Inspiration From Outer Banks Night Photography Photo Tour

This past weekend I had the pleasure of guiding an enthusiastic group of night owls on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They photographed lighthouses, piers, fishing boats, and a little burning steel wool.

And even though the photo tour was for night photography—not birds—a few lucky participants managed to grab a few shots of the elusive Outer Banks Night Owl. Possibly the rarest bird in the world, it is found only at Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. (Sorry Judy, had to do it.)

Among the reasons I enjoy leading photo tours is that I often learn from the participants as well as instruct them. All of the participants during this photo tour made some good images and two of them created shots that I hadn’t thought of trying. I’d like to share their images with you.

The first shot is by Pam Barbour and the second is by Todd Hurley They explain their technique for creating these images in the captions.

Pam and Todd, thanks for sharing these images with us. And thanks for inspiring me. I’m looking forward to trying out this new technique on my next coastal trip.

Photo and caption by Pam Barbour. Canon 5DM3, Canon 17-40mm lens set at 40mm, 0.5 second, f/4, ISO 25600. The goal for this image was to capture a time-lapse sequence of the light rays rotating around the top of the lighthouse such that the rays were evenly spaced. It is close but not quite there due to some limitations of the intervalometer only being able to do whole-second intervals. Eight images were captured and then stacked and merged together using the Lighten blending mode. There was quite a bit of air pollution and noise captured due to the really high ISO, which I attempted to remove with some partial success.

Photo and caption by Todd Hurley. Nikon D800, Nikon 24-70mm lens set at 50mm, 0.25 second, f/2.8, ISO 12800, (5 exposures). After composing and focusing on the lighthouse lamp, I watched the beams for a few passes to get a feel for the timing. I then turned on my flashlight to paint the section of the lighthouse that was in the frame, and then fired off a quick series that covered two or three rotations (to make sure I had enough exposures to work with). Then, I picked five images that had good light beam symmetry and brought those into Photoshop in layers for the lighten blend. I had to use an extremely high ISO to freeze the beams, which blew out all the color in the stars and produced some unwanted noise, but sometimes that's what it takes to get the shot. Next time I attempt this one, I'll try lowering the ISO to drag the shutter in order to make the beams wider for more prominence.


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