The Republic of Duck
“Hark, now hear the sailors cry
smell the sea and feel the sky
let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic…”
– Lyrics “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
Planning a photo trip to an exotic location? Let’s start at the top of the alphabet – Alaska or Antarctic … What could be neater than capturing grizzly bears feasting on salmon or thousands of penguins chilling out on colorful icebergs? Too cold? Maybe the sandy dunes and the sweltering heat of the Sahara or the wide-open savannas and wildlife of East Africa are better options.
Yes, so much beauty in our world but so little of those necessary ingredients – time and money. Besides most of these iconic locations are must destinations of “Have Camera, Will Lead” famous photo leaders where your contributions pay for their “Image-of-the-Month” and advertising blitzes for next year’s photo expeditions.
If you want a high value, exotic destination, I’d recommend the Republic of Duck (the Feature Image illustrates their national flag). Hint: Don’t Google it or you may end up in a bar on an Australia beach. It’s not a South American military dictatorship even though there is an annual invasion by troops from the north. It requires no passports, visas or entry taxes. Desolate sand dunes similar to rugged terrain of southern Utah are only a short drive away. It is sparsely populated by quaint little towns during the winter months. Wildlife? Sandy beaches? Yep, check the boxes and tell me more.
Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend lavishing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s a coastal shoreline with endless miles of breaking waves, nearly barren beaches and shore birds fluttering in the wind wondering what happened to all those Yankee tourist. Well, that pretty well describes the Republic of Duck (aka the village of Duck, NC). At this time of year, there were a few open shoppes with friendly clerks that actually had time for conversation. Uncrowded restaurants with great seafood such as the Black Pelican in Kitty Hawk. But best of all, the opportunity to be close to nature.
I arrived in Duck after a long drive that started with snow showers in the mountains, progressed to pelting rain in the Piedmont and ended with high winds on the Outer Banks. The winds continuing throughout most of the night and the rhymthic sound of waves seemed foreign to ears that were accustomed to the steady howling of mountain winds. By dawn the storm had moved out to sea to gain a second wind for a massive attack on the Northeast. The beach was deserted except for blowing drifts of sea foam, the ocean’s version of snowdrifts along an ice-covered shoreline of a mountain lake.
With camera in hand, I continued my walk on the cold and windy deserted beach. Soon I discovered this “Lost at Sea” shell that followed me for the rest of the weekend. Every time I set-up my tripod for an iconic shoreline sunrise image, this shell found a way to sneak into the view
Beach walks are a great time for creative thinking and wondering. What’s the history of this shell? Has it always been an OBX resident or did it get carried by the Atlantic Current from an exotic Caribbean island? How old? The hole in its side — evidently it has had a rough and tumble journey. Look at its intricate shapes and patterns; the master craftsmen of Seagrove, NC would have difficulty trying to duplicate the delicacy of this masterpiece. How did it continue to grow when it’s basically a hard calcium carbonate deposit of a snail. Nature is a true miracle!
The odds in a pending battle seemed to be stacked against the shell. The size and strength of the ocean with the persistent and overpowering waves vs. this single, battle-scarred soldier. Also, the ocean has reinforcement troops scheduled to arrive later that day at high tide. Time for some heroic action – my new friend is now at peace in my living room listening to those howling winds of the High Country.
Jockey’s Ridge – OK, the truth! Those Desolate Dunes in the first image were not an aerial image of southern Utah, instead the late afternoon light on the wind-blown sands of Jockey’s Ridge. Located just a few miles down Highway 12 from Duck in Kitty Hawk, it is the tallest active dune in the Eastern United States. It is also a photographer’s paradise with its shifting sands, shadows, and patterns. The first image with the soft, warm light and dark shadows was shot approximately thirty minutes before sunset. The second, a macro of the patterns in the sand, resembles a topological map of the Sonora Desert.
Crab Dinner To Go – Late one afternoon I drove down to Bogue Island lighthouse hoping to shoot a sunset over the sound and some star trails over the lighthouse later that evening. After discovering that the lights were not operational (…Bogue Island Darkhouse), I lowered my expectations to only shooting waterfowl on the small lakes near the lighthouse. A few mediocre shots of nearby ducks and as I was about to pack it up, this seagull caught my attention. After circling several times, he snagged a crab on his first dive but was disappointed with only the crab-legs appetizer. Quickly he made another dive, snarled the entire crab and fly off into the sunset. (Shot with Canon 5DIII and 500 mm f/4 lens – ISO 200, f/4.5 @ 1/2000th second).
Whalehead Bridge – If birds in flight are not your photo passion, there are also architectural gems to visit near Duck. One of my favorites is the Whalehead Club in Corolla. The Club, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Whalehead Bridge are all located in a small park located on the Currituck Sound. For a good sunset location, visit the Whalehead Bridge. For a great sunset location, the Whalehead Bridge during the first week in November or February (sun disappears directly below the center arch). For a great, great sunset image – entice a great heron to enjoy the sunset with you in early November or February.
Jennette’s Pier – What’s a visit to the ocean without an iconic pier image? In this case, a pre-dawn image of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Although the cloud-less sky had little personality, the silhouette of the pier in the glowing sky and the reflections in the surf produced a striking image. I added a soft glow to the pier to provide a more mystic image.
The Votes are In – In my previous blog post, you had the opportunity to vote for your favorite images from my Top 12 of 2012 . Thanks for your feedback – it is appreciated. The results have been tabulated and the winners are: 1) Sunrise Splendor – a wonderful June sunrise taken from the northeast side of Round Bald. Rounding out your top five were: 2) – Mountains in the Sky, 3) – Heaven and Earth, 4th – tie) Miniques Lagoon and Hawksbill Sunset. All great choices and again I appreciate your review and feedback. Art is subjective as seven of the twelve images received at least one #1 vote.
My choices – well, let’s just say I must have a different taste. #1) Highlands Hammer Heave. It’s my only non-nature image in the top 12 so that by itself makes it unique. What I really love is the sharpness of this image even though the hammer thrower was spinning faster than a 45 rpm record (if you are familiar with the technology). The colors are brilliant and the lighting seems to be right on. #2) Subtle – Again, uniquely different and I’m a sucker for simple, minimalistic images. #3) Barbed-Ice Fence – Perhaps it’s because I fell onto a barbed wire fence in my youth and I’m just getting even with those nasty barbs. I also like the colors of the puffy clouds and the composition of the fence leading into the sunrise. #4) Sunrise Splendor – I agree with your votes….perfect x 3 — time of day, time of year and location!
Until next time, look for the beauty in our world, live and love life to the fullest!