When I stay at Nags Head, I attempt a sleeping schedule that allows for early morning walks along the beach. I always think I’ll be able to get up before sunrise, but in reality, I’d have a much better chance of staying up all night. At the end of every vacation, I’m so ridden with self-inflicted guilt that I inevitably drag myself out of bed too early on the last morning and spend my day traveling back home in sleep-deprived stupor.
This year was no exception.
We arrived in Nags Head just in time for my grandfather’s 90th birthday at the end of July, but we had plans to push on with our road trip shortly thereafter. I stayed on the beach for less than a week and true to form, on the last morning, I woke up before my alarm and noticed the sun was just below the horizon. I dragged Oksana downstairs with me to watch the spectacle, both of us fully intending to be back asleep within 15 minutes.
Oksana swung gently in the hammock while I stood on the porch and took pictures. At one point, a lone pelican flew over the sand dune in front of the cottage and I kicked myself for not noticing it before it got into frame. It would have looked great in silhouette against the sunrise.
I’d snapped about 20 shots by that point and the sun was about to get lost behind a bank of clouds. I was talking with Oksana about going back to sleep, but I keeping my eye on the line of dunes behind her, hoping I’d spot another pelican before it got to us. Just before we packed it in, I looked back out at the ocean and saw a huge formation of pelicans skimming the waves far out beyond where I had been searching for them.
I’m pretty sure I got out a “Holy sh…!” before I was able to swing the camera up to my eye. I had time to take one picture – just one! – while they were centered underneath the sun. Looking at it now, I realize I couldn’t have spread the pelicans out – six on the left, six on the right – any better if I’d tried.
Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 6:12am, 31 July 2010
Focal Length: 105mm
Shutter: 1/200 second (-1.3 step)
Photoshop: Rotated for level horizon, cropped to third lines, increased saturation to approximate real colors.
You can’t really see the detail in the photos I uploaded, but even after the crop, I’m still amazed at the what the 21-MegaPixel 5D captures. Here’s a small “actual pixels” window of the center of the image (not the sharpest focus, I know, but not bad considering it was handheld at ISO-100):