While I had been up to the top of the lighthouse in Racine, Wis. before, when presented with the opportunity to go up to the top of another lighthouse in the Outer Banks, specifically the Currituck Beach Light Station in Corolla, N.C. (pronounced cuh-ra-lah, unlike the car by Toyota), I just couldn’t resist. Sure, it was $7 per person, which is a bit steep, but Elizabeth and I were able to set our own pace. There were no “groups” that went up–there are landings after every flight of stairs, so people can pass in both directions. This is decidedly different from the lighthouse back home, which was much narrower.
In the end, these are my two favorite images. Note that they’re both surprisingly sharp given an exposure time of 1/20 second. If I had taken the Olympus PEN EP-2 along for this trip, I suppose that wouldn’t have been so great a feat to have a sharp image at such a slow shutter speed, but the Panasonic Lumix G1 does not have built-in image stabilization (instead, they put the stabilization mechanisms in the individual lenses, like Canon and Nikon). That is a decided advantage of the Olympus method for image stabilization, but I like having the flip-out screen on the Lumix that the PEN series lacks. To each their own.
I couldn’t help but be amused when this young woman put down her sandals and got out her cell phone camera on her way down from the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla, N.C. It’s a $7 climb to the top, but the views are great and the spiral staircase is a lot of fun to photograph.
Tonight, after checking in at our hotel in Manteo, N.C. on Roanoke Island, site of the “lost colony” (the first English settlement in the New World disappeared with little trace), Elizabeth and I drove over to Bodie Island. Part of the Outer Banks, Bodie Island has some pretty interesting attractions, including the site of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which is home to the largest sand dune in the eastern United States, and the Bodie Island Lighthouse, which would normally be pretty spectacular. Unless, of course, you get there when it’s wrapped in tarps and scaffolding. Damn.
A Note about the Olympus 9-18mm
After the failure at the lighthouse, we drove back to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It’s a haven for people flying kites as well as hang-gliding. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the hang-gliding seemed to be over for the day. However, it gave me another opportunity to experiment with the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens for Micro Four-Thirds. It is a sharp and fun little lens. I’m not thrilled with the collapsing barrel design, which makes the lens inoperable when collapsed until you zoom out.
I think that I understand why Olympus has approached zoom lens design this way, because it does give Micro Four-Thirds lenses the (admittedly, false) appearance of being smaller than they really are. In essence, when not in use (collapsed), it makes a nice, tidy package with their PEN cameras. But it also makes them a bit of a pain to use.
However, shortcomings aside, it is a handy and sharp lens to have in the kit. And considerably less expensive than Panasonic’s lens, although I would like to test theirs for a comparison. (Hey, Panasonic: hint, hint!)
To our collective amusement, Elizabeth and I discovered, on our way back from the dunes, that the boardwalk perfectly framed a row of Pepsi vending machines to greet those who did not know how else to be welcomed back to civilization from their brief connection with nature but to drown themselves in carbonated sugar water:
Oh, to have a wide-angle lens for the G1! Thanks to Olympus and to David Rees, the department chair of the photojournalism sequence at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, I have a 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED lens for my Micro Four-Thirds format for testing.
This lens is the only alternative to Panasonic’s 7-14mm f/4 wide-angle zoom, which is, unfortunately, ridiculously expensive. Not that the Olympus zoom is inexpensive. I’ll have more thoughts as the summer progresses.