Poor weather can make it difficult to capture an image, but it can also create just the right conditions to get a great shot.
Such was the case on this morning when I peered out the window and saw a gathering winter storm. While sunny days and puffy clouds often make for beautiful photographs, sometimes the dreary days can create a drama all their own.
Seeing the conditions, I wanted to capture the bleak solitude of the beach during a long, cold winter. As I pulled into the lot, the gale-force winds - which were gusting at more than 50 mph - were practically visible as they lifted the sand into fast-moving clouds of silica granules. A section of fence had been blown away, and the sand blasting through it resembled a wind tunnel.
I brought along a large plastic bag and rubber band to attach to my gear, figuring my body and the bag would shield my gear from the blowing sand. I was wrong.
The swirling sand was pervasive, even filling the pockets of my jeans as I tried to lean into the wind to maintain my balance. I could barely see as the silica blew in my eyes.
I was, however, able to see just well enough to notice the wind had carved jagged designs in the sand. As anyone who grew up near a beach knows, dry sand doesn't typically create such sharply chiseled lines and shapes. The mid-morning light cast perfect shadows, highlighting the unusual sand sculptures.
I set my gear on a Joby Gorillapod tripod to achieve a low angle and focused on the dramatic foreground. My 18mm lens was wide enough to capture the nearby pavilion and the shoreline. I composed my shot through teary, irritated eyes, set my aperture to f/11 to gain a deep focus and shot at 1/400th of a second.
I got the shot and got out of there as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous sand had gotten into the mechanics of my gear and jammed up both the body and lens. I took them to the local camera shop and prayed this hadn't turned into the most expensive photo of my career.
Fortunately, a thorough cleaning was all that was needed to return the body and lens to proper working condition and I avoided having to replace my favorite equipment. And make no mistake, I quickly invested in a quality camera cover.