Mary Presson Roberts Photography

Visiting the Outer Banks with CNPA

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

― Amy Poehler


There have been many decisive moments since I began photographing seriously in 2008 that have shaped me as a person and photographer.  One of the best choices I made in my first years of photographing was joining an organization called

Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Association (CNPA).

I initially learned about CNPA while attending my first overnight photography workshop.  Many of the participants kept referring to this organization for nature photographers.

Once I attended my first meeting in 2009, I was hooked!  CNPA is an incredible volunteer-led organization benefitting members in North and South Carolina.  The organization is split into regions.  The regions allow members in close proximity to meet regularly with each other throughout the year.  Once a year, there is a convention for members of all regions to come together for an extended weekend of sharing and learning.

I belong to the Charlotte Region of CNPA.  While I am a member of the Charlotte Region, I am also welcome to stay informed and attend opportunities hosted by the other regions of CNPA.

This month, three members of the Charlotte Region graciously planned, organized, and led an outing to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  These members were Don Brown, Chris Cashwell, and Ron Santini.  They conducted an informational session before the outing, found accommodations to recommend for our stay, organized a group dinner for the first evening, and created a way for all participants to communicate with one another during our stay.

Our home base for the experience was in Manteo, NC.  This location allowed us to access many areas of the Outer Banks of interest to photographers in an hour’s drive or less.

There were about twenty members in attendance at the group dinner.  The dinner allowed us to enjoy great food and wonderful company while making preliminary plans for the days we would photograph there.

Many in the group headed towards Bodie Island Lighthouse for our first evening of photography.  On the way to the lighthouse, the skies made me wonder what conditions we would encounter at sunset.

A clearing in the clouds allowed us to photograph prior to sunset at the lighthouse.

Since we had a text chain, members could choose to photograph together or individually at any point of the trip.

On our first morning, I joined a group at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of seeing bears.  We were rewarded for our early wake-up time by seeing numerous bears enjoying their time and space at the refuge.

Later that day, I met up with several members in Corolla for the Corolla Wild Horse Tour.  We enjoyed riding in the four-wheel drive vehicle on the beach, looking for the wild horses.

Once I finished the tour, I drove two hours to meet with other members for sunset at Cape Hatteras Light Station.

Our final full day in the Outer Banks started out with rain.  Although not ideal for sunrise photography, the overcast skies were perfect for exploring a garden I just learned about on this trip.

The Elizabethan Gardens, located in Manteo. were such an unexpected delight.  Although this was my first visit, it will not be my last.

Following the gardens, my friend Cindy and I continued that day’s adventures photographing in Englehard, a fishing community located in Hyde County.

As with any photography trip, great food and beverages enhance the experience.

My favorite finds were homemade breakfast biscuits as large as my head at the Treehouse Cafe & Coffee in Duck, NC, (I went there twice.  The second time I waited in line for more than half an hour.  They were that good!), the blueberry lavender tea from The Front Porch Cafe in Kill Devil Hills, and the view enjoyed while eating our finale dinner at Miller’s Waterfront Restaurant in Nags Head, NC.

I am so grateful to Don, Chris, and Ron for planning this excellent adventure.  Huge thanks to all who attended and added to a great experience.

I will save my favorite part of the trip, my final evening shoot, for my next blog post.

If you love photography and enjoy community, I highly recommend you visit the CNPA region near you.  Please feel free to reach out to me anytime with any questions.

Upcoming Workshop Opportunities:

Jamie Konarski Davidson and I will co-teach a workshop this November in Georgia.  We have only three spots left for this educational fall photography experience.  Jamie is also a long-time member of CNPA.  She will be one of the featured speakers at our 2024 Annual Convention.  Jamie and I would love for you to join us to learn and photograph the exciting, subject-rich locations we have selected for this experience.  For more information and to register, please click here.

Mary Presson Roberts

I am a travel and fine art photographer living and working in the Carolinas. My camera has taken me to places I never would have experienced and to people I never would have met. Photography has truly changed my life! Using my blog, I hope to share the joys of both travel and photography.


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