December 8, 2021

Pier Review

exploring nature, coastal landscapes

Pier Review


Here is a rainy day story about photography: Aware that I have captured sunrises at the four main local public piers, I decided it would be interesting to see a collage of all four together. At Wrightsville Beach there is the Johnny Mercer Fishing Pier and the Oceanic Pier, and at Carolina Beach there is the North End Pier and the Kure Beach Pier. In my work at oceanfront rental properties I have noted that piers are common subjects in the printed photography hanging on the walls, and whenever I post my photos of piers they get a lot of likes. A sunset alone can be breathtaking, and the ocean has a mystical beauty all in itself, but the pier subconsciously tells the eye where to look. 

It is a leading line that draws the eye from the breaking waves in the foreground to the magnificence in the fleeting moment of a sunrise cresting the horizon, casting the day’s first light far over an insurmountable volume of mysterious waters. Piers also have an alluring historic value to them. As the front line guardians of the beach, they stand up to a continual bombardment of natural forces and brave every hurricane that comes ashore. Sometimes the strongest piers succumb to the pressure and are rebuilt with stronger materials such as steel or concrete, such as the concrete Johnny Mercer Pier, which is in it’s 3rd iteration over the past century. Other times the piers remain dilapidated for years after a hurricane when resources aren’t readily available for reconstruction, such as the North End Pier at Carolina Beach. 

The North End Pier is the first pier I photographed in this four part series. I shot it several months ago, whereas the other three have been captured more recently. As it turned out, I never even posted photos of the North End Pier, a shame as it may be one of the more interesting looking structures. When I scrolled back though my photos they told me a story of their own involving how my process occurred. 

I drove to the north end of Carolina Beach in the dark, set up my tripod by headlamp and prepared to capture long exposures before the sun had peaked over the sea. I snapped a few photos of the pier in the dawn light, but on this morning the colors didn’t begin to pop until after sunup. Looking for that color pop, I turned around and identified these weathered old pylons sticking out of the ground behind me, the remnants of a long forgotten pier. To me, these splintering wooden posts leading out into the ocean appeared more unique, more appealing than the pier, even with it’s own rustic beauty, with broken and missing support pylons. 

It’s as if I forgot there was a pier on the other side of me as I began working these pylons. Then I saw some surfers catching the first waves of the day and put them in the background of the pylons. Then I eventually lost interest in the pylons and just began to focus on the surfers. The clouds were beautiful, the colors were surreal, the sun was up, and eventually I just focused on the pure landscape of beach, water and sky,

As I scrolled through this series and analyzed my progression, my first thought was that I need to return and focus simply on this interesting pier to stack against my other pier photos. My second thought was how cool the pylons are and upon my next return I am just as likely to repeat the process and find myself shooting those mysterious old pylons fading into the water. I was reminded not to get tunnel vision with any certain composition and don’t forget to look at what may be behind you. 

It was as if in my mind the main pier was paired with a lack of colors so I abandoned it and found colors elsewhere. In hindsight, had I returned to the pier I expect the magic light would have found it as well. Finally, I determined that there is not a right or wrong format to this situation, and that in time I hope to photo them both again, and all that surrounds me wherever I may roam.