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My family was fortunate enough to all get together recently for a beach vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Specifically, we were in Kill Devil Hills, site of the Wright Brothers’ first airplane flight.

Talk about relaxation. It was great to have the whole family together again, as it gets more difficult for everyone to spend time together. The views were beautiful, the water was perfect, and the weather was compliant. The saltwater taffy and crab legs weren’t bad either!

Of course I also brought my camera along and, as promised, tried my hand at some sunrise photos over the water. I wasn’t completely happy with all of them, but have decided to post them here for better or worse as a lesson in what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately there was too much light pollution to attempt any star photography. Here are some things I learned:

  • There’s a surprising amount of light at 5:30 in the morning, so the tripod wasn’t needed.
  • The Neutral Density (ND) filters I tried out are garbage. I knew they weren’t necessary, but tried a few shots with them in the hopes of smoothing out some of the waves. Unfortunately the color was completely ruined in every shot. Only one was salvageable, the photo below with the birds flying near the sun.
  • Sand is a boring subject. I started off about 50 yards from the water and realized I was taking boring photos. When I moved to the water’s edge and got my feet wet, the resulting photos were much more interesting.
  • Sunrise creates some very cool silhouette opportunities with the right metering mode selected. I really like how the photos with Dave turned out.
  • A polarizing filter would have been handy.
  • The OBX is beautiful, and very windy.

I’ve talked a little bit about Post-Processing before on this blog. Two of the photos in this gallery – one of the lighthouse, and one of the Wright Brothers monument – have been processed as HDR images. I did this by taking identical photos as -2, 0, and +2 exposures and then combined all three exposures into one image. The result is a dramatic and more artistic look that is properly exposed for both shadows & highlights. While this may have been unnecessary for the monument photo, I knew immediately that I’d want an HDR image of the Lighthouse to show off the sweeping grass and sky.

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