A Rare Find

General Thoughts
Dune in Morning Light - Pea Island NWR, NC

Dune in Morning Light – Pea Island NWR, NC

Sand dunes have always had an appeal for me, with their supple curves formed over time by the wind into sensuous shapes and swirls, with the added visual interest of ripple patterns stretching out into the distance. In most cases though, dunes along the coast are piled up high, generally parallel to the shoreline and are not mostly devoid of vegetation as these were. Barrier dunes usually have quite a bit of growth and therefore do not exhibit the same visual appeal that the dunes I recently found along the North Carolina coast had because they were not as tall. These appeared more desert-like than along the coast, and since they were shorter, did not obstruct views without having to climb to the top. This dune in particular had an awful lot of appeal for me. It was sheer happenstance to have come upon it since if I were walking in a different direction or alongside it, I might never have seen the beautiful s-curve formed by the crease in the dune and the ripples running along its surface. The angle of light was just right to accentuate the textures with the added bonus of the clean area in the center mimicking the dune’s shape and the circular shadow caressed by the crease certainly added quite a bit to its appeal, and I knew immediately this dune was special among the abundance of beautiful dunes there that morning.

By the time this photograph was made, the sun had climbed a bit above the horizon and any sunrise color was gone, but I lingered and wandered among the dunes hoping to find something that would be an exciting foreground for a view toward the ocean and the blank, cloudless sky. As disappointed as I was at not having any clouds for the sunrise, the same sky provided a clean backdrop to keep the attention on the dunes and their myriad intricate, discoverable attractions. This photo is of the type generally described as having taken itself. All that was necessary on my part was to have wandered by it. The s-curve slapped me in the face, so it was hard to miss, and it was already facing toward the ocean, so all I needed to do was plop down the tripod, accurately meter the scene and trip the shutter. The only conscious effort on my part was to place the top of the singular dune between the two dunes in the middle distance to achieve better balance and provide some separation. It reminded me of a quote attributed to Ansel Adams who once said:

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”

That was the case for this photograph for sure. It was to be a black and white image from the beginning, as are so many images that are more about nuanced light, shapes and lines rather than color; and dunes definitely lend themselves to very graphic designs, especially if using a telephoto lens to narrow the field of view and abstract small areas of interest. But this was not one of those as the 17-35mm lens was set at 25mm. Luckily, there was not much in the way of wind and even though it was exposed at f/16, 1/13-second was sufficient to stop any movement in the slender stems at the top of the dune. I certainly wish every photo was this easy, but then I suppose there would be no challenge in finding these special locations and happening upon a rare find.

To see an older post from two years ago with the barrier dunes, click here.


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