Archive for Landscape Photography

From an old missile tower to an oceanfront vacation home, this is now one of many beautiful Topsail Island rentals. It was once used by the U.S. Navy in Operation Bumblebee.


Topsail Beach Rentals: Tower Four renovated into a vacation rental home


“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Martin Luther King, Jr.  

History isn’t just words on the page of a textbook. It comes alive in North Carolina. And now, you can spend the night in a piece of history.

A former missile tower on the beach called Tower Four is ready for vacationing renters! 

Originally built in 1947 by the U.S. Navy, this stunning home was first used for Operation Bumblebee.  There were eight original missile towers. Only two are available to for vacationers to rent. And this is one of them.


From Operation Bumblebee to Topsail Island oceanfront vacation rental


The operation began in secret, but the U.S. Navy eventually gave the public the inside scoop. They sent out a press release to inform residents about the amazing rocket tests. They had already been testing and developing supersonic guided missiles for months.

The supersonic flights we have today were made possible through the controlled ramjet engine. These engines were tested and checked at the Operation Bumblebee towers. 

One day in 1998, a Southern entrepreneur was cruising down Topsail Island’s South Shore Drive with his real estate agent. They were looking for the perfect piece of oceanfront real estate. The agent casually pointed out Tower Four, which had been on the market for a while. John West dismissed the idea quickly because it would take so much work, but the seed was planted.

Through the following weeks, John West couldn’t shake the thought. Turning Tower Four as a vacation rental would take an incredible amount of work. The lot was overgrown with shrubs and vines. The pillars and ceilings of the tower were still standing strong. Hurricane Hazel had destroyed so much of Topsail Island in 1954, but the tower remained, unfazed by 100+ mph winds.

Best of all, the location was fantastic. Oceanfront. Near the Surf City Swing Bridge. Breathtaking views. Close to Surf City and Hampstead. Wilmington was just a short drive away. It had it all. Except walls of course. But those could be built.


Oceanfront Vacation Home Rental


The history buff with a strong work ethic couldn’t ignore the captivating historical significance of the missile tower. This was just the sort of project to merge his passion for history with his love for Topsail Island.

A local guy, John West had moved inland for his career, but he couldn’t get the sound of the ocean out of his mind.

“You get Topsail in your bloodstream and it’s hard to get out. It’s just the best place to be,” John West explained. “It was the childhood family memories of Topsail Island that brought me back.”


pre sunrise topsail beach

Topsail gets into your blood and you just can’t get it out.


John West set to work and quickly discovered the many challenges that would come with the investment. Turning a neglected piece of history into a relaxing vacation home was no easy task. Especially with the task of preserving the remaining elements and the look of the missile tower that once was.

The walls were long gone, but the corner pillars and ceilings were solid. Imagine installing light fixtures and such into a rock. A very tall, very solid rock. A rock full of rebar and chunks of granite.

“From day one, it was a difficult process. Projects like these  always takes more time than planned and things come up that you never would anticipate,” he recalled.  

But it was all worth it.


Finally, the renovation of the former missile tower is complete. Now, Tower Four is available to rental on Topsail Island! From the remnants Operation Bumblebee to a stunning Topsail Island rental. 

He placed the care and management of Tower Four Vacation Home into the very competent hands of Ward Realty. They are a company that manages Topsail Island vacation rentals, located on the island.

Rachel Carter Images took photographs of the newly renovated beach home, beautifully capturing the unique design and oceanfront views.

Among the pastel, siding covered beach retreats, Tower Four is easy to spot.
Deep brick red colored stucco.
Massive windows.
Swaying palm trees.
Crisp, white trim that highlights the elevation and shape of the missile tower pillars.
And tall. It is so tall!

The integrity of the original silhouette was maintained handsomely, even through the incredible transformation.


The side entrance deposits you into a dining room. There are chairs and a table and everything, I promise….

But you won’t see them!
Because the jaw dropping view of the Atlantic Ocean will overwhelm all your senses.

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows span across all three walls. The sound of crashing waves and the soul-quenching hum of the ocean plays in the room like sweet background music.

Sky, ocean, and sand. It’s all you can see and it’s breathtaking.


This Topsail vacation has oceanfront views that obliterate anything around you.


Enormous decks create a space to breath in the salty ocean air. A private beach entrance will lead you directly onto the sand. And at the end of a surf, tan, and sandcastle filled day, you can rinse the sea and sand away in a private, outdoor bathroom, complete with a bathtub and shower.

Sharing the dining room views, the living room and kitchen are equipped with everything you need to make yourself at home for a week. Near the kitchen is a vertical, spiral staircase, made of wood and iron.


Tower Four just upped the game for Topsail Island rentals.

Winding staircase in the vertically structure old Operation Bumblebee missile tower on Topsail Island


Just like the original missile tower, the footprint of this dream vacation rental near Wilmington is vertical. That doesn’t leave space for traditional staircases, and the creativity John West employed to that challenge makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.

If the spiral stairs are too much for you to navigate, there is a second, wider entrance through a traditional staircase from the deck outside.


Alternate staircase at Tower Four through the oceanfront decks

At the top of stairs is the master bedroom with all the amenities one would expect from a vacation home, like a king size bed, Jacuzzi tub and towel warmers. The ocean will beckon you through the glass doors and onto the deck.


Luxury retreat at Tower Four, with unique surprises and historical delights on every floor.


The history buffs in the group will want to scale right up the captain’s ladder that’s perched near the window in the master bedroom. It leads to an enticing little cupola at the top of the tower. On the floor is an original brass stamp that reads, “1947 – Tower Four.”

Glass panes embedded in the ceiling for stargazing create an unforgettable space.

From an old missile tower without walls, Tower Four has been transformed to a delightful three bedroom, three bathroom, oceanfront vacation home.


Views so captivating, air so fresh, and an incredibly fascinating piece of history to rest in at night.


Beach lovers, surfers, paddle boarders, and those who love an ocean sunrise will argue that the location is the most exciting feature, while those with a passion for antiquity will argue the structure itself is the most exciting aspect.  

One thing is for sure: an old beachfront missile tower turned into a vacation rental home on Topsail Island, just can’t be beat.


If you think every home I walk into is ready for pictures, you are wroooooong. Of course, by the time I have worked my magic (by magic, I mean hard work and carefully crafted skills and talent) they all look photo ready.

But if you want your home to have more visits, your pictures need to be amazing. The photos you post of your home online are the first piece of marketing. The photos will either catch the eye of a potential buyer or they will keep on scrolling.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images

Now what should you do to prep your home for amazing pictures?


  • The kitchen counter tops should be nearly bare. Stuff things in the pantry. No knife blocks. No toasters. No dish drying racks. A fruit bowl is okay. No coffee maker. No salt and pepper. Bare.
  • Take three-quarters of the decor on your shelves, and put it in a box. Take down all personal photos.
  • Hang pictures over terrible wall blemishes (like the spot on the wall your toddler tested out some new markers). Strategically positioning furniture and decor to cover blemishes for the photos is perfectly acceptable.
  • If your closet is a mess, organize some of it, then stuff the rest in boxes and put in the garage. People love to see photos of closets, but a closet of chaos is a turn off. If you can’t keep it tidy, how is ALL their stuff supposed to fit? So thinks a potential buyer anyway.
  • Leave nothing but the lamp and a decorative item on your bedside tables.
  • Remove small pieces of furniture that are there for convenience but not for decorative reasons (like the comfy ottoman that you love to put your feet on, but it’s seen better days or the over-the-sofa end table where you put your hot tea and computer).
  • Hide dog bowls, kitty litter boxes, and other traces of animals. Someone with an animal allergy could write off your entire home, sight unseen, just because they saw a litter box.
  • Tuck away cords and extra electronics.
  • Remove trashcans. Because nobody wants to see a picture with your trash can.

Real Estate Photography Kitchen Rachel Carter Images


  • Do you have nice cupboards with pullout shelving? Stage it with just a few bowls or pans so potential buyers can see how spacious it is.
  • Are your closets spacious? Pack up the junk. Pull out extra clothes so the racks are spaced evenly.
  • Do NOT showcase the inside of your toilet. Put all the toilet seats down.
  • Open your shower curtains. Buyers want to see the bathtub.
  • Razors, loofahs, soaps, etc. should all be removed from the shower. Stash them under the sink and leave only shampoo and conditioner, unless the bottles are obnoxious (huge or brightly colored).

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Channel your inner HGTV star. Small bouquets of flowers throughout the home (dining table, kitchen island, bathroom counters) go a long way for setting the tone.
  • Make your bed. Make it fluffy and cozy looking with lots of pillows. Put a tray on it with a stack of books and a vase with a flower. Practical? Absolutely not. But buyers will look at those photos and imagine they too were spending their mornings waking in such a cozy, romantic, luxurious space.
  • Pull furniture away from walls. Arrange it in a conversational manner, even if that means you can’t view the TV from any of the angles.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Fabrics (blankets, pillows, drapes) create an ambiance of luxury and beauty.
  • Colors help the pictures to pop. Try to stick with solids or bold patterns. Pin stripes and small patterns can photograph weird.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • You don’t want bare walls, but you also don’t want your face on the wall. Large pieces of simple art make great statements. Canvas prints from Rachel Carter Images are the perfect way to spruce up your walls and showcase the beautiful area.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • See what I did there? Green grass… green money… haha 😉
  • If you don’t have a perfectly manicured lawn, there are still ways to add greenery. Potted plants on the stairs, porch, and deck create a feeling of care.
  • Put out chairs on the porch, put pillows in the chairs

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Thoroughly clean everything, duh.
  • Open all blinds and curtains.
  • Replace all light bulbs.
  • Make all beds.
  • Remove all small rugs.
  • Turn off TVs and computer monitors.
  • Clean all magnets off the fridge, all notes off the peg boards, all words off the chalkboard (unless you want to write your address and your broker’s name)
  • Hang up clean towels, neatly.
  • No dishes in the sink.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


Basically, you want your house to look like a staged home, void of your personality and mark. It should be neutral and generic in decor so the photographs highlight the tall ceilings, hard wood floors, and beautiful chandeliers. Not the espresso machine in the kitchen or the goofy family photo on the fridge.

The little preparations can go a long way. Some people think I can just fix their house blemishes with Photoshop, but that’s not how it works. I can’t create photos that don’t represent the reality of the house. It’s unethical.

I’m happy to change out the sky to give the outside a cheerful appearance. You can’t control the weather after all. But if your banister is broken, I’m not photo shopping it fixed. So before I arrive, go through this list. It takes a little time but I promise you, the photos will be worth it.

Are you getting ready to sell your home or know someone who is? Email me today to schedule real estate photos for your property.

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Chandeliers are the jewelry of your house.

They can complete your interior or ruin it. The lighting also sets the tone of your design.

The current trendy tone is shabby chic and rustic farmish. The chandeliers that have come with that style have been fun and definitely upped the lighting game. But some trends are their way out and I have to say… hip, hip, hooray!

Trendy pieces I’m happy to say sayonara to:



Sputnik Chandelier

Sputnik was super cool when it orbited the earth in 98 minutes. And that’s about how long this trend will last as well.

I admit there is something super fun about a sputnik chandelier. It’s a timeless piece for a child’s room. But this trend is definitely a passing trend. Not timeless. This guy is going to fade soon, and is even already on its way out.

Mason Jar Light Fixtures

Replacing your everyday glassware with mason jars? YES.

Putting flowers in mason jars? YES.

Putting twinkle lights & candles in mason jars? YES.

Pouring an entire bottle of wine into a large mason jar? I mean….

Mason jars are awesome. Put all the things inside mason jars. But YES people, it is possible for mason jars to get cheesy. Flip them upside down and stick a light bulb in them and BOOM – it’s ridiculous.

If you jumped on this train, I’m sorry for the snark. This trend is fun! I bet this looks really neat in a super farm/country style home. But it is super trendy and I highly doubt we’ll see many more of these in production. This style is O-U-T. Just like your mom’s kitchen full of chickens and cows in the 90s.

Edison Bulbs

They were a fun change for sure. But I guarantee these lights were just a trend and are on their way out, to be replaced with retro bulbs and new, clean shapes.


And now for the: Timeless Classics

Boob Lights.

It hurts my heart to say that these ugly lights are timeless. I wish so badly they were a passing trend. Named for the obvious shape, they are just not cute. But they are cheap, so contractors will continue to shove them into every room until kingdom come, like it or not.


Classic Crystal Chandeliers

Hello you classic beauty! Thank goodness these glistening traditional light fixtures are coming back! They never really left, as they are completely TIMELESS. I think we’ll be seeing more of the classic chandelier in 2018 and beyond.

Changing up light fixtures to fit the trends is fun! But it’s also exhausting and expensive. For those of you with the skill and budget to toss up new lights according whatever the five minute fad is – well, I just hate you. Purely out of jealousy of course.

But for those of us with budget and lack of electrician skills, changing up lighting is a huge chore. So, the classic crystal chandeliers will be a welcome, upgraded, trend.

What’s in my photography bag? What camera equipment makes the cut & what gets left at home? 

(I’ll keep the cherry chapstick, old gum, random change, and that crushed protein bar that’s still in the wrapper, out of the post.)

The questions that people ask me most are:

  1. What’s in your bag?
  2. What lens do you use most often?

I finally took the time to sort through my bag so I can answer those questions for you.

What’s In My Photography Bag | My Bag(s):

I don’t actually use just one bag…I’m currently using three!! It all depends on where I’m going or what I’m photographing.

The bag I use most often for local real estate shoots is the Gracie by Jo Totes. It’s $119 on Amazon and perfect for my camera body, lens, and flash.

I can put my keys, phone and a few other items (batteries, memory cards, business cards, etc) as well. The exterior is so soft and it’s the perfect size for a real estate shoot. I do not normally use this bag for the beach, but I have once or twice.


For traveling and/or the beach, a backpack is a must. I am currently using the Manfrotto Pro-Light 3N1-26 Backpack ($170 on Amazon) and it fits so much stuff!!! I weighed it before I left for Ireland and I had 28 pounds worth of stuff in there. It made all the difference when you’re walking 6 miles in a day! Very comfortable and easy access to your stuff from all angles.

This bag is awesome on the beach too. I have yet to have any sand problems. It comes with a waterproof covering which could come in handy.


The newest bag I’ve added to my collection is The Libby 2.0 by Kelly Moore. I actually tried to buy this bag several times, but it kept selling out! I finally received it in August, at least 6 months after I tried to buy it the first time. It apparently was a very popular bag – although I haven’t found anyone else that has it!? Weird…

So far, it is holding up well, and I can get a lot more in it than the Gracie bag… it traveled nicely and has been to the beach. I was very comfortable hauling it, my iPad, camera body, flash, three lenses and all my other personal items across a few airports.

Something I consider often while carrying expensive equipment is that I don’t want a camera bag that looks like I’m carrying expensive equipment. The price is $249 on Amazon.


What’s In My Photography Bag | Camera:

I think the answer to this will surprise most people, but the camera body I use primarily is the Canon 6D. I’m using the first version… but you can find the upgrade Canon 6D Mark II info here:

When it comes to a camera body, it takes me awhile to upgrade. I’d prefer to put money into my lenses, and when I get to know the camera body inside and out, it takes awhile to get used to a new one. The images aren’t as great right away.

Most professional photographers that are Canon users shoot with the 5D Mark (whatever number we’re on now) … but I have yet to even look at those!! I’m pretty set in my ways. 🙂

What’s In My Photography Bag | Lenses:

Here’s the fun part for me. Which lens?

I actually posted on Instagram with some of my lenses while packing for my trip to Ireland in August. That was definitely the highlight of my packing!!

Choosing lenses to travel with is not easy!! #canon

A post shared by Rachel Carter Images (@rachelcarterimages) on

The lens I use the most is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III USM Lens. The amount of love I have for this lens would have to be a separate, sappy love post. It’s by far the most versatile lens I have and it’s what I use for most real estate shoots (but not all). This lens is the heaviest that I own, and at 16mm it usually needs lens correction during editing. Definitely my preferred lens in my photography bag though.

After that, it really depends on what I’m shooting or where I’m going. The following is just a random list of the other lenses I bring, according to what I’m shooting or where.

The Nifty Fifty Lens. This thing is just a must have for every photographer. This is my creative lens when I’m trying to do something different or out of my normal every day shooting. (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8) I’ve taken some really cool shots with this lens and it does NOT disappoint. It is also small and always fits.

Along with that prime lens, I use the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8  if I’m doing portraits (which is not often at all). But it’s a great lens for portraits and I’m happy to have it for those times I need it. Be careful you’re not using manual focus. It can be tricky but the resulting images from manual focus can be brilliant.



Another great lens for real estate, and great back up lens, is the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 lens. I do usually have this in my photography bag as a backup, and also there are some spots you just need that extra 5mm. This is much lighter than the 16-35mm which is phenomenal.


Last but not least (and I may be forgetting some), is the telephoto that I take everywhere. I frequently end up needing it. Telephoto is not my favorite way to take photos, and this just isn’t my favorite lens, but this one does the job.

I’m open to suggestions on upgrading it though! Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM lens.

I tend to leave this on my crop sensor and have my dad use it because he enjoys seeing in the distance and taking photos of wildlife. When I finally get time to go through the photos of Ireland this winter, I’m excited to see what he was able to capture with it!

What’s In My Photography Bag | Flash:

I’m very basic when it comes to flash, but I use it all the time for real estate. The Yongnuo YN600EX-RT II is what I currently have in my photography bag. Do you have any cool tricks to share about this one? TELL ME! I like it, but I’m open to suggestions too.


What’s In My Photography Bag | Tripod:

The tripod. Yes. The best invention that I wish I used much more regularly. I just don’t.

I love long exposure and for some reason it is something I save for the colder months (of course, when I’m freezing outside taking long shots). But hey, that’s when I actually have more time to be creative. The sunsets and sunrises are also more colorful in the winter.

Manfrotto BeFree Compact Aluminum Travel Tripod is very lightweight and fits perfectly on my Manfrotto 3N1 backpack. It works great on sinking sand. I do rinse it out so it won’t get rusty but I’ve had it a few years and it’s in great condition considering the salt water and sand elements I put it in. I do not use a ball head (although it’s on the list of things to try out) and if you are looking for a tripod or ball head I recommend reading up on the reviews by Mark C. Morris Photography here.

What’s In My Photography Bag | Remote:

I use the Vello Wireless ShutterBoss II Remote Switch.

What’s In My Photography Bag | The Oddest Thing:

While writing this post, I chatted with my wonderful photographer support group about what was in their bags (and really, what a fun conversation that turned into!) but the best question posed was “What’s the oddest thing someone would find in your camera bag?”

The answer to this is definitely the Scentsy Bonfire Beach Car Bar. I use them in the car and once the bar doesn’t smell as strong in the car, I move them to the camera bags and tie it to the inside zipper. I wonder what people think when they see it!

scentsy bonfire beach car bar rachel carter camera bag


camera lenses in rachel carter photography bag

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to join my Facebook group, where novice and skilled photographers alike, enjoy sharing their passion, tips, tricks, and of course, beautiful photographs. If you’re not already a fan, go follow my page for a glimpse of what I produce with all this gear!

As a real estate photographer, I am privy to a variety of home decor styles. Some of them inspire me. Some of them horrify me.

With the popularity of HGTV and Pinterest, home decor is constantly changing and the trends sweep across the nation with greater influence than ever before.

That is the reason for this new blog series:
Timeless or Trendy?

The first style to deliberate? Shiplap.

Shiplap creates interest in a simple corner.

The spunky, fun, brilliant couple, Chip and Joanna Gains made shiplap famous. (They are so stinkin’ cute, right?) They put it everywhere and now EVERYONE wants to use shiplap on EVERYTHING. And I can’t blame them!

Shiplap looks right at home here on the coast with the Cape Cod style homes. Faux shiplap is an easy look to achieve. One can simple rip plywood, nail it up, paint it, and BAM. Instant shiplap (nobody bothers to clarify that it’s faux). And with that ease, comes excess. It. Is. EVERYwhere.

Photo of work by local interior designer, Simrin Nichole Interiors. Shiplap used to punch up small spaces, like the powder room.

Photo credit: Simrin Nichole Interiors

Here in Eastern North Carolina, there’s an abundance of spec homes. Shiplap is a wonderful DIY way to customize these bland buildings and give them character. Of that, I am a big fan. Inexpensive, on trend, and fairly easy to DIY: will it last the test of time?

I vote: No. It’s too trendy, not timeless.

There will come a day when the young ones of this generation will admire real shiplap (as in, the original or restored horizontal pieces of wood that created wall structures, back in the day) and mock our faux shiplap designs as pathetic wannabes. But, they’ll probably mock everything we do, right?

Photo Cred: Shanty to Chic, the brilliant women who build. Using shiplap as an accent in the dining room.

I am a firm believer in designing for yourself. Do you love shiplap? Do you dream of visiting Magnolia Market? Are you a wannabe Jo Jo? Then go for it. But just know that if you plan to sell your home in five years or more, shiplap will likely be a faded trend.

Don’t let me crush your dreams! Not everyone keeps up with the trends. Some people will prefer passing trends even long after the movement has passed.

Simple, clean, white shiplap.

Just be careful about not going overboard with shiplapping (can shiplap be a verb?!), and make a mental note that if you plan to sell your home in 5-10 years, you may have to change it out. That could be a bigger chore than the install was, as removing the nails is likely to tear up the wall a bit. But if you love it and don’t mind the work, jump on the trend!

Do you think shiplap is timeless or a trend? Vote on Facebook and I’ll update this blog when the tally is totaled!

On the edge of Smith Creek Park you will find Hidden Pointe On The Lake, a gated community in North Wilmington.

front gate Hidden Pointe On The Lake Wilmington NC Rachel Carter Real Estate Photography

Hidden Pointe On The Lake – Front Gate

smith creek park Hidden Pointe On The Lake Wilmington NC Rachel Carter Real Estate Photography

Smith Creek Park – Wilmington, NC


front gate Hidden Pointe On The Lake Wilmington NC Rachel Carter Real Estate Photography

Hidden Pointe On The Lake – Front Gate

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