

Eddie O’Neal, Dennis Midgett, Ed Corley, Russ Privott and Mike Midgett came to mind.

Christmas 2020

For years, I went to my parents’ house for Christmas, although sometimes I’d stay at home here on the island. Christmas Day on Hatteras is a time of indescribable peace, quiet and hardly any traffic. There’s no feeling like it any other day of the year. Most transplants leave and travel to be with families elsewhere. The beaches are nearly empty and it would seem those still here have the entire place to themselves.

Combing the beaches on Christmas Day I’ve found a traditional symbol of the time, what I’d call makeshift Christmas trees. Whenever I see them they touch my heart and, I photograph them.

Christmas Day of 2018 this undecorated tree stood out on an empty beach.

On Christmas Day of 2019, I was happy to see this naturally decorated one. They’re always anonymous and delightful to see.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Past

Thanksgiving spawns memories of togetherness. A fond recollection for me took place 5 years ago. Members of my family rented a vacation house in Avon, and a Thanksgiving meal was planned around 6 o’clock. What made this one so special is that my 91 year old mother was there.

As Denise and I headed south to join them, the sun was beginning to set. We were just approaching beach access Ramp 25 when I noticed a tinge of color in the clouds, so I pulled over and watched one of the best rainbow displays I had ever seen. Normally gone in a few minutes, this one stayed bright and brilliant for nearly twenty minutes.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was to be the last Thanksgiving that I shared with my mother…. and it was a good one.