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”.
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.
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.