Beauty Before and After the Devastation

In the late 1990’s, I made several trips to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While OBX is one of my favorite places in the world and I have camped and surfed out there many times, the main reason for these trips were to photograph the largest, most pristine area of sand dunes and sea oats I’ve ever seen. That area was the northern tip of Pea Island , immediately after coming off the Oregon Inlet Bridge. I was very pleased when one of the photos was used for the cover of the North Carolina Travel Guide.

I only recently learned that this unspoiled dunescape was the result of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930’s. Workers from the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps built sand fences along the beach from Virginia to Ocracoke Inlet to trap the blowing sand and once the dunes had grown large enough, planted sea oats and cord grass to stabilize the dunes. Prior to that the Outer Banks were predominately flat.

North Carolina had been fortunate that no serious hurricanes had hit the coast in a long time. Somehow I knew that good fortune was not going to last forever. In the 2000’s a series of storms battered North Carolina and the Outer Banks. Much of the dune field and vegetation was destroyed. On a later trip I stopped to walk around what had once been such a lush landscape, to see the damage and what was left. Some massive dunes had been washed away and others had huge chunks missing. But what the erosion had revealed were layer upon layer of the growth of the dune, much like growth rings of a tree. That day I took over 400 unique photos of the beautiful patterns that had been left behind. This is just 4 of my favorites.

Charles Register is a North Carolina photographer and videographer with over 30 years experience producing quality, creative imagery for corporations, advertising agencies, magazines and small businesses in boardrooms, resorts and remote locations around the world.  Emphasis on travel and tourism, master planned communities, lifestyle, environmental portraiture, architectural photography, scenic landscapes and golf courses. Contact for assignments at 919 414.8235 or and please visit

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Raleigh, North Carolina photographer

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