Beach Study

Apr 11, 2017

I arrived at my beach with only the idea of wanting to collect enough photos of the surroundings to make a blog post. It wasn't at all thought out, I just needed content. But the ocean always has this effect on me, particularly after I've been away from it for a long time - it puts the wind back in my proverbial sails, and makes my feet (which are often dragging and tired these days) dance. Some of it is the bigness of the ocean, reminding me of my God, who holds them in His hands. As an oldest child change not my favorite thing, so there is something therapeutic about being at a place where change is the only constant. Each wave, each puff of wind brings about change - but you expect it, because waves have been crashing on the sand for as long as there has been a shore. The bare essentials are the same, there is a strip of sand and a vast expanse of water, but the wind and water are constantly surprising. After some time soaking in the sun and waves camera-free, an idea for the shoot started to take shape: if I were to make a physical gallery for people who had never been to the beach, what would I show them? What small gems would I want to make sure they caught? How could I make them understand the wonder and glory of this place? I cannot bottle up a breeze, or the feeling of the cold March ocean sweeping over your feet. But I can show all of the contrasts, the movements, the tiny details that are a dime a dozen, over the course of two days. So, yeah. Here it is: my happy place, and some of the reasons it makes me happy. 

For starters, all of the greenery is tough, scrubby, twisted. It has weathered the winds and hurricanes for years.

If you take the path to the beach from the road, you have to go through a gnarled, scraggy tunnel of trees. Keep a wary eye out for snakes on the railings.

Once you get down on the beach, you never know what you're going to find on the sand. A pine cone is a particularly North Carolinian sight, and a Christmas tree is definitely not the weirdest thing I have found. 

I call these (with a dramatic pause for effect) Leftovers.

Once the tide starts to go out, there's a dark line along the shore for a while, marking where the water lapped and brought up a collection of driftwood and shards of shell for us to find.

Every now and again the water builds up these walls of sand that make me think of a miniature Grand Canyon. For an East Coast gal like myself, it's close enough.  

At sunset, the water goes through a myriad of different blues and greens as the light in the sky changes and dims. 

Nights like these call for a little Impressionism, don't you think?

If you watch closely, you can catch the light hitting a wave just before it breaks. It looks different with every wave and every minute the sun moves.

There is also so much movement in the water, you can't possibly keep track of it or document it completely (but you sure can and do try).

After a while, you can see where the red fades out of the horizon and bleeds into a bluish grey.

Sea oats stand guard on the dunes, bobbing their heads while their roots keep the mounds of sand in tact. If a hurricane comes along, the dunes are essential to keep the water away from homes.

In the morning, a wedge of moon is still out and the puffy clouds prophesy a beautiful day.

I have found no way to capture this completely, but at a certain slant the water starts to look like the finest silk you have ever seen.

Once the sun is up, you can see all of the shades of green and blue one frame can hold.

Do you see how the rays of light dance through a wave right before it breaks? 

When you're just trying to set up an artsy shot with an oyster shell, and a flippered friend jumps into your shot. These guys swim up and down the coast all day, and making a sort of a game. How many dolphin are in this pod? Are they fishing or just swimming by? Was that a baby? How long can we keep track of them?

Another walk will bring you to an abundance of happy details. For instance, the little ripples the tide leaves on the sand, just to let you know it was there.

The ocean will bring you plenty of treasures, if you have an eye out. Like feathers, and shells, and the occasional pufferfish.

Before you know it, the sun is setting again. It's a marvelous thing, though: you can watch thousands of sunsets, and none of them are ever the same. This evening, instead of the ruddy tones of last night, a warm haze fills the sky and turns the waves into liquid gold.

The movement still draws the eye. Every time.

Once it gets cold enough, and your bare feet can't take the chill any more, you say goodbye to the haze, the light, and the motion. Tomorrow you have to pack up and go home. As my grandfather would tell you, a trip to the beach is always one day too short. The good news is that the ocean will be here when you come back - always changing, but always there.