Outer Banks Photo Workshop February 2019 / by Jeremy Mudd

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll remember that one of the things I wanted to do in 2019 was invest in my photography. Not in buying more equipment, but working on shooting different things, different places, and interacting with other like-minded creatives. So with that in mind I signed up for the Outer Banks Photography Workshop that occurred last week in the Nags Head area in North Carolina from 2/21 thru 2/24, hosted by New Life Photos with Mark Hilliard and Jamie Konarski Davidson.

Below is a recap of my trip and the workshop – WARNING, it’s a long read. If you get bored feel free to skip and just look at the pretty pictures; each one is more or less captioned.

I left Ohio early in the morning of 2/20 with the plan of taking two leisurely days to get there and hit a waterfall along the way, stopping overnight in Lexington, VA. Unfortunately Mother Nature laughed at my plans and decided to throw a lot of snow at me the night before in Ohio. The roads in Ohio weren’t overly bad, and when I hit West Virginia there was no sign of snow and I thought I had smooth sailing ahead. WRONG. Once in Virginia on I-64 I hit freezing rain and the highway became a mess. While the trees were glistening and pretty, the road was also glistening and NOT pretty.

A much-needed Dirty Martini after a harrowing drive.

The waterfall I planned to stop at in Virginia was near the town of Covington, but once I made it off the highway near there and headed in the direction of the falls, the roads were even worse. Remembering that I promised Renee that I wouldn’t do anything overly stupid, I turned around and got back on the highway. I finally made it into Lexington in the early evening, 9 hours (instead of 6) after I left home. It was already getting dark and it was raining super hard, so none of the things I had planned on seeing or shooting in Lexington happened. I checked into the hotel and then went for a drink and a bite to eat to calm my nerves. I found a great little farm-to-table restaurant named Rocca (https://roccaristorante.com/) and had some great food and, a couple of much-needed dirty martini’s.

I headed out at 6am the next morning and only had wet roads to deal with, thankfully. The drive was mostly un-eventful. This time I was able to make my planned detour for the day; Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge (http://www.mattamuskeet.org/refuge/mnw_refuge.htm) . There I shot the famous Bald Cypress Trees and also did some wildlife photography.

Study of Two Bald Cypress Trees at Mattamuskeet - you can see some of Michael Kenna’s influence on me with this image. Nikon D750 w/80-400mm lens, long exposure.

The Mattamuskeet Bald Cypress Trees - Fuji GX617 w/180mm lens on Fuji ACROS film, long exposure

White Ibis at Mattamuskeet - Nikon D500 w/Tamron 150-600mm lens

The first night of the workshop was introductions, tutorials on long exposure and HDR imaging, and discussions regarding the impending weather for the weekend. More on that later. Mark and Jamie did a great job of explaining the techniques involved to the point where I felt that even a beginner or novice would be able to understand and execute the techniques.

The next day we were “wheels up” at 6:00am to go to several locations.

Avalon Fishing Pier in the Blue Hour - Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens, long exposure

Dock at Duck - Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens, long exposure

Study at Duck - Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens, long exposure

Broken “T-dock” at Duck - Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens, long exposure

Tree at Currituck Banks Preserve - 7 image HDR stack

Unfortunately the rain worsened as the day went on, so the late afternoon and evening shot locations were cancelled. We spent the evening in classroom sessions and working on images.

The forecast for the next day looked even worse, so plans for the early morning shooting were cancelled and this allowed everyone to get a little extra sleep and/or work on processing images. We left for our first location at 8:00am.

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse - Fuji GX617 w/105mm lens on Fuji ACROS film, long exposure

We shot at a few locations before the weather went totally bad – the afternoon sessions were cancelled. The rest of the day and evening were spent in 1x1 classroom time. At the end of the evening we shared our favorite 3 photos we had each taken so far. It was interesting to see the different images that people shot while in the same places. It reinforced to me that you can shoot the same subject many different ways.

The last day of the workshop, Sunday, was scheduled as a half-day ending at noon. While it was still lightly raining, we were treated to some great fog.

Into the Blue near Nags Head Fishing Pier - Nikon D750 w/80-400mm lens, long exposure with tide coming in.

Nags Head Fishing Pier - Nikon D750 w/80-400mm lens, long exposure with tide coming in.

Nags Head Fishing Pier - Fuji GX617 w/105mm lens on Fuji ACROS film, long exposure with tide coming in.

Osprey Nest Platform in the Fog - Nikon D750 w/80-400mm lens, long exposure

Workshop participants and the leaders - image courtesy of Jamie

After that it was time for everyone to part ways and go home. I took two days to drive home with an overnight stop in Roanoke, VA. On the way I had to deal with some high winds that made for some white-knuckle driving at times, but I made it home safe and sound.

I was able to reflect on the experience while driving home and have the following thoughts:

1.       It takes a special person to run a workshop. Jamie and Mark were very helpful, knowledgable, and patient with everyone. There were many different personalities in the group and they did a great job with all of them.

2.       I’ve said it before, but bad weather often makes for the best photos. Yes, it sucked that it was so bad that the sideways rain kept getting on the lens element and some of the locations were cancelled, but the shots I did get had a mood that I really like.

3.       Shooting in new locations sparks your creativity.

4.       So does hanging out with other photographers and talking shop.

5.       THE SHOT – often times a location has THE SHOT that is taken from the same spot and same angle that everyone wants. If you research a place you want to shoot you see it, and when you get there you want to shoot it. Having a group of people all wanting to get that shot means you have to wait your turn. What you do during that time is up to you, but I found that moving around and looking for other shots and angles often leads to shots you may like better than THE SHOT. Don’t get me wrong though – if you are there and won’t come back anytime soon, be certain you get THE SHOT before you leave, even if you don’t plan on putting it into your portfolio. You are there so why not?

6.       Instead of spending money on photo equipment and still shooting the same stuff all of the time, that money was better spent going to a workshop. I could have purchased another nice lens for what I spent in total for the registration fee, hotels, food, and gas – but then all I would have is another lens that I really didn’t NEED. Now instead I have several portfolio-worthy shots and renewed energy and inspiration.

7.       Once again I brought WAY too much gear. I could have left the RB67 and all of its kit at home since I never shot it. I didn’t shoot any of the 35mm film cameras I brought. And I had additional digital bodies that I didn’t need. Most of my shots were taken with my D500, D750, and the GX617 panoramic film camera. Since I was driving and not flying I thought having a bunch of gear wouldn’t be a bad thing, but schlepping all of it back and forth from the car to put in the hotel rooms was a pain (I don’t leave gear in the car overnight, that’s just asking for trouble). Next time I am going to try to be a little more “minimalistic” if that’s possible.

 OK, that’s it! Thanks for reading. Sorry for such a long post this time. If you are interested in attending any of the workshops that New Life Photos does during the year, check them out at https://www.newlifephotos.com/photo-tours-workshops/.