Pern's Ponderings

Check here periodically for my musings on photography. In this space, we'll explore how I achieved particular photographs, tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera or even just my thoughts on the world at large. 

Blown away (nearly)

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.