If there is a perfect time, I think it is the end of Nautical Twilight as you cross the the heat of a dune into cool, salt air.
Photographing at Hatteras, I’m alone on the pre-dawn beach. A half mile away, at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, there is always someone else with a tripod and a camera. It is an American icon and has been photographed a lot. In season, it opens at 9 AM and you can climb the 268 steps to the top. Its a good view but that late, the light is flat. I’ve asked the National Park Service to let me up there at dawn or dusk without success. To be fair, they are short handed. Here is what a 208 foot tall lighthouse looks like if you hop the decorative fence in the morning when only photographers are around. You can get this close and have your choice of parking. Below is my “postcard” shot from April of 2009.
The Outer Banks or “OBX” are barrier islands on the North Carolina coast. Bodie, Roanoke, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands form a thin ribbon of sand for 200 miles, separating the Atlantic Ocean from Currituck, Croatan, Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. Seaward, sand dunes are stabilized by Sea Oats, American Beach Grass, Seashore Elder and Bitter Panicum, a mix of the grasses found in states to the North and South. American Beach Grass dominates to the North, Sea Oats to the south. North Carolina is the transition zone, similar to the meeting of the cold Labrador and warm Gulf-stream currents, offshore. Sea Oats or “Uniola paniculata” are so important to coastline preservation, they are protected by law in North Carolina and most southern states.