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At Topsail Beach in NC, I captured this image of the brooding sky and sea before a winter storm.

At Topsail Beach in NC, I captured this image of the brooding sky and sea before a winter storm.

This past weekend I drove up to New Bern, NC for a photo shoot with Zach Frailey, Curt Fleenor and Brad Styron.  Curt and I arrived on Friday, and we had planned to go out to Cape Lookout for the day on Saturday.  Mother Nature had other plans for us, though.  The ferry out to the cape was cancelled due to a small craft advisory put up before the coming winter storm, so we drove to Topsail and Surf City instead to shoot the piers and some beach scenes.  Since there was a storm approaching with the promise of snow in the forecast, we shot as much as we could in the time we had.  In going through my images, I came across this shot that I took of the beach looking out to the remains of an old pier that had washed away long ago.  Only the pylons remain, leaving a ghostly silhouette of what once was there.  It’s been taken over by cormorants and seagulls who use the posts as a perch.  I didn’t think much of this image when I took it, but as I was culling my photos I liked this composition more and more and decided to process it as a beginning to the shots to come.  I like the feeling of solitude that is found in this scene, and we certainly were some of the only people on the beach that day.  I wanted to stay in this spot and stare at the sea, but time and conditions demanded that I move on.  At least I have this image to look at and be reminded of the simple beauty of this place.

As it was severely overcast, I decided to bracket 3 exposures at 2 stop intervals to hopefully bring out some detail in the overcast sky.  I blended the 3 exposures in Lightroom using the Photomatix plugin and then did my usual adjustments to exposure and tone in Lightroom 4.  I also used my go-to program for finishing, OnOne Perfect Photo Suite, to give the image the brooding look I was going for.  I used Daily Vitamin to add punch and definition to the sky, Radiance Glow to deepen the colors and add a slight glow to the image, and my favorite vignette, Big Softy, to add some edge burn to focus the viewer’s attention to the center of the image.

Nikon D7000, Sigma 20mm f/1.8 @ F/8, ISO 100, 3 exposure 32-bit HDR.