The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Pungo Unit
January 18th-21st

Please make your own reservations on for the best rate. Holiday Inn Express , Plymouth, NC

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge conserves a rare type of wetland habitat, known as “pocosin,” derived from a Native American word meaning “swamp on a hill.” The refuge encompasses vast acres of natural wetlands, including the unique southeastern pocosin peat wetlands, open water on Pungo and New Lakes, upland pine forests, and managed moist-soil and agricultural units that provide high-energy food for waterfowl. More than a hundred thousand ducks, geese, and swans congregate on the refuge in winter, and the refuge supports one of the densest populations of black bear ever reported. The refuge is the site of one of the country’s largest wetland restoration projects, restoring natural hydrology to the pocosin peatlands. From website.

I visited the area from January 4th to 8th of 2023. I visited Pungo Unit Of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, Alligator River Game Land, Red Wolf Center, and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. I covered a lot of ground and saw a lot of wildlife. Sorry, no bears on this trip.

Below is my proposed itinerary for the upcoming outing

Thursday 18th

1:00 pm

Visit the Red Wolf Center for educational program

This is a great opportunity to learn about the Red Wolf program and see 2 Red Wolfs held at the center.

The Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge visitor center is just around the corer with lots of information and a short boardwalk along the water for some Photo opportunities.

4:00 pm

Check in to the Holiday Inn Express Plymouth, 840 US-64, Plymouth, NC 27962, 252793.4700

Room rates are $Need to call/night. Just tell them you are with CNPC, Charlotte

6:00 pm

Group dinner. There is a Pizza Hut, or open to suggestions, across the street and we can go there is it’s a small group or order take out and eat at hotel.

Friday 19th

Photography in the Pungo Unit

6:30 am Departure until the sun goes down

The sunrise is around 7:30 so with a 6:30 departure we should arrive around 7 to 7:15 am. We will spend the day photographing and exploring the Pungo unit. There is not much close by to fill you time during the midday sun so I recommend to bring your lap top and start downloading images until the setting sun.

Bring food, snacks, water and anything necessary for a full day of photography. There is a small store nearby, but I do not know the hours or what supplies they have.

Saturday 20nd

Photography in Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge

5:30 am Departure until the sun goes down

The sun should be rising behind the Cypress Trees on the lake visible from Lake Mattamuskeet Observation Deck. Unfortunately, when I was there the cloud cover was too thick, maybe this time will be the time. After sunrise we will head south into the refuge for ample wildlife and exploring.

Bring food, snacks, water, and anything necessary for a full day of photography. The town of Engelhard is close by for anything you might need. We can also talk about a group lunch.

4:30 pm sunset at the Lake Mattamuskeet Observation Deck

The sun will be setting around 5:40 pm and the is several locations to create some amazing sunset photos.

Harris Steak & Seafood House is close by for dinner or make your way back to Plymoth.

Night Photography

We will be approaching a full moon so it will be up to you.

Sunday 21st

Open. Sleep in and make you way back home, revisit your favorite spot, or come with me to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

5:30 am Departure for about an hour drive to Wildlife Drive

We will spend the morning looking for Black Bear, Red Wolf, and any other critter that want their photo taken.

By 10:am I will be heading to Nags Head for a late breakfast and to dip my toe in the ocean before heading home.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, commits or suggestions.

Nelson Stegall


For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Photowalk Image Upload

Please upload your images from the McAdenville photo walk on the 16th, or any others you would like to share.

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Triangle Holiday Potluck

Bring a dish to share (drinks will be provided)
Upload your favorite photo taken this year and you will have an opportunity to share a bit of the story around taking that photo. After all photos have been reviewed you will cast your vote for the best images presented. $5 to enter and winners will share the pot (bring your $5 to the event)
Photos are to be uploaded to the gallery associated with this event.
See you there!

For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Fourth Ward Park Photo Outing

I hope you can join us for our November outing. We will plan to meet in downtown Charlotte in the Fourth Ward. We will search for nature among all the buildings, statutes, sidewalks, and people. Once you start looking you will be surprised at what you can find. We are going to mix it up a bit and include in this downtown outing a challenge! Details will be given the day of.
After the shoot we’ll meet for Lunch at Michael Alexander’s.
Hoping you can all attend!

For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Photo Shoot

Mini-Waterfall Photo Shoot

We will start with a reflection photo of Table Rock Mt on a lake in Table Rock State Park (158 Ellison Lane, Pickens, SC). Then we will proceed to photograph the small waterfalls in the park. From there we will travel to Wildcat Branch Falls and Last Falls on Slickum on Hwy US 276. The final falls is in Pleasant Ridge Falls in Pleasant Ridge County Park (4232 SC Hwy 11, Marietta, SC

The reason it is called Mini-Waterfall Photo Shoot is because, all the falls are only a couple hundred yards from the parking area. Contact Bob Spalding ( to register.

For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Triangle Raptor Center

Right now, there are 9 spots available for the PhotoWild event on November 4th, 2023.
I am unable to reserve spots, so they could disappear before you have an opportunity to book yourself. If you want to join this outing with me, go to this booking link and sign up directly with the Raptor Center.
If you are able to get a ticket ($50), let me know and I will put you on my list of attendees. I will then communicate to you before the event with maybe some details about gathering for lunch or something afterwards.

Saturday, November 4th
8:00am – 11:00am
Carolina Raptor Center

6000 Sample Road
Huntersville, North Carolina 28078

If you want to see more about the Carolina Raptor Center, you can see their site here:

Ready set go!
Booking Page:

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Triangle to Sylvan Heights Bird Park 2023

If you have not been to Sylvan Heights, or haven’t been there recently, this is your chance!
Sylvan Heights Bird Park is designed to give visitors an unforgettable up-close experience with over 2,000 waterfowl, parrots, toucans, flamingos, and other exotic birds from around the world. Open to the public since 2006, the 28-acre facility features spacious, walk- through aviaries displaying birds from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The aviaries are surrounded by tranquil gardens and lush natural areas, which enhance the beauty of the birds on exhibit and immerse visitors in native North Carolina wildlife habitat.
The Park opens at 9:00am and I suggest that we meet in the parking lot at that time. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10/$12/$14 ($12 for a “senior”). There is one food establishment within the park (“Duck Landing Cafe” or pack your own lunch. There are a few picnic areas where we can gather to eat.
Please register so that I know that you are coming. I’m going to order up some beautiful fall weather 🙂

For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Hi everyone
It is starting to shape up like a fantastic year for Fall Color, we have had plenty of light rains, now we just need it to dry up and avoid the big winds for the next month or two. We did have a significant rain storm a month ago and the road to the Cherohala Skyway and Bald River Falls is closed. It is expected to open in the next few weeks and if it’s open we will include it on our outings. I will send out a detailed itinerary next month when I know what will be open.

Dates Oct 26- 29th

Hotels, keep in mind this is expected to be peak color so hotels prices are way up. I checked out the Townsend hotels and the weekend rates were $275+.

The TallyHo has agreed to give us a group rate Thursday$159 and, Friday/ Saturday $179. We have stayed there before, its an older hotel but well maintained and clean. It’s also the closest hotel. Please Book your rooms now as they will fill up quickly as the colors change.

Phone 865-448-2465
8314 State Highway 73
Townsend Tn,37882

Reservation is held under (CNPA Charlotte or Robert Vranek) call to take one of the reserved rooms.

Side Trips to consider on your drive up
Its about a 4/12 hour drive to Townsend and if you would like to break it up I can suggest a few side excursions.
Chattahoochee – to visit our friends the Elk. After Asheville take exit 20 its about a hour drive in and another hour out so plan on at least Half a day.
Buc-ee’s – I 40 Exit 407 just before Knoxville is Buc-ee’s its a life changing “gas station, restaurant ( world famous Brisket) , Convenience store, with the cleanest most magnificent restrooms you have ever seen
Douglas Dam. – I 40 Exit 407, after you stop at Buc-ee’s and get a sandwich, Fudge, Jerky…. Douglas Dam is only about 15 away there are resident eagles, osprey etc and a nice parking and viewing area to photograph while you eat.
Seven Islands State Birding Park – I 40 exit 402, (again stop at Buc-ee’s for lunch) about a 15 min side trip. This is a nice Park devoted to birding, It has both paved developed trails with feeders and dirt hiking trails if you want to be more adventurous.

Planned Activities or do you own thing
Again a more detailed agenda will come out when I know what is open
Sunrise Shoot on the Foothill Parkway
Sunset Shoot on Cherohala Skyway if open or Foothill Parkway
No milky way photography – the Moon will be up
Cades Cove – Wildlife, senic, historic buildings
Tremont Road Cascades, Waterfalls, Scenic
Cherohala Skyway – Similar views to the Blue Ridge Parkway, waterfalls
Foothill Parkway – Similar views to the Blue Ridge Parkway
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – Gatlinburg, great place for cascades, waterfalls, fall color, unfortunately very popular so I will look at it closer to the trip.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions


Robert Vranek

For registration details and posting of photos, click on button below.

Coffee and All Things Photography Chat

I have reserved the conference room for us at The Waterbean in Huntersville. A casual get together over a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever drink tickles your fancy, and a chat about all things photography. Bring your work to share, or questions, share a good photo book that you’ve read, or workshop attended, or share your ideas for outings, and/or meetings. Anything that relates to photography is good. After all, we are photographers:)
Please RSVP to me so I know how many to plan for.
I look forward to seeing all who can attend.

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McGalliard Falls Park

Are you ready to learn some new photography skills? From beginners to seasoned pros are all welcome.

Join me for a leisurely hike at McGalliard Falls Park Valdese, NC As we hike, we’ll discuss Nature First Principles, Slow Photography, and creating quality images over quantity.

Members are encouraged to share their photography experiences, assist other members in learning new photography skills, and explore new photography locations.


1400 Falls Road, NW. Valdese, NC 28690

Date & Time:

October 22, 2023, @ 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Photo Experience level:

Open to all, including cell phones

Strenuous level:

Easy, Gravel/Crushed stone, Natural surface, Boardwalk


Free small donations are appreciated.

and waiver:

If you are under 16 you must be accompanied by an adult

Group size:



Well-behaved pets on a leash are allowed.

Equipment needed:

Appropriate shoes and clothing for the weather, beverages, snacks, camera, and camera gear as needed, a tripod if desired, a backpack or bag for carrying necessary gear, and a positive attitude. Please feel free to bring any other gear or supplies you might personally need.

Do not forget an open mind and a positive attitude! We will have a great day enjoying nature and photographing the beauty along the way.

Question? Please feel free to reach out to me.

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