Wright Brothers National Memorial at Night

We recently spent a week at North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This is an annual excursion (to sate my wife’s beach appetite – and that usually lasts for about a month, but I digress) and we usually have dinner at Colington Cafe while we’re in town. The food is great, the service is excellent, and we’ve gotten to know some of the staff over the years.

The drive to and from the restaurant takes us along the southern end of the Wright Brothers National Memorial. (Actually, if you time it just right, you’ll be treated to an airplane just a few feet overhead as they come in for a landing on Runway 2.) On the way home this night, I noticed the monument lit up and thought “I have to come back for this” – and the scheming commenced.

I alerted my party of my plan to return another night at sunset to capture the monument. Surprisingly, they all wanted to go with me, so we made plans for the next evening (when the forecast indicated a good probability of an interesting and colorful sunset).

After dinner the next night, we drove back to the Memorial to set up for the photo. The site closes to vehicles at 5pm (hours before sunset), but pedestrian traffic is allowed. Having had the privilege of actually flying and landing there, I knew there was a small parking lot next to the ramp on the southern end of the runway and, sure enough, there were a couple open spots for parking this evening.

The sun was quickly approaching the horizon and the sky was starting to show some real color when we arrived, so time was short. My party suggested they would wait by one of the sculptures while I dashed ahead to set up for the sunset.

I circled the based of the dune (now covered in grass to prevent the winds from moving it any further away from the location of the Wrights’ first flight) until I got the visual I wanted: The monument silhouetted directly opposite the sunset. Then I broke out my tripod, mounted my camera and started doing my thing.

I took a few shots of the scene with sunset colors, but my main goal was a night shot of the monument, so Blue Hour was required (at a minimum). Unfortunately, my party and I were not the only ones enjoying the approaching Blue Hour as we discovered the hoard of mosquitoes that expressed their interest (in us, that is). Undaunted, I persevered.

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I wanted a “corner shot” that highlighted the “rear” (or south side) of the monument that has the Wrights’ names and the side of the monument that has art deco stylized wings sculpted into it. After the sun went down, I re-positioned for the “real” shot.

Soon enough, the Hour arrived, the lights were powered up, and I started my sequences. I noticed that there was just enough haze in the air to allow the rotating beacon on top of the monument to show through the air, so I took a few shots to get the beacon at different angles. My suspicions were confirmed when processing them in post: The best alignment was to the “rear” as it continued the sweeping “wings” I mentioned.

What are your thoughts?

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