I spend lots of time looking through old images. They bring back bygone memories. It’s taught me that a photograph taken today, later becomes a document of history. Interesting old photos appreciate with time because they can never be taken again. In the Summer of 1975, something possessed me to shoot a sign directing folks to the booming pier complex at Rodanthe. Nearly 50 years later, I realize how my hometown has changed.
All the buildings in the background are gone, washed away or relocated. The open field of sand, grasses and wildflowers is now covered with McMansions. The sign indicates that Elvin Hooper had caught his world record channel bass less than 2 years prior.
How I miss those days!
Local commercial fishing operations on Hatteras have always fascinated me. It’s the old school work ethic of harvesting from the sea that draws me in. Working on the water has been a cultural mainstay here for generations.
In 1996 I bought a Pentax medium format camera system. Using black and white or color negative film, the results surpassed 35mm work in the quality and sharpness of my darkroom prints.
That same year, I shot Avon Harbor when it still had a working waterfront.
Today most of that has nearly all disappeared.
Some of my first memories living on Hatteras Island involved surfing next to the Salvo shipwreck. Locals referred to it as the Richmond. It was, and still is an iconic feature of the village. Over the years, even surrounded by tumultuous seas, it has held fast and never budged.
According to state records it is the remnants of the Pocahontus, a Civil War transport steamer that wrecked during a storm in 1862.
I go to it regularly, sometimes checking the waves, to meditate, relax or take some pictures. Last Saturday I did just that. It was a beautiful day, waves rolling in with four cormorants perched on it.
Early Sunday morning an approaching front brought gale force winds. Anxious to see the transforming ocean conditions, I drove out on the beach to see how it looked. Hunkered in my truck, I photographed the wreck through a windswept downpour.
I shoot impulsively. So could these be my last photographs of 2021?
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!
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.