February 2016 – After The Gale

I have a history of making dead-of-winter treks to spots best known for their popularity with summer crowds.  Years ago, Peter and I visited Martha’s Vineyard in January, and were treated to a full-on blizzard; I was hooked.  And so my recent visit to the Outer Banks with a small group of photographer friends was not out of character. Hibernating coastal resorts just fascinate me.

The hordes of tourists are somewhere else, enjoying their comfort,  their securely buttoned-up winter.  Restaurants that in summer boast long lines of sunburned tourists waiting for tables now nap forgotten in empty parking lots with billboards announcing “See You in April”.

160205-Hatteras-243 color
Cape Hatteras National Seashore


There is a rawness to the Atlantic coast when no one is there.  The sea remains, of course, but it is fierce – no longer on its best behavior.  Packaged tightly into winter gales the wind and rain have their way, moving sand around like so much dust, scouring, shifting, blowing the tops off dunes and rows of perfectly formed waves, exploding them into tiny pin drops of salt water, suspended in whipped cream arches above the surf.  There is yet a beauty even in the heart of the violence that is the gale.  It leaves its mark at the land’s edge, a shrill whistling whiteboard compulsively drawn and redrawn.

And once it is spent, spun out to sea, an exhausted peace remains behind.  It is wrapped in the brilliant clarity of a bone-chilling cold, a serenity unlike any other, the wind but an unconscious echo.

Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station – Restored



Wild Ponies – Corolla

These images were made in such a space – the two days following a February Outer Banks nor’easter.  The clouds evaporated, the wind died and the sun – the blinding winter sun – fought bravely, and unsuccessfully, to warm the frigid air left in the wake of the gale.

Outer Banks Fishing Pier
Cape Hatteras National Park
Currituck Heritage Park
Tundra Swans
Bodie Island Lighthouse



Like most everyone else, I love the beach – especially along the Atlantic Ocean.  On windy days, with a wind from the east, the waves are excited, building momentum, merging, crashing, tossing spray and running frantically up the packed sand, forcing awareness.  They are insistent that way, like my daughter at five, relentlessly coming at me, demanding my full attention and rewarding that attention with a raw breathless energy.  But on days when there is a soft westerly breeze, all is different.  The sea is meditating – breathing softly – each exhale a sigh.  The waves are there but quieter and more orderly, falling forward in slow motion, creating a series of soft fading whispers that demand nothing.

We recently spent three days in Vero Beach.  Photo-wise, I came away with only this quirky image I made during breakfast at the hotel, from the beach-side patio.  It is an odd photo, but it captures that beachy feeling.  There are sailing pelicans and palm trees and a little piece of ocean in the corner, providing context.

A beach-side breakfast is my personal definition of hedonism, for what could be better – sandy flip-flops, tee shirt and shorts, sunglasses, soft breeze and the sound of those meditating waves.  And an ice-cold glass of fresh orange juice.  I could sit there all morning until the lunch menu comes out, switching contentedly to a Bloody Mary.  It’s all too delicious.