Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

This is an extended exposure (about 15min) of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in Buxton, NC out on the Outer Banks. We were lucky that we had a full moon that night while I was taking the shot so I didn’t have to light up the subject artificially.

The Lighthouse was built in 1870, and is the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. For those of you who are not familiar with the story, the lighthouse is currently not in its original location.  In 1999, it was decided that the ocean had come too close to the base of the lighthouse and was threatening its structural integrity.  On June 5th, they began what is known as “the Big Move.” With the lighthouse fully intact, they lifted it off its original base and moved it about 2,900 feet SW to its current location.

This park was probably one of our favorite locations, and the view from 200 feet up was sweeping and spectacular. I hope you enjoy this gem of a park.

We camped in the National Park campground.

Day 8: Kitty Hawk – Durham (July 10, 2009)


Having to stay at a hostel since the only accommodation in Corolla were resorts, we got up early and headed towards home. Once onRoanoke Islandwe took a detour south towardsWanchese. Wanchese is a commercial fishing village. I don’t think there was a single place for someone to charter a boat. There were oldfishing boatsleft in marshes, while a few blocks away are large warehouses where they are building newer and larger boats. It is blatantly apparent that this is a hard working town. This is a sight that I am sure most people miss.

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After passing throughAlligator River WildlifeReserve, we needed some gas and food. I saw a sign of the Hwy for a lighthouse in Plymouth, NC. Plymouth was a small struggling town along a small river that used to be the main transportation rout. It would seem aswater transportationdeclined so did Plymouth. However, there in their central park was a beautiful and strangely familiar lighthouse. There was a replica lighthouse in Manteo that we saw earlier on our trip and it turns out it was the same lighthouse as the one in Plymouth. After listening to a story about the lighthouse it turns out the one we were standing in is a replica as well! Although, Plymouth’s lighthouse was a replica of one that was about a mile down river that had been purchased by a private individual and it was more cost effective to rebuild it than to purchase and move the original.


Day 7: Bodie Island to Corolla (July 9, 2009)

Our first stop was to Nags Head and Jockey’s Ridge State Park, this is home to the tallest sand dunes on the East Coast. It wasn’t apparent to us how large these dunes really were until we had parked our car and came around a bend in the trail that opened up to a view that just stunned us. The dunes were at least 60’-80’ tall and 100s of ft long. The Park states that there are 6,000,000 dump truck loads of sand contained in the park!

The next stop was a small café called Front Porch Café, it was amazing! After drinking down some warm/tasty coffee we headed a few minutes up the road to the Wright Brothers Memorial. We listened to a great oration of the Wright Brothers life by a Park Ranger in the replica room of the visitor’s center. The exhibits were great, including some pieces of the actual equipment, including a piece of cloth from a wing that went into space orbit. We then headed outside to look at replicas of the house and hanger, along with a memorial of all the different flights that took place on December 17, 1903.

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After the memorial we had to speed up to Corolla because the lighthouse is only open from 9pm-5pm. We got there at 5:05, but to our surprise on Thursdays the lighthouse is open until 8pm. We were able to take our time and tour Corolla, which is a beautiful little town. There is a nice historic mansion called the Whalehead Club,which is a focal point of the waterfront area. Not only is the building beautiful on the outside but is open for tours and has a beautiful interior. Back at the Corolla lighthouse we climbed up the 214 stairs to get the 158’ tall view. It was incredible and worth every minute of driving to get here. Corolla might be the most beautiful town of the Outer Banks, the difficulty of getting here and being secluded from the other popular sights make it for most a stop not worth making, but for others this is precisely why they come here.

After the sunset we headed back south to Kitty Hawk since Corolla only had resorts for accommodations. We stayed at the Outer Banks International Hostel, it was quite and inexpensive.


Day 6: Cape Hatteras – Bodie Island (July 8, 2009)

I got up early for the sunrise, with the goal of getting a classic Outer Banks sunrise photograph. Not sure I achieved my goal, but that isn’t always a bad thing. One of the most important things about photography is to just get out there, especially to be out there during the prime lighting hours. The rich green strands of sea oats contrasted with golden sand and blue sky created a colorful palette with which to work.

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After a little breakfast we went back to the lighthouse and climbed the 268 stairs to the top. The view was spectacular; being able to see all the way to the tip of Hatteras Island was not difficult. Unfortunately the original Fernel lens is not being used. Instead they have replaced it with a rotating spotlight. The guide said that currently the Coast Guard owns the lens and is in possession even though the National Park Service maintains the light.

Once we climbed down we toured the keepers house. All of the buildings are not at their original locations (including the lighthouse). This is because the Outer Banks is essentially a large sandbar that is constantly moving due to the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the large storms. It was deemed that within a few years the Lighthouse and the other buildings were going to be consumed by the sea.

After the tours we headed North across the Oregon Inlet and to Bodie Island Lighthouse. After scoping it out for an evening photo shoot we snuck over to Roanoke Island and Manteo. One of our stops was Elizabeth Gardens; this is a European style garden that is worth a stop on anyone’s road trip. I believe you can buy a pass to get into the gardens, aquarium, Fort Raleigh, and the Elizabeth II (a tall ship docked in Manteo) among other sites.

After a great dinner at Full Moon Café in Manteo we went back to Bodie Island for some sunset photography.


Day 5: Ocracoke to Cape Hatteras (July 7, 2009)

We woke up early today to get a good start on exploring Ocracoke, NC. This is the home to almost 800 people, but in the summer the population grows dramatically as Ocracoke is a favorite place for vacationers. It is a small, quaint town with a quiet harbor, and a small lighthouse. The slow pace and small streets of Ocracoke lend itself well to bikes and walking. Combine all of this with a nice beach and little history, like a British Cemetery and this being the home of the late Black Beard the Pirate it is no surprise. We sure liked it!

After walking the small neighborhoods, and touring the lighthouse, we headed to the public boat launch.  Here we launched the kayaks to paddle into the harbor and get a different view of the lighthouse/Ocracoke.

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After seeing most of the town we headed north towards Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. There is a free ferry that connects Ocracoke Island to Hatteras Island. Once we got to Hatteras Lighthouse I spent most of the evening taking sunset and night photographs, while Pooja took in a great lecture on the beach from a Park Ranger about the Outer Banks being the Graveyard of the Atlantic.


Day 4: Shackelford – Cape Lookout – Ocracoke (July 6, 2009)

We awoke with a start! Everything in the tent was flying around, including us! We quickly realized that in the soft sand and the high winds that our tent had blown free and our body weight was the only thing holding it down.  I got out my phone to see what time it was and to debate calling emergency, it was about 2:00am and the storm seemed like it was getting worse. Although with our weight in the corners of the tent we felt more stable. After staying up 3-4 hrs debating what to do if the storm didn’t end we fell asleep…

In the morning, after getting maybe 2-3 hrs of sleep, we packed up the tent as quickly as possible. The wind had actually blown our tent dry. Walking to the kayaks, we realized that it was going to be a long journey to the water since the tide was out. After an hour of carrying our kayaks to the channel the rain started again. After getting in our kayaks, it took all of about 15 minutes to paddle across the channel and surf waves over to the lighthouse. Soaked to our skin, we stepped into the visitor’s center. The staff was very confused about our arrival since the first ferry of the day had not come yet. We told them about our nightmare-ish story battling the storm, and they graciously called us a ferry to get us and our kayaks back to Harker’s Island.

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Back at our car and in dry clothes, we set our GPS to Ocracoke Island. After getting there we drove to the National Park campground just north of town and set up our tent. We went back to Howard’s Pub, had a delicious pizza dinner and listened to some live music. After a long day of paddling the day before, we decided to cut the night short and get some much needed rest to recharge our batteries for the rest of the trip.


Day 3: Southport to Shackleford Island (July 5, 2009)

We left Holden Beach around 8:15 to stop in Wilmington. We had heard from many people that Wilmington’s water front was worth seeing. Although the day after July 4th was pretty dead, all the store fronts were closed and the streets were pretty dirty. Despite things we decided that this town was worth coming back to on another trip and we head out towards Harkers Island.

At the south eastern tip of Harkers Island is the Visitors Center for the Cape Lookout National Seashore. This is where we talked to a Park Ranger about the chances of using our kayaks to paddle out to Shackleford Island and then to the lighthouse. He said that a storm was supposed to have rolled in around noon, but it was 2:00 with blue skies. The ranger also said that it was not a very difficult paddle even for people with moderate experience. We decided to give it a try. The paddle was more difficult than we had imagined due to the incoming tide, wind, and distance (3 miles). Along the way though we saw a shark feeding in a reef and once we go to Shackleford Island, one of the wild horses was watering at a creek that was flowing into the sound.

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This was the moment that things started to go wrong, I pulled my camera out of my dry-bag to take the horse’s picture. After flipping the power switch the camera wouldn’t power on, only a red light flashed. NIGHTMARE! The Canon 5D has a notorious issue with handling humidity poorly. I had left my backup camera in the car just in case we had a major accident I wouldn’t be without a camera for the rest of the trip. The wind started to pick-up and we noticed the clouds were starting to roll in. We decided to head towards the lighthouse, unfortunately by the time we got to the crossing the waves were 2 ft, and we were pretty tired. Instead of crossing over we decided to stay at the south eastern tip of Shackleford Island. We pulled the kayaks up out of the tide line and scouted for a place to pitch a tent. By this time it was obvious that a storm was in fact imminent, so we crossed over a few dunes to find a sheltered area. We were greeted by a herd of 5-6 wild horses with Cape Lookout lighthouse standing tall behind them; it was an incredible sight and would have made a beautiful image.


Day 1 & 2: Southport, NC 4th of July (July 3&4, 2009)

Pooja and I decided to head out to Southport, NC,  home of the best 4th of July festival in North Carolina. The closest campground we could find was down in Holden Beach, about 45mins south. For $50 we got to pitch our tent in an RV site. This part of the NC coast is not the friendliest for car campers. However, on 4th of July weekend it was over $200 a night for a decent hotel in Southport.

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Southport is a quaint little town. Located near the mouth of the Cape Fear River and protected by Oak Island, the town has a population of about 2,500 people which probably doubles for the Fourth of July Festival. The party is kicked off with a parade down Howe St. where everyone lines the road hours beforehand. Later in the day, Howe St. closes a few blocks away from the waterfront and turns into a street fair with food vendors and live music which entertain the crowds until the fireworks begin. The show takes place over the water in front of the central park and for a small town, it is pretty impressive.

In between the parade and the fireworks, we went out to Oak Island, which is a community nearby, and relaxed on the beach. The water was like bathtub water; body surfing and watching the pelicans free-dive for fish was very entertaining… enough for us to kill 3 hours after which we headed back into town to eat and catch the fireworks show.