Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurricane Bill | Soaked, salty and sunburned after diving into wave photography

A wave crashed toward me, with a bit of lens refraction adding a splash of color.

Bill, a healthy hurricane that has made a curving ocean tour well off the East Coast, has brought mostly good effects to Central Florida. As FLORIDA TODAY said Saturday, the storm's "surf fits the Bill," meaning the forecast 8- to 10-foot waves made for a welcome reprieve from a horrendous season of calm sees. The summer has been a downright bore (no pun intended) for wave riders in the supposed surfing capital of Florida, Cocoa Beach.

But not this weekend. Though I do not think the waves reached the heights many were hoping for, the beaches of the Space Coast drew thousands Saturday. (Least year, I think Hurricane Bertha provided a better show.) The swells were pretty gnarly for boarders, but also blast for swimmers who appreciate a challenge.

For me Saturday afternoon, swimming in, on and under Bill's crests presented even more of a challenge - because I was paddling with only one arm. The other was grasping the lesser of my two digital SLRs, a Nikon D40. Of course, it was properly protected in a waterproof case.

My dip in the warm Atlantic took place off Patrick Air Force Base, just south of Cocoa Beach. I chose the less crowded of the area beaches for this photographic experiment because, honestly, I didn't know what to expect.

Logistically, the adventure was a nightmare. The rip currents associated with this storm system made it difficult to stand in an attempt to compose a good shot. And the waves themselves would knock me down unless I dived into them, which often made me nervous on the account of the hundreds of dollars' worth of photographic equipment in my hand. Because of that, I didn't venture out to a point where the water depth was too far over my head.

For the most part, I was forced to simply fire indiscriminately, hoping I would get a useful shot. I couldn't zoom the lens, which was locked at 18mm. And I couldn't easily adjust the exposure. Everything had to be preset before I jumped into this foray into just-above-water photography.

But the lesser of my two cameras continues to surprise me. I was quite happy with the richness of colors and contrast in these images of waves as they crashed toward me.

Like a mountain rising up, obstructing the horizon.



I'm sure this thing gave me a good drink of salt water.

Land, ho!

It would be cool to get a shot inside a wave like this one, but I was not successful to that end.

A good one approaches the shore.

The surface of the water and the sky are similar: white clouds on a blue background versus white foam on a puke-green backdrop. Parallelism!

This image is of poor quality because it's cropped tightly to show the surfer more prominently. (Incidentally, this is the only image in the entire set that was cropped.) Most of the surfers were farther out.

More to come: Yes, I could not resist shooting surfers comfortably from the shore, so those photos will coming later, whenever I get the chance to riffle through them.

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