I have been assaulted, injured, and have had camera and equipment destroyed while taking pictures. One time I knew, not thought, but knew I was going to die of freezing exposure. This image, and the story behind it, is one of those times when taking risks yields dramatic results..
STORMY BODIE LIGHTHOUSE OUTER BANKS
Lightning can be seen surrounding the Bodie Lighthouse as tropical storm Danny passed over in pre-dawn hours.
I enjoy the challenge of shooting pictures under adverse conditions. All too often I run across photographers who run and hide their heads from the rain, thinking that their best work can only be done in fair weather. I have found that the most dramatic images are often created in and under bad conditions.
Often a photographer’s personal experiences encountered while capturing an image will influence their feelings about it. Such is the case with Stormy Bodie.
This is the Bodie Lighthouse on Bodie Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This image was shot while tropical storm Danny was rolling over the Outer Banks in August, 2009. High winds peaking at 60 miles per hour, walls of driving rain, incredible non-stop lightning… the conditions could not have been better for a photo adventure!
When I left Buxton (Outer Banks – Hatteras Island) about two hours before sunrise that morning, I did not know where to go. I had no plan other than to be shooting somewhere at first light, about an hour before sunrise. I didn’t really expect to see a sunrise during a tropical storm, but I wanted to do something! That quiet, still little voice in my ear said “Bodie!” So I went.
It’s normally about a 45 minute drive from Buxton to Bodie. It took longer. As I made the drive in the dark, I became disheartened because I drove thru patches of horrendous downpours and wind. The highway was flooded in areas, as Highway 12 on the Outer Banks often is. I often use an umbrella to shoot in rain primarily to protect the camera, but I knew that would not be possible this time because the wind was so heavy it would have blown the top of the umbrella apart. I truly believed that when I got to Bodie I would be forced to stay in the car and watch.
As I began to near Bodie, I literally shouted out loud! Woo Hoo! The rain was subsiding, the wind had lessened, and the lightning was still popping like firecrackers! Who could ask for more! As I pulled into Bodie, I knew I had to work fast as this respite was only temporary and soon the rain and wind and violent weather would begin again.
This image was taken with another camera. In it you can see dozens of white trails. These are the mosquitoes, swarming everywhere.
I jumped out of the car, set up the tripods and cameras as fast as I could, went to position a good shot, and snapped an image. And that’s all she wrote. I was instantly driven back to my car by another danger you would never know about viewing the Stormy Bodie picture: the mosquitoes were horrendous! I abandoned the cameras and hightailed it back to the car to load up with Deet. The mosquitoes can be seen in the black & white picture.
I shot some more while still being attacked. As it stands, I was forced back to the car three different times and used about half a can of Deet. And still, those darned little devil bats kept biting, right thru the Deet. I realized it was a losing battle and just allowed myself to be tortured.
The lightning was really popping – multiple times each second. And that was my goal – to capture Bodie lighthouse with lightning. I took some good photos. Unfortunately, the size restrictions of images on this blog diminish the impact. But in the Stormy Bodie image you can see multiple pops behind and illuminating the clouds to the right of the lighthouse, lightning to the left, and down at the bottom-left, a very large bolt striking the ground. It probably hit the ocean which is in that direction.
Another reason I like this picture is because of the timing. Normally, you’re more likely to get thunderstorm pictures in North Carolina during the afternoon and evening. Early morning thunderstorms are less frequent. But Danny began to roll into the area in the early morning hours. The show it created was great and the timing could not have been better.
As it turned out, the rain and wind did not return as quickly as I had anticipated. I managed to take photos for quite a while and also had time to set up the infrared camera and get some really nice black & white storm pictures with it. They will be published at a future date.
That’s the story, and why this image is a personal favorite. It wasn’t about the picture, it was about taking the picture. It was an adventure, and a good example of how often the story behind a picture can mean more to a photographer than the picture itself.
For you photographers, the important technical info: Canon 5D Mark II, 30 sec., f5.6, ISO 1600, 24-70 L, manual, fl 35.0 mm; and the most important info: OFF! brand, Deep Woods Sportsman Deet
The moral of this story is that to get dramatic pictures, you need to photograph dramatic scenes. Be safe, but don’t always run and hide your head from the rain. Sunshine, blue sky, and puffy white cloud pictures are nice. They have their place. But dramatic pictures are too.
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