Photographing the Outer Banks

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Dora and I are always on the lookout for adventure and exploration. We have participated in a number of Mountains to Sea Photography workshops hosted by Tommy White and Alistair Nicol. Workshops led by Tommy and Alistair are packed with photographic opportunities, locations, lots of tips, and hands on instruction. When we saw an opportunity to go with them to the Outer Banks we signed up. This year Tommy and Alistair were joined by Athena Carey, a well-known landscape photographer who makes her home in Switzerland. Athena is known for long exposure, B & W, fine art photography. We looked forward to meeting and working with Athena.

The Outer Banks consists of a string of barrier islands mainly off the coast of North Carolina. The northern most portion of the Outer Banks extends into the southeast corner of Virginia. The Outer Banks are rich in history, including the original Roanoke Colony established in 1584, only to vanish in 1587, and the Wright brother's famous flight from Kill Devil Hills on December 17, 1903. Wild horses can be found around the islands, which according to legend, are descendants of horses either left by the Spanish or washed ashore from a shipwreck. Ocracoke Island was the last refuge of Edward Teach. We know him as the pirate Blackbeard. Edward Teach was killed in a battle on Okracoke in 1718.

Tommy, Alistair, and Athena planned a number of locations for us. Our adventure began in Currituck, which is the northeastern most county in North Carolina. Currituck is home to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in the town of Corolla. The lighthouse was completed in 1875. The lighthouse continues to function today. Adjacent to the lighthouse is the winter home of a wealthy family. The Knights purchased the property and built their winter home, known as Whalehead, in 1925. This restored Art Nouveau style home is open to the public for museum tours. Whalehead is an amazing place to watch a sunset.

Bodie (pronounced "body") Lighthouse was also on our itinerary. Three lighthouses have stood in the vicinity now occupied by Bodie Lighthouse. Bodie Lighthouse was built in 1872, and like all the lighthouses we visited is still a working lighthouse. We arrived early in the morning, well before daylight in order to photograph the Milky Way. It was a perfectly clear night and the stars were highly visible. We had just enough time to get some photos of the stars before it started to get light. We hung around long enough to capture a few sunrise photos before heading back to the hotel for some classroom time.

Frisco Pier, also known as the Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier, is a favorite for fisherman and photographers. The pier was built in 1962. Storm damage over the years have taken their toll and Frisco Pier is scheduled to be taken down sometime in 2016. We were treated to a spectacular sunrise and excellent surf action. A photographer couldn't ask for more.  Cape Hatteras is also the location of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. The first lighthouse to mark the dangerous shoals of Cape Hatteras which extend from the cape out a distance of 10 miles was erected in 1794. The second lighthouse, which is still in use today was constructed in 1870. Gradually the sea encroached on the lighthouse and in 1999 the lighthouse was moved 2,900 feet inland.

The last stop of our adventure was Roanoke Marshes Lighouse in the town of Manteo for another sunrise. It was overcast but we made good use of the light and added a number of photographs to our collection. The Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse is a recreation built from the plans of the original lighthouse that was built in 1877. The original lighthouse was destroyed during an attempt to move it after it had been decommissioned in 1955.

Though not part of the workshop, my favorite lighthouse is located on Ocracoke, a short ferry ride from Cape Hatteras. The Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823. Ocracoke is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the United States.

As always, Tommy and Alistair delivered a Mountains to Sea workshop filled with photographic opportunity. In between our late night and early morning outings we spent time in classroom learning photographic tips and post processing techniques. Athena brought with her a treasure trove full of tips and techniques to achieve success when photographing some of the most difficult subjects.

If you would like more information about the Mountains to Sea Photography Workshops click here.

If you would like more information about Athena and her work click here

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