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. 

Swell People

The waves have been up in Narragansett, R.I.

Tourists flock to Southern Rhode Island every summer to enjoy the weather, the quality restaurants, the local retail shops and, of course, the beautiful beaches. It is not, however, a typical location for flocks of wave chasers, surfers constantly chasing the next swell. 

The waters of Narragansett Bay and Block Island Sound are fairly calm throughout the summer, but the storm season can change things quite quickly, as we've seen over the past few weeks. 

For much of September, offshore storms have been sending enormous swells our way, and surfers from all over have come with them. 

As I've been out shooting over the past few weeks, it's been a joy to meet so many surfers and surf watchers, many local, but others who come from far and wide. 

Just the other day at Point Judith Lighthouse, I met a group who had traveled from Montreal, Canada, to Narragansett specifically because they'd heard how good the groundswells have been. "I've only been surfing for a year, but we heard the waves were good, so we came down," a young woman with a thick French-Canadian accent told me. "These look pretty big for an inland girl without much experience, but we're here and so are the waves, so we'll give it a shot." 

I politely advised them that, if they were going to take their chances, they'd be best served to surf toward the northern end of the of lighthouse, and avoid the point break. While I worried a bit for their safety, it was wonderful to share a piece of our town with people who drove 8+ hours just to see the kind of killer waves we can sometimes take for granted. 

While Hurricane Jose was sending high surf and strong winds our way a week earlier, I met a couple of gentlemen from New York City, including a fellow photographer. When they saw the surf report, they grabbed their boards and drove 3 hours to get into the lineup. As they came out of the water tired and hungry, I was happy to talk about the conditions and then direct them to Matunuck Oyster Bar for some of the best grub around. 

I suppose the point of these stories is to tell you about a realization I had this week. I've spent much of my professional career as a writer, a profession that has allowed me the opportunity to meet countless interesting people and share their stories. As I began focusing more seriously on my photography as art - particularly my landscape and wildlife photography - I sometimes felt isolated and pulled away from the human connections I was able to make so easily during my writing career.

Surf photography has given me the best of both worlds - the ability to create art and show people my vision, while simultaneously giving me the opportunity to meet new, interesting people on a near daily basis. 

The longer these swells keep up, the more chances I'll have to get out and learn about the people surfing these waters, locals and wave chasers alike. 

*All images in the gallery below are available as custom prints. Use the contact form to inquire.