Too brief, but still fun

The Girlfriend and I recently did a two-day trip out to the beach, in this case Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher – couldn’t call it a vacation really, but it’s what we have for now. There was a particular purpose, and timing, to this one, since the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher houses four Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus,) a threatened species. Initially, anyway; in May, a mated pair gave birth to three pups, and The Girlfriend had been watching the website for the news that they were being moved out into the public viewing areas. This occurred last week, and we made our plans and got an early start this past Wednesday to be there shortly after opening, which paid off nicely.

I mentioned in there about potentially showing scale, but one of the few still frames that I attempted of the otter pups shows this best:

Asian small-clawed otter Aonyx cinereus pup in NC Aquarium Fort Fisher against glass in front of unidentified child
No, I don’t know who the kid is, but he’s probably lucky the glass is there – that pup looks like she’s ready to throw down…

After a short period (without too many people crowding around, which was nice,) the otter family disappeared into their den, so we checked out the rest of the aquarium. It’s not a big one, and I only took a handful of photos because, as I said in the previous post, the conditions aren’t really conducive to decent images. It’s either too dark, requiring a push into a very high ISO which just trashes quality, or the sides of the tanks introduce too much distortion, magnified by the nature of lenses – I’d go into why but it’s a bit technical. Suffice to say, the video clips of the cavorting mustelids made up the vast bulk of my photography there. We looped back around later on, but the family was still hidden, typical for many zoo exhibits, especially of mammals: there are small active periods between much larger periods when they’re simply out of sight. Yet we got another brief look at the otters before we left, which are those clips (and the frame above) largely blocked by people. As for the greatly limited efforts with the other exhibits, you’ve already seen one of those frames in the previous post, and another is coming up, oh, sometime around the end of the month. But we have a slightly surreal one from the small wetlands patch outside the buildings, because.

small unidentified turtle atop floating trunk section in pool, NC Aquarium Fort Fisher
Most of the turtles in this pond were clustering around the boardwalk, which is accessed by passing through the cafeteria section of the aquarium – ’nuff said. Their normal turtle diets (and behavior) were augmented a bit by this.

The reflections in the water give a faint indication of the skies the entire time we were there – little direct sun, and a few splatterings of rain drops here and there, though the forecast had called for much worse so we were actually pretty lucky. Just south of the aquarium lie the ferry stops and the end of the island where I’d done most of my shooting a few months back, but the region was extremely quiet this time around. While in the same area, I pulled out my smutphone and played the same clip of clapper rail calls from that post for The Girlfriend, so she knew what to listen for just in case, and despite the lack of volume from the tiny speaker, the marsh grasses practically at our feet suddenly vented forth a challenging call of the same species, quite amusing. We were literally standing within four meters of where the call originated, even elevated above the level of the marsh on a raised walkway, and could spot not the faintest sign of the rail which had responded – no mean feat for something that’s roughly crow-sized in grasses that didn’t even top a half-meter.

In the late afternoon we did a small amount of beach walking and wading, finding that Carolina Beach (where we stayed) wasn’t ideal for this – too crowded and lacking in virtually anything of interest. I fired off a few frames of perched brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) as we approached them high on their pilings.

pair of brown pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis perched on tall pilings on Carolina Beach
Well, I say their pilings, but I suspect the pelicans hadn’t really erected them – they looked older than the pelicans. If you’re familiar with Carolina Beach you’ve probably seen these, since they’re the only thing that extends into the water, possibly evidence of some past fishing pier eradicated by hurricane season – I don’t know, I’m not looking it up.

We’d been on the road down to the beach during the first morning’s sunrise, so the second was the only one that I had the opportunity to chase, and I was out plenty early but the cloud cover wasn’t the most promising.

pre-sunrise conditions on beach
This was roughly ten minutes before sunrise, and within a few more these colors faded as the sun passed the little gap in the clouds over the horizon which let it peek through – I’ve said it often before, but timing is crucial with sunrise colors. The camera white balance was set for sunlight, but most of the light was scattered from clouds and humidity and this filtered out a lot of the colors, so for giggles I did a tweak more towards ‘neutral,’ which probably represented how it looked to our eyes while out there, since we automatically ‘correct’ colors in our minds unless we make the effort not to. So is this ‘real’ or not? Who ‘cares?’

same frame with color tweak
I actually like this one a little better – it just seems a tad less bichromatic, and hints at how the sky to the right lacked most of the pinks. This is aimed right towards the approaching sun, but as I said, the colors soon faded from the blocking clouds. No green flash for this morning.

About ten minutes after rising, the sun broke through again and I had a little more to play with.

gulls against sunrise on Carolina Beach
Not a lot of course, but I did what I could – at least the various bird species were active in the sky and I could practice my timing. This peek of the sun was harsh but brief, and it soon became heavy haze to overcast conditions for the rest of the day there. I recropped this same frame to change the emphasis, so you can decide for yourself which one is more fartsy.

same frame with radically different crop
I can’t say this area is drawing me back at all. Nothing at all on the beach itself to work with. Fishing boats? A single one far off in the distance. A couple of surfers plying waves a meter high. Not even any military aircraft. I might have had more to play with a few kilometers south at the end of the island, but this was within walking distance of our motel. So one more just for the sake of it, as the light was growing too bright, and we’re done for the brief trip pictures and will return to lizards and bugs. Unless I find something else locally.

pelican and seagull against sunrise colors

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