My house sits on acreage bordering the Pamlico Sound. Much of it is salt marsh that blends into slightly elevated land with natural vegetation, including live oak, red cedar and yaupon holly. I built a home here and have lived on the property for 37 years.
The land was part of the Clarence E. Midgett estate and I have Midgett family members living all around me.
I’ve enjoyed this natural setting and history. Early on I admired a nearby grave. Banister Midyett’s headstone stands just a few feet over my north property line. He was born February 26, 1786 and died May 31, 1841 at the of age 55. He reportedly fathered 18 children. The name of Midgett has morphed into different spellings throughout history, but they all seem to be related. They must have been among the first Europeans to settle Hatteras Island as shipwreck survivors.
Another artifact close to my home is a disintegrating wooden skiff, tangled in overgrowth. There would be some captivating stories if it could talk. It likely belonged to I D Midgett, who passed recently at 92 years. He was a quintessential Hatterasman, making a living on the water as a ferry boat captain and commercial fisherman.
I D’s family built this structure to store fishing gear and as a place to bring in the daily catch. The past few years however, it’s seen very little use. As a local livelihood, commercial fishing has become an anachronism.
In building a series of bridges on Hatteras Island, NCDOT will tentatively open the newest one in March. Known as the Jug Handle, it replaces a roadway that, over the years, has routinely been washed out by high seas.
Last August I was fortunate to be given an after-hours tour of the impressively engineered site.
The north and south terminus construction had yet to be connected midway.
High up on a superstructure, I admired the curvature toward the northern terminus on Pea Island.
Looking south, with Rodanthe as a backdrop, the now-gone trestles and infrastructure were still in place. Possibly opening to foot traffic in March, I hope to be walking the 2 ½ mile span as I did at the new Basnight Bridge in 2019.
With a tourism based economy, access to the islands is key. And as roadways continue to be compromised, this bridge won’t be the last.
For a couple years I’ve been driving past the construction site of Hatteras Island’s newest bridge. Called the Jug Handle because of its shape, it bypasses a section of highway 12 that’s been constantly washed out by the ocean. Like most bridges, construction began from two terminal locations, to ultimately meet in the middle. For me, it’s a chance to shoot some interesting pictures.
Ten days ago as the north terminus was nearing its south counterpart, I took a photo from the dunes across the highway.
A week later I shot a similar photograph from a closer vantage point along the sound side shoreline.
The cranes are enormous.
Water depth along the route is only a few feet deep, too shallow to work from a barge, so a trestle system was built along each side to accommodate machinery. This is the south end working its way northward.
Giant pilings are delivered on the north end where workers bridle them to a crane for lifting.
On the lower end, the 150 foot pile is secured in a pivotal yoke as it’s lifted.
It is transferred to a towering frame where it’s driven precisely into the sandy bottom.
A pile driver is placed on top to pound it the desired depth.
It looked like each impact drove the piling several feet. The two bridge ends will soon be connected. The 2.4 mile roadway is scheduled for opening early 2022.
A pound net is a fish trap that corrals fish into a pen where they are kept alive. They swim in the enclosure until they can be bailed out. In 1977 some commercial fishing friends of mine were setting up a pound net.
Eddie O’Neal, Ed Corley and Asa Gray were partners in this venture. They worked under the name Easy Money Fish Company, and constructed their net in an area of the Pamlico Sound, known as Scott’s Reef.
On a calm day, I rode out with Ed to check it out. They weren’t catching much at the time, but I photographed the basic layout shooting Panatomic-X, a fine grained black and white film.
The fish follow a portion of the net called a lead, which channels them into a pound where they cannot escape.
They’re penned in until the fishermen come to get them. Any unwanted or protected species are then released alive into open waters. Despite the labor intensive work to set up, a pound net is an efficient way to catch fish.
Thirty-five years later I photographed another net near Ocracoke Island. With commercial fishing getting to be a more difficult livelihood, there doesn’t seem to be as many as there used to be.
Years ago, Eddie O’Neal (1982) and Ed Corley (1985) died in separate weather-related commercial fishing incidents. Asa Gray passed away in 2018 after many decades as a waterman. How those guys loved to fish!
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.