Fall Color

Autumn transforms the landscape. The obvious occurs in deciduous forests around the country. But in dunes and salt marshes of Hatteras Island change is revealed in other ways.

In Fall, flowering plants such as goldenrod, attract migrant monarchs.

A mostly inconspicuous coastal shrub, sea myrtle bursts out in spectacular fashion.

Salicornia bigelovii is a striking plant of the salt marsh. Also known as dwarf glasswort, it’s succulent, salty and edible. The above photo shows it surrounded by spartina and juncus grasses. Sprouting lime green during warmer months, it grows about a foot tall and gradually turns crimson as the season cools down.

Its brilliance astounds me whenever I see it.

Glasswort develops seeds to propagate and eventually decomposes, making organic matter available to a variety of organisms. The salt marsh is truly alive and a valuable resource!


The Breakthrough

Tropical cyclones are better experienced from a distance. Earlier this month Hurricane Earl, hundreds of miles out to sea, swept by. High seas churned up and washed through in expected areas.  The S-curve originally paved a bit straighter, has long been notorious for ocean over-wash. The S configuration is due to the fact, it has been relocated westward so many times. Arguably it has been one the most expensive sections of road to maintain in the state.

With the new bypassing bridge opened, traffic will no longer need the traditional route.

Since the S-curve was abandoned, this was the first time an over wash has broken through the spot that has been repeatedly dug out, rebuilt and reused. This time that won’t happen, ever again.

Road signs are still in place with the asphalt surface buried under accreted sand.

Hundreds of sandbags were of little help against the power of the sea. As part of the bridge agreement they, along with the roadbed, will be excavated and removed.

For over 30 years Mirlo Beach has been a fantasy development that is becoming another victim to the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Oceanfront property owners in dire shape, have gotten permission to move their houses west toward a street no longer needed. At the very best, it should give them a few more years to ponder their options.

Meanwhile, the Black Pearl stands stoically defiant in nature’s grasp.

Lord Huron at Red Rocks

To date, I’ve enjoyed a dozen Lord Huron concerts. The venues have been varied, with some of my favorites in historic theaters like National Theater in Richmond and the Midland in Kansas City, Missouri. One exception is the open-air amphitheater at Red Rocks.  It’s beyond description and has been host to some of the biggest names in music.

After 2 years of pandemic-related postponements, Lord Huron performed to sold out crowds June 1st and 2nd, and we were anxious for the long anticipated experience.

From the top row, I photographed an overview with the lights of Denver as a backdrop.

From the “pit” I was close to the action with my friend, guitarist Tom Renaud up front.

Bassist Miguel Briseño performed brilliantly on the right side of the stage.

Singer, songwriter Ben Schneider was captivating center stage.

The rest of the show, I shot mostly from a ticketed seat in row 9.

My lens choice was mixed with some wide angle and short telephoto options.

Brandon Walters (top left) is a versatile guitarist and has toured with the band since I first saw them at the Ritz in Raleigh 2015. Misty Boyce’s amazing keyboard skills and voice round out the touring group.

When Ben transformed into his alter ego Cobb Avery, the audience went crazy.

With constantly changing lights, my mirrorless camera made ongoing exposure adjustments. It’s hit or miss and a bit of luck!

Ben’s “I Lied” duet with Misty was a huge crowd pleaser.

Mark Barry was electrifying on drums.

Encore calling has evolved from Bic lighters to smart phone flashlights.

Toward the end of the show, I had a strong emotion, knowing it was finishing. All the energy and excitement was at a crescendo.

Lord Huron left the stage with an appreciative audience after an energized 2 hour show.

To celebrate, there was cake for family and friends.

After a 2-year hiatus, the band continues to tour with sellout shows and at music festivals.


Ray Matthews 1950-2022

I hadn’t lived on the Outer Banks but a few weeks when I met Ray. He was a waiter at Seafare Restaurant when I was in the kitchen putting dirty dishes through a Hobart machine. We became good friends. He was getting his feet wet with photography, and I was also becoming immersed. That commonality solidified our relationship. 

Months later we discovered our birthdays were the same day. Surely we were kindred spirits. Times were spent with photography. I delved into his collection of books, learning more about master photographers, composition and technique.

He had just built a small darkroom where with his help, I made my first color print. It didn’t turn out well, yet inspired me to set up my Beseler enlarger at home. From then on I was off and printing. His statement “I want to make photography my life’s work” is etched in my mind. At that time he was determined and couldn’t have been more than 24 years old.

Over the years, we collaborated, commiserated and at times competed for art shows and publications. Always friends, we both explored and consumed the nature around us. His work ethic was energizing for me to continue photography even though at times, things seemed tough.

Over decades, Ray produced an extraordinary body of work, and he loved it. I will truly miss him and his influence on what I do. Mostly though I’ll miss the little things, like his occasionally dropping by my studio announcing, “Mike, let me take you to lunch, my treat.” That would mean a ride to Lisa’s Pizza and Ray ordering Chicken Parmesan.

I’ll miss meeting with him at another favorite place, Cape Point, where on more than one occasion we toasted each other with a rum and coke, waiting for the magical light of a setting sun. 

Our friendship was perhaps the longest, most endearing of my life. If it hadn’t been for Ray, there’s no telling where I’d be, just not shoving dishes through a Hobart.

Red Rocks Reboot

Plans to attend a Lord Huron show at Red Rocks in June of 2020 were stymied by the pandemic. A rescheduled concert for 2021 was also canceled. Then in 2022, as pandemic conditions improved, we were still determined to see Lord Huron at this legendary Colorado venue. We arrived for two sold-out shows on June 1st and 2nd.

On the first day, we arrived at Red Rocks early for the band’s sound check.

It’s great fun watching them prepare for a show.

Situated between walls of red sandstone, the natural amphitheater is spectacular.

With sound check over, a distant parking lot began to fill up.

As the crowd assembled, Erin Rae with her band from Nashville opened up the show.

Minutes before Lord Huron’s appearance, I scanned a capacity crowd from the Pit.

To be continued…