The plan wasn’t to go “storm chasing.” I knew everyone else would be rushing to the ocean to see the unprecedented waves pummel the shoreline, but I packed my camera (just in case) and headed out on an errand to a local bike shop. The streets near the shop were flooded. This peaked my sense of curiosity. Just how high were the waves?
In spite of the flooded streets, I managed to make it into the shop and drop off my bike for repairs. Less than two miles to the coastline, I decided to indulge in a bit of storm chasing after all in hope of getting a firsthand glimpse of the riled up ocean. Arriving at the Portland Breakwater Light, affectionately referred to by locals as “Bug Light,” I watched the waves hit the small breakwater. As I looked out from this sheltered bay toward open waters, I could see Portland Head Light, Maine’s (and arguably New England’s) best-known lighthouse, roughly 4 miles away at Fort Williams Park. Even from this distance it was easy to see that the real wave action was there. I had to get closer!
The stream of cars going in and out of the park carried photographers, sightseers and others wanting to take in Mother Nature’s powerful display. My adrenaline began to flow in a way I had not felt in a long time. I grabbed my camera and ran to claim my place near the water’s edge. What a sight! Massive waves, ten to fifteen feet above normal, crashed on the jagged rocks beneath the lighthouse. Fellow photographers jockeyed for the best spots to set up their equipment. Others, willing to be drenched in sea spray, gathered along the metal fence that separated us all from the steep rocky cliffs and raging sea below.
The rapid “sssnick” of the camera shutter sounded as I began snapping photos as fast as I could. The temperature was cool and the winds were high; soon my fingers were cold. I ran back to the car to get warm for a few minutes. Now all in on this storm-chasing adventure, I drove to three more locations capturing hundreds of breathtaking images. I was fulfilled.
Mother Nature is beautiful and powerful; she commands respect (at the shore that day, I feared for one woman’s life as she stood on wet rocks too close to the edge). Storms can be exciting. A storm’s arrival brings people together and a bit of an adventure. The ocean swells and incredible bursting waves of this particular storm were exciting for me as a photographer. Still, the storm left behind a trail of destruction. Awe-inspiring and sometimes dangerous, Mother Nature reminds us that life can change in only a moment. We may capture her on film, but she’ll never be tamed.
Photo: © 2018 Diane L. Dunton, DL Dunton Photography & Fine Art