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Sunday, 15 February 2009 00:33

Inside The PipeSometimes, you find photos in the most unexpected places.

One afternoon right after Christmas, I had to drive to Nags Head for an errand.  Whenever I have time, I take the Beach Road rather than the Bypass.  Sure, the Bypass is quicker, with the 50 MPH speed limit generally ignored.  But, one can take the time to notice life along the slower, two lane Beach Road.  Since it's off-season, there was hardly any traffic, great for just looking around at how some things change, but some stay the same.

Along the way, I had to stop for a road construction project.  A crew was installing a new water main alongside the road, and flagmen restricted travel to one lane, alternating northbound and southbound traffic.  While waiting for the flagmen to wave me through, I noticed that there were stacks of 16" blue plastic water pipe in a beach parking lot on the east side of the road.

After I was allowed to proceed, I noticed more stacks of this big blue plastic pipe in other parking lots, waiting for the crew to reach that section of the road.  At some point, it hit me to pull over and try to make a photographic something of the patterns of pipe ends.

A stack of 16 inch plue plastic water pipesA composition of partial circles formed by pipe endsA composition of partial circles formed by pipe endsOn this day, I had an 18-200/3.5-5.6 Vibration Reduction lens, my favorite walk-around lens, but no tripod.  The pipe ends were staggered, so I needed some longer depth of field.  With the VR on, I closed down to a smaller aperture to get that depth of field, and bumped up the ISO to allow me to use a fast enough shutter speed to avoid most blur. I tried a few compositions of the circles of the pipe ends.  It was ok, but not exciting.

Rain droplets cling to the bottom of a blue plastic water pipe in a stackWhat could I do with the outside of the pipe?  One end of each pipe was flared, and had a nice Coke bottle curve to it.  And water droplets clung after the rain the previous night.  Nice, but without a tripod, I was struggling to get enough depth of field to keep everything in sharp focus, front to back.  Wasn't enough in the photo to make it work.

Variations of tone on the inside of a 16 inch water pipeWhile walking around, looking for inspiration, I noticed the variations of tone on the inside of the pipe!  Now, that was cool! I played for many minutes.  Depending on the focal length I chose, I could change the apparent distance to the "light at the end of the tunnel."  Water droplets from the rain formed a leading line to the light.  But again, depth of field was a struggle.  I simply had to come back another time soon, with a tripod.

A few days later, I had the luxury of a full day to devote to making photos.  After driving 90 minutes, I arrived at Cape Hatteras Light before dawn, and shot the sun rising behind the lighthouse.  I slowly worked my way back north, exploring pull outs, side roads, and dune walkovers.  I shot patterns of repeating cottage soffits in Hatteras.  I worked some kite boarders in Canadian Hole.  I shielded my eyes and gear as the day's fierce winds sandblasted everything east of the dune line.

By late afternoon I was back on Beach Road in Nags Head, then Kill Devil Hills.  And there were the pipes again.  I had a tripod this time, and a full complement of lenses.  I took another look in those pipes.  Looked in the end nearest the road, the low afternoon sun cast my indiscernible shadow down the length of the pipe.  Wasn't working.

Gold light form late afternoon sin reflected in a 16 inch blue water pipeWalking to the other end of the pipes, that low, late afternoon sun became magic!  The inside of those blue pipes reflected the sun in golden colors.  A ridged texture was apparent because of the micro-shadows cast by this low-angle light.  Each pipe had a different look, depending whatever was beyond the end of it.  And as luck would have it, there were multiple stacks of these pipes, end to end.  In some cases, beyond the end of the pipe were more pipes!  The blue circles of the ends of the next pipes were a stark (and complementary) contrast to the golden light!  Now it was happening!

I like this vertical composition, to the right here.  But I especially like the horizontal composition that opens this article.  The blue circles of the ends of the next stack of pipes is well defined, and creates a fortuitous center of interest to the shot.  It's the horizontal, which I call "Inside the Pipe" that I've presented in the Details section of my photo gallery.

I took away two lessons from this subject.  Don't forget to look from a bunch of angles and viewpoints.  And if the light isn't working one day, try again another.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 August 2010 10:41
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