'The Beach' – Kevin Fleming captures Delaware's coastNew book's images, text inspire
Cape Region — Kevin Fleming didn't appear the least bit stressed the day before printers in Hong Kong would begin putting ink on paper to produce "The Beach," the 23rd book he’s published.
“It’s a substantial book. It’s my biggest book ever. It’s 240 pages, 11 by 14 inches, so when you open up a spread, it’s going to be 14 by 22 inches.
Over the course of two years, Fleming has been shooting The First State’s shoreline. Some of those beaches have familiar names - Dewey Beach, Lewes Beach and Rehoboth Beach. Others, perhaps, are bit more obscure
"The Beach" contains several aerial photos that when viewed closely are surprising. In an aerial with Rehoboth Beach as the focal point, Ocean City, Md. is visible. A longtime licensed pilot, Fleming has flown and shot simultaneously.
But this time friend John Chirtea’s replica 1933 biplane turned out to be the perfect aircraft to shoot from as a passenger.
“There’s nothing on the sides; it’s an open cockpit and I could shoot either way. But you’ve gotta wear a hat and a coat even in August because it’s windy up there,” he said.
Wind and airplane engine noise make vocal communication impossible, and the airplane doesn’t have an intercom.
“We’ve developed some hand signals. Up, down, left, right. If I needed to, I grabbed the stick or stepped on the rudder, being a pilot, to get it just right.
“The day I shot this from Cape Henlopen at about 300 feet, I could see Atlantic City, New Jersey. That’s like 60 miles away,” he said.
“This is one of my favorite aerials, Broadkill Beach with Primehook National Wildlife Refuge in the background. It’s a simple picture. I tried to do the commonplace differently. That’s hard to do sometimes,” he said.
“Usually, you’d be doing aerials at sunrise around here. But I did this near sunset, with the long shadows on the beach,” he said, showing an 11-by-22-inch print, looking south from Cape Henlopen and seeing Rehoboth and Dewey beaches.
“Let me just say there’s nothing more cliché than photographing sunrises. But I’ve taken these photographs well beyond sunrises at the beach,” he said, showing the spread picture that opens the book
There are images for all four seasons that, Fleming said, include winter shots, something people who visit the beach only in warm weather don’t get to see.
The book’s text is by Fleming, and he also uses quotations from Rachel Carson, Tibetan Buddhism writer Pema Chodron, Ellen DeGeneres and President John F. Kennedy.
“I don’t know if its luck or intuition or something else, but I find myself in places where I get to just the right spot at the right time, and all I have to do is push the button,” he said.
There are six pages of green heron photos in the book, all of them shot in Fleming’s Lewes backyard.
“That’s the best natural history/wildlife photo I’ve ever shot,” he said of a picture of an adult green heron squirting water from its beak into a baby heron’s mouth.
“I’ve shown that to some bird experts like Jeff Gordon from the American Birding Association; he leads tours all over the world. He’s never, ever seen anything like this,” Fleming said.
Fleming said he’d shoot every day there was promise for good light. Although titled "The Beach,” the book contains images of coastal Delaware’s wildlife and nature.
Primehook, Rehoboth and Indian River Inlet, Delaware Bay and Broadkill Beach are included.
“That’s the Great Dune. It’s the highest spot on the East Coast between the Outer Banks and Martha’s Vineyard,” Fleming said, showing a photo of the moon rising over the dune.
There’s a photo of a thunderstorm shot from a Cape Henlopen State Park dune crossing, looking toward Rehoboth Beach. “Depending on how you count them there’s at least 10, maybe a dozen, lightening bolts in each frame. Oddly enough, it did not rain on me at all. The storm was to the south, over Rehoboth Beach,” he said. It was nearly dark when the picture was snapped.
“It’s a long exposure and I was able to capture the multiple lightning bolts. Nighttime lightning photography is so much easier than daytime - you can’t open the shutter for a long time in daylight. I do have a lightening trigger that will trip the camera, but this was the perfect storm for me. There’s just enough light to get details of the dunes in the foreground.”
The book will contain shots Fleming took only a few weeks ago, such as one of a sandcastle in a sandcastle contest.
“I waited until twilight to shoot the picture so it got this other-worldly kinda feel,” he said of the photo that on first-glance appears to be a real building.
Fleming has covered the world. He’s worked in 26 countries and spent a decade as a National Geographic photographer. A Delaware native, he began his career as a newspaper photographer. He has won numerous national and international awards.
For as much as he uses them, Fleming’s tools, Nikon cameras and lenses, show no wear. His workhorse is a Nikon’s D4 body. The camera is capable of shooting 11 frames per second. It’s so fast, Fleming said, that sometimes before he can lift his finger from the button he’s shot a second frame.
His long-lens is a 600mm-f4. It weighs 13 pounds and Fleming sometimes uses it with its own tripod.
It’s the only way to close to wildlife,” he said. He uses a D800e for landscape with a 14mm wide-angle lens.
Regarding the use of software such as Photoshop, Fleming said to get into a book every digital photo uses a software tool. “What you’re seeing in the book is the color that I saw,” he said.
Fleming said it’s common for people to say he works a lot of hours to get his shots. But, he said, that isn’t so. “The light is only good in the morning around sunrise, and in the evening around sunset,” he said.
Fleming’s idea of good would be what many would call perfect.
“I had a thousand great egrets and snowy egrets in front of me at Primehook. I’d never seen a day like that in my life. That was a Saturday. I went back on Sunday, and there wasn’t one white bird in sight. That’s how fickle wildlife photography can be,” he said. In a day, he’s lucky to get two usable shots.
The first 1,000 books will be signed and numbered. The book cost $75 each with a free calendar. There’s a pre-publication special offering two books for $100 and two free calendars. The offer is available at www.thedelawarebeachbook.com.
The book is scheduled to arrive Friday, Nov. 8, in local stores Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and Biblion in Lewes, just in time for Christmas. “You don’t want to come out with a big book like this on December 26.” Fleming said.