September 25, 2017

Close Call Jose

Filed under: beach,buildings,Outer Banks,storms,Weather — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:45 pm

Late Summer through Fall has long been my favorite time to be on Hatteras Island. Crowds thin and weather conditions become more tropical. There are so many pluses, then tropical influences can develop into hurricanes.

I’ve always relished waves spawned from a distance. Sitting well offshore last week Jose generated some of the best surf in years. For a few of those days however, seas washed over the highway in spots and even shut it down for a tide cycle. I went to Rodanthe to investigate.

During road closures, north Rodanthe becomes a staging area for exiting traffic.

Sea water flows in from the beach and because of it’s salinity is highly corrosive for automobiles splashing through.

At the end of Surfside Drive sits another imperiled cottage.

In 1980 this beach house was 4 lots back from the oceanfront. Now look at it.

With NCDOT shutting down the main road, Mirlo Beach looked pretty empty and bleak.

NCDOT was busy working in the usual places, like S-Curves.

The oceanfront at Mirlo Beach has long been an area of high erosion rates. Homeowners there are certainly in a real estate bind, and with another storm named Maria coming, things are likely to get much worse.

I couldn’t resist a self portrait opportunity and wondered if this porch swing would still be intact next week, after Maria sweeps by the Outer Banks.

Hurricanes are a fact of life here and although we tend to compare some storms to others, they are unique unto themselves. The ones that pass well off the coast can be beautiful and dramatic, with spectacular skies.

In 1991, I made this photograph of the leading edge of Hurricane Bob as it approached Cape Hatteras. An evacuation had been ordered and the following day we experienced gusts near a hundred with the eye going by about 25 miles offshore.

With Hurricane Maria, about 300 miles to the southeast, we’re under an evacuation order. Tropical storm and storm surge warnings are up. Now it’s a waiting game.

July 21, 2017

Vintage

Filed under: buildings,history,Outer Banks,Weather — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:26 pm

The way photography is today, you can’t believe every picture you see. Images can be enhanced or altered relatively easy. My photography has been pretty straight forward. I’ve always tried to make prints how I shot them. In the real darkroom tools were fairly limited compared to digitized versions.

Last year I had a commission to work on a book cover with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters as it’s main theme. It needed to look like it could have been the early 1900’s. The historical fiction book entitled Seaspell was written by local author Bronwyn Williams and published by Chapel Hill Press.

I scoured through thousands of images before I came up with a working concept. In 1996 I was using a medium format camera producing negatives measuring 2 ¼ x 2 ¾ inches. The larger negatives yielded some pretty sharp prints compared to 35mm.

The main shot I used was taken from an unusual northwest angle near the old coast guard base. Visible to the right was the original keepers quarters. To make it look more dated, I removed a utility pole, some shrubs and the boardwalk extending from the lighthouse over to the beach.

Other items needed to be added though. In the original photo, the sky was clear and featureless. I had taken another photo as Hurricane Edouard passed offshore on September 1 that same year. It showed the lighthouse from another angle, but displayed gorgeous clouds as a result of the nearby storm.

I selected those clouds and pasted them into the featureless sky, and it made a dramatic difference. To give a little more depth to the composition, a strip of blue ocean was added between the dunes from a third photograph. The publisher later added a figure walking down the path.

It took some time to throw it all together and still appear genuine, but it illustrates you just can’t believe everything you see.

June 29, 2017

Down Under Down

Filed under: aerial photography,buildings,history,Outer Banks,People,Piers,storms — j0jgvm89bj @ 11:18 am

Over the years I’ve seen restaurants here come and go. Some fail faster than others, and it’s not an easy business to achieve success. It’s about quality, quantity and customer satisfaction, among other things.

One of the most successful restaurants in our town was started at a location where several other restaurants had come and gone. The Rodanthe pier complex had reincarnations of restaurants in the same building with names like Cross Currents, Under Currents, JL Seagull and Down Under. There were others prior whose names have escaped me.

Undoubtedly the most successful was the Down Under, founded by Skip and Sheila Skiperdene. The name was coined by Australian ex-pat surfer Skip, who married Sheila a North Carolinian, and they began the Aussie-themed restaurant. It took a year or so to catch on, but with planning and hospitality it became hugely popular. Most summer evenings had dozens of patrons lined up outside the front door waiting to be seated. This went on for about ten years, when personal circumstances ended the epic run of Down Under circa 1999.

This 1989 aerial photograph shows the pier complex, including the restaurant building under the arrow. The proximity to the ocean made a dramatic venue for diners, but also contributed to it’s demise.

An aspiring restauranteur then bought the trademarked name and stepped in to continue to operate the business. Something however was missing and the restaurant was not quite the same. A few years later, things really went south when Hurricane Isabel pummeled the property.

After continuous battering from high seas, storm surge from Hurricane Isabel finally took it out in 2003. This photograph taken by my wife, was probably the last shot ever taken from the upper deck of the restaurant. It was a harrowing experience.

An aerial image shows the newly built Gallery restaurant circa late 1980’s. It featured local art, and a home-grown herb garden. The Gallery made national news when a man died from eating bad tuna there, ending that venture.

The Gallery was sold to a new owner and renamed Waves Edge. They employed local chefs preparing great meals. This 1991 photo was taken during their hey-day. It was popular with locals and visitors alike. That lasted until personal issues forced another sale, this time it was changed to Blue Water Grill, featuring an upstairs wine bar.

The new Down Under owner wanting to sustain the business, bought the building in Waves that had previous lives as The GalleryWaves Edge, and Blue Water Grill.

The new Down Under struggled for several years and eventually landed in foreclosure. It sat vacant and unmaintained a few years until it was bought by an adjacent property owner then demolished on June 27, 2017.

Going, going… pretty much gone!

Down Under is history. And it all began with Skip.

July 12, 2016

Wilbur Gaskill

Filed under: buildings,Outer Banks,People — j0jgvm89bj @ 2:00 pm

Corkey's

From the very first time I visited the island, Ocracoke has always struck a cord with me. On an excursion to the village in 1978, I was wandering the back roads near Corkey’s Grocery Store. There was an old timer sitting on the porch wittling wooden birds with a pocket knife. I was enthralled with this scene as I approached. A budding photographer, I was a bit timid shooting people, especially if I didn’t know them. I wanted a picture and asked for his permission first. He said okay and I took three or four shots.

Gaskill

It didn’t occur to me at the time that this encounter would never happen again. I have always cherished this photo of him. Wilbur Gaskill passed away two years later.

March 25, 2016

Salvo Relics

Filed under: buildings,history,Outer Banks,People — j0jgvm89bj @ 7:44 pm

There were some things  around in the 70’s, remnants of folks living in Salvo long before me. In retrospect I wish I had taken a lot more pictures of those relics. Each year that goes by brings change. In with the new, yet the old ways deteriorate and eventually are gone. I always enjoyed the rural feeling, especially in the village of Salvo. There were remains there that I saw nowhere else.

mr. perry's                                            The old homesteads were simple and functional. Mr. Perry Farrow’s place was a hundred yards from a trailer that I rented. Cisterns were a common source for water. They called it sweet water.

whidbee houseAt the south end of town, the Whidbee place sat in a gorgeous, well sheltered maritime forest. Years later when the surrounding property was sold to a developer, most of that pristine forest was cut down.

outhouse                                        Nearby stood an outhouse that no longer served a purpose.

fire truckThe Salvo fire truck was parked in a lot next to the long-abandoned Community Store that was beginning to fall apart.miss kitty'sI never met Miss Kitty, but her old home next to Dan Leary’s store was covered in briars, honeysuckle and poison ivy.

church                                      One of the most well-maintained buildings in town was the “Little Church with a Big God”. I remember hearing about Lucy Hooper salvaging timbers from shipwrecks to build it. She was a pillar in the community and by the time I met her, she was getting quite old.

hattie creefIn the old days, the Hattie Creef was a mainstay of Outer Banks travel, and even played a role in bringing the Wright Brothers to Kill Devil Hills for their first flights. The boat was brought to Salvo and made into a most unusual restaurant.

fishermen                                    Fathers fished for a living and passed it down to their sons. One day in 1975, I watched as I D Midgett was getting underway from a Salvo creek in a wooden skiff with his sons. This just doesn’t happen here any more.