Tag Archives: Hunting Island
Visual economy, or minimalism, is becoming ever more popular today in art and design. Counterposed to the cluttered, busy, and frazzled realities of modern life, many weary souls are seeking refuge in simplicity wherever it can be found. From art and fashion to the relief of our computers and automobiles, clean and simple design is winning the day and the marketplace is keeping score.
The most effective design is often the result of the least design. A Zen master might surely offer a nod to that sentiment. Or he wouldn’t – just to have it acheive even greater effect. This is the apparent paradox that most photographers, artists, and designers come to understand in due time. More is usually less just as less is quite often more. True clarity of the subject’s character is only revealed after all non-essential elements and details, which don’t contribute to the essence of the overall composition, are eliminated.
This beach scene was created with the concept of visual economy in mind. Not only did I erect my tripod where any extraneous clutter is excluded from the image frame, but I also deliberately opted for a long shutter speed to negate any distracting waves or details in the water. Waiting for a large wave to wet the foreground sand also allowed for a symmetrical reflection.
This image is featured in my latest eBook, South Carolina Wonder and Light which can be purchased for download in my Earth and Light eStore.
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina
Canon EOS 5D Mk2, Canon 24-105L @ 105mm, 30 seconds at f18, ISO 100. 6-stop Neutral ND filter.
February 10, 2012
Originally published in South Carolina Magazine, September 2007 issue. Written and photographed by Richard Bernabe.
Perfectly tucked between Hilton Head and Charleston is an island refuge of natural beaches, luxuriant maritime forests and bountiful wildlife. A boardwalk spanning a fertile tidal marsh grants visitors the perfect vantage point to watch egrets and herons feeding or a flaming autumn sunset. The impressive natural features of this idyllic island setting and the natural dramas unfolding there make this one of the most fascinating places in South Carolina.
This is Hunting Island – a sanctuary to nests of endangered loggerhead turtles, 120 different bird species, and frazzled beach-lovers grown weary of cookie-cutter condos, air-brushed t-shirt peddlers, and troughs of all-you-can-eat gluttonous buffets.
A mere 15 miles due east of Beaufort via the Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island is home to one of South Carolina’s most popular state parks. The four miles of undeveloped beaches, subtropical forests of moss-draped live oak and wild palmettos, hiking trails and campground – all in a relaxed, natural environment – draw more than 1.2 million outdoors-loving visitors each year.
Hunting Island’s other attraction is of the man-made variety. The lighthouse near the island’s north beach is the only in South Carolina that is open to the public. The lighthouse that stands today was built in 1875 and moved to its current location in 1889. 181 steps take you to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the island and many miles of the Atlantic coastline.
The barrier island earned its name from wealthy nineteenth-century landowners who used the wildlife-rich island for deer, raccoon and waterfowl hunting expeditions. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped build the causeway and bridges from Beaufort out to the island. Soon afterward, the State Park was created and in the process, 5,000 acres were preserved for public enjoyment and wildlife protection.
The natural coastline of Hunting Island is a traditional nesting area for the endangered loggerhead turtles. Each spring and summer, these ocean–dwellers crawl onto the beach at night, build shallow nests above the high-tide line, lay several dozen eggs, and return to the water before daybreak. Due to erosion and the constantly changing nature of the beach, nests must be monitored and eggs moved to more stable areas by local volunteers. If the nests are inundated with seawater, the eggs will drown.
Bonnie Wright is president of Friends of Hunting Island, a group of volunteers dedicated to, among other things, loggerhead turtle rescue and monitoring. “From mid-May to mid-August, at 6a.m., seven days a week, about 12 to 15 volunteers patrol the beach looking for the signs of loggerhead activity,” Wright says. “Loggerhead turtles make large tracks in the sand that look like tractor tire treads.”
The loggerhead turtles now have an estimated 80 percent hatch success rate – all due to the efforts of the volunteers. Without their assistance, the hatch rate would probably be close to zero, because of the persistent erosion.
The erosion that makes the turtle recovery program necessary is part of the natural evolution of barrier islands, as ocean currents and tropical storms change the face of the exposed beaches. The term “barrier” identifies the islands as buffers; they protect the mainland from storms and the surf. They also shelter the leeward marshes – nurseries to hundreds of species of fish and shellfish, as well as important bird habitats.
The Atlantic Ocean, in an average year, erodes 15 feet of shoreline at Hunting Island. During the active hurricane year of 2004, over 50 feet of beach disappeared from the south beach area. The absence of protective dunes along the beachfront leave the maritime forest exposed to the ever-encroaching sea. Evidence of the forest is still visible on the beach in the form of sun-bleached tree carcasses, sea-weathered stumps and shelves of clay that erode at a slower rate than the sand.
This year (2007) the state of South Carolina has invested $9 million to restore and renourish the beachfront at Hunting Island. Sand is excavated from offshore and pumped onto the beach – temporarily fortifying it against future erosion. “We now have about 100 feet of glorious beach at high tide,” Wright says, referring to the improvements. “Prior to the renourishment, the sea crept right up to the maritime forest.”
Beach groins, stone walls similar to jetties that jut perpendicularly from the shoreline to trap drifting sand, will soon be constructed along the shorefront. They are predicted to reduce the rate of beach erosion from the current 15 feet per year down to nine. Marine scientists, environmental groups and tax-dollar watchdog groups consider beach groins and renourishment projects to be a wasteful policy for governments to underwrite. They contend that sand migration is natural and inevitable. “It’s a futile effort and a huge cost to taxpayers for a just a temporary fix,” says Dell Isham, Director of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The erosion is purely a natural process.”
But Wright and others believe Hunting Island’s beaches are too valuable to let wash away. “Sure, we can’t stop the erosion from taking place altogether,” she says,”but there are so few places like Hunting Island around anymore. It’s such a rare beauty that the cost and effort of saving this special place for future generations is well worth it.”
Hunting Island truly is a place of rare beauty and one of South Carolina’s natural coastal treasures. But a visit shouldn’t be put off for too long. For with each ebbing tide, some of Hunting Island is lost to the sea forever.
May 29, 2011